There is so much information available on the internet right now regarding travel. There are online travel sites for cruises, hotels, air, trains and any other type of travel. But what is the correct product for you? Is the location of the hotel where you want to be? Is the type of room or cabin the right fit for you? Is that cruise line the one you should be booking? Not all products are created equal nor are the products right for everyone. How do you tell? Contact a travel professional.
Do travel agents exist?
There have been multiple articles, and even the President of the United States, has said travel agents don’t exist or are going away. In a way they are right. Travel agents in the past were just someone who booked a trip for someone who called or came in to the storefront office of a travel agency. Storefront travel agencies are few and far between now a days as most of the “travel agents” have gone home to work. Even the term “travel agent” is going away because what they do now is different than what they did before.
Travel Professionals/Travel Counselors
Travel Agents are now more a counselor and an adviser so they are now called Travel Professionals or Travel Counselor. Even the travel industry is trying to get away from using the term “travel agent”. They no longer just book a trip for someone, they know more than what is available to the traveling client. The travel professionals now are constantly learning, constantly traveling, receiving input from other travel professionals about where they have traveled and are a resource for what is required to travel now a days.
When you use an online travel agency like Expedia, Travelocity, etc. you aren’t able to have someone protect your back. They book the travel for you and then you are pretty much on your own. Say your flight gets cancelled, who is going to book a replacement flight? You are, not them. If you use a travel professional that travel professional will do it. If something goes wrong on your trip, if the room you booked is not like what you thought it would be, who is going to make it right? A travel professional will also check constantly for price drops before final payment and whether a new promotion offered would be more beneficial than what was booked with a deposit. All these things can be addressed before final payment.
A travel professional works with you from the time you first talk to them until you are home safe and sound and any and all problems have been solved or addressed.
It Costs More to Use a Travel Professional
This is not always true. True, some travel professionals charge fees but not all of them do. This is because some vendors, like airlines and some hotels, don’t pay commission or some of the vendors have decreased the amount of commissions paid to the travel professional. In order to make ends meet, some travel professionals charge fees. I charge $50 per person for airline reservations domestically and $100 for airline reservations internationally. I will also charge a fee sometimes for hotels for the same reason or if I am putting the various sections of the trip together myself. If I book a cruise or a tour, I don’t charge a fee as the vendor pays me a commission. Remember, whether you use a travel professional or not the commission is still being paid as it is automatically included in the price from the vendor. So, why not use a travel professional and avoid the hassle and save your time?
The rules for traveling are constantly changing and it is the travel professional who is able to keep their clients on track with them.
For instance, did you know that come January, 2016 you may need a passport to travel by air domestically? This is due to a law called the REAL ID Act. This requires all travelers to have a REAL ID compliant identification that includes all of these fields: full legal name, signature, date of birth, gender, unique identifying number, a principal residence address and a front-facing photograph of the applicant. Unfortunately there are still a handful of states that are non-compliant. Do you know which states are compliant and which aren’t? Your travel professional does. By the way, outright non-compliant states/territories are American Samoa, Louisiana and New Hampshire. The states of Minnesota and New York offer an optional Enhanced ID at a cost, so because it is optional, a large percentage of residents don’t have one. Some states have applied for additional extensions, but it is unclear if those will be granted. Currently, only four states (Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire and New York) and American Samoa are technically non-compliant.
Also, we still don’t know if January 1, 2016 will be the date of the requirement or will it be later? Because of this law, the passport processing time for all will be affected. All the passports issued in 2006 to meet the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative that went into effect in 2007 are now expiring, causing a slew of renewals. So, because of those renewals coupled with the possible REAL ID enforcement, passport waits are expected to further increase. As of October 11, the current wait has already increased a week to four to six weeks for standard passports and three weeks for expedited. Expedited in person could be up to eight days based on travel need.
