I just have a quick question

Every travel agent dreads this.  If you are planning that trip of a lifetime or a much needed escape to somewhere amazing (doesn’t have to be a bucket list place) why would you only have a quick question ???   Very strange.  Usually when planning a trip you want to be able to sit down with a specialist.  You want to have a long conversation about what your expectations are, your past experiences, your likes and dislikes and what sort of budget and level of accommodation you want.  This is how we work out what best to recommend so when someone pops into the agency with “I just have a quick question” frankly the alarm bells ring.

Generally the quick question would be –

  1. What sort of visa do I need to go to ……, or
  2. How much luggage can I take on my flight to ….., or
  3. What time do I need to be at the airport for my flight to Cancun (not booked with us)
  4. How would I get to Madrid airport from Seville?
  5. (I could go on but I won’t).

The problem is that travel has changed so much over the years with the growth of online agencies that travel agents have become travel consultants, therefore we are not really “retail” any more in the sense of walk in, buy a ticket, walk out.  The public today is very knowledgeable about many destinations and most of our customers have a pretty good idea of where they want to go.  Having done some research on their upcoming vacation they will fall  into one of three groups –

I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE – This person has done tons of research online and has become totally overwhelmed with different websites for airline tickets, hotels, tours, transfers etc. that they throw their hands up in the air and just want an expert to take care of them and their arrangements.  That’s cool.  That’s what we do.

I CAN TOTALLY DO THIS ON MY OWN – This person is confident and willing to take a risk booking an AirBnB.  In fact they love making all their own arrangements and feel that by doing this they have more control over their travel plans than if they assigned this to a third party such as a travel consultant.  That’s cool too.

I CAN DO THIS ON MY OWN BUT NEED AN EXPERT SECOND OPINION FIRST – This person is not so confident and always needs to double check with an expert so they will do the rounds of travel agencies with “quick questions”.  This is not cool at all.

Get a bunch of travel agents together and the stories come fast and hard and the fact that we can laugh at them shows that we love what we do and we much prefer to deal with people than be locked in a cubicle doing boring paperwork.  Here are a few stories that made us chuckle – Jeez we love this business!

“A woman called to make reservations. “I want to go from Chicago to Hippopotamus, New York.” The agent was at a loss for words. Finally, the agent asked, “Are you sure that’s the name of the town?” “Yes, what flights do you have?” replied the customer. After some searching, the agent came back with, “I’m sorry, ma’am, I’ve looked up every airport code in the country and can’t find a Hippopotamus anywhere.” The customer retorted, “Oh don’t be silly. Everyone knows where it is. Check your map!” The agent scoured a map of the state of New York and finally offered, “You don’t mean Buffalo, do you?” “That’s it! I knew it was a big animal.”  

“A nice lady just called. She needed to know how it was possible that her flight from Detroit left at 8:20am and got into Chicago at 8:33am. I tried to explain that Michigan was an hour ahead of Illinois, but she could not understand the concept of time zones. Finally I told her the plane went very fast, and she bought that!”

And here is a whole list of those “quick questions” collected from travel agents around North America.

  1. Can you guarantee weather?
  2. What is the safest seat on a plane if it crashes?
  3. What would the cost be for a car rental to drive to Australia?
  4. How much does the bus cost to get from here to Africa?
  5. do you have cruises from toronto to china pls?
  6. Is this Tim Hortons?
  7. Is it safe to drink the bath water in Mexico?
  8. Can you watch my groceries while I do some more shopping in the mall?
  9. Can I take my cats on the cruiseship?
  10. Are there sharks in that ocean?
  11. Does the sun set there?
  12. How far do planes go?
  13. How do planes fly at night when it’s so dark?
  14. Am I speaking to a live agent?
  15. Do I have to bring my own bedding?
  16. Does the ship have lifeboats?
  17. Are there icebergs in the Caribbean?
  18. Can I get a refund if it rains?
  19. Is food included in an all-inclusive?
  20. Does “ocean-view” mean I’ll have a view of the ocean?
  21. Are there kids at the adult-only resort?
  22. Do I have to use my real name to buy the ticket?
  23. Is there a walking tour on the cruise?
  24. Do you have any resorts with a pool?
  25. Can you get me tickets for the Picadilly circus?
  26. Can I carry weapons on the plane?
  27. Does the time difference mean we’ll get there faster?
  28. Will there be noisy guests at the hotel?
  29. Is it windy on the beach?
  30. What time does the sun come up in Australia?
  31. What language do they speak in Spain?
  32. Can you give me a list of all the ATMs in Paris?
  33. Can we pet the lions on an African safari?


By Lesley Keyter

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.


  1. Leslie, I look forward to reading your emails. Your sense humour is awesome. I have to say to whomever believes that there are no dumb questions, do you ever work with people… because “Oh yes, there most certainly are.



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