Best Scuba Diving Destinations

The sea has always been a subject of great fascination and awe for mankind. No matter how deep we explore the saline waters, the ocean never seems to come to an end. Through the ages, humans have figured out ways and means to reach the bottom of the sea, and to explore and exploit its hidden treasures. However, the excitement and curiosity to know about and be a part of the underwater realm does not just end there. With the passage of time, diving became one of the most favorite recreational activities of adventure seekers, and sports such as snorkeling and scuba diving gained impetus. Today, scuba diving has become one of the greatest underwater adventures sought by adrenaline junkies, so much so that scuba diving tourism has occupied a veritable place in the world tourism industry.

World’s Best Scuba Diving Destinations
If you are planning to go on a scuba diving vacation in the near future, here is a list of some of the best destinations in the world that you can consider.

The Red Sea, Egypt

One dive underneath the surface of the Egyptian Red Sea, and all you can see is a huge variety of marine life all around you. This is one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world, landlocked on all the four sides by a desert, thus, making its water a little saltier than that of other water bodies. You can experience a fantastic swim with the dolphins and sharks, which keep on circling the walls and wrecks in the depths. The variety of colorful corals and sponges in the reefs look absolutely astonishing. A scuba diving experience in the Red Sea can, thus, leave you absolutely overwhelmed.

Bali, Indonesia

Considered to be the ‘Jewel of Indonesia’, the island of Bali is undoubtedly one of the most exotic holiday destinations in the world. And that is certainly true when it comes to a scuba diving vacation as well. Bali also displays an absolutely stunning biodiversity; however, the most sought-after underwater attraction for the divers flocking here is the Mola mola, the giant ocean sunfish, which is the world’s heaviest-known bony fish. Bali boasts of some of the world’s best scuba diving instructors and diving spots.

The Cayman Islands

Located in the Western Caribbean Sea, the Cayman Islands is a British Overseas Territory, comprising three islands, viz. the Grand Cayman, the Cayman Brac, and the Little Cayman. All these three islands are world-famous scuba diving destinations, where divers tend to flock in large numbers to swim with stingrays. These islands also boast of remnants of shipwrecks in their depths, which attract scuba divers in large numbers. Plus, there are infinite opportunities to swim along the deep walls and encounter strange marine animals.

Cocos Island, Costa Rica

Situated off the Costa Rican shore, Cocos Island is an uninhabited island, except that there is a permanent ranger station over there. The waters that surround the island are known for their populations of large marine animals, including dolphins, rays, and hammerhead sharks. The island also features one of the richest reefs of the southeastern Pacific, abundant with colorful species of marine fauna. In 2007, Cocos Island was designated as one of the ten best scuba diving spots in the world by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI).

Cozumel, Mexico

Literally meaning Island of the Swallows, this Mexican island in the Caribbean Sea is another world-renowned scuba diving destination. The primary attractions of Cozumel for scuba divers, who flock on the island from all across the globe, are extensive communities of coral reefs. In fact, the island’s natural geography is such that the coral reefs have been automatically protected from the open ocean, thus, preserving a variety of species that they have. Moreover, the divers can go as deep as 3,000 feet in the sea and explore the numerous awe-inspiring tunnels, caves, and caverns, besides the breathtaking marine life.

Galapagos, Ecuador

This archipelago of volcanic islands boasts of as many as 62 scuba diving sites, and is also a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you crave for big animals, then the Galapagos Islands is definitely your place. You can actually swim along with massive whale sharks, turtles, moray eels, and eagle rays; not to forget the stars of the show―the hammerhead sharks, which appear in large schools over here. You can also see actual one-on-one encounters of the hammerhead and whale sharks, especially during their migration period (May to October).

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

This is, by far, the most iconic scuba diving destination in the world. With nearly 3,000 individual reefs and over 350 different species of corals, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest living thing on our planet. Furthermore, it is so immense that it is home to some 1,500 different species of fish, and six out of seven species of sea turtles found in the world. In a nutshell, it is a diver’s paradise, and definitely does not have any close rival. So, if you want to get a kaleidoscopic view of marine life, scuba dive into the Great Barrier Reef!

