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How to find a travel agent to help with flights?

The advice from Rick and others on this website seems to be that getting a travel agent to help you find the best deals on a flight to Europe works better than trying to find it yourself. My family and I are starting to look at options for open-jaw travel to Munich/Budapest next summer. So I'm thinking of the travel agent option but frankly I don't know where to start. Any ideas/recommendations? Should I find someone locally or is there somewhere on the Internet I can get help with this? (I should add that I only need help getting a good deal on plane tickets; the other details we can do ourselves). Thanks.

Posted by
1568 posts

I started watching the costs of flights from SFO to A'Dam starting in December before out trip in June.

I seem to do better myself than an agent.

Posted by
389 posts

I used to have a who was great! If I could get a better deal without her she would tell me. She had to quit to take care of an ailing parent, so I haven't found anyone like her. Also, what I've found in 20 years of European travel is that I can usually do as well myself. The only time we had to use a travel agent was when the 4 of us were all traveling at different times to different locals. One to Rome, one to Athens, 2 to Ireland, one from London Gatwick, 3 from London Gatwick. It was too much! The best search sites are giving you the option of using open-jaw and that helps a lot. If you have a friend who flies to Europe and really trust their travel agent, by all means use that person, but they have to make a living by what they do and since it usually takes hours to get the best deals, you pay their hours in the cost of the trip.

Posted by
638 posts

I've been thinking about this question for a while since I first read it earlier tonight. First of all, as much as I admire and use Rick's site and info, he is in the travel business so I would think he would recommend using someone in the business. Secondly, if you did use an agent and they found you a fare, how would you know it's a bargain without doing the research yourself? Or if you asked a couple of agents to search for you and they came back with similar deals which would you choose and which would you say "thanks but no thanks" after they spent their time working for you, remember time is money. I can't imagine there is an agent out there that is able to find a fare that is so fantastic one would be a fool to pass up, if there was there would be posts all over this website touting their services. From what I've read (people asking about fares, times to travel) I don't feel theres a magic pill or button right now, as we all know it's summer=higer prices,fuel costs=higher prices

Posted by
305 posts

I agree with the others who say you can do best yourself. Just go to the websites such as travelocity, mobbisimo, kayak etc.. and to the individual airlines themselves. I usually start in the fall for travel in the spring. When you find a price you like go for it.
A travel agent can find a price for you and you won't know if it's the best deal anyway until you do the research.
I would also sign up with the different sites that will alert you to sales. Sometimes these sales only last a few hours.

Posted by
16 posts

Well I am a little biased because I was a travel agent for 10 years. I think it is good to investigate all options- in many cases agencies can give you discounts that the web cannot. Try asking for wholesale prices from your agency. There are many wholesalers that only deal with travel agents. Also-as far as I know open jaws on Orbitz and so forth aren't permitted...but that may have changed.

Posted by
16 posts

also- just to clarify...since it is a huge misconception. Agencies in the United States no longer get any commission from the airlines (YES - that means 0). If they charge you a service fee this is why. In most cases it is not an extraordinary fee.

Posted by
24 posts

Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz all offer "multi-destination" options or open jaws.

Posted by
3415 posts

Join AAA. Their agents are great and you can get discounts on some tickets!!! Other benfits are good too. Our AAA agent is very, very knowledgeable and works with us very well. We give her our plans and she watches the rates and lets us know when they look good. She has also given us good suggesstions about hotels, etc. though we mostly book those ourselves now. She gets us our BritRail passes, our Tube visitor cards and other things too. AAA membership is not expensive!!!

Posted by
5019 posts

I understand the basis of Rick's advice, a good agent knows the airlines, knows the routes, gets notices of deals, and can make subtle changes to your itinerary (day of the week to travel, time, airline, maybe an alternate arrival or destination city) that can save you big bucks. But, it takes time to develop a relationship or find one that actually is good for you and that you trust. Further, as several have noted, if you are only going to them for air tickets to Europe every couple of years, you develop no relationship and they get nothing from you ($$$) If I travelled often for business and worked with an agent (I suppose like Rick) then, yes, it is a good option. If you are completely clueless, like me my first trip, it is also a good option. But regardless, do your homework, compare yourself, give an agent a chance, but be able to determine if it is a deal.

Posted by
34 posts

I agree...travel agents aren't willing to spend as much time as you would researching for cheap tickets. the best site I have found is FlyCheapAbroad.com for getting one way from US to Europe with great fairs. Ryanair.com can fly you around Europe with outrageously cheap fares (just be aware that the airports you fly into/out of may be a long way from the big city but usually easy to get to by bus.)

Posted by
199 posts

Suzanne, I agree with others that Rick probably recommends going through a travel agent to keep those people inside the tent; i.e., not because he necessarily believes in it, but to keep travel agencies from viewing him as a threat. Since mastering the internet several years ago I make all arrangements and reservations online by myself. I see no evidence that an agent can do any better. The last time I used an agent, in the summer of 2001, she reserved the flights I had found and given to her...and then we had the pleasure of paying her a fee in addition to the airline's price. I would suggest you try it yourself, and only go to an agent if you have trouble doing it on your own.

Posted by
2779 posts

You can do it all by yourself. Listen to the tips and advices others who'd already been there give you. When searching for the best tickets keep in mind that cheap fare doesn't end up to be the cheapest way eventually. Every connection you need to make bares some risk of missing it which might involve some extra expenses. To find airlines that serve Munich or Budapest non-stop from e.g. Boston check with the airport's website. Most airlines claim they've got more or less plenty of direct services which is true. But direct doesn't mean non-stop. And in your case a roundtrip to Munich plus a single flight from BUD to MUC might end up being cheaper than an open jaw, especially as there are non-stop flights from Boston to Munich on Lufthansa. Sign up with the airline's newsletter for early alert on upcoming specials and promotions.

Posted by
934 posts

Im very capable of doing it myself and often do.However I have a agent who has been able to do better.Better in getting direct flights & prices.I think the key is to not contact a agent,have her spend time finding things and then take her info and use it yourself.The next time she wont give you the time of day.I think 25.00 for her help is well worth it especially to Europe.

Posted by
1 posts

Here's the thing. You all make good points and if one travels a lot then I can see why one would use the internet and do it yourself. However, for me it wasn't the "best deals" that sold me, but the fact that my agent is telling me little tricks and tips that I wouldn't know otherwise. Basically holding my hand as I haven't been overseas in 25 years. Also while I enjoy looking up hotels I really find spending my time researching airfares beyond checking the usual sites for reference boring and would rather give that job to someone else. It's worth $50 to me for this.

Besides if something goes wrong, the airline goes on strike or whatnot, who are you going to call?? The Internet? Ghostbusters? I'd rather have a person I've dealt with on my side who can make those pesky calls.

Posted by
808 posts

Travel Consultants are qualified Travel Professionals who offer their expertise through a combination of education and experience. They have often been there and done that.

I would gladly pay a little more for this service. You simply cannot replace the human factor, IMO.

Even experienced travelers, or "Web-surfer qualified Travel Agents" as some claim to be, can benefit from seeking the advise of a true professional.

If you are doing it all on your own, you are pretty much just that, on your own...