Role of Travel Agents in Today’s High Tech World

Shirley Joyner, a credentialed travel agent at MTS Travel in Colorado Springs, has seen a lot of changes during her 30-plus years of experience. “People used to come to me and say, ‘I want to go somewhere warm,” and I would suggest destinations,” she says. “Now they research online and come in knowing where they want to go and what they want to do.”When asked what the public might not understand about using a travel agent, Joyner replies, “For one thing, we don’t charge the client to book tours and cruises.” Also, special software allows the agent to compare airlines, times and fares on one computer screen, and to be aware of delays and cancellations. An individual booking online cannot access this information.”For example,” Joyner states, “A client booking a cruise couldn’t get a specific date and a special request of a room with a balcony. I was able to do it for them.”Heightened security has complicated foreign travel; what you don’t know could hurt you. A professional knows about travel concerns to certain parts of the world and can help acquire critically important visas, shots and passports. Travelers who book on their own without knowing the ins and outs can be left at the gate with nowhere to turn.The latest travel trend is booking groups. “A lot of families combine travel and getting together, often with a cruise as part of it,” Joyner states. “Groups can be difficult to book online, and a travel agent can save you time and money.”Charlie Brown of Charlie Brown’s Goodtime Travel, is another Colorado Springs based travel expert whose 20-plus years in the business means that he has seen the changes that electronic options have wrought. “Travel agents should focus on what sets them apart, what professionals offer versus what the would-be traveler finds online,” he says. In Brown’s opinion, “do it yourself” travel planning can be time consuming and something could go wrong. He cites a couple of examples.”A client booked a vacation,” he says. “They checked out Barbados hotels online and chose one based on photos that implied the property was on the beach.” It turned out the hotel was two blocks from the beach in an area devoid of amenities, such as shops and restaurants.Another client booked an overseas trip themselves and couldn’t wait to tell him what great deals they had gotten. “As they rattled off the cost of airfare, hotels, tours, etc., I added it up in my head. They paid about $3,000 more than it would have cost to go through a travel agent,” he states.Both agents have traveled extensively. “I take trips and don’t tell the cruise people or the destination I am a travel agent so I can see it through my client’s eyes,” says Charlie Brown.Travel agents are trained to ask the right questions to find out what the client is looking for. It’s also important to match the age and lifestyle of the client to the destination and amenities. “I know of a couple who booked their honeymoon cruise only to discover that the majority of the passengers were much older. There wasn’t much to do at night – the decks rolled up at 9,” Brown comments.Both travel agents take seriously the fact that you are coming to them with your hard earned dollars. They both strive to give the client a satisfying travel experience, since so much of their business is repeat business or comes by word of mouth.How to find a travel agentAsk a friend, do a web search or check for professional affiliations, such as the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA).ASTA’s site (asta.org) has helpful information, including why to choose a travel professional over DIY arrangements.  According to ASTA, a travel agent:
Investigates and supplies competitive information
Stays abreast of timely promotions
Clarifies fine print, such as cancellation penalties and restrictions
Recommends travel-related options
Enhances the trip with value-added benefits and amenities
Uses clout to obtain the best possible arrangements
Gets problems resolved
Now that you’re armed with information and some timely tips about travel and how a good travel agent could save you time and money, start planning for that great getaway you been dreaming about. Bon voyage!

