It can feel like there’s a lot to take in when you’re booking a language travel experience. There are so many decisions to consider – where you want to study, when, for how long and for how many hours a day to name just a few. There’s also another decision you might not be aware of, which is whether to book directly through a school or via an agent. There are advantages to both, but if you’re wondering exactly what booking with an agent entails, that’s what I’m going to walk you through today.
How it works
If you want to book a language travel trip but you don’t know where to start, you can contact an agent who can show you a portfolio of schools and destinations and help you choose the best option based on your individual needs. You would pay the agent directly; they earn money through the commission the school pays them which is deducted from the school’s fees. This means you don’t have to pay anything to the school during your visit.
Types of agents
There a few different kinds of agents, and you’ll come across different ones depending on where you live and what sort of experience you’re looking for:
Let’s talk money
At ABC Cambridge, our agent partners usually charge the same price we offer on our website so, in some cases, it doesn’t make it any more expensive to use their services - essentially you could benefit from all of their expertise for free. You might also be offered an exclusive deal by an agent that we don’t offer when booking direct. However, you should be aware that some agents may charge additional admin or booking fees, so always double check what you’re buying! Another benefit of an agency is that they may offer protection on your booking, meaning you might be able to get a refund if unforeseen circumstances mean a change of plan. Again, though, always read the fine print.
Sit back and relax
You’ll probably find that the main positive of booking through an agent is how easy the process can be. Instead of navigating linguistic and cultural barriers, you can chat to someone in your home country, in your first language, who has experience of helping people book language holidays. On top of that, the agent will arrange the booking with the school, and will handle everything, saving you time and effort. They can make sure the course you choose is absolutely tailored to your needs, organising anything from airport pickups to dietary requirements, and better still, nothing will get lost in translation along the way. Depending on the agent, they may also be able to arrange any flights or other modes of transport to get you to your final destination. Not only that, but they’ll be sure to provide you with any maps, directions and explanations you need to make your journey a breeze. And the support doesn’t stop at the airport. Your agent will usually be on call during your trip in case you need anything. If you’re not happy with something and you want to change it, your agent will make sure you don’t feel stranded, and can work with the school to make you more comfortable. If there is an emergency during your trip, an agent can offer support by speaking to you in your own language as well as communicating with a point of contact back home. They can also liaise with insurers where necessary. With all of that taken care of, you should have total peace of mind.
What to watch out for
There’s just one thing you need to be careful of. It’s an unfortunate reality that not all businesses are trustworthy. In some cases, advisors have been known to raise their prices so you’re actually paying more than you would if you booked directly with the school. This is okay as long as there is transparency, meaning clients are aware of and happy with the fact they’re paying more due to the extra benefits and support offered. However, if your agent is doing this, make sure they’re upfront about explaining why. There is also a chance an agent might over promise and sell you a package without being fully aware of what it is they’re selling, which could create bumps in the road if you arrive expecting something that a school or accommodation provider cannot offer.
What should you do?
If you’ve decided to book with an agent, make sure you do your research first. Ask friends and family who’ve done language study holidays for advice or recommendations, and make sure you check the agent’s reviews before signing on the dotted line! The best option is to look for an agency that holds an accreditation from the language travel industry, such as British Council, ICEF, Quality English or Quality Agent. If you go onto these organisations’ websites, you can find lists of the agents they certify. If you want to find out about an agency that represents ABC Cambridge, feel free to get in touch with us and we’ll help you find an agent local to you.
Have a great trip!
Allegra Goodwin, Student Experience Manager