I'm in the midst of planning a trip to Prague and Berlin this spring. In my quest to travel on a budget, I subscribed to many different fare alert sites, travel review sites, online tour operators and other random sites to be as thorough as possible.
However, in doing so, I also drove myself crazy. What was the best deal? Which site was the best for finding the best deal? Why am I getting so many emails from one site and so few from another? Darn, airfare just went up! Where will we stay? Should I read reviews and find a hotel that sounds good, or should I wait for a special at a hotel and read the reviews and book from there? Why am I spending so much time on this when I have a million other things to do?
Time was flying by and I still hadn't booked; I was paralyzed by too many options. I then talked to someone who suggested visiting a travel agent. She believed that the agent could procure fares that I wouldn't have access to. Frustrated with all of my running in circles, I made an appointment with a local agent. After all, it would be supporting local business. I sent the agent a detailed emailed with our itinerary.
When I arrived at her office, she remarked that she thought I'd be older than I was (honestly, it flowed out of conversation and wasn't rude like it sounds here). As we were going over plans, I asked her if many people my age walked through the door. Yes, they did, but she was surprised that someone as traveled as I was had come in.
I then wondered if that was English for, "you paid too much and could've found a better price online."
However, I will say that she undid my inertia and the trip was booked and paid for that day. I could've spent forever trying to decide where to book. She was polite, helpful, and efficient. We neither overpaid for the trip nor did we net a stunning deal, but I'm happy with what she arranged and can get on with my life. The travel agency charged $40 for their services, which is really nothing at the end of the day for a 10-day trip for three people and about three hours of labor on the agent's part. Would I recommend a travel agency? Yes, I would, to those who want to leave the details up to someone else.