Best Travel Agencies
Working with a reputable travel agent takes the stress out of travel. Use our guide to research the best travel agency for you. Travel agencies handle transfers between multiple destinations, event planning services, group travel arrangements and more. Many agencies are starting to market themselves in new ways, often by catering to niche markets.
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How to find a travel agency
Travel agencies aren't required to obtain licensing or certification, though recognized organizations accredit and certify members. Travelers can confirm a travel agency's accreditation by looking for the accrediting body's logo on a travel agency's website or brochure.
- ASTA accreditation: ASTA (American Society of Travel Advisors) accreditation assures clients that the agency operates under ASTA's code of ethics and will communicate with clients about unexpected changes to travel plans.
- IATA accreditation: IATA (International Air Transport Association) accreditation provides agencies with a Sales Agency Agreement and a TIDS number that authorizes sales of international and domestic airline tickets.
- Unaccredited agencies: If considering an unaccredited travel agency, take into account that their lack of accreditation could mean they are inexperienced or have had service problems that caused a loss of accreditation.
Credentials are similar to accreditation, though on an individual level. Some travel agents obtain certification through The Travel Institute, which confirms the agent's interpersonal skills and destination knowledge. These types of certifications ensure that travelers are working with an agent that has the necessary experience to anticipate travel issues and provide solutions.
- Certified travel associate (CTA): A CTA is a professional who has a minimum of 18 months in the travel industry and has passed courses to enhance skills and service.
- Certified travel counselor (CTC): A CTC has the skills of a CTA, advanced industry training and five years of industry experience.
- Certified travel industry executive (CTIE): A CTIE is a travel industry professional who has management training within the travel agency.
Travel agencies charge fees for services provided to clients to account for time spent researching and booking travel arrangements. Keep in mind that a travel agent’s inside knowledge of travel-related discounts may make booking through an agency less expensive than self-booking over the internet.
- Airline ticket procurement fee: Travel agencies charge an airline ticket procurement fee for purchasing tickets on behalf of the traveler.
- Travel agency service fees: Other common travel agency fees include fees for booking hotels and rental cars and for time spent researching trips.
- Itemization of costs and fees: While there is no law requiring travel agencies to provide an itemized breakdown of costs and fees, you can request this information to ensure fees are reasonable.
International travel planning
Planning a trip to another country is typically more complex than planning a domestic trip due to extra paperwork and the need to know details about the destination country. A trusted global travel agency can help manage details and paperwork on your behalf.
- Destination-specific research or specialization: Some agents with certification from The Travel Institute are trained in region-specific bookings while others charge for time spent researching destinations.
- Hotel and flight packages: Using a global travel agency to book international hotel and flight packages can cut costs even after agency fees are added. To check for savings, compare online price listings to prices provided by the agency.
- Visa and passport requirements: Having visas and passports in order is vital when traveling to other countries, so confirm which documents are needed with the agency early in the trip-planning process.
Group travel planning
Planning a trip for a group can be challenging because some facilities cannot accommodate groups. Travel agencies find suitable venues and transportation for the entire group. A global travel agency can help you with international group vacations.
- Large-group discounts: Travel agencies have access to discounts based on established relationships with hotels and airline companies to secure a great price for group bookings.
- Transportation: A large group is not going to fit in a standard rental car. Confirm the travel agency is able to book a van or several cars to meet the group's transportation needs.
- Itinerary details for the group: In addition to sleeping arrangements and transportation, eating out and visiting tourist attractions can be problematic for a group. Ask the travel agency to arrange the fine points of the group's trip in addition to handling the larger details.
Land and sea planning
Planning a vacation involves more than selecting a country and booking hotel and airfare. Hiring a travel agency can help make sure travelers enjoy every stop in their itinerary.
- Add a cruise: Talk to your travel agency about adding some sea travel to any vacation. Different onboard accommodations and ports of call allow travelers to extend the reach of their trips.
- Seamless transfers: Making the transfer from onshore accommodations to a cruise ship can eat up almost an entire day, but a travel agent takes care of the hassle by arranging travel to the port at the right time.
- Planning excursions: Ask the travel agent to arrange desired shore excursions at the ship's ports of call that enrich other planned itinerary stops.
Types of travel agencies
Commercial travel agencies.
Commercial travel agencies cater to business travelers. These agencies specialize in tracking down deals for business travelers to help companies manage travel costs.
Online travel agencies
Travel agencies that exist only in cyberspace provide clients with the convenience of online booking and discounts that are available only to professional travel agencies. Some agencies offer both online booking and walk-in service for clients.
Niche travel agencies
Niche travel agencies provide clients with specialized knowledge of a region. This enhances the travel experience for clients by ensuring paperwork is in order and providing specific, often first-hand, knowledge of the area tourists are visiting.
Memberships associations give travelers access to the organization's travel planning services for the cost of an annual membership rather than charging per transaction. This type of agency offers the most benefit to frequent travelers.
Who uses travel agencies?
International travelers can cut the stress of planning trips to other countries when a global travel agency manages the details. This includes making sure each traveler has the proper paperwork and booking suitable travel accommodations.
Business travelers can take advantage of savings associated with discounts available only to travel agents. Some travel agencies also handle the detailed expense report paperwork required by the accounting departments of most companies.
Group travelers can save time when looking for accommodations that have room for the entire group by using a travel agency. Group bookings through an agent can also save you money.
Travel bargain seekers
Travel bargain seekers can discuss their travel budget with a travel agent. This is a way to determine what discounts and money-saving packages a travel agency can arrange.
Travel agencies FAQ
Most travel agencies don’t charge customers, meaning the only price you pay is the cost of your trip. Agents are typically paid commissions by the hotels or airlines. Some travel agents may charge service fees from $100 to $500, but that money is usually applied toward the cost of your trip if you complete travel arrangements through the agency.
To know if a travel agency is legit:
- Review the agency’s website for a physical address and phone number.
- Check for industry certifications and associations with professional organizations like the American Society of Travel Advisors.
