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How Can I Tell If a Travel Provider Is Reputable?

SmarterTravel

Dear Jessica,

How can I tell if a travel provider is reputable?

—C.B.

Dear C.B.,

If you’ve searched for airfare and hotels online, you’ve no doubt noticed dozens of suppliers itching to sell you a vacation package. Outside of industry giants like Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz, it can be tough to tell whether a provider is legitimate or if you’ll wind up stranded in a foreign country when the tour operator closes shop. Before you book with a little-known travel provider, follow these steps to ensure it’s reputable.

First, check its memberships. If a tour company is a member of the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA), the National Tour Association (NTA), or the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), it’s safe to say it’s a reputable company. Even if a tour operator mentions these memberships on its website, you should still check with the organizations themselves to verify it is an active member.

Get the company’s physical business address and a non-800 telephone number, and beware of companies without contact information easily available online. Look to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for complaints filed in the company’s primary area of business.

RELATED: 10 Signs Your Travel Provider Isn’t Reputable

Consider asking for client references, and contact those references to get the opinions of past travelers. You might also ask for comments about the provider on a travel message board. Frommer’s has a board dedicated to questions about travel providers.

Avoid providers requiring you to buy or sell vacation certificates or sit through a timeshare/property sales presentation, or those offering to make you an instant travel agent.

When you’re ready to book, get all trip details in writing and pay with a credit card. If anything goes wrong, your credit card company may reimburse you. Get flight and hotel confirmation numbers, and double-check your reservations with the airline or hotel.

Above all, remember the old axiom: If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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Last Updated: September 22, 2015

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