10 FAQs About Travel Agents

Photo credit: Tanya Saul

1. How do you get paid?

The suppliers (aka hotels, cruise lines, car rental companies, etc) pay travel agents commission for bringing them business. This commission is not an extra amount that the clients pays – it’s built into the price, so every single person no matter where they book, will pay for the use of a travel agent. It’s just up to them whether to actually use those services they are paying for! You are not paying me extra to book your travel.

2. Isn’t it cheaper to book with Expedia?

Not usually. First of all, I can often price match a deal listed on Expedia if I don’t find it listed as such through my channels. Second, I often can find better deals. Case in point – just this week I found an absolutely fabulous 5 star Hawaii vacation package through one of my favorite suppliers, for $200 less than Expedia PLUS a $600 in exclusive savings at the resort. That’s basically $800 in savings over Expedia.  The other question to ask yourself is if you are looking for the cheapest or the best value.  They are not always the same, and most people prefer value for the money rather than a poor cheap experience.  I can help you make sure that you are getting the very most for each dollar spent.

3. Can’t I find the information I need on the internet?

Perhaps. Lots can be found on the internet. But are you sure you know which sources to trust? And do you want to spend hours researching each location, each hotel, all the reviews, all the sites for best pricing and value and so forth? A travel agent saves you a heck of a lot of time in planning a vacation. We can find the best value at the right location based on what you are looking for. Plus, we spend a lot of time training about specific destinations, hotel properties, cruise lines, activities and, of course, often have already visited the area you are traveling to. We can tell you a lot about what you are looking for, without you having to spend hours digging around endless webpages.

4. But I like to plan trips. Are you going to take over my planning?

No, of course, not, unless you want me to! If you love planning vacations, by all means, dream up all the components you want, look up your favorite hotel brands and then let’s chat to get you the best value or narrow down your favorites. I can give you additional tips, spend the time doing all the booking and reservations, and I am your personal travel counselor, taking care of anything that comes up from the booking process, through your trip, and until you come home. If anything goes wrong, you don’t have to stress out and spend precious vacation time dealing with it – you call me and I take care of it for you!

5. Wait, I’m the opposite of the person who asked number 4. I hate/don’t have time for/don’t know how to plan trips. Will you plan it for me?

Absolutely! I’d love to. We start with a consultation so that I understand exactly what kind of vacation you are looking for, and then I do my magic to find you something that meets all your needs and wants . I’ll bring you the very best of the options that match your desires and you’ll pick one, or we’ll take several elements you like and tweak the plans until you’re pleased.  I’ll book all the parts for you, find the activities you want to do and book them, arrange for special requests, get that dining reservation that has to be booked way in advance, even create a daily itinerary for you if you’d like.

6. My friend just got back from Disney World/Mexico/a cruise and loved it. Why not just book her recommendation?

She may or may not have your same taste. She might like a lot of nightlife, or maybe she is an early morning kind of girl. Her husband might have the same kind of taste, but your might hate the type of trip she took. They might love fast paced and you like relaxed. Or vice versa. It may or may not be your best value once we look at all your options. Or maybe that was last year and this year that resort is under construction, leaving it noisy and a little ugly. And, quite possibly, even the exact thing she booked might be better with a few tweaks, plans or adjustments to tailor it exactly to what YOU need. Most certainly bring the recommendation to my attention and let’s look it over to see if it’s actually best for you!

7. Why would a travel agent have more power in the industry than me if it’s just one person?

Travel agents actually still make a large percentage of the bookings (in most areas, actually a majority of the bookings) in this industry. Therefore, suppliers want to make sure agents’ clients are extremely satisfied because they know that the agents will then recommend their property/product again. If something isn’t going as planned, a travel agent can quickly get in touch with the people who matter and get it made right. It may take much longer for an average person to get a problem solved. (Ever seen someone try to get a problem solved at the gate of an airport? Yeah…)

8. Are you alone in this or do you have back up in this industry?

Oh, I’m far from alone. I work as an independent contractor with a much larger agency called Montrose Travel. As such, I have even more clout in the industry, if you will, because of their size and how well known they are amongst suppliers. If I can’t solve something on my own, I have my big sister agency to go to for immediate (and powerful) assistance. They even maintain a 24 hour emergency phone line for assistance no matter when or where. I will always do everything I can, and so will they, to make sure your vacation is a success.

