During these times of uncertainty and world turbulence, it is so important to have someone by your side to help you every step of the way. Whether you’re a cruise lover, an on-the-go solo traveler, a parent with little ones to entertain or a sun seeker, one of our travel advisors is here to listen to your needs and wishes, answer all of your questions, ensure your hard-earned money takes you exactly where you want to go – and help bring you back home if anything goes wrong. Here are 5 reasons why you need a travel advisor by your side when you book your next vacation.
1. First and foremost, when you are ready to travel, we are here to make YOUR travel dream come true
A travel advisor will listen to your wishes to plan the vacation you’ve always dreamed of. No matter how big or small your budget is, or how long or short you want your itinerary to be, they’ll make your once-in-a-lifetime getaway come true. Plus, they’ll take into consideration any special needs – dietary, mobility, accessibility – so you stay safe and can enjoy your time away. And if you want to incorporate your passions, interests and lifestyles into your travels – whether it’s food, art, biking, yoga or more – they can do that too!
2. We are here to save you money
Contrary to many beliefs, the best deals are often not accessible on the Internet! Because they have relationships with many top travel suppliers and a strong network of trusted on location contacts, travel advisors have access to exclusive offers and deals you won’t find anywhere else. Plus, they’ll often be able to include free perks to elevate your experience.
3. Our only job is to plan travel… literally
Think about what you know about your job that no one else does. Then, think about how you’d like to have similar, insider knowledge when it comes to planning your next trip! A travel advisor can not only save you money, but also a lot of time and effort. If you’ve ever booked travel by yourself, you know how many hours, and often days, you can spend digging through the avalanche of options and (mis)information available on the Internet. Our travel advisors are master planners who can efficiently coordinate everything from flights and hotels to tours and transfers to create a seamless and worry-free journey. They can also advise on questions you might not have considered, like visa requirements, vaccinations, current travel advisories and others to help prevent any troubles while you’re in destination.
4. We can take you to places where you couldn’t get to by yourself
By asking the right questions, your travel advisor can suggest countries, cities, tours, excursions and such that you wouldn’t have thought of yourself. Because they have contacts all around the world, they’re the first to know about up-and-coming and exciting destinations, so you can experience them before everyone else flocks there. And they can make sure someone of trust waits for you and guides you to the best places to see from a local’s perspective. This is the type of unique, personalized experience you can’t find on the Internet. Plus, they might have been there themselves and be able to offer insider tips and suggestions on what to pack before your departure.
5. And most importantly, we offer you peace of mind
From the very beginning of the planning process to the moment you come back home head full of memories, our travel advisor is with you to ensure you can focus on one thing: having the time of your life. But despite perfect planning, some misfortune can still occur. And if anything goes wrong while you’re traveling, know that you have someone by your side who’s just an email or a phone call away; one person to go to rather than having to call the travel supplier and be one in a thousand others.
Love will find a way.
By Patricia Harris and David Lyon Globe Correspondent, Updated March 19, 2020
Talk about wedding jitters.
With the worldwide disruption in travel from the coronavirus outbreak, couples planning destination weddings are caught between hope and a hard place. Meantime, the roughly $16 billion per year romance travel industry — an umbrella term for destination weddings, honeymoons, proposal travel, and babymoons — is holding its collective breath and chanting the mantra of “keep calm and carry on.”
Lisa Sheldon operates I Do Island Weddings & Honeymoons in Janesville, Wis. She is also president of Destination Wedding & Honeymoon Specialists Association, a network of 900-plus US and Canadian romance travel advisers. The honeymoon side of travel tends to be flexible, she notes, but “it’s a little bit harder when it’s a destination wedding. This is a day that a couple has dreamed about for a long time and planned and spent money on. It’s already an emotional trip — and then to have something like this come in and affect it. . . . That really is out of their control.”
A travel agent for 32 years, Sheldon has weathered SARS, flu epidemics, and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But even in the best of times, she suggests her clients have a backup plan — all the more so now when the situation is so fluid.
“We always ask our destination brides and grooms to consider what happens if it rains. What happens if a hurricane is coming and you can’t get to the island? We’ve got to have a Plan B in place,” Sheldon says. “Maybe they go to the courthouse and do a quiet ceremony. Then they can postpone the destination wedding until later when some of this all settles down and they can re-book everything.”
The Globe spoke with several local travel agents. By and large, their destination wedding clients opt for the Caribbean and Mexico’s Cancun, Cozumel, and Riviera Maya resorts. And so far, they don’t seem to be jumping ship.
Katie Vecchione, founder of Love Life Travel Club in Rockland, specializes in destination weddings and honeymoons and occasional adults-only romance vacations. “I have a destination wedding in May, June, July, and August, and another in October. So far I have not heard any panic from anyone.”
Her next wedding is planned for May 2 at Sandals Montego Bay in Jamaica. “Fifty people are going. So far, I have only had two of the guests ask me what would happen if Sandals or Jet Blue should cancel the reservations,” Vecchione reports. “At this time, none of them have wanted to cancel the reservation on their own. I think the scariest thing for people traveling to another part of the world is that they might get stuck somewhere.”
But everything depends on what happens next. In June, another couple is scheduled to tie the knot on Santorini, an island in the Cyclades archipelago of Greece. Despite US limitations on travel from Europe, “They have no plans yet to cancel,″ Vecchione says. “Everyone is waiting to see what the time will bring. The bride has been pretty quiet so far.”
Amy Grishman, founder of Charm & Awe Travel Co. in Swampscott, says that while she is hearing “a lot of fear about planning travel right now, I am not seeing a huge effect on honeymoon travel and destination wedding travel yet. I’m finding the younger demographics aren’t as concerned about the coronavirus.”
