I have collaborated on parts of today’s blog with my Travel Professional and I am not being compensated for any endorsement. The advice provided in today’s blog should be verified with a travel professional of your choosing.
A smart traveler’s best travel tool can be an experienced and trusted Travel Agent.
However, before I get going too far, and in full disclosure, not all of our travel has been with the assistance of a Travel Agent. In fact, our earliest travels were ones we pieced together and planned on our own. In fact, we’ve even traveled without reservations in the past. (GASP! I know. We were young…but it was sort of fun!) Now, in hindsight, some of that travel might’ve been even better with the help of a Travel Agent.
In 2010, I met my dear friend and fellow Travel addict, Courtney Roggmann. She has owned her own travel business, Solutions Travel, for 15 years and she is a dedicated, passionate travel professional. We first met on a trip she planned and escorted and we hit it off! Since then, Roger and I have traveled with Courtney and her Husband, Michael, just us four, to places like Key West, Maine, and on a Viking River Cruise through Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, and Germany. We’ve also traveled together on some fantastic trips that she has escorted under the umbrella of her business. In the 10 years we’ve traveled together, I’ve watched her up close and learned a lot about what she does. This week, she has been kind enough to sit with me as I blog so I can share insights with you about how a Travel Agent can be a tool for your travel.
Consider travel an investment
Food for thought; when you invest in a home, most people will seek out a real estate agent. When you invest in a new car, a lot of people do so with the help of an Automobile Dealership. For us, the biggest purchases in life are usually made with the help of careful research and the use of an expert and for us, the purchase of major travel is no different. No matter what kind of travel you enjoy, you are spending your hard-earned money and possibly using precious vacation days. If you’re like us, you want to know that you got the best return on your investment. In my view, a Travel Agent can be a wonderful resource.
In addition, invest your own time as well as your money as you plan your trip. I always recommend that you do your research. We live in a wonderful time with the internet providing information on every topic easily and quickly at our fingertips. Seek out any and all information about your destination that you can. Know where you want to go, what you want to do and see there, and when might be the best time to travel where you plan to go.
A Travel expert can be the best place to turn
An experienced and trusted Travel Agent can help you plan your trip, give you an estimate(s) on what your trip might cost, do their best to stick to your budget, and will have resources that could upgrade your trip in ways you might not have known about on your own. Travel Agents have resources and relationships with travel vendors that can enhance your trip and a great Travel Agent can take your broad travel plan and fill it in with great ideas that make it a trip to remember.
How much does a Travel Agent’s services cost?
When you speak to an agent, a good first question would be regarding what the fees for their services will be. Know that the answer could vary from agent to agent. Courtney charges nothing. That’s right! Nothing. I’m betting that might be a surprise for you if you’ve never used a Travel Agent before or maybe even if you have used an Agent that charged you a large fee. Perhaps, the unknown cost of an agent might even be why you’ve shied away from calling a Travel Agent for help. Is that a fair guess?
You should know that Travel Agents are paid a commission on the products they sell by the vendors they are working with such as a cruise line or an all-inclusive resort. That commission may be paid to them directly or through a host company. Some Travel Agents, like Courtney, will not charge you for their services. She does however, help her clients that need assistance with the purchase of airline only tickets. For this assistance, she will charge a nominal fee. This is because the airlines do not compensate her for the sale of the tickets. She does waive that fee when booking airline tickets as part of a travel package.
However, other agents could charge a consultation fee which could run up to $250. So, if you need help planning a trip, I recommend talking to friends who have used travel professionals for their travels. Word of mouth recommendations could lead you to a great travel professional. Always be a savvy consumer and ask lots of questions.
Before you call your travel professional
A great Travel Agent will be a busy person. So, before you talk with him/her, it’s a good idea for you to have done your research and be able to answer these basic questions:
—When and where do you want to go? How do you want to travel? Do you want to go on a cruise or land based vacation? If it’s land based, are you driving, flying, or considering an all inclusive? If it’s an all inclusive, are you looking for a family friendly or adults only resort? Do you want to sit on the beach and catch up on your reading or do you want to go to Italy and to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Try to have a something in mind so you can get your Travel Agent working quickly on a plan for you.
—What budget do you have in mind for your trip? You can do some research on line and get a feel for what type of budget you should be prepared for. Know how much you are willing to spend and how much, if any, you can bend with that amount.
—How many people will be traveling with you? Do you have kids traveling with you and how old are they? Do you have anyone traveling with you with special needs?
—What do you want to do or what do you want to see on your trip?
—Have an open mind. A Travel Agent might make suggestions for your trip that you had not yet considered.
Why should you consider seeking out the help of a Travel Agent?
A Travel Agent is, or should be, an experienced traveler and ideally, have first hand knowledge of where you want to go. On top of that, a good Travel Agent will know the trends in travel and will have a working knowledge of travel vendors and resources that a travel lay person, like you or me, would not otherwise have knowledge of or access to.
What if you opt to plan without a travel professional? Sure, you could do it. You might even find a “really cheap” price for your trip on line somewhere but what are you getting for that cheap price. Roger and I always agree with the old adage, “You get what you pay for.” What if something happens during your trip? Will your on line source be there to help you? Is there even a resource to reach out to if you need help? Maybe. Maybe not. If you planned on your own, you will also be on your own to figure out a solution if your travel plans are interrupted. For us, it’s a security thing. We know that our Travel Agent is there if we need her from start to finish.
