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Travel associations can protect vacations, wallet

February 07, 2000|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Travel schemes are a $12 billion-a-year industry, according to James Ashurst, spokesman for the American Society of Travel Agents in Alexandria, Va.

To help protect themselves against problems, consumers should deal with members of travel industry associations such as the American Society of Travel Agents, Cruise Lines International Association and the United States Tour Operators Association, Ashurst recommends.

At the very least, consumers should call the local Chamber of Commerce to see if the agency is a member and check the company's record with the local Better Business Bureau, he said.

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said his office recommends that would-be travelers deal with established travel agency businesses.

It's a good idea to check with friends and family who have dealt with the business in the past and make sure everything went right for them, Curran said.

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Pay for travel arrangements with a credit card, which gives you recourse through the credit card company in case of any problems, he said.

Don't pay too far in advance for accommodations, Curran advises.

Have the agency outline your accommodations and cost in writing and confirm all your bookings directly with the cruise line, airline, hotel, bus line, etc., he said.

If you're traveling with a group, you might not be able to confirm your name but you should be able confirm the group's booking and number of group members, Curran said.

You can search by zip code for members of the American Society of Travel Agents online at www.astanet.com.

The Cruise Lines International Association Web site, at www.cruising.org/index2.htm, allows you to search for affiliated travel agencies by name, zip code or area code.

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