We hear this question every day. Well, not every day, but we hear it often, from friends that rarely travel outside the US or from people we are having conversations with at parties or in other social settings. Everyone knows they can book hotels and airline tickets online, and if you have been on a cruise, you probably booked it yourself online. The online travel site advertisements on cheap hotel rooms and cheap travel are everywhere. You can Google trips to anywhere in the world and dozens of sites will pop up for you to browse. So why use a travel specialist?
First, you don’t pay us for our services. Just like the online sites, we are paid by the cruise lines, airlines, hotels, and tour operators. Getting a travel specialist to help plan and book your trip is free to you. On occasion, an agent may charge a fee, but then apply it to your trip if you book. This is to protect them from spending their time doing all the research and then having you book online anyway. Travel agent fees or costs to use an agent seem to be the most misunderstood facet of our business. You can spend hours searching websites and maybe making some phone calls to book a vacation. Or you can contact a travel specialist and have them spend the time researching deals and venues while you’re working or spending time with your family or doing activities you enjoy. In addition, if you have booked the trip with us, we will watch for upgrades or available discounts that may show up that affect your trip and then can offer these to you.
The reason I started this blog with a discussion of money is because cost is the first thing many of us think of when planning a trip. This is understandable and important, however the value a travel specialist brings to your vacation is not all in the dollars and cents. I booked a recent short vacation for someone in New Orleans. They knew they wanted to go to New Orleans but didn’t want to stay in a conventional hotel. I found a small boutique hotel (fewer than ten rooms) in the garden district near Bourbon Street, but a bit off the beaten path. This gave them a different experience than a conventional hotel would have and it was exactly what they were looking for when visiting this unique city. I had another client who wanted a family vacation in the Caribbean and was overwhelmed with the options available. After understanding their budget and interest, I narrowed it down to a handful of options, making it easier for my client to make a decision.
I travel to locations and hotels overseas six to eight times a year. Even my personal vacations usually include a site visit. If you are traveling to Panama, I can set up your itinerary so that the local holidays will minimally impact your trip. If you want to raft in Costa Rica, I know the best white water rafting spots to fit your level of experience. If you want to hike a desert in Chile or explore the Greek Isles, cruise the Danube or other rivers, or sail the ocean in a large ship or a small boat, I can provide you with invaluable advice. We also know the resorts because we have been there. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway with someone special, that is a completely different resort experience than if you are going with your family, and we can help you with either. If you want a trip with extreme adventure, we have ideas for that as well. We have the resources available for just about any type of travel. Now, I admit I haven’t been everywhere, but here at our Condor Tours & Travel office, the cumulative experience of our travel specialists totals over 75 years! We can give you first hand observations on nearly all resorts and hotels, and we can recommend activities or tours.
We recently had a client that booked a cruise in the Baltic Sea, visiting Norway, Denmark, and Holland. After the cruise, he took the train from Rotterdam to Berlin and enjoyed three days exploring this historic city, including a guided tour of Potsdam and a walking food tour of some of Berlin’s neighborhoods. We organized all of this for him and sent him off for two weeks to over ten destinations. His vacation included air and train travel, cruising, hotel reservations and guided tours. Because we coordinated all of this for him, he only had to deal with us. It’s our job to deal with the suppliers, hotels, cruise lines, air lines and tour operators in the various countries.
We protect your personal information and you only give it one time to us. You aren’t putting your credit card and passport information at many different sites – just to us. We then protect your information in our secure site and delete it upon the completion of your tour.
Finally, our team will help you identify any visa requirements your destinations may have by helping you to obtain this information, especially if you are traveling using documents other than a US passport. When you leave on your trip, you will know the documents you will need to enter the countries you are visiting. The rules in Latin America and the South Pacific regions are usually more complicated than in Europe, and we will help you navigate the laws of various countries.
The internet offers so much information that it can be overwhelming. Feel free to do your research on a destination, then, let your agent help with the trip details, and let them make recommendations on accommodations, tours, etc ., as they are the true experts in travel. Whether you come to us or go with a local agent – be sure to research them. How long have they been in business, do they get out to see destinations or work with well-informed suppliers? As with any industry, the experience of your agent will insure a better travel experience. Remember – the internet is for looking but your agent is for booking!