Customers rate best local travel agencies

Thanks to the Internet, there are fewer travel agents in the business now, but agents who stuck with it are picking up new clients because doing it yourself can take so much time.

Studies show the average consumer planning a vacation spends two to five hours doing all the leg work. The newest local travel agency ratings by Checkbook Magazine reveal some local standouts whose customers say the fees and commissions are well worth it.

Checkbook surveyed thousands of local clients who use travel agencies to find out which provide the best service, with advice on options and costs and prompt follow through.

Customers chimed in on 43 local travel agency offices. More than a dozen agencies got Checkbook's top overall ratings for quality, and five agencies were rated superior by 95 percent or more of the customers responding to the survey.

The five standout agencies are AAA Travel Agency in Issaquah, Advance Travel in downtown Seattle, Price-Peterson Travel & Cruises in Puyallup, Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door in Edmonds and Treasure House Travel in Burien.

Checkbook President Robert Krughoff says if you're merely booking a single flight, you'll probably do just fine going online and doing it yourself. But if you're looking for deals on a full vacation, finding a knowledgeable travel agent can reduce both confusion and cost.

"Well, you can find a lot of deals on your own," said Krughoff. "But travel agents are dong this every day, all the time. And therefore they just may know about more deals that you would find unless you were actually doing it every day, all the time."

Checkbook's undercover price check found some of the biggest savings on international travel -- sometimes as much as a thousand dollars less for the same flight.

Checkbook survey reports are a subscriber-based service, but as a special courtesy to KOMO viewers, Checkbook is making its full report on travel agencies available for free through Thursday, June 7th.

Once you click on the link, just enter your email address and continue to the full report and survey results.