Using a travel agent can make your vacation easier in many ways. However, if the right questions are asked, a travel agent can become even more valuable. In order to gain an understanding of what to expect on a trip, it is a good idea to have some questions prepared. Try not to assume that the travel agent will take care of everything and inform you of all the particulars you are interested in. Even if you have an agent who you trust completely to take care of your trip with no unexpected charges or difficulties, there are still things that you need to be involved in, and details which need to be clarified.
The first thing to do is shop around. Go to different travel agencies in your area and ask lots of questions. One of the first things that you find out should be how and when you can get a hold of your agent. If something goes wrong on your trip you will need to know that there is some kind of system in place to get in contact with your travel agent. Many agencies use an 800 number and/or an automated system to determine your need, and then take care of you from there. Some smaller agencies may not have that system in place. Very small agencies may have nothing at all.
Be sure to find out if your agent is willing to be available after business hours to take care of you. You will not want to be stuck in a foreign airport at four in the morning with nobody to call. A second question to ask your agent is in the area of his/her company and personal travel history. Be sure that your agent either has some experience travelling to your eventual destination, or has a willingness to put extra effort into your account to ensure that you get the best services available where you are going.
Many agents have planned vacations for countless regions. They also will be experienced in visiting many places. But if you want to go to a specific region of Italy and one agent has been there once before him or herself and worked with the area a few times, but a comparable agent has been there a few times him/herself and worked extensively for clients going to that area; your choice should be easy. It is not rude to ask your agents these questions; it is being a smart shopper.
Another question to ask your travel agent before making your decision involves money. Of course you want to check on prices, fees, taxes and other usual travel costs to find out what is included and what is not. However, you should also find out how your agent defines the phrase transaction fee. Some companies will determine that buying your entire package puts everything into one transaction, and therefore will only charge you one transaction fee. Other companies will make every ticket purchase, every hotel booking, every restaurant reservation and every price of admission a separate fee. This can still work well because the fees may be small enough to even out with paying one bulk fee.
Some agencies will actually count every change in plans as a transaction fee. For example, if you need to switch or cancel a flight, that would be a transaction fee. If you decide on a different hotel, even well in advance of your trip, that would be a transaction fee. This system can work, if prices are right. But if prices do not add up in your favor the transactions can add up. Ask questions about transaction fees and be sure to know the policies that your agent puts into place when it comes to transaction fees in order to avoid being caught off-guard.