Half Moon Caye, Belize

If you are looking to do a wall dive, then the Half Moon Caye is the perfect place for you. Once you begin diving downwards, you will be intrigued by seeing the variety of marine life that the Caye shelters. There are numerous tunnels and swim-through, crammed with a variety of sponges and monster groupers. The most noticeable sightings are those of eagle rays, loggerhead turtles, barracudas, moray eels, and the rosy razor fish.

Palau, Micronesia

The tourism industry of Palau focuses mainly on scuba diving and snorkeling on the islands, which boast of an extremely rich marine environment. Palau features more than 700 coral species, over 1,500 fish species, numerous blue holes, absolutely stunning walls, and enchanting coral reefs. As if that was not enough, the waters also contain some historical World War II wrecks. So, if you are looking for a wholesome diving experience, with a bit of historical hysteria, Palau is “the” place on earth.

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is a blooming scuba diving destination, which has come to the forefront recently. For divers who wish to witness and experience the diversity of marine life, Papua New Guinea is the location. Within the deep waters surrounding these islands, you can see everything from small fish to huge whales to expansive coral reefs. The major highlight of the scuba diving sites, located around these islands, is that deep water is only a couple of feet away from the beaches, so you don’t have to go too far, in order to take your dive within.

The ones which are mentioned above are just a few of the numerous amazing scuba diving spots around the world. Many more are yet to come to the forefront. So, what are you waiting for? Get going to experience the most fulfilling adventure of your lifetime!

Best Stargazing Destinations

It was my 23rd birthday when I received a gift I coveted – a telescope. My sister wanted me to take pleasure in viewing the night sky, with all its marvelous beauty laid prostrate before me. But alas, the telescope has been collecting dust, as it sits in an assembled pile of neglect. When you read about all the things that the universe has to offer us – when it comes to the visual grandeur that makes it what it is – it’s only fair to appreciate and be a witness to its overlooked beauty.

I love astronomy, and I would strongly suggest that you approach this subject with ardent passion, unlike me, who never found the time to fondly engage myself. Let’s take a look at the world’s best stargazing destinations, that you ought to visit right away.

Best Stargazing Destinations

Mauna Kea, Hawaii (United States)

Mauna Kea

Gemini Observatory

Aloha! Hawaii may be a clichéd honeymoon destination, but it is also a picturesque location with its dormant volcano sites and verdant surroundings. The next time you sit down to plan a trip with family or friends, head over to the idyllic Mauna Kea volcano to view the starry night once the sun goes down. It also has a scattering of observatories on the island, where Gemini North Observatory provides a breathtaking view of Hawaii’s lucid summer and winter skies. The best time to visit the island of Hawaii is during the onset of summer, where the weather is quite agreeable for tourists.

Atacama Desert, Chile (South America)

Atacama Desert

Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory

When you travel to Chile, do find a cozy place to set up base at the town of San Pedro de Atacama, before venturing into the desert when night falls. Although dry and barren, the Atacama desert serves up the best view of the stars. Two observatories worth visiting in the area are The Paranal Observatory and The La Silla Observatory. Head north, and you’ll find the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in the Coquimbo Region.

Yangtze River (Chang Jiang), Qinghai (China)

Yangtze River

Shenzhen Meteorological Observatory

Before you take a trip to China, do watch the documentary Rediscovering the Yangtze River by China Central Television, that unravels the cultural glory, admiration, and rich history that surrounds this notable river. From Shanghai to Chongqing, through the stunning Three Gorges, you’ll find yourself closer to the Yangtze river. Travelers must of course use helpful apps, like Google Translate, as well as carry a booklet with important phrases (in English) with readable Chinese lettering. Head towards the East of China to Shenzhen to check out the fairly new Shenzhen Xichong Astronomical Observatory that is open to visitors; if you’re going to the South of China, you’ll want to see the Shenzhen Meteorological Observatory.

Grand Canyon, Arizona (United States)

Grand Canyon

Kitt Peak National Observatory

This wonder of the world holds a captivating view of the night sky as well as an awe-inspiring scenic view of the desert. Take a ride to Guano Point, which is a great spot to view the Grand Canyon in its entirety, and is a good seating area for stargazing. Don’t miss the Grand Canyon Skywalk for an exhilarating experience for first-timers. The Kitt Peak National Observatory situated in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert, southwest of Tucson, holds guided tours with the opportunity to view the night sky like never before.

