How to Tell a Good Travel Agent When You See One

You and your spouse have decided to go on a vacation. You’ve always wanted to get really away, and a trip to the relatives just doesn’t cut it any more. How do you plan your trip?You could go online and dig around for travel tips (which you’re doing right now, unless this article is in a physical magazine). You will find more information online than you can possibly use–and some will be contradictory. How do you separate the wheat from the chaff? Every place will say it’s the best place to visit. Everyone will claim to have the best discount. No one will tell you the gotchas. (Some places do have negative comments, but how do you know if the comments aren’t just sour grapes?) What if price X changes while you’re looking at price Y? What about hidden costs, problems you might not think of, secret discounts you don’t know about, and pitfalls in processing your documents? Many dangers lurk in planning travel beyond your usual haunts. And don’t forget–all that research takes time. What’s your time worth?You might visit a travel agent. Travel agents have a reputation for being expensive. After all, they have offices and all those fancy travel books and posters. As it happens, those ads and brochures are supplied by the cruise lines and travel companies. They pay the agents, too, normally. If an agent needs to charge you for a service, they will tell you up front. if you’re in a travel club, you can expect the agent to reduce or eliminate the commission, and have a ready supply of club discounts, further reducing the price. Ask yourself: What’s a travel agent’s knowledge and experience worth? They know the ropes, the pitfalls, the tricks of the trade; they have access to all the discounts, and they’ll save you time and stress–after you get to know a travel agent, one phone call can take care of everything.Of course, you have the same problem picking a travel agent as you do making travel decisions online: Who’s good? For that matter, what is good in a travel agent? And how can you tell?Here are a few ways to take the measure of a travel agent.Are you connected to the agent? (This rule is good when you consider hiring a realtor or a funeral director, too.) If you know someone in the travel industry, they are more likely to want to give you exceptional service. After all, they see you socially. Maybe you know where they live. Good travel agents can be relatives, acquaintances, friends, and friends of friends.
Is the person well traveled? If they have been to where you want to go, all the better, but travel experience of any sort seasons a person. A travel agent who has personally been around the block a few times is a font of wisdom and advice.
Is the person detail oriented? Not necessarily neat (that is a good thing), but notice whether they find your file immediately. They should know where everything is and not have to hunt for things. You don’t want an absent-minded professor for a travel agent. You never (okay, hardly ever) see a good travel agent surprised by something, and they keep their promises about when they’ll have something for you. They are ready when you show up after that first, introductory meeting.
Is the agent you’re working with responsive? Do they answer phone calls and emails promptly? This is a must. Even if all they can say is that they need more time, they don’t make you wait for a reply.
Are they cost efficient? You can tell this by the number of choices they present you with. A lazy travel agent won’t research multiple options, won’t hunt for the best price, won’t spend any more time than necessary working up your vacation. You see them look up one thing and give you a price. A good agent will hunt down good deals, think of options (a nearby nice location that costs less, for example) that you didn’t consider, check with several wholesalers. Good agents give you a lot to choose from.A good travel agent can handle a lot of that before-vacation hassle, and make your next trip more enjoyable while it’s happening.

Travel Insurance – Avoid Becoming a Statistic

We have all seen and read media reports and statistics about the perils of not taking out travel insurance. There is certainly plenty of information on the internet for travellers regarding the importance of insurance. Despite this, however, recent research by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) indicates that one in five British travellers still neglect to take out travel insurance for their trips and holidays.The British Foreign Office and their ‘Know Before You Go’ service provides excellent and free travel advice and country information to assist travellers before they set off. They also warn of the potentially dire financial consequences for those who risk setting off without travel insurance.It appears that despite all the warnings many holidaymakers are still either unaware of the risk they are taking, or prepared to take a chance. This is a case of false economy as the cost of travel insurance is very cheap compared to the bills that could mount up over problems that arise while travelling overseas.The ABTA research has shown that younger travellers, mainly the 15-24 age group, are the most uninformed as they believe that if anything bad happens to them while abroad the government will pick up the cost and take care of it for them. This could not be further from the truth. Many young travellers go abroad with friends, or on adventure holidays, or for Hen or Stag parties so are at particular risk. However, it is important to remember that if intoxication or rowdy behaviour result in injury, fines, or arrest your consulate or embassy cannot pay the bills for you or secure your release.The sad reality for the families or parents of young travellers who get into trouble abroad is that they are going to receive a desperate telephone call for help and will have no option but to come up with the needed funds. The British Embassy or Consulate will go as far as making calls and contacting friends and relatives for them and advise on the transfer of funds, but that is about the extent of their assistance. The government does not cover payments for hospital treatment, nor does it pay to fly anyone home (repatriate them) or provide funds if they run out of money, get arrested, or have all their money and possessions stolen.If a traveller is seriously injured or ill and needs to be flown home by air ambulance the costs are truly frightening – running into thousands of pounds for those who do not have adequate travel insurance.Single Trip travel insurance can be surprisingly cheap, and even the minimum amount of cover it provides can be vital. For young travellers Backpacker policies are very affordable and still provide the necessary cover for medical treatment, liability and legal expenses. There are, of course, terms and conditions as with any type of insurance and policies differ from company to company so it is important to check. Having that insurance policy tucked in your pocket or hand luggage is not a license to act irresponsibly, or put yourself in harm’s way. It is unlikely to cover incidents that are found to be related to the excessive consumption of alcohol or drug use.The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) provides a level of cover for emergency medical treatment in participating member countries, and it is important to carry this (free) card, along with comprehensive travel insurance – but never instead of insurance. The EHIC does not cover anything much other than emergency medical expenses, and does not cover non-urgent or follow-up care. It also does not cover the cost of medical repatriation by air ambulance, if this should become necessary.Repatriation costs can amount to as much as £45,000 from the East Coast of the USA, up to £16,000 from destinations like Tenerife, and up to £20,000 from destinations ‘down under’. Consider whether you have that sort of disposable money lying around? Most people do not!Imagine suddenly finding yourself responsible for debt of this kind, either for yourself or for a travelling dependent. In these harsh economical times unexpected expenses of this kind would be totally devastating. Why take such a risk?For the relatively small cost of insurance you are purchasing peace of mind and, with any luck, you may never need to use it. Consider that most travel insurance will cover costs for common and expensive travel mishaps, including:

