Thursday, 5 July 2012

Waves and Cycles

Like everything, cruising seems to come in waves (no pun intended!)  The cycle changes from year to year and what is new and fresh one season is old news the next. Popular cruise destinations are no exception.

 It wasn’t more than a year ago when we were seeing cruise lines introduce new ships to their fleets and an added capacity (more than ever before) deployed for European sailings.  It was gamble on part of the cruiselines but one that paid off.  Part of the success may have been contributed to the strong Canadian dollar and the weakening Euro making it an advantageous time for European travel by land and sea.
Here we are in the middle of summer 2012 and the story that unfolds this cruising this season is drastically different.    For Europe, what seems to be the emerging trend this year is that cruise prices are being slashed, cabin upgrades are being offered to repeat and first time cruisers alike and bonus credits toward the airfare are being applied.  What does all this mean?  Well, it’s simple….INCREDIBLE savings on European cruises including the Mediterranean for 2012! 

 Alaska seems to be the cruise vacation of choice this summer and from the increased interest I’ve noticed in my own agency I would agree that Alaska is much in demand.  Cruiselines follow the trends and will move their ships to compete in high demand markets from one season to the next.  Oceania for example, has already indicated that they will reduce the number of sailings in Europe and concentrate more on Alaskan itineraries for the 2013 season.  Fast forward 12 months from now and no one can say for sure if it was a risk worth taking but one thing is guaranteed;  a constant ebb and flow, or waves if you will of popularity.  Sometimes the cruiselines get it right but sometimes not.  When they don’t, it is leaving excellent opportunity for a cruise destination that is offering fantastic deals!  So, make a list of the places you’d like to visit and then speak with a qualified travel consultant.  That agent can see emerging trends, sales and bonus offers and is there to help you plan an unforgettable cruise experience!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Lexi's Adventure

If you've ever walked through the doors of the Travel Quest office you will, without a doubt, have met the friendly mascot, Lexi!  Yes, Lexi is a dog! She's a loveable 7 year old cast away whom we adopted about 5 years ago and she is now in the habit of accompanying me to work every day. 

We had been talking about just doing a quick getaway for a change of scenery and while we debated the pros and cons of flying to a destination, based on the amount of time we had, we decided we'd head to the Fargo, ND for a couple of nights.  Exotic?  Well, not exactly but really all we wanted was change so it seemed like a good choice.  Another pro was that I found a hotel in Fargo...and they accepted pets! 

Having never taken a pet across the border, I did my due diligence and researched exactly what paperwork etc would be required to take her.  Fortunately there wasn't much required other than her most current record of inoculations to prove all was up to date and that the rabies vaccine has been administered.  Wouldn't you know it - US customs didn't even ask to see any paperwork on the dog at all when we crossed over. 

We stayed at the Country Inn and Suites on 13th in Fargo and I have to give a shout out to the hotel staff!  Everyone was fantastic, helpful, friendly, professional and thrilled to see Lexi upon arrival!  The rooms were spacious, very clean and aside from restricting us to the main floor because we had a dog, there wasn't really anything more we could have asked for at that price!  The rooms had a mini fridge, in-room coffee as well as microwave and not only did they include a hot and cold complimentary breakfast that offered everything from cereal to waffles, fruit and bagels to eggs and sausage but they also had 24 hour coffee, tea and cookies in the lobby.  Best of all was happy hour in the breakfast room turned lounge!  Every night featured a different drink special and complimentary snacks from 5 - 7pm.  Was it 5 star dining?  No, but  the breakfast and snacks were tasty enough and was all included in the cost of the hotel room.

The pool on the Sunday morning was well used by plenty of kids swimming before the mall and box stores opened at noon but the rest of the time there was maybe 2 or 4 kids or maybe even none at all.  The hot tub was more like a hot bathwater but even that was ok by us...after all, they accepted pets!  Apparently the hotel also offered a complimentary shuttle to the West Acres Mall as well but we did not utilize that service. 

So, while taking your pet on vacation isn't always an option, nor is it always sensible, our first experience with pets and hotels was very favourable and for short getaways I would consider doing this again.  Wouldn't you know as we crossed back into our country, even Canadian customs did not ask for any paperwork for Lexi!  Murphy's Law I suppose: had we not brought the papers, they would have wanted to see everything and turned us away without a doubt! 

If/when our plans take us to Fargo again, we'll be sure to stay at the Country Inn and Suites because they made a great impression on us with their service levels...and they accept pets!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Playing Favorites

As a travel advisor, I am often asked by clients “What is your favorite vacation you’ve ever done?”  My answer is always the same:  I really can’t say I have one clear favorite.”

The reason I can’t, or won’t,  pin point one specific holiday is this:  When people, myself included, go on holidays they generally have different needs, wants and wishes depending on where they are in their life and what has been going on leading up to the holiday.  There just isn’t one vacation that is a perfect fit for every individual.  Each of us is unique so shouldn't we have the option to customize what we do or don't do based on our personal interests?

The definition of holiday or vacation can have various translations for everyone.  From my experience it also depends as well on who you’re travelling with.  Is this a family holiday?  Is it just you and your significant other? Are you getting away with your friends?  Are those you are travelling with like minded and do they share similar interests?  Is the destination familiar or brand new for you?  Do you have planned itinerary or will you be fully independent and able to go when and where you please?  These and so many other factors contribute to understanding what makes a great holiday.

