Ah… common question, good question, loaded question. The short answer is, you don’t, at least not all the time. However, there are many times when you should use a travel agent. A travel agent is a professional trained to help put travel or vacation packages together. If you have a small business you would still use an accountant even if you’re pretty good at Quickbooks right? You would still go to a doctor after researching your symptoms and possible treatment online right? You get the point…
Contrary to popular rumor, the age of the travel agent has not passed. Travel agents are alive and well, we’ve just had to adapt to the internet age the same way many other professionals have. Tax accountants did not cease to exist when TurboTax went online and neither will we.
Some of the top reasons why you should use a travel agent:
- It is FREE to you! The vast majority of travel agents and agent fees/commissions are paid by the supplier (cruise line, airline, hotel…). Note, some agents may charge a service fee for certain items (such as booking air), but they will disclose this up front to you. If they don’t, get a new agent – as with everything else in life, not all agents are created equal :).
- You save your precious time. Why not have someone else do all this work for you, especially since it costs you nothing or very little in addition to your travel costs?
- More choices than internet sites — Internet sites all provide the same basic service with varying levels of user-unfriendliness. Travel agents have access to the same databases as the big internet sites, as well as custom databases and deals that you may not have access to online.
- Booking your vacation gets very complicated very fast. Sure it’s easy to book a flight from point A to point B, but add in a multi-leg flight, hotel, car… you can see how easily it gets quite complicated. Let an agent un-complicate your trip for you.
- You will very rarely miss out on “hot” internet deals. Your travel agent will have access to these deals in most cases, and possibly other additional benefits as well!
- A travel agent has your back! Not literally of course. 🙂 Imagine you had a trip planned with air, hotel, car. Or a cruise trip with the cruise line, shore excursions, air, transfers etc. What is you had a problem with just one portion of your itinerary? wouldn’t it be nice to make one call or email to one person – who you know – instead of sorting through all the details finding the right number to call?
- Travel insurance – your agent can find the best and most affordable travel insurance for your trip. In many cases, it is so worth it to pay the small additional cost to have the peace of mind on your vacation!
“What the Internet has done is given us a nation that “knows” the price of everything and the value of nothing” — Bill Maloney, CEO of the American Society of Travel Agents.
Having said that, please be sure as with any other professional you use in your life, you have some level of comfort and confidence in your travel agent. The good news is it costs you nothing except a few minutes of your time to figure out if this person will work for you. Shop around if you don’t like your agent or the answers they give you.
When you may NOT need a travel agent:
Of course there are some times you are better off booking your own travel.
- You are very internet-savvy and you are comfortable spending the time to research and book your own travel.
- You travel is very simple – e.g. a return flight from Point A to Point B.
- You have lots of free time and really enjoy planning and booking travel (maybe you should become a travel agent!?)
- You ARE a travel agent 🙂
Please drop me a line with comments or questions… travel well!
I cannot stress enough the value to your body, mind and soul of an “unplugged” vacation.
However, many of us have to deal with reality and the kids/pets/family/others left onshore when we cruise, and the desire, no, NEED, to stay in touch. So, a common question in cruise ship travel is “what are internet costs on a cruise ship?” Or, “Can I get wifi/internet on a cruise?” The quick answer is “it costs”, and “yes, for most cruise ships”.
First, realize that you are in the middle of the ocean, or far removed from most land towers, and oh yeah, on a ship! So let’s set expectations:
- Do not expect the speed/bandwidth to be as good as it is on land
- The quality and speed of service will vary from ship to ship and also depends on where you are (in the world).
- Of course the costs will be more expensive than you pay on land (See links below).
Here is a quick sample of costs from one of the major cruise lines:
The cost for Wi-Fi through your own laptop is: base rate of $0.65 per minute or choose a pre-paid package:
$35 for 60 minutes
$55 for 100 minutes
$75 for 150 minutes
$100 for 250 minutes
$150 for 500 minutes
Since it won’t make sense to regurgitate all the different cruise lines details regarding at-sea WiFi here, I’ve provided a few links below to some of the major cruise lines’ “Wi-fi information” web pages.
Some quick tips preparing for your at-sea Wi-Fi usage:
- Make your browser lean – adjust your browser settings to “low graphics” or “no graphics” if you can, this will enable faster browsing.
- Have bookmarks or saved links of any sites you may need to get to. This avoids wasted time and costs of searching online to find a link.
- Make sure you have the passwords and logins you will need, e.g. to your webmail accounts. Practice getting to your webmail while on land so it will be smooth and efficient while at sea.
- Note that cellular roaming rates will apply – call your cell phone carrier in advance and determine if and how you can and should use your phone at sea, including your data package costs for smart phones (e.g. iPhone, Android etc).
