Do Your Homework Before Traveling
When planning a trip, it is advisable to spend some time doing research even if you are booking through a Travel Agent. This research could save you a significant amount of money and perhaps prevent a miserable stay in a sub-standard hotel.
Many people have moved away from using Travel Agents. This is understandable due to the availability of cheap fares and hotel rooms through the internet. However, it is wise to consider the benefits of utilizing a professional particularly when proposing to visit somewhere that you haven't previously been. Some of the advantages of using a Travel Agent are gaining the benefit of their expertise, experience, personal service, ability and indeed the obligation to clarify and inform you of details in the fine print which you may miss if booking on your own account, their up to date knowledge of the latest deals and their ability to distill and interpret information to hopefully offer you the best value deal for your trip.
With that said, it is still prudent to conduct your own research. The Travel Agent can provide suggestions about a range of airlines you could use and different fares and advise on hotels in good areas within budget guidelines. At this point you have some great information to work off. You have not had to start from scratch. You have an idea as to which are the better priced airlines and the areas you should look at staying taking into account what you're looking to do in a particular place. Now you can see if there are internet deals that may beat the air fares the Travel Agent has quoted you. In many cases these days, the Travel Agency will do what they can to equal or beat whatever publicized deal is out there. It is a very competitive industry. In the cases of hotels, many of the chains as well as some independents are claiming to have the best internet deals on their own sites. This is of benefit to both the consumer as well as the hotel. They don't have to pay commission to a third party and you are dealing directly with the establishment that you are proposing to stay with who can answer any queries that you may have regarding elements of your accommodation as well as possibly saving money. You will also find that when booking direct off the hotel website that you may be offered upgrades or specials not available anywhere else.
The internet is also a great and up to date resource which can allow you to read reviews from consumers regarding airlines, hotels, sightseeing trips and just about anything that you can think of. This can be invaluable. If you go to a site such as www.tripadvisor.com you will find reviews on just about any hotel in the world. Many of the reviews provide excellent information about the hotel rooms, restaurants, attitude of the staff, cleanliness, activities and pool if they have one. If looking for reviews on airlines there are 2 particularly good sites - www.epinions.com and www.carsurvey.org/air
Don't underestimate the value of a good Travel Agent but be prepared to put in some time to conduct your own research. The worst you could do is add to the excitement of planning for a trip and maybe you'll even save yourself some money!