Thursday, December 5, 2019

Recent Flight Mishap… A Go for Travel Agents!

So, everyone reading this is probably thinking – I don’t need to use a travel agent for my flight bookings – Why use one? I can very well do them myself and avoid paying any extra fees.
Well I got one for ya folks! So hold the phone on purchasing online on your own.
Travel agents tout the line …. Without a travel agent you’re on your own. So you’re wondering why is this? Let’s read on…

Recently I booked a round trip flight for someone going from Maine to Oklahoma and back. She had to get there for a funeral of her late husband. Well, the Northeast got blown over by a huge snowstorm and as every travel agent knows…you are GOING to have a ton of delays and flight cancellations up the ying yang at any said airport facing such a storm!
The night before my customer flew home, I contacted her and asked her if she was aware of the recent storm brewing. She stated yes she was but was planning to fly home tomorrow ANYWAY. So OK. A travel agents first thought is…. But why? If you don’t have to fly during bad weather – DON’T. Then you as a travel agent don’t really think about that, you just have to do the best you can for your customer and GET THEM HOME. I told her that she was almost 100% guaranteed to have some sort of long delay or cancellation in Philadelphia and she was ok with waiting.

So fast forward…. Her flight takes off from Oklahoma ok and lands in Philadelphia. STOP! The storm caused multiple delays and cancellations to everywhere and I mean everywhere (not everywhere but most everywhere in the Northeastern states). AS a travel agent we can WATCH stuff like this. We can nearly PREDICT it to a T. As a travel agent I watch airports, I watch flights, I watch whatever I can when I have a customer flying out or flying back home. It’s just my nature to take care of people. That’s what I DO as a travel agent and why I do what I do for a career. Not all travel agents may be like this…but I AM. So she’s faced with a cancellation 30 minutes before her flight is due to take off. There are lines everywhere, all over the airport, of people TRYING to get home. Waiting for the gate agents, the customer service reps and sometimes for absolutely nothing at all except for someone to answer on the other end of the phone call. Those same folks who CHOSE not to book through a travel agent and instead, handle it themselves.

So my customer calls me up and tells me she’s stuck what can I do? I tell her I realize she is stuck and I am currently working on the situation already. Fast forward. I have the ability to make a direct call to an airline agent without much of a wait, without a lot of backlash (as you might dealing with a gate agent who is helping a hundred of other people PLUS dealing with their own work and whom is absolutely miserable – them and you!).

The only thing I cannot do, is make sure the systems update fast enough for the gate agent to CHECK and issue you a new ticket. If that gate agent is miserable, trust me you are not getting on the flight!
I would need at least 2 hours lead time. And that’s better than if you were 9th on the standby list and getting absolutely nothing done. So fast forward and I pay the $8 on a seat I find for my customer and get her ON. Boom! She went from being 9th on a standby list to ON THE PLANE AND FLYING HOME. End of story: HAPPY CUSTOMER.

THIS FOLKS… is why you should book your air with a travel agent. If you prefer waiting in long lines and facing misery and even longer waits, and then possibly even more lines or even an overnight stay in an airport - then go to it alone. In hindsight we always say “That will never happen to me”. Well it does happen to the best of everyone!

Basically I saved my customer from having to spend the night in the airport that evening. I got her on the very last flight of the night into Portland. Think of those 9 other standby persons – THEY spent the night for a possible flight the next day!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

To Airbnb or Not? What you need to know about Airbnb's

This article is not meant to deter anyone from Airbnb's. 

Hey if you have experienced them and have nothing but good experiences with them then great! 

It takes a certain type of traveler to void of protecting themselves even amidst warnings. I hope you are not one of them and if you are reading this then you have already begun your due diligence!

 For others it's really just a matter of time.

So let's get on with it... What can we learn about airbnb's and about selecting one?

  1. Uninsured airbnb's.
Most property owners signing up for Airbnb are looking to make some extra income throughout the year and everyone wants to gain an income over a loss. Signing up for home sharing is a relatively easy process. Just point and click. Just like many travelers looking at airbnb's are doing the same thing. The shocking fact is that a large majority of homeowners creating an airbnb are lacking the proper insurance and when they do have it, what do they really have for insurance? Some may even be terminated of insurance if relied falsely upon. At any time.

  Most domestic insurers will cover very short term rentals. Some carriers will cover 10,000 of coverage but beyond that, nothing. Denying that insurance claim and the number of states requiring that insurance is also a rude awakening. Not a secure feeling! And what of the customer renting? Meaning you, the traveler. Fact is, you, your family and your property is likely not to be least not for your benefit anyway. To you, this should ultimately mean you are uninsured. Yes you can think to hold the host liable but that suit could drag on for years. No help to you really. And the cost for that is usually at a higher price than you may bargain for health-wise and pocket-wise. All to save a few dollars while on vacation. 

There is a lot of information out there regarding uninsured and insured airbnbs it is highly unlikely that your rental host will be thinking of you and will want to save as much money for them too so they are careful in selecting an insurance that will not break their bank. Even as you choose an airbnb you are looking to save a few bucks. Right?

 The fact is you should have A LOT of questions to ask your host before renting. 

If you are a thief for example then an airbnb might be the way for you to go as most host insurers won't cover the host! This is not to say you should become a thief!  

