Category Archives: travel consultant

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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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.

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

Updates to Our Cruise Incentive Plan

As many of you know, I started this agency with the hopes of being able to provide the best service to clients looking for travel.  Before the agency, I only worked with Disney vacations, but I realized that there was so much more available and I wanted to be able to help with it all.  I would say we have done a great job in offering you the best value for your hard earned dollar (or whatever currency you use!).  For our cruise clients, we have always offered competitive onboard credits without giving everything away.  You see, the onboard credits are paid out of the commission we earn from the cruise lines.  This amount varies based on the volume that we book through each company.  Your bookings have helped us reach higher levels no doubt!

We felt a need to offer a higher onboard credit in the past to get you “in the door” and see how great our customer service is and you have responded by booking more with us and sending many referrals our way.  We thank you for that!

We have never wanted to be in a position to compete with other travel agencies for your business based solely on the onboard credit amount being offered.  We don’t consider ourselves your travel agent, we consider ourselves your travel consultant.  A travel agent will just facilitate your booking — like an order taker.  We are here to offer our expertise and advice on what is best for you and your family.  We look for the best fit and the best value, which isn’t always the lowest price and highest credits.  We take care of you!  We are there if you have problems.  We fix the problems!  You can’t say this about all travel agents.

We are able to do this without a service fee to you because we receive a commission from the travel supplier.  Basically, we work for you for free.  We have offered an onboard credit as an incentive in the past to consider our services.  Unfortunately, Disney Cruise Line will be changing its terms with us starting on October 26, 2015.  They will be significantly cutting our commission for onboard bookings.  While we have considered not promoting booking onboard, the fact remains that an onboard booking is one of your best opportunities to receive a discount on a future Disney Cruise Line cruise.  Therefore, to give you the best value for your future vacations, we need to make you aware of these promotions.

We will continue to offer onboard credits for reservations booked through our agency at this time, but our offer will need to change.  The reductions in our onboard credit offer will in no way make up for the differences that we are receiving from Disney Cruise Line,  If we eliminated the onboard credits, it would not make up for the reduction either.  We feel though in order to give you the best service possible, our agents must be compensated so we cannot give away a significant portion of their commission.

Effective Monday, October 26, 2015, our onboard credit for new bookings will change as reflected on our Incentives page.

Special Limited Time Offer

Many of our customers have been with us for years.  Some have just found us but plan to be with us for many years.  For those folks, we will continue to offer the best onboard credits we can.  This offer will be available to anyone who is a client of ours on or before November 10, 2015 and has had a traveled package or cruise reservation with us within the past 12 months or a future booking for a package or cruise within the next 14 months.  Basically, if you are loyal to us, we will return the favor.

So you don’t have a current booking with Travel On A Dream?  How can you lock in the best onboard credits for your future trips?  Book a vacation today!

For all bookings from now through November 10, 2015, we will continue to offer our best onboard credits for all direct bookings (onboard bookings and transfers are excluded).  This includes booking a “placeholder” reservation for the future.  This is not limited to Disney Cruise Line reservations.  We will lock in your onboard credit offer and continue to offer this as long as you continue to use Travel On A Dream as your travel consultant.

Cruise Onboard Credit Amounts

  • 1500 – 1999  $50
  • $2000 – 2499  $75
  • $2500 – 2999  $100
  • $3000 – 3999  $125
  • $4000 – 4999  $150
  • $5000 – 5999  $175
  • $6000 – 6999  $200
  • $7000 – 7999  $225
  • $8000 – 8999  $250
  • $9000 and up  $300

This special onboard credit offer is based on cruise fare amount of the reservation with Travel On A Dream (this excludes taxes, insurance, transfers, pre/post cruise packages, airfare or prepaid gratuities).  This offer cannot be combined with any other offers or discounts offered by Travel On A Dream including, but not limited to offers with group space.  This offer can be combined with offers from the cruise lines however.  Some cruise lines prohibit onboard credits, such as Carnival Cruise Lines, and onboard credits will not be offered in that case.  Onboard credit can be used for any purchases incurred once onboard your sailing including gratuities, beverages, cruise line organized shore excursions, spa treatments, photographs, etc.  Unused onboard credits cannot be redeemable for cash or cruise and are returned to Travel On A Dream.  All terms and conditions are subject to change without notice.

Contact us today!

Vacations@travelonadream.com

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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