9. When I give my credit card for my trip payment, am I paying you? Or the hotel/cruise/airline?

You are paying the supplier when I book a trip for you. The money isn’t even crossing my hands.

10. Why should I book with you instead of one of the big online sites?

When you book online, you get a very DIY experience. You’re on your own completely. Will the website know that you hated that one hotel because you were stuck in a room next to the ice machine?

Will it know that your kids really would prefer an active kids club? Will it know that your husband is a foodie? Will it tell you that the gorgeous beach pictured in the photo was pretty 5 years ago when that photo was taken but now it’s been eroded and is full of seaweed? Nope. If you have a question, can you call the 800 number, ask the question, then call right back when you remember something else and talk to the same nice person? Not likely. No, you’ll get a call center, probably in India, with a different person each time, who may or may not care about your question and really has no investment in how much you enjoy your vacation.

Will they know which activities to recommend and offer to book them for you? Will they make sure you got all your documents and contact you with any changes that happen before your trip? Will they go to bat with you if your flight gets canceled or drastically changed or if your hotel room is not the category you were promised? Will they actually care about you and your family personally? Well, there you go.

The difference is, I will. I am not a computer program or a call center in India. I am YOUR travel consultant, and I care very deeply that you get the vacation that YOU want.

 

 

 

Is My 3 Year Old Too Young for Disney World?

Is My 3 Year Old Too Young for Disney World?

I get asked this question a lot.  Many parents of preschoolers wonder if the trip will be worth it with their little ones or if they should wait until they are older.  My opinion?  Take them now – with the right planning, it will be one of the best memories of your life!  Why?  At this age, everything is magical and magic is absolutely real!

My Daughter’s First Trip at 3

My daughter was three on her first visit to Disney World.  She can be quite the drama queen and she’s not (as most preschoolers aren’t) filled with patience.  I knew that if I could find a way to minimize waiting and make sure we wouldn’t have hunger meltdowns, and keep everyone well rested, we’d have the best chance of success.  And guess what – it’s completely possible.  Easy even.

If you’re planning a trip to Disney World, I can easily help you plan to avoid waiting in long lines and get your reservations at all the right times and places.  But one of the very best things you can do for yourself is to absolutely plan for a nap or rest time right in the middle of your day, for your whole family.  When everyone is refreshed (including mom and dad!), everyone will be happier.  Trust me!  Yes, this means leaving the park for a few hours.  No, you won’t run out of time to do everything,

I can help you fit everything in while still leaving room for breaks.  It’s easiest to do this if you stay at a Walt Disney World Resort, of course, because of how close you’ll be to your hotel.  Leave after lunch, retreat to your cool hotel room for a nap, or quiet time, maybe a dip in the pool and a snack, too, then come back to the park for an enjoyable evening.

Plan for minimizing those lines have reservations at the best times for your preschooler, take a nice break in the middle of the day, and what will you get?  A child full of wonder, curiosity, and joy, big-eyed and soaking in all the magic.

And if your child is anything like mine, it will be such an important experience that she will be talking about Disney World daily…for the next year.  And you?  You’ll be smiling every time you remember the looks on her face as she saw the magic.

Ship Inspection: Norwegian Pearl

Ship Review: The Norwegian Pearl

This weekend, I had a chance to visit the Norwegian Pearl while it was in Port in Seattle.  What a great experience!  I’m so glad that I get to see ships in person so that I can better match them to your needs.  On this tour, I was able to see the main public areas, staterooms in several categories, restaurants, speciality venues and even sit down for a lunch in the main dining room.