Please think carefully about the questions you should be asking and perhaps we will cover those in a later article and hopefully I've helped you some here! 

 Anyone who has thoughts please share in the comments section I'd love to hear them!

A little more education you may want to consider regarding host liability. I do not endorse this company or any company thar I provide links to BUT I do believe they hold merit. I do however believe in third party insurance for my travelers as well  but I never require it. 

 The rules of airbnb host and insurance liability may vary from state to state or even country to country (lack thereof) fact is there is education to be learned about every angle you choose no matter where you choose to go!

1) Illegal airbnb's. Insecure airbnbs and the like.

Nowhere is it required that hosts must adhere to rules and regulations of state or even country (lack thereof) with actual repercussions. And like mentioned there is a lack of these. You wouldn't believe the number of airbnb's that are running illegally, insecured or unsafe. Is that really what you as an unaware traveler want for you and your family? Again, this is not to deter you from airbnb's - just make you aware of what you should be aware of BEFORE you move forward with an airbnb. My mentions are because I as a Travel Professional truly care about my clients whom often become customers and in most cases, friends. Please folks. Do your due diligence! 

 Airbnb's are not adhered to registrations. In other countries, the rules are even more loose. Read this article for more information. Then the question becomes, are they safe and up to code? Honestly you would never know and any host can lie to you. Even the most trained engineering eye would not know. And you as the traveling friend are going to a place you may have never been. And even if you have or know someone who has, does not secure you from these issues.

 Sometimes airbnb hosts can request personal identification from you such as drivers licenses, social security numbers, etc. The amount of identity theft is appalling and a scary thought! You should never give that information out to anyone unless you trust them.  Complaints can be logged to the host (if the host is available to you at all times - this is not always the case) but complaints are not required to be adhered to. 

Most hotels give you far more attention and have strict requirements in order to stay alive.  If there is an issue with the airbnb and you are hurt, and you or a member of your family go to the hospital, what's to keep you from going home (if you are in a foreign country)? A little known fact understood by many Travel professionals! 

 Refunds are not always given and in some minor cases very little. An airbnb is not required to by any means. Here is an article to many other considerations you, "the unaware traveler", will want to think about. A lot of hotels are now asking to see passports and take a copy of their customers passport for a reason. Just a copy and you get your passport back. This is becoming commonplace now but not for airbnbs. And if it were, you still have to worry about your Personal Identification being stolen by an untrusted airbnb. 

Many other issues such as this are discussed:
  • host or company can cancel the stay at any time even unbeknowest to the host. No guarantees. Host and the airbnb communication between each other is not always the best even!
  • Scams are more possible than ever.
  • unsafe conditions of the property.
  • Bug infestations 
  • Broken amenities
  • Hostile, intrusive, criminal background, pedophile, sexual offender. Is that the kind of host you are hiring? No background checks by airbnbs.
  • Crime, theft, other.
  • Hidden cameras
  • Undisclosed roommates (your host can add other people into the home to stay with you).
  • Illegal drugs present.
  • Unsafe neighborhood.
  • Illegal sub-letting. Some properties may not even be owned by the host!
  • Lack of child and disability friendly accommodations.
  • The list goes on and on and on...
2) Time well spent.

Most folks go on vacation to ENJOY their vacations. Who wants to spend one whole day preparing the property they will be staying at? Groceries, deep cleaning, checking everything in a wide space over. You get the idea. Not only this but you will have to spend a second whole day just participating in the deep cleaning process and everything all over again! And what if something goes wrong before, during and after your stay? How long will you be trying to gain access to customer service or your host?  Wait. How many days are you staying again? You get the picture.

Most hotels and other places to stay at that I would advise on are there to make your stay a more enjoyable place! Most hotels have concierges and desk representatives and managers you can speak to directly. There is a hotel/resort type for everyone!

This goes on to add that you really do not know who stayed in this airbnb before you and chances are if it was "cheaper" then it adheres to claim a certain type of customer. I'm not saying that you are that certain type of customer but I guarantee if you are paying a better penny for what you are getting, then you should be getting the value of your stay! 

Do you really need a whole house, cottage or other arrangement for your trip? Do you really need that kitchen, extra bedroom, extra anything? How much time will you really spend in your airbnb? There will be no housekeeping, lack of customer service quite possibly, no luggage holding service (for time well spent), and no room service. 

Most folks want to go out and explore almost immediately not spend their hard earned vacation time holed up in one place. They want the amenities that go along with that as well. A free shuttle perhaps, your meals taken care of, not too many rules to follow, getting into your stay on time, an ability to drop your bags off on the first or last day to immediately enjoy amenities, and the lack of any inconveniences. Are you getting all of your questions answered? Is your host actually going to be there for you when needed? What happens if you lock yourself out of your airbnb?  Ah! So many questions.... and what's more are you prepared to look for another option at the last minute if you had to? 

Just the number of questions you need to ask are not saving you any time!

3) Cheaper. What affects to the community are you taking part?

