By Ilona Kauremszky

Q: There's so many travel agencies with all kinds of different tour packages. How do I know which one is legitimate?

A: When planning a vacation that requires the use of a travel agency, it's a good idea to research as much as you can about your destination and to obtain a copy of the travel agency's brochure detailing the package's conditions. Also ensure, the travel agency specializes in your destination.

It's no good if you visit a tour company that offers downhill skiing packages in Switzerland when you want some ecotourism adventure in Central America. Once you've done your homework on the destination, know your travel dates, and have a travel budget, you are ready to book.

Ontario has a Travel Industry Act which governs approximately 3,000 travel retailers and wholesalers registered in Ontario. The Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) which has been around since 1997 assumes responsibility from the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations (MCCR) to administer the Act among other duties. TICO recommends that when booking a trip, consumers should protect their travel dollars by dealing with an Ontario-registered travel agency.

Their promotional material clearly outlines, "Only book where you see the TICO logo." If you're uncertain about the logo, check tour package advertisements appearing in any newspaper, and you'll most likely see the TICO logo. If you're still unsure, ask the travel agency whether it is a member. Otherwise, you can contact TICO by dialing toll-free: 1-888-451-TICO. Office hours are Monday through Friday 9:00am to 5:00pm.


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