Category Archives: travel consultant

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.

Agents From Travel On A Dream Attend Exclusive Disney Conference

Tracy Whipple, Nicole Riley and Erin Kuzmiak from Travel On A Dream were among nearly 500 top-producing travel agency owners, managers and agents who recently gathered at the Walt Disney World Resort for the 2013 Disney’s EarMarked Conference – a program especially designed for agencies with the “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner” designation.

As a conference delegate, Nicole, Erin and Tracy heard from key Disney leaders who shared what’s new and what’s coming soon for Disney vacation destinations. 

Travel On A Dream has been in business in Deforest, Wisconsin for three years, and has been designated by Disney Destinations as an “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner” based on its strong support in selling Disney vacations. Their expertise includes Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawai‘i.

Many travel counselors at Travel On A Dream have received training on Disney theme parks, resorts, cruises, vacations packages and more, and can provide the utmost in professional assistance in planning customized Disney vacations. In fact, one reason the agency has been designated an “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner” is that  all of its leisure travel counselors have completed Disney Destinations Genius online training courses, which are in-depth, comprehensive programs that allows agents to develop their expertise in planning Disney vacations.

What’s Important To You?

In business, there are a number of different business models a company can follow.  I think of department stores for example.  You have your discount department stores — stores that sell at everyday low prices.  You don’t necessarily have to wait for a sale, the prices are most of the time lower than sale prices elsewhere.  With this model, the focus is on giving the customer the lowest prices possible.  The purchasers for the company choose brands to carry based on price only.  In order for the company to make money, they have to sell large quantities.  They may also have to offer lower wages to their employees.

On the flip side, you have department stores that are concerned with building their customer base, offering pretty much the same merchandise as the discount department stores, but they are more concerned with the quality of their products.  You might be more likely to buy the store brand at this store because you know the quality is equal to the name brands at a lower cost.

Finally, you have to higher end department stores, some of which I wouldn’t even call department stores as they really don’t have everything.  They are not a one-stop shop.  They do pride themselves on offering top quality merchandise and top customer service.  You will pay more at this store, but you won’t be disappointed with the service and merchandise you receive.

What I’m trying to say is when selecting businesses that you deal with, you need to figure out what they offer both in terms of product and service and decide what is important to you.  In travel, the same is true.  I hear a lot of stories about the great gift card offers that Costco and other warehouse stores offer for booking travel through them.  However, if you want your reservation serviced, good luck!  They can’t afford to have agents service the reservations as they are giving away nearly all of the commission!  The same can be said about agencies that pay incredibly high onboard credits.  What are they paying their agents?  From past experience, I can say that if you don’t pay your agents what they are worth for the job they have to do, they won’t do it.  If service is not important, by all means, search for the best offer and book it.

I have worked with clients who have traveled frequently, understand how to book their own, yet choose to use my services.  When something goes wrong, they don’t panic, they call me and I take care of it.  They understand they are not getting the highest onboard credit or other perks for booking with me, yet they still come back and still refer their friends and family to me.  All of my agents can say the same thing.  This is because service is still important to people.

One thing I will caution you on is agents who rely on the laurels of the agency to make themselves out to be experts.  In one of the Facebook groups I belong to, someone asked a question about Disney Cruise Line and how something onboard would work.  An agent that works for an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner was asked to answer the question.  His answer was completely wrong, but he said it as an authority.  The person asking felt there was no reason to wait for another answer as it was obviously correct, no doubt because he worked for an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.

Like my examples with the department stores, in travel there are various types of agencies and agents you will encounter.  Since the travel is basically the same, you are looking for the best service and the knowledge of the travel product you are buying.  Why settle for less?  Our agents don’t just “know Disney”, they have experienced it, they study it and continually learn more about it so they can pass that knowledge on to you.  They know the “fine tuning” that is needed for each individual client.  This isn’t a cookie cutter, one size fits all business.  Travel On A Dream is an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner and our agents working with Disney vacations are all graduates of the College of Disney Knowledge, have experienced Disney destinations many times and want to be your travel consultant.

All Cruises are Not Created Equal

I love to cruise!  In the past 10 years, I have been on 27 cruises across six different cruise lines.  This was on nine different ships, though I have also toured eight other ships.  What I have learned is that no two cruises are created equal.  I mean that from a standpoint of itineraries and cruise lines alike.

