Sandy Fardie, Coasters & Castles Travel Specialist, is back with some more timely advice when it comes to travel. She has some great information for you.
I am asked all the time why a client should book with me as a travel agent instead of booking through an internet site or a wholesale club. I’m also asked why Travel Insurance is needed. Clients always tell me that they plan to travel “no matter what”.
As a Travel Agent, I see the majority of trips go off without a hitch, but unfortunately I also see trips that encounter unexpected problems, interruptions, and financial loss. One of those problematic trips happened to be my own recent personal trip. I would like to share my experience with you and let you be the judge of the value of a travel agent and travel insurance.
My husband and I were anxious, like all of you, to put travel back in our lives now that we are getting to the other side of the pandemic. Through my favorite travel agent (me!) we booked a 6 night/7 day trip to Sandals Montego Bay in Jamaica for the end of April, 2021.
Plan A. Time to go! All of our required travel documents were in order - Passports, Travel Authorization Approval from Jamaica, and our negative Covid tests (taken 3 days prior to arrival). Our flight was from Providence, RI to Orlando, FL where we would change planes for our connecting flight to Montego Bay. As we approached Orlando, a major storm system caused the airport to be closed for a period of time forcing all flights to be diverted to nearby airports. We ended up in Tampa.
Due to a series of events that included the weather issue and a mechanical issue, we were in Tampa for over 4 hours before we were cleared to return to Orlando. Guess what – we missed our connection to Montego Bay. Since that was the only flight to Montego Bay until the following day, we were grounded and would miss our first night at Sandals.
Plan B. We needed a new flight and a hotel room for the night. Our Travel Authorization Approvals were still valid for entry to Jamaica for the following day, but our COVID tests were not. We needed new COVID tests.
Our stay at Sandals was of course paid in full. We needed to notify Sandals of the situation so that we would not be considered a “no show” and lose our room reservation and potentially the entire cost of our trip. We were also past the point where we could make any changes that would provide a refund for a reduced stay to 5 nights.
Scenario A: If this were your trip and you had booked it through an internet site or a wholesale club, you would have to handle all of these changes yourself with the airlines and with the resort (in this case Sandals) directly, or you could try to call the nameless internet site or wholesale club directly. I can assure you that you would spend hours on hold trying to reach a call center, assuming you could get through at all. You would also have to find and book your own hotel for the night and research how and where to get the appropriate COVID testing done – internet and wholesale club call centers won’t help you with these types of issues.
Scenario B: If this were your trip booked through me as your travel agent, you would simply get off the plane and call me. After I talked you off the ledge, I would tell you to go have a meal and a drink and wait to hear from me. While you are enjoying a nice meal, I am busy arranging to get you on the next available flight; contacting Sandals to advise them of your delayed arrival; arranging for a hotel stay for you that evening; and finding options for you to have a new COVID test taken with results in time for your arrival the following day.
If you have Travel Protection insurance I would instruct you to contact the provider (at the number I provided to you with your travel documents) to open your claim for Trip Interruption.
In the end, our story ended very well, as yours would have if this were your trip booked with a travel agent like me. Here’s how it went:
We had a great dinner and then checked into our room in the hotel at the Orlando airport. We were booked on a flight to Montego Bay for the following morning. Fortunately the Orlando Airport has an on-site COVID testing location that was open and we were able to get a rapid test that met the entry requirements to Jamaica. My favorite travel agent (hee hee) was able to arrange with Sandals to add an extra night to the end of our original stay and to change our departing flight to a day later for no additional costs, so we still got our original 6 nights/7 days in as planned.
We had Travel Protection Insurance that included Trip Interruption. Our unexpected expenses due to the trip interruption for the hotel and meals were covered. I submitted our receipts against our claim when we returned home and was reimbursed within 2 weeks. Had there been a fee to change our flights or an increase in airfare, our travel protection would have covered those costs. If we ended up having to reduce our stay to 5 nights because of the interruption, our travel insurance would have also covered the value of the loss of our first night’s stay at Sandals.
I can’t stress enough the value of a travel agent and travel protection. While things go as planned the majority of the time, things do happen that you don’t expect and can’t control. As travel agents we treat your trip as if it is our own. We work hard to make sure that you have personalized experiences and act as your advocate before, during, and even after your trip. I’ll let you decide, but wouldn’t you rather have the peace of mind knowing someone has your back and that your vacation investment is protected?
Sandy Fardie is a Vacation Specialist with Coasters and Castles Travel. She loves planning vacations for her clients as much as she loves planning her own. She specializes in all Disney Destinations as well as Caribbean Destinations via a variety of cruise lines and all-inclusive resorts. She has experience planning honeymoons; single family and multi-generational family vacations; and group travel.
You can learn more about Sandy at https://www.travelcnc.com/sandy