Travel Agency: The Travel Middle Man

The travel needs of the travelling people of this world, both leisure and business,have been put into question by themselves and by the public at large.My feelings are that the travelling public feels generally that they can get a better “deal” by booking the travel themselves on the internet, please read cheaper, than they can by booking their holiday through a travel agency or they will pay more booking through a travel agent.Well the answer to that myth is they can’t and they won’t. The travel suppliers of the products, the cruise lines, air lines and the very large travel agents, who are in fact the competition of the small person travel agency, are forced by contract to offer their product at the same price as they are selling the product being sold to the smaller agencies and also pay the small travel agencies a commission based on the assumption of volume from that travel agency.Now I must be honest and say that the internet does have quite a number of sites that promote “Cheap Travel”. Well, what is the product that these cheap travel sites are selling and why are these products perceived to be cheaper than the travel product that is available from a TICO registered travel agent?You will notice that almost always, the departure dates for these products are very frequently, immediate. Some things need to be explained about these cheap holidays. First, these products are purchased from a large supplier in bulk and as the time gets closer to the departure date, rather than get stuck with bearing a loss on the product that is not sold, the owners of these trips will discount the price to recoup some of the money this product cost them. Theoretically, that is not a bad idea except when you consider that the product that is left is product that no one else wanted, the less desirable cabins on the ship or the suites in the resort are in less desirable areas or even with environmental problems if the resort is over booking.Would it be a fair assumption to think that most of the travelling public would want to get assistance in making the decision on deciding where they want to take their holiday, when they want to go, where they want to go, how much they want to pay for the value they will receive and that there will be assistance if any of their plans don’t go as they thought they should? The best issue is that it costs the family nothing over and above the published rate or lead in price for that trip.Another factor is that no time is needed to research all the areas and issues that travellers should be aware of when visiting foreign countries. Another point is that all companies are looking to cut their costs so the etickets will arrive on the internet just as if you had used all the time to research and book the holiday yourself but of course, no time was required.Now getting back to where I started, the modern travel agency is a middle man who gets the needs, wants, desires and the amount the travelling family wish to spend on their holiday, get the problem so to speak, and in a very short period of time, provide the solution for the family to consider.The fact is that the earlier a family starts to look in a particular travel area, the more likely they will get what they want, when they want, where they want and at the price they want to pay. It is the responsibility of a good travel agent to monitor the price fluctuations on that travel route and if the price is reduced for whatever reason prior to departure, the reduction will be given to the booking family. There is not a computer in the world that will do that!There are a number of benefits from using a TICO registered travel agency and a TICO qualified travel agent, but that is a subject for further discussions.