I have some friends who are very happy with one cruise line and won’t venture onto another ship or line.  I have others who used to feel that way and then tried another and were pleasantly surprised.  The important thing is to keep an open mind and work with a travel agent that knows cruises.

When I started expanding my business to cover many different cruise lines, I heard from other agent that you don’t need to experience a destination to be able to sell it.  I find that to be true, but with many limitations.  I don’t think you can sell a vacation product without experiencing it first.  I heard about a Hawaii expert who had never been to Hawaii.  She was a top seller.  I think you can learn a lot about a destination without going there with all the media available these days.  However, recommending a specific resort or vacation package without knowing anything about the companies you are dealing with is another thing.  I can’t just say “oh, it’s a XX brand resort, it must be good” and book my clients there.  Of course after a long time working with a destination and having clients return with reports about their stays, you do develop a great knowledge of a product.

I took many classes offered by various cruise lines.  I do feel that I have a good understanding of what each has to offer.  However, I realized that a cruise ship is much different than a destination.  Because a cruise ship moves from place to place, you need to learn about the itinerary destinations as well as learn about the cruise line and the ships in particular.

Take for example Disney Cruise Line.  I have been on all four ships in various itineraries.  I have been on the same itinerary with different ships.  I have my preferences of which ship(s) I like best and which itineraries I like best, but I also recognize that not everyone is like me.  I can ask the appropriate questions to the cruiser to get an idea of what they might like best.

If I only cruised on Disney though, I would have a harder time with different lines and how to recommend one to someone else.  For instance, if you like to hang out by the pool and participate in the pool games/deck activities, certainly you don’t want to be on an Alaskan Cruise and probably not a Canada/New England cruise.  If you aren’t big on touring on land, you may not be interested in a Mediterranean Cruise.

I also have found that by cruising on other lines, you learn more about the people who do the same.  I can’t tell you how many times someone has said to me “Disney?  Those ships are loaded with kids!”.  My response is always “there may be a lot of kids on board, but you don’t see them as much as you do on other ships”.  That is so true!  I found that many other ships have more limited adult only activities and less extensive of children’s programming so you end up seeing the children onboard much more often.  The time of year and itinerary also make a difference for this as well.  We are cruising on the Carnival Dream during the summer and I would have to say this is the most kids I have seen in a long time on a cruise ship.

I think the important thing to remember is that using a travel professional will help you make the right decision with a ship and itinerary that is right for you.  One who has experienced the lines first hand also helps.

Has It Really Been Two Years?

It was on my first Celebrity Cruise that my friend and I booked future sailings using Travel On A Dream as our travel agency.  And so Travel On A Dream had its first bookings.  That day was two years ago on Wednesday.  I can’t believe how time has flown by!

Two years ago, I had a vision of opening my agency to be able to help others plan their dream vacation.  While for many of my potential clients, that was a Disney vacation, but it wasn’t everyone’s dream.  When I opened Travel On A Dream, I intended to help with any type of vacation – any destination – and we have done that!  We have helped clients with a variety of cruise lines from Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Holland America, MSC Cruises, Norwegian and of course, Disney.  We have helped our clients travel all over the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe.  We will be sailing our first of hopefully many group sailings in October on the Disney Fantasy.  Our next group sailing will be in April 2013 on the Oasis of the Seas.  Watch for our announcement on an Alaskan Cruise sailing shortly!

We started with one agent, me, and have grown to eight agents today – Tracy, Deb, Rhonda, Debbie, Nicole, DJ, Therese and Erin.  Our goal is always to help you to plan the best vacation ever, each and every time with each and every client.  We take an interest in our clients’ plans and in their lives, which is why most of our agents are active on Facebook and other social media sites.  It’s not good enough that we are available only by email, though you can reach any of us that way (our email addresses are all first name @travelonadream.com).  You can find us by email, phone, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, just to name a few.  Whether you have a group of 100 or one, we are here to make planning your dream vacation as seamless as possible.

