Travel agents have expertise and industry connections. Better yet are local travel agents who have gateway specific knowledge. For example, they know if an airline is running a deal out of a nearby airport. They know if there is a new airline in town. And they know if that new airline is likely to go out of business in a month.
Let's look at a scenario. You want to go away somewhere warm and cheap. You don't care where. At the same time, a hotel company is trying to boost US travel to one of their beach front resorts. They will send a fax to all bona fide travel agencies specifying deals out of nearby airports. In fact, your local travel agent is most likely swimming in faxes like this sent by companies with you in mind.
But travel agents don't need faxes to get deals for you. They have knowledge. Say you want to take a family reunion on a cruise ship with a country music theme. You can bet your travel agent knows which cruise will suit you. Or you want to stay in a castle in Ireland. You can find a travel agent who has sent people to castles in Ireland.
Travel agencies are service providers. They want to have a relationship with you. Your happiness ensures their future profitability. So, if you experience a problem, most travel agents, the good ones, will advocate on your behalf. You had a bad flight? Tell your travel agent and leave the letter writing to someone else.
Furthermore, travel agents have industry pull. If you, as an individual, travel once a year and you have a bad experience, no big hotel chain or airline cares about you. They care about their frequent travelers. So, if you stopped traveling, you wouldn't be missed. However, if a travel agent boycotts a hotel chain or an airline, you'd better believe they'd feel the pinch.
Most good travel agents use word-of-mouth advertising. So, ask your friends who travel to recommend an agent. Then call and explain what you want. Most travel agents are eager to work with new clients, so don't work with an agent who is abrupt or who you get a bad feeling about. You need to trust your agent. Ask questions. Include information about your budget, your travel experience, and your flexibility. If you are very restricted with your travel plans, your bottom line will increase. Travel agents know all of the ins and outs, so take advantage of their expertise.
Then do a comparison. See if you can get a better deal online. Ask yourself if this is a time-intensive trip. Are you likely to encounter problems? If you would feel comfortable going it alone, and if you can get a better price elsewhere, go for it. There are some times when travel agents can't compete with the last minute deals airlines run