No one likes problems on vacation. Vacation is supposed to be an escape from problems, not the cause of them. Sometimes, though, things do happen. Never fear, here are some things you can keep in mind to smooth your way.
1) Be protected. We tend to sound like a broken record in our office talking about travel insurance. I hate that it sounds to some people like the “protection” one is offered when you buy electronics at Best Buy. Travel insurance, though, shouldn’t be lumped into that category.
Says Personal Finance Authority Clark Howard: “Travel insurance policies should always be purchased when you are taking a cruise, a tour or traveling on a trip that requires pre-payment of thousands of dollars. Policies are designed to protect consumers in the event of illness or to provide a refund in the case of company, tour operator or airline default.”
Buy the insurance.
2) Be Polite. Your mother was right. You do catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. I can’t think of a single situation made better by being rude. Clerks you encounter along your way almost always have something they can do to make your trip better. Motivate them to help you instead of the guy screaming at them. Be a light in the darkness. It will pay off on vacation.
Don’t be taken advantage of though. Think “velvet over steel”.
3) Be prepared. Have everything in writing. Print out every confirmation and have it with you. If you’re expecting certain amenities included with your hotel rate, take a print screen with you. Hotels are absolutely notorious for advertising a spa credit or a food and beverage credit, or kids eat free, or any one of a million other things. In a significant number of cases, upon arrival at the hotel the front desk has no idea what you’re talking about. I truly do not believe it’s a matter of dishonesty. It’s more a matter of the marketing department and the operations department not knowing what the other is doing. Having proof will help the appropriate people track down the information they need to make sure you get the amenities you’re expecting.
4) Be practical. Understand what your resources are. Does the agency have an in resort representative whose job it is to help resolve issues for you? If not an in resort representative perhaps at least an in destination representative reachable by phone? Many tour operators have a 24 during travel phone number intended for customers needing help on vacation. The best ones are staffed with people who are experts at resolving in destination issues. Are you able to reach your own agent by phone? Sometimes time zone differences make this difficult.
Another of the benefits of travel insurance is access to people 24 hours a day who are there to help you in various situations. Of course, your insurance people aren’t there to help you if you don’t like the room you’ve been assigned, but if your husband has just slipped by the pool and broken his leg, they’re you’re second phone call. (Right after calling for medical help, of course.)
What else? What techniques do you use on vacation to make your way smooth?
Are you planning your first trip to Cancun or the Riviera Maya? Or has it maybe been a while since you’ve been? Here are some things you should know to make the beginning of your trip as smooth as possible.
1) Bring a pen on the plane. The flight attendants will be passing out a form commonly referred to as a “tourist card”. You’ll need to fill it out. You’ll be the most popular one on your row if you have a pen. You’ll need your passport open to fill it out. Be sure you carefully keep track of your passport because if you misplace it or leave it on the plane you will have a big problem. Possession of your passport is really the only deal breaker in the whole process. You can make up for anything else, but if you lose your passport you have issues.
2) Properly fill out your tourist card. Hopefully it will be printed in English, but it may not. It could go either way. Read it carefully and fill it out correctly. If you’re arriving into Cancun, the name of the state is “Quintana Roo”. It can be abbreviated “Q. Roo”. Also remember that the format for writing a date everywhere but the US is day/month/year rather than the month/day/year format we use.
There will be a guy checking your tourist card right when you get off the plane to make sure it is filled out correctly. If it is not, you’ll have to stop right there and lean up against the wall and make your corrections. This will upset your evil plan of rushing down to passport control and being first in line.
3) Speaking of the line in passport control, it goes pretty fast. Don’t despair if you see a long snake-like line. It’s pretty much like Walt Disney World in that it moves fairly continuously. If you get bored, look down at the floor. Ninety nine percent of the women in the line have fresh pedicures. I roll my eyes at them in my head while I wait. Oops, you have a fresh pedicure too? Compare yours to theirs and see whose is better.
4) The next line you’ll encounter is customs. This is the line you wait in after you’ve claimed your luggage. Sometimes this line can move rather slowly. If you notice a substantial line when you enter the baggage claim area, make a deal with your traveling companion that one of you gets the bags, and one of you goes ahead and takes a place in line. You may encounter sniffing dogs while in this area. They are looking for drugs and/or unpackaged food.
5) After you leave the customs area you go through sliding glass doors and will go to your right (the only option). You’ll walk past a bunch of people who are trying to get your attention. Ignore them. They are timeshare people. They may say they are your transfer, or that they are representatives of your hotel. They are not. They are lying. Ignore them, and walk outside. Your transfer is waiting for you outside. If transfers were not included in your package, you’ll find the legitimate taxi drivers out there too.
