Confused with all the travel information on the internet?

There is so much information available on the internet right now regarding travel. There are online travel sites for cruises, hotels, planes, trains, and any other type of travel. But which is the right product for you? Is the location of the hotel where you want to be? Is the type of room or stateroom right for you? Is that cruise line the one I should book? Not all products are created equal or suitable for everyone. How do you say it? Contact a travel professional.

Are there travel agencies?

There have been several articles, and even the president of the United States has said that travel agencies do not exist or that they will disappear. In a way they are right. Travel agents in the past were simply someone who booked a trip for someone who called or showed up at the main office of a travel agency. Showcase travel agencies are few and far between today, as most of the “travel agents” have gone home to work. Even the term “travel agent” is going away because what they do now is different than what they did before.

Travel Professionals/Travel Advisors

Travel agents are now more advisors and advisers, which is why they are now called travel professionals or travel advisers. Even the travel industry is trying to avoid using the term “travel agent.” They no longer just book a trip for someone, they know more about what is available to the traveling customer. Travel professionals are now constantly learning, constantly traveling, getting input from other travel professionals on where they have traveled and are a resource for what it takes to travel today.

When you use an online travel agency like Expedia, Travelocity, etc. you can’t have someone to watch your back. They book the trip for you and then you’re pretty much on your own. Let’s say your flight is cancelled, who is going to book a replacement flight? it’s you, not them. If you use a travel professional, that travel professional will. If something goes wrong on your trip, if the room you booked is not what you thought it would be, who will fix it? A travel professional will also constantly check price drops before final payment and whether a new promotion offered would be more beneficial than the one that was booked with a deposit. All of these things can be addressed before final payment.

A travel professional works with you from the moment you first speak to them until you are home safe and sound and any and all issues have been resolved or addressed.

It costs more to use a travel professional

This is not always true. It’s true that some travel professionals charge fees, but not all do. This is because some providers, such as airlines and some hotels, do not pay commissions or some of the providers have reduced the amount of commissions paid to the travel professional. To make ends meet, some travel professionals charge fees. I charge $50 per person for domestic airline reservations and $100 for international airline reservations. I will also charge a fee sometimes for hotels for the same reason or if I am organizing the various sections of the trip myself. If I book a cruise or tour, I do not charge a fee as the supplier pays me a commission. Remember, whether you use a travel professional or not, the commission is still paid as it is automatically included in the provider’s price. So why not hire a travel professional and avoid hassles and save time?

The rules of travel are constantly changing and it is up to the travel professional to keep their clients up to date with them.

Examples: Passports

For example, did you know that as of January 2016 you may need a passport to travel by plane within the country? This is due to a law called the REAL ID Act. This requires all travelers to have a REAL ID-compliant ID that includes all of these fields: full legal name, signature, date of birth, gender, unique identification number, primary residence address, and a front-facing photograph of the applicant. Unfortunately, there are still a handful of states that are not in compliance. Do you know which states are compliant and which are not? Your travel professional does. By the way, the non-compliant states/territories are American Samoa, Louisiana, and New Hampshire. The states of Minnesota and New York offer optional enhanced ID at a cost, so because it’s optional, a large percentage of residents don’t have one. Some states have requested additional extensions, but it is unclear if they will be granted. Currently, only four states (Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York) and American Samoa are not technically compliant.

Also, we still don’t know if January 1, 2016 will be the requirement date or later? Due to this law, passport processing time for everyone will be affected. All passports issued in 2006 to comply with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative that went into effect in 2007 are expiring, prompting a large number of renewals. So because of those renewals along with the possible REAL ID application, passport waits are expected to increase even more. As of October 11, the current wait has already increased from one week to four to six weeks for standard passports and three weeks for expedited ones. Expedited in person could be up to eight days depending on travel need.

Ultimately, the REAL ID Act will require all state-issued driver’s licenses to include “machine-readable technology” or chips to help keep us safe while traveling. For more information about the REAL ID Act, visit http://www.dhs.gov/real-id-public-faqs.

In addition, passports are recommended for cruise ships, just as they are required to fly outside of the United States. The reason is that if you need to fly back to the United States from a foreign port, you have a passport to do so. Just because you’re on a cruise departing from a US port, you’re technically traveling internationally as soon as you step on the ship, since most ships are registered outside of the US!

Example: Visas

A travel professional could help you determine if visas are required to travel where you want to go. If they’re not sure, they know where to send you to get that information and get confirmation that you need it or not for the type of trip you’re taking. For example, for most cruises, if you depart from a US port and return to the same US port, you probably don’t need a visa to visit the ports. This is called a “closed loop” trip. But then again, most cruise ships. Always double check to see if one is needed.

Example: travel insurance

Once again, not all travel insurance is the same. Should you buy travel insurance? Absolutely!!! I advise my clients not to purchase travel insurance, mostly from the cruise provider or product. The reason is that the coverage is not as comprehensive as third party policies. Travel insurance isn’t just purchased for trip delays, lost/damaged luggage, or cancellation protection. Some health insurance companies do not cover you when you travel outside of the United States. Medicare does not. Travel insurance will act as your primary health insurance during your trip, from the moment you leave until the moment you return home. In addition, it provides emergency evacuation for health reasons and protects you for other elements. Always read the policy and information provided by the travel insurance issuer to see what is covered. Your travel professional will know a good travel insurance issuer.

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