Novice travel agent gets valuable advice

Published 10:13 pm Saturday, April 10, 2010

A good friend popped her head inside my office the other day and asked if I had a moment for her. She wanted to run something by me. Of course my reply was sure.

She bubbled while announcing that much of her spring break had been spent playing travel agent.

It was a surprise anniversary trip for her husband and she wanted everything to be first class and perfect. Hours had been invested on-line and now it was my responsibility to review and critique her planning.

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Not a problem as I have students perform this sort of research all the time.

The issue was that I hadn’t been able to provide any guidance before this “casual” student started her project.

I was handed about a dozen sheets of yellow legal pad paper that were covered front and back with scribbled facts and figures.

I only hoped that she could interpret her notes for me as I was lost. Then again no one can decipher my notes either.

We got down to the travel basics of when, what, where and how much.

It was an eastern Mediterranean European cruise sailing from Venice. The plan was to fly into Venice, cruise, then spend a couple of post cruise days sightseeing. She said she had sailed a couple of times out of Florida and used these experiences for guidance.

Her travel itinerary continued to unfold so I took notes and tried to keep a smile on my face.

Finished with her presentation she looked in me in the eye and confidently asked “how did I do?”

My initial response was “please tell me that you did not make any payments on these plans? There are only two items that require changing but these are major issues that need to be corrected.” Fortunately she had not

made any deposits. That was good news as she would not have to pay any additional reservation change fees.

These issues were with the outbound flights and to a novice traveler/trip planner these are easy to make.

Transatlantic flights from the U.S. to Europe generally leave in the evening and arrive on the continent the next day or plus one as we say in the air travel business.

You leave Saturday and arrive on Sunday. She had looked at a Saturday air departure with the intentions of catching a Saturday evening cruise sailing.

This meant the she and her hubby would have missed the boat!

She had opted for the least expensive airline flights and couldn’t recall on what on-line travel agency these rates were discovered.

Her air itinerary routed her from Columbus (CMH) OH to Newark (EWR) New Jersey then connecting internationally from New York Kennedy (JFK) into Venice.

What’s wrong with this picture? Plenty! The connection time was about 2 and ½ hours and maybe just maybe they could hail a cab and speed from one state to another.

But factor in having to reclaim their luggage in Newark then recheck it and clear security at Kennedy, there is no way they would make the flight.

My suggestion was to leave a couple of days earlier. If your cruise departs on Saturday leave the states on Wednesday or Thursday and give yourself a little wiggle room.

Flights are frequently delayed and too tight of scheduling can be a disaster.

We sifted through the balance of the trip details and ended up with what I hope is a great trip.

Now the travel gods have to smile on this endeavor and hopefully provide a snag free travel experience.

Don’t get me wrong. I am all for you booking your own reservations if it is a simple trip.

Reserving point A to B airline tickets, hotel and/or rental cars are fine as long as you feel comfortable handling the details. But even the simple trips some time can be tweaked and refined.

For complex multiple destinations with multiple air carrier flights, cruises and package tours I still recommend using a travel professional. They should be able to save you time and money.

Even though I have a busy schedule there is still room to answer your travel questions and concerns.

Feel free to email me at Happy and safe travels!