Uluru, Northern Territory (Australia)

Uluru

Sydney Observatory

Nestled within central Australia is the Uluru, or Ayers Rock as it is alternatively called, which is a large sandstone structure that swells with a deepened red coloration, just as the sun sets. The closest town to the structure is Alice Springs, where visitors will find it incredibly convenient to travel to Uluru, after sunset. The country’s oldest standing historic site, the Sydney Observatory at Observatory Hill, hosts educational tours by an esteemed group of congenial employees. They conduct all sorts of interactive, modern-day, and informative sessions, complete with a homely planetarium that will make you wish you didn’t have to leave. A quaint souvenir store is available for visitors, with a welcoming spread of well-kept gardens that adorn the rustic premises.

Santa Elena Canyon, Texas (United States)

Santa Elena Canyon

McDonald Observatory

Traipse the Big Bend National Park, and you’ll come face-to-face with mighty, monolithic structures that make up the Santa Elena Canyon. Not only is the canyon a sight for sore eyes, but it can literally take your breath away with its imposing rock structures, lovely fauna, and winding paths. The trail leading up to the canyon is a great pathway for hikers and tourists, where the view of the sky is nothing short of remarkable from various vantage points. This should get you excited – the McDonald Observatory situated in Jeff Davis County (West Texas) is home to some of the best astronomical views, where visitors find it convenient to make bookings through their official website; impressive, quite surely. Star Parties are a favorite indulgence for the astronomy-loving staff, who will host these quite often in the successive months.

Amber Fort, Rajasthan (India)

Amber Fort

Jantar Mantar Observatory

While stifled in the sweltering heat of the state, you’ll be comforted to know that a lot of prominent tourist attractions await your visit. In Jaipur, a rampant lush green location called Amer, is a favorite hot spot for tourists, where the Amber fort is located. The serene and pretty Maota Lake circles a garden that adorns the feet of the fort, giving tourists quite a visual experience. Just picture how the skies will light up once dusk sets in. Another fine attraction in Jaipur is the Jantar Mantar, which is a collection of astrological instruments that hold historic importance, where the Jaipur observatory in particular, has been the most well-preserved. The geometric devices that dot the venue are a must-see for visitors both near and far.

Portofino Village, Liguria (Italy)

Portofino Village

Campo Imperatore Observatory

The village looks like a scene straight out of a movie, with its beauteous lanes, friendly passersby, and old-fashioned, multicolored architecture that makes it so quintessentially Italian. It is located in the province of Genoa along the Italian Riviera, providing tourists an ethereal view of the river. A sight to behold is when the village transforms into a glittering vision during sundown. A quick boat ride towards a much lesser lit spot will give you an uninterrupted session with the stars above. Do pay a visit to the Campo Imperatore Observatory located in the Province of L’Aquila (Abruzzo region) in Italy, where you can reach this destination by cableway, plane, or public transportation. Because of its proximity to Rome, this makes it a great location for tourists.

Joshua Tree National Park, California (United States)

Joshua Tree National Park

Griffith Observatory

The expansive national park is a labyrinth of unique desert plants, mountain ranges, and wilderness. The odd-looking yet iconic Joshua tree, is where the national park derives its name from. Two major deserts come together as one, namely the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert. Post sunset, the desert transmutes itself into a place of tranquility, where its beauty is heightened by starlight and moonlight. The Sky’s The Limit – Observatory and Nature Center (at Twentynine Palms), is not too far from the national park. For city dwellers who need a little urbanity, Los Angeles is where you should be. The Griffith Observatory at Griffith Park readily opens her doors to tourists and astronomy partisans. Its hi-tech, impressive array of telescopes and classic interiors will leave you mesmerized.

Los Gigantes, Tenerife (Spain)

Los Gigantes

Teide Observatory

The magical island of Tenerife holds a resort town called Los Gigantes, which sits amidst the cluster of Canary Islands. From here, you can be sure to enjoy a view of the night sky without the glare of city lights, or blanket of air pollution. There may not be a lot of places to keep you preoccupied for a long stay, but a sense of peace and calm will invade you, leaving you hanging on to every moment spent in Los Gigantes. You’ll be happy to know that the Teide Observatory located at Tenerife will have you spending most of your time exploring its many attractions. Considered as an important observatory among the world’s finest, you’ll be doing yourself a lot of good by visiting Tenerife.