Let's take a moment to play devil's advocate. If you were the neighbor of an airbnb host how would it affect you? An increase in property taxes; perhaps it puts your daughter or son out of working at the local hotel even maybe you; renting most likely drives the cost of local rentals up so your relative cannot afford a place to stay - maybe they ask to stay with you instead? Maybe someone in your family is a real estate agent and it in turn puts them out of work or lessens their income. Here is another great article of the ramifications of an airbnb to cities/countries. You are most likely hurting the tourism industry of the country or city you are visiting. You are most likely hurting other people without even knowing it. Also...If the host property is upstairs from where you are living and their customers are coming and going at all hours, how would that affect you? Disturbing isn't it! 

Short term rentals put undue pressure upon availability and affordability of lodgings in the tourist communities or even yours. Governments are looking for ways to tax and are finding new ways because of it too. There is a huge difference between residential activity vs. commercial activity that needs to be considered both with insurance and with this. Local laws are changing in communities as well and with a lack of funds to support those newly created laws. Adherence is difficult and costly. 

Now I don't want to bore you with politics or get into it as I believe everyone has a political right to believe what they believe. This is just to point you into asking yourself a few necessary questions and decide if an airbnb is really worth it. All for a few bucks saved in your own pocket. 

How are the neighbors in that area of the existing airbnb reacting to the rental ? Based on the information provided I cannot imagine most positively. So..unsafe neighborhoods perhaps? 

Loans are going up as well. How does that affect the communities purchasing? Think supply and demand folks! 

The last question remains, where is your money actually going? We will get to that in a moment. 

As tourists we should want to support the locals as much as we can, not make their lives more difficult. We would and should want to support our own!

4) Communication, Communication, Communication.

I cannot stress enough how important communication and compiling questions is necessary before you rent an airbnb property. Even then communication is often lacking. What is not being said? There are MANY host and customer stories regarding airbnbs.  And not just from that article listed. But everywhere. And from anyone. Just because the listing has a high referral rate does not make anything right for you exactly. Never assume it will.  Communication should begin early and even before a deposit is made. Communication between you and the host and airbnb is not the only area of concern. How about the communication between the host and airbnb? These are instances often beyond your control but they can affect you and your families and your hard earned investment a lot! 

Ask to speak directly with the host and not just the airbnb company. Ask a LOT of questions and keep notes. If you can get everything in writing thats even better. Just because there is an Airbnb resolution center (if it exists) does not mean it will work in your favor. And most resolution centers require supporting proof / documentation. Not all resolution centers will give you english speakers or live customer service or perhaps help you at all. 

Not just any communication is necessary but TRUST and honest communication. Like anything in life there are no guarantees. It's a great idea to trust your instinct. If your gut tells you something is not right, do not go with it. 

Something else to be aware of is hidden fees. What you see posted for the price of many airbnbs is not exactly what you will pay. There are too many stories of surprise bills or charges popping up later.

 Stay abreast of fees and how they are rated (daily, once during stay, etc).

 Something to also consider is that if something seems too good to be true, it usually is! 

Other things to consider are bait and switch situations or when the property is not exactly as described. We will delve more in a moment.

So what kind of traveler are you? Only certain types of travelers will fit the stereotype of airbnbs.

 Good travelers will also do their due diligence prior to renting one! 

Read your refund and cancellation policy carefully as well. Know the rules of the property before you arrive. Read the listings carefully.  Act quickly in the result of issues (ie. this will not save you time). No matter how you shape it you need to go into selecting an airbnb and as ultimately being at the mercy of your host. 

5) Lack of Privacy.

I think I mentioned this before about lack of privacy but it's an important point. There is no regulation that keeps your host from coming in unwarranted and without notification. There is no regulation that keeps your host from having someone else (a stranger selected by your host) staying with you without you knowing about it or by surprise. Can you imagine showing up to find that the host is also having their friend stay there the same time as you too at the same property?  

There could be disruptions during your stay that you are unaware of and I won't go into this too much but please use your imagination! 

6) Where is your money actually going?

You will gain no loyalty points staying at an Airbnb (better accommodations, free upgrades, etc). You may think you are saving money but at what real cost?  And where is your money really going? I can guarantee it is not going back into your communities, or cities,or states, or even country. It is going to a host and its supplier. Nothing comes back to you, your families, your friends, your communities as it would if you were to use a free Travel Professional to help you. 

On a final note, I'd like to say that with a hotel you may actually pay less overall. They will not take your money up front (unless your travel professional says they may) and cancellation is usually within 24 hours. You will not be paying a "cleaning fee" or other very strange fees you know nothing about.  There are also rules on refundability with a hotel/resort and your travel professional should know what they are and be able to explain that to you clearly. No surprises. Those rules do not vary much among hotels like they might between airbnbs. This makes an airbnb confusing to navigate. With a travel professional you will also get personalized service which is something I cannot vouch for with an airbnb. It can all boil down to customer service as well and if you are really getting your monies worth. Hotels and Resorts normally have to adhere to strict guidelines and points of service to stay open. They have the kind of money on hand to purchase the right insurances, and pay taxes and hire safe locals to work for them.The Travel Professional gets a commission from most suppliers and those commissions ultimately go back into your communities and most likely back into your own pocket. It doesnt and should not cost you more to do this. 

