In today's world there are an endless number of reasons to use a travel advisor for your next vacation. Whether it be a Caribbean destination, cruise or a theme park it's always a good idea to enlist the advice of an expert. The COVID pandemic just highlighted these reasons more than ever before. There is so much to know and be prepared for when traveling plus you want to get the best investment out of your money. The average family vacation costs a lot so you deserve to get the most out of it!
Were going to highlight some of the top reasons you should be using an advisor to book your future vacations.
Travel Advisors are Experts
We are all quick to call an expert when we are in a jam or out of our skillset.
From cutting our hair to preparing our taxes, there are just some tasks that are better left for the pros.
Travel is one of the biggest three purchases you’ll make in your lifetime after a home and car (or college tuition if that’s in the cards for you). You use experts to save yourself time and stress, but most importantly, to get a better outcome. In this case, a better vacation.
The first decision you need to make is when to go and then the second decision is where to go. Let me ask you a question though… have you considered letting a professional travel advisor give you a shortlist of destination ideas? Perhaps somewhere that you’ve heard of but never been to or maybe a totally new destination full of new experiences. As professional travel advisors we hear about new destinations and experiences before they go to market - that new overwater bungalow hotel in the Caribbean? The new all suite hotel with Eiffel Tower views and private balconies? Or maybe that new state of the art river cruise ship in Egypt sailing on the Nile River.
Booking a trip online yourself is easy… or is it? You need a stateroom from category 1D, 2D, 5D, or 7D. Wait… maybe a 1E or a 2F. There are dozens of stateroom categories on the one ship and every cruise line has different categories too. There are 323 cruise ships to choose from. This year alone, 28 new cruise ships will be launched.
You want to give your kids the amazing theme park vacation they've been begging for but you can't just show up any more and wing it. You need to book the right resort, get the right park tickets and Disney now requires park reservations for each day you have theme park tickets.
That is a LOT of options and a LOT of things to learn. We are experts at matchmaking travelers to the perfect resort, ship and itinerary. Now you can see why 75% of cruisers hand the job over to a professional travel advisor. They still get amazing value and they also benefit from our in-depth knowledge, savvy tricks and tools and of course we are able to offer great perks, amenities and at times, upgrade opportunities.
Connections that Matter
Another benefit of using a professional travel advisor is that we often have direct contact with travel industry partners like cruise lines, hotels, resorts and tour operators. When there is big news, they often let us know first. Stop wasting time searching for the tiny details and ask us. That’s what we're here for.
One of my favorite things about working in the travel industry is the relationships and friendships that we form. It’s not uncommon for travel advisors to go to several conferences and training events each year and meet with the CEOs and Presidents of the biggest travel companies in the world. We have email addresses, phone numbers and most importantly open lines of communication with decision makers and problem solvers at many cruise lines, resorts, hotel chains and airlines. We won't hesitate to call them out if we need them whether it be planning your vacation - or troubleshooting while you are away, know that we put in that call for you.
The Fine Print
Every element of your vacation including but not limited to your accommodation, flights, tours, cruise, and travel insurance, all have “fine print” also known as terms & conditions. This isn’t new news at all. The average 7 day vacation to Europe or the Caribbean has up to 15 separate bookings in it.
Accommodation (maybe 1-3 properties)
Flights (perhaps a few booked separately with different airlines (for better value and logistics)
Airport transfers to and from your home, accommodation and the airport (between 2 and 6 of these)
Travel insurance to match exactly what you booked
A few day trips or excursions with the same or different tour companies
Museum, gallery, or social attraction tickets to avoid waiting in line
Did you know that each of these separate bookings (usually through different companies) each comes with their own rules and fine print? They can be incredibly complex to stitch together into one itinerary.
What is new is the number of changes that each travel company is currently making to their services. Changes come out of nowhere and are often effective immediately. Navigating all of the date changes, and schedule change fees and rules can be a nightmare. The good news is… we’re really good at it. You can trust that we have checked the fine print - and understood it before we lock in your travel bookings. If you want flexible travel arrangements - we’ll make sure to book it that way.
Choosing a destination for your vacation is different now. Travelers around the world consider different factors than pre-pandemic. These include the destination’s Covid-19 protocols such as mask wearing, social distancing, whether restaurants, businesses and the big attractions are open (and at what capacity). You also need to know the entry requirements for your destination.
Will you need to be vaccinated?
Will you need a negative Covid-19 test?
What kind of test will be accepted?
