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Travel Better and Save with an Experienced Travel Agent


Travel Better And Save Money With An Experienced Agent

by William M. Imhof

The couple planned their vacation carefully.  They searched the web for ideas and information, they read brochures and web site information, they compared prices and booked everything themselves to minimize travel agent fees-they did everything right.  Then why did so many things go wrong?

The couple had invested hard earned money and a lot of time in arranging their dream vacation.  Why was their trip so disappointing?  Unfortunately, according to Ted Friedli, owner of Excel Travel in Long Branch, “What travelers don’t know can hurt them.  An experienced travel professional could almost certainly have saved them both time and money.  More importantly, they could have returned with a lifetime of happy memories, rather than disappointment.”

Travelers need to keep in mind that travel sites and travel brochures are advertising.  Service providers artfully craft their descriptions to maximize the attractiveness of their  offerings and to hide potential flaws.  Unfortunately, you can’t tell from a website or printed materials which providers are painting a current, realistic picture of their service and which are presenting past history or pure “spin.”  Also, problems can be buried in the fine print when you finally received you travel documents.

For Example, this couple’s charter flight was based on a “weekend departure” from one of the tour company’s three “core terminals” in New York.  Their original travel documents talked on Friday evening flight from Newark airport, close to their home.  Their resort’s website advertised an “individual cottage suite with television in living room and bedroom” and an “ocean view”.  While literally precise, many of these phrases held hidden traps.

The couple’s vacation ran into problems right from the start.  The Wednesday before their scheduled departure they were informed that their flight had been moved back to Sunday afternoon (still technically a “weekend departure”) and departure was moved fro Newark to JFK (one of three “core terminals” in New York noted in the fine print on their confirmation).  These changes cut almost 48 hours off their vacation and required additional expense for a limo to take them to Kennedy.  When they arrived at their destination, their “individual cottage suite” was, in fact, a single 20 x 20 room with a room divider/bookcase down the middle and a television on a swivel base between the “bedroom” and “living room” halves of the space.  Their “ocean view” was across a large parking lot and a highway.  The sad part is that they could have avoided these disappointments and almost certainly saved money if they had worked with an experienced, certified travel professional.

Friedli explained, “Keeping a few key points in mind when planning a vacation can go a long way towards making your trip a unique and rewarding one.”

First, the knowledge and experience of a seasoned travel professional can ensure that a traveler’s expectations will be met.  They know how to read a brochure; the hidden clues to look out for or misleading representations.

Many travel planners are salaried, full time employees who don’t depend on commissions – their objectives and motivations are aligned with the client’s, namely, to ensure a good travel experience.  Their collective experience, creating hundreds of travel itineraries every year, lets them know where the best deals are and which service providers to avoid.  Furthermore, their information is absolutely current and based a broad information network including:  previous satisfied travelers, the same Internet sites you might find on your own and personal contacts at a broad range of service providers.

Second, a good travel professional can match or surpass the price that independent travelers can achieve on their own 90 percent of the time or better.  They know where to find the best prices and any special deals that are not offered on direct, sponsored websites.  They continually monitor changes in pricing schedules; especially in the airlines, which change daily, if not more often.  Furthermore, the ultimate service providers; cruise lines, resorts and hotels, pay the agent’s fees.  Other than some minor issuance fees for airline tickets, which no longer pay commissions to travel agents, you get the benefit of the planner’s years of experience at no cost to you.

Third, a travel firm depends on satisfied travelers to grow their business.  If you aren’t satisfied, you won’t use them again or refer others to them.  More importantly, if you have a bad experience, your negative comments could damage their future business.  Your favorable experience is the key to their future success and an experienced travel professional will make sure your vacation is the best possible.

As Friedli said, “An inexpensive vacation can turn into an expensive mistake.  What most people don’t realize is that money is not the major investment in a vacation; it’s time.  Time is precious, especially leisure time.  People work hard all year and look forward to those times when they can get away from everything, do what they really enjoy and truly relax.”  Spending precious time looking for the lowest price is not time well spent.  More importantly, failing to get the full benefit of their travel is value lost forever.

Ensuring an enjoyable travel experience is not difficult.  The steps are simple:

1. Find a good, experienced travel professional.  Check with friends and business associates.  If they’ve found a helpful, experienced planner it’s likely that planner can help you as well.  Look for an agent that is certified by one of the major travel organizations such as the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) or The Institute of Certified Travel Agents.  At a minimum, look for a planner with good experience in the business.

2. Spend a little time upfront letting the planner know, in detail, what you like and what you dislike.  Good vacation planners are your eyes and hands in arranging how you will spend your leisure time.  They can’t meet your needs if they don’t know them.  To paraphrase Yogi Berra:  “If you don’t know where you’re going you’ll usually wind up someplace else.”

3. Be open to suggestions.  Travel professionals have spent years in the business and have worked with hundreds of clients.  Their experience allows them to make suggestions of things you might really like that weren’t on your original wish list.  Be open to new ideas and you may turn a good experience into a peak experience.

4. Trust but verify.  This is your vacation and you want to make sure it is exactly what you want.  Ask questions, review all the travel documents and brochures carefully.  Work with the planner until you know everything there is to know about the trip and feel comfortable with every part of it.

5. Keep in touch with the agent.  If you run into problems during your travels, a good travel planner can frequently straighten things out right away.  In other cases the planner can arrange compensation for a less than satisfactory experience.  After your trip, let your agent know how you enjoyed the trip.  Was it what you expected, better or worse?  What did you like and what, if anything, disappointment you?  At a minimum, the planner can avoid vendors who disappoint in the future.  Just as you have benefited from the experience of others before you can add to the agent’s body of knowledge for future travelers.

Travel should be fun and relaxing.  It should match your specific desires and maximize the benefit of your scarcest commodity – free time.  Use a quality travel planner and you will return home and beautiful pictures, great memories and looking forward to your next trip.

Copyright © 2009 Excel Travel, Inc. All rights reserved. _________45 Atlantic Avenue, Long Branch, NJ 07740 __________ (800-EXCEL-88)

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