- Read reviews to learn about client experiences. Ask for a list of references.
- Make sure the agent accepts credit cards.
- Compare pricing to make sure cost isn’t too high or too low.
No, it’s generally free to use a travel agent. A travel agency may charge a service fee or a booking fee, but it’s common for this fee to apply toward the cost of your trip.
The four main types of travel agencies are:
- Commercial travel agencies , which cater mainly to business travelers
- Online travel agencies that help people plan their trips entirely online
- Niche travel agencies , which specialize in arranging trips to specific areas
- Membership associations that provide travel services as a benefit to members
Using a travel agent is a more personalized experience than booking online — and sometimes cheaper. Travel agents are experts who can find the best deals on flights , cruises, hotels and activities. Agents are often available 24/7 in case of problems. And there’s usually no extra cost to use one.
Yes, a travel agent can save you money, especially if you’re traveling internationally to unfamiliar territory or if you’re organizing a trip for a big group. In addition to finding you the best deal, a travel agent saves you time planning and researching — often at no cost for services.
- Find the best deals on flights, hotels, cruises and activities for individuals, families, businesses and groups
- Give clients personalized attention and advice for trip planning
- Offer trip insurance
- Save you time and stress
- Are available 24/7 in case of a problem and advocate on your behalf
No, you don’t need to tip a travel agent. A great way to show appreciation is to refer friends, family members and co-workers. Some people choose to write a thank-you note and/or give a small gift.
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Travel agency reviews
HotelPlanner uses online technology to connect customers with hotel group sales managers. Founded in 2003, HotelPlanner offers group travel services in more than twenty languages and partners with more than 50,000 hotels worldwide.
- Guaranteed lowest group rates : For consumers booking 10 or more rooms per night, HotelPlanner matches or beats the prices offered elsewhere.
- Free room for the planner : The group's coordinator, the person who set up the hotel block, is provided with a free room when booking more than the minimum number of required rooms for the block.
- Local experts : A local expert is assigned to each group to provide advice about navigating the city and enjoying activities.
- Easy bid requests : The electronic room-booking process for groups is quick and easy to navigate. Travelers fill in the form and wait for hotels to bid on their travel, cutting out hours spent on the phone and putting negotiating power in the hands of the traveler.
- Hotels bid on clients : HotelPlanner provides clients with the option to have hotels bid for the client's business, ensuring the best rates and packages.
Tours4fun is a full-service travel agency, offering both brick-and-mortar and online customer service options.
Royal Holiday Vacation Club offers memberships that let you travel to nearly 200 destinations in over 50 countries. It has over 100,000 members and has been in business since 1983. Royal Holiday Vacation Club is a subsidiary of Park Royal Hotels and Resorts.
The Global Work & Travel Co. is an Australia-based youth travel organization that specializes in travel for people ages 18 to 30. With offices in the United Kingdom and Canada and over 1,200 travel partner organizations, you will get help with planning and logistics at every step of your journey.
Vantage Deluxe World Travel was established in 1983 when it started offering affordable deluxe travel to select groups, like teachers unions and alumni associations. Since then, the company has escorted almost half a million travelers all around the world.
Global Vacation Network is a membership association that provides condominium packages and advice for saving on other travel-related details, such as airfare.
The smarTours company has been in business since 1996, offering low-cost group vacation tours to exotic worldwide locales. To date, more than 150,000 satisfied travelers have used smarTours to book their holiday.
Liberty Travel is a traditional brick-and-mortar travel agency with a presence in several major cities in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, New England, Illinois, California and Florida.
Fox World Travel has 11 regional vacation travel agencies in Wisconsin and has agents who set up trips for corporate travelers all over the United States.
- Find a way : Agents are trained to find a way to put client requests first, even if the requests are challenging.
- Group travel : Traveling in groups is made easy with trips designed for wedding parties, schools, media events, and a range of customizable options.
- Business travel division : The business travel division specializes in meeting the unique needs of business travel like meeting planning services, attendee management, online event booking and more.
- Travel tools available : Travel tools that simplify traveling, such as currency converters and a flight tracker are provided online for clients to use.
- Online booking : Vacation packages can be viewed and booked online through the company website.
Zicasso partners with multiple travel agencies that specialize in specific styles of trips or destinations and puts agencies together with travelers. Founded in 2006, by two world travelers, Zicasso serves the luxury travel market from its headquarters in Mountain View, California.
Trafalgar offers guided tours of popular vacation destinations, such as Europe, North America, South America and Asia, in larger groups of up to 52. Trafalgar also partners with the TreadRight Foundation to support underprivileged communities and work toward sustainable tourism practices.
- Authentic experiences : The guides that are assisting travelers live and work in the communities being toured.
- Travel options : All Trafalgar tours are guided tours, but there are numerous options to choose from. Travelers can decide on a family vacation, country explorations, special interest tours and more.
- Keep options open : Flexibility is built into the travel itinerary for exploring destinations with several nights of free exploration on every tour. This allows travelers to revisit favorite sites or explore areas not covered by the tour group.
- VIP treatment : Trafalgar trips provide exclusive access to sights so travelers avoid waiting in lines.
- Friendly experience : Local guides greet clients and treat them as friends, providing comfort and a sense of welcome in a strange land.
Audley Travel has offered custom-made trips based on client input since opening their doors in 1996. With more than 75 destinations and travel types that range from luxury to road trip, vacationers can create and enjoy their own ideal holiday away.
- Preplanning assistance : Clients can browse the website or discuss interests with a travel planner to get destination ideas.
- Detailed planning : A specialist helps plan each detail of the trip until the client is satisfied and approves the itinerary.
- Pretrip preparation assistance : The assigned specialist is available for questions and reviews the client's itinerary four days before departure.
- Midtrip support : Clients are provided with a number to call that is manned 24/7 if assistance is needed.
- Multiple destinations : Trips to over 75 worldwide locations are offered by Audley Travel.
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.
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It’s official: Internet booking sites are the worst. Which means travel agents are back in a big way, to such a degree that the crème de la crème among them are so selective that they’ll work with only a small group of card-carrying members.
