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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Monday, Nov. 11, 2013

When should you use a travel agent?

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By Clark Howard

ClarkHoward.com


Travel agents may seem outdated, but sometimes working with a real live person is superior to booking travel online.

Back in the dinosaur days, I used to be a travel agent. For a while it looked like travel agents themselves were going the way of the dinosaur, but agents are still surviving because they fill an important need.

Older people who grew up using travel agents may still use one routinely today. But for anybody below 40, getting them to use a travel agent is a harder sell. Yet there are some situations that just plain warrant it.

When should you use a travel agent? If you don't travel often and you are planning a special one-off trip like a honeymoon, or anniversary vacation, or family reunion trip, I recommend you book travel with an agent who has CTC certification. That designation stands for "certified travel counselor" and indicates the agent has been to school to learn the industry and gone for advanced training.

If you're buying your very first cruise, you also want to work with a travel agent. I recommend that only experienced cruisers buy online. If that's not you, buy from a real live cruise specialist at a travel agency and rely on their expertise. A good agent will ask about your interests, hobbies, and what you like to do in your spare time. Much like people, cruise ships have a definite personality and a cruise agent can help you to find the right fit for yours!

Travel agents usually are either paid an hourly rate or they earn a commission on booking travel. I prefer the hourly rate so you never have to worry they're steering you to particular trip or tour operator where they get kickbacks.

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