She is helping to plan her sister’s wedding in Aruba at the end of June. “Canceling her wedding isn’t even a consideration at this point,” Grishman says. “She’s not concerned. Everything will go on as planned.”
Grishman adds that one impact of the pandemic has been the increased flexibility of many travel suppliers. “They’re now adjusting their cancellation policies for new reservations to allow for more flexibility. Hopefully, that provides reassurance to those travelers who want to book travel for later this summer, fall, and winter.”
Destination wedding planning continues apace. Brenda Nazaire-Coulanges, a Somerville-based Platinum Key Travel Concierge affiliate of Travel Makers, is working on a 2021 wedding right now for the Riviera Maya. “The clients haven’t shown any signs of changing their minds. Weddings and honeymoons are very important investments, both emotionally and financially,” she says.
Lesley Hock, director of leisure development at Travel Leaders in Framingham, notes that travel planners are already moving into the prime season for romance travel. “June is the big bridal month,” she says, and her honeymoon and destination wedding clients who made their plans months ago are in a holding pattern. “No one calls for a destination wedding for next month. You plan these things almost a year in advance. Because they booked so far ahead, they’re sitting tight right now.”
A travel agent for 50 years, Hock likens the current situation to conditions after 9-11, when “people did not want to travel at all. The world seems to be on hold. People who are thinking about going away the end of the summer, the fall, next winter, they are in a wait-and-see pattern.” The advantage for those who wait is that “after this is over, I think you will be seeing some ‘welcome back’ sales.”
So far, none of Hock’s clients is considering relocating their nuptials closer to home. “When people think of a destination wedding,” she says, “they don’t necessarily think of going to Cape Cod.”
Like every agent with whom the Globe spoke, Hock advises her clients to purchase trip cancellation insurance. The gold standard — and most expensive — is “cancel for any reason” insurance. Depending on the insurer, such insurance generally reimburses travelers 75 percent to 80 percent of costs. And some circumstances may still remain uncovered. As a general rule, such insurance must be purchased at booking, or at least before final payment.
Because the travel situation is so fluid, most agents are also advising that clients with existing bookings adopt a wait-and-see attitude. DWHSA president Lisa Sheldon suggests waiting until it’s closer to your travel date.
“If we are still dealing with this through the end of May and you are traveling in July, then maybe we need to revisit it. As agents, we just deal with it calmly and provide our clients with the links to the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and Homeland Security. That way the travelers can read it for themselves and without our interpretation. Then they can make informed decisions.”
Nazaire-Coulanges concurs. “People do not want to be treated like they are dummies. They want to be the ones to make the final decisions. It’s just a matter of giving them the right information.”
Sheldon grants that these “are scary times,” but she is also in the hope business. “I’ve seen stuff like this for so many years and we always come out on the other side.”
WHAT IS IT AND HOW TO TRAVEL SAFELY
World Health Organization (WHO): Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19, which it was unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
Symptons of COVID-19: The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment.
Center for Diease Control (CDC): Transmission of the virus occurs by droplets from coughing or sneezing or direct contact. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.
Before Traveling: As a first step in planning any trip abroad, check the Travel Advisories for your intended destination.
Get Travel Insurance: We always advice travelers to purchase travelers insurance. It is critical, especially for international travel, to know there are different types and coverages so you can purchase the right kind. Even a cancel for any reason coverage (CFAR) will not provide a complete refund. You wil still be subject to cancellation fees.
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Never sweat planning a vacation again.
In the age of the Internet, relying on a human instead of a search engine may seem completely medieval. While planning your own trip may sound nice in theory, Google and Yelp reviews can only take you so far — sometimes experience is just plain necessary. Still need convincing? Check out these five reasons why you should always use an experienced travel agent.
They’ve been there, done that.
Travel agents make it their business to experience a destination, restaurant, or personally participate in an activity before recommending it to their clients. If they haven’t personally been there, they are well connected with other agents or locals who are more than eager to fill in the gaps! No guessing or finger crossing on your part, when you work with a travel agent.
They have connections.
Travel agents have friends in high places. They cultivate personal relationships with representatives at the companies they sell, which they can leverage to get you the best experience possible. “Sold out” doesn’t always mean “sold out” if you know the right people.
It’s a full-time job.
Not many of us have an extra 10+ hours a week to spend researching, calling and negotiating prices. Both you and your travel agent get up and go to work every morning — so why spend your precious time on what they already do for a living?
You get the best option.
If you call a hotel and ask about open rooms, the concierge certainly isn’t going to tell you if the hotel around the block sounds like a better fit. Your agent has access to databases full of information that result in the best possible experience for you.
Travel to only the best places.
Ever notice how when you ask Siri for a recommendation, you end up at the same overbooked restaurant as every other tourist in town? Travel agents come backed with region-specific knowledge that will keep you on the cutting edge and vacationing like a local.
Your next trip comes easy!
Finding a good travel agent is like finding a good hairdresser — you tend to want to keep them around. The more great experiences you have, the more excited you’ll be to plan your next big adventure with an agent you know you can trust.
Connect with one of our specialized travel agents and get started today!
Featured Honeymoon Review: With planning a wedding in a pandemic, the last thing I wanted to do or had time for was plan our honeymoon.
Katie took all that stress away. She answered all of our questions quickly and provided all the information we needed. - Tina S.
Featured Destination Wedding Review: This is the second trip to Jamaica Katie has booked for my wife and I, and both completely exceeded expectations, this one was our wedding and Katie also handled accommodations for an additional 45 guests on our behalf. We will book all future vacations with LoveLife and Katie! - Josh M.
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