We typically don't travel for the holidays, unless it's to see family. Cold weather, airport lines, and the general moodiness of it all can lead to unpleasantness. At the end of 2017, however, we had the opportunity to travel to New Orleans, which was a lot of fun. We were part of a larger group, so there were a lot of things we "had to do" and our schedule was some what regimented,but we did get some time to get out on our own and explore a bit. The unseasonable cold hit New Orleans as well, and we weren't able to do everything we wanted, but that just means we'll have to go back. Foodies that we are, I noticed how beautiful the presentation on the food we ate was. As this was my first time in New Orleans, I can now say I have been down Bourbon Street, but can safely say I won't go back. Twenty years ago, it may have been a different story, but seeing people just being ridiculous, up to and including a man relieving himself in a corner, isn't my idea of fun. The people of New Orleans were friendly and welcoming, and as I said, I look forward to returning when we've got more of our own time to explore places like the Garden District and maybe take a guided tour or two.
Last weekend, we were fortunate enough to be in one of my favorite places in the world, Orange Beach, Alabama. We went for a family reunion, which in itself was wonderful and an overall great trip. Scott and I even proved to ourselves we could power through the 18 hour drive in one fell swoop and did so overnight on the 4th and 5th.
One thing we didn't necessarily count on was Hurricane Nate making landfall. Before we left, we saw the storm tracking off the coast of Central America, so we knew we had to watch it carefully, and I'm grateful to say that the eye of the storm went west further than expected and made landfall in Louisiana, not that I'm grateful that they got the brunt of the storm. Talking to the Alabama locals, the Eastern side of a hurricane is the worst side of the storm, because that's where the "hook" is. Estimates for wind gusts of the storm were 30-50 mph, which we often have in Nebraska. What we don't have is the walls of water that come with that wind in the form rain and waterspouts emerging from the ocean.
Storms of this sort are so dangerous because they are so unpredictable and change so very quickly. For example, before the rain hit, a waterspout formed about 10 miles offshore and blew ashore, creating the need for a tornado warning. Voluntary evacuation orders were put in place by city leadership and a mandatory curfew was set from 8pm on Saturday to 6am on Sunday.
Nate moved quickly and was gone seemingly as quickly as he arrived...and was set at a Category 2. Being through what we experienced, I cannot imagine what the people who experienced Harvey, Irma, and other storms at higher categories have been through. My advice during Hurricane Season,which is July through November, is to be watchful if you're traveling, be prepared, and have a plan. If you're at a resort or on a cruise ship, they will take care of you and keep you safe as long as you follow their instructions. These storms, no matter what category they are, are no joke and not something to be taken lightly.
Sitting here writing my blog this week, I'm trying to think of a single person I know who doesn't have a "favorite" vacation spot they've been to more than once, and I can't think of anyone. There are as many favorite destinations for as many reasons as people can create, and two people may have the same "favorite" destination for very different reasons. While it's great to go back to something familiar and comfortable, I would extend the challenge to you to stretch your comfort zone just a bit and the next time you're in your favorite vacation location, try something you've never done before. Whether it's as simple as a dish that you've seen on the menu of your favorite restaurant on vacation, but never tried it, DO IT! If it's a new adventure that will give you some new perspective and new appreciation and add another reason to your list of WHY wherever it is is your favorite vacation spot, DO IT!
What are some of your favorite vacation spots and why? I have a number of them, and will be traveling to one of them in a little over a week. I'm VERY excited about my trip, even though it's a short one!
Share in the comments below!
Over the past two weeks, the US has experienced two devastating hurricanes, the second of which made landfall in Florida this morning. Our hearts go out to the people of Texas as they continue their clean-up efforts from Hurricane Harvey, and the people of Florida as they prepare for what Irma brings them. Even before Irma arrived in Florida, her path of destruction has been nothing if not devastating. Barbuda, the sister island to Antigua in the Leeward Islands, was all but destroyed, leaving 1500 residents homeless. St. Thomas and St. John in the US Virgin Islands and St. Maarten in the British Virgin Islands were hit as well, and hit hard. The pictures with this post are Trunk Bay in St. John, USVI and the man-made reef project in Serenity Bay on Disney's Private Island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay. Sadly, a storm blew through and destroyed this project years ago, as well as took the ship set of the Flying Dutchman from the "Pirates of The Caribbean" movies, which had been "docked" at Castaway Cay as well.
