Now that the winter holidays are over, and with warm days still far beyond the horizon, you might be feeling a little stir crazy and imagining what it would be like to jet away somewhere well beyond the Delaware state line.
If so, you’re in a good position to do so with airports in Philadelphia and Baltimore offering a wide range of international flights. And although it’s certainly possible to create your own itinerary and do all of the booking yourself, I strongly recommend you work with a qualified travel agent for several reasons.
First, they live and breathe travel, and have more experience than virtually anyone regarding airline ins and outs, cruise packages, hotel deals and special rules regarding passport rules, lingering Covid restrictions and pitfalls to avoid.
This can be especially important if you’re someone who hasn’t traveled extensively, perhaps because you’ve been too busy raising your family and saving for your retirement. That’s the position our friend Chris Beakey was in this time last year when he decided to plan a trip to Italy in May.
“I’d never been abroad, and had all kinds of nightmarish thoughts of missing trains, checking into bad hotels and generally being too stressed out as a first-time international traveler,” he recalls. “The smartest decision I made was to work with a veteran travel agent who planned the entire trip.”
For those reasons and more Chris contacted Angela Armutcu, who runs the American Express travel agency in Rehoboth. It was a good match because Angela has spent a lot of time in Italy and even lived there for several years. It also worked out well because, as he tells it, “I basically told her what kind of experiences I wanted to have and left the planning up to her.”
The result was a dream vacation without one single pitfall.
“I splurged in getting a driver to pick me up at airports and take me to my hotels and to the train stations that got me from city to city once I was there,” he says. “Believe me, it felt comforting and actually pretty cool to ride and walk with locals who made sure I stayed on track.”
Working with a highly experienced agent also ensured he stayed in very nice hotels that were close to cultural attractions. Angela also gave him insider tips on what to see and do in Venice, Florence, Rome, and Sorrento, and Capri, on the coast and secured a great deal on business class tickets so he could fly in comfort and style.
“Every single one was absolutely amazing, and in this case all historic and luxurious and no more expensive than the hotels I would have booked on my own.”
The other benefit of working with a travel agent – which isn’t very well-known to many people – is that all of that wonderful guidance was free.
As Bob Cardaneo, who owns the CruiseOne franchise in Long Neck with his wife, Cathy, explains:
“I get paid through the industry – not through my commissions. You can certainly buy cruises directly, but their prices are based on paying a commission to a travel agent. So if you go it alone you’re paying the cost of a commission without the benefits that only a travel agent can get you.” (sounds a lot like buying new construction without using a REALTOR®!)
Those benefits could include complementary spa services, cabin upgrades, vouchers for gourmet meals and shore excursions and more, and are made possible by the contacts Bob and Cathy have made during their 24 years in the travel business.
“We get a lot of insight on sales and know about a lot of special deals before they’re even made public,” she says. “We’re kind of like your super-shoppers. We shop around to get you the best deal, save you time and usually save you some money too.”
Bob and Cindy also emphasize their customer service continues throughout every trip they book, and helps avoid common travel mishaps.
“I keep track of my customers’ passport numbers and when they expire, and keep photocopies of all of their documentation in case something happens,” Bob notes.
Like Bob, Cathy is always accessible by cell phone throughout customers’ trips. As Cathy puts it, “you’re not going to be stuck at the airport figuring out what to do when your flight is cancelled. We’ll be there to help you.”
They all also emphasize the necessity of purchasing travel insurance, especially given the tumult the nation saw last summer, when thousands of flights were cancelled in July, and recently over the winter holidays. It’s the best way to ensure you’re reimbursed for most of the costs you incur.
For some inspiration, check out @explorewith_em’s site!