Should You Hire a Travel Agent? + 27 Pro Tips

Condé Nast Traveler Magazine recently noted that many seasoned travelers have learned the hard way that going back to a travel agency makes a lot of sense. This is despite the fact that some individuals believe that all that is required for the preparation of a trip is access to the internet.

How exactly are good Travel Consultants able to assist you with the planning of your vacation?

Consider the situation of an elderly couple who has trouble walking. They were placed in the sleeping car on the California Zephyr as they were unfamiliar with Amtrak trains. The sleeping car was located two cars away from the dining. If the sleeper next to the dining car wasn’t available, I would have placed them on the waiting list for the vehicle that was closer to the station. If the closer car wasn’t available, I would have booked them a spot in the sleeper next to the dining car.

Another pair didn’t understand that the California Zephyr doesn’t stop in Oakland anymore and assumed that Emeryville and Oakland (stations that are three miles apart from one another) were in the same locations. They weren’t sure whether or not their buddies would be waiting for them at the correct station, thus it was a source of stress for them.

There was a dissatisfied passenger who wanted to make a connection from the Sunset Limited to the Coast Starlight but found out that Amtrak had ticketed him on the laborious and very unscenic bus/train connection through the San Joaquin Valley instead. The San Joaquin Valley is not known for its natural beauty. A good travel agency would never allow anything like that to occur.

You’ll be riding the Empire Builder all the way from Chicago to Glacier National Park, won’t you? You wouldn’t want to be in the Portland sleeper if you had to walk the whole length of the train, past all of the coach cars, every time you wanted to go to the dining car or the lounge car, would you? I don’t think so unless you were an exercise addict who wanted to practice keeping your balance over the rough track while avoiding getting banged into the bulkheads, in which case I would put you in the Seattle sleeper, which is right next to the dining and lounge cars. If you were an exercise addict who wanted to practice keeping your balance over the rough track while avoiding getting banged into the bulkheads, I would put you in the Seattle sleeper.

What would you do if you requested a Deluxe Bedroom Suite for your family but were instead assigned rooms A and B, both of which had a solid wall between them? If you spent a few thousand dollars on the vacation of a lifetime, do you think you’d be upset if it didn’t live up to your expectations? A good travel agent would never allow anything like this to take place for you.

There is more to trip planning on a train than just punching in a few keystrokes here and there. Below are some important tips from Travel agents, take notes!


Because of its propensity to arrive at its destinations later than expected, the Coast Starlight makes it very difficult to connect with any other train on time. You can have a layover in Los Angeles; but, for this trip, travel agents suggest going to Santa Barbara instead. Even though it is not technically a “hub,” it does provide regular service to Los Angeles and other cities in southern California through the Pacific Surfliner (the Surfliner route begins in San Luis Obispo, without a change of trains in LA., terminating in San Diego).

A glance at the chart shows that the Southern Pacific was accurate when they used to name this line “eastbound”. Additionally, thanks to Surfliner, it is possible to make a connection from Santa Barbara via Los Angeles to evening trains such as the Southwest Chief and Texas Eagle, which go to Chicago, as well as the Sunset Limited, which travels to Orlando, on the same day.

Staying at La Encanto for three nights provides an opportunity to see Santa Barbara in a manner that was quite different from staying on the beach, where the majority of the hotels are situated.