We continue to hold all affected by these catastrophic storms in our thoughts and in our hearts, and express unending gratitude to first responders, rescue task forces, and FEMA workers who are deployed away from their families, sometimes for months at a time, in order to help in whatever ways they can.
If you'd like more information on how storms are handled from a travel perspective, leave a comment below and we can explore that in a future post. Stay safe wherever you are and tell your loved ones how much they mean to you!
On your next trip to Walt Disney World, you won't want to miss the opportunity to dine at Disney's Coral Reef restaurant, housed inside the Living Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion. Reservations are required for this popular spot, but going to the trouble to get them is very, very worth it. The family-friendly atmosphere is fun and light with a distinct elegance to it, but not so fancy that you won't feel comfortable in whatever you wear around the park. Best of all, the Coral Reef restaurant accepts Disney Dining Plan table service credits!
DID YOU KNOW: In 2018, the Disney Dining plan is being modified to allow 1 cocktail per guest (ages 21 and over) per meal?
Want more details? Ready to plan your 2018 Disney destination vacation? Head on over to our Contact Us page and send us a message!
Before sailing on our first cruise, I thought...what could there POSSIBLY be to do floating around on a ship for multiple days? I'm going to get so bored! That theory was put to rest quickly with our first cruise, which was not on a Disney Cruise Line ship. We had a great time and it was a learning experience for our future cruises, which, to date, have all been on Disney Cruise Line even though we don't have children. That's another blog though. Having sailed on each of the four ships currently in the Disney fleet (and anxiously awaiting the three new ships that will launch in 2021, 2022, and 2023), here are 10 ways that we've discovered that you can RUIN your Disney Cruise Line vacation!
10) Don't try new foods
If you are a picky eater, a cruise is actually the perfect environment for you to try new things and step a bit out of your comfort zone. With food being included in the price of your cruise (other than specialty restaurants Palo and Remy and concession items), you can order anything from the menu and try it. If you don't like it, your wait staff will happily bring you something you will like. Also, if you REALLY like something (say, on steak and lobster night), order multiple of whatever you want.
9) Don't relax
There are always activities happening somewhere on board, from mixology classes to fitness classes, character meet and greets, games and activities, movies (first-run and Disney Classics shown on Funnel Vision) and more. Each evening, a Personal Navigator will be left in your stateroom outlining the activities available for the following day. If your speed is more pulling up a deck chair and enjoying a frosty vacation beverage, do it! It's YOUR vacation. Make it what you want it, but make it a point to go back home refreshed with memories of a relaxing vacation.
8) Don't see the stage shows before/after dinner
Each evening in the Walt Disney Theatre, broadway-caliber shows take place. If you choose early dinner seating, you'll have the opportunity to go to the show after dinner. If you choose late dinner seating, you'll go beforehand if you choose. Amazing casts of very talented crew members will sing, dance, and bring magic to life on stage with classics like The Golden Mickeys, Tangled, Beauty and the Beast, and Frozen. If you'd like to enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail or light snack, concession stands are right outside the theatre, or waitstaff will walk through prior to the show to get you what you need.
7) Don't Dress for Dinner
I get it. You're on vacation. The last thing you want to do is get dressed up for dinner. Well, let me tell you, there's something so special about getting ready to enjoy a beautiful meal in a beautiful restaurant that is something we truly look forward to. Clients of mine took their very first cruise in June of this year, and dressing for dinner made such an impression on their 12 year old son, he completely changed his wardrobe and hair to reflect a more polished, "fancy" look for every day on their return home. If you're planning on eating at Palo and/or Remy aboard the Disney ships, a little fanciness is required.
