Booking and Planning a Trip, Full Disclosure for the Best Experience

In the last post we discussed things to think about before you talk to an agent about booking a trip.   Once you have decided on a type of trip you need to narrow the focus and get into details that may make or break that overall experience of your vacation.

Although your TA will likely ask you about most of the subjects covered, don’t be shy to ask about specific accommodations you may need or questions about things that are unclear to you. Remember, one of the benefits of booking through a travel agent is helping you meet individual needs with honest, knowledgeable advise.

  • Make sure you fully understand what documents you are responsible for:
    • Travel agents can organize flights and airport pickups and drop off but the traveler is the one who must arrive with all their legal documents, tickets, and baggage at the ready. If you don’t completely understand what you need to have with you, don’t hesitate to ask!  your TA to go over it and it’s always a good idea to write everything down.
  • Discuss the trip accommodations and extras and be sure that you are getting what you need to make your trip a success:
    • Ocean cruises offer a vast array of options that most people aren’t used to and /or don’t know are available.
    • Adjoining rooms for extended families, different dining times and table sizes. Does anyone in your party have special needs like dietary restrictions or physical limitations that will impede your trip?   These issues need to be covered in advance and if it is a modified room you may need to act quickly as these are limited in number and tend to book up quickly.
  • I am bringing this up again because it needs to be addressed. Discuss any accommodations you as an individual may need!
    • Even if you think you will be accommodated for, you may not be! This is not Walmart or Starbucks in a major US city.  It is a surprisingly common problem that a client’s with physical handicaps do not plan ahead or know what they are getting involved in and their trip is severely hampered. For example, perhaps one of your party is wheelchair-bound but your room isn’t handicap accessible. Perhaps one of your party is allergic to shellfish and part of the tour you take includes a lobster dinner. A surprising case came in when an american woman vacationing in Europe complained that many of the tours were not “RASCAL accessible” and that the food portions were not enough for a woman her size. Be sure to mention allergies, health concerns, alternative modes of transportation, and anything else that may need to be accounted for.
    • If you show up with a wheelchair or electric scooter without the proper paperwork you may be denied boarding.  This is reality and NO refunds will be offered because you did not plan ahead.
    • Think long and hard about the method of travel that you are planning as well if you are physically limited.  Europe has many cobblestone roads.  If you are in a wheelchair or use a walker and are not used to walking long distances this is not a great idea for a trip.
  • Ask about the culture of the place your visiting
    • As mentioned before, a travel agent accumulates knowledge about different places through their own customer reviews and experiences. See if they have any places they would recommend visiting or things you should avoid. See if there is anything you should try or be wary of when immersing yourself in a different culture. (We will discuss more about tourist safety in a later article.)
  • Go over emergency precautions and safety tips
    • Hopefully nothing happens when you are on vacation and this is the vast majority of peoples vacations but just in case, most travel agencies offer travel insurance.  It is important to discuss these options with your agent so that you know what to do and who to call. If you are in a foreign country and are unsure of what to do, it is best to go to your country’s embassy or call your agent. (If it is an emergency the first choice is more recommended.)

How To Pick Your Travel Destination

You would be surprised how often a travel agent picks up the phone and with a new potential client and has a conversation like this:

“Hi I’d like to book a vacation.”

“Wonderful! Where would you like to go?”

“I don’t know.”

“How long do you want to go away for?”

“I’m not sure.”

“What’s your budget?”

“As cheap as possible I guess.”


“So can I book?”

I’m sure almost everyone has done this with something at some point be it asking help finding a new favorite book, a new physical activity to enjoy, or the perfect gift for a friend. We know we want or need something and we assume an expert can walk us through picking the perfect version of this thing that we want. They are the expert, aren’t they? The problem is there are scores of trips to choose from and, travel expert or not, a TA doesn’t know you as well as you do.