6) Relax. Even if the lines are long, or the airport is a complete mad house, relax. You’ve just arrived into one of the most beautiful places on earth. You’re on vacation. Relax.
Recently we got a phone call from someone in a company who wanted to take 40 people to Las Vegas. It was a corporate trip of some kind, maybe the participants won an incentive. Maybe they were going to attend a conference. Maybe the company was betting next month’s payroll. I have no idea.
Anyway, point is that they needed to take 40 people to Las Vegas. Of course the secretary did her due diligence in looking at prices online before she called us. (This was not someone we already had a relationship with. She found us online.) She priced 2 people with air at the hotel they were considering. She made note of the price. Then she called to ask our assistance in getting all 40 people booked.
She was quite shocked to learn that the per person price for the 40 people was higher than the per person price for the 2 people she priced online.
Why was the price higher? It has to do with inventory control. Primarily, it’s the airline. They sell certain number of seats at a lower price on each flight, then the price for subsequent people goes up in stair steps until finally the last few seats on the plane go for quite a high fare. They aren’t going to sell you 40 seats for that loss leader price you see for the first two people you price. The group of 40 will get a per person price that is an average between that low price you see for the first two, and the really astronomical price you don’t see yet for those last few passengers.
Doesn’t it make logical sense, though, that the 40 person group would get a better price than what they would give 2 individuals? That does seem to make sense, but remember, we’re dealing with airlines here.
They wouldn’t have that flight operating in that market at that frequency if they didn’t already know from historical data that they could fill the plane up at the price that makes it profitable for them. If they didn’t already know that they could fill that plane up, they would have already moved it into a route where they could.
Or, they’d ground the plane.
During the course of booking your vacation, you must decide which type of room to book. Do you want just a garden view room? Do you want an oceanview? Oceanfront? Do you want a suite? Do you want a Grand Luxe Concierge Premium Honeymoon suite? (…and what does that even mean?)
The thought has occurred to some vacationers to book the minimum room and try to talk themselves into a no cost or low cost upgrade at check in. Perhaps slip the clerk a large tip and get a deal on an upgrade. Sounds good, right?
Like many other aspects of booking and taking vacations..it pays to be informed.
With most resorts, onsite room upgrades are a big profit center. They have a captive audience for selling the upgrades. You’re in the destination. You’re at their resort. When you’re standing at the resort check in counter your options are limited because it is much harder to change resorts. The hotel knows that once you’re there, and you ask about an upgrade, and you’ve got that glass of rum punch in your hand, you’re much more likely to part with your hard earned money.
Granted, when you’re talking to us on the phone or sitting at our desk it’s hard to imagine what you’re getting for your extra money. But, when you’re still at our desk, you can even still opt for another resort altogether perhaps with a better deal on that oceanfront room. Also, you can be sure that that upgraded room is actually available. Who knows what will be available at check in?
The fact is that usually the upgrades are less expensive purchased in advance than they are at the hotel.
Rather than making a rum flavored decision, why not review the room options ahead of time and make a fully informed decision? We can even upgrade your room after you initially book your vacation, but before you travel.
Just the other day we had a wedding couple come in just a few days before their trip. They had been given some unexpected money and decided to upgrade to a much nicer room at the last minute (but still before departure). Very smart.
At many hotels there are two different roomtypes with regard to viewing the ocean. Oceanview, and oceanfront. What’s the difference and why should you choose one over the other?
An oceanview room is, as may seem obvious, a room with a view of the ocean. Simple enough, right? Book this room, and enjoy the beautiful vistas of the ocean. Resorts, in their ongoing quest to maximize room revenue, can be fairly liberal in their definition of oceanview. I got a call just last week from a client who had just checked into their oceanview room. She was quite upset because she couldn’t see the ocean from inside her room. She had to go out to her balcony to see the ocean. I once was upgraded to a simply breathtaking room called a “One Bedroom Oceanview Master Suite”. Now, the room was really really great. I felt embarrassed to be in such a beautiful room all by myself. As far as the view went, though, in order to actually see the water I had to go out to the balcony, look to my left and lean way over. If I’d paid for that room expecting to be able to enjoy a view of the water, I’d have been rather upset.
Basically if you can see the slightest sliver of water from any vantage point of your room or balcony, the hotel can call this an oceanview room. Not all hotels have both roomtypes though.
So, the answer is to only book oceanfront rooms, right? Well…that can be complicated too. Oceanfront usually means that you are right up next to the water with a full on view of the water. We’ve found a couple of hotels, though, who define particular rooms as oceanfront even though you can’t see the water at all from the room.
