As many of you may know next to my hobby of covering the movie scene and reviewing films, I’ve spent the past two decades as an independent travel agent…
First with Abbey Road Travel in Overland Park and for the past decade at Shelton Travel Service on the Country Club Plaza.
So as you can imagine, I field a lot of questions related to travel—especially LEISURE travel. What follows are my answers to what are probably the 10 most frequently asked questions. Hence 10 tips for better travel in 2013.
Q: Why are vacation ‘PACKAGES’ usually a better deal than booking individual vacation elements?
A: By using wholesale suppliers and combining air with hotels and other elements (i.e. rental cars) we are able to take advantage of negotiated contract rates which often include unpublished, lower “bulk” fares with airlines.
Q: Should I purchase cancellation insurance and how much does it cost?
A: The price of cancellation insurance is based on the total cost of the vacation, package or cruise. My suggestion is that the greater the cost of the vacation, the more you stand to lose WITHOUT insurance. In other words, it’s one thing to eat the cost of a $600.- Vegas vacation. It’s another story when it’s a $3,000 Caribbean package.
Q: Should I buy my airline tickets for a cruise separate and save a few bucks?
A: Purchasing your air tickets through the cruise line may be a bit higher, but if you buy the plane tickets separately and anything happens—like flight cancellations, missed connections, weather delays or being bumped from an oversold flight—the cruise line will usually take a “That’s your problem” attitude. But if you purchase the tickets through the cruise line and any of the above mentioned problems arise, it’s THEIR problem to make it good!
Q: I’d love to go on a cruise but am afraid of getting sea sick.
A: Slim chance of that these days because today’s mega ships have great stabilization systems. If you’re really worried, make sure your cabin is located in the middle of the ship where you experience the least amount of motion.
Q: When’s the best time to get the lowest prices on a cruise or vacation package?
A: When no one else is going. It’s all supply and demand. Like right now in January and February. Other slow periods are AFTER summer vacations during the fall. And the period after Thanksgiving and before Christmas travel.
Q6: How about airfares to Europe?
A: Same principal applies. But there are basically three seasons. Low season is January through March. Shoulder season is April through May and late-September through mid-December—excluding Thanksgiving travel. High season is Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day Weekend.
Q: Is a EuroRail pass worth it?
A: That depends how much traveling by train you’re planning in Europe. Train travel on the continent is great, but expensive. If you’re just going to take two or three trips while over there then purchasing actual point-to-point tickets is my recommendation. But for four or more days by rail in the various Euro countries, a EuroPass might be your best bet. But remember, a one or various country EuroPass must be purchased in the U.S. PRIOR to your trip. It cannot be purchased once you arrive in Europe!
Q: Do I need a passport for Canada?
A: Definitely! They won’t even let you on the plane at KCI without one. The same now goes for Mexico and the Caribbean. (Note: Passports should be applied for through your post office and take about four to six weeks for processing depending on the time of the year. Faster turnaround can be had for additional charges.)
Q: What are the best international deals these days for the buck?
A: The all-inclusives in Cancun, Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos win hands down.
Q-: Why use a travel agent?
A: You can buy plane tickets on line, but when it comes to packages, cruises and tours you tap into your travel agent’s knowledge. resources, wholesale suppliers and tour packagers. And should anything go wrong, your travel agent (and agency) is your advocate with the various entities involved with your vacation. Good luck trying that with the online guys. In the words of the American Society Of Travel Agents (A.S.T.A.): “Without a travel agent, you’re on your own.”