We talked to the top dogs at four very different membership travel companies to find out what kind of VIP hook ups they’ll get you—and how much hand-holding you can expect along the way.
Courtesy of The Tailor Nathan Dyer
Source: Stacy Fischer Rosenthal, president
The Gist: Founded almost 54 years ago by her father, Bill Fischer—who got his clients into sold-out spots like the Hotel du Cap in Antibes in the ’80s—this family-run business is as exclusive as a club gets. “We have a very serious vetting process,” says Fischer Rosenthal.
The Membership: You might want to sit down for this: a $100,000 initiation fee, plus an annual $25,000 renewal fee, plus service fees for all trip planning. And that’s only if you’re accepted. Right now, Fischer has just 175 members.
The Claim to Fame: One-on-one tennis lessons with John McEnroe, a private tour of the Egyptian pyramids, Christmas dinner cooked by a Michelin-starred chef—you name it, Fischer Rosenthal can do it. If she told us her team could move mountains, we’d almost believe her.
Hand-Holding Quotient: Next-level. “My clients will never check in at a front desk, they will never fill out any forms, they will never have a moment when their trip isn’t absolutely seamless.”
Courtesy of Essentialist
Source: Joan Roca, founder
The Gist: Former Travelocity exec Roca ditched digital and went private bespoke in 2017 after realizing travelers didn’t need more choice—they needed more curation. His cabal of experts includes more than 75 journalists and editors specializing in various destinations around the world.
The Membership: A flat fee of $1,400 per household per year includes unlimited travel-planning services by a designated “travel designer” who knows everything about you, from what you like to eat to what you like to drive.
The Claim to Fame: Ultra-insider experiences are the name of Roca’s game, whether it’s the best paella in Majorca at a secret restaurant few locals know or a private dinner in a Venetian palazzo. “It’s not about the price tag,” he says. “It’s about discovering things that are under the radar and unique.”
Hand-Holding Quotient: Minimal. “Our client doesn’t require a lot of hand-holding,” Roca says. “They don’t want people standing at the door of their hotel room every morning. They just want to go.”
Courtesy of Marchay
Source: Karl Backlund, cofounder
The Gist: With partner Jon Ein of private equity firm Foundry Capital, Backlund devised not an agency but a “travel community of like-minded individuals,” in which pay-for-play travel agents wouldn’t be welcome.
The Membership: $4,500 for a full annual membership with unlimited bespoke trip planning , or $1,750 for a one-trip planning fee. “We admit limited members to make sure the service standards are maintained,” Backlund says.
The Claim to Fame: Seamless execution of even the most complicated itineraries, whether it’s an island-hopping extravaganza in the Caribbean via private jet and yacht or a Scottish golf spree with 11 tee times in 11 days.
Hand-Holding Quotient: That’s up to you. “Our clients appreciate a significant portion of discovery—the thirst for exploration is definitely there,” Backlund says. But he’ll still hold your hand if you ask.
Source: Brent Handler, founder
The Gist: Handler is like the Thomas Edison of travel clubs . He invented the destination club with Exclusive Resorts in 2002, then went on to create Inspirato , a similar but more affordable club in 2011. The Inspirato Pass , his latest brainchild, is a subscription app.
The Membership: $2,500 per month gets you household booking rights to exclusive trips, events and accommodations—all at no added cost. The catch? After booking a trip, you have to take it before you can reserve another.
The Claim to Fame: There’s the usual hotel suites and over-the-top villas, but what gets really interesting is Inspirato Pass ’s access to marquee events and experiences, from US Open seats to a European river cruise.
Hand-Holding Quotient: Surprisingly high, for an app. “All Inspirato Pass trips include pre-trip planning by our expert travel designers, including custom itineraries,” says Handler. Impressive.
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The Travel Advisor—an Unsung Hero of the Pandemic—and the Key to Safe Travels in 2021 and Beyond
We're making the case to never book a luxe vacation without the help of a travel advisor again.
Brownell Travel Vice President Beth Flowers was checking up on the company's partners and guides in Africa during January 2020 and started noticing many people wearing masks across larger cities, like Johannesburg, by the time she flew back to the U.S. She and other travel advisors began having clients stranded at cruise ports or in other countries during this time, and the luxury travel advisors shifted their role from planning fabulous vacations to being healthcare and insurance advisors, offering crisis management, and doing whatever they could to bring their clients home safe and sound in those first few months of 2020.
"Once everyone was back home, we were in total lockdown, and so we transitioned again to working with our partners as client advocates," Flowers says. "The 'client's advocate' was the phrase that encapsulated the first few months of the year for us as we pivoted and postponed trips, dealt with refunds, and worked through technicalities in terms and conditions for them. If you hired an advisor, you didn't have to deal with any of that."
Though the role of the transactional travel agent is nearly all but defunct, the luxury travel advisor is more in-demand than ever before. Flowers says her team is not only buzzing with new bookings into 2022, which is anticipated to sell out faster than ever before, but also with first-time clients who don't want to make the mistake of traveling during this era without the peace of mind a seasoned travel advisor brings, whether they learned that first-hand or not.
Why You Should Consider Working with a Travel Agent
"We've been working in this climate for 16 months now and know exactly who and where is performing and who isn't," says Flowers. "Fine wine is the closest association I can make here. When it comes to travel right now, it's like someone picking up a 100-page book by a sommelier when you really need someone to cut through the clutter and select the best vintage for your meal. That's what we are constantly doing: listening to clients to understand the expectations they have for the experience they want while helping them find a possible match, all the while helping them manage their expectations during these times."
Flowers says the greatest benefit to working with a travel advisor is the relationship they have with partners, properties, and hoteliers across the globe. And not only that, they often have relationships with locals who offer unique experiences that you won't be able to find online.
