Too many agents want to steer me
toward the generic tours I’m trying to avoid.Many guidebooks, even Rick Steves’, still advise people to consult a travel agent. Travel agents can get you a package deal, combining airfare and hotel stays. That’s becoming more popular, and it can save money. They also can book rail passes to get you from place to place, which usually must be purchased before you arrive. Moreover, an agent who is knowledgeable about your destination may be able to book more specialized activities such as adventure excursions, jungle cruises, safaris, mountain trekking, and desert guides — all of which are difficult to arrange on your own.
For most things, though, travel agents aren’t necessary, so I rarely use them. A lot of the same package deals are available online, and many websites send email alerts about the latest offers. And too many agents want to steer me toward the generic tours and itineraries I’m trying to avoid.
My best advice is to use travel agents when you need them and then find someone with the knowledge and contacts to set you out on the adventure you want. If you’re into outdoor sports such as cycling or mountain climbing, check your local bike shop or outfitter for recommendations. If your friends rave about their latest trip, ask how they arranged it.
Whatever you do, take the lead and don’t settle for what the agents show you in their stock catalog to ensure you get the best trip possible.