For a real life example: we traveled with Courtney on an escorted tour to The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks. The night before we were to head home, she got an alert that there would be no plane waiting for us the next morning. With the first leg of our trip home badly delayed, it meant that our entire group would miss our connecting flight. Courtney sprang into action and pulled from her resources to get us home. By the time we made it to Washington, D.C., there was a motor coach waiting for us and we were driven home. We were a few hours late as a result but Courtney got us home, at her own expense. We have the luxury of actually traveling with our travel professional but if that had happened to us without her, I know she would’ve been there to help us make it home.
A great Travel Agent is your advocate. When you plan your trips with a Travel Agent, you have someone who can be your resource and someone you can reach out to when something unexpected pops up (be sure to ask your travel professional about his/her availability while you are traveling). If your travel results in a missed or canceled flight, no room to go with your reservation when you get to your hotel, or your friend’s room is not next to yours when you get to the resort, you need only reach out to your travel professional. When your travel professional has a relationship with a vendor, your concern may be easily fixed if there is an issue.
Do you need travel insurance?
A good Travel Agent will recommend travel insurance. Again, travel is an investment. What happens if you have an accident on the way to the airport to catch your flight? What happens if you are sick and hospitalized and can’t travel? What do you do if you get sick and are hospitalized in a foreign country? What happens if your trip is two days away and you have a death in the family?
Many travel vendors have strict policies about refunds. Be sure to understand what those might be up front. No matter the reason that you might be prevented from traveling as planned, the purchase of travel insurance could result in some, if not all of your expenses being covered.
As an example: you are on a cruise and you don’t feel well and you seek out the service of the ship’s doctor. Courtney had a client who received a medical bill for $4,200! $4,200!!!! That’s surely an unexpected expense. Wouldn’t you agree? I’ve seen cruise guests helicoptered off a couple of cruise ships for serious medical reasons by the U.S. Coast Guard. I don’t want to know how much that might cost! Luckily, Courtney’s client had purchased Travel insurance which kicked in to help with this out of pocket expense. I can only hope those folks that left by helicopter are well and had insurance!
Travel insurance is something Roger and I always purchase, without question. Life happens and you never know when a curve ball could derail your travel plans. We consider travel insurance an investment to guard against the unknown.
When should you travel and how far out should you start planning?
Spring break and summer vacations are huge travel times, of course. When you start thinking about travel, depending on the time of year you plan to go, you could be vacationing with thousands of your closest new friends. Roger and I like to travel in the off season. We don’t have kids so we can take off in February on a cruise or in the fall after all the kids are back in school and the bulk of the tourists are done with their vacations. Consider too that traveling during the off season, depending on where you are going, might be a bit cheaper. Finally, if you’re like us, we don’t like to travel when it’s blazing hot or freezing cold. We are “Goldilocks” travelers. We like the temperature to be just right! If that’s you, consider the time of year and what the weather might be where you are heading.
Understand, that some vacations require planning and reservations so calling a Travel Agent and asking for a trip to Disney in two weeks during spring break season might mean that there are no reservations to be had. Courtney recommends planning 8 to 12 months out or longer whenever possible. Doing so also allows for making payments on your vacation, if needed. Courtney states that depending on your trip, to help you in planning, reservations could be open as follows:
-Nearly all cruise lines will post their cruises 1 to 2 years in advance.
-Resort vacations packages with airfare take reservations 10-11 months in advance.
-Group tours such as Trafalgar or Globus start planning 18 months in advance.
-Disney Vacations are released in June for the next calendar year. You can book a Disney hotel 1 year out but can’t book other trip components until 6 months out. Give yourself time and plan in advance when looking to go to Disney. Your travel professional will know tips and tricks to help you.
**this timing is always subject to change so be sure to consult a travel professional.
Today is Wednesday, May 6, 2020: National Travel Advisor Day!
We are very blessed to have a Travel professional that we trust and consider a dear friend. Right now, in the middle of a pandemic, every facet of travel has been affected. Those of us who love to travel miss our suitcases and are starting to twitch just a bit! I just want to thank my friend and travel professional for her enthusiasm and love of travel that she shares with us and all of her clients. She works so very hard to make every trip memorable, comfortable and just what all of her clients hope for. Courtney’s special personal touches are a feature of her business that sets her apart and her client family loves her for it. 2020 has been a tough year for her as she’s had to work with her clients to make difficult decisions about their travel. Do we cancel or postpone? Courtney is doing everything she can to give the best advice possible as the situation has twisted, turned, and drug on and on. As always, she is doing an outstanding job! Much love to you, dear friend and Travel Agent on this very strange Travel Advisor day!
If you already have a travel professional, don’t forget to reach out to them today and share some love with them, especially this year!
I can’t tell you how many times I’m asked, “Can you recommend a Travel agent?” Of course, if you can’t tell, I can recommend a great one!
If you need an outstanding Travel Agent, please find Courtney’s contact information below:
I hope we can all pack a bag soon and get back to our adventures!