The Beginning Of The Tour

This is a large ship. holding 2,394 passengers.  As I walked in, the first thing I saw was the Crystal Atrium, which was decorated in rich jewel tones.  Here you can see how royal feeling this area is:

The Staterooms

We quickly headed off to visit the staterooms, which are also all decorated in various jewel tones for a warm, happy feel.  I really like the way the rooms are decorated and laid out.  The veranda rooms were bright from all the natural light streaming in; definitely my first choice for this ship.

The Garden Villa

The most amazing thing on this ship, though, is the Garden Villa, part of The Haven, a private suite only area of the ship.  This three bedroom villa is gorgeously decorated, with plenty of space to spread out and relax, including a private outdoor area with hot tub.   The bathrooms are huge, with amazing views, there are large walk in closets, and a living room with a bar and grand piano!

The Haven suites open into a private, suite-only pool area:

After viewing the staterooms, we ventured into a few of the restaurants on board.

Summer Palace

Then we settled into Summer Palace, one of the main dining rooms, for lunch.  I don’t have a picture of this one (but it’s beautiful!) because my husband was playing both photographer and videographer.  Stay tuned for the video, though, and you’ll see lots more.  In any case, we had a choice of appetizer, entree and dessert from the menu.

It had some typical lunch options like sandwiches and burgers, but also entrees such as Chicken Milanese and Grilled Steak.  I had the Chicken Milanese, which came with a tomato and arugula salad.  Some of my table-mates had the steak, which they said was perfectly cooked.   Our table was right at a window, which was great.

After our lunch break, we headed out to see some of the fun areas of the ship.

The two pools on the main deck area were quite nice.  One had a large water slide, great for all ages, and the other was deeper and had a waterfall.  There was also a (very) small kids’ splash and play area.  A rock climbing wall offered adventure on board (video to come), as well as a bowling alley!

Overall, I was impressed with the many options to keep busy on board.  The spa was lovely, with  many interesting treatments offered (including acupuncture!), the many lounges and bars were inviting, and the large number of restaurants meant that even picky eaters are sure to find a dish that suits their fancy.  The Pear sails to Alaska all summer long, so if you’d like to learn more about this ship or about cruising to Alaska, give me a call!

 

Alaska: Beyond a Cruise

I’ve spent a lot of time recently increasing my knowledge of Alaskan cruises.  The photos are simply breathtaking time and time again.  One of the great things about an Alaskan cruise for those who live in the Seattle area is that you can leave directly from the Seattle or Vancouver ports.  Easy peasy!

One of my favorite cruise options for Alaska so far is the Denali Explorer Cruisetour from Princess Cruise Line.  This incredible experience is a 7 day cruise with a 3-6 day land experience at Princess owned lodges in the Denali National Park area.  This cruise begins in Vancouver and sails north to Whittier Alaska.  Along the way, you’ll cruise through Glacier Bay National Park, with stops at Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan.  While relaxing on the cruise and exploring the ports, you’ll see some of these beautiful sites:

 

 

 

 

Once you disembark at Whittier, the Direct to Wilderness Rail service, operated by Princess, will whisk you to you Denali lodge.  This train is glass enclosed offering stunning views of the Alaskan landscape as you sit back and enjoy a meal while you travel.  Rail guides provide commentary on all of the sites along the way.  Arrive in Denali at a beautiful riverside lodge, serving as a perfect base for your Alaskan adventures.  Take horse drawn carriage rides with views of Mt. McKinley, hike the backcountry of Denali National Park, take a boat down the river, take a sightseeing flight, go river rafting and more!  And for some downtime, relax while dining on Alaskan specialties, soaking in hot tubs or enjoying music at the dinner theater.

 

 

 

The Princess Alaska Cruise Tour allows for a more in depth Alaskan experience.  If you are looking for even more than the traditional ports of call, this experience is calling your name.  How many people get an up and close look of Mt. McKinley or get to experience the landscape of Alaska via glass domed rail service?   This is definitely an experience to add to the bucket list!