Erik Ornitz, the general manager for new ventures at TripAdvisor agrees, which is why his team has recently launched Reco , a digital travel advisory platform that connects travelers with a highly curated selection of "trip designers" based on their expertise of specific destinations. Ornitz says working with a travel advisor offers access to experiences that you simply can't get anywhere else. One of Reco's trip designers, for example, specializes in wine travel across Portugal and Spain, and those who book with him will arrive at these vineyards as his friend and are offered intimate, special experiences that they would have never been able to have if they hadn't worked with a specialist in this area.
"TripAdvisor is the most-visited travel site in the world, and with that, we get a lot of insights and data, as well as get to talk to the travelers themselves," says Ornitz. While TripAdvisor helped introduce the capability of DIY travel, his team has noticed over the last few years that people are really wanting to work with someone for specific vacations, like honeymoons or two-week explorations through Asia or Europe, which his team calls "highly considered trips."
"We really started to research the concierge travel space, and it made a lot of sense with many of the other consumer trends going on out there like personal trainers, subscription services, and home management concierge, like Hello Alfred."
From there, Ornitz's team spent countless hours curating a pool of 300 "trip designers" who they considered to be deep specialists in specific destinations. These advisors list their top three or four specialities on a Reco profile, particularly if they lived there at some point or have visited dozens of times. Travelers looking for a travel advisor through Reco, answer a few important questions about where they want to go, the type of traveler they are, among other things, and will then be paired with several options to select the perfect trip designer for a specific vacation.
"People highly value their vacations and travel in general—research shows that," says Orntiz. "Then you add a layer of willingness to venture further out, make the trip experiential, and that's when it gets exciting and really matters."
While spending hours researching various locations can help you make good decisions on where to go and what to do, working with a travel advisor, especially in the luxury space, is all about making the absolute best decision for a one-of-a-kind vacation you'll never forget. Flowers and Ornitz both say people are craving trips with their loved ones, who they may not have seen (or seen much of) in more than a year, and they want their family vacations to be extra-special.
"Folks are looking for ways to get the most from their vacations, and with so many options and information out there, it can be overwhelming to choose, especially for far-off destinations," says Ornitz. "Our trip designers offer their personal expertise of having actually been there and really knowing these different hotels to help you decide the best for you. There may be a dozen luxury resorts lined up on the same beach, but the right trip designer knows how much you love golf and that Rosewood's golf program is the best in the area, so that will be the best fit."
Flowers says another crucial benefit of working with a travel agent—especially for travel into 2022—is that through their own partners on the ground, they know which areas, hotels, and other offerings are and aren't performing well.
"What we initially saw from many partners around the world when Covid-19 hit was this emphasis on sanitation and cleanliness, but that's not why people were wanting to travel," she says. "The desire for travel was to be remote, to have privacy with loved ones, to escape into beauty and nature, and that is only going to be accomplished when you're in places that deliver all of those experiences to meet these desires." Flowers cites Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts , Oetker Collection , and Rosewood Hotels & Resorts as some of the major luxury resort chains that have gone above and beyond to deliver not only a safe experience while traveling, but are still focused on creating these ultra-high-end, luxurious stays for people seeking to unwind and rejuvenate. Flowers also says that places with excellent villa or residence properties as part of their repertoire have really thrived during this time, winning people back to travel again, be it domestic or international.
The Future of Travel Advisory is Bright
Flowers has full confidence that travel advisors will remain in high demand, as more people are desperate than ever to travel yet are fearful of the unknown in terms of the pandemic and Covid-19 restrictions. She's also betting on the power of word-of-mouth advertising to keep luxury travel firms as busy as ever into 2022 and beyond.
"When a person is at a cocktail party with friends and hears how someone had this fabulous experience with a vacation during Covid, that will be a real feather in people's caps," Flowers says. "There's such a pent-up demand for top-level properties, and it's important to have someone who understands which ones are truly the best and know the things that can't be Googled. The world is becoming more and more experiential, and people want to spend more time together with loved ones. The advisor community is just going to continue to grow. We actually need more of us!"
Lauren Wicks is a freelance writer and editor based in Birmingham, Alabama. Before going on her own, Lauren worked for brands such as VERANDA, EatingWell, and Cooking Light , and she covers all things lifestyle from interior design and luxury travel to wine and wellness.
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Premium Economy - from New Zealand via New York to London - from $7,950* pp return
Korean Air Business Class to UK / Europe
Business Class - Auckland via Seoul to Europe from $9,255* pp return
Air Tahiti Nui Business Class to Paris
Business Class - flying via Papeete and Los Angeles to Paris from $8,947* pp return
Etihad Airways Business Class to UK / Europe
Business Class - from New Zealand via Australia and Abu Dhabi to Europe from $10,778* pp return
Business Class - from New Zealand via Australia and Abu Dhabi to London from $11,205* pp return
China Southern Business Class to UK / Europe
Business Class - from New Zealand via Guangzhou to London from $11,870* pp return
China Airlines Business Class to UK / Europe
Premium Economy - Auckland via Brisbane and Taipei to London - On request
Premium Economy - Auckland via Brisbane and Taipei to Europe - On request
Business Class - Auckland via Brisbane and Taipei to Europe - On request
Thai Airways Business Class to UK / Europe
Business Class - from New Zealand via Thailand to the UK and Europe
Thai Airways is yet to re-commence its direct service between Auckland and Bangkok.
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The Pros and Cons of Booking Through Online Travel Agencies
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You’re likely already familiar with online travel agencies, even if you don’t travel often. These companies — such as Priceline , Expedia and Orbitz — act as intermediaries between you and a travel provider.
Booking your travel through an OTA can be a good idea in some circumstances, but you’ll want to be wary of its pitfalls. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of online travel agencies, so you’ll know what to use to book your next vacation.
Pros of booking through online travel agencies
There are certainly advantages booking through online travel agencies, though you’ll find different experiences whether you’re using public OTAs — such as Kayak — or private ones like those offered by your card issuer, such as the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal .
✅ It may be cheaper
When searching for flights online, you may see different prices for the same routes that vary across websites. Although it may be a result of fare type — for example, some search results may not clarify that a fare is basic economy rather than main cabin or economy — other times, the difference comes down to competition for your business.
