You can count on spending a good deal of time and attending to a long list of details when you are planning any vacation. Besides the fact that you need to book flights or other transportation, and find room to pack all those "must-have" items, you need to figure out exactly what you're going to do on that perfect vacation.

That's where travel companies come into play. Travel companies can arrange all the details and get you to the right destination for the right price based on the specific details you give them. Naturally, doing the usual "comparison shopping" research before choosing a travel agent or company can pay off for you in a big way.

Using a travel agent or firm can even eliminate the hassle of deciding where to go if you can't make up your mind. Why not let an expert put the time into finding the right location by researching different places, as well as helping you to get the best deals that you might not know how to make for yourself? Due to the fact that they do this for a living, good travel agents have contacts with other people in the same industry all over the world.

Just their professional planning skills alone make agents valuable, and their experience and contacts help them get lower prices than you could yourself. They can save you money on hotels, get special tour deals, arrange for vegetarian and other special menus, and get you where you're going with cheaper flights and even discount cruises. Experience travel planners know how to get first-rate travel, accommodations and service at a discount because it is their job to do so. They also know that establishing a good relationship with you, the customer, can bring them additional business in the future, from referrals as well as your own next vacation.

It's always best not to go for the first travel company that you come across. Do your homework on this to find out if the company comes recommended by others that have used them before. Ask around and check with friends and family that might have used a particular travel agent or company, and read the travel section of a big-city newspaper to find any possible tips or suggestions.

The Internet is also a great tool to use when searching for a travel company, of course. Make sure to check in with the various travel forums and websites and keep an eye out for satisfied customers talking about the best agents and firms. It is important to establish a good working relationship quickly, and discuss your plans with someone that is easy to talk to. Communication is key and you must ensure that whoever helps you plan your trip understands what your goals (and dreams) are. When you find such a person and establish a candid relationship, you may just have found someone to help you again and again over the years.

When looking for a travel company or agent it is a good idea to search for an American Society of Travel Agents ASTA) member. This is an organization that is, in fact, a sort of cooperative "network" of travel-related businesses from all parts of the country and all niches of the travel industry. It includes not only agents and brokers, but airlines, cruise lines, hotels and concierge (personal service) firms. ASTA members can handle your vacation with a quality and professionalism that is unsurpassed. Relying on one of these professionals is a great way to reassure yourself that your vacation will go smoothly, and the ASTA connection ensures a certain level of expertise (and ethics). The ASTA will also respond quickly to any complaints about its members, so you have protection there, as well.

Remember, it is not just "okay," but expected, for you to have questions. After all, it's your money and vacation that are at risk. If you have found the right travel company, they will have all the right answers for you or know how to get them. Some companies even offer you the opportunity to speak with some of their past customers, whose experiences can give you valuable insight as to what you can expect with the firm.

Your travel company should always invest its full attention to the details of planning the right vacation for you and your family. Though the travel company should, first and foremost, attend to the numerous details of transportation and lodging traveling, you should always discuss the "little things" about the vacation you're planning. Anyone helping you plan a "dream getaway" will need to know exactly what you like and what you don't, and no issue is too small to mention. This kind of open and honest communication not only makes the planning a good experience, but will likely result in a vacation that is cost-effective, custom-tailored to your exact needs - and memorable, as well.