I hope this helps you when you consider working with a travel advisor. Before the internet, you would just walk into an agency to get an airline ticket or take care of any hotel reservations, car rentals, etc. Things have changed a bit.
The travel industry has been through an identity crisis since about the year 2000 until now. Mostly because airlines cut all travel agent commissions and the internet was introduced among other things. While I can’t speak for ALL travel professionals, I can speak from my own experience. Here are some things to keep in mind when working with a travel advisor.
1.) Don’t be afraid to screen a travel advisor before you need one. You can interview us like you would anyone that you are looking to hire. Take your time and start seeking one out for future reference. You don’t have to wait until last minute.
You can use the ASTA website to make sure they are legit.- http://web.asta.org/imis/Travelsense? ASTA is the American Society of Travel Advisors and is the leading global advocate for travel advisors, the travel industry and the traveling public.
Making sure you are a good fit is mutually beneficial and worth your time and investment. Search for one or three and make an appointment to sit and talk with them for a few minutes. There are other ways to find a potential travel advisor that fits your needs like a recommendation from a trusted friend, coworker or family member. I’m not a big fan of public reviews because they’re not 100% verified and can be fixed. (I’ll get more into this on a later post!)
2.) Be prepared to answer many questions. You may feel like we are being invasive but because of safety and security reasons for both parties, it is a must. Your travel advisor needs to know who, what, when, where, and how of anything that can affect your travel plans, design, challenges, interests, finances and more.
If you don’t feel comfortable working with the person you’ve chosen then you should speak up as soon as possible or just find someone that you do feel comfortable with. There is too much work that goes into creating your personalized itinerary so the sooner the better.
You know the world was a lot different before 9/11. Government security, travel restrictions and airline safety is constantly changing. For example, the Brazilian visa was waived during the Olympics in Rio in 2016. Otherwise, it takes 2-3 months to complete your Brazilian visa and that’s if there are no discrepancies in your paperwork!
I also remember when Argentina had a reciprocity fee requirement of $160 but after a visit with former President Obama, they were waived in March of 2016.
One last important thing about being “transparent” with your travel advisor is PLEASE let us know if you have any reason that you may be denied entry and or boarding to another country, flight, ship, etc. This can be a sensitive subject but our job is to make sure you go on your dream vacation without having to worry about being denied to proceed with your plans. We are not government authority and do not have the last say but we need to let you know that if you continue with the purchase of a travel package with the knowledge that you have a DUI or something on your record, you may lose out on a wonderful vacation. Travel insurance may not help you with this either. More about travel insurance later too!
Boy, this makes it sound bad but it’s really not if you’ve found the right travel advisor for you.
3.) Take your passport with you to your first meeting. If you are ready to start working on a trip with your preferred travel pro, make sure you take your passport with you for international travel or state issued ID for domestic travel.
Everything starts with your identification. EVERYTHING! I’ve learned in my experience that you must have that to start off from the beginning. There’s too much at stake to “guess” on details. Airlines and other providers charge you for correcting any mistakes in spellings of your name and or birthdates. It can get ugly!
You don’t know how many times I heard, “I think my cousin’s birthday is this.” or “I think my aunt’s birthday is that.”
I prefer to visually verify all government IDs not only for your sake but for mine too! I believe that it’s our job to coach our clients because we do this day in and day out, everyday, all day.
This is a crucial step because it forces you to look at your passport and make sure you don’t need to renew it after not seeing it for a while.
Another tip to remember is if you’re getting married in between purchasing your travel and actually traveling, then please don’t update, change or mess with your passport until after you return. Even if you’ve booked a few months in advance, it’s not worth the risk.
There can be no discrepancy between what your airline ticket or travel documents read and what your passport says. NONE! Nada!
I remember being excited to change my name on everything as soon as possible but this is one of those times that I have to advise you not to change your name on your passport until after you’ve traveled. I’ve never had clients do this but have heard from my colleagues that had this happen and it was no Bueno! You will lose money having to buy new airline tickets plus paying a fee to correct names for a new ticket. Not to mention, TSA, customs or foreign government officials giving you a hard time for the discrepancy.
4.) Fees and payment. Be prepared to pay a fee or deposit amount once you’ve hired a travel pro and they have found a trip package for you. If you’re traveling less than 45 days prior to your departure date then your package will have to be paid in full.
All suppliers are different and require payment policies. Keep in mind that any prices quoted are subject to availability and can change in an instant until paid in full.
You can ask about payment plans and discuss how you want to proceed with paying off your bucket list trip of a lifetime. I personally have helped my clients with scheduled reminders and depending on my specific instructions, I carry out their desired wishes. You will also receive from me a printed statement after every single update, change, payment, or anything that affects your trip so that you will have record of it all.
Be sure to ask if you can get a discount for paying with and e-check instead of a credit card. Some companies like Viking River Cruises will give you a significant savings if you do pay with an e-check.
5.) Read your documents and correspondence. There is a lot of information exchange that happens when working on a trip together that reading the emails, documents, itineraries, statements and invoices is very important on both sides. It’s not fun…I know but I can tell who reads my emails and who doesn’t. Maybe I’ll start doing video communications instead?! MAKEUP!
6.) Never assume anything. If you are not sure about certain details, ask. I would rather you ask then leave it up to chance. Always get it in writing! I like to let me clients see any changes or updates via a confirmation page, statement or itinerary that reflects the new changes.
Airlines can and do change flight numbers, times, equipment (type of plane used) or cancel flights all-together. Cruise lines can change their itineraries even up to the day you arrive…or deviate at the last minute. Your travel plans can change at anytime due to any world events. You decide if you want someone to have your back if or when it does.
So there are 6 things to expect when working with a travel advisor. This is a simple list but there’s more to taking care of you and your family depending on the kind of trip you chose. Don’t hesitate to call 2-3 travel professionals, get referrals from people you trust and take the time to meet them in person.
My goal is to make sure you don’t waste another penny on a trip that you don’t enjoy.
Feel free to call me if you have any questions about this article.