Online travel services will often offer slightly lower prices on flights in an effort to entice you as a customer. This is true for both hotels and airlines.
» Learn more: Best credit cards for online travel-booking websites
✅ It can earn you more rewards
Have you ever heard of shopping portals ? By logging into a shopping portal, you can earn rewards for purchases made with many online merchants. Some hotel chains, such as Hilton , Marriott and IHG , can be accessed through shopping portals while still booking directly on the hotel website. In this way, you can earn rewards with the hotel directly as well as with the shopping portal.
The same isn’t true for shopping portals and most airline sites. However, many public online travel agencies are accessible through shopping portals, which can then earn you rewards for airfare bookings. By opting to book in this way, you’ll be able to earn points or cash-back rewards through the shopping portal that you’d otherwise miss.
Some card issuers will also reward you heavily when using their online travel services. Clear examples of this can be seen with Capital One and Chase. With the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card , for example, you’ll get 10 miles per dollar spent on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel .
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is similar. With this card, you can get 10 Ultimate Rewards® points per dollar spent on hotels and rental cars on the Chase travel portal.
While these numbers are high, it’s important to remember that there are trade-offs when booking through an OTA rather than directly with a hotel or airline. We’ll get into that a little later.
Online travel agencies offered by your card issuer may not feature the same prices as booking directly; you’ll want to compare these before committing to a purchase.
Some card issuers will go so far as to give your points more value when redeeming through their online travel agencies.
This is true with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card . When redeeming points on the Chase travel portal, you’ll get 1.25 cents in value per point rather than 1 cent elsewhere.
» Learn more: How much are your airline miles and hotel points worth this year?
Cons of booking through online travel agencies
There are several downsides when it comes to using online travel services for booking travel. It mainly comes down to the fact that travel providers prefer that you book directly with them — and offer more perks to woo your business.
❌ It can be harder to change a booking
Ever needed to change a flight after it's booked? No matter the reason, attempting to alter or otherwise cancel a flight can be a hassle — especially if you’ve booked through a third party.
Generally speaking, rather than offering you direct assistance, both hotels and airlines will recommend you contact the online travel agency you’ve booked with in order to make any changes.
While you may be able to make changes or get refunds with the travel agency, airlines and hotels can — and will — offer much more flexibility when you’ve booked with them directly. You may also be subject to additional fees charged by the online travel agency, which can erase any savings you’ve received.
❌ You may not receive elite benefits
This is the real kicker for anyone wanting elite status. Although airlines will almost always recognize your elite status and allow you to earn miles even for bookings made through an online travel agency, hotels and rental car companies will not.
This is especially important for hotel chains. Earning elite status with hotels generally relies on elite night credits. Although these can be earned in a variety of ways — including having complimentary status by holding certain credit cards — the main method of acquiring elite night credits is by spending nights in hotels. Rooms booked through an online travel agency do not count toward elite status as elite night credits.
Additionally, you will not receive any of the benefits of your existing elite status if your booking is through a third party. This can mean the loss of perks such as room upgrades, complimentary breakfast and even free Wi-Fi.
» Learn more: The best airline and hotel rewards loyalty programs this year
❌ It may be more expensive
Did you know that many hotel chains have best price guarantees? Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott and IHG all have a guarantee that’ll give you either points or a discount if you find a better rate elsewhere.
These guarantees are generous; Hilton, for example, will match the rate and then discount it by a further 25%.
Although you’ll need to file claims for these guarantees and they face limitations — such as a 24-hour window from when you made the booking — you can save a lot of money on your stay if your request is approved.
Online travel agencies can be hit or miss
There are two sides to every coin and this is no different, as there are several benefits and limitations of online travel services. Depending on your needs and loyalty program status, you’ll want to choose whether to book directly with a travel provider or rely on OTAs to do the job for you.
Booking travel through credit card portals from issuers like Chase and Capital One can earn you big rewards. But if you anticipate altering your travel plans or aim to earn elite status instead, booking directly is the way to go.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023 , including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
on Chase's website
1x-5x Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
60,000 Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
1.5%-5% Enjoy 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
Unlimited Matched Cash Back Unlimited Matched Cash Back. Chase will automatically match all the cash back you earned at the end of your first year! There is no limit to how much cash back you can earn.
on Capital One's website
2x-5x Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.
75,000 Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.
I’m a Luxury Travel Agent: 10 Destinations My Wealthy Clients Are Heading to in 2024
Posted: November 28, 2023 | Last updated: November 28, 2023
You have — a lot of — cash to burn and you’re ready to get out of town . The only problem is, you’re not sure where to go.
Discover: 11 Expensive Vacation Destinations That Will Be Cheaper in 2024
Find Out: How To Get Cash Back on Your Everyday Purchases
Right now, you’re open to domestic or international travel, hot or cold weather. You’re interested in finding out what the current hotspots are and making your decision from there.
GOBankingRates spoke with luxury travel agents to find out where their clients are headed on vacation next year. Here are 10 locations they’re currently fulfilling a lot of requests to visit.
Sponsored: Open a new checking account and earn early paycheck access; up to 2 days early with Discover® Cashback Debit with Early Pay
Volcanoes National Park — Rwanda, Africa
- Average Trip Cost: $20,000-plus per person — excluding international flights — for a one-week trip
- Cost Factors: Permits to spend time with gorillas, luxury accommodations
“While we book numerous safari destinations, trips to see the mountain gorillas in Rwanda seem to have spiked in interest over the last six months,” said Daniel Jackson, CEO at The Travel Whisperer, a luxury travel agency that focuses on ski and safari trips. “Rwanda really is the most luxury way to do a gorilla trip, with a day permit costing $1,500 per person in the Volcanoes National Park, which allows you one hour with a troop of gorillas.”
He said a one-week trip would include two days with the gorillas.
“This trip is popular with 40-to-60-year-olds with higher disposable income and some time on their hands,” he said. “Visiting the gorillas can often mean hours of trekking to find them, so it tends to attract active, outdoor enthusiasts with a passion for nature and adventure.”
