Here are some pointers for getting the most out of any agency—

  • Unless you really can’t stand it, perform at least some research on your own. Knowing the basics—including information about available deals—will help you determine if you’re dealing with an incompetent or lazy agent.
  • Shop on your own if your flight requirements are complex. Shopping may also turn up package deals agents may not be aware of.
  • If you know exactly what flight, hotel, cruise, or other services you want, and if the service provider pays commissions, consider doing your agent a favor by letting him or her book the trip. (Obviously, you won’t want to do an agent any favors unless he or she acknowledges them by dropping their fees.) Giving an easy commission to an agent should build goodwill that might result in lower fees later on, when you actually need the agent’s expertise. In some situations, of course, booking through an agent may not be a good idea—for example, if you can qualify directly for a hotel rate that isn’t available if booked through an agent.
  • Even if you regularly rely on one agent, consider using a different agent for trips that require special expertise. For example, if you’re going to China and your regular agency has little expertise on areas you plan to visit, contact an agency that knows the territory.
  • Let your agent know that you sometimes check other options, so the agent doesn’t become complacent.
  • Beware of low-priced suppliers neither you nor your agent has heard of. They may be scams or have significant strings attached.
  • Pay by credit card. If you have a problem you can protest the charge with your credit card company.