6) Don't pack sunscreen
As a true "ginger" red hair/extremely fair skin, I can spend a total of about 15 minutes in the sun before showing signs of pink. Caribbean sun is more intense, so by all means, pack sunscreen that works for you and remember to reapply often, even if it says waterproof. On our last cruise, we saw a fellow passenger that was the color of a maraschino cherry, and it was early in the cruise. I actually hurt for him.
5) Don't make reasonable requests
One of the best things about Disney is the culture of making magic happen for their guests. If you had a particularly delightful dessert and would like it again the following night, if they can make it happen, they will, even if it's not on the menu. I will caution you that this is not a license to take advantage of your wait staff or make life for your room steward impossible. Sail with the golden rule, and it will be a magical journey for all involved.
4) Don't take pictures
While you don't want to be "that" guest who is constantly shooting pictures and forgetting to be present in the moment, take pictures! Be creative and think of ways to make your vacation memories as fun to watch/review in 5 years as they are the moment you get home.
3) Don't try new things
One of the greatest parts of cruising is having to unpack once and getting to see new places every day. Plan an excursion for something you've never done before at least once on your trip! I will caution you that wandering around in many of the ports without some sort of excursion planned is not safe, so make sure you're mindful of safety, first and foremost. If you have specific questions about a port, the guest services desk onboard is very helpful and will provide tips and tricks to make your cruise a pleasant one.
2) Don't get to know your waitstaff
Disney is the only cruise line that features rotational dining. You'll be assigned a rotation of their dining rooms, and your table number will remain the same at each of them...and so will your wait staff. The crew is from all over the world, so taking time to get to know them, and allow them to get to know you, will make for a more fulfilling vacation. We have staff friends we made on a Disney cruise in 2009 that we're still in contact with!
1) Don't count on fun
There truly is something for everyone on a Disney Cruise. If you DON'T have fun, you're trying not to. From the night clubs and piano bars to onboard activities and spa treatments, enjoy yourself! That's what vacation is all about, right?
If I've enticed you and you want to sail BEFORE September 30th of this year (or take any sort of Disney destination vacation for that matter, hop on over to our Disney Promotion 2017 page and fill out a brief form to let me know what sort of trip you'd like to take! I'm offering up to $500 on Disney destination vacations that are booked by August 31st and travel by September 30, so don't delay!
Happy Sunday travel enthusiasts. Candice asked me to guest author her blog this week. I thought I would give you an introduction so you know me as more than Candice’s husband. I have had the travel bug for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories include a trip to Disneyland in California with a stop in Las Vegas when I was nine. That one sticks out because it was my first foray into gambling. Thanks to 9-year-old me sliding quarters into the slider machine with my dad and getting caught, my 14-year-old brother got to sit at a slot machine pulling the lever next to my mom for a couple of hours. Some of my favorite places in the U.S include Chicago, New York, and Washington DC. The furthest away from home I have been was to visit Manila in the Philippine Islands for work. That trip will be worth another blog some other day and was a once in a lifetime trip for me.
Now, on to the point of my blog post today. My first trip to Disney World in Florida was several years ago. We were spending a couple of days in the parks and then getting on a Disney Cruise ship for a celebratory cruise. I had never been there and there was so much that I had to see and do. We set our sights on the Magic Kingdom park. It was a typical late summer day in Orlando, hot, humid, more people than I typically like to be around. It is important to note that I had never been there before, but as a typical type A male figure, I knew what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go.
We started out going left. We went on Splash Mountain, now one of my favorite rides. We then took off to go do the Haunted Mansion. After that, we went to Mickey’s Philharmagic which was new at that point. From there, we went to Space Mountain. We found a quick service restaurant for lunch (sorry, don’t remember which, but I think it was close to the Mainstreet USA). It was after lunch that I decided that I wanted to go ride Big Thunder Mountain, then back to Adventureland to the Jungle Cruise, at which point the daily rainstorm happened and I was drenched as I was seated on the entrance to one of the Jungle Cruise boats...the only seat NOT covered by the canopy. As you can guess, by this time I was tired. I was getting punchy, but I still thought I knew my way around better than anyone who has ever been there. I wanted to go to the Winnie the Pooh ride next. I started to walk confidently. My loving bride had finally had enough (she had been there previously and lives and breathes Disney). I was walking confidently to where I knew I wanted to go. She stopped and very sternly told me that I was going the wrong direction. We argued, I got out the map. I put the map away and started following the expert in the family.
