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How to travel well with free air and great hotels on a budget.

Updated on June 26, 2013

An agent helps when a flight is canceled and so much more

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First step, find a great travel agent

I had the great experience to work for a wholesale travel company for many years. I saw many changes over the course of 16 years and how the internet changed the course of travel forever.

When I started in the travel industry in 1994 all travel was either done piecemeal in which the traveler did all arrangements on their own, or the smart ones went to a travel agent to put a package together for them. At no cost to themselves they had a contact to work with if they were to run into any trouble such as helping with a last minute flight delay or cancellation. Your agent would contact your hotel and transfer company, cruise line etc. and advise them of the new flight arrangements as well as secure you on a new flight if you were having issues with the airline. Now, when a person wants to travel it's as easy as pulling up Expedia, Travelocity, Hotwire etc., perusing the options and book online.

I remembered a few years ago when myself and a colleague were traveling to Orlando for a business seminar. A weather related storm canceled our outbound night flight. Delta announced to the crowd that we would not be leaving until early in the morning so the two of us went to the Delta agent desk and secured new connecting flights (we were routed through Atlanta). Delta did not advise the 100 plus travelers that they now did not have connecting flights (if Atlanta wasn't their final destination), so the travelers sat (or laid) around assuming Delta was making those arrangements for them. We tried to advise as many as we could to go to the desk and have Delta agents work on new connecting flights but some didn't believe us so unfortunately they wasted more time later taking on that task. If you were to run into problems like these, your agent would be there for you.

The great thing about the information following is you get to use a travel agent and still get super savings on your vacation. It's an absolute win win as a travel agent is your ally. A good one can give you complete peace of mind when traveling. How to find a good one if you don't have one already? When calling around ask for the agent that specializes in the area you are looking at (such as a cruise, European vacation, Alaskan adventure etc). Also ask how long the agent has been around. Good agents have been in the field a minimum of 10 years and have a good grasp on the nuances of this field.

Here are some great reasons to contact a travel agent:

  • They have extensive knowledge in the particulars of the travel field.
  • They cost you nothing, yet their service can be invaluable.
  • They have contacts with the cruise lines and hotel chains with perks that may be available in which you weren't aware of.
  • They will do the work for you if you want them too or guide you if you're confused.
  • Handle issues for you that may come up along the way.
  • They have a personal interest in seeing that you have a great trip where there isn't with online companies.

Lastly, if you do choose an agent give them the loyalty they are giving you and book with them. I always found it so sad as well as rude that just because their service was free people would use their wonderful knowledge, use hours and hours of their time, then book online. They are a very hard working, dedicated group of people which are only paid when you book your trip with them. How would you feel if the tables were turned?

Travel agents make great allies

With the high cost of brick and mortar agencies, more and more agents are home based but still have a website which will give you the information you need to know
With the high cost of brick and mortar agencies, more and more agents are home based but still have a website which will give you the information you need to know | Source
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I want to get out of here!

Taking a vacation is the most wonderful thing you can do for yourself. Americans used to take a minimum of a week vacation. But in the past 15 years people feel too stressed to leave their job for very long. The average trip now has shrunk to 4 or 5 nights maximum. With so much work to do, and the stresses it puts on your mind and body, it's all the more reason to break away and gain some perspective and enjoyment. Europeans on average take a minimum of two weeks to travel at a time and at least twice a year! They know that there has to be a balance in life. All work and no play....

If you haven't tried the all-inclusive concept, or don't know much about it, check out how this type of inclusive travel which can be more affordable and worry free.

Specific credit cards offer airline miles credit

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First get a credit card

I know you're saying WHAT? How is that going to help? Well, It won't help in the short term if you want to travel in the next few months, but even so, for future trips or if you are planning now for a great trip in a year or so I advise this, but follow the rules closely so you don't get into trouble with your finances.

I suggest taking out a Capital One travel Visa card or one with a similar benefit. A travel credit card gives you points for every dollar you charge. The Capital One Venture card will give you 2 points for every purchase which will add up more quickly so see if you qualify. The nice thing about this card versus say, an AA credit card is that with Capital One you can use it for any airline and there are no blackout dates where an AA credit card can only be used for AA air (and it's affiliates) and has some restrictions. That's why I like the Capital One card best. Personally I don't see a reason to use any credit card if you aren't getting some benefit from it. So, if you have a useless credit card with no benefit to you (no points or miles), pay if off and cancel the account. You should always get a benefit for your loyalty.

