Book Online and Be Your Own Travel Agent

The travel agency business has undergone big changes, mostly due to the existence of online travel sites and the ease of online booking. Those travel agents still have a few good tricks up their sleeves, but with a little diligence, you can find the best deal on your own.

Don’t play favorites

Many travelers have a particular favorite travel web site where they book their tickets, and they may even have a favorite airline. But fares change so quickly, and deals come and go-so in fact, no single online travel agent will be able to consistently give you the best deal, every time.

Check multiple airlines and multiple online travel agencies, and you’ll be surprised at how much prices can vary. A trip from Chicago to Bangkok may range from $1,200 to $5,000 on the same day, depending on the source.

When you see a deal, grab it

Fares not only change quickly, they also get booked quickly. It won’t be unusual for you to see a good deal on a flight to Bali, for example, only to come back a few hours later to find that the price has gone up by several hundred dollars. A good strategy is to first survey several sites to get a feel for what an average price range would be for your desired flight. Using that average price range as a base point, when you see a flight that is near the bottom of that range (or even below it), grab it as soon as you can.

Get a good seat

When you use a live travel agent, she can usually find you the best seat-but you can do this yourself as well when booking online. Many of the online travel sites, as well as the airlines themselves, allow for seat selection immediately after purchase. You can select generically-that is, choose either a window or aisle seat-or drill down to more detail and select the exact seat you prefer by looking at a seat map. You may encounter some situations where seat selection cannot be made online, but don’t worry. You can buy your ticket online and enjoy the best price, and then after purchase, call the airline’s toll-free number directly and ask for a seat selection.

Book at the airline, or through online travel site?

If you know what airline you’re traveling on, then you can book directly on the airline’s web site-although the downside to booking direct is that you’re not able to compare prices with other airlines, and that’s where your best deals are going to be found.

Frequent flier miles

If you book through an online travel site, you can still get your frequent flier miles. In some cases, you will be able to enter your frequent flier number directly when you book, but even if this is not an option, you’re not out of luck. Regardless of where you bought your ticket, all you need to do is present your frequent flier card when you check in to have your miles applied to your account.

If you do book your ticket directly at the airline’s web site as opposed to a third-party travel site, you’ll be able to enter in your frequent flier number at the time you book your ticket, and you may also get a bonus for booking direct.

Online security

Purchasing airline tickets, or anything else for that matter, has become widely accepted, and is just as secure as handing your credit card to a live person over the counter. When you go to enter in your personal information, you will notice that the URL window in your browser has an “https” prefix instead of “http,” which means that you are on a secure connection. If you don’t see this, then move onto another site. You will need to register on the site as well. This simply makes you a “member” of the site, and you may be asked if you’d like to receive occasional email promotions or newsletters. Registration also will recall your name and personal preferences to make subsequent ordering faster. When you select a password, remember to choose one that is difficult-don’t use your name, or something easy to guess. Passwords should include both alpha and numeric characters.

Online Check-in

Most airlines will also allow for online check-in, which can save you time, and permit seat selection or pre-ordering of meals. Typically with a boarding pass that you print out yourself from the web site, the procedure involves verifying the document, dropping off your luggage at a designated counter, and going on your way. Typically, it saves a significant amount of time over the traditional check-in counter. The online check-in is available for several Asian airlines, such as AirAsia and Singapore Airlines. Some European discount carriers have made it compulsory, but none of the major Asian airlines have gone this route, instead focusing on simply making the online check-in available for those who want it.

E-tickets

Most airlines now use electronic tickets, and charge extra for sending you a paper ticket. In most cases, there is no need for a paper ticket, and all you need to do is show your ID to get your boarding pass. There are also ticket kiosks for obtaining your e-ticket which can help you avoid a long wait in line. When you use the kiosk, you will be directed to insert your credit card. You must present the same card you used to book your ticket, or the kiosk won’t process your e-ticket. The credit card at this point is for ID purposes only.

Changing your mind

Once you’ve booked your ticket online, you’ll get an email confirmation, usually within the hour. Be sure to check the details carefully. Making a change to your itinerary may not be able to be done online; it may be necessary to call the airline directly-and there may be a fee involved for making the change.

Asia.com brings you travel experts that love travel and want to help you have the best trip to Asia. Asia.com has advice for all travelers including the frequent traveler, first time visitor, business traveler, and families. Spend the time to review our expert travel guide tips and articles about the best things to do in Asia. Also while exploring your trip to

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Should Travelers Who Book Direct Get Fairer Fare Prices?

A travel website that does not sell travel but enables travelers to save money on travel as long as they do their own bookings is now offering services to internet travelers. This service is a unique addition to travel options for all travelers comfortable with direct bookings using a new type of travel document called a TopTravelVoucher.

The operators of this service are addressing the issue of travel pricing which often includes a 10 to 25% mark-up to allow for the payment of travel agent commission to either wholesalers or retailers but when travelers buy directly from the provider (accommodations, tours or transportation) they can still pay the price inclusive of commission. To overcome the travel providers’ problems of showing multiple prices for the same products and services on their websites, they can now offer ‘fair fare prices’ by issuing TopTravelVouchers.

Travel Providers are given marketing and promotion in exchange for their own travel vouchers, equivalent to or more than, the commission that would be payable upon sale of their various travel packages and services, so they still incur the commission cost on sales but do not have to alienate their distribution chain of wholesalers and retailers by offering a retail, wholesale or ‘direct’ price on their website. This is done by the voucher operator who sells their vouchers to travelers at deep discounts to their redemption values to be used when making direct bookings, hence a travel agent who does not sell travel, only travel vouchers and therefore is not a travel agent.

According to the website information of the voucher operator, they are able to offer the ‘Fair Fare Price’ option because they do not have the normal operating costs of travel agencies such as shops, reservation systems, brochures, advertising and high staffing levels, but can still offer the traveler and the travel provider a service that is fair to all users.

Before purchasing TopTravelVouchers, travelers are advised to check for quality and availability directly with the website of their travel selection and when satisfied, make a direct booking mentioning the voucher, then purchase the voucher. All vouchers come with a 100% money-back guarantee and in the event that the traveler is not happy with their travel purchase upon completion, the cost of the TopTravelVouchers will be reimbursed and the matter taken up with the provider.

There are three levels of vouchers, $30, $50 and $100usd achieving various levels of savings but to give an example, at the time of this article there was a voucher valued at 1,500 euros (around $2,000usd) on sale for $100usd. If the vouchers are purchased outside of the USA the price is shown in the relevant currency. All vouchers are issued online and the provider is also sent a duplicate with the traveler details to encourage assistance in any travel itinerary planning of the traveler.

So as not to deter expert travel agents and agencies from participation in this service the site invites them to identify any destination and activity expertise and to also offer vouchers to encourage travelers to seek out expert professional agents. Many retail agents offer their own travel packages and tours and many are comfortable in dealing with new clients from anywhere in the world over the internet, telephone or skype. The site cautions travelers to be careful when selecting ‘specialist’ agents who are not necessarily experts and who may have just taken a simple test operated by a tourism office or tour operator promoting their own destination or products.

The travel selections with TopTravelVouchers are limited at present but the site operators are confident in the growth potential, but if you want to see what is available, you can find them at toptravelsites.

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