Sacramento travel agents give advice about trip planning

Why should people plan a trip through a travel agency?

Marlene McGary: "If you don't know what you want - a travel agent knows things the average person doesn't have access to."

Bruce Bitnoff: "The No. 1 reason is expertise and knowing the components of your travel package."

Bill Stone: "Because a travel agent can give knowledgeable information about the personality of cruise ships and the nuances of resorts."

Do you offer both online and personal service?

Marlene McGary: "I don't offer online service, but people can e-mail me for information."

Bruce Bitnoff: "Yes. We're more of a tour operator, which means we deal mainly with groups."

Bill Stone: "We just offer personal service."

Do you plan all aspects of customers' trips?

Marlene McGary: "I do about 90 percent of the planning."

Bruce Bitnoff: "We're like a trip wholesaler. It's one stop for everything."

Bill Stone: "Yes."

How do you charge?

Marlene McGary: "If I get paid through a hotel or cruise line, I don't charge. If I plan an airline ticket, I charge a service fee."

Bruce Bitnoff: "It's usually just one price that gets you everything. Each trip is customized and has its own fee."

Bill Stone: "Suppliers pay us commission. It would be rare for us to charge a customer."

How far in advance should people plan trips?

Marlene McGary: "I like my clients to tell me what their next three trips are for the next three years."

Bruce Bitnoff: "Anywhere from one year to six months out for groups."

Bill Stone: "At least six months."

How far in advance do people need to get their passport?

Marlene McGary: "I'd like them to get it at least a month ahead of time."

Bruce Bitnoff: "The passport laws have been constantly changing, but I recommend they start six months out."

Bill Stone: "Today. If they need a passport, they should get it as soon as possible."

Do you recommend customers get trip insurance?

Marlene McGary: "Trip insurance is a big rip-off. A waiver, though, is a great idea."

Bruce Bitnoff: "Yes, we recommend it. When you need it, it's invaluable."

Bill Stone: "Yes, particularly if they're older."

What's one place you recommend everyone should visit and why?

Marlene McGary: "Everyone should do London and Paris, but not in the same trip."

Bruce Bitnoff: "I don't think I can answer that. I don't think there's one place everyone should visit."

Bill Stone: "Probably Washington, D.C., because that's the heartbeat of America."

Are there places you tell people to avoid? If so, where?

Marlene McGary: "Jamaica."

Bruce Bitnoff: "Afghanistan. The state department's travel advisories are well worth reviewing."

Bill Stone: "France. French people don't like Americans and act accordingly."

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