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No Dumb Questions? Travel Agents Beg to Differ

Where travel is concerned, it’s become a do-it-yourself world. Do your own research. Make your own travel plans. Make your own bookings. Print out your own boarding pass. Check yourself in. Consumers, in other words, have had to become their own travel agents, a job for which they have neither the training nor the interest.

According to the president of the American Society of Travel Agents, Zane Kerby, “There are 658 million unused vacation days left on the table every year by American workers. When they finally do take a vacation, most of us don’t have time for a do-over. Put that planning in the hands of a professional. You’ll be glad you did.”

In a friendly hint that travel consumers might be well served by seeking expert counsel from travel professionals, ASTA has compiled a list of 22 questions from travelers who were comically uninformed about where to go and how to get there.

Here is a 10-question sampling from that list of what ASTA characterizes as bizarre questions travelers have posed to travel agents:

  1. Can I fish off of the cruise ship?
  2. Do they speak English in Britain?
  3. Can you make sure I don’t get a window seat on the plane because I just had my hair done?
  4. Can you set it up so that the whales jump in the background at the same time I’m proposing to my girlfriend?
  5. I was looking online at the picture of our room. I hate the curtains. I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep in that room with those curtains. Can you cancel the whole trip?
  6. I’d love a train trip to Africa…No, I mean I want a train trip from New York to Cape Town.
  7. Can you please book the honeymoon suite for us and another couple?
  8. I want to take a cruise to Las Vegas.
  9. Can we drive our rental car in Hawaii out of state? We want to go to Alaska. After all, they are the 49th and 50th states on the map… so there must be a bridge, right?
  10. Can you ask the airline to block the seat next to me so I can stretch out?

I’m not sure “bizarre” is an apt description of the questions in question. Question #1 is a good one, actually: Could you fish off a cruise ship? (If you can’t, cruise lines may be missing an opportunity to expand the cruise market.) And #10 is a question we’ve all probably asked ourselves, albeit rhetorically. But the point stands. As has been established elsewhere, Americans are woefully undereducated in matters of geography. And more generally, there’s plenty a knowledgeable travel agent could do to help make most trips more convenient, more comfortable, more cost-efficient, and more enjoyable.

Reader Reality Check

Have you ever used a travel agent?

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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