Benefits of Working with a Travel Consultant
Written By:Susie Leib, Oshkosh, WI
Vacations are an emotional experience and only humans have the ability to feel and share emotions. A travel consultant knows the questions to ask so that the right vacation experience is recommended. A traveler may not even know what questions to ask because you don't know what you don't know (information about a destination, experience, hotel, etc).
The cheapest vacation is not necessarily the best vacation. Let's go back to a Nolan Burris lesson - how much would you pay for a bad vacation? A computer may very well spit out the cheapest vacation but only a human is going to know what the best value for that particular traveler is. Consultants know the best value because we have developed a personal relationship.
How can you completely trust the recommendations posted on a website? Who is behind those recommendations? The public is questioning this as well. Most people when making a vacation investment of thousands of dollars want to be sure that they get the vacation they think they are. Much to the dismay of some techies - people will trust a recommendation coming from someone they know rather than a computer generated recommendation.
Will a computer be there to answer all of your questions before your trip? To clarify questions or put you at ease if you are an anxious traveler? Will a computer be there when you check in and get a garden view room when clearly you booked an ocean view room? Who do you turn to? A travel consultant always has your back! As much as I don't like to tell people that when they book with a travel consultant we are there when something goes wrong it is true - it is an added value that we bring to the table. I'm fairly certain there isn't a computer anywhere that will get in the car and deliver a forgotten passport to the airport!
Teri's Travel Tip:
10 packing tips every traveler should know
Packing is pivotal. Forget an essential item and you're left disappointed and scrambling to find the nearest store in your destination. Pack too much and you end up disorganized, burdened with heavy bags, and hemorrhaging money to pay for pricey airline baggage fees. So we thought it best to revisit the most basic—and most useful—packing rules. Here are 10 fundamental packing strategies that every traveler should learn.
1. Start with a packing list
When it comes to packing, procrastinators fall short. Start your packing process days or even weeks ahead of your departure date; this gives you time to craft a complete list, plus purchase any additional items you might need for your vacation. Creating a packing list is a fail-safe way to ensure that you never, ever forget to bring something important.
2. Know your airline's baggage-fee policy
Figuring out the airlines' tricky baggage-fee policy is key to any budget-minded packing strategy. While most airlines permit travelers to check at least one bag on international flights, the majority of U.S. carriers charge big bucks for bags checked on domestic flights. Carriers are also cracking down on the size of carry-on’s and insisting that you consolidate other carried items to fit under the seat in your personal item.
Before you begin packing, take a peek at your airline's website and read its baggage policy. This is something you might even want to do prior to buying your plane ticket, especially if you're set on bringing a checked bag or two.
3. Follow the 3-1-1 rule
What happens if you don't follow the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) 3-1-1 rule for carry-on luggage? Attempt to bring a large bottle of shampoo or a full-size gel deodorant through the security line and the TSA will likely confiscate your stuff, holding you up in line in the process. So get familiar with the agency's rules: All liquids brought onto planes must be in 3.4-ounce bottles or smaller and inside a single, clear, quart-size zip-top bag.
It also helps to know which items are, according to the TSA, considered liquids or gels and thereby subject to the 3-1-1 rule. This isn't as simple as it sounds. Foods such as peanut butter, pudding, mashed potatoes, and icing are classified as gels. Mascara, lip gloss, and aerosol items are also classified as liquids or gels. But keep in mind that liquid prescription medication is exempt.
4. Roll, don't fold.
Many travel experts—including backpackers, who must stuff months' worth of clothing into a pack the size of a box of wine—agree that rolling is superior to folding. Tightly rolled clothes take up less space than folded ones. Plus, they're less prone to getting deep wrinkles from fold creases.
5. Wash your clothes on the road
Laundry facilities are one of my favorite parts about staying in vacation rentals. If you know your accommodations will have a washer and dryer you're golden. You can wash and wear just a handful of outfits for the duration of even very long trips.
If you're staying in a hotel, call in advance to see if laundry services are available and how much they cost. Travelers staying in properties without laundry facilities or taking cruises—cruise lines are notorious for charging an arm and a pant leg for laundry services—can wash clothes in sinks and hang them to dry. I always make sure to pack a travel-size packet of laundry detergent and a sink stopper to clean my clothes on the road—it's my secret for fitting everything in a carry-on bag. Portable laundry-drying lines that attach to showers via suction cups are also a good choice; you can find them at many travel-supply stores.
This advice is twofold: Wear layers and pack in layers. First, your on-the-road wardrobe should feature plenty of layers, which will help you jetset through multiple climates in style and comfort. Second, the items in your bag should be packed in neat layers for easy screening. According to the TSA, "Pack items in layers (shoes one layer, clothes one layer, electronics one layer, etc.)" so that the security agent screening your bag can get a clear picture of what's inside. The faster the TSA agent can screen your stuff, the faster you'll get through the security line.
7. Never check essential items
It's very important to keep your valuable and essential belongings in your carry-on bag, not in your checked luggage. Your passport, identification, money, credit cards, jewelry, electronics, and other valuables should always be brought onto the plane with you. We probably don't need to tell you why you need to keep your passport and wallet on your person. But if the airline loses your luggage (or if a TSA agent gets sticky fingers), you'll regret stowing your expensive watch in a checked bag. Medications should always be with you as well.
