Did You Know? Payment Plans Possible with Travel Agents

One reason we have heard that potential clients are unsure about using a travel agent is because they need to make a payment plan.  They feel the only way to do this is by dealing with the various travel company directly.

While some travel agencies may not be willing to do partial payments, we certainly can handle payment options.  There are a number of ways to handle this with you.

You can set up a regular payment by authorizing us to use your credit card on file to make a regular payment on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis.

Another option would be to submit payment information to us when you want to make a partial payment.

The only exceptions to making partial payments are with the deposit as these are usually required to be paid within a short amount of time (usually 3-7 days after booking).

Under nearly all cases, payments are made directly to the travel company through your agent.  This means that any form of payment accepted by the cruise line/travel company, will be accepted through us.

Check with your agent if you are interested in making a payment plan.  Some travel companies may have minimum amounts that we can do in a partial payment, but those would be the same restrictions you would find going to them directly.

Many of our clients do this to make bite-sized payments on a regular basis so final payment isn’t quite as difficult to chew.

The Evolution of the Travel Agent

Today, Travel On A Dream turns six years old.  A lot has changed in the last six years and we continue to change as necessary to meet the demands of our clients.  We have sent thousands of clients on vacation, helping them plan the details of their trips.  We have helped to plan countless vacations as if they were our own, getting excited every step of the way along with you.  We have received many photos and stories telling us the fun you all had, many bringing us tears — of joy!  We have been there with you when things didn’t go as planned and shared in those feelings as well.  You have all been a part of our family and we wouldn’t be where we are today without you.

I thought I would take this opportunity to discuss where we have come as an industry and where we are going.

Before the internet became popular, nearly everyone who traveled used a travel agent.  It’s what you did.  Some may have called an airline or cruise line direct, but most used a travel agent.  Then along came the internet.  As people got more familiar with it, it was fun to search for everything you could think of.  Vacations were no exception.  Instead of having more and more ads in magazines and on television, travel companies were starting to go to the internet more with banner ads, pop ups, etc.  You could book anything practically in an instant.

For many though, a travel agent was the only way to go.  We found some clients coming to us, but instead of not knowing where to start, they pretty much had decided due to the research done before coming to us.  During this time, we also had a lot of folks questioning “travel agents still exist?”  After all, you can just go online and book everything, right?

While you certainly can, what we have discovered is that there is so much information out there right now, the decision-making process has once again made it more difficult for folks planning their trips.  Everyone reviews their trips, their destinations, hotels, cruise ships, meals, etc.  You can watch videos of wonderful trips, and horrifying ones.  I read two reviews once from the exact same sailing where one person said “It rained the entire trip.” while the second person said “the weather was great”.  How can two people on the exact same trip have two totally different experiences?

It’s simple.  Everyone experiences things in their own way.  The first person who complained about the rain may have been someone who spends a lot of time at the pool during a cruise.  Since it was raining most of the days, they had to find other things to do.  The second person may have enjoyed going to activities indoors, the casino, shopping, napping, etc.  They may not have gone on deck at all during the rain and never even noticed that it did rain.

A light sleeper will complain about the noise in a particular hotel room location while a heavy sleeper may never notice it.

What a travel agent does is look at the travel plans from a more objective and professional standpoint.  A particular cruise line might not be right for myself as an individual, but as a professional, I can evaluate my client’s needs, personality, likes and dislikes and recommend that cruise line if it is a good fit for them.  I wouldn’t recommend a family with children who normally love the children’s programming to a cruise line that doesn’t have activities for the kids.  Likewise, a couple who doesn’t want to be around children on vacation would not be recommended to go on several lines due to the prevalence of children onboard.  That doesn’t mean that the cruise lines not mentioned are no good for anyone, it is my job to know who they are good for.

Today, we are finding more people reaching out to us because we are experts in the destination, type of travel, etc.  We give a mostly unbiased opinion and fit you with the right vacation.  At times this comes at a cost to you, our client, due to the type of travel we are booking for you, but many times there is no additional cost.  We have found though that many of our clients put a higher value on their time and put their trust in our expertise to help them sort out all the options and plan the best vacation possible for their needs.  At times, we have also surprised clients with lower pricing than they are able to get on their own.  We can routinely do this with international airfare, hotels and even cruises.

Another way to look at this is the process itself.  To find a vacation package for yourself, you go to the internet and start your search.  If you are average, you will plan one to two trips a year.  This means that one or two times a year, you are actively searching for the best options for your family.  Travel professionals daily are looking for travel plans for someone.  If I handle only one booking per day, that’s 365 plans a year!  Things are changing on a regular basis online, so again, if you are only doing one or two a year, you may be learning a whole new way to book the next time you are looking at a vacation.

When you have the right travel professional on your team, the process never changes.  My clients contact me and tell me what they want.  In many cases, I have all of their information on file and just need to verify if things have changed.  If your preferred cruise line changed their website since you last booked a cruise, chances are good that I’ve already booked more than a dozen cruises with the new site and know my way around.  If you are planning to go to an area where there are travel warnings or advice you should get, I’ve probably already given the same advice to a handful of travelers.  The beauty of this is that you can still do your research if you want, but the time constraints and pressure are off you.