Jökulsárlón, Iceland

Jökulsárlón Tourist Center

Kirkjufell Mountain

Jökulsárlón should be every adventurer’s ultimate vacation spot, and yours too, if you want an experience with the stars that will leave you awed, emotional, and elated. Iceland is the sort of place where stars come out to play, more so than they do anywhere else. The purity of the skies will startle you, where Iceland is unmarred by human hands. Once in Jökulsárlón, tourists will have a chance to experience special boat rides (besides other activities), that tentatively take place between the months of May and September.

A small town that goes by the name Grundarfjörður, situated in the west of Iceland, faces a mountain range called Kirkjufell, that turns into a spectacle by night. How, you may ask? Ever seen photographs of gossamer cosmic wings that beat across the night sky, in iridescent hues of greens and reds? That is what is known as ‘Aurora Borealis’ and ‘Aurora Australis’, or simply put – the northern lights. That is what you will bear witness to once night falls; a sight you wouldn’t want to miss for the world. For those wondering if an observatory is available, there’s BGS Observatory at Virkisjökull, situated in southeast Iceland.

Vacation Spots in Costa Rica

From world famous beaches to national parks with some of the widest varieties of flora and fauna in the world, Costa Rica caters to the taste of every traveler in the world. With its tropical weather, the sheer biodiversity, and relative peace compared to neighboring countries, this country can be great for vacations. The number of activities that you can indulge in while on a vacation here can be mind-boggling – from trekking to snorkeling, diving, river rafting, cycling, mountaineering, there is no end to the list. Whether you are a nature enthusiast or a beach fanatic, you can pick and choose from the best vacation spots. If you are planning a trip to Costa Rica then opt to travel to the country in the time period from December to April.

Good Vacation Spots in Costa Rica

If Costa Rica travel is on the cards for you, then you would want to know which are the best vacation spots in the country. Given below is an overview of those places that you must visit when you travel to this country.

Manzanillo Beach
Of all the beaches in Costa Rica, the Manzanillo beach is probably the most famous and beautiful one, with its beautiful white sand and gorgeous aqua line, which makes for a dream come true for any photography enthusiast. If you love underwater diving and snorkeling, then the beautiful coral reefs that this beach is home to will be your heaven on earth. The coral reefs are home to some of the most varied marine life in the world.

Tamarindo
If you are looking for a luxury vacation then you should head out to Tamarindo, which is home to not only some of the most gorgeous and exquisite beaches in the country, but also the finest hotels and beach resorts, making it one of the most popular tourist spots in Costa Rica. Enjoy the day at the seaside and indulge in various water activities and then party until sunrise. This place caters to every taste from snorkeling to lounging, swimming to dancing, there is something for everyone. Even if you do not want to do anything but laze around, you will find yourself engulfed and captivated by the sheer beauty of the place that is Tamarindo.

Monteverde Cloud Forest
Look up Costa Rica facts and information and you will learn that it is home to one of the most bio-diverse environments in the world. It is also home to one of the most distinct forests in the world – the Monteverde cloud forest, which is located at a high altitude. A non profit organization runs this beautiful reserved area, which is home to several species like the quetzal, ocelot, umbrella bird, etc. If you visit the cloud forest, you will be taken on a guided tour. Opt to go for the night tour which is a great way to enjoy the many beauties of Monteverde.

Tabacon
Arenal volcano is one of the many active volcanoes that Costa Rica is home to. Located right in the heart of the country, the activity of the Arenal volcano has led to the development of many tourist attractions, notably the hot springs, which makes Tabacon a haven for spa visits. You can visit one of the many spas in the area and opt for a luxury rejuvenation session or you could hike to the base of the volcano and study it in close proximity. After all, the volcano is the reason that Tabacon is considered one of the best vacation spots in the country.

Manuel Antonio National Park
Costa Rica is the greenest country in the world according to the New Economics foundation and this is because of the efforts of the Costa Rica government, which has segregated 25% of the nation’s area as reserved for national parks. Widely declared as one of the best national parks in the country, the Manuel Antonio National Park is located in the southern part of the country. There are several beaches that make up the area of the national park which lead to many forest trails. The park is home to some three hundred species of birds including hummingbirds, antbirds, gleaners, warblers, etc. The beaches are also famous for the offshore whale sightings. No vacation can be complete without a trip to Manuel Antonio.

