Category Archives: travel agent

Working with a Travel Professional

In late August, we were looking for a few people to be in a focus group for us.  We wanted to see what our current clients’ and fans’ impressions were when it came to working with a travel professional.  I can tell you that we were very surprised by the responses.  It was clear that many people really don’t understand a lot about the travel agency business from how we work to the value that we provide.

This made me reflect on the industry and how, over time, we have gotten away from what it means to be a professional in this business.  I came to the realization that our industry has done a lot of harm to the professional agencies and agents out there.

There are too many people who I have talked to over the years as a business owner who have said “I want to be a travel agent, you guys all have so much fun.” or “I plan things for my friends already, why shouldn’t I get paid for it?”.  While it might be true that anyone can hang a shingle up and call themselves a travel agent, it takes a real dedicated individual to be a true professional.  And this doesn’t come cheap.

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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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Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!  Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah!  Happy Kwanzaa!  And very soon, Happy New Year!!  We are so excited for 2016 and we can’t wait to share it with you!

When I decided to open up Travel On A Dream, I did so in order to be a more full service agency for those who wanted more from me.  I hand-selected agents who had the same beliefs as me about customer service.  I did believe that offering great customer service and knowing as much as possible about the products was what we needed to succeed.  And we did!  But what I didn’t notice at the time was there was one more ingredient to the recipe that made the most difference to the outcome.

While reviewing our business recently, we asked a couple clients what makes Travel On A Dream different.  The results were unexpected, and very exciting!  In all fairness, these clients we asked have become good friends over the years, but they also are known to be brutally honest.  Even if it’s not what we want to hear, they will tell me the truth.

Each of them said that we treat our clients like family or a close friend.  We listen to them and give them what they want (even if they don’t really know what they want at the moment!).

Hearing this made us realize we had the secret ingredient already!  We were offering it, but didn’t realize how important it was.  We never really thought about it because it just was natural for us.

We all want to you to feel like we are a close friend, helping you make the decision that’s right for you.  After all, your friend isn’t going to benefit one way or another from your decision, except that you may be unhappy with your friend if they guide you to something that’s not right.  But unlike your friend, we have the experience, knowledge, licenses and accredidations to give you sound advice beyond what your friend knows.  Not all travel agents can say this.  Many have cut corners or are giving advice based on who pays them the best.

The other difference between us and your friends is that this is our profession.  We may treat you like a friend, but we also give you all of our professional courtesies.  If a friend is helping you with something, many times it is when it is convenient for your friend as well as you.  For us, it is at your convenience.  This is also why at times we may have to charge you a service fee, but we will always disclose that to you before we have to do so.

Good friends — great adventures.  That’s what it’s all about.  With Travel On A Dream, you will always get both.  We shared this last month, but if you haven’t seen it yet, here is our holiday greeting.  Travel On A Dream Holiday Greetings

Celebrating Five Years With a Promotion & Giveaway

Can you believe it?  This month Travel On A Dream will be celebrating our five-year anniversary.  My way to celebrate will be visiting five new countries in Europe.  Later this month, we will be in Denmark for a few nights before embarking on an 11-night Disney Magic cruise with three stops in Norway, two stops in Iceland (including an overnight and visit to the Arctic Circle!), one stop in Scotland, followed by a couple days in London, England.

Over the past five years, we have been honored to help so many of you plan your vacations, big and small, from cruises and Disney vacations to all-inclusives and individualized packaged plans.  We pride ourselves on offering the best customer service and are there for you through the entire process from planning and preparation right through your return and any issues you may need to resolve.  We have shared so many stories with you and consider you all friends.

Even after five years, what always surprises us the most are the clients who don’t realize everything that we are able to do to help you.  If we booked your Walt Disney World® vacation, some of our clients believe that is all we do.  We consider ourselves a full-service agency.  Nothing is too big or too small to handle.  We are able to take care of everything you need to make your vacation complete – airfare, transfers, car rentals, cruises, hotels, packages, all-inclusives, tours, excursions.  Many times, our services will not cost you anything additional.  If there will be a service fee, we disclose that as soon as possible.  We don’t simply work 9 to 5 and we don’t base our recommendations on your vacation on what we will make in commission.  We base it on what is best for you and your family.

A big part of the reason that we have been so successful is because of you.  You continue to return to us year after year (and in some cases, month after month!).  Additionally, you tell your friends and family about the amazing trip that was planned for and with you.  Your referrals have helped our business grow at the level that it has and we appreciate that.  This is why we have continued to offer referral credits.  We know that it is more likely that someone will book with a new travel agent if they have been referred by their friends and family.  This is the biggest compliment that you can give us and we cherish that.

While I would love to take you all with me on my celebration of our 5th birthday, it’s not possible.  Instead, we have a promotion and a giveaway for you.