We were tired, I was wrong, and I learned a very valuable lesson. Have a plan to get around the parks. No matter what park you go to, have a plan and listen to those that know more than you do. Because of me, in a little over 4 hours, we had been to every land and still had more that we wanted to do. Our feet were tired, we were beat. We ended up leaving early that day and missing the fireworks because of my stubbornness earlier in the day.
Let me end with the only good decision I made that day. Go Left first. Most people have the inclination to go right, so by taking a left, you can avoid some of the larger earlier morning crowds. Other than that, I didn’t do anything right. Your plan should include doing everything you want to do in each land of the park before moving on to the next area. Plan your Fast Passes accordingly. For example, get your fast pass for Splash Mountain early in the day, get the one for Mine Train about mid-day and get that one for Space Mountain late afternoon. Utilize your Fast Pass times to help plan your way around the park. (the only downside to this is that it makes it a little bit more difficult to get extra fast passes)
My final thought, hire a professional. They can help you plan everything and they LOVE doing it. They can help decide on the right resort, the plusses and minuses of the different parks on each given day, clear down to the right kind of park tickets you should buy.
Thanks for reading and have a great day!
This weekend, the annual D23 Expo took place in California, the birth place of the Disney empire, and some MASSIVE changes were announced. As one who grew up with Disney and is a self-admitted Disney purist, honestly, I'm a little conflicted about these changes. Walt Disney didn't live long enough (unfortunately) to see the opening of Walt Disney World, but he did open Disneyland in California, and stated "Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world." He also said "Whenever I go on a ride, I'm always thinking what's wrong with the thing and how it can be improved." To say Walt was an innovative genius is a gross understatement, and while these statements are inspiring and wonderful in themselves, I will admit I have trouble when I see or hear about the changes that have happened or are on the horizon.
My first trip to a Disney park was Walt Disney World in 1998. I had been a Disney fan up to that point, but my first experience with all the magic was when I became a self-proclaimed Disnerd, something I'm very proud of and which continues to progress year after year after year. My first experience with Disney change was when they removed Snow White's Scary Adventures and put in Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. For those not familiar, Snow Whites Scary Adventures was a typical dark ride that took guests through the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs complete with a very "scary" encounter with the Wicked Queen dressed as the Old Hag herself. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with it's interactive queue and fluid, smooth ride is much more enjoyable and one of my favorite rides at Walt Disney World, but the change was still tough.
When the mega-hit "Frozen" hit the theaters after months and months of hype and loads of build up, and Disney announced that the Maelstrom was being closed in the Norway Pavilion of Epcot to make room for a "Frozen" themed ride, I was not pleased, to say the least. In fact, It's going to take a lot to get me onto that ride the next time I visit Walt Disney World. Frozen is a fine movie with great music, but all the hype was unfounded in my opinion, and the destruction of the Maelstrom was a big mistake.
Now for the latest announced changes:
Toy Story Land opens at Disney Hollywood Studios - Summer 2018
I think this is actually a good change and much needed for Hollywood Studios, which has been a "half-day park" since they've removed things like the Backlot Tour and other things that truly paid homage to the glory days of Hollywood and the magic of movies.
Another ship announced for the Disney Cruise Line Fleet
By 2023, the Disney Cruise Line fleet will nearly double in size with the announcement of a third new ship. The three new ships will be even larger than the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, the newest and largest of the fleet to this point. In my opinion, this is a smart move on Disney's part if they wish to compete with lines like Royal Caribbean who keep rolling out bigger ships with more innovations. The first of the new ships are scheduled to launch in 2021.
"Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge" is announced as the name for Star Wars themed lands in Disneyland and Walt Disney World
With movie content enough to release until at least 2030, Disney would have have missed the land-speeder if they chose not to capitalize on Star Wars. Star Tours, no matter what version they've had to this point, has been an awful ride and something very easy to walk right past. This coming from someone who dressed as Princess Leia for Halloween and owns the original 6 movies of the saga. Star Wars Weekends, which take place each May, and Star Wars-themed cruises, which Disney Cruise Line features each February, have been an immense success and have made it obvious that Disney guests want more Star Wars. Their wishes will come true in 2019.
Guardians of the Galaxy attraction coming to Epcot
Taking the place of the Universe of Energy attraction, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy will be the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction, adhering to the original vision of Epcot’s Future World as the place to experience the excitement and adventure offered by space travel. Admittedly, the Universe of Energy was a great place to take a break in air-conditioning without a lot of people, and the attraction itself was dated and has been around for a long time. While Disneyland has re-imagined their Twilight Zone Tower of Terror into a Guardian's Ride, the Tower at Disney's Hollywood Studios is far too popular for that. If it's the difference between being enjoyed by guests and having an empty or nearly empty attraction, I understand, I just think it's a little short-sighted.
Ratatouille - inspired ride coming to France Pavilion at Epcot
Originating at Disneyland Paris, this attraction shrinks guests down to the size of Remy, the star of one of my favorite movies, "Ratatouille". I'm conflicted about this one as well, I will admit. Something about introducing additional cartoons into World Showcase just irks me. With that said, I'm excited to see it, because I've heard good things about it.
Immersive Super Hero Experience coming to Disney's California Adventure Park
Soon, the Guardians of the Galaxy ride will be joined by Spider-Man and the Avengers in what will be a completely immersive Super Hero land at the park. Admittedly, I enjoyed the first Guardian's of the Galaxy movie, but haven't taken the time to see the second, because I was fine with the way the first one ended. I feel the same about the Avengers and am completely over Spider-Man and all it's "respinnings". I'm sure the fans who enjoy these movies will enjoy the new offerings at the park.
New "Tron" attraction coming to Magic Kingdom park at Walt Disney World
Sitting in a completely new area to the right of Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom, this attraction will allow guests to board a train of two-wheeled Light Cycles and is touted to be one of the most thrilling rides at any Disney Park. My biggest concern with this attraction is the location. I can see if they remove the Tomorrowland Speedway. Other than children not young enough to drive yet, the thought of climbing into a car and driving around in a circle doesn't hold a lot of fascination any more, but my hope of hopes is that they leave the Carousel of Progress in it's spot. While this attraction doesn't seem to have a lot of traffic, it's an attraction that Walt had a direct hand in and debuted it during the 1964 World's Fair. It's a Walt Disney World staple and needs to stay.
First Mickey-themed ride coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios
While I'm very excited about this, especially having seen some conceptual elements of the project, I would be dishonest if I said that my heart wasn't breaking just a bit over the loss of the Great Movie Ride.
New Star Wars- themed resort planned for Walt Disney World
As mentioned above, Star Wars is hotter than ever, and this resort will enhance the guest's experience with a completely immersive experience during your vacation. I'm interested to see how this will work.
New Restaurant to offer "Out of this World" dining experience at Epcot
Adjacent to the Mission Space attraction, this table service restaurant offers guests spectacular dining services with with views of Earth from space. Hopefully, people will make their Fast Pass Plus reservations for Mission Space BEFORE they eat, and not after, if they're subject to motion-sickness.
There are some other changes coming as well, but I don't have enough information on them at this point, and will share when I do. Change is good, to a point. Innovation is very important. Part of the appeal for Disney, however, is the nostalgia of childhood and the way things "used to be".
Discussion time! What are some changes you've seen at Disney Parks? How do you feel about the changes? What would you like to see?
I know what you're thinking....What? A TRAVEL PROFESSIONAL telling me NOT to take a vacation?!? Simple answer - YES. The long and the short of it is that some people are just NOT the vacation type. You may fit into this category if:
10) You hate new experiences
The idea of meeting new people, seeing things you've never seen before (except on TV, online, or as part of your friends and family's vacation pictures), and gaining new and different perspectives makes your skin crawl. If this describes you, DON'T take a vacation.