It makes us very happy to hear one of our clients say they plan to tell all their family and friends about us or to read about it on Facebook and Twitter.  When I get a call from a potential client who says “so and so referred me to you”, the first thing I do is smile!  That’s why we have a referral program.  Some agencies will give you a gift card for your referrals.  While I think that’s great, I like our referral program just a bit more.  For each referral you send our way who books and travels, we give you 1% of the total amount of the vacation (based on the components on which we receive commission).  That means if you refer your friend who is planning a group sailing and spends $20,000, you will receive $200!  We pay the referrals in either gift cards or onboard credits and are not paid until your next travel date after your referred friend travels so this amount can really grow!

As a bonus for our two year birthday, we are giving double referral credits!  Double credit will be available for all bookings held through June 30.  Tell all your friends and family about the great service you have received from Travel On A Dream, but also tell them to say you sent them.  It’s a win/win situation!  They get the benefit of our service to help plan their dream vacation and you get some extra spending money on your next one.

Next we wanted to announce that we will be starting a monthly newsletter.  We don’t intend for this newsletter to be full of advertisements about why you should book with us or what the latest travel special is (there are plenty of those around if you want them).  We intend to bring to information on some of our favorite travel destinations, travel tips, cruise comparisons.  You should know that if we are writing about something, we know about that subject and are qualified to help you with it should you have any questions or wish to explore further.  Just drop us an email or give us a call!  Initially we will send out the newsletter to all of our clients and anyone who has signed up for our mailing list.  You will always have an opt out option, we do not want to send you spam. Just email us at info@TravelOnADream.com if you are not a current or past client to get the newsletter. Or you can click on the Welcome tab on our Facebook page.

Each month we will also be looking for your favorite vacation photos.   Submit your favorite photos to info@TravelOnADream.com and if yours is chosen, you will be highlighted on our Pinterest board for the Photo of the Month.  Email us also if there is something you want us to feature in the newsletter.

Of course, we can’t have a birthday celebration without gifts right?  In addition to our double referral credit promotion for the rest of the month, we will also giving away some cool gifts, .  We have some Travel On A Dream tote bags plus a variety of cruise line merchandise for you.  We’ll even give away a $50 onboard credit/gift card to one lucky person.  How do you enter?  Sign up for our newsletter!  All of our current clients will be automatically entered into the drawings, plus anyone who signs up through our Facebook wall or by emailing us at info@TravelOnADream.com.  The drawing will be held on June 30 at 5:00 pm EDT.

So who thinks $50 is not enough?  Me too!  We are just shy of 600 fans on Facebook.  Let’s get the numbers up!  For every 50 new fans, I’ll increase the prize by $25.  That means if we get to 700 fans by June 30, the total prize will be $100, 800 fans – $150.  Share our wall with your friends and watch the total go up!

Thank you all for helping us celebrate our second birthday!  We look forward to many more years of helping you make your vacation dreams a reality.

Quality versus Quantity

I was asked the other day about cruise bookings for summer 2012 and how they relate to 2011.  While checking numbers I found the trends to be interesting.  But it also got me thinking.  What is more important to people in recent years – more time off or higher quality in the time off that you have.

This is an interesting choice and it isn’t necessarily the same for everyone.  It comes down to one question – What do you want to get out of your vacation?

Some people just want the downtime, and the more, the better!  Staying in a value resort just so you can go on vacation as often as possible is worth it to them.  It may mean driving more often to a destination than flying there so save on airfare. Getting away for a long weekend in a nearby city to catch a show or concert, go to a spa or nothing at all!

For others, it is totally about the destination.  You don’t care where you stay, how you get there, what you eat, you just want to be there.  For a Disney vacation, this could mean eating offsite more frequently, getting a resort with a kitchen or kitchenette to be able to cook some meals in the room or getting annual passes for the discounts and lower cost of admission (assuming you visit enough times to make this happen).

Still others are wanting the deluxe experience, regardless of what it will cost.  However, they may need to cut back on some of the options to make this happen.  Instead of a ten day vacation, they may cut back to only five days.  They may decide that instead of a couple trips a year, they will only take one, and make it a good one!  Or take some short weekend trips instead of a second vacation.

What I noticed while studying my sales numbers is that people weren’t cancelling vacations when the economy started to fail, they were just changing how they vacationed.  This is where working with a good travel consultant can help.  The agent that you use for all your vacation plans will know what you like and dislike, know what’s important to you on vacation and how you can scale back that usual vacation so you still get your well deserved break, yet don’t break the bank.

What are you doing with your vacations?  Is the economy affecting how you vacation or not?  We’d love to hear from you!