When booking your trip, read between the lines

Published 2:00 pm Saturday, October 11, 2008

It seems that every time I wear something with a travel related logo on it people want to share their travel experiences with me.

For the past few years I have been hearing mostly horror stories about on-line booking problems and supplier issues. It is always a tale about a friend (a nice way to deflect the blame away from themselves) that made their own reservations and was extremely disappointed (sorry I can’t use some of the other colorful and descriptive terms that were used) with the product or service.

The friends had discovered a 5-day, 4-night Bahamas cruise out of southern Florida for the great price. The deal also included free rooms and airfare to Orlando, Las Vegas and Honolulu Hawaii. All of this for the low unbelievable cost of $199 per couple.

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Booked, paid for and with documents issued on-line this couple did not discover until they arrived at the pier what they had actually arranged. They booked passage on an older cruise ship that transported them on about a 6-7 hour boat ride to Freeport, the Bahamas then their 4-night stay was in Freeport. The return sailing was included as was meals on the ship but they were on their own during the land portion. Thinking that they would be on the boat for their entire trip naturally they were disappointed. The fax sales ad was very carefully worded but upon closer inspection they received what they had paid for.

I’m aware of this cruise-land product and receive their notices frequently. Care to guess how I handle this piece of correspondence?

Complaints about price have never really been mentioned other than in the same breath as having found a great deal.

Actually they found what they perceived as a great price and bought on that consideration alone. Quality or the lack of was never their major concern until they traveled then it became an important issue.

Their complaints really focus on quality and I recall the old saying “that you get what you pay for” and in travel that axiom really holds true.

I bit my tongue wanting dearly to remind them of this but I listen attentively to their conversation. Then I smile and add “Two amazing deals were found online. One is a dream come true. The other one is a nightmare. Do you know which one is which? Your friend sure didn’t but I’m sure that a professional travel agent does. Check with a travel agent next time!” (NOTE: Not all travel agents are created equal so you’ll need to conduct so research on that subject too.)

Years ago I discovered it was easier and cheaper for to have a professional work on my car or the house’s air conditioner. I believe that this approach applies to most if not all professions so I advocate working with someone who knows what they are doing or you’ll suffer the do-it yourselfer consequences.