9) You have absolutely NO stress in your life
You wake up every morning on your schedule and everything in your life, up to and including your kids coming down with the sniffles or the chicken pox, matches your meticulously arranged time table that you put together while enjoying your daily massage, and nothing ever surprises your or catches you off guard. If this describes you, DON'T take a vacation.
8) PB & J with Crunchy PB is your idea of a new dining experience
If you're happy with the same foods you've been eating since childhood, or maybe since you graduated from High School, and have never wondered about other foods from other cultures or regions, definitely DON'T take a vacation.
7) Your family is happy with one viewpoint
You're perfectly happy never leaving the town you grew up in, seeing the same people day in and day out, doing the same things day in and day out, relying on TV, the internet, and friends to shape your outlook and perspective of this wide world of ours. If this describes you, DON'T take a vacation.
6) Pictures of your pets or children are all you want to post...ever...on Social Media
Sure, #catsofinstagram and the weekly picture of your dog rolling in the grass are a lot of fun to look at, especially when getting dripped on by the melty ice cream cone that little Timmy is enjoying. Your friends who post pictures of their vacations are wasting time and energy and just showing off. Sound familiar? Then you should definitely NOT take a vacation.
5) You have the PERFECT work/life balance
Your one of the very few who can automatically shut your brain off from work-related thoughts the minute you walk out the door of your work each and every day, and you have all the time you would like with your family. Your PTO bank is continuously full because you make up the time you take from work for other things in life and somehow never need or want any other time. If this describes you, DON'T take a vacation!
4) Reconnecting with your family doesn't matter
Every evening meal is served at a table full of family completely distraction-free and full of long, meaningful conversations. Holidays are filled with plenty of extended family time, and you're able to get completely reconnected with each and every family member each and every time. Does this describe you? Then DON'T take a vacation.
3) Changes of Scenery are silly!
Your friends gush about the first time they ever saw an ocean, or that snowcap on a mountain in June. That's fine for them, but your back yard is all the scenery you need. If so, DON'T take a vacation.
2) You hate being pampered
You meticulously make your bed each and every day and fold yourself a cute, and different, towel animal every day. You are a master mixologist and craft a different cocktail for yourself every night, and your Michelin-Star chef status allows you to eat like a king or queen every time you sit down to eat. Who doesn't do their own massages? If you've mastered all of this...DON'T take a vacation.
1) You're a robot
DON'T take a vacation.
Of course, this post was meant to be humorous. Studies have shown that Americans are TERRIBLE about taking their vacation time. Thankfully, that trend is starting to reverse itself, but not rapidly enough. Managers agree that employees taking time off improves health and well-being, boosts morale, and alleviates burnout, and yet employees feel that their company culture is ambivalent, discouraging, or sends mixed messages about time off. Take YOUR time! Even a long weekend a few hours away from home can accomplish a lot for you and for your family.
Let's discuss: What are your reasons for taking vacation or NOT taking a vacation? Please leave your response in the comment section!
With all the destinations there are to vacation in the world, there are basically only two types of travelers...those who use Travel Agents and those who don't. This is one of those choices where there's really no WRONG answer, you have to do what's right for you....BUT....let me share with you my top 10 reasons to use a Travel Agent. Be sure to read all the way to the end for a special challenge....
10) They know things you don't - Through their own experiences, the experiences of other agents in their network, and their clients, they have a lot of really useful information that you may not know about destinations including weather patterns, crime statistics, travel restrictions, how long you're going to spend in the airport getting to your destination and home, etc. Sure...you can find all of this out if you'd rather spend your precious time researching, but why not leave the worrying to someone who knows?
