Your vacation is a precious commodity. You work all year in order to be able to afford that two or three week time when you can go off to a destination of your choice and shake off the hassles of the year in as relaxing a manner as is possible. If you are planning on taking a vacation that requires any sort of extensive planning, such as out of the country or even to a popular destination in a different state, it is probably going to be necessary for you to enlist the services of a travel agency. There are several advantages when it comes to using a travel agency over planning your entire vacation yourself. As businesses, travel agencies have many contacts in various areas of travel, whether the vacation you are planning is a cruise, a resort destination, or even a school travel group. In any case, a travel agency should have the contacts to be able to get you the best prices on quality vacation items such as airfare, hotel rooms, or the best possible cruise. The first step in choosing your travel agency is to choose the vacation that is right for you. Travel agencies will often advertise bargain vacations to certain destinations, and if you re the type who likes to fly by the seat of your pants then this kind of spur of the moment planning may be perfect for you. For many others, however, the key to the perfect vacation will be in shopping around and deciding on where you would like to go before you go out looking for an agency. Once you have decided on your dream vacation, it is time to find a travel agency. Remember, travel agencies are not all regulated, so you will want to find an agency that has a good reputation and a great track record. Word of mouth is a great tool when it comes to any kind of service, and choosing a travel agency is no exception. Talk to friends and family members who have taken similar vacations to the one that you are planning and find out how they felt about the agency that assisted them. Try to find out which travel agency group the agency you are considering is associated with. Agencies with more extensive (think global) affiliations are more likely to be able to get you lower prices and added favors for your vacation. Keep in mind, however, that just because they are affiliated with a large group does not mean that the agency itself has to be large. Common knowledge would suggest that the bigger the agency, the easier it is to negotiate smaller prices. This is not always the case, however, so don’t make your decision on the number of employees in the store. Finally, ask for references from the agency of both clients and suppliers. Clients, of course, are people like yourself who have used the agency’s services to go on vacations before. Suppliers are the people with whom the agency deals in order to purchase items such as hotel rooms and airline tickets, and will often have a clearer view of how the agency operates and whether or not they can do all that they claim as far as cost cutting and favors.