In today's do-it-yourself world, many people don't see a need for help with planning a trip. They figure they can hop online and book something on their own. However, there are a few potential pitfalls with this strategy. Let's start with the most obvious: it can take a while to gather the information you need before making a decision. You may sit down at your computer, only to find that, hours later, you're overwhelmed with the choices and no further along in making a decision.
Another pitfall is that booking hotels, resorts, and apartments site unseen can often result in disappointment, even if you read online reviews. And beware that deals that sound too good to be true usually are. A promotion from a reputable hotel chain to a popular tropical locale that was offered to my mother last year sounded like a great deal. However, upon further digging, we found out that it was in a less-than-desirable area of the popular resort town -- and the resort itself was under major renovation, with construction equipment everywhere. Good thing we did our research, because if we had booked this trip, it likely would have been a disaster. The whole experience reminded me of the value of using a travel professional.
If you're gluten free, having an advocate is even more important. You need to make sure hotels and resorts will truly understand not only your need for gluten free meals...but the need to take precautions to avoid cross contamination in the kitchen.
Booking an apartment online might seem like a good alternative...after all, you'll have access to your own kitchen. But sometimes online photos and reviews are not representative of what a property is actually like. I prefer to go with a property that my travel professional has had experience booking clients with great success. This is even more important to me if traveling overseas or to an area where I don't know the language. You need to have a contact in the country who your travel advisor has worked with. What happens if the person with the key to your apartment doesn't show up on time?
Plus, with everything on my own "to do" list these days, I'm looking to delegate where I can. I don't need to do everything myself. Frankly, even though I'm surrounded by dining and travel feedback and information in my job running this blog and my GlutenFreeTravelSite website, I like to have a travel advisor I trust weigh on travel ideas that would be a good fit for our family, based on their years of experience in the business.
Here are some things today's travel advisors can do for you. These travel professionals are not to be confused with travel agents of the past who merely booked plane tickets and rooms.
- High service travel professionals will use their years -- or in many cases, decades -- of experience to find the perfect destination match for you and your family. Whether you're planning a kid-friendly trip, a romantic getaway with your spouse, a family reunion, a getaway with friends, a honeymoon, or a business trip, a good travel advisor will assess your likes, dislikes, travel preferences, and budget to find the right fit.
- Travel advisors often have access to deals you wouldn't be able to find on your own, so they will save you money!
- Most importantly, a travel advisor with solid gluten free knowledge will work directly with the food and beverage manager to ensure you are well cared for at mealtime. Properties want to please these travel professionals so they keep sending them clients. Therefore, they will bend over backwards to please the advisor's clients. This is obviously imperative with folks on gluten free diets. You will rest assured knowing all the details are handled before your arrival, and you may even be able to request a favorite meal or special occasion cake. What bliss to be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy your vacation -- without running around trying to talk to chefs about ingredients in the food!
- They do all the legwork for you, saving you tons of time and effort. If you're overwhelmed with other non-meal details of planning your trip -- be it making arrangements for shows, tours and excursions, or transfers to and from the airport, a travel advisor can help.
- With their knowledge of resorts and cruise ships, experienced travel advisors will help you choose rooms in the best locations -- convenient but away from noise and distractions.
- If you get in a bind when traveling -- be it an issue at the resort or condo -- or with anything else your travel advisor has helped book -- you can rely on them for help. They are only a phone call away.
- They can make arrangements for special dinners or parties, whether you're at a resort or on a cruise ship. In fact, they can help plan a destination wedding or family reunion with multiple generations!
- You can often get special perks as a result of your travel advisor's relationship with a resort or cruise line.
One such travel agent I've relied on for our own family travel over the years is Lesley Hayden-Hock. She works at the Travel Leaders office outside of Boston. However, she works with clients all over the country. There is no need for you to be "local" (I myself am in the greater Washington, DC area). She has booked many trips for us over the past 13 years: an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean, a large family villa at another Caribbean resort, a ski condo in Whistler, multiple cruises, and a family trip to London over Christmas. We were so pleased with the properties, service, and value we received at each destination.
Since (like most travel advisors), Lesley gets a commission from the places she books clients, she does not charge a fee for her services if you book through her. So there's no reason not to enlist her help. Just please be respectful and don't call her to pick her brain -- and then book on your own. You won't save money doing this, and it's not respectful of her time. Lesley is a professional and needs to make a living just like everyone else! I assure you that you'll be pleased with the value and service she provides! Lesley can be reached at 800-487-6110 or Lhayden@travelleaders.com.