San Diego travel agents talk about trip planning
Why should people plan a trip through a travel agency?
Keith Tucker: "They can go through the Internet, but that's really for simple travel. If it's complicated, like a safari to Africa, then you want to be sure when you hit the ground that somebody will be there to pick you up."
Who we talked to
Keith Tucker, co-owner
Acacia Travel Inc.
3272 Rosecrans St.
Marlene Brannen, owner
Bird Rock Travel Agency
2752 Meadow Lark Drive
Merry Williams, manager
First World Travel & Cruises
7443 Mission Gorge Road
Marlene Brannen: "Because most travel agents have experienced the location, hotels, airlines and other things, so they can get you the best prices."
Merry Williams: "Because you can tell them exactly what you want, in detail. Also, if there are problems, an agent is more responsive than a computer program. They can save people money in the long run, too."
Do you offer both online and personal service?
Keith Tucker: "We do offer a website, but they can't book online. Most of our clients come in the office."
Marlene Brannen: "They can go to our website, but a majority are people seeking personal service."
Merry Williams: "We have a website with limited online booking. We're best used in person, though."
Do you plan all aspects of customers' trips?
Keith Tucker: "We do everything and sometimes extra. If they want dinner reservations while they stop during a cruise, we can help."
Marlene Brannen: "Sure. We'll do as much detail as they want. Some people want all their meals plotted out for them, and we can do that."
Merry Williams: "Yes. We do hotels, cars, show tickets, individual excursions - whatever they want."
Do you have a region or country you specialize in? If so, where?
Keith Tucker: "Africa. I've been there 47 times."
Marlene Brannen: "I specialize in the world."
Merry Williams: "I do. Europe and the South Pacific."
How far in advance do people need to get their passport?
Keith Tucker: "As early as they can. I'd say at least three months."
Marlene Brannen: "Go get it now."
Merry Williams: "Three months in advance."
What's the one travel tip you always give customers?
Keith Tucker: "My main tip: Use caution wherever you go."
Marlene Brannen: "Always stay in the safe places."
Merry Williams: "Book as far in advance as you possibly can."
Do you recommend customers get trip insurance?
Keith Tucker: "That's really important. It's an investment to protect your travel dollars. If you cancel, you'll be happy [you had insurance]."
Marlene Brannen: "I always recommend it. It'll come in handy if problems occur."
Merry Williams: "I recommend they explore the possibility. I'm a strong believer of it."
What's one place you recommend everyone should visit and why?
Keith Tucker: I'd say Africa; it's like another planet."
Marlene Brannen: "Washington, D.C. - go see how our crooked politicians work."
Merry Williams: "If it's a whole family, I'd say a cruise. They offer the broadest array of activities."