Getting a travel agent–or not

Yesterday I ran into a woman I know who is an avid traveler. Her trips are the type where you learn a thing or two–historical trips of famous European paintings, or something. I can’t quite remember, but I do know they are themed versions that she researches herself based on her interests. Yesterday, she told me she recently retired and is off this month to Hungary and another country whose name escapes me. (It’s a Kellie Pickler moment, not to be mean. We all have them.)

She mentioned how she has arranged this trip herself. “I’m not doing that again,” she said. “It’s worth the money to get a travel agent.” I’m under the impression she spent a lot of time on this do-it-yourself endeavor. Last I knew, she doesn’t have a computer at home. I assume she’s used the computers at the library since that’s where I saw her. Then we talked about how if you have a travel agent, you also have a person who can work on your behalf if you have a problem. Possibly, a travel agent might even find a cheaper deal.

Years ago I had a travel agent arrange a trip for me going from Albuquerque to Taiwan for a week, then to Japan for another week, then Honolulu for two weeks, then to Los Angeles for a layover of a couple of days before heading back to Albuquerque. The two tickets, one for me, and one for my traveling companion whose itinerary was different than mine, were screaming deals. Since I had given her the names of companies that were offering cheap fares from ads I saw in the Los Angeles Times, she told me I could book what she found myself. I let her do the booking and paid her fee. That seemed fair since she did most of the work. Obviously, I had one of those travel agents who was competent and dedicated.

We’ve also had a wonderful travel agent in Singapore who got us what we wanted, and we used one in Sri Lanka to find us the deals we were after. I say the more specific you are in your desire, the better your luck. Wondering about this, I checked over at Travel Troubleshooter columnist, Christopher Elliot’s blog to see what his take is on travel agents. Sure enough, a few days ago, he took on the question “Are travel agents worth the extra money.” He generally thinks so for the reasons I think. There some comments from people who differ. Maybe it’s a toss-up. Still, I’d tell my retired friend next time, find an agent with a good reputation so all she has to worry about is what to pack.