When to Use a Travel Agent

Sure, you could plan and book a trip yourself. But it can really pay to hire a professional.

old town Stockholm with tourists milling about
Worry about logistics less, and enjoy Stockholm more. 
leoks / Shutterstock

These days, you can book some basic travel reservations online. But figuring out where to go, how to get there, and what to do once you've arrived can take more time than the trip itself. That's why the expertise of a travel professional can still be indispensable. When should you rely on such assistance? Here are a few of the reasons you should consider calling an agent.

You want the inside scoop.

The Internet is great for finding low prices. It's not so great at giving you the lowdown. No matter where you're going, odds are that a travel agent has been there, done that—or knows someone who has. "You might think you have a great deal on a hotel, but it turns out it's not in a prime location, so you wind up spending extra on transportation," says AAA Travel product marketer Roberta Christman. With their insider info, travel counselors can ensure that the vacation you want is the one you really get.

You need help with hiccups.

Say your flight is delayed and your cruise ship leaves without you. Or you get sick and can't continue with your trip. If you booked online, good luck making changes or reaching a customer service agent. "We're with you for your entire journey," says AAA Travel counselor Tonya Powell. "So if anything goes wrong—beginning, middle or end—help is just a phone call away."

You like value-adds and perks.

A voucher for a luau in Hawaii. A guided walking tour when your European river cruise comes to port. A room with priority check-in. Because they book so many trips and have close relationships with so many clients, travel pros have access to complimentary add-ons that you'd never get online.

You don't like surprises.

When you book online, hidden expenses such as daily resort fees or seat-change charges can jump up and bite you. "You might not know about that $40-a-day resort fee," says AAA Travel counselor Ron Heisler. "On a 10-day vacation, that's another $400 you didn't budget for."

You value your time.

Doing your own travel planning can be deeply satisfying, but it can also be really time-consuming. "This is our job," Heisler says. "We do it all day long. There's a very good chance we can match or beat whatever deals you've found online. And you won't have to deal with the busywork."

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