Posts Tagged With: Travel agency

Was that a Vacation?


There is a myth that travel agents vacation all the time and get to travel for free.  Really?  Somehow I must have missed the boat on that one.  The reality is that most of us do travel more than the average person but not always for pure enjoyment and rarely is anything free.  I can’t remember a vacation that didn’t turn out to be a working vacation in the end.  Even if I plan a weekend getaway or have every intention of relaxing and enjoying my surroundings, it just never turns out that way.

Fam Trips are trips we have the pleasure of being invited to by resorts, tourism boards, cruise lines or any number of other sponsored groups.  While they are often offered with free room and maybe a discount on air, they are not “vacations”.  FAM stands for Familiarization.  Let’s say I just booked a large wedding in Mexico at a 4 or 5 star resort or maybe I just completed the training to become an expert in the brand.  The resort sends me an invitation to come to Mexico to their resort and experience it first hand.  This is great, right?  When I arrive, I am shown to my room and given my itinerary.  Yes, I said itinerary for my 4 days.  You didn’t think they wanted me to come here to pamper me and treat me like a queen, did you?  Now, let’s say that this resort also has 2 sister properties within the area.  My itinerary is to take an escorted walk around the entire complex, sample the food, check out the different rooms, check out the spa, etc.  Now on day two, I get to catch a transfer early that morning to go visit one of the sister properties.  Same as the day before but with a different resort.  Back to the resort late afternoon for some free time before dinner.  I am able to take an excursion of my choice on day three in the morning, then off to the third resort for the afternoon and dinner.  Back to the resort in time for a cocktail and bed since I am flying back home the next day.  That was fun, wasn’t it?  Well, in all actuality, it IS fun for me.  My husband isn’t too crazy about me calling them vacations but I love it.  I love being able to share with you what a resort, destination or area is like from first hand experience.  Many of my recommendations come from these “vacations” because I know what the service is like, what the staff is like and have first hand knowledge of the resort.

Cruises – To obtain and maintain certification with the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) you must take “x” number of cruises of varying length as well as continuing education.  Of course, unlike a FAM trip, you are booked as a regular passenger.  This could be great, if I could just leave my “travel agent” brain at home and not drag it along with me.  I look at every thing, place and meal as something that I need to share with someone interested in a cruise.  We do get offered “seminars at sea” which are educational cruises and very much the same as FAM trips but onboard a cruise ship.

Scheduled Vacations – Yes, I do schedule a real vacation from time to time.  Whether it is a weekend road trip (love ’em)  or a week long stay in a new and exciting destination or anything in between, I always wind up thinking about you, my clients and readers.  Would you enjoy this restaurant, this view, this B&B?  “Wait Honey, I need to get a picture of that before you put your fork in it!”  or “Stop!!!  I need a picture of that for the blog.”   See what I mean?  It always turns out to be a work in progress.

The beauty is:  I love my work!  I am addicted.  My soul is restless for adventure, for travel, for new experiences.  My grandmother used to say I had “itchy feet”.  This is why the travel industry was such a perfect fit for me when I was blessed with the opportunity to change careers.  I have always dreamed of travel and it thrills my heart to know that I am helping people to realize their dreams of travel if even only for a vacation.

Happy Travels,

Edwina

Categories: Travel, Travel, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

National Plan a Vacation Week


I should mention that the following may be considered shameless self-promotion on my part!  🙂  As you already know, I’m a travel agent and I love helping folks find their perfect destination and adventure.

Next week, March 18-24, is National Plan A Vacation Week.  I know many of you are thinking “I don’t need a week to tell me to plan my vacation!” and I completely agree but for some it is a reminder that we need to think about ourselves sometimes and do something for US!  I meet too many new clients who have waited sometimes years to actually take time out of their schedules and plan a vacation.  Like I mentioned last week in “What are you waiting for?  Just GO!”, it’s never too soon to start working on those getaway plans or travel dreams.

Through our partnership with some of the leading suppliers in the travel industry, we are able to bring you some sweet deals on everything from cruises to land/air packages.  We have a new site set up for this annual occasion which you can find here.  Throughout the week, I will be updating the info, videos and deals.  There is such a wide variety, I can’t get everything in at the same time!  Many of the offerings you can book directly through the site or you can call me, email me or hit me up on Twitter or Facebook to get more information or pricing.

Remember too, I have a do-it-yourself page on the main website where you can either book through my automated site or through my Funjet page.  If you have ever thought about Europe and river cruising in particular please take a peek at our newest site for Avalon Waterways.