We have mentioned before that a small percentage of the United States have taken a cruise vacation in the past.  However, most people who do take a cruise vacation enjoy it and plan to return again.  We would like to encourage the new cruisers to give cruising a try.  Our expert agents can help determine which cruise line is best for you.

New cruisers, if you book your first cruise vacation with Travel On A Dream, in addition to our service and onboard credit offer, we will also give you an additional $25 onboard credit.  If your cruise vacation is in 2015, we will also include a stateroom gift for you.  This applies to all cruise lines except for Carnival, due to business rules.

If you refer a new cruiser who then books and travels with Travel On A Dream, you will receive a $25 gift card at the time your referral cruises in addition to your usual referral credit given at the next time you travel after them.  It is important to have your friend mention that you referred them so you get this credit!  Both of these promotions run through July 15, 2015.

And now, a giveaway!

ipadminiYes, one lucky winner will go home with an iPad mini!  We also have a Disneyland Diamond Celebration water bottle, Disneyland reversible tote, Disney Cruise Line duffel bag and an Olaf limited edition tin with ToaD luggage tags and a Quantum of the Seas wristlet inside.  Contest will run from today through July 10, 2015.  There are several ways to enter.

Social Media post – post on your favorite social media platform about a travel tip or something about your ToaD agent.  Please use hashtag #ToaDTAsRock and #contest and post to public so we can find your posts and get you entered.

New cruiser – first time cruisers who book with Travel On A Dream between June 5 and July 10, 2015 will automatically be entered.

Refer a new client to ToaD – if your referral books a new reservation by July 10, you will also be entered.  They must mention you by name when booking to qualify.

Agent review – our travel agent association, Vacation.com, has launched a new travel agent finder service for consumers looking for travel planning professionals.  Reviews are the most important factor in selecting a travel agent to work with.  We would love to hear from you!  Here are the links to our agent’s profiles:

If your agent isn’t listed, they just haven’t uploaded their profile yet.

Fill out our form – To enter without a booking, referral, post or review, simply go to our ToaD 5th Birthday Contest form and fill out the information.  If you want to fill out the form for the other methods of entry, you can, but only one entry for each of the five methods will be accepted (other than referrals which are endless, but do require the referrer to book during the promotion period).

If you previously completed the Vacation.com review of your agent, you can enter using the form to let us know.

Winners will be notified via email on or about July 15, 2015.  Good luck!

Thank you everyone for helping us get this far.  We have enjoyed helping you plan and getting to know you and your family over the last five years and look forward to many more!

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Plans Change – Your Travel Agent Will Help

You’ve been planning a cruise for more than a year.  Everything is perfect.  You have the stateroom you wanted, made all prebooked plans onboard, and all the pre and post cruise plans.  Work has been notified and you are ready to go.  You get the call no one ever wants to get.  “I’m sorry, but we have to cancel your cruise.”

At first you are stunned.  Please tell me this is a joke.  Please wake me and say it was just a bad dream.  But no, it is really happening.  It’s time to make some changes to plans.

If you are like me, you don’t take vacation lightly.  We work hard all year to go on vacation.  The last thing you want is for that to change.

Illness, storms, damage/malfunction of the ship can happen anytime.  This past year we saw the Grandeur of the Seas cancel sailings due to a fire and Celebrity Millennium cancel due to propulsion problems.  There were many disappointed travelers.

This is one of those times that you really wish you had a travel agent working for you, sitting on hold for hours to reschedule your vacation and work out the best option for you.  We are in a better position to take care of this as well.  Your emotions are running higher, you are sad, upset, frantic, you name it.  It’s hard to figure out what is happening much less what you want to do instead.

Last week, we rescheduled guests to other sailings of the Disney Magic, other ships in the Disney fleet and even other cruise lines and Walt Disney World instead of the Disney Magic sailing.

You never know when trouble could happen on a cruise.  Having travel insurance and a great travel counselor on your side makes these situations a bit easier to handle.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all of our friends, clients and fans (many of you fall into multiple categories)!  We have enjoyed helping you plan your vacations in 2012 and look forward to planning many more trips with you in 2013 and beyond.  We wish you and yours a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2013.

We have a lot to look forward to in 2013.  We will have a couple group sailings – on Oasis of the Seas in April and the Disney Magic in October.  There is still room for you to join us!  We also are looking to begin offering more to you in 2013.  From new promotions to new travel vendors, we plan to be able to offer an even more complete package for your travel needs.

We always encourage travel insurance, especially when traveling out of the country.  In the past we have offered insurance through the travel vendor or recommended checking online for alternative options, but in 2013 Travel On A Dream will start offering independent travel insurance for you as well.  We are excited to be able to offer this to you.

Happy New Year!

Juneau, Alaska