  • If you can choose which way you travel on the Coast Starlight, our recommendation is that you go northward and get an early start so that you can view Mount Shasta. The paths run right up on the shoulder of the gigantic volcanic mountain, and its otherworldly splendor is difficult to put into words. If you drive in a southerly direction, you won’t be able to see either it or Klamath Lake since it will be dark.
  • As a helpful piece of information for your next trip, meals for first-class passengers are included in the price of their ticket; however, gratuities are not. Travel agents were taken aback to see that a significant number of first-class passengers failed to leave a gratuity. If you decide to leave a tip, the amount you provide should be comparable to what you would give in a restaurant. The conductor was the only one who was able to replace them; neither the maitre d’ nor our other diners were able to do so. Be sure to maintain a sufficient amount of $5 and $10 notes on hand at all times.
  • A word of advice for those on an overnight trip: if you really do not have the funds for a sleeper, don’t even consider reserving a coach seat. The fact that most of these people have been on the train for two or three days without the opportunity to take a shower or a convenient way to put on fresh clothing is another reason why a sleeper is worth the high price. Other reasons include snoring, crying babies, bare feet extending into the aisles, and the realization that bare feet extend into the aisles. However, you will need to arrange your reservations many months in advance since sleeping vehicle space is hard to come by, even if this is the “off-season.”
  • Never schedule same-day connections to the Coast Starlight from the Texas Eagle or Sunset Limited, and vice versa. Instead, include an overnight stay anywhere in the Los Angeles region in your itinerary.
  • It shows good sportsmanship, and it makes your trip more enjoyable for yourself and those around you, to be prepared for delays and late arrivals, and to handle them without complaining. This makes your trip more enjoyable for yourself, and it makes the trip more enjoyable for those around you. Keep an eye out for the next part of our series. Train travel is not about rushing to your destination but rather about experiencing the unexpected and seeing more of the country.
  • A helpful piece of advice for travelers is to get enough rest the night before your trip so that you can enjoy the complimentary breakfast that is often served between the hours of 6 and 6:30 in the morning. Otherwise, there is a chance that you may experience delays.
  • Always carry a mobile phone on Amtrak, since arrival times are troublesome, and you’ll need to notify people at your destination if you’ve made any sort of plans to meet someone, maintain an appointment, or if you’ve scheduled transportation.
  • If you are flying first class to Chicago, you may store your bags in Space 341, which is located next to the Metropolitan Lounge. This room is reserved only for first-class customers. You will get a luggage receipt from the person in the Red Cap, and your belongings will be kept safe. Then provide your name to the person at the front desk of the Metropolitan Lounge, and you will be contacted when the Red Cap is prepared to assist you with boarding your train while carrying your luggage.
  • When you are boarding a train that is running behind schedule, you shouldn’t expect that you will be able to be served in the dining car. It is possible that the dining car service hours will have ended before you board the train, which will leave you hungry and need you to find something to eat at the snack bar. Even if you are a sleeping car passenger, you will be responsible for the cost of any food that you purchase from the snack bar. There is a possibility that the snack bar will be closed while the staff takes a break. If for reasons related to your health or diet, you are unable to miss a meal, it is in your best interest to have something before boarding the aircraft.
  • A helpful hint for travelers is that Amtrak and other major airlines use automated computer messaging to communicate schedule changes to travel agencies. Change travel agencies if your current one does not make it a point to check their computer for changes in air and rail schedules soon before your departure and offer you an updated itinerary. This includes checking for changes in flight and train times. Printing out a fresh itinerary from an agent’s computer is a straightforward process that requires no effort. In order to err on the side of caution, mark your own calendar two or three days before departure, confirm that you have the most up-to-date information, and phone the carrier before you go to the airport or train station.
  • Amtrak is not the best option for making tight connections, but everything depends on the circumstances. Trains that travel shorter distances have a better probability of operating at or very near to their planned timetables, while trains that travel longer distances almost always run behind schedule. Do not check your luggage through if you have to make a rushed connection after taking a train that traveled a lengthy distance. It is possible that you and your baggage may arrive at separate locations.
  • You shouldn’t count on their being luggage carts or Red Caps available at all times. It is possible that you will locate them, but in the event that you do not, you will want to be able to carry your own baggage with the least amount of difficulty possible. You really need to have wheeled luggage or foldable wheeled carts with you. This is particularly important to keep in mind when taking a sleeper car, as you will often discover that the sleeping cars are located towards the far end of the train, at the point that is the furthest away from the station. It’s not uncommon for station platforms to be lengthy, and now that your train is equipped with material handling cars, the journey to the station will seem even more drawn out as you make your way through many box cars at the tail end of the train.