Cruising tips & tricks
I thought I’d share some of the tips & tricks I’ve learned over the years on Cruising. Some of these things I’ve learned from experience. Some from fellow travelers, and some from reading.
• Pack all liquids in a zip lock bag. Get the 1 gallon size. You never know when something (lotion, body spray, etc. will open and the zip lock bag will keep your clothes from getting ruined.
• Pack personal items like underwear, bathing suits, etc in gallon zip locks bags. Not only will you stay organized, your items will stay clean from things like dirty hands.
• Take a couple extra 2 gallon zip lock bags for wet swimsuits that don’t dry in time to be packed dry.
• Go to Target and buy a pop up clothes hamper for dirty clothes. You can find these in the iron/laundry section of the store. They run about $6-7 and fold up nice and small but are big enough for a week’s worth of dirty clothes. Very handy.
• Bring a tiny container of air freshener/room spray. These cabins are tiny with no fans. If you are married to a man and you have to share a bathroom with him you’ll understand why you should bring this. Scentsy makes the perfect size or I have bought 4oz. Fabrize.
• Bring a highlighter. If you’re traveling with lots of people who like to do different things then bring a few highlighters in different colors. Every day you will receive a newsletter outlining all the different things there are to do onboard. It can be frustrating if you can’t remember what time the galley tour is or what show is being featured tonight. Bring a highlighter and highlight all the activities and events you’re interested in and your day will go so much more smoothly.
• Pack a small lint roller.
• Bring Downy Wrinkle Releaser or an empty spray bottle you can fill with water once you’re on board. There are laundry rooms on the cruise ships but they get SUPER busy. You don’t want to wait an hour in line for the iron. Unpack as soon as possible to let your clothes hang and the wrinkles fall out. If you do need an iron go asap on the first night if possible. There most likely won’t be a line. Wait til the hour before dinner on formal night and you’ll be in for a wait.
• Check and see if your cruise line lets you bring your own alcohol (if you drink alcohol). Cocktails onboard can be super expensive. BYOB and you’ll save a ton of money. By the way, Disney is BYOB friendly.
• For those cruises that are not BYOB friendly… contact me personally for some “tips, or better said TRICKS” to get that booze on without being founds out…
• Bring a reusable water bottle. You’ll have ice in your room so you can take nice cold water out to the pool or beach.
• Most cabin/ stateroom doors are metal. So bring some magnetic clips to hold papers (like the newsletter) on your door so you’ll know right where it is. Plus, if you want to save the newsletters as souvenirs this will keep them wrinkle free. If you have any magnetic hooks, bring those too. You can never have enough hooks to hang wet swimwear. Also, decorate your door! Not only does it help your door standout in a loooong line of lookalike doors (to make it easier to find), it’s fun and festive!
• If you’re traveling to a port you’ve visited before, stay on the ship! This is a great time to explore the ship and take advantage of the pools/hot tubs without having to deal with crowds.
• If you can swing it, book a room with a balcony. It really makes your cabin feel much bigger.
• Bring a small notebook that can fit in your purse/pocket. At the end of each day be sure to write down what you did that day. Include what you ate and take pictures of your meals. The food is fantastic on cruises and you’ll want to share your dining experiences with family and friends back home. As much as we try, it’s impossible to take pictures of everything you do so your little notebook will become a great travel journal.
• Speaking of food…order more than one appetizer! Or order 2 soups. Your food is prepaid. Take advantage of this. Try things you’ve never tried before, like escargot. If you don’t like it, get something else. Normally this is not something you’d do in a restaurant so now’s your chance!
• In my opinion the sit down restaurants are always better than the buffets so try and eat at the full service restaurants when you can.
• Adjust your schedule. We are not morning people. But we’ve found on cruises all the interesting and fun things to do seem to happen at certain times. So we wake up early to enjoy breakfast in the full service restaurant. Then in the couple of hours before dinner and the shows things seem to slow down. That’s when we nap. Then we’re ready to stay up late for the late night buffets and shows. We’re still getting our 8 hours of sleep, just broken up over the day with the nap.
• Order room service. Room service is included in your cruise rate on most cruise lines. Take advantage of this! Have breakfast in your pajamas one day. Order a late night snack. Just be sure to tip the room service waiter.
• Unplug. Unless it is absolutely necessary we do not use the internet or our cell phones while at sea, even though service is available. It is expensive for one, and for another…it can wait! You spent a lot of money to go on this cruise. You can be on the internet any time you’d like. Be present for your vacation.
• Take pictures of everything! Your cabin. Your meals. Each other. Everything you can think of. You never know when you’ll be telling friends and family about your cruise and you wish you had a picture of that thing/meal/etc.
• Book your next cruise while onboard. Some cruise lines offer significant discounts if you book your next cruise while on your current cruise.
• Use a travel agent. You won’t pay more. Might pay less. And you’ll get personalized service. Your travel agent might have some tricks up her sleeve and know some secrets you don’t know!
Hope these tips are helpful! Have a great vacation!