If you have not planned a vacation in a while or if you’ve been thinking about it, I challenge you to take the first step.  If you don’t take the time to plan a vacation or getaway, I can promise you, no one will do it for you.  Your boss wont do it, your kids wont do it, your family wont do it.  It’s up to you!  There are many, many affordable getaways whether into another country or right here in the US.  We can work with any budget you have in mind.  You are only limited by your imagination!  If you can dream it, we can find it for you!

National Plan A Vacation Week – It’s not just a vacation, it’s YOUR vacation.

Happy Travels,

Edwina

Categories: Travel, Travel, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Truth About Travel Agents


As a travel agent, it never ceases to amaze me the misunderstanding many folks have of travel agents and the role they play in the travel business.  When I chose to change careers and use my passion for travel as a business, I heard from family and friends, who generally trust my decisions, things like, “Is there any money in that?”, “Do people still use travel agents?” and “Why would you do that when people can do it themselves?”.  I would like to start with that and share with you some of the common misconceptions and myths surrounding the travel agent.

1.  People don’t use travel agents anymore. – With the invention of the internet and the boom of online agencies, many people do plan their own travel.  For a short time, there seemed to be a swing toward the OA’s but what people found was that the customer service, one-on-one relationship and advocacy of a travel agent was missing.  The Miami Herald ran an article in December entitled Travel Agents Making a Comeback where they quoted a study by Forrester Research that found that the number of leisure travelers who enjoyed using the Web to book their vacations dropped from 53 percent in 2007 to 47 percent in 2010. In an American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) survey, 44 percent of agents said they had more clients in 2010 than they’d had the previous year.  The number of people using travel agents is expected to continue to increase due to the new regulations, fees and confusion that travelers encounter when trying to use an online agency.

2.  It costs too much to use a travel agent. – While it is true that some agents or agencies charge a fee for their services, there are many more of us who do not.  Often, you will find that agents charging fees are refunding those fees upon booking.  We are paid directly by the resorts, consolidators or tour operators in the same way the large online agencies are.  We make the commission as they do but the major difference is that should you need anything before, after or during your trip, when you call us you get a live person on the phone who knows you and will help you right then!  Do you really want to call an automated 800 number when your hotel room was released because your flight was 4 hours late?  I wouldn’t and neither should you.

3.  I can do what a travel agent does myself. – That is probably true.  If you take the time to research the flights, hotels, destinations, tours or excursions and travel information, you probably can.  The question you have to ask yourself is this.  “What is my time worth?”  You can spend valuable time searching the online sites and printing out quotes (which may be different tomorrow) and reading reviews or you can call or email your travel agent and let them do everything for you.  Travel is our life.  We eat, breathe and sleep with schedules, itineraries and locations.  We are experts and can actually help you make the most of your travel plans.  Our knowledge and access to supplier sites and other travel references can get a reliable quote to you in a short amount of time and all you had to do was shoot a quick email.

4.  Travel agents can’t get the same deals as I can find on the internet. –  This is a common myth that travel agents are not able to access the “deals” that are readily found via the online sites.  First,  when you look at that “deal” on the web you need to really look at the final total to see what may or may not be a great deal.  Often the prices you see are lead-in prices and do not include taxes, fees or transportation to and from the resort.  You often do not see the total amount until you are at the final payment screen.  On the other hand, when you receive a quote from a travel agent the total is the real total and what the entire package will cost you.  You just have to compare apples to apples.  Second, travel agents have access to those deals and often to others that are never advertised.  We are often able to get you extra amenities (yapa) added at no charge because of our relationships with our suppliers.  The bottom line for you should be value and you are more apt to find true value through your travel agent.

5.  Travel agents are all the same. – So, you have decided to book your next vacation through a travel agent but don’t personally know one.  They are all the same anyway, right?  No, not at all.  In this day and age, travel agents tend to specialize in types of travel, destinations or any variation of specialties.  There are agents who specialize in cruises only, business travel, specific countries, romance,  groups, Disney, adventure… and the list goes on.   If you are planning a romantic getaway you probably do not want a Disney specialist to find the perfect vacation spot for you.  Check with your friends or family, your Facebook contacts, Twitter or do a Google search for agents in your area.

I hope this helps to clear up some of those nasty rumors about us.  We do what we do because we love travel and because we love to help people with their travel needs.  The major difference between us and the online agencies is that we offer you a relationship that you wont find elsewhere.  We are your advocate, your planner and your research assistant.

Remember, it’s not just a vacation… it’s YOUR vacation.  Shouldn’t it be the best it can be?

Happy Travels,

Edwina Parker

http://www.yapanow.com

Categories: Travel, Travel, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A Beginners Guide To Group Cruising


Last week in the article Business on the High Seas, I shared with you some of the reasons businesses are choosing to use group cruises to draw customers to seminars, training and sales meetings.