Travel agents are still around and we are busier than ever, helping to make dreams come true for many.

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ToaD’s Unforgettable Journey

As we continue to celebrate our 6th birthday, we thought there was no better time to announce another group cruise.  We brought you information from our recent Azamara Journey cruise over Easter this year.  While onboard, we had to book another trip on this incredible ship.  We floated the idea of making it a group trip and had some great interest, so we are doing it!

Azamara Journey

November 24, 2018, we embark on a 10 night Caribbean Sunsets Voyage.  With Azamara Club Cruises, we will spend more time in port than on most other cruise lines.  Additionally, since the ship is smaller than your contemporary cruise line ships, we can get in to smaller ports of call.

Itinerary Map

Itinerary

An Azamara Club Cruise is like no other contemporary cruise you have been on.  So much is included in the cost of your cruise, leaving less to take care of at the end of your voyage.  For all guests, your fare includes a complimentary AzAmazing Evening event, select standard spirits, international beers and wines, gratuities, bottled water, soft drinks, specialty coffees and teas, self-service laundry, shuttle service to and from port communities, where available, and concierge services for personal guidance and reservations.

Select a suite and in addition to the above, you’ll also receive English butler service, 235 complimentary internet minutes, per guest, one free bag of laundry service per suite, each seven days, complimentary seating in specialty restaurants, afternoon tea service in-suite.  Guests in the Club World Owner’s and Club Ocean suites may also choose a complimentary Insider Access or Nights & Coll Places Land Discoveries excursion.

Reserve the Club Spa Suite and receive all of this plus a $200 spa credit per suite, Nights in Private Places for one night and daily delivery of healthy snacks each afternoon.

Booking early also qualifies you for an onboard credit of between $300 – 1500 to be used for Land Discoveries.  Amount is based on the room type booked.

Prices for this cruise start at $4294.80 for two in an inside room.  Deposits are $550 per person ($50 of which is non-refundable).  Click here to request your quote today!

 

Free Water Park Tickets With Your Walt Disney World Package

Travel On A Dream is celebrating six years and have we got a deal for you!  When you book a new 2016 or 2017 Walt Disney World vacation package that includes a 3+ day park ticket while supplies last, you can get a one-day water park ticket for free for everyone in your traveling party!  This is a $60 value per person, included at no extra cost when you use Travel On A Dream and request the free water park tickets.  It’s our way of saying thank you for six wonderful years making travel dreams come true!

Waterparks

Of course, there are a few terms and conditions.  Water park tickets expire 12/31/17 so if you can’t use them, just let us know.  No substitutions or cash value for the tickets.  Tickets will be mailed with your package documents after you are paid in full, approximately two weeks prior to trip.

Contact your Travel On A Dream agent today or request a quote from our website.

Finding the Right Travel Consultant

From time to time we hear stories of people having both great and not so great experiences with travel consultants.  Many times, the not so great experiences could have been avoided if you selected the right travel consultant for your needs.  Here are some tips to help you front the start to get a travel consultant you will be happy with for the long run.

Working with a specialist in the area of travel you need is great, but make sure they are willing to recommend something else.  For example, if you want a trip to XYZ so you go to an XYZ specialist, make sure that they aren’t so focused on XYZ that they forget that there are other things you will need to complete your trip as well as that you are an individual with your own needs and wants for your trip.  You may not know exactly what you need, which is why you are using a consultant.

Make sure you are working with someone who is truly professional.  Even a part-time consultant can still be a professional, but someone who gets into being a travel agent because “it’s fun” or “I am the go-to person in the office for all things XYZ” or “I help everyone anyways so I might as well make money at it.”  These are hobbyists and while they may be the nicest person, if this is not their profession and just something they do for fun, you must question whether or not they will be there when the going gets tough or when you need something from them at an inopportune moment.  A professional will have you covered.

Get recommendations from people you trust.  Read reviews from trusted sites.  The majority of our consultant are on www.vacation.com with reviews from their clients.  They are all highly rated.  Read their biographies.  Does their message “speak” to you?  While they may be a great consultant to many clients, they may not be a good match with you.

They should be quick to respond to your inquiries.  It may not be to give you the answer immediately, but they should at least acknowledge your request.

A consultant that is knowledgeable about travel in general is crucial.  You want to work with someone who understands the industry.

It is important to work with someone who takes your needs into consideration.  You want someone who asks questions and then makes recommendations that fit your needs, not theirs.  I continually run into agents who say that recommending the Disney Dining Plan is a must for all of their clients.  I think these agents are not considering their client’s needs but instead looking at what they have found to be more convenient, saving money or a way to make more money for them.  While I would never say that the Disney Dining Plan is not worth it, I will say that it is based on the clients in front of me as to whether or not it is worth it.  This doesn’t mean though that the consultant shouldn’t try to offer you something else that you are not asking for, but I would make sure there is a valid reason for offering you something else.

