Whoever wrote “It’s a Small World, (After All)” must have had more than two weeks of vacation time a year. Where to go? How to get there? Where to stay?

Even though you can do for yourself almost anything a travel agency can do for you, there are still reasons to use one. A good travel agent who has firsthand experience with many destinations can be an invaluable source of information on when and where to go, how to get there, where to stay, what to do—and what to avoid.

But since many types of travel-related commissions have dried up, travel agencies now charge fees for most services, so using an agent usually costs more than booking on your own. The best approach is to view your transaction with an agency as paying for expert consultation, rather than using it simply as a booking service.

Although most of the agencies that have survived the online relocation of the travel marketplace have done so by offering superior advice and service, some aren’t worth your money or time. Our ratings of agencies will help you find an agency you can count on.

Work with an agent who possesses specialized knowledge of your destination. The agent should have recently visited the area, or at least have considerable experience booking trips for other clients there.