Remember earlier when I commented about bait and switch conditions? Even hotels/resorts and online booking sites will post these hepped up gorgeous photos of the place and neighborhoods, Airbnb's are no exception. However Airbnb's do not allow travel professionals to come view them and post actual photos! Having a travel professional can come in really handy in that respect as they are familiar with hotel/resort locations or know another reputable agent who is! So you will know what you are really getting. Other bait and switch incidences have occured.

Something to note is that Airbnbs are not bed and breakfasts. They are not treated the same. B&B are regulated and zoned properly and supported.

Airbnbs prices may remain pretty stable regardless of timing (season, rooms filling or remaining unfilled, weekend vs weekday rate, etc)  which is different than hotels. But thats not always a great thing. With hotels/resorts it's much easier to shop for the best rates! 

Hotels / resorts offer a far more consistent experience amongst different brands. 

When something goes wrong, at least you have a face nearby to go to right downstairs or with a quick phone call. Customer service reps! Concierges! Bell boys! Wake up calls! Room service! 

 Far in advance you reserve your hotel you do not have to worry about losing it right before you leave.

Yes! Airbnb's can save you a little money sometimes. Airbnb's can be an option for very large families. But so can villas found through your travel professional. And much safer might I add! 

Yes, thousands of folks use the online service airbnb without ever having experienced negative effects. The lucky ones.

 And yes airbnbs can give a local flavor that sometimes resorts or hotels cannot give you - thinking pretty rural here - ( Many tours are available to you and a Travel Professional can put you in touch with a reputable private tour guide at a reasonable cost giving you the same safer experiences!) 

 Note: That you will feel out of place in any foreign country or place you do not normally live or have educated yourself on. You will be "the tourist" no matter what you do and the locals will know you are a tourist. City to city, State to state, country to country. 

Airbnb's were a great idea when they first began perhaps. Now everyone is looking to make a quick buck, exploit the system somehow and airbnb is absolutely no exception. They are more equipped to get away with it!

I know for me renting an airbnb for my invested vacation would not do! The risks associated with an airbnb do not outweigh the benefits of staying in a hotel/resort for me. 

How about you?

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Club Mobay Review

Hey folks! Today's a nice sunny, but cold day here in Maine. I just got back from 3 FAM trips allowing me to do site inspections on more than 30 properties!! Some in Jamaica and Cancun! Very exciting. Moving on... While in Jamaica, at the Sangster International airport, I had the GREAT opportunity to check out Club Mobay on my departure from the airport. How many ways can someone say GREAT?! Why? Well for a multitude of reasons! Here's the upside: * You are fast-tracked through immigration and customs! * Lots of food, food, food choices! I amazingly had the opportunity to try foods I never saw anywhere else: BBQ Pigs tail for example?! Yeh. Right. They have it! And more..believe me not everything in their case was that exotic. * Lots of Liquor! Want to feel like you're still at the resort? Well you'll feel like you're still on vacation here at Club Mobay! While there I had one Mimosa and the wait staff would come and ask me if I wanted another: yes, keep them coming! Funny thing, when I said that they literally took it as a yes. The wait staff was carefully observing my glass for empty only to replenish it again... interesting. * Service. Again besides the liquor service I told the concierge staff that I am Deaf and that I needed to be absolutely SURE I made my flight ahead of time. NO WORRIES! You're still in Jamaica, Mon! And I did... They check on you randomly without being too forward to make sure you have everything you need. * Other drinks. If you are not a liquor fan you will find an array of other drinks here. Just ask! * The room: The room itself is very tasteful. Not exceedingly large and feels elite. The chairs and tables are comfortable for the most part. * There are private restrooms, it is kids friendly and appears accessibility friendly. Here's the downside: *Charging stations. You will not find those here. When I walked in that was the first thing I asked for. Why? I work in travel so I NEED to have access all the time. They DID re-seat me next to a wall outlet and that was helpful. But there are not many of those here. Based on the above and my experiences I honestly cannot say there's much of a downside. I would use Club mobay myself each time I visited Jamaica. You are treated with Jamaican hospitality and a VIP from the minute you walk in to the minute you leave. Be sure to add this to your next Jamaican vacation through your travel agent!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Paris, France

Check out our Flytographer Photos from Paris, France. Plus! Tips of great things to see and do! Olga, our photographer, met us on time and where she said she'd be near the Eiffel Tower of Paris, France. I had hired Flytographer online to help us journalize our favorite spot. Amy was really looking forward to this and it made her first time Paris experience that much better! Someday I'll return to Paris perhaps with the love of my life... until then - check out Flytographer for your next destination! You will not be disappointed. At least we weren't and Olga was so MUCH FUN to work with! Thank you to her husband for carrying our things and making sure no one pick pocketed!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Journey With Us?

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Tips and Tricks to Finding Cheap Flight Tickets

Tips and Tricks to Finding Cheap Flight Tickets

I was asked the other day why a customers flight was $300 more today than it was yesterday or why it was $100 less than it was the day before. Basically the customer was asking me if there was any tips I could give her to look for the cheapest available flight.

My first thought for this customer was that they may not be aware of their flight parameters or simply didn't care about anything other than the price of their flight!  The pure fact of the matter was that the customer had several parameters that kept changing as if trying to figure out what would drive the price. I should have known better... The customer also didn't realize that what might make up the difference from the lowest to highest with consideration to each parameter they changed made quite a difference in price from a Travel Professionals perspective!  