But what if you are not a celebrity or business owner? Do you belong to a social group, networking group, church group or any other type of association with like-minded people? Then a group cruise could be a great benefit to you also.

For those who are interested in a group cruise for social reasons only, many of the same benefits apply. A group can be many things; family reunions, girls getaways, social clubs, weddings, culinary clubs or any other variety of group. If you are a group of this type, all you need to do is give your group information to everyone you are inviting and have your travel agent take care of everything for you. Each person makes their payment to the travel agent so you do not have the burden of handling everyone’s finances. For the individual, or host/hostess, group cruises are a great way to score a free cruise and enjoy time with your friends or family.

Imagine instead of everyone meeting at Aunt Millie’s house this summer for the family reunion, you all chose to get together for a cruise. Gone is the chore trying to figure out where everyone would sleep or who should be responsible for what duties in the kitchen. For the first time at your family reunion, everyone would have the opportunity to visit, enjoy each other’s company and explore different ports together.

Cruises are great for girls getaways too. By the time you each pay for a hotel room and meals in your chosen destination you could have paid for a cruise! Lounging by the pool, dancing til dawn, exploring other cultures, an assortment of excursions and priceless time together make cruising a wonderful option.

You might be surprised how many people you know who would join you for a group cruise. You might also be surprised how many people are already taking cruises when you mention it to them. Remember, any type of group is an opportunity. The key here is to be the host/hostess before someone else gets the idea. As the group leader, the only responsibility you have is getting the word out to your group. The benefits for you are tremendous. You can be cruising for free and you can score on board credits for yourself and your group.

If you would like to explore the possibility of a group cruise please feel free to contact me. My services as a travel agent are free to you as always. I am paid by the suppliers just like the online agencies so I never charge a fee. If you already have an agent, give them a call. They can help you with all the planning and coordinating of events. By using a travel agent, you can also make a small deposit and pay for your trip in installments. Often, we can get the initial deposit down to a very small sum depending on the sales at the time.

Happy travels,

Edwina

Categories: Cruise, Cruising, Destinations, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

The Evolution of Travel – Luxevo


As promised, I want to share with you the incredible travel club,  Luxēvo™, our host agency, KHM Travel Group, has put together.  KHM is the host agency I am associated with, meaning they are the travel agency I work through.  They are a very reputable company who strives to create lasting and beneficial relationships with travel suppliers, as well as being very good to their agents.  They are one of the largest and fastest growing host agencies in the country.

KHM mentioned something about this travel club thing over a year ago at a two-day training seminar but like some of the other agents, I didn’t care much for the idea.  Frankly, multi-level-marketing schemes, time shares and vacation clubs all fell into the same category for me.  DONT’S!!!  Yes, there are more scams out there than there are reputable agents, and there are a TON of us but you know I wouldn’t recommend anything to you I wouldn’t stake my reputation on.  Anyway, they mentioned they were working on something but I already had my mind made up that I didn’t like it.  Oh, how wrong I was.

When our fearless leader rolled out the introduction of  Luxēvo™ in a webinar a few weeks ago, I was incredibly surprised.  This was no time share, MLM kind of thing.  This was amazing.

Luxēvo™ is a program that actually SAVES money.  It’s a combination of travel packages (at great prices) and LuxPoints which are rewards based on the amount you spend.  You actually earn $1 for every $10 you spend on LuxCursions.  Even the best ‘cash back’ credit cards do not offer that good of a return.  With membership you also receive the  Luxēvo™  Advantage Benefit Program which offers deep discounts for dining, entertainment, shopping, theme parks and so much more (and the discounts you can take advantage of are unlimited).  You also get your own personal concierge.  It just keeps getting better.

This IS the evolution of travel… to bring the strength of mass buying power and the availability of one-of-a-kind value based discount programs together with personalized service all in one neat little package.  Wow.  I was sold!

I immediately signed up for the training and am now a Certified  Luxēvo™ Agent.  I know this is not something that is for everyone but I can honestly say that if you use the Benefit Program you will save enough to cover your membership in no time.  You will get great deals on travel all over the world, (land and cruise) and you have your own personal concierge plus the discount program!  It’s a great package.

Ok, I know the big question is “How much is it?”.

