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When to call a travel agent
By Jane Engle
07:01 PM PST, December 06, 2008

Even though I’m a travel writer, I sometimes use a travel agent. His savvy advice and careful research save me time and money. Like any professional, he charges fees.

It makes sense. “You wouldn’t walk into a lawyer’s office and expect them to give you free advice,” said Chris Russo, president of the American Society of Travel Agents, or ASTA, a trade group based in Alexandria, Va.

But some travel agents do give free advice. Because they earn sales commissions of 10% or more from certain cruise and tour companies, they often charge nothing to book these. Not so with airline tickets, which generally don’t earn commissions, and some complicated itineraries that may take hours or days to assemble.

Median fees for a travel agent

Airline ticket: $32.09

Cruise: $20

Hotel: $20

Rail ticket: $25

Rental car: $17.50

Tour package: $25

Trip planning: $100

Source: “2007 Service Fee Report” by the American Society of Travel Agents
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