So goes the story...

Based on what you want vs. what your Travel Professional will give you could be two different things. The reason being is a Travel Professional KNOWS the differences between basic economy and flex economy, business class vs main cabin class and all the cabin codes in between. One Travel Professional may know you better than the next. If you don't tell your Travel Professional what your parameters are for searching a flight, chances are you will be offered what the Travel Professional thinks is best for you. (not necessarily what is best for them). Remember Travel Professionals are not paid commission through airlines so it doesn't really matter if they offer you fare x or fare y. They will get paid the same. Through trial and error a Travel Professional can GUESS what might be the cheapest but on any given day or time that could also change. A Travel Professional simply does not KNOW. Not even someone at the lowest level working at an airline knows. It's all pure guess work. And... experience. The reason? 

Simple. There is NO rhyme or reason when it comes to flights!

One second it could be x price, the next second it could be y price. One truly never knows. The person sitting next to you on the plane could have paid $100 less than you, The person behind you may have paid $300 more than you. Airlines have a funny way of handling things, ya know? 

What drives price? 

Let's list a few:
  • Flight Restrictions
    • Staying over a Saturday night could be required
    • Leaving outside of peak times
    • Other Requirements 
      • days of departure and arrivals may be outside of your wants - are you flexible?
      • How flexible are you willing to be?
  • Time of Day you will Fly
    • This can vary
      • Morning
      • Mid Day
      • Evening
  • Amount of Time in flight
    • Obviously the longer the flight is the cheaper it could be.

  • Amount of Time in Layover
    • Longer layovers and even overnight layovers could save you money.
  • The Airline
    • Not all airlines were created equal. You may pay more for an airline that includes the cost of baggage fees rather than one that doesn't. All in all it may even out to be the same when all is said and done.
  • The Distance
    • Flying from Maine to New York won't be as expensive as flying from Maine to Taiwan.
  • Flight Options
    • Adding meals and other add on items to your flight before you fly will cost more.
  • Where you are being seated
    • Paying for your seats in advance on some flights will cost more.
  • Luggage Options
    • If luggage is not already included you may have to pay for it when you check-in or during online check-in.
    • Not all luggage is created equal. The cost of a carry on may cost something different than the cost of taking skis along.
  • More
    • How full a particular plane is at any point in time can make all the difference in cost
    • What politics are surrounding the current destination at the time?
Timing Is Everything

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Travel Agent vs Travel Advisor

What are the differences between a Travel Agent and Travel Advisor? 

The Down and Dirty of being a Travel Professional...

Let's break this one down...

You've all probably heard the terms, Travel Agent. Then you've probably heard other terms such as Travel Professional, Travel Advisor, Travel Consultant, etc etc etc and so on....

So what's the difference?

Those who work in selling Travel - at home or in a store front - and have been certified or had proficient training in the Travel industry are considered Travel Professionals. Are they really professional? Well that remains to be seen! There are indeed a lot of different folks out there! Professional and not so Professional.... one thing is for sure, all of the terms exist.

Travel Advisors and Travel Consultants could be close in connection with regard to meaning.  They all consult or give advice and advise you. A lot of the new wave of travel agents prefer to be coined Travel Advisors or Travel Consultants instead of Travel Agents because it sounds "more professional". The fact is they do not always work interchangeably or in the same way.  You can indeed have a Travel Advisor or Consultant that also books travel not just advises you. You can also have a Travel Advisor or Consultant that does not even book your travel too.

Confused yet?!

Basically it doesn't hurt to ask what they do before you select one! And select carefully!!

The Old way ASTA coined us
Travel Agents are the old slang term used for a Travel (booking agent). Back in the day before the internet came along (or just as it was...) You could walk into a Travel Agent store (otherwise known as a brick and mortar store), sit and talk with an agent about your travel plans. They'd take basic information about you, help you find what you needed and then you'd book together or you'd walk away to consider and come back to book later. Easy peasy right? You didn't have the internet in existence. Well Travel Agents still do exist!
The New way ASTA coins us

Well, with the age of the internet looming upon us anyone can go on the internet and profess they can do what a Travel Professional can do - even easier.  Or they can walk into that same brick and mortar use the Travel Agents / Travel Consultant / Travel Advisor's advice and go book online for themselves. Yeah ... one of the professionals "biggest pet peeves of all times". What does that make you? And Really - you can do this yourself and be totally, completely be happy about it? I don't think so!  And as you come to do this you'll realize that how you are perceived as a customer will change and also change the way these professionals work.

The internet has left us with a myriad of choices, inaccuracies, and biased advice. The way Travel Agents of today work have also been re-created or re-imagined. Like Forrest says " Life is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get." The same holds true when it comes to booking travel online!

Either Travel Professional you go with you will no doubt get a lot of work done for you.... for free. You'll most likely get more than you bargained for. And in other words - on the suppliers dime.  Use it! The fact is you're keeping part of your money in the communities and supporting small businesses. You're doing more good than you think. Travel professionals only make money when you book and travel with them too. That is, most of them do. Unless they are requiring up front money for their time and/ or services.

Travel Professionals still live by a code of ethics (or at least they should). They can still be held accountable to a certain standard.  It doesn't matter what they call themselves. It doesn't matter what you call them.