  • You can’t always count on the snack bars on Amtrak trains being open at the times that are most convenient for passengers who are thirsty or hungry. Our observations have shown that snack bars are often closed around lunchtime, during cocktail hours, and after dinner, so that the attendants may take their breaks during those times. You should make an effort to anticipate the feelings of hunger or thirst that you will experience and visit the snack bar to stock up on food or drinks prior to the typical snack times, meal times, or cocktail hours. Or, if you like, you may bring your own bottle and food with you and ask the person in charge of your sleeping vehicle to provide you with setups and ice. He will not be dependent on the whims of the people working at the snack bar since he will typically have ice, soft drinks, and water in his own sleeper. Be advised that the snack bars will not be open when you board the train at the train’s point of origin, nor will they be open until the train reaches its destination. After the train has departed from its starting station, the attendant will make a public statement when he is prepared to open the doors. It takes him roughly an hour to get dressed each morning before he opens the shop for business. Before the train arrives at its destination, he will also make the announcement that the snack bar has closed for business. In general, the requests anywhere from one hour to one and a half hours to shut up his snack shop before they get to their destination so that he may exit as soon as they get there.
  • A helpful hint for your trip is to keep both of your hands-free when you are strolling around the train. When you go to the dining car, put your valuables in a waist pack so that you won’t lose them. Walk with your knees bent slightly, wear flat shoes, and have both hands ready to use as support against bulkheads, backs of seats, or overhead racks if necessary. Because Amtrak does not own the lines it operates on (save between Boston and Washington, DC), it has no influence over the lack of maintenance that freight railways offer; consequently, complaining to Amtrak will not help. The only exception to this is the route between Boston and Washington, DC. Be cautious since it is really simple to lose your equilibrium in this situation.
  • There is a public shower facility located on the bottom level of each and every Superliner sleeping car. This shower room is available to passengers staying in regular, accessible, and family rooms. A compact changing space that includes a seat, as well as a stack of bath towels, washcloths, and soap, can be found here. Off, Cold, and Hot are the labels that appear on the shower control. This control needs to have Off, Very Hot, and Scalding written on its labels. Be cautious.
  • If at all possible, make your arrangements for a sleeping vehicle eleven months in advance of your trip. The first-class lodgings had been completely reserved months in advance.
  • A helpful piece of information for your trip is that when you dine in the dining cars of Amtrak, you will be sitting with other passengers. This is one of the most pleasurable portions of the journey. It is assumed that you will learn about intriguing individuals and what they do if you start a discussion with them; typically, they will be people who you would never meet in your typical social contacts back home in your own country.
  • If you do have a problem while riding Amtrak, you should make every effort to get it rectified as soon as possible by speaking with the onboard employees. They could give you a coupon for $10 or more on the spot if the issue is a minor one (like losing out on lunch, for example), especially if it was an accident. If you have a significant complaint, such as a malfunction or repair problem with your sleeping accommodation, acquire a statement in writing from the employees aboard, and then tell your travel agency as soon as you get back. You are going to need your ticket stub in order to speak with a representative from Amtrak’s Customer Service Department. After that, a voucher for your further travel needs will be computed and delivered to you.
  • A helpful travel hint is that redcaps are not available at all stations, and baggage carts are not always readily available. Do not pack more baggage than you are comfortable able to manage, since there may be occasions when you will be responsible for managing your own belongings. We never learn and constantly pack too much stuff; why can’t we just cut back?
  • You should bring your own schedule, which is accessible at the stations. Then you will be aware of the locations where the train makes stops, as well as whether or not it is running on schedule.
  • Keep high-protein snacks on hand, such as M&M’s with peanuts or granola bars, in the event that you experience a delay in meals as a result of late connections or tiny portions, or in order to maintain your energy levels if it becomes necessary.
  • If you are traveling internationally, check these before your trip:
    1. Check the latest travel advice
    2. Take out travel insurance
    3. Let your credit card company know you are traveling
    4. Obey the law
    5. Check if you require visas
    6. Make copies of your documents
    7. Check with health professionals
    8. Make sure your passport has at least six months validity
    9. Leave a copy of your travel itinerary with someone at home
    10. Research whether holding dual nationality has any implications for your travel.
  • Bring these in your luggage
    1.  Earplugs
    2.  Insect Repellent
    3.  Hand Wash
    4.  Antibiotics
    5.  Sunglasses
    6.  Travel Alarm Clock
    7.  Credit Cards
    8.  Money Belt
    9.  Toiletries
    10. Sunscreen
  • What not to bring?
    1. Don’t Pack Your Entire Beauty Routine
    2. Don’t Pack Your Jewelry and Valuables
    3. Don’t Pack More Than One Guidebook
    4. Don’t Pack More Clothes Than You Need
    5. Don’t Pack Unnecessary Gadgets
    6. Don’t Pack Things You Can Buy There
  • How to find cheap airfare?
    1.  Buy Early
    2.  Shop Around
    3.  Compare Prices
    4.  Be Flexible
    5.  Use Your Frequent Flier Miles
    6.  Fly Coach
    7.  Purchase Flight Tickets with a Layover
    8.  Have someone drive you to Airport
  • How to reduce stress while traveling?
    1.  Accept the situation and plan ahead
    2.  Give yourself enough time
    3.  Make a few contingency plans
    4.  Check your bags
    5.  Keep the kids happy (and well fed).
    6.  Think about changes of clothing
    7.  Plan ahead for the next vacation

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