Drake Bay
The most famous attraction of Drake bay, which is located of the coast of southwestern Costa Rica, is Corcovado National Park. It is the largest park in the country and what is unique about it is that it runs largely without any human intervention. Eco-tourism is huge in this area and is the source of most of the capital. The park is accessible only by sea and is a low land tropical rainforest. Every travel guide for this country would mention a trip to Drake Bay.

If you are planning to travel to Costa Rica, you now know which are the best vacation spots in this beautiful and green country. Whatever be your idea of a vacation, this country manages to cater to your taste, probably by giving you one of the most beautiful experiences of your life.

Tips to Plan a Trip to Orego

The Pacific Northwest is notorious for prolonged wet weather. But the weather in Oregon happens to be as varied as its topography. Packing your rain gear, therefore, would be necessary if you’re visiting the extreme west.
A gorgeous coastline. A few volcanic mountains. An endless desert. World-renowned pinots. Delightful cuisine. An amazing Shakespeare Festival. Surfing. Hiking. Mountaineering. Camping. Cycling …

And the list can go on forever.

Summing up Oregon in an article is not an easy task at all, considering the sheer variety of things you can see and do while you’re here. So, if you’re looking to vacation at a place that has a little bit which interests everyone, this is exactly where you should be heading.

What kind of an Oregon trip are you looking for?

For starters, you need to pick a few activities that are on your mind, since that will decide which part of the state you’ll be heading to. Having said that, it doesn’t matter if all you want to do is nothing, since a vacation in Oregon can be a complete leisure/pleasure trip as well.

What is the best time to be there?

Any time is a good time to be in Oregon, as most of the state experiences mild winters and dry summers. The western third of the state sees heavy rainfall during the winters owing to its proximity to the ocean. So, if you’re planning a Pacific coastline road trip, schedule your trip in the summer. The deserts of central Oregon sees visitors both in the summer and winter as well, bringing trekkers and skiers in the respective seasons. If a visit to the Willamette Valley is on the agenda, the summer season would be perfect to visit the wineries in the region. Also, October would be a great time to visit if you’re interested in the grape harvesting season.

What is the best means of transport to get around?

Most tourists coming here love to indulge in outdoor activities that the state is famous for. The best means to travel within the state would be by car, which makes way for flexible traveling, whether you wish to visit the national parks, hit the beach, or check out the wineries. Also, this is the only way to access the more remote regions of the state and spend your time at leisure. Car rentals in the state are fairly abundant, and fit most budgets. Keep in mind, however, that there are several remote areas, especially in the eastern part of the state where you’ll have trouble finding a gas station, so be vigilant about the gasoline levels in your car.

Any inputs on the accommodation options?

Finding accommodation anywhere in the state is rather easy. Just as any typical tourist destination, the summer months of June and July see a lot of traffic, so hotels become automatically expensive. If you’re planning a summer trip, ensure that you’ve booked your rooms in advance, especially if you’re traveling with your family. For solo or budget travelers, there are a lot of B&Bs, hostels, and motels across the state.

What can we look forward to experience?

The wineries and cuisine of Oregon have always been a tourist magnet. The mild weather yields some excellent natural produce, including berries and mushrooms. The locally-raised meats, along with seafood is what puts this state on the culinary map. The state is also home to several wineries, producing world-renowned Pinot Noirs.
Where to go and what to see?
In this section, you’ll find a slice of Oregon, which will give you a heads-up on planning the itinerary of your trip.

Portland

As Oregon’s largest city, Portland is an upbeat combination of hip urbanity and scenic natural beauty. The city prides itself to be one of the greenest in the United States, along with being the bicycling capital of the nation. So naturally, the best way to explore Portland would be to take the 9-mile bike tour that takes you through downtown, Chinatown, and the Pearl District, as you ride along the waterfront, admiring the splendid skyline of the city. If you don’t fancy cycling, there’s a decent public transport system comprising buses and trains which will take you around town at prices you can afford.

Portland is easily accessible by air, rail, and land. Portland International Airport has flights arriving from destinations across the US and the rest of the world. Amtrak and Greyhound also have connecting services to Portland. If you’re driving to the city, the distance from Seattle is 175 miles, whereas from Los Angeles, it is 1,015 miles.

Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area

The Columbia river gorge is a natural border that demarcates Oregon from the state of Washington in the north. Cliffs rising as high as 4,000 feet make up the gorge, which is an excellent example of our planet’s natural marvels. This majestic area provides scope for several recreational activities, including hiking, windsurfing, sailing, river cruising, kayaking, and camping.

The Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, which includes Mount Hood are an hour’s drive away from the city of Portland.

Mount Hood

Mt. Hood is the state’s highest mountain, and is also a dormant volcano. It has been a popular destination for mountaineers, with around 10,000 attempting to climb it each year. According the U.S. Geological Survey, Mt. Hood is 3,426 meters (11,240 feet) tall. Besides mountaineering, there are specific trails dedicated to mountain biking, horseback riding, and all terrain vehicles.

Mt. Hood is located 20 miles east of Portland, and is easily accessible by road. There are plenty of staying options in the area; prominent names include the Timberline Lodge and Ski Area and The Resort at The Mountain.

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park is Oregon’s sole national park. Its creation dates back to about 7,700 years ago, when a phenomenal eruption caused Mount Mazama (estimated to have been about 12,000 feet high at the time) to collapse on to itself. What followed was a six-mile-wide caldera, which was filled with water over time, and eventually reaching 1,943 feet deep. This makes it, by far, the nation’s deepest lake. The beauty of this jewel-toned lake surrounded by high peaks is the park’s biggest attraction, and perhaps even the entire state’s as well.

The airports closest to the park are located in Klamath Falls (60 miles) and Medford (80 miles). If you’re driving to the site, take note that the north entrance is closed in the winter and spring season. The south entrance can be accessed all year round:
From Medford – Route 62 north and east to the park’s west entrance.From Klamath Falls – Route 97 north to Route 62 north and west to the park’s south entrance. Visitors coming here are recommended to stay at the Crater Lake Lodge.

Covered Bridges

Covered bridges are a rarity in the cement-concrete world that we’re living in, but it isn’t so in the state of Oregon. These vintage structures were constructed with the purpose of covering wooden bridges from the ill-effects of rain. With 50 covered bridges, this state has more of these than any other state west of the Mississippi. Five of these bridges are in the vicinity of Albany―Hoffman Bridge, Gilkey Bridge, Hannah Bridge, Shimanek Bridge, and Larwood Bridge.

Driving or cycling directions to the bridges can be availed at the Albany Visitors Association.

Pacific Coast Scenic Byway

Oregon’s 363-mile coastal drive is a natural marvel, and thanks to the government’s diktat of reserving it as public land, has largely stayed natural. Cruise along Highway 101, which takes a meandering route to the sea and away, zipping past marshes, seaside cliffs, lush farmlands, and wind-sculpted dunes. The northern half of the Byway has some spectacular temperate rainforests, a rugged coastline, and resorts. All of these sites simply justify the reason why the Oregon coast is one of the most photographed regions in the United States.

Smith Rock State Park

Located in central Oregon, the Smith Rock State Park is part of the desert near the towns of Redmond and Terrebonne. The tuff and basalt cliffs here are considered to be apt for rock climbing at various levels. The park’s campground is open to the public all year round. Besides rock climbing, you can also devote time to mountain biking and hiking. Wildlife enthusiasts will be able to spot a few golden eagles, prairie falcons, mule deer, river otters, and beavers.
Over time, the state of Oregon has built a steady reputation of being a tourism hub. As mentioned before, the state has something to offer for every season and every kind of tourist out there. Which means that you should not waste any more time in realizing your plans of coming to the Beaver State very soon.

How to Finding the Right Travel Agent

Planning a fulfilling vacation can be a challenging task; however, the introduction of several travel websites, have seemingly made it much easier for people. While numerous people opt to choose their destination and make all the bookings online, it is needless to say that even the best laid plans with regard to a self-booked holiday may go haywire and lead eventually to sheer disaster, due to reasons such as insufficient research, etc. In such a case, you not only end up ruining all your fun, but also your time and money. The best way to avoid this unpleasant, unwanted situation is to hire a good, reputed travel agent who will be able to help you plan your entire trip, and also make sure that it is completely free of hassles.

Some people think that planning a vacation on your own helps save a substantial amount of money, as it automatically eliminates the use of travel agent, the so-called middleman. While this might hold true in certain cases, we say that planning your vacation via a travel agent can actually help you obtain better, cheaper deals, thus, saving you from breaking the bank. An experienced travel agent will also be able to aid you in designing a feasible and practical itinerary, and provide tips with respect to choosing accommodations, renting private vehicles, and so on. Plus, you will get personalized attention while planning your vacation, as all your queries will be addressed then and there. However, it needs to be remembered that there are several traps out there in the market and so, it becomes extremely important to make a good and a wise choice from the countless travel agencies that are there. Buzzle brings you some vital tips to help you choose a right travel agent, in order to ensure a great vacation.