I’m a Travel Agent: 7 Costliest Mistakes People Make When Planning Vacations
Beaver Creek, Colorado
- Average Trip Cost: Varies, but accommodations can total more than $15,000 per night and a one-day ski lift pass costs $299
- Cost Factors: Pricey accommodations, ski lift passes, local activities, high-end dining
“Multi-generational families are looking for the perfect getaway that has something for all during the winter, and Beaver Creek ticks lots of those boxes,” Jackson said. “The skiing is phenomenal, with virtually no lift lines and amazing staff on the mountain to help you out with whatever you need.”
“The village has amazing restaurants for foodies and plenty of activities for the kids, including an amazing ski school,” he said. “If you want premium space on the mountain, then the cost can add up.”
During the holidays, he said exclusive homes can easily cost more than $15,000 per night and a one-day ski lift ticket at the window will cost $299 per person. However, he noted that there’s a variety of lodges to stay in — at varying prices — and great ways to save on ski lift tickets.
“It is definitely one of our most popular ski resorts, attracting those families looking for something a little less busy than neighboring Vail,” he said.
- Average Trip Cost: Approximately $10,000-$15,000 per person for a week
- Cost Factors: “High-end resorts, private yacht charters and Michelin-starred dining,” said Wallis Fairvalley, co-owner and travel advisor at Red Letter Travel.
“With its translucent turquoise waters and jet-set clientele, Sardinia is an Italian gem that offers the ultimate in Mediterranean luxury,” she said. “Yachting along the Costa Smeralda is a must, providing access to secluded beaches and coves that are perfect for a private, romantic getaway.”
- Average Trip Cost: Around $9,000-$13,000 per person for a week
- Cost Factors: “Boutique hotels, private art gallery visits and custom wine tours,” Fairvalley said.
In the past, Mallorca had a reputation as just a beach destination, but she said it’s an emerging hotspot for cultural tourism.
“Wealthy travelers are drawn to its quiet sophistication, be it the Moorish architecture or the burgeoning art scene,” she said. “It’s a more laid-back, but equally opulent alternative to other Mediterranean hotspots.”
- Average Trip Cost: Approximately $12,000-$20,000 per person for 10 days
- Cost Factors: “Private safaris, helicopter trips over the dunes and high-end lodges,” Fairvalley said.
If you want an adventurous escape, without compromising on luxury, she said Namibia might be your ideal vacation destination.
“The dramatic landscapes of the Namib Desert and Sossusvlei dunes offer a unique backdrop for safaris, while the Skeleton Coast offers an eerie but beautiful sense of isolation,” she said. “The focus here is on experiential luxury — think champagne breakfasts atop a dune after a hot air balloon ride.”
- Average Trip Cost: Around $9,000-$14,000 per person for a week
- Cost Factors: “Traditional ryokan stays, tea ceremonies and private geisha performances,” Fairvalley said.
“Kyoto is the cultural heart of Japan and a city that perfectly blends the ancient with the ultra-modern,” she said. “Wealthy travelers are drawn to its sublime gardens, ancient temples and the chance to experience traditional Japanese luxury.”
- Average Trip Cost: Around $5,000-$10,000 per person
- Cost Factors: “Luxury accommodations, private tours to explore ice caves and volcanoes, and fine dining featuring Icelandic cuisine,” according to Hans Mast, a travel agent and travel expert at Golden Rule Travel.
Mast said, “Iceland offers breathtaking natural beauty, from glaciers to waterfalls.” He said Iceland’s natural beauty makes it popular with high-end clients.
“Wealthy travelers are drawn to Iceland’s pristine landscapes, the chance to witness the Northern Lights and the exclusivity of experiencing untouched wilderness,” he said.
- Average Trip Cost: Approximately $10,000-$20,000 per person.
- Cost Factors: “Bhutan’s high costs are due to its government-mandated daily tariff, which includes luxury accommodations, guided tours and meals,” Mast said.
This can be a great option for those who want to immerse themselves in culture. “Visiting Bhutan is a unique opportunity to explore its rich culture and stunning Himalayan scenery,” Mast said.
“Bhutan’s focus on sustainable tourism, its stunning monasteries and the opportunity to experience an authentic Himalayan culture make it a top choice for wealthy travelers seeking exclusivity,” he said.
- Average Trip Cost: Starting from $10,000 per person
- Cost Factors: “Luxury overwater bungalows and private yacht charters contribute to the high costs,” Mast said. “Activities include snorkeling, diving and spa treatments.”
Travelers looking for an exclusive paradise will likely find that in this South Asia paradise on the Indian Ocean.
“The Maldives’ secluded, idyllic setting, pristine white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters offer an unmatched tropical paradise for those seeking relaxation and privacy,” he said.
- Average Trip Cost: Around $7,000-$15,000 per person
- Cost Factors: “Costs cover private wildlife safaris to see lemurs and unique flora and fauna, luxury lodges and private charters for island-hopping,” Mast said.
An island country off the southeastern coast of Africa, Madagascar offers the luxurious journey of a lifetime.
“Wealthy travelers are attracted to Madagascar’s extraordinary biodiversity, including rare wildlife and untouched landscapes, offering a sense of exploration and adventure,” he said.
“These up-and-coming destinations offer wealthy travelers unique experiences, exclusivity and the opportunity to explore untouched natural beauty and cultures,” Mast said. “While the costs are high, the allure of these destinations lies in their ability to provide unforgettable, tailor-made experiences that cater to the desires of luxury travelers.”
Now, all that’s left to do is figure out which destination tops your list, call your luxury travel agent and book your next trip.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com : I’m a Luxury Travel Agent: 10 Destinations My Wealthy Clients Are Heading to in 2024
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Best Online Travel Agencies
Booking.com is our top choice for making your trip arrangements
Ligaya Malones is an editor, blogger, and freelance writer specializing in food and travel. Ligaya's work has appeared in publications including Lonely Planet and BRIDES.
We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more .