Traveling abroad is the best way to see and experience what the other side of the planet has to offer. If you live in the same location for most of your life, it’s time that you get out of your comfort zone to see new sights, experience new things, meet new people, and get to know other’s culture. Traveling would not only give you unforgettable experiences but also make you see life in a different way. Of course, just like any major event in your life, it is imperative that you plan for this accordingly. Proper planning and preparation give you better chances of success for your vacation. Here are some of the things that you should plan for your trip.
The first thing to decide about would be the destination and the trip duration. The destination would primarily depend on you, your preference, and the kind of experience that you want to have. It would also depend on the suggestions and ideas of the person/s you’re traveling with. If you’re in love with the beach, Caribbean and Hawaii are just few of the many ideal options. If you want to go to exotic destinations, head to Asian countries like Indonesia or Philippines. A European tour would be a good idea for one who wants to see the cradle of civilization and get to know more about the world’s history.
As for the trip duration, this depends on how long you can get off from work and how many countries you wish to visit. If you’re visiting a small country like Singapore, a weekend to three-day getaway would be suffice. If you wish to see the Schengen states in Europe, you should book for one week to one month vacation.
Passport and Visa
Another thing you should plan for would be the passport and visa. Passport should be at least three or six months away from its expiry period, as dictated by the immigration laws of your destination. As for the visa, you need to apply for visa to countries that require one before entry. Log your application six months prior to the trip to give ample time for the visa processing. Check the official website of the embassy of your destination country to find out about the visa application requirements.
You also need to get travel insurance for your trip. This is to ensure that you are financially protected against adverse events like baggage loss, trip cancellation, accidents, injuries, and illnesses that may transpire during the trip. There are different types of insurance policy such as visitors health insurance, long-term health insurance, temporary health insurance, insurance for trip cancellation, and so on. Make a thorough research about this so you can make an informed choice.
Airfare and Hotel Accommodation
Check travel websites like kayak.com, expedia.com, and orbitz.com to compare prices of different airlines that travel to your destination. As for hotel accommodation, you can check virtualtourist.com and tripadvisor.com for online reviews so you can get great value for your money. Consider factors like accommodation space, amenities, budget, and proximity to tourist spots when picking a hotel.
Student travel has come a long way in the past few decades. It is no longer considered a rarity. Gap years, student electives abroad and cheap summer holidays in distant places, have become part of the generally life-enriching experience that is now considered synonymous with the student status. (Frost F et al., 1999)
The current financial climate, with many students having to rely on student loans, parental support, holiday jobs or personal savings for their financial fluidity, largely dictates and limits just what can be achieved in this regard and there are a number of ploys and strategies that are commonly used to make the money go further or, to look at it another way, to allow the same money let the student go further! (Reisinger Y et al., 2004)
We can start by taking an overview of the situation and dividing up the travel costs into those that are necessary to arrive at a destination and those that are necessarily incurred to move around once the student has arrived.
Generally speaking, the preferred way to travel is by flying. It is often the quickest way to travel long distances and in these days of competitive pricing strategies, many of the no-frills and budget airlines are offering very cheap flights across mainland Europe. The unwary student should note that the eye-catching prices quoted are invariably exclusive of taxes and fuel surcharges which can add between £30-£200 onto the quoted cost (depending on destination and distance).
As a general rule, the cheaper the flight, the greater the sacrifice of both flexibility and conditions. A flight that arrives or leaves in the early hours of the morning, does not supply food, has minimal in-flight entertainment and a strict baggage allowance, is clearly going to cost less than one that has additional amenities. A word of caution also for these flights as there are generally strict terms and conditions, limited changeability and minimal prospect of refund if there’s a problem.
Cheap flights are at the other end of the spectrum from cheap holidays. With holidays the greatest savings are made by those who are willing to book at the last minute. With flights, the converse is true. As flights get booked up, the prices tend to rise. (Bernstein J et al., 1999)
Two of the most commonly used mechanisms for obtaining cheap flights are flight-brokers and screen scrapers. The flight brokers make their money by selling you a flight that gives them a commission. There is therefore a balance between the amount of commission that an airline pays them to fill their seats and the requirements of the student. The screen scrapers are web-based tools such as TravelSupermarket, TravelJungle, and SkyScanner. You effectively enter your requirements and these sites send the details to dozens of airlines (and some brokers) and display their findings with the cheapest first. (Sheth A et al., 2002)
There are variations on this process with sites like Expedia and Travelocity specialising in long-haul flights and Expedia and Opodo allowing flights to one airport then leaving from another. Flights Direct will specifically examine the charter market for occasional bargains.