Travel Agent With Customers
Pen Down Your Expectations
Before going out to search for an appropriate travel agent to help you plan a perfect vacation for you, it is vital that you know exactly what you want, or what kind of services you expect from the agency. Unless you are absolutely sure about your own needs and demands, it will be very difficult to find the right travel agency. Note that some travel agents specialize in organizing some specific kinds of vacations, such as family tours, pilgrimages, wildlife safaris, etc. So, it may also be vital to recognize the exact nature and purpose of your holiday, before starting with your quest.

Do In-depth Research
With numerous established travel agencies and many more coming into existence each day, it may become rather confusing to choose the ones that suit your needs. Adequate and in-depth research is the solution to this problem. Use the Internet, inquire with your friends and acquaintances, and refer to local magazines and newspapers. If you know people who have hired any travel agent in the past, it is also a good idea to get in touch with them, and inquire about the services offered, money charged, priority given to customer satisfaction, and so on.

Narrow Down Your Search Results
Shortlist the ones that best suit your needs and demands and only then, go ahead and contact them. Your narrowed down list should depend on several criteria such as the services offered, the overall experience, the money charged, the location of the agency, and so on. No matter which of the above parameters (or others) you lay most emphasis on, do not forget to check the agent’s reputation and goodwill in the market.

Check if the Agency is Registered
You have conducted an in-depth research and have shortlisted some of your prospective travel agents, it is now time to check which of them are registered with the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA). ASTA is an organization that regulates the practices and activities of travel agents throughout the United States. A registration with ASTA indicates that a given travel agency has a good market standing. On the contrary, if it is unregistered, it indicates that either the agency holds a bad reputation or it is a completely new establishment that lacks adequate experience and knowledge.

Get in Touch and Ask the Right Questions
After checking the registration details, you can now get in touch with the agencies that you feel are the best for you. These days, most travel agents have their own websites, and you can contact them via email; however, speak to them or meeting face-to-face is a much better idea. It is essential that you ask the right questions like how the agency obtains discounts from travel providers, or how they earn their commissions, etc. A good travel agent will be more than happy to answer all your queries satisfactorily and patiently. It is best to stay away from the ones who avoid answering your questions, or are not patient or courteous enough.

Let the Agent Ask You Questions
While conversing with a prospective travel agent, it is essential that he/she gets to know about your needs and expectations. For this, it is obvious that a good travel agent will ask you certain questions about your travel destination, the duration of your stay, your overall budget, and so on. You, on your part, will need to be as frank and honest as you can so that he/she gets a clear idea about the kind of vacation you are looking forward to. Remember that an experienced travel agent will always ask you questions, and tell you what is possible and what is not. Avoid the one who does not do so.

Ask for Personal References
In order to confirm that you are about to hire a right travel agent, do not hesitate to ask him/her for references of previous customers. It is an extremely good idea to contact some of these people personally, and ask them about their experiences with the agent and the agency’s services. While a good travel agency will have nothing much to hide, and will happily provide you with personal references, the one that hesitates or avoids doing so, should not be hired.

Review the Written Agreement Carefully
First and foremost, making a written agreement with your travel agent is very important. It not only binds both the parties on certain terms and conditions, but also ensures that complete transparency is maintained in the entire dealing. When your travel agency makes an agreement, it is very important that you read and understand it properly. If you have any doubt, it is advisable to even consult a contract attorney and get the agreement reviewed. Look specifically for restrictive clauses, and inquire if the agency can amend some of them, according to your convenience. Moreover, ensure that the agency provides you with a written agreement before you make any payments so that you can rethink on your decision, if required. Do not hire an agency that asks you to pay before making an agreement, or does not make a written agreement at all.

While a good travel agent will make every possible effort to help you spend an enjoyable and a comfortable vacation, it is vital to see that you do not end up busting your budget by choosing an agent who provides all required services, but is expensive. ‘Cheap’ may not be the aim all the time, on the contrary, it is better to opt for a travel agent who offers good value for money.