So what to do? Find out what it is they will do for you. Find out what it is they will not do for you. Everyone is different. Like finding the perfect love of your life, you will want to find the right match for you in a Travel Professional.

Why use a Travel Professional?

Here are great questions to start asking yourselves - Do you think you can book online with any available supplier? Think again! You cannot. Can you always call a direct number when you need help? You cannot. Do you have the inside scoop and contacts of the supplier management line? I assure you, you would not. The list goes on and on with many valid reasons why you should use a Travel Professional!  Let's cover a few more...

This list could go on and on....

How Travel Professionals Get Paid?

What if I were to tell you that some don't? Would you believe me? If they aren't then they probably aren't doing it right... but... What if I were to tell you that you aren't actually paying them out of your own pocket? Would you believe me then....?

Well.... BELIEVE IT!

The majority of Travel Professionals as described only get paid based on what the suppliers are willing to pay them. Are you paying them directly? No. Are you even really paying them? No. Travel Professionals get paid by what's called a commission. They make a % of what they sell but what they sell is listed and paid to them by the supplier. Suppliers do not mark up costs. What you see on a supplier site is what you should be paying your Travel Professional. UNLESS the Travel Professional explains otherwise. Then you have to make the decision if they are worth it or not.

A Travel Professional (at least I do...) gets paid only after you, the customer, book and travel through their business.  So if you are using their services and then booking elsewhere that really reinvents the way Travel Professionals will be willing to work!  This is why a lot of Travel Professionals now charge an up front non-refundable fee which covers their services. So like checking your credit report, be careful of this one...

Do Travel Professionals get to Travel the World for Free?

Short answer. No.

Travel Professionals do not work like they used to. Gone are the days where they could travel the world for free. So if you're thinking of becoming a Travel Professional be prepared to do HARD WORK.  It takes a certain type of person to enter this trade and one must truly love helping people!
All kinds of different people....

How I go about selecting a Travel Professional?

Honestly, this is entirely up to you.

Some folks select through word of mouth, family and friends. Others, through an internet search. No matter how you do it, be sure to do your due diligence! Are they certified with their very first certification being a TAP = Travel Agent Proficient? How many years have they been in business or are they working with a mentor (if not many years)? What kinds of classes did they take? What do they specialize in (what is their niche)?

No matter who you select you can always change your mind until your trip has been booked and paid for in full.  So if your needs are not being met the important thing to do is to communicate with your Travel Professional immediately. Don't wait until the last minute to spring a surprise. No one likes them... not even you.

Tips and Tricks Ticketing Unaccompanied Minors - Youth Travel

Tips and Tricks Ticketing Unaccompanied Minors - Youth Travel

Every once in a while I get a question on ticketing flights for a youth to travel alone. Usually because two parents live in different states or countries. So I thought I'd write a few tidbits to help parents in selecting flights for and preparing for youth travel.

It's a great idea to hire a travel advisor or travel agent (please see Difference between Travel Agents and Travel Advisor blog I wrote here) to help in this planning. I won't go into a spiel boring you with the whys and hows of getting one. I'm sure we all get sick of being told this from time to time.  I think this article is going to speak for itself.  I'll just simply say: DO IT. But not without preparing before you do... Here's a bulleted list...
  • Set your Parameters for the Flight
So what are the "Parameters"? Well, like anything you need to know what you're willing to do and not do, correct? They're kind of like boundaries you set. You want to stay inside a certain circle. What's good, not good - for you (and your youth)! There is no rhyme or reason to this. It's really all about what YOU want and some on what your Travel Advisor might recommend. The best thing I can say is - do not be afraid to ask your Travel Advisor / Travel Agent for help on this but be prepared to provide your payment details up front. Reason? So that when a flight price jumps down you both can jump FAST to secure that price! Flight prices change by the second, minute, hour or day. You really never know when. See the blog I wrote on Tricks to Purchase Cheap Flights.
    • Parameter 1: Date and Times
The first parameter you'll want to know in advance is obviously the date you want your minor to fly. Do you and your other adult have this set in stone? Or are you both flexible in order to secure the cheapest flight available (?) - and I say this with a grain of salt : based on class, category, time of day to fly, airline, day you're flying (again check out Tricks to purchase cheap flights for a little commentary about this). You've got to have some idea on this before moving forward. Telling your travel advisor/agent to just book anything that is cheapest is great but again be prepared to fork over the payment details up front. A good travel advisor / agent will also work with you prior to handling the payment so it doesn't come with surprises. And know that a travel advisor will never advise you take the absolute cheapest flight route available and there are VALID reasons for this. I personally prefer to do what I think is best for the youth and the parent (I'm a parent of children myself!)
So folks.... know your dates. Know your youth's limits. Only you know your child best.
About times...Well, here's a juicy tidbit I can offer. Pick the first flight of the day. I know most of you are going to say - but that's just too early. The likelihood of a flight being cancelled or delayed is less if you select the earliest flight of the day. Unless of course there's a huge snowstorm overnight. At least you'll be aware of it. And have plenty of time to plan out the rest of the day or make adjustment accordingly. There are other reasons for selecting the earliest flight and I won't go into that here. The list is loonnnnngggg. Just trust me on this one....
    • Parameter 2: Connecting, Direct flights or Non Stop flights?
So what's the difference you ask? Connecting flights will have your child landing, changing planes and taking off again. Direct flights will have your youth landing, not changing planes, and taking off again. Non Stop will have you mid-air the entire flight.  So what's best? I suppose that depends on you as a parent but my guidance : Select the least taxing for the child. You will pay an accompanied minor fee on top of the flight cost itself based on the age of the child but that fee doesn't guarantee you a "babysitter" at all times. Thus, why we have tips and tricks! Each airline has their own set rules and for a child to fly solo one of those rules might be for a child above age 5 and above. Each airline is different. Yeah it's a lot of research for the parent. Does your travel agent know and understand the rules? You bet your sweet buppies they should! And if not, they should know where to find and how to read them! But basically yeah... select the least taxing for the kid. You will most likely pay the least for connecting flights. And so on and so on. Are non-stop flights worth the price? Definitely! 
    • Parameter 3: Flight Times - do they matter?
When I say Flight times what do I mean? Well it's not just about what time the flights are leaving and arriving - it's also about how long the flight will be! Again, selecting the least taxing for the youth is the best rule of thumb. A youth can get into a lot of mischief on a long flight. But really, it's not about the flight attendant assigned to your child and what's easiest for them (I mean you ARE paying them to do a job after all...) but it's more about what's easiest on your youth and your own piece of mind!  Do you really want to spend the whole time thinking and worrying about your child during a very long flight? Just know that some flights with the shortest time frames will cost more.
  • Airline Policies - the 4 core:
This is not meant to be an all-inclusive list of flights that issue policies on unaccompanied minor rules. I did list the four core airlines and their websites however. I do not expect you to understand all layman's terms. But if you are going to book this yourself you can find the information for each of them here:

