Finding a reliable travel provider can be a bit tricky if you’re not used to traveling. Flights need to be properly booked, lodging needs to be secured, appointments need to be verified, and your luggage needs to be properly transported and watched. Whether you’re taking a business trip or a short vacation, you need a reliable travel provider to get you from home to your destination and back again.
Not only that, but every trip you plan, especially business travel, needs to fit within your forecasted budget for the year. And if you chose a travel provider that’s not as reliable as you’d hoped, you’ll end up paying extras or coughing up some money to fix the problem they created.
For these reasons, corporate America often relies on travel providers like Expedia, TripAdvisor, Travelocity, and even local and national travel agents. Trust is the watchword in those relationships, and travelers want to be able to trust an agency, or even a particular agent, to get things done for them.
So here are four ways to find a reliable travel provider, whether it’s an airline, hotel, or ground transportation company.
1. GET TRIP CANCELLATION INSURANCE
This is crucial! Whether you book your own trips or with a travel agency, make sure you get trip cancellation insurance (TCI). Most travel agencies offer TCI, although some don’t. It’s possible to find yourself in a financial bind when you pay for some bookings in advance. If your flight gets canceled, or your hotel messes up your original booking, you can have those cancellation costs covered. Incidents and accidents happen, but if you’re not covered, you may never see that money again.
2. DO YOUR RESEARCH
Read your online ratings, whether it’s Google Business listings, Yelp, Trip Advisor, or even travel forums. You can even find the U.S. Department of Transportation’s monthly Air Travel Consumer Report, which keeps record of how airlines have handled common situations like mishandled baggage, wheelchairs and scooters, consumer complaints, and flight delays.
Similarly, the Center of Disease Control (CDC) provides the Green Sheet Report, which provides cleanliness reports based on systematic inspections of cruise ships.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is also a great source. Companies are graded based on public reports on the companies and reviews that are given about the company. You can trust an agency that has an A or B kind of grade. This is especially useful if you’re using a local travel provider, staying at a local hotel, or even trying out some of the local attraction providers, like helicopter sightseeing or equipment rental.
3. ASK A TRAVEL AGENT
Travel agents are travel experts — they know how to read reviews, information, and all the different pricing tables and availability information to help you find the best travel experience you need. A good travel agent is worth his or her weight in gold, because they know how to book the best deals and find you the most efficient and cost-effective means of travel.
A good travel agent also knows all the best travel providers, so they’ll connect you with the ones who will do the best work for you. And best of all, you don’t pay the travel agents, they get paid by the hotels and airlines they book you with. So it doesn’t cost you any more to hire a travel agent; if anything, they’ll help you save money.
4. WORK WITH WELL-ESTABLISHED COMPANIES
We’ll often promote the importance of “living like a local” and patronizing local businesses whenever you can, including hotels, Airbnbs, and restaurants. Of course, there’s a bit of a gamble when you do this. You could find the B&B you’re staying in is actually a spare room in someone’s house, or the boutique hotel is in a dicey part of town.
It’s always a good idea to do plenty of research beforehand, especially if you can work with one with some history and longevity. This could mean finding an Airbnb rental that has hundreds of positive reviews, a restaurant that makes the “best of” lists in its city for several years, or even getting hotel and airline recommendations from friends and colleagues who have used it before. Don’t forget to see if you destination has a local alt-weekly newspaper — they always run “Best Of” lists and offer accurate reviews of their local businesses.
How do you ensure your travel provider is reliable and will give you what they promised? How do you find providers that you can trust? Share your secrets on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream. You can also find us on our Instagram page at @TravelproIntl.
Photo credit: dimitrisvetsikas1969 (Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain)