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Travel Advice

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

How a Travel Advisor Helps With Hotel Bookings

In a story I wrote for The Boston Globe on "The Key to Getting a Better Hotel Room," I interviewed Jacob Tomsky, author of the best-selling Heads in Beds (Doubleday). Tomsky, 35, spent a decade in the hotel industry, seven of those years manning the front desk at an upscale midtown Manhattan hotel. I asked him is it better to book a room via a travel agent than to reserve through websites like Hotels.com or Priceline? His response: "From a business standpoint, people who book through third-party travel sites are looking for a discount. The likelihood that they'll return to your hotel is close to nil. So discount reservations are our last priority. They're the ones we put next to the elevator." It also doesn't help that these online travel agents or OTAs are reaping exorbitant finder fees from lodgings, up to 25 percent of cost per room from independent properties, compared to the average 10 percent commission for travel agents.

Hotels respond most favorably to repeat business. If a property like Relais Christine in Paris knows I call them first when booking my clients in that city, they will respond by giving our client the best service and room. Also, a good travel agent knows to call the hotel 2 to 3 days before you arrive to speak to the general manager or director of sales and "VIP the client." It's a business of people serving people. The more you can connect with the hotel, the better your stay. If this is your first time in Paris in 10 years and you only represent yourself, realize you don't have the same leverage as 50 bookings a year at the same property. If you're booking a 4 or 5-star property on your own, you're also missing out on hotels sweetening the pot during your stay. ActiveTravels is aligned with the travel consortium, Virtuoso. When booking one of the upscale properties in that network, we can offer free upgrades, complimentary spa services and breakfasts. 
 
Then comes the research that goes into finding that dream hotel. Google "Italian villas" and you'll see over 59 million results. Have fun with that research. That number will surely increase with the deluge of travel content. In fact, travel advisors have even coined a phrase for the client who spends far too much time researching on his computer, "analysis paralysis." The whole scene is reminiscent of the financial sector a decade ago when investors were enamored with the $10 E-trade. Why use a financial advisor when I can trade on my own? Well, because you don't want to spend a good chunk of your life micromanaging your investments. Today's travelers want someone with expertise to give their stamp of approval, having personally stayed in these lodgings or having known clientele who have stayed there. Thankfully, travel agents no longer sit behind their desks all day researching a trip from afar. They're often on the road gaining valuable expertise by visiting those hotels. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/06/19 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, March 05, 2019

How a Travel Advisor Helps with Flight Delays

Last week, we had three clients miss their flight connections and one ActiveTravels member break his clavicle and ribs on a motorcycle accident in Phuket, Thailand. Before our clients even got off their planes, they were rebooked and ready to go on the next available flight. No standing in line for hours at the customer service desk with all the other passengers. The man with the broken bones is still healing in a hospital, but we were able to cancel and reschedule his first-class flight with a slight change fee. In this Do-It-Yourself World, you're led to believe that you can easily book travel on your own. That's certainly true, but when a mishap happens, which is inevitable when you travel, it's good to have someone working on your behalf while you're still on a plane with no WiFi. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/05/19 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, March 04, 2019

Your Flight is Cancelled: What To Do Next

We arrived around 10 am at the Bangkok Airport with more than enough time to catch our first flight that day to Hong Kong, which would then connect to our Boston flight home. We checked the Cathay Pacific website before we left the hotel and our first flight was on time, as scheduled. But unfortunately, that wasn't the case. We were told at airport check-in that our first flight had technical problems and would be delayed. There was no way we could make the connecting flight in Hong Kong and the next flight from Hong Kong to Boston would be exactly 24 hours later. Uggh.

Travel overseas, especially on a connecting flight and this same scenario is very likely to happen to you. You can jump up and down, pout, and say life's not fair, or you can take a deep breath, pause, and try to get yourself home as quickly as possible in a relatively comfortable manner. We were lucky to have a great person at the Cathay Pacific desk in Bangkok working on our behalf. First and foremost, when an airline cancels or delays a flight due to technical problems, they are under contract to get you to your destination on any airline, not just the airline you booked. Cathay Pacific understood this and led us over to the British Airways check-in to try and catch the flight to Heathrow and on to Logan, but it was too late to get on the flight. He then brought up two other options, fly Lufthansa 11 hours later that day, connecting in Frankfurt, or fly Emirates through Dubai at 8 pm, arriving in Dubai at 1 am. We would then wait at the Dubai Airport until the 8 am flight to Boston the next morning. Neither was particularly appealing. 
 
This is when you consult Google Flights or Kayak to ensure they are offering all options. Our son, Jake, found a 4 pm flight to Dubai on Emirates, which would get us into Dubai at 9 pm. Could they put us up in a hotel in Dubai that night so we could get a good night's sleep before the 8 am flight to Boston the next morning? At first, the Cathay Pacific rep hemmed and hawed, but then agreed to get us on this flight and purchase the hotel room for the night. When we arrived in Dubai later that day, we realized he went one step further. An escort met us upon arrival and led us to an in-transit hotel located smack dab inside the Dubai airport. We didn't need to go through Customs or even go through security again the next morning. All we did was wake up and walk to our gate. But none of this would have happened unless we first did our research, found the earlier flight, and asked for the night's hotel. So if you're ever in this same situation, remember to relax, do the flight research quickly, and be assertive.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/04/19 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, December 21, 2018

5 Winter Escapes, Group Travel, and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in ActiveTravels December Newsletter

These next two weeks, we have clients traveling to all corners of the globe from South Africa to Argentina to Australia. But if you're looking for something a bit closer, where you can relax on a beach with a good thick book and soak up that sunshine, consider our 5 choices for a quick winter escape in the December ActiveTravels newsletter. Please also read about my recent trip to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and how, more and more, we're booking families and groups of friends on private trips with active travel outfitters like Backroads and DuVine. 