For most of us, when we think about relaxing and rejuvenating, we can picture a seaside retreat with a warm, tropical breeze swaying the hammock we’re lounging in.  For some, that exact scenario would spell boredom beyond belief! For those individuals, a relaxing time might be a golf vacation or driving through the back roads of Europe while for others recharge their batteries might mean trekking to base camp of Mount Everest!  Ok, so maybe Everest is slightly more energetic than most would ever imagine but my point is that each of us has different expectations from our holiday.  Sometimes we’re game for a little adventure, romance, maybe we’re looking to get off the beaten track and reconnect with nature or who knows, maybe we want a taste of the exotic. 

Now, all this is not to say that I don’t have some holidays that stand out in my mind above others. Don’t get me wrong - there have been a number of vacations that will forever be right up there -  vacations that have left a lasting impact on me.   I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel the world and although I’m still chipping away at it, every holiday (past and present) will be approached in the same manner:

·        Embrace the destination for what it is.

·        Open your mind to a new experience; be it people, food, culture.

·        Expect things to be different than they are at home. (if it was the same, what’s the point in leaving in the first place?)

I really do believe that every holiday has the potential to be a “favorite vacation”.  The potential is there every time you step on a plane, ship, car or whatever other mode of transportation you choose to take.  The key is understanding what your expectations are for that particular holiday.  Translate this insight to your travel professional and work together utilizing their knowledge to define your wish list and you'll be jetting off to your favorite vacation too!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Web vs. Agent

A question was submitted to me via email this past week:  It was from Jan H. and was about booking online versus through a travel agency.  Specifically she wondered:

 A) Could I offer them the same rate?
 B) What's the difference? 

An excellent question and a very popular one I might add!  I love being given the opportunity to answer questions like this so here goes:

When you book online through a travel website, typically you're still dealing with a travel agency however it's an online version rather than a store front office such as mine.  The "deals" and options offered by the online agency is identical to what other agencies are able to offer.  One thing that you need to understand is that we all have access to the exact same information so whether you choose to sit in front of your computer and wade through the multitude of  options on a travel website, go directly to a tour operator site (or call them) or contact a traditional bricks and mortar agency, the pricing is the same when you compare the identical product.

The bigger, and to me, the more important question is the second one!  What's the difference between an online travel site or working with a travel agent?  My answer to that is an entire world of difference!  A website can not begin to get to know your personal preferences  - flying preferences, type of accommodation, special interests or activities you like to do.  Sure, websites have little boxes you can click here and there to say you like an all inclusive, 4.5 star or would rather depart in the morning but are they really asking the important questions that truly offer insight?  Insight such as which destination or resort would be best for your multi-generational family of 12, or which hotel is more likely to be able to cater to specific dietary needs such as gluten free meals.  These are just a small sampling of how our experience can help.  I believe it's about building relationships, not about finalizing just that one-time sale.  If an agent just takes the information on what you've been looking at, essentially they are an order taker and absolutely that can be done on line! Our value is in the questions we ask and our own personal travel experiences.  We need to ask questions to qualify your needs and to work on getting to know you, our valued client. These are things that a website, no matter how technologically advanced it is, can not do!  Websites are fantastic tools for educating yourself and doing research but it does not replace a great agent who is working for YOU!  We work as your value interpreter offering unbiased travel advise that is geared to create the best possible selections for you and those you're travelling with. 

Navigating through the countless sites can become overwhelming for sure.  At our office we are finding that more and more clients are using the internet and various websites to gain knowledge about things to see and do and then are contacting us to weave all the finishing details together into one seemless package.

I have often said to potential clients that it's really about working with someone who is able to listen and understand your needs.  If you feel that a website offers that then by all means, maybe it's the best choice for you but if you want someone to be able to interact with, to call upon when you have questions and who will go above and beyond to make great holiday memories, then my vote will always be to work with a travel professional.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

In the begining

Although I'm brand new to blogging, I'm certainly not new to bringing the world and all it has to offer to my clients.  Everyone keep telling me that I need to be blogging and so...if you're willing to read what I post, I'm willing to give it a try!

So, here's how it all began: My love of travel began very early on for me and like many young adults, fresh out of school, I decided to "see the world" and "spread my wings".  That adventure took me for the first time to Australia.  Yup, the land Downunder with it's magnificent beaches, dynamic and cosmopolitan cities, red desert centre, sheep dotted pastures, Foster's Lager and the friendliest people!  Oh believe me when I say there is so much more to Australia than these few points however it was a start remember!

Upon returning home after nomadic wandering the continent I knew that travel was in my blood.  For nearly 25 years now I have been working as a Certified Travel Consultant with the previous 11 years of that also being the owner of an independent agency called Travel Quest.  Each and every day I enjoy what I do...yes...even still!  I think I must have hit the nail on the head with that choice in life!

For me, my career has evolved and I realize that it's truly about forging relationships with my clients and getting to know who they are and what makes for a "perfect getaway" to them.  I'm thrilled to share my stories of personal travel, ideas and hints I've learned both from experience and feed back I receive from client.

And so, for my first blog post, I hope you've found something interesting that will entice you to check back periodically for another chapter of "with Carey on".