If you've landed here, chances are you'sure overwhelmed by all the family cruise information out there and you need help.
First, congratulations on making the best decision to work with a travel agent. An experienced travel agent can serve and benefit your family in countless ways. Their job is to insure that your family has a fun and memorable cruise vacation. The tricky bit now is to find the right travel agent.
Full disclosure here, I hope you decide to work with our great team of travel agents here at Vacationkids. We like to build relationships with our clients and become their trusted travel partner for years to come. Just like you're looking for the right travel agent, we always love connecting with the right families.
Honestly, we may or may not be the right fit to work together. There is plenty of folks out there who need help and out team only has so many hours in each day. Either way we'd like to help insure you get the right vacation help and guidance. So here are some tips to make sure you partner with the Travel Agent that's the right fit for you....
Is Your Travel Agent Legit?
The Cruise Line International Association and the International Air Transport Associations are the two main governing bodies that license Travel Agents. Travel agencies and agents have to meet their strict credentials and regulations to maintain these annual standards. Vacationkids is a member of both. If you don't see these credentials on an agents website or displayed in their office, ask!
Sadly there are many travel multi-level marketing scams out there that lure people in with the promise of free travel. These people market themselves as agents without any formal training or credentials.
Have They Personally "Been There & Done That?"
Remember what it was like when you finished studying your Driver's Ed Manual? Now remember how you felt the first time you drove a car on a highway or on a congested city street?
Research and book knowledge are COMPLETELY different from real life experience!
If you're considering working with a new travel agent, ask them about their cruise experiences and if they themselves have visited the destinations you're considering.
On our web pages and blog posts, you'll see pictures of our Vacationkids agents all over the world. It's not because we all love sharing our silly selfies. Our team travels so that we can share first hand knowledge, experience and insider insights so that our clients can trust our recommendations.
Size Does Matter
Every travel agent has their specialty or their favorite destinations to sell. One agent working from a home office may be very professional at their job and have a wealth of experience. The hard truth is, no one person can know the entire world. Most agents are very competitive and don't collaborate with others for fear of losing business for themselves. Even agents that work for the same agency.
At Vacationkids, we believe clients come first. We've hand-picked our team of agents based on their varied travel experiences. We work, as a team to benefit our clients. For example, I recently handed over a family that I've worked with for over 10 years to one of my colleagues. Why? They wanted to visit Australia. I've visited Australia once but my colleague Tamara was born and raised there. Who do you think will better serve that family? Recently we have a family who wanted a cruise and they had a child on the autism spectrum. Even though I'm a former pediatric nurse, I recommended them to my colleague Nicole Thibault who runs her own travel agency. Nicole has a son on the spectrum and this is her specialty. I knew this family would get peace of mind and the very best care.
It's true, big travel agencies do have huge buying power and clout. They can offer far more competitive pricing than a single home based travel agent. This is why Vacationkids partners with Dream Vacations, one of the worlds leading cruise and leisure companies. Thanks to this partnership, we can leverage their collective 5 billion dollars in annual cruise sales to be able to offer our clients the best deals, perks and credits. Meanwhile our clients enjoy our team support and personalized service. Make sure the travel agent you choose to work with is not too small, not to big but fits just right.
Right now you're planning a cruise. You're looking for a travel agent that you can trust. What happens next year if your family wants to go to Italy, Japan or Outer Mongolia (I seriously want to go hunt dinosaurs in the Gobi desert - sorry, I digress)....do you want audition another set of travel agents. Make sure you select a travel agent that can be your future travel partner, not just sell you a cruise today.
Do They Understand The Needs of Families?
Parents would never want to be stuck at sea for a week with unhappy kids. That's not a vacation, that's a nightmare! It's not about finding the "best family cruise"....it's about booking the ship, cabin(s) and port experiences that are the best fit for your family. Families come in all ages and stages. Their wishes and needs are multiplied by each member. Ask the travel agent you plan to work with what type of training and expertise do they have working specifically with families and multi-generational travel.
If you're planning a family cruise then you'll want to work with a travel agency familiar with family travel. Vacationkids has specialized in family travel for close to 20 years. Not only are we certified in family travel, I'm director of the Family Travel Association. I'm the one that created the training and certification test for travel agents who want to specialize in family travel.
Cruise Line Connections
It's never about what you know, it's always about WHO you know. A good travel agent is constantly networking and acquiring new knowledge to keep their skills current. Agents need an excellent overview of the entire cruise industry so that they can fit their clients with the cruise that perfect for them. Ask agent about recent industry events they've recently attended or updated training they have accomplished.
Many agents specialize in a particular cruise line, a specific destination or one type of vacation product. These agents tends to fit a square pegs in a round holes. They try to sell clients into products they know and are often rewarded with sales bonuses.
For the past few years, I've been asked to teach family travel to other agents at major industry conferences. People will often ask me why I would want to go and help competitors? First, I never mind giving back to an industry that has been so generous to my life. Second there is plenty of business out there for everyone. Third, I get to learn and update my skills by taking classes taught by leaders in our industry. It gives me a great perspective of new travel opportunities and broad options to help me serve our clients. Last but certainly most important I get to create personal, face to face relationships with the presidents of all the major cruise lines and all the heads of major travel companies.
Are You Sympatico?
Many people will agree the excitement and anticipation of planning a vacation is often the best part. Planning a family vacation is suppose to be a fun, collaborative experience! Make sure you chose a travel agent that you genuinely like.
Do you look forward to your conversations together? Do they "get" you? If listening to your travel agent is comparable to the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard then you are not sympatico.
Remember, the relationship goes both ways. Good travel agents know there is plenty of business out there. If you act disrespectful, shady or try to bully your agent to get your own way you'll get fired in a heartbeat. Yes, travel agents do fire clients. Ain't nobody got time for drama.
Listen, you don't have to be besties with your travel agent. It's just that creative, collaborative relationships work best when there is open, honest communication and genuine respect. Post an online recommendation after an awesome vacation, refer a friend or send a box of thank you chocolates...I absolutely guarantee you will have a travel agent for life that will go to the ends of the earth for your family.