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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Best Practices for Planning a Vacation

Holly Robertson – Owner, Latitudes Travel

During the winter months or as we call it, “The Deep Freeze”, thoughts turn to sun, waves and white sand, and they just want to go Some Place Warm. Many people will spend hours sitting at a computer planning, searching, pricing, and do it themselves. Many will have success, but many more will not. It is amazing how the people that will spend thousands of dollars booking a trip on-line, would never consider buying even the simplest of items from the internet. Yes, booking a trip on-line can seem easy, but it can be exhausting. In fact, many times people hate the process so much they just stop and forget the whole idea.

Planning a vacation, whether it is a long weekend getaway, or that, “ Vacation of a Lifetime”, shouldn’t be something to fear or dread and it doesn’t have to be. Online travel sights have been all the rage. You see them advertised all the time and they can be very helpful at times, however, if you truly want to have a stress free experience and get the most for your travel dollar, call a Travel Agent. These well trained, well traveled professionals are here for you and help you plan your vacation and many times get you more for your money then you ever thought possible!

Haven’t all travel agents gone out of Business? Well no, In fact, according to recent studies the trend of using travel agents is actually on the rise and as traveler’s dollars become increasingly tighter, consumers do not want to waste their money or time.

Agents outshine On-line sites in many ways, Customer Service, the ability answer questions, the ability to customize itineraries, pre-book excursions, and so much more. This combined with the fact that nearly 35% of all complaints made with sites such as the BBB, and other on-line sites relate to just the 8 largest On-line Travel booking sites.

If you travel a lot or just ever so often you know, details matter. You can end up spending more time on travel booking sites than you’d like or even imaging possible. When you’re planning for a trip there’s just so much on your mind. You’ve got to figure out your schedule, who’s going to pick you up at the airport, where to park, what the weather’s going to be like, and you have to make plans at your destination like Transfers, accommodations, excursions, and more… Of course all of these things have some bearing on which flight you need to book; it’s a lot of stress. Travel agents can help with this and so much more, but with travel sites you not only won’t get this, you can’t get this personalized service and assistance!

For example have you ever tried to ask an on-line site which seats are the best or to avoid on a particular airplane? Many things can factor into this questions such as what you're after. For more legroom, are you traveling with a toddler, do you want extra attention from the crew, or are you simply looking for the most stable flight. Agents have tools that they can use to pull up virtually any airplane seating chart, that can show the Good, Bad, and Ugly of any seat.

On-line travel sites believe that the source of every travel’s stress is price, when in actuality, most people planning a vacation simply want the best quality possible for their budget. This can be a huge difference. For example, routinely we will book airline tickets that may cost an extra $25 or $50 per person on an all-inclusive vacation, but they will get the client, a non-stop flight or a shorter layover and better flight times. By better flight time we mean the ability to enjoy many more hours of vacation at your resort on the day of arrival and the day of departure. This extra money paid can easily be saved by getting extra meals, drinks and more for free at the resort, rather than by purchasing them at a airport during a 4 or 6 hour layover.

Agents that can provide these services are not hard to find but a couple things can make one stand out from the others. Be sure to give the agent an honest upfront budget. Knowing exactly what you are willing to spend can really help an agent and maximize what they can do for you. Don’t be afraid to tell them this much and not a penny more! But low balling them can get you a limited number of options when you would have been willing to spend a little more, but the Agent didn’t know it, so you will never know about the better options.

As you plan your next vacation remember these next few questions. They will ensure you get what you want, what you need, and get it at the best price possible. Your Grandparents were right, you do get what you pay for.

1. Do you charge any agency fees for booking a vacation? Car Rental, Transfers or Excursions? Many do add these as a way to boost their income.

2. What are their hours? Do you offer concierge service? It is important to find an agency that is open when you are available, taking a day off from work just adds to the expense. Concierge Service is the best, the agent will meet you at a time & location that is best for you, your office, your home, on your lunch hour, evenings, even weekends. This is the mark of a true professional that knows what it means to take care of the client. You shouldn’t need a vacation from planning your vacation, and concierge service is the best way to start. It is extremely nice for planning group travel such as Destination Weddings, and Family trips. The agent can meet with everyone, get input and put out options to make the vacation a success.

3. Do you offer / recommend Insurance? They all should, they should recommend it. Many trips even have Cancel For Any Reason insurance available. Get all the facts and learn what insurance can and will cover. It can save you big dollars if you have to cancel for some reason.

4. As you talk to your agent, don’t be afraid if they look things up, they are working for you. Be thorough should never be a sign of weakness.

5. Keep asking yourself; Is this person giving me what I want or just what is easiest for them? Make sure you get what you want!

6. Have all my questions been answered? When you are done booking and prior to traveling you should have no doubts about what you are getting, what exactly the costs are. If there will be any expenses you have to pay for when you are traveling and how much? And lastly who, specifically can I call if there is a problem and what is that person’s phone number. With these tips, trick and questions in mind you are now ready to start planning your escape from the cold and snow to a destination some place warm.

Holly Robertson – Owner of Latitudes Travel, a Wisconsin Based Full Service Travel Agency (414) 433-4873 Toll Free (855) 433-4870

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