  • Flight costs
So many parameters are taken into account for this! Please read Tips and Tricks for purchasing a cheap flight on my blog. However, with that said there will be additional costs to consider. If your youth is within a certain age you would be required to pay the unaccompanied minor charge ON TOP OF the flight price itself. Then if you select to use a travel agent/travel advisor you may be asked to pay additional small fees on top of that. Be prepared to pay the price for unaccompanied youth travel. It will be well worth the money. It's called VALUE over CHEAP for a reason. And value is not always cheap but you have to know what you're getting for the cost you're paying. You can be expected to pay anywhere from $50 upwards to $150 or more for the unaccompanied minor fee. You can be expected to pay a small to large fee for the travel agent/advisor because airlines just do not pay any commissions to them. Not to be crass or anything but -Would you work your everyday job for free? I think not. Being a travel advisor/agent that works full time to pay their bills is no different. Just because we are travel advisors does not mean we fly for free. The rules my friends have changed from eons ago!
  • Sharing Flight Details
I can't say enough about this section! No matter what you do - ALWAYS, always share the flight details / itinerary with the other parent or adult selected to meet the child. Airport, dates, times, notes and please stay in touch with that other adult at all times! For the sake of your youth and for your own sanity, prepare to do this in advance. The other parent or adult may be provided with a pass to meet the child either at the gate or the pick up station. The other parent needs to know where to go. And the worst thing that can happen is if the other adult goes to the wrong airport for pick up. There is a huge difference between Dallas Love Field airport and Dallas Fort Worth airport! (this is just an example of one situation folks...) Basically, do what's best for the youth no matter what and that goes for both adults! 

  • Tips for Parents - Preparing your Child for the Flight!
This is an area again that is not all-inclusive. So I'll highlight a few going down the list with short explanations.
    • Necessary documentation
One of the questions I get asked is what documentation is necessary for my youth to fly? My first question to you might be what is the age of your youth? If your youth is old enough to drive and has their drivers license, they should take it. If your youth is not old enough to drive yet old enough to fly solo then perhaps a birth certificate is wise. Either way, keep the documentation with the child for the entire time. Through the check-in process, through security, through in-flight navigation, through landing, through leaving the airport and then some! No matter what most people are expected to have some sort of identification on them in order to fly. Youth 16 and above can have their own passport with out the other parents signature. Youth 15 and younger may obtain a passport with the other parents approval and they are often good for around 5 years. Adult passports are different. Be sure to have your phone number and your name as well as the phone number, name and address of the pickup adult on the child at all times.