 
We'll be back on January 3rd. Wishing you all a very Happy, Healthy, and Active New Year! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/21/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Don’t Forget About Beaufort

Yesterday, I discussed Montage Palmetto Bluff, the upscale resort brand's only East Coast property. A mere 45-minute drive north of the Montage on Route 170 is another gem of the South Carolina Lowcountry, the charming town of Beaufort. The state's second oldest city, founded in 1711, is best known for its well-preserved antebellum architecture. Grab a room at the Anchorage 1770 and then wander upstairs to the rooftop, cocktail in hand, to take in the views of boats passing on the Beaufort River and the many oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. For dinner, visit The Ribaut Social Club, once the playground for Admiral Lester Beardslee's gentlemen's social club in the 1800s and, a century later, the spot where novelist Pat Conroy would sip his libations. In the daytime, take a walk on The Spanish Moss Trail or at Hunting Island Beach. Or take a horse and carriage ride through the historic district and marvel at the homes on The Point, a hub of Southern antebellum architecture. You'll be happy you didn't overlook Beaufort on your next trip to the Charleston/Savannah region. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/18/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Biking Puglia, Resort Picks on Amalfi Coast in November Newsletter

Spend 18 nights in Italy and you learn a wealth of travel info on the country. You can read about our bike trip with DuVine Cycling and the resorts we liked on the Amalfi Coast in the latest ActiveTravels newsletter. We also introduce you to the valuable flight and soon to be hotel app, Hopper, and talk about the debut of The Glen Hotel at the base of mighty Mount Washington in New Hampshire. 

 
Have a Happy Thanksgiving with your family and friends. I'll be back on Monday to discuss the highlights of my recent trip to Kentucky Bourbon country. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/21/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, September 28, 2018

Caribbean Getaways, Munich Hotels, and Away Luggage Featured in Our September Newsletter

This is the time of year when ActiveTravels is busy booking warm weather destinations for clients who want to escape the cold this coming winter. So it's no surprise that we focus on the Caribbean as our main feature in the September newsletter. Oktoberfest has also arrived, a good time to discuss favorite Munich hotels. We also describe Lisa's latest luggage, Away, where you can charge your phone directly to the carry-on. She'll put it to good use as we leave for Italy today. We'll be checking out Florence, the Amalfi Coast, and ending in Rome. The highlight is biking with good friends on a 6-day bike ride in Puglia with DuVine Cycling. We'll be even more well-versed in all things Italy upon our return, so we can better help you on your forthcoming trips there. Amy is also out of the office as she is taking an exciting cruise circumnavigating Newfoundland with Adventure Canada. We'll all be back on October 17th. Until then, enjoy Autumn and keep active! 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/28/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, August 17, 2018

Cuba, Colombia, Hartford, and More in August ActiveTravels Newsletter

Lisa and I recently had the pleasure of meeting Megumi Gordon, granddaughter of ActiveTravels member, Naomi Gordon. Megumi, along with her husband, Michael Laverty, and his brother, Collin, is co-founder of Habana Live, a tour operator in Cuba that custom-designs trips to the island based upon your interests. With new nonstop service on JetBlue starting on November 10th between Boston and Havana, (JetBlue already offers direct flights from JFK to Havana), there's no better time to visit Cuba. Along with Megumi, many outfitters and cruise lines are adding Cuba to their list of destinations this winter. To see the five ways we recommend visiting Cuba this winter, please see our latest ActiveTravels newsletter. We also include highlights of my recent trip to Colombia, as well as a fun quick escape to Hartford, Connecticut. And if you're heading to Europe this year, read about the great (and free!) audio tours by travel author Rick Steves.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/17/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

8 Perfect New England Weekend Getaways

Pick a passion, any passion, and there's a locale in New England perfectly suited to your desire. Whether you crave award-winning, locally made IPAs, a former industrial complex converted to the largest center of contemporary art in the US, or miles of bike trails that lead to Nantucket beaches, we have a weekend planned for you. One of these 8 themed weekends, my latest story for Yankee Magazine, is certain to satisfy your interests. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/15/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, July 06, 2018

Norway, ActiveTravels Group Trips, and More in our June/July Newsletter

With the low-cost carrier, Norwegian Air, expanding across North America, it should come as no surprise that Norway has experienced a surge in travelers these past two years. Who wouldn't want to be whisked away to this stunning land of fjords, colorful and charming UNESCO World Heritage cities like Bergen, and a history that dates back to the time of Vikings? We recently went to an all-day seminar in Boston with a dozen representatives from across Norway and describe the trips that sound the most exciting in our summer newsletter. We're also excited to announce a slate of group trips in 2019, including a cruise to Alaska with renowned travel writer, Fran Golden; a wine cruise to Bordeaux on AmaWaterways with Vinodivino, owners of 4 wine stores in the Boston region; and a Bike n' Brew Weekend at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont, with one ride led by avid biker Sam von Trapp. Have a look and, if interested in any of these trips, please contact ActiveTravels
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/06/18 at 06:00 AM
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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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