Planning a trip can be easier through an online travel agency than if you handle each aspect of the planning separately. You can book hotels, air travel, rental cars, and more through a single site, and booking everything together sometimes results in discounts. By inputting a destination, a range of dates, and other preferences, you will see a list of options for each aspect of travel.
The best online travel agencies offer options from the largest number of airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, and more. Look for sites that offer discounts for combining reservations for different aspects of your trip. For example, the best sites will have lower rates if you book both plane tickets and a hotel through their services. The best sites also provide reviews from customers who actually have booked through the service. These are our top picks.
Best Online Travel Agencies for 2023
- Best Overall: Booking.com
- Best Budget: Skyscanner
- Best Price Predictor: Hopper
- Most Innovative: Kiwi.com
- Best for Eco-Conscious: Kind Traveler
- Best for Social Impact: I Like Local
- Best for Design-Forward Homestays: Plum Guide
- Our Top Picks
I Like Local
- See More (4)
Frequently asked questions, methodology, best overall : booking.com.
This industry leader offers one of the most comprehensive trip planning platforms on the Internet.
Lots of options to choose from
Interface is easy to use
Numerous filters to customize your search
Tricky to tell whether changes/cancellations can be made with Booking.com or the vendor directly
Booking.com was founded in 1996 and has grown into an industry leader that stands out for being one of the most comprehensive trip planning platforms out there. From one website, you can compare and book accommodations, flights (including one-way and multi-city flights), sightseeing activities, and even airport taxis. The website lists more than 28 million accommodation options, from hotels, hostels, and B&Bs to vacation homes and luxury resorts—you can browse more choices per destination on Booking.com than other online travel agencies. The website also performs well on cost and typically returns lower-than-average prices for flights and hotels.
Booking.com's interface is also easy to use. On the home page, search for a hotel by entering your chosen destination and dates. Then, use the extensive list of filters—such as price range and distance from the city center—to narrow the results down and find the best fit. You can also search for a specific hotel, or seek inspiration by clicking through options grouped by destination or property type or by topic such as the country’s best Michelin-starred hotel restaurants or the top cities for vegan travelers. The flights, car rental, and other tabs are just as intuitive.
Best Budget : Skyscanner
You can compare prices across airlines, hotels, and car rentals.
Option to toggle searches between specific dates or by monthly calendars
Search Everywhere button is great for spontaneous planners
Extra clicks are required to make a final purchase
Must read fine print for changes/cancellations—may need to deal directly with the vendor
Ads on the sidebar can be distracting
Find deals on airfare, hotels, and car rentals with an aggregator site like Skyscanner , which uses a metasearch engine to compare prices from all online travel agencies and the airline, hotel, or car rental company in question. Run searches with fixed dates, opt to compare airfare prices month to month, or click “Cheapest Month.” Searches also include options for nearby airports or non-stop flights only. With hotel searches, you can choose to select only from properties with free cancellation, a cleanliness rating of 4.5/5 or higher, or 3- or 4-starred hotels only. Car rental searches include an option to select “return car to different location.”
Once you’ve found the best rate, click on the link to be redirected to the third-party site to make your booking. Feeling spontaneous? The Search Everywhere button on the homepage offers a list of the cheapest flight deals for destinations both locally and across the world—just plug in your departure airport first.
Best Price Predictor : Hopper
The company claims a 95 percent accuracy rate at predicting when flights and hotel rates will be cheapest.
Color-coded system makes it easy to determine cheapest days to buy
App is easy to use
Option to track flights and receive alerts when the best time to buy arises
Some have mentioned the app functions better as a research tool than a booking tool
Unclear whether Hopper will price match if you find a cheaper flight elsewhere
Hopper is a travel app available on iOS and Android that aims to help travelers save on airfare by usng historical data and their own algorithm to predict when flights will be cheapest. Just type in where and when you’d like to fly and Hopper will present you with a color-coded pricing calendar indicating how much tickets are likely to cost. (Green is the least expensive, then yellow, orange, and red for most expensive.) Hopper will also recommend you either buy now or wait, or you can choose to watch a trip and receive notifications on the best time to buy. In addition, the app has expanded to offer hotel and car rental price predictions, too.
Some newer features since the app’s inception in 2009 include an option to freeze a price for a limited time—for an extra fee—as well as exclusive app-only discounts. Hopper is free to download, and you can choose to book directly through the app, though some users mentioned they use Hopper as more of a research tool before booking directly with the airline or hotel. The company claims a 95 percent accuracy rate at predicting flight rates up to a year ahead.
Most Innovative : Kiwi.com
This metasearch engine scours the web to piece together the ideal itinerary using planes, trains, buses, and more.
Creative itineraries get you where you need to go, especially if you’ve got a multi-stop trip
Kiwi Guarantee offers rebooking or cancellation protections
Nomad option appeals to travelers with a lot of flexibility
Creative itineraries mean you may not fly out of the same airport you flew into
Kiwi Guarantee has an additional fee
Charges all-in-one fee for booking flights, trains, buses (though you can always purchase a la carte)
Travelers planning multi-city destinations and seeking a bargain, as well as those looking to take planes, trains, and automobiles to get there, might consider Kiwi . Kiwi is a metasearch engine that scours and pieces together itineraries from various airlines (even if they don’t have a codeshare agreement), considers multiple airports (even if your arrival airport is different from departure), and offers booking options, whether you’re looking at very specific dates or more general ones (up to 60 nights).
Some will find the ability to make multiple bookings for a particular trip more convenient than going at it manually several different times, though note that you must opt into the Kiwi Guarantee program to access rebooking and refund protections should your reservation change or be canceled. Kiwi’s Nomad option allows you to plug in a bunch of destinations you’d like to visit and the length of your intended stay, and the website will churn out the most affordable itineraries for review.
Best for Eco-Conscious : Kind Traveler
A give-and-get business model means booking accommodations with exclusive perks, a donation to environmental organizations, and more.