- Be aware of quiet or signal-dead zones on the ship – see your particular cruise line and ship for details on where these are located on the ship. Conversely, some ships have designated hot spots that are best (or only) choices for connectivity.
- Consider planning ahead and using internet cafes at ports of call, they will usually cost less than on board.
- Carnival – Internet Cafe
- Holland America – search their site for the FAQ “Can I Use The Internet, Email, Mobile Phones or Webcams On Board?”
- Norwegian – Staying Connected @ Sea
- Princess Cruises – Communications
- Royal Caribbean – Life Onboard
Finally, not a specific Cruise Line, but a great article from CruiseCritic.com on this topic:
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Hope this was useful to you… good luck and (Le) Bon Voyage on your cruise! What? You don’t have one planned yet? Then contact me and I can help!
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Tips to help you pick a name for your blog or website.
So you’ve decided for whatever reason that you need a presence online, in the form of a blog (or website). Good for you! This post is not about if or why you should be online, but assumes you’ve already come to the sanely-thought out conclusion that you are going to be online and need a good name.
This is a topic that could easily take up a whole book, but I will try to be as concise as possible here. I say blog or site, because the concepts I’m describing here are mostly applicable to either one. So here goes…
1. Image (Brand)
First and most important, decide on the image you want to convey. Are you thinking serious and professional, light and witty or seriously funkadelic? (Whatever that is). Point is, choose your name, and consequently logo, branding etc. to convey this chosen image to your audience and to the world.
2. Choosing a Name
Your name can fall into several broad categories: Eponymous, Metaphor or Metonym, Abstract, Other.
(A) Eponymous: named after you… your name being the core – e.g. “John Smith Travels” or “Italy with Jane Doe” or “Dell”.
(B) Metaphor/Metonym: come up with a clever name that is easily “translated” to what you are about. See this great article at buzzle.com on “Metonymy vs. Metaphor”.
(C) Abstract: Totally random name that is catchy. You aspire to build great brand recognition for this abstract name – e.g. Apple, Google or Amazon.
(D) Other: “Other” is of course, a hodge-podge of everything else… mixing words together, trying weird word combinations… the sky’s the limit. A good tip here is to randomly jot down about a dozen words that relate to what you are about, then stare, mix, shuffle and in general play with these words and their synonyms to help come up with a name.
Two great online tools for helping out here are an online thesaurus and a scrabble word finder. The latter can help with, say you want to see a list of words that start with “trav”. As an example, I knew I wanted my blog name to have the word “travel” in it, so I jotted down words like “travel”, “voyage”, “trek”, “sojourn”, “journey” etc. and played around with these. Alliteration is another good trick to come up with a catchy name, e.g. “Treks and Travels”.
(Did I mention that this topic could take up a book!? Kudos if you’ve read this far, and thanks for that! :))
3. Owning Your Name
It goes without saying, but I’m saying… make sure your name is NOT ALREADY TAKEN – especially by someone in a similar field! You want your name to be unique to you. Perhaps more importantly, you certainly want to avoid copyright or trademark infringements, lawsuits and such. E.g. do not name your travel blog “Expedia commentary” or something like that 🙂
Do some research with tools like Google and domain search tools like GoDaddy to see if your name is available. Even if you’re “just” doing a blog, it is a good move to purchase and own your corresponding domain name. They are cheap – about $10-15 per year! E.g. my blog is Le Bon Traveler and I purchased LebonTraveler.com as soon as I started my blog.
I hope this not-so-brief overview helps, and good luck with your name search!!
Ok, so YOU try to pick a cool name for a travel blog. No, I don’t mean just your personal blogging-about-my-vacation site, but a travel blog focused on travel topics for a travel agent! Ready to play the game? Ground rules are:
- Do not simply use your name e.g. “John Smith’s Travel Blog”
- Do not – even though it’s tempting – use something that’s non-PG 🙂
- Most important – find something that is NOT ALREADY TAKEN!!
After many, many names were considered and tossed aside like last year’s news, I finally settled on Le Bon Traveler. Why? Good question, here’s some (hopefully) good answers:
- It’s a play on my last name (Labbon… Le bon… easy and obvious right?)
- It loosely translates with a bit of creative “Frenglish”, to “The Good Traveler”. And that’s what we all want to be right? Good travelers. Good stewards of our precious planet earth. (I may have to update this when I start offering trips to outer space).
We should all strive to be good travelers on wonderful vacations and explorations of this amazing world we live in.
- It was not already taken online! 🙂
To be continued… sort of (how’s that for a teaser?) My next post will give some tips on coming up with a good name for your own blog or website.