Let me explain.
In both hotels where I’ve found this to be the case, the hotel has areas where the rooms are right on the beach, but foliage or palm trees obstruct the view. So, the room is right next to the ocean “Oceanfront”. But, there is no view of the ocean. Those particular hotels are quick to clarify that “oceanfront does not mean oceanview”.
Also, you will sometimes also find rooms called things like “beachfront”.
So, what’s a person to do? You just want to sit in your room and be able to gaze out upon the endless beauty of the ocean. That’s why you took your time and money to go to the beach. Your best bet is to work with someone who is familiar with the resorts. Make sure they understand the kind of room you’re wanting…the kind of experience you’re wanting to have. If they’re good, they’ll be able to guide you either to the room type that will fulfill what you want…or a different resort altogether.
My first response to the question is actually another question. Why do you want to get into the travel business? The worn out response we usually hear is generally something having to do with a love for travel. “I just love to travel!” (Grrroan, shoot me now.) Loving to travel is important to this job, but that’s is the easy part. If just a love for travel were necessary, then almost anyone could be a great agent. (And let me assure you that that is NOT the case.) To make a career as a travel agent, to actually support yourself doing this and not just make it an expensive hobby, you have to be able to get into people’s heads. You have to figure out what they want that they’re not telling you. You have to navigate tricky family politics. You have to keep thousands of bits of information about various hotels, destinations and airlines straight in your head and be able to recall them when needed. You have to be able to look at options not through your own preferences, but through the eyes of the person who is trusting you with their vacation.
That said, I actually dread the question of how to get into the travel business because there isn’t a really clear answer anymore.
Back in the day, there were travel schools where you would go and pay money, sit in a classroom for a certain amount of time, then graduate with a certificate that many recognized as meaning you were qualified to begin your career in travel. Marty and Philip in our office actually both went to such schools.
The problem now is that, for one thing, there aren’t very many (any?) of those schools around any more. The other thing is that it is questionable how much those schools ever prepared you for a career as a travel agent, and that is more true today than ever. You see, the main thing those schools taught was how to operate a GDS (Global Distribution System). These days, operating a GDS is becoming less and less important if it isn’t already completely irrelevant. Technology has evolved to the point where memorizing commands to enter into a blank screen to pull up airline availability isn’t necessary.
I did find a few online training options where you can pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $1500.00 and do online courses and receive a certificate. You could do that, then try to get on with an agency. I’m not sure how effective it would be. It wouldn’t help you get hired with us.
This brings me to the reason I dread this question. We choose people because of their personalities. None of the people we’ve hired in the last 15 years had a background in travel. We hired them because we feel they have the personality traits to be successful helping people with vacations. They are engaging, they are at least not afraid of technology, they are coachable, they are friendly. (Most notably, none of them had prior experience in the travel industry.)
I’m not sure what other agencies look for. I think that alot of them hire people who have worked in other travel agencies before. Of course, that opens the whole “chicken and the egg” dilemma. Perhaps in the future I’ll tell people to call around to several agencies to get a better rounded idea.
That’s a hard thing to explain to someone who is wanting a straight path to a new career.
Welcome to my world,
Won’t you come on in
Miracles, I guess
Still happen now and then
Step into my heart
Leave your cares behind
Welcome to my world
If you’re not vacationing at home…don’t expect it to be like home…don’t complain because it isn’t the USA. The bed will feel different, the food will taste different, the plumbing may be different, the weather may be different. People will be dressed different and will say different things to you in greeting. They may be more outgoing or more reserved than you’re used to.
When vacationing with my kids, one of the constant frustrations is getting them (especially my son) to eat. He expects all of the chicken nuggets, for instance, to taste (?) like McDonalds Chicken McNuggets. Well guess what…they don’t. It isn’t that they taste bad (in fact, they are actually more flavorful), he is just used to what he is used to.
Likewise, I hear from many travelers who are disappointed when the bed, or the customs, or whatever else isn’t like it is in the United States. Isn’t that why we travel in the first place? To experience somewhere that isn’t home? If you want to experience home, then stay home. If you want to experience the world, be ready for some things not to be the same.
Don’t look down on things just because they’re different than you’re used to. Be open to the idea that perhaps different may be just fine. Better, even. Do you find yourself shaking your head at the odd selections available at the breakfast buffet? Why not give them a try? You might find something you love. People all over the world don’t necessarily eat corn flakes for breakfast…take a walk on the wild side.
Who knows? You just may find you like it there.