Customers lured by convenience and promises of the best deal are booking more trips online. But is Internet booking always the better way to go? That depends on the traveler and the type of trip.

The general rule is that the more complicated or expensive the itinerary, the better it is to book through a travel agent.

“The more components you add to your trip — hotel, plane tickets, etc. “... the more you should consider a travel agent,” said Chris Elliott, National Geographic Traveler magazine’s ombudsman and syndicated travel columnist. “The other thing, a human agent has the experience of visiting a hotel or a ship or a part of town. There’s nothing like walking into an agency and talking to someone who has been there.”

Jim Vallas of Phoenix, a frequent international and domestic traveler for business and pleasure, said more than anything people should consider their personality. He said he enjoys researching destinations and feels confident he’s getting a deal. But Vallas also said his research isn’t fail-proof, as he once booked a hotel in an unsavory part of Washington, when a travel agent might have steered him away from such a hotel.

Travel agents rally behind stories like these, saying a traveler who is looking for been-there, done-that knowledge should consult a real person, rather than a Web site, which naturally will show the best - if not exactly accurate - pictures.

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