Emergency medical treatment for injury or illness
Repatriation by air ambulance
Lost luggage or stolen money, credit cards and possessions
Personal liability (in case of a lawsuit for damage to property or persons)
Cover for Legal Expenses
Cancellation of your trip (for covered reasons)
Curtailment of your trip (cutting short your trip)
Scheduled Airline failure
Personal accident cover for death or disability
It is all too easy to spend a lot of time surfing the internet looking for cheap holidays or travel deals, but forget that it is equally important to take time to purchase travel insurance, and to check what it does and does not include. If unsure, always call and ask – don’t leave it to chance.If you are not sure whether you might decide to go river rafting, bungee jumping or skiing on your holiday it is important to ensure that you will be covered for these activities and, if necessary, purchase additional cover.Avoid being tempted to opt for the cheapest policy that you find on a comparison site. Take the time to check that you are getting adequate levels of cover for your money and that all your planned activities are covered. A very cheap policy may have cut the levels of cover where you most need it, or raised ‘excess’ levels (the amount that you contribute towards a claim) in order to tempt you with a cheap quote.If you plan to make more than one trip in a year it is sensible to save money by opting for the Annual Multi-trip policy as this will work out cheaper in the long run.Having an accident or mishap while on holiday is often unavoidable, and always inconvenient. However, facing financial ruin and becoming a statistic because you neglected to take out travel insurance is something that is completely avoidable!

Where to Look For Comprehensive Small Business Internet Solutions

Owners of small businesses often require an Internet presence, it is expected that any current business will have a company website. Your image on the Internet is important, as it is another form of contact for potential clients. You will need to find a small business Internet solution that is comprehensive yet value for money. Many regular Internet solutions provide the basic hosting and support, but a business, of any size, will feel necessity for a more than an elementary service. A small business Internet package should supply tools you can use easily to update your site whenever you wish. A business with the right web integration set up will perform much better.If you are considering an Internet solution for your business then you need to explore all the options. You should decide what features will be the most beneficial to your particular Internet requirements. The choice is plentiful, there are foundation packages and very advanced services available, and everything else in between. Prices do vary so it is worth spending a little time to find something viable for your business. The range of offered features are all especially tailored to accommodate the constant demands of commerce. A good business Internet solution will improve the overall efficiency of your business operations.All business Internet solutions will furnish you with advanced email features that you can customise to your brand. Invoicing, client, order and employment inquiries, and your ecommerce processes can be conducted with automation. An Internet business operation can help streamline other areas of your corporate activity. The best business Internet solutions will help you perform outstandingly and with confidence online. Recommendations are probably the perfect way to start your search for the most suitable provisory. Watch out for hidden extras or exclusions. A reputable company display their service information and pricing plans clearly for comparison. Make sure any additional requirements you may have can be provided for. Choose a provider that has plenty of business service experience and a good reputation.Being protected online from hackers, viruses, spyware and exploits is even more vital for a business than for an individual. Business Internet solutions offer excellent, up to date protection facilities and minimum down times, all crucial for the projection of professionalism.An ideal business Internet arrangement will help in many areas of your business structure. Some tasks can be automated and those that need the personal touch can also be taken care of. A corporate Internet service administers data support, instant network status reports and lots of resources to help you keep cutting edge.Business Internet service providers supply super fast broadband, domain and website hosting and IT networking and security services. You can find a wide range of different levels of support included in business packages. Many providers offer a demo of their control panel and other features. This is extremely useful in evaluating the functions provided and their viability and potential for your business. When comparing your options be sure before you commit and you should aim to opt for the best value solution. Take your time choosing a business Internet solution, it is an important decision.