If you intend to fly on certain dates a few months in the future, it is well worth signing up to the e-mail lists of the appropriate airlines. They will send out details of short-term sales so that you can snap them up at the right moment if they come up. British Airways, Opodo, American Airlines and KLM are particularly good for this type of approach.
Once at the destination, the student has to consider the best way of travelling around. Rather like the airlines, one pays for convenience, accessibility and comfort – the cheapest forms of travel generally being the slowest and least luxurious. It is clearly impossible to generalise throughout the world, but hitch-hiking, which might have once been considered the cheapest way to travel, has a distinct risk element of personal safety and clearly is inappropriate for the lone female traveller. Many of the commercially available insurance policies specifically forbid such practices. (Cullinane S, 2002)
Public transport is often the most reliable of the cheaper options. Either the local busses, the long-haul coaches or the train services being generally safe and reliable. Many of the more developed countries offer student travel cards (or a variant) to reduce the costs of repeated journeys and some bus companies (Australia travel being a notable example) will sell an open ticket between two specified destinations which can be used with different segments of the journey being undertaken over a period of several weeks.
There are other considerations relating to travel such as how best to deal with money. The time-honoured way of carrying travellers cheques may no longer be popular, with many students electing for the convenience of “plastic” money and credit cards. One should note that Mastercard will generally convert foreign exchange transactions at about the best commercially available rate, but will then add about 2.75%. This does vary between cards and therefore should be individually checked. Overseas cash withdrawals are also usually subject to a 2% additional fee (minimum charge £2) on both credit and debit cards. In addition to all of this, some credit card companies will also add a transaction fee on foreign transactions. (Halifax is currently the worst, levying £1.75 on each transaction.) For the student, the Post Office or Nationwide credit cards appear to be the best option. They have no levy on overseas purchases but they do charge interest on all cash withdrawals.
As with all travel, insurance is not essential, but only the most foolhardy student would travel without it. The annual multi-trip insurance is seldom competitive except for the USA where it may work out cheaper than individual trip cover (mainly because of the medical expense element applicable to the USA). Most will require you to be staying at pre-booked venues which may not be appropriate for the student traveller.
Decide what cover you need, what excess you need (the first part of each claim that you have to pay yourself) and then shop around. The classic insurance selling line is “why not upgrade to our platinum policy, with £30 million worth of medical cover etc.” In real terms, the chances of you ever needing more than £2 million of medical cover or repatriation to the UK is virtually negligible and therefore perhaps best avoided. A good plan is to include a personal liability cover of £1 million and also cover for “cancellations and curtailments” together with cover for lost or delayed baggage and cash.
Independent travel information website, Travel-bite, recently published a tips article with a rather doom-mongering tone in regards to traditional high street travel agents last month. It stated that the rise of Buy-It-Yourself holiday packages were replacing the work that agencies would carry out in the past. But how exactly is the internet changing how we plan our holidays? And how is it set to change further?
Travel-bite references the services of companies like Expedia and Travelocity. These companies offer a similar range to each other, varying from hotels and flights as well as transport; which give the consumer the opportunity to shop around quickly and simply – and at their own discretion. These online travel agents have no doubt grown in popularity but if you are looking for an even cheaper deal, it is probably best to go to a specialist airline tickets seller online – to get that lucky last minute deal.
Cheap hotel booking is also easy to browse through on the web these days with sites such as hotelsatanywhere.com and cheaphotels.co.uk. However, when it comes to cheap travel insurance, travel-bite.co.uk goes into little depth other than the importance to shop around, or to consider your local post office.