Antigen, NAAT, PCR?
Will you have to quarantine?
These are all super important questions to consider and the most challenging part? The rules are shifting goal posts. They change often. As a professional travel advisor it’s our job to navigate this for you.
What if things don't go as planned
Sometimes life will throw you a curve ball when you’re on vacation - it could be a family emergency back home, a border closing, Covid-19 protocols changing, civil unrest, an airline strike or Mother Nature getting sassy. In fact all of these things have happened in the past year. And when something happens on vacation, you want to know that someone has your back.
When you use a travel professional they manage your travel, we can support you and advocate for you no matter where in the world you are. We can jump on the phone to airlines, tour operators, and tourism boards. We can change your plans or make new plans.
We can get you home or move you somewhere else. And we're only ever one click away from - by messenger, text, email or phone. When you book travel on your own or through an online travel website, you don’t get that. You are left on your own to troubleshoot everything - often in a foreign country, language and currency.
Don’t let that happen to you. That peace of mind is everything!
You are likely already paying for a travel advisor
Recently a friend of mine told me that she thought you had to be rich or spend tens of thousands of dollars on a vacation in order to use a professional travel advisor.
Myth: A professional travel advisor will always try to upsell you and make you spend more than you have or want to so that they earn commission.
Truth: FALSE. Big fat lie. Big fact misunderstanding. Here’s how it works…
First most cruises, resorts and even theme parks include commission in your purchase. That's right you are paying for a travel advisor if you use one or not! If you book yourself they are likely pocketing that money that could be going to a small business. There are some exceptions such as Walt Disney World theme park tickets for less than 3 days and a one day base ticket to Universal which is where professional planning fees come into play.
Secondly we don't get paid until after you travel. The time we spend planning and discussing the trip, on hold to apply promotions, building your itinerary and what if you had to reschedule? We only get paid based on what we sell and we won't see any compensation until after you return from your trip.
Which is why many qualified and certified professionals like myself often charge a one time per trip planning fee (just like if you went to see an attorney or tax specialist). For that one fee, we do all of the planning, research, verifications, and bookings. We then put together all of the individual elements into one set of easy to follow travel documents.
We ALWAYS work inside your budget. If your budget is $1000 or $10,000, all you have to do is let us know. We will present flight and accommodation/cruise options that fit in that budget. We may suggest adjusting the length of your vacation or the style of accommodation, or perhaps a different flight to help your budget. But know this… our goal is ALWAYS to get your next best vacation booked just the way you need it.
What can we do for you?
If I asked you to find 20 hours of time that you can dedicate (next week) to plan your next vacation, I think you’d look at me like I’m crazy. Who just has 20 hours of planning time to look at, compare and book flights, cruises, hotels, transfers, resorts, tours and travel insurance. NOBODY!
Well actually we do. Because planning vacations is our profession (one that we are trained and certified in) it takes us much less time to find what you need. It takes us less time to know what will work and what won’t because we have experience. I don’t have to plan your vacation around anything else because it’s quite literally my job. Consider it as attractive as handing over those other time consuming tasks that no one will thank you for - doing laundry, cleaning the house or mowing the lawn.
Maybe you like to plan your trip, that's fantastic and you can still book with an advisor! You can plan out all the details and relay it to us but there are still so many benefits we can provide. We have in-depth knowledge of destinations and are the first to know when there are any changes you should be made aware of, we have direct contacts to suppliers should you have any questions and we can wait on hold so you don't have to!
Research. More than likely you end up with dozens of browser tabs open looking at options you’ve already looked at a thousand times over. And now that anyone can post anything on the internet it’s hard to distinguish fact from opinion. Just because you read something on a travel chat forum or social media thread, doesn’t make it accurate. If it even was accurate, it may have changed since it was written.
I see this all the time with theme parks. If I had a dollar for every time someone said 'my aunt just went and she said...'. Most of the time that advice was either outdated or just incorrect. Just because your favorite aunt went to Walt Disney World once 3 years ago and loved it doesn't make her an expert (even if she thinks she is!).
Bottom line is things have changed drastically all over the world the last 2 years so you need someone on your side to guide you.
Melissa Lenox is a Vacation Specialist and blog editor with Coasters & Castles Travel. She is a former entertainment cast member, loves Star Wars, Harry Potter, Marvel, Chip 'n Dale, dining at Walt Disney World and planning trips for others! Follow her on her pages below or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to plan your next adventure!