Many travelers assume that hiring a travel agent means they’ll pay more than they would booking online. But that’s not always true. And if you know how to look, you can find an expert who will save you money in the long run.

A good travel agent will ask you about your budget and your expectations upfront. Then they’ll help you decide on the best options for your vacation within that budget. They’ll also be able to recommend local tours, restaurants and activities that aren’t available on popular tour booking platforms.

Travel agents often have partnerships or business relationships with top travel providers that they can leverage on your behalf. This can mean discounts or upgrades at hotels and resorts, free meal vouchers, priority check-in, or special access to events and attractions. They can even get you deals on airfare and cruises.

If you’re planning a trip to New York City, for example, your agent will have insider knowledge that you might not find on an itinerary-writing website. They’ll also be able to give you tips on getting around, safety concerns and other important details that make for a successful trip.

The most crucial test of any travel agent is how they react when something goes wrong during your vacation. From flight delays to hotel overbookings to travel insurance claims, a good agent will be your advocate. A bad one will leave you hanging or just send you the company’s 800-number.

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