All participating hotels include a local give-back component
Exclusive savings and perks
Participating hotels are located in some of the most beautiful places in the world
Inventory is much smaller compared to other booking platforms
Some of the amenities mentioned are based on availability only
In 2022, Kind Traveler (an online trave agency focused on hotel bookings) announced an increase in environmentally and socially conscious hotels, charity donations, voluntourism opportunities, and additional perks like waived resort fees or a welcome amenity.
Unlock exclusive hotel rates and perks from participating Kind Traveler hotels with a minimum $10/night minimum donation to a local charity. For example, stay at the Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives and receive up to $33 off the nightly rate and perks such as a food and beverage credit and an Earth Lab or Alchemy Bar workshop when you make a donation to Manta Trust. The organization funds coastal research to protect the island nation’s large yet fragile population of reef mantas.
Select from more than 140 participating hotels from the Hawaiian Islands to Bozeman, Montana, and the Maldives. Charities include wildlife, human rights, arts, education, and environmental preservation organizations.
Best for Social Impact : I Like Local
Choose from a host of travel experiences with the peace of mind that 100 percent of the cost goes directly to local partners.
Social impact mission woven into organization’s business model
Immersive experiences led by local guides
Range of experiences offered
May not be best fit for those seeking upscale, luxury experiences and stays
Can’t sort experiences by a list of countries (though an interactive map is available)
No experiences outside of Africa and Asia
For an online travel agency with a booking platform designed to route dollars spent directly to the communities travelers intend to visit, consider I Like Local . Visit the website to browse a host of travel experiences in countries including Indonesia, Kenya, and Cambodia. Experiences include homestays and farmstays as well as wellness and culturally oriented experiences—from cooking and cycling tours to weaving classes.
To search for an experience, select from drop-down items like travel dates and experience categories, or view a global map and click on a country to view experiences that way.
The platform got its start in 2014 and has grown to 4,000 local hosts across nearly 20 countries. As a social impact organization, 100 percent of each booking fee goes to local hosts. To date, 16,000 travelers have booked with I Like Local.
Best for Design-Forward Homestays : Plum Guide
Browse and book seriously vetted, design-forward vacation homes.
Highly curated inventory of vacation rentals across the world
Thorough vetting process
Does not publish guest reviews
Other platforms have homes available across more destinations
When it comes to booking a vacation home, serviced apartment, or condo, travelers are spoiled for choice. Plum Guide is an online travel agency that specializes in accommodations—though not just any home makes its directory. The company claims that each potential home listed on its site must jump through 150 hoops to be included, from internet speed and mattress and pillow quality to the showers’ water pressure and the home’s proximity to dining, shopping, and attractions.
Search by a featured collection on the website such as “ pet-friendly homes ” or “one-of-a-kind homes in Palm Springs.” Scroll to the bottom of its homepage to view its top destinations, as well as a list of all destinations where Plum Guide homes are available, including Barbados, Mexico, Portugal, Switzerland, the U.S., and Turkey. Note: From the top right-hand corner of the site, use the dropdown menu to select currency of choice.
As long as you know what you value most out of your travel experience—such as affordability, social impact, or luxe accommodations—there’s an online travel agency to help plan your next trip. Be sure to read the fine print, as some agencies are third-party websites and not direct vendors. If you're not sure where to start, Booking.com is your best bet for a smooth user experience and hard-to-beat offers on flights, hotels, and other travel arrangements.
What Is the Biggest Travel Agency?
Our choice for best overall, Booking.com, is known as an industry leader with listings for all major hotels, airlines, car rental companies, and more. It boasts more choices for accommodations per destination than any other site, and we found its interface to be user-friendly.
Are Online Travel Agencies Worth It?
This depends on your needs and priorities. The best online travel agencies certainly can save time by booking everything all at once. However, if you're someone who is good at haggling and enjoys the details of planning a trip, you might be able to find better deals by reaching out to hotels or other destinations and speaking to someone personally.
Is It Cheaper to Book Online Than With a Travel Agent?
Not always. A travel agent you know and trust should have the experience and connections to find deals that can match or surpass what you'll find online. Additionally, if something goes wrong, travel agents provide you with an actual person you can use as an advocate to correct the problem . But if you don't have access to a good travel agent, online sites still provide plenty of ways to streamline planning and save money .
We considered dozens of online travel agencies and narrowed down the options based on user experience, volume and quality of inventory, unique offerings and specials, and customer reviews. We also assessed travel companies’ environmentally and socially conscious policies.
Catherine Falls Commercial / Getty Images
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Kamaz FTL hauler registers NatCar brand
MOSCOW. Sept 4 (Interfax) - National Carrier JSC, the full truckload freight trucking company headed by former Globaltruck CEO Ilya Sattarov that Russian truck maker Kamaz founded this summer, applied to register the brand NatCar at the end of August, the registry of federal intellectual property service Rospatent showed.
The NatCar brand is also mentioned in the recruitment ads of National Carrier, which is actively looking for E-class drivers. It is offering working with this year's model Kamaz diesel trucks from the flagship K5 line and new dry goods (curtainsider) and refrigerated trailers.
National Carrier was founded on July 7 in Moscow with charter capital of 1 billion rubles, the Unified State Register of Legal Entities showed. The company registered two branches in early August, in Yekaterinburg and Elektrostal, Moscow Region. The company specializes in truck logistics and associated activities, including digitization processes.
A spokesman for National Carrier told Interfax earlier that the company plans to provide FTL trucking services using its own fleet, "as well as the resources of hired truckers." The company's fleet will initially consist of 400 semi-trailer trucks with a 50/50 ratio of curtainside to refrigerated trailers, and it plans to primarily operate on domestic routes, he said.
The company has preliminary agreements with major customers among marketplaces and retailers in the FMCG and DIY segments, the spokesman said. Strong demand for trucking services is expected toward the end of the year, so there is interest from customers, he said.
Kamaz marketing director Ashot Arutyunyan announced at the International Moscow Automotive Forum at the end of August that the truck maker was the principal investor in National Carrier. He did not comment on the new company's shareholder structure, but said it is a Kamaz startup.
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