Club Membership is:

  • One-time Enrollment Fee of $150.00
  • Low Monthly Membership Fee of $25.00
  • No Annual Membership Fee
  • Discounted travel Included!
  • Earn Reward Dollars Included!
  • Advantage Benefits Program Discounts Included!
  • Personal Concierge Included!
  • Personal Certified Luxēvo Agent Included!
  • 30-Day Money Back Guarantee
  • No contracts or term limits
Elite Club Membership is:
  • One-time Enrollment Fee of $175.00
  • Low Monthly Membership Fee of $30.00
  • No Annual Membership Fee
  • Discounted travel Included!
  • Exclusive, Elite-only LuxCursions Included!
  • Earn Reward Dollars Included!
  • Advantage Benefits Program Discounts Included!
  • Personal Concierge Included!
  • Personal Certified Luxēvo Agent Included!
  • 30-Day Money Back Guarantee
  • No contracts or term limits

Did you see the 30 day money back policy?  You can opt out and get your money back if it’s not everything you thought it would be.

If you didn’t fall out of your seat yet, wait til you hear this.  You know that familiar television ad where a well known satellite tv provider offers you $100 for referring a friend?  We do that too.  No, this is not an MLM!!  It is a one-time referral bonus for you for each person you refer.  You do not receive any type of financial compensation for recruiting people.  It is just like the television ad, it’s an incentive for you to share something you do with people who want to travel and enjoy the same discounts you do.

Please take a moment to look over the website if you are even a little bit interested.  Just click the picture below.  There are some great videos to help explain it to you.  I truly am proud to represent Luxēvo™ as a Certified Agent.  And… Yes… I am a member!  I’m already enjoying my discounts at restaurants and movie theaters in my neighborhood, planning our first LuxCursion and you could be too.

The Evolution of Travel

Luxevo ~ The Evolution of Travel

Happy Travels,

Edwina




Categories: all-inclusive, Beaches, Cuisine, culinary, Destinations, Luxury, Tours, Travel, Travel, Uncategorized, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Budgeting for Dream Vacations


In a recent poll of Yapa Now’s Facebook followers, friends and clients, you shared with me the top reason you do not fulfill your travel dreams.  The #1 reason was budget.  In this economy and job insecurity for so many, it is not a surprise that vacations take a back seat to more important financial concerns.

Do you save for your vacations?  Do you find it hard to save for vacations?  Or, do you wait until you have vacation time and plan your getaway based on funds available?  As a travel agent who works with world wide suppliers, I want to share with you some ways to find yourself taking that dream vacation without breaking the bank or forking over a large sum of cash when the time rolls around again next year.  It is possible to experience luxury vacations on a budget when you learn how.

Tip #1 – Book Early

Did you know that you can book air reservations 11 months in advance?  Why does that matter, you ask?  Like layaway, that means that for a small deposit you can make your reservations for the air and hotel and have another 9 1/2 to 10 months to pay it in full.  This allows you to take advantage of the early booking bonuses available and also take advantage of the air prices when they are at their lowest.  You can then makes payments toward your trip at your convenience.  If you want to pay monthly, weekly or even quarterly, it is at your convenience.  I have found that many people find it easier to make payments toward something than to “save” that same amount.  We are all used to making payments, right?

The bottom line is you get the most bang for your buck and you do not have to pay it all at once.  For many, the amount of the deposit can be as low as $200 for an air/hotel package.

Tip #2 – Cruises

Cruises are another great way to book with a small deposit.  There are sales running all the time where you can book your cabin with as low as a $50 deposit.   The sales often include on board credits (obc’s) which give you additional money to spend that is not coming out of your pocket.

Tip #3 – Think All-Inclusive

All-inclusive resorts are a thing of beauty for the budget minded traveler.  For some reason, the AI’s have gotten a bad rap among people who expect luxury (and the price tag that comes with it).  The AI resorts have all the amenities of the European plan resorts and often offer more.  With the all-inclusive, all of your meals, drinks, tips and various activities are included at no charge.  No, the restaurants are not all buffet style.  They usually offer one large buffet style restaurant, two or more theme restaurants, snack bars and lounges.  The food is excellent and often multi-cultural (French, local, Japanese, etc).  For example, a resort in Mexico could cost you approximately $2,000 including air for 5 nights for two people.  Add to that the amount you are saving by not paying for meals, drinks and extras, no extra charges and you can see why they are an excellent choice for the budget minded.

Tip #4 – Travel Club

I am not a fan of time-shares or any way, shape or form of MLM’s.  My first bit of advice is to steer clear of them when looking for budget friendly vacation options.  With that said, my host agency, KHM Travel Group, just launched a new vacation club.  It truly is the evolution of travel and the extras included in membership are outstanding.  I will post another article about it later but for now let’s just look at some of the incredible positives.  Luxevo offers you a tremendous amount of savings on vacation packages including cruises.  Yes, you can find great deals anywhere but where do you find a vacation you purchase that rewards you with Luxpoints of $1 for every $10 you spend.  Luxpoints never expire and can be used for your next vacation.  Not even the best rewards point credit cards offer that much.  Click on the picture below if you want to learn more about Luxevo or watch for my post about it later this week.  I will go into detail about the membership and advantages then.

