*it is a complicated trip/itinerary and you’re spending alot of money
*if you are not familiar with the type of travel, such as luxury cruises or adventure travel
*if you don’t feel comfortable being solely responsible for the outcome of independent travel planning
The thing to understand about travel agents is they get paid commissions by vendors so there is no cost to you, so why wouldn’t you seek expert advice? That said, there are some situations where travel agents no longer earn commissions so they will charge a reasonable fee for their services. For example, most airlines do not give agents commissions on domestic flights. Travel agents will let you know, all you have to do is ask.
Additionally, travel agents are often privvy to upgrades and special deals (due to the volume of business they do with select vendors) that they are able to share with clients. Furthermore, if there is a problem during your trip, you have someone to call who can assist you. An agent will also help secure a credit or refund for future travel if there were significant problems during your trip. Also, there are so many travel-related scams online that it is one of the top three biggest scam categories on the Internet. Travel agents know who and what is legit. Last, but not least, they are trained professionals who know the industry far better than you do. The travel industry is a complicated industry and if you don’t know it well, you should seek help. For instance, do you know the difference between a direct flight and a non-stop flight? What is an open jaw ticket? What is the difference between a boutique hotel and a luxury hotel? What are the six classifications of cruises? What is the shoulder season? What is the price difference between traveling in peak season vs. shoulder season?
Speaking of differences, do you know the difference between a travel agent and a tour operator?
Travel Agent: helps client put together trip including transportation, hotels, and tours. They work for agencies that are part of a cooperative, such as American Express or Virtuoso. These days most agents specialize in a type of travel, such as corporate travel, Disney vacations, Caribbean cruises, or soft adventure travel.
Tour Operator: They offer specialty packages, such as African safaris or European learning vacations. They do not advise on overall trip planning, but may offer add-on air or other options.They are independently owned and operated, such as Trafalgar Tours and Gate1 Travel.
When looking for a good travel agent, be sure to ask the following questions:
1. What type of travel do you specialize it? How familiar are you with this destination or activity?
2. How long have you been an agent? How long have you been with this agency?
3. What is the advantage to using you rather than a different agent/agency or doing it myself?
A great resource is www.tripadvisor.com