    • Security and Child Escort
Yes you're paying for an unaccompanied minor fee with the airline but does that mean your child is always accompanied by an able-bodied adult? Not the case. Be prepared for anything and everything! Generally you may be asked to escort the child through check-in, security and to the gate to directly hand over the youth to the airline staff member. Again, be prepared for everything and anything. Yes youth will be expected to go through the whole entire process just like an adult will when going on a plane or in travel. And often times the child may be able to pre-board before others.  Make sure you leave yourselves plenty of time to check in and get through security. It's a good idea to request confirmation of the flight landing and when the child has been handed over to the other adult.
    • Is there help for the Child?
There should always be help for anyone when traveling. Prepare your youth for who a child can turn to if the unaccompanied minor staff is unavailable. This may be in-flight for example. Just because you are paying an unaccompanied minor fee does not mean you are hiring "a babysitter" the entire time. Explain to your youth who and how to find the right help. Unformed attendant dress, name tags to look for, the button above the seats for attendant needs (given your child is old enough to reach it...) , etc. There is always help for the child. It might not be such a bad idea to role play before the child travels. It's also a great idea to arrange the seating in advance for your child. Either sitting as close to the front or as close to the back as possible. Airline attendants are normally required to seat themselves in these areas.
    • Dress and Pack for Comfort
Plane change altitude and weather permitting your youth could become hot or cold in-flight. Be sure the child is prepared for the different layers. It is much easier for a child to put on clothing than to take off clothing. Either way prepare the child accordingly. Make sure all clothing is properly labeled with first initial of first name and the last name on all articles. Most flights allow you as an adult to take one personal item and a carry on. The same often applies for the youth as well. An item can safely be stored underneath the seat in front of you - say a small backpack for example. Fill that with items such as snacks, books, travel games, crayons, coloring books, youth magazines, favorite photograph of a parent or a pet, kids favorite item such as a "blankie", etc. This will keep your youth busy while in-flight. Remember that just because you are paying an unaccompanied minor fee does not necessarily mean you have a full time "babysitter" at all times. This may be one of those times! Be sure to stock the backpack with the full flight itinerary with your info and the other parents info on it. Youth's medication. Tell the youth to leave them well enough alone in the backpack unless asked for it or unless they are old enough to know when to take them out. Sometimes (most often times) the other adult is required to have some sort of ID on them. After all you do not want the attendants to release your child to just anyone. The other adult may be given an escort pass by the airline.  The other adult may be able to pick up the youth at the gate or in the arrival area. Know where! This goes without saying communicate with the other adult at all times. Do it for the sake of the youth and your own sanity in worrying about the child the entire time. It may not always seem like the sane thing to do at the time but overall it really is!

Monday, July 22, 2019


Good morning Everyone!

Welcome to the Estes consultant of Travel blog. I hope you will enjoy all posts in our blog and find some semblance of recognition for you as a traveler. We cater to all travelers!  Through our travels we will write about the world as we bring them to you for education and purpose. Yes, it's kind of like our own little diary of travels but too, it's hopefully to help you make informed decisions as well when it comes to your future travel needs. We don't want to be a cliche to the travel industry. We just want to set ourselves apart as experts in the travel industry somehow!

Our motto "Life is too short ... don't travel alone" is an interesting concept brought about by the needs of travelers. Life IS short... and it's not about traveling alone physically as it is the concept of traveling without knowledge, without confusion from the many travel websites out there, or the many online booking tools you'll find! You might search about New York City excursions and come up with 1000's of returns! That's not a way to start your travel experience let me tell you! Believe it or not I have been where you are before. And I wish not to go back!! So with us you really are not traveling alone. You have our guidance 7/24 should you decide to reach out to us. And hey! If you don't that's ok too and you'll find a wealth of information here and on our brochure page to get you started.

To tell you a little bit about myself I'll first say that I am disabled. I am DEAF. A cochlear implant user but STILL very much Deaf! I know the trials and tribulations of traveling on my own as a Deaf traveler. It's quite interesting to walk into a hotel room and find all of your requests --> IGNORED! Even mobility and other users have the same issues. It's frustrating to get on a plane and find that you cannot understand what the loudspeaker is saying or that there even is a loudspeaker and your watching these flight attendants going through some motions that are archaic to you. They just look like clowns in a circus. Quite meaningless at times. Great way to start a vacation right??? NOT!  So I hope I can relate to some of you and for all others I will say that I grew up in mostly mainstreamed schools and with hearing parents who had no desire to learn sign language. Do I know sign language now? CERTAINLY! I graduated from Gallaudet University in '96 and it is one of the fondest memories I have of my life. Touring D.C. is FAB! And .. it has also changed a lot in 25 years!!

So what certifications do I have that qualify me as a travel expert bringing information to you do you ask? Well first of all I'd like to talk about my niche. Obviously #1 is Travel Certification. I am  verified by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES).
                                                                         Do you have Special Needs? Let's find out
Rent a Scooter for your Cruise Today!Travel Agent Proficient Certified through the Travel Institute. I passed that test with a 98! So I think I deserve SOME recognition here. #2: Disability travel. I have a CATA certification. What is that do you ask? Well it stands for Certified Accessibility Travel Advisor (or Agent as we are formerly called). #3: Spectrum Disorder Travel. I have my !CATP = Certified Autism Travel Professional

Interesting, right? And yes, I have MANY MORE certifications than this! I prefer to Specialize in All Inclusive and Cruise travel but I handle many other areas of the Travel Industry needs and requests. The Carribean is a destination I am most familiar with but I am also familiar with the many United States destinations including Hawaii, New York, D.C, Las Vegas, California and Florida. Yes folks -- SPELL DISNEY! I have been to Disney not once but 11 times! So I think I know my way around the World and able to give you great guidance. Planning Disney is not for the faint of heart!! And if you don't have the time to spend MANY hours on the internet hire a Disney Travel Professional (ie. ME for FREE). I also enjoy Paris, France! Who likes FOOD? Me! Me! Me! And perhaps you too?

So let's travel the world together as we explore the many destinations AND perhaps you'll find a little bit of FUN in every written blog here. Enough to keep you coming back for more!

So ta-ta for now my friends - until the next post!