Once you have received it, use it and only it for all purchases to rack up the points quickly. I use mine for insurance, grocery stores, restaurants, clothing and anything else that I can charge but, and this is a big BUT, log each charge as you would a debit or check purchase. By doing this your points will go up quickly and when the Visa bill comes in you will have already deducted all the purchases so, no interest charges! You don't want to be saving on travel and then paying huge interest charges on your visa account. That would defeat the whole purpose.

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A little known secret

The big wholesalers like Apple Vacations and GOGO Worldwide Vacations don't widely promote this but they will match the prices you see on major online travel sites like Expedia and Travelocity. What that means to you is that you can call your travel agent and say you found this package on say, the Travelocity website. You'd like to see if they can beat it. Just a note though, these online sites change frequently so just because you see a great price on Monday doesn't mean that price will be the same on Tuesday, in fact even a couple of hours could make a difference so once you see the package you want and a price you can afford you need to be prepared to move on it right away.

If you have enough points to redeem one or two airline tickets you will save big time. You can either book the flights yourself and then get credit on your Visa bill or have the credit card travel department book the flights pulling your points to pay for the ticket(s). Each credit card company has their own rules so be sure and follow them when redeeming. One important point when booking air whether it is you booking the flight, your credit card travel department or your travel agent make SURE your seats are locked in. Otherwise, you will not only not be seated with any companion you are traveling with but also those without seats are the first to get bumped from a flight that is overloaded.

If air is taken care of in this way, you are then only looking at the best hotel, cruise and transfer (transportation to and from the airport to hotel) package. Again you can look at Hotwire.com or Hotels.com, Expedia, Travelocity etc. or see what your agent can find for you in your price range.

Your agent then will forward the package details to the wholesaler to book. They will need full payment in accepting the lower price, but then so would Expedia and Travelocity.

So why not book online?

Because you don't want to do as good as you see online, you want to do better. GOGO Worldwide Vacations will actually beat the price by $10.00 per person as long the package is identical to the online one. They only work with travel agents so ask you agent to call GOGO

If you aren't computer savy you can call your agent and have them find the best deal for you, even check the online travel companies themselves for you if you'd like. Tell them the price you are willing to pay. They will let you know if you are in the ballpark or not. If you don't like the results they find and have seen for yourself lower prices somewhere, question the agent about it. If at that point you still are unsatisfied with the answer then try another agent to verify results, but as stated earlier, agents only get paid if you book with them so, don't use their time (and yours) on unfounded expectations. With prolonged indecision you will probably lose an awesome deal!

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    • New Understanding profile image
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      New Understanding 4 years ago from Northern California

      Yes Luis that is so true. Another thing about planning a trip is the anticipation of it as well. It makes the planning more fun Knowing you have something great coming up can really lift you spirits!

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      I've always felt a LOT more comfortable dealing with a travel agent, not so much for the airlines, but for the end of the trip accommodations; hotels and cars, especially in a foreign country.

    • profile image

      Maureen 4 years ago

      Great comments and so true! As an agent myself, I do my best to get the best package price for my clients. I will also match or beat other prices. The most important things are great customer service and knowledge of destinations & resorts.

    • New Understanding profile image
      Author

      New Understanding 4 years ago from Northern California

      Thanks Paradise7, yes foreign travel can be very tricky as there is the added concern of understanding the currency, language barriers and political stability of the region. A travel agent specializing in the country you plan to visit is a big plus.

    • profile image

      Candice Harding 3 years ago

      This is a great hub! I traveled cross country (unfortunately, for school instead of pleasure) frequently for four years. I always booked online, but since then I have started looking into working with a travel agency. Online booking works well enough, but when I'm looking for hotels and rentals in addition to a flight, I'd much rather put my trust in an agent.

      Candice Harding

      http://www.Canadasbestvalueinn-princegeorge.com

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