Should you use a travel agent to plan your trip or do it yourself?
One of the initial things you’ll need to decide when planning your next trip is how much of the work you want to do yourself. For us, planning a trip is almost as fun as being on vacation itself. The more often you do it, the easier it becomes..and planning a trip is not nearly as time consuming as some people make it out to be.
While a travel agent can save you time, it can take some of the fun out of planning a trip. Plus, even when you use a travel agent, you still need to do your research. You shouldn’t just pick any travel agent. Picking a travel agent is like making a major purchase. You need to thoroughly check them out and make sure they’ll do the best job for you.
If you have an idea of where you want to go, your best bet is to pick a travel agent that specializes in your destination. Agents who specialize in certain destinations can usually make great recommendations on places to stay and visit. These agents have usually visited these countries many times and are also familiar with local guides who can help make the most of your trip. They may also have relationships with exclusive resorts and can get you accommodation when the property is “sold out”. That actually happened to us a few years ago. We chose to use a specialist for some aspects of a trip to Patagonia. We tried many different avenues to find rooms at Explora in Chile. The specialist had access to a block of rooms during the time we wanted to travel and was also able to get us a small discount.
We’ve also used specialists when we travel “off the beaten path”, such as the northern area of Vietnam. Sometimes we have them plan the entire trip and sometimes just help us with certain parts of a trip. Many specialized agents charge a flat or hourly fee for their services. Depending on where you’re going or what you’d like to do at your destination, it can be money well spent.
One of the best resources we’ve found to find highly-rated specialized travel agents is Conde Nast. Each year, they publish a list of the top travel specialists by destination. They not only rely on user reviews, but also check out each agent individually.
Last modified: January 5, 2014