The Evolution of Travel

Luxevo ~ The Evolution of Travel

Tip #5 – Beware the Scams

Unfortunately, every day there are dozens of new scams hitting the internet.  There is no way to find them all or list them all.  The best advice is the old saying “If it sounds too good to be true… it probably is.”  If you are determined to book vacations on your own, do a little homework first.  Check the airlines for costs of flights to your destination, check the resorts to see what their average daily rate is and compare that to the “deal” you are seeing.  Also, check the fine print.  Sure it looks good, but are you getting transportation from the airport to the resort or are the taxes and fees included?  Don’t let lack of knowledge lead you into a bad financial decision.

In closing, if you can dream it, we can help you make it a reality and within your budget!  There are so many options available for the destination of your choice that there will be something you love that work for you financially.  If you have tried doing the homework, you know how hard it can be to find that special place.  Using a travel agent takes the research out of the equation for you.  Let us do the leg work and you reap the benefits.

Happy travels,

Edwina

Categories: Beaches, Cancun, Destinations, Luxury, Mexico, Travel, Travel, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: , , | 52 Comments

Fun Day Trips from Cancun, Mexico – Part 2


In our second installment to Fun Day Trips from Cancun, I would like to tell you about an area just South of the hustle and bustle of Cancun.  The city of Playa Del Carmen lies approximately 45 minutes south of the Cancun airport down highway 307.  If you are staying in Cancun, you can either rent a car, travel by bus or hire private transport.  My recommendation would be to definitely rent a car for the day or week depending on how adventurous you are and how much of the area you would like to explore.

The beach areas in “Playa” (as the locals call it) are beautiful white sand with the expected palm tree shade.  Both swimming and snorkeling are wonderful.

The most enjoyable shopping in Playa is along Quinta Avenida, or 5th Avenue.  It is an entire street lined with all types of shops from beach wear to fine jewelry and authentic Mayan artisan shops.  Vendors often set up shop in alleys between stores.  I wouldn’t advise travelling too far down an alleyway but there are often great deals to be had on the same merchandise you just saw 3 doors down.  The open air vendors are also more than happy to bargain with you.  As you are strolling and window shopping, don’t forget to stop in one of the open air restaurants for a bite to eat and a margarita.  The people watching alone is worth the trip.

After dark in Playa you have several opportunities for nightlife.  Whether you are interested in “older” music, 70-80-90’s, newer rock or something in between you can find it in Playa.  Some of our favorites are: Senor Frogs, Coco Maya Beach Club and Coco Bongo.

All in all, Playa Del Carmen is a fantastic outing to get away from the hotel zone in Cancun. If you find time on your hands the trip is well worth it.

Of course, we have more information if you need it.  Just let us know.  We can also help you plan your excursions and get them booked for you ahead of time.

Edwina

Categories: Beaches, Cancun, Destinations, Mexico, Uncategorized, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Update on Mexico – No fear of travel


As a travel agent who specializes in Mexico I follow the news and trends of this niche closely.  While Mexico continues to be the vacation destination of many, the reports of violence have had travelers questioning the safety of their vacation choices.  I was disheartened to see that the State of Texas has issued a travel advisory for Spring Break travelers.  The reality is that traveling to the tourist resort and historic destinations in Mexico are safer than many other countries.  The violence and gang battles are occurring in border towns along the Mexico and US border.  The vacation destinations such as Cancun, Riviera Maya and Riviera Nayarit are safer than many of the large US cities.

While news media may tell you to beware, in the first 10 months of 2010, Mexican officials say, the country received 8.2 million international visitors.  That figure jumped 17.8 percent from 2009. The number of Americans totaled 4.9 million.   2011 looks to be an even larger year for Mexican tourism.  There are many new hotels and resorts slated to open in this year and the deals are available year round.

I will advise my clients to stay away from the border towns like Tijuana and Metamoros and to stay away from lower economic areas of the cities and back alleyways in resort towns.  You wouldn’t want to take chances there any more than you would in decrepit areas of our large cities.  Bottom line is that Mexico is still safe for travelers and offers more than meets the eye for the well informed.

A well informed traveler is a happy traveler.  For more information contact us.

Edwina Parker

Yapa Now Travel

edwina@yapanow.com

Categories: Beaches, Destinations, Mexico, Uncategorized, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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