14 Ways to Make Traveling with a Disability Easier

If you travel with a disability, handicap, physical limitation, mobility limitation, or developmental disability, have special needs, or use an electric wheelchair or handicap scooter, it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can to make disabled travel easier.Or if you’re a mature traveler or senior who is a slow walker or just wants a slower pace, becoming more informed about disabled travel services and disability travel resources, will lessen the anxiety that often accompanies disabled travelers.The following travel tips, resources and information for the disabled will help make trips, tours, holidays and vacations a lot easier for you, or for a child with a disability, whether short-term or long-term.1. Plan your trip well in advance! Do you need to order extra supplements, medications or renew prescriptions, fix eyeglasses or change prescriptions, get a physical, have dental work done, have your wheelchair fixed or tuned up, etc.?2. If possible, always book your travel through an agency that specializes in helping people with disabilities. This is important because specialized travel agents and tour operators for the disabled are experienced and can save you some awful headaches.They offer a lot of good tips and a wide range of services for the handicapped traveler. Among other things, they can arrange for a: wheelchair at the airport, wheelchair accessible hotel room, wheelchair rental, lift-equipped accessible van, full van, minivan, RV, handicap scooter, or any other handicap vehicle.Travel agents for the disabled can help arrange accessible transportation, help plan the best accessible cruise, give cruise line and cruising tips, arrange travel insurance and take care of special needs.Agents can check with hotels for: inner and outer door widths to accommodate your wheelchair, ADA-approved handicap bath tubs, grab bars, or for roll-in showers. Just tell them your needs.Travel agents can help you find cheap airfare, cheap tickets, cheap flights, cheap travel auto insurance, cheap hotels, cheap car rentals, cheap cruises, cheap vacations and cheap travel of all kinds.3. Besides taking along your travel agent’s phone number, you’ll also want to take with you the phone numbers for the travel agencies that specialize in disabled travel at your destination, in the event you can’t reach your own agent.These travel agents may know how to solve problems that come up regarding your hotel, car or van rentals, etc., even if you didn’t order your tickets through them.4. When traveling to another city, check out the local health and medical associations before you go. For example, get the phone numbers for the local MS chapter if you have MS. These organizations can be great resources.They usually know what museums, restaurants, theaters & other local facilities are wheelchair accessible and where you can get oxygen, emergency supplies or medical assistance. They may be able to help you with any problems that arise.5. If you plan to rent a handicap scooter, wheelchair, electric wheelchair, handicap van, full van, mini-van, RV or other vehicle in another city, don’t wait until you get there. Make all the arrangements before you leave on your trip.Make sure you ask any specifics like, are there tie-downs, ramps, or hoists, etc. Check on what van, RV, car or auto insurance you’ll need before you go.6. Don’t leave anything to chance. If you can, double-check all the arrangements your travel agent makes. Call the airlines, hotels, scooter, wheelchair, car, RV or van rental companies, medical equipment rental companies, etc., and verify the specifics, especially if you’re traveling in a wheelchair or have any other special needs like oxygen.This is important if you haven’t used the agent before.7. If you need oxygen or any other special medical equipment, call airlines and suppliers well in advance of your trip. Don’t wait until the last minute. Start calling them as soon as you know you’re going to be traveling or taking a trip.Then double-check with your travel agent and the airline at least three to four days before your flight.8. Arrive early at the airport. It’s better to wait around there than miss your plane. This will eliminate some of the pre-trip anxiety you might feel and make for more leisurely travel. This seems like common knowledge but many people still arrive at the gate just in the nick of time.With all that’s going on in the world today there are many reasons why you want to allow for more time at the airport.9. In your airplane carry-on bag keep copies of the prescriptions for your medications and eyeglasses, extra eyeglasses, sunglasses, all your medications and supplements, and a list of your doctor, dentist and other health professionals with their addresses, and phone numbers.Include your doctor’s fax number for prescriptions in case you lose your medications. Keep duplicate copies of these in your luggage and at home by the telephone. Know where your medical records are kept.10. When you travel, and for any other time too, if you take medications, learn their names and exactly what they’re for if you don’t know. People come into the emergency room all the time and don’t know what medications they’re taking. You might be surprised to find out that most people say ‘a little yellow pill’ or ‘a white capsule’, etc.Emergency workers need to know what you’re taking so they don’t give you medication that would interact adversely with it, overdose you or somehow interfere with their treatment and your recovery.11. If you’re traveling by air, tell the flight attendants when you board, of any medical problem you might encounter on your flight. Note the location of the closest restroom before getting seated. Tell the flight attendant if you think you’ll need assistance getting to it during the flight.You may need or want an aisle seat for easy access to the restrooms. Discuss seating with your travel agent.12. If you need someone to travel with you, ask your travel agent for ideas or suggestions. Call the local chapters of medical associations and ask if they can recommend a travel assistant or travel companion to help or accompany you.There are national companies who offer traveling nurses, traveling companions or travel assistants to accompany disabled travelers or people with serious medical issues.13. Make sure to take with you: any medical cards, Medicare cards, discount cards, car or auto rental discount cards, auto insurance policy numbers and agent’s phone number, passport, airline tickets, etickets, American Express Travelers Cheques, debit cards, credit cards, and drivers license. Photocopy everything.Keep photocopies in your luggage and at home by the telephone or someplace where someone has access to it in case you need it.14. Read everything you can about traveling with a disability. Read disabled travel books, access guides, accessible guidebooks, disability travel articles and travel publications for the disabled traveler. Read the personal travel experiences of wheelchair users and others who have traveled with disabilities. Be informed.These travel tips, information, resources, and services for the disabled should help you, or anyone with a disability, handicap, physical limitation, or who uses a wheelchair, have an easier, more pleasant, anxiety-free, trouble-free trip, tour, holiday or vacation.