Before you call or email a travel agent, ask yourself:

  • Where do I want to go?
    • This doesn’t have to be incredibly specific, but think of a general environment you want to vacation in. Do you want to go somewhere tropical? Are you curious about European art or Asian culture? Think of what you want to accomplish or explore when you travel and discuss that with your travel agent. This will give them an idea of places that would interest you specifically.
  • What is my budget?
    • Of course we all want to get the best deal possible, but when creating a budget you are looking at how much you’d be willing to spend more than how much you want to. Remember to factor in not just the overall cost of the trip but also how much you will be spending once you get there in souvenirs, dining, and day trips. Be sure to ask your agent about dining and day trips that may or may not be included in your vacation package.
  • When should I go?
    • Vacations can be booked anywhere from a few months to a week in advance, depending on the type of trip and the season. (If you plan to book one for a popular holiday like Christmas, I would suggest taking care of it in advance!) Factor in the best time for you to travel and how long you’ll have to prepare. If you do book a fairly expensive trip be sure to get cancellation insurance. No matter how silly it sounds you never know what might change in your life or where you are going that would make you want or need to cancel last minute

Although this may seem daunting, remember that your answers don’t have to be incredibly specific. Once you get a general idea of what you want a travel agent can start piecing together what travel experience would best suit your needs and nothing is set in stone until you book your trip!

Starting at the beginning of August, we at onsite travels plan to promote a different country or place each month to help our readers learn about the many places waiting to be explored. If you have any suggestions on places you want to learn more about, please contact us!

image from pixabay:

4 Reasons Why You Should Book Through a Travel Agency

Having a father who was skilled at building and repair, I certainly understand the value of doing things yourself. However, for most, organizing vacations is not one of those things. Online “do-it-yourself” booking engines have revolutionized the industry over the last 15 years but the trend towards using travel agents is on the rise again. This is driven by a desire to speak with someone experienced about travel and also the complexity of booking complete and increasingly complex travel experiences. This isn’t just about staying in your comfort zone, though. Here are 4 reasons why you would be better off booking through a travel agency.

  1. Travel agencies offer cheaper rates
    • Doing things yourself saves you money right? Not necessarily. Travel agencies buy “group space” which is a lot like the way retail stores buy product in bulk.  This group space allows the agency to get additional perks such as on board spending credits and most of the time the cost of the cabin will be less as well.  Larger agencies that do volume business with the cruise lines also get special discounted pricing outside of the groups.  This can also be passed onto the end consumer.
  2. Travel Agents help minimize the amount of planning involved in a trip
    • Vacations require enough preparation on your end without having to organize the finer details of the actual trip. You need to deal with pet and house care arrangements, taking time off of work, budgeting, packing, organizing everyone if its a group trip, and who knows what else! Keeping track of flight changes, scheduling airport pickup, and trying to book hotels to stay at can easily slip your mind. (A mistake booking airline tickets to the wrong airports forced a family friend to have to drive to Mexico for a wedding not too long ago and the $900 that she spent on the tickets was gone as well!) Having someone else keep track of these things gives you more time to sort out your personal responsibilities and make for a smoother running vacation.
  3. Travel Agents can act as a “middle man/organizer” for group trips
    • Like I mentioned before, making sure everyone on a group trip is on the same page is difficult, kind of like organizing cats!  If you have people in different states for example. Travel agents know the information needed from each person and can keep track to be sure everyone is accounted for and will arrive when needed.  Instead of spending hours trying to coordinate family and friends you can literally dump this thankless job on your agent.   They are well equipped to deal with everyone and make sure that people are near each other and dining together.
  4. Travel Agents have insider information
    1. Well, perhaps insider information makes it sound a bit like the Society of the Crossed Keys from The Grand Budapest Hotel. What I truly mean is that, as someone who specializes in booking vacations, a travel agent accumulates knowledge about different places through their own customer reviews and experiences.  This allows them to build a stable of properties and tour companies/cruise lines around the world that they have first hand knowledge of.  It also allows you to avoid mistakes when looking at the pretty pictures on etc that were taken 15 years ago when the hotel was new.  There is a lot of misleading information out there on the web and the TA’s job is to filter this for you so that you don’t have to.

Save yourself the hassles and probably some money as well and use an experienced travel agent!