9) They're available to help if something goes wrong - Your family is headed on vacation, and an unexpected weather cell pops up, causing your flight to delay landing and having to re-route to a different location all together to refuel. Of course, you've missed your connecting flight to your destination, and there's not another flight to your destination until tomorrow. You booked your trip online, and unfortunately, the 1-800 number you dial doesn't seem overly concerned about getting you a place to stay for the night so you're not sleeping in the airport or confirming a flight for the next morning. Travel agents, on the other hand, especially independent ones, make themselves available for their clients during travel for just such emergencies and know how to get things taken care of so you can tuck into a nice hotel for the night with shuttle service to and from the airport and confirm your family on the first flight to your destination the following morning. If, for some reason, they're not going to be available, they'll equip you with contact information and instructions on how to get help should you need it. (By the way, situations like this are when Travel protection insurance really comes in handy, but that's a separate blog.)
8) Travel Agents can, and often do, save you money - Sure, that $500 flight included trip to that all-inclusive resort in Mexico you booked last week looks great....until you read the fine print and discover that without additional costs, you have no way from the airport to your resort and back again...and that the trip is non-cancellable without losing ALL of your money. What's that? You found an even BETTER deal three weeks later? Maybe they'll have that same promotion when you book your NEXT trip. Any Travel Agent worth their salt is going to provide a discount monitoring service and will apply promotions that come up that will positively affect your reservation WITHOUT YOU HAVING TO ASK! Also, many travel agents don't charge you anything above the cost of your trip for any of their services.
7) You'll be supporting a small business - Independent Travel Agents own their own businesses and they are paid a small percentage by the vendors (hotels, cruise lines, etc) only if you book through them.
6) They have extensive networks - As I mentioned previously, Travel Agents just know stuff. They also love to travel, so there's a good chance they've been somewhere you want to go, or had a similar experience to what you're thinking of. If they haven't, chances are REALLY good they've got a close contact who has, plus they have "who's who" lists of vendors and people in positions of power to get in touch with in case you need help or just to add a little something special to your vacation.
5) They think of things you don't - Travel agents eat, breathe, and sleep details. They'll help think of that tiny stuff that you wouldn't...like what to pack in a day bag to make sure you can handle any situation, but not have to lug around a 40 pound bag or empty it out like a Mary Poppins carpet bag to find something.
4) Your time is valuable - Why would you spend hours and hours researching resorts, destinations, tours, and more when a Travel Agent can do it for you, and in most case, much quicker than you can?
3) Travel Agents give advice to keep you out of bad situations - As with many things, money isn't everything in travel. You absolutely get what you pay for when it comes to resorts, and if you're looking for the cheapest, bare bones resort, you're going to find it...and a room with a view of a parking lot or brick wall instead of an ocean, not that you want to stay in your room because you're sharing it with roaches and other crawly things, but stepping outside isn't any better because of the crime levels in the area the resort is located in. Travel agents who are truly interested in getting their clients a relaxing vacation that the client will enjoy will NOT put their clients in any situations they wouldn't walk into themselves and feel comfortable doing so. The tips on not playing leapfrog on the balcony of your cruise ship stateroom or wandering down dark streets in strange cities are just bonus tips.
2) Travel Agents are good with logistics, especially when it comes to groups - Imagine trying to plan an extended family vacation for 25 people, all coming from different places and all who want as much information as possible, not to mention keeping track of who pays what when and tracking them down for final payment by the deadline...oh, but you're not getting along with one branch of the family tree, so those phone calls/emails are going to be extra special. Have a headache yet? Travel Agents deal with groups and can get special pricing and amenities for groups, as well as keeping track of payments, answering questions, and more.
1) Travel Agents are Specialists - As part of their ongoing training, Travel Agents can elect to specialize in different areas of travel and/or focus on clients in particular demographic groups. These Specialist designations aren't easy to obtain and require continuing education, so most Travel Agents are pretty proud of them and will advertise they have them on their sites, business cards, and elsewhere. If you'd like them to specialize in something, just ask! They may be in the process of earning the specialization you're looking for OR are willing to pick it up and start work to earn it.
NOW - My Challenge to you -
In the comments below, I challenge you to tell me why you do or don't use a travel agent! Let's get a discussion going!