I found out early in my career that this was very important as I had a client who was set on a specific resort at Disney World.  I never questioned her as she knew exactly what she wanted.  When she came back from the trip, she was unhappy.  Apparently, she thought the resort she selected was on the monorail and found out it wasn’t.  I now have a habit when a client says they want XYZ, I ask why they are selecting that, just to make sure we can avoid any miscommunications from the start.

Speaking of asking questions, it is important to work with someone who does ask you questions.  Rarely can anyone know exactly what is right for someone without asking any questions.

Finally, make sure you are comfortable with the consultant as well as their means of connecting with you – whether it is email, phone, Facebook, text messaging.

I also have some tips for potential clients looking to work with travel consultants.

If you are very controlling (and I don’t mean that in a bad way, I am there with you!), working with a consultant will not be in your best interest.  There are certain things that you will not be able to do when you work with a consultant.  Understand what the limitations will be in advance and if you aren’t ok with that, maybe you are best off handling the reservation on your own.

Be honest with your consultant.  Tell them everything they need up front.  Be clear about a budget.  If you tell me you want to keep the costs reasonable, for one client that could be $500 per person and another could mean $5000 per person.  If your budget isn’t set but you have a maximum you would consider, tell your consultant.  I spent a lot of time working with someone on what I thought was a great price for their Alaska cruise.  What they didn’t tell me, despite my many requests, was that they were hoping it would be about 50-65% of what I came up with.

Finally, don’t waste your travel consultant’s time.  Many times, we aren’t charging you a fee because we are getting a commission from a travel supplier.  When you book your travel with us, make changes, etc. and then ultimately cancel and book elsewhere, you basically are saying our time was worth nothing.  All of the time we put into your reservations is lost and we don’t make anything.  Likewise, asking them to reduce their fees (if any) or increase onboard credit comes straight from their wages.

A good travel consultant will help you make the most of your vacation time and money.

Easter Onboard Azamara Journey

In our April newsletter, we shared the first day onboard Azamara Journey from our recent cruise to the Western Caribbean.  When we scheduled our cruise, we didn’t realize that it was sailing over Easter.  We were wondering how this would impact the sailing.  One way was a lovely brunch on Easter Sunday which featured this ice sculpture.

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As well as some cool deviled eggs.

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We also had an Easter Egg hunt for everyone of all ages.  We attended although we didn’t care to get much chocolate, we helped the kids involved find some of the treats.

I forgot to mention on the first day we had a Cruise Critic meet.  This was very well attended with over 50 people who signed up.  I didn’t spend much time on Cruise Critic before the sailing so I didn’t really know anyone, but it was still fun.  Hors d’oeuvres were brought around as well as beverages.  Everyone introduced themselves.  We did run into a few Cruise Critic members over the course of the cruise which was fun.  Check out their Roll Calls for your upcoming cruise on most cruise lines!

One thing I should mention about myself, I love trivia!  I may not be good at all trivia, but I still like to participate and sometimes even win.  Even if there isn’t a real prize, it’s the thrill of the competition and seeing what I know.  We were happy to see a lot of trivia onboard.  We regularly joined in when we weren’t busy with other activities.

We started out the day with breakfast in Windows Cafe, followed by Trivia in the Living Room.  Because it was Easter, we planned to go to brunch, but did so closer to lunch time.  Before brunch though, we decided to try out the Sanctum Terrace and the thalassotheraphy pool.  We had purchased a cruise long pass for $160 for two.  While not very expensive, we found that we didn’t go as often as we had thought we would (dang trivia!).  Over the course of the cruise, we only went three or four times.

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One thing that we really liked onboard Azamara is there were select activities each day where you could participate in to earn prizes.  On the daily Pursuits, activities marked with a * would earn you a signature if you participated.  If it was a competition (like ping pong or trivia), you would get an extra signature if you won.  At the end of the cruise, you took all of your signatures to the Cabaret and turned them in for prizes.  Of course, you know I had to do this!  One of the first things we did each day was see which activities would count.

After brunch, we participated in the Tribond Trivia and then the Easter Egg Hunt.  The cruise staff hid chocolate eggs all around the ship and we had to explore to find them.  We helped some of the kids go in the right direction, including one who found a Godiva chocolate bunny.

Then it was up to the Living Room for ’60s music trivia.  We met a couple from Canada in the morning trivia that day and over the course of the cruise would become trivia teammates.  We had a lot of fun, even if we didn’t win very much.

Tonight we would attend the first of three Chef’s Table meals.  The Chef’s Table was held in Prime C, right outside of the wine cellar.

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The first dinner didn’t have very many participants, probably because it was so early in the cruise.  Check out the menu.

Italian Chef's Table

The Sommelier went over all the wines we would be having with the meal for each course.  The Executive Chef went over the menu at the beginning and stopped to visit us at the end.  He asked if there were any recipes we would want.  I said “all of them, for all of the dinners!”.  He said he would work on that for me.

After an amazing dinner, we stopped down to the Captain’s Welcome Reception and got a glass of champagne, just in time for the toast.  Afterwards, we decided to call it a night early rather than stay for the entertainment.  It was before 10 pm, but we would be changing our clocks one hour earlier so we ended up getting a good night’s sleep before our arrival in Cozumel.