Advice on using a travel agent?

I’m studying abroad fall term in England, and I’ve given myself a buffer period of three weeks on each end to do some European travelling.

During those free weeks, I’m considering taking a week or so in the more stable countries/major cities of the Middle East (Damascus is a big contender) and I want to find the best airline rates, travelling from Europe to Syria and back. I’ve usually just relied on and Priceline/Orbitz/Travelocity sites for US travel, and Ryanair and EasyJet for European travel, but there’s no low-cost airlines for the Middle East or a price-saving website, or anything. (That I know of, at least!)

So I’m turning to outside help, but I’ve never used it before. Does your travel agent have to be local? Any recommendations, especially for international/non-American travel?

I guess the major problem is that you’re wanting to book travel from Britain, but unable to do so through sites such as because they want a British payment? FWIW, a random search for October offered London-Damascus for £270, which seems a pretty decent fare to me, for a not-particularly-popular route!

On a tangent, where are you studying? (If you haven’t told us already :slight_smile: )

Ha! Expedia has a UK site! Who knew? :slight_smile:

I guess I want a travel agent (or at least a more professional opinion) because I’m not familiar with non-American intercontinental travel. I want to see if I can find an open-jaw trip for less money, poke around options – I like to have someone to talk me through processes I’m not familiar with, at least the first time.

(I’m studying Shakespeare in England, which I hope will be fantastic! Orientation in Winchester starts the Tuesday after the first weekend of Oktoberfest, for which I have Friday-Sunday lodging in Munich. Hopefully I’ll have sobered up by then. ;))

So does Google and Amazon! You can drink the tap water and everything!! :stuck_out_tongue:

In seriousness, fair enough, once you start talking about open-jaw and flexible tickets, and places which may not be 100% straightforward, it makes sense to talk to someone who knows.

They have taps in England? :eek: (I kid, I kid! I’ve travelled in France and the Netherlands some, and I like to think [or at least hope] that I’m at least a little more educated and less, ah, crass than I’ve seen some of my fellow countrymen to be when travelling abroad.)

So, with that in mind, how does one go about getting a travel agent? I feel a little dumb asking that, but I’ve never used one before or had any experience with one. Do I have to use someone in my area? How do I get started?

The thing is (in the US, at least), travel agents are all pretty much the same. They usually have access to the same deals and the same trips, and, of course, it’s the same price (free*). So go with whoever’s convenient and who you’re comfortable with.

The only issue is if it’s a phoney agent who takes your money and runs. Stick with a place that’s been around awhile and you’re fine.

*Travel agents generally get a cut of the tickets they sell, but that’s built in to the price they quote you.

I don’t have advice on travel agents, but for airlines, you might want to look at Royal Jordanian. Their prices are usually pretty good. You might be able to make a booking directly from their website.

Is Thomas Cook still around? That used to be a big travel agent in England, with many real offices. That was before the web.

In the US today, as I understand it, travel agents are not necessarily free. The airlines have cut their commissions drastically, and they suffer from the person coming in to get information and then booking on line. I don’t know the situation over there, but usually you can just walk in.
Not everything has to be on line!

Travel agent here (canadian, but similar rules apply in the US).

What you have to remember is that a travel agent is a SERVICE provider. We don’t sell a particular product, we sell KNOWLEDGE. Basically we save you time and effort and usually a lot of money (if the agent is any good) by knowing where to look, who to buy from and what to do whenever you leave on a trip.
You search for an agent same way you search for any other professional. Referals from people you trust is the best way, followed by just walking into a couple agencies to get a feel for the people who work there.

Now, your case is a little different since you’re trying to save a few bucks, so what you want is an ethnic agency that deals with middle east destinations, and purchase a ticket that allows a stopover in london. THis should be fairly easy to do (I’ve sold several similar tickets over the years and I don’t particularly deal with the ME all that much). These agencies tend to have contract rates to specific destinations that are often not available to the general market.

I STRONGLY suggest you avoid looking online for prices to middle east. I can pretty much guarantee that you will find a better price from an agency. HOWEVER, and this is important, make damn sure you have the proper documentation to go wherever it is you’re planing to visit. If you get denied boarding cause your paperwork isnt in order, you will lose the value of your ticket.

The second option is to check out whats available once you’re in Europe. This MIGHT be a good option since there’s flights available for purchase within the UK (for example) that just arent available outside of it. Again, you’d be better off looking for an agency that deals with the destinations you want to go to.

Hope that helps.