Who hasn’t seen those online deals for cheap flights and hotels to Europe or Asia and who hasn’t clicked that online button “buy now”or “place your order” and then immediately felt anxious?
What you haven’t done is read the fine print. Do those deals offer you a direct flight or a four-leg, 20 hour journey? Are airport or hotel transfers included? Are you sure your hotel is where it’s supposed to be and not under construction some three miles away from where you expected it to be?
Just a few reasons why you should consider contacting a travel professional first before clicking “buy now.”
Amalya Judi Schreiner is one of those professionals who can plan your travel. Her business, Take Time for Travel, is located in Spring Hill, Florida.
“My role is to help people plan, choose and arrange their upcoming travel or vacation,” said Schreiner. I’ll work closely to their budget and give the very best possible advice and recommendations on their journey, local area tourist attractions, events and cultural customs,” she said.
Schreiner has been in the travel industry for more than 25 years; in Spring Hill since 2004.
From her college days, Schreiner focused on a career in tourism and hotel management and before she left Michigan to come live in Florida, she was voted President of the Travel Agents’ Association (TAMM) of Mid Michigan for two terms.
“I started in travel and tourism before computers were the norm,” she said. “It was all done by telephone then.”
Schreiner explained that nowadays people consider having access to the Internet and a search engine is all they need to pull together an overseas vacation. And, indeed, a basic trip can be easy to research online and with many sites offering price comparisons, bookings flights online are on the rise.
“But if you’re booking with dot.com companies, it’s important to look out for the fine print,” she said. “You don’t always get what you think you’ve paid for.
Schreiner told how she gained new clients because the beachfront reservations they bought through a dot.com company were not fulfilled. Arriving at their destinations, they were given inferior accommodations that were set way back from the beach and no explanations or any kind of discounts or refunds were offered.
“Also, with airline tickets you are more likely to get bumped if the flight is overbooked and then you won’t have a ticket to use on another flight,” said Schreiner. “You will most likely have to buy a replacement ticket at that point.”
“Most of my clients want more complicated travel arrangements though and for that, there’s a lot of benefit in speaking to a specialist agent,” she said. “Specialist travel agents can add a lot of value to your budget.”
Independent travel professionals have endless resources at their fingertips and are ready to answer any of the many questions customers may have. Good travel professionals can access benefits you cannot — like free room upgrades, theatre reservations and the best airfares possible. They’re constantly networking and sharing resources and will ask pertinent questions — not make blind recommendations. They really understand what kind of travel arrangement works best for their clients.
“If we don’t know the answer to a client’s question, then we will find someone who does,” said Schreiner. “It’s the best part of my job — asking the right questions,” she said.
Among the questions Schreiner asks are how flexible the client can be on travel dates — being able to move a travel date one or two days can actually save her clients hundreds of dollars.
Other questions she always asks: Are they in the military, law enforcement or perhaps working as a paramedic?
One of Schreiner’s clients here in Florida wanted to go to Hawaii and join her three sisters who already had their air and hotel bookings arranged. All the client needed was an airfare. She had called everywhere and got a figure of $2,200 just for the airfare, plus a ticketing fee. The client’s neighbor called Schreiner who verified the airfare alone was indeed $2,200. However, Schreiner worked her magic and if she added a one-night hotel stay, the price would come down to $1,600. After more research, Schreiner found that if she could have her client fly one day earlier, then the total cost would only be $996.00.
“So that’s what we did and my client was delighted to save so many dollars,” said Schreiner.
“If I’m armed with the right information, I can ferret out those special discounts that are available for travelers if they work in these fields.
Another great benefit of choosing Schreiner as your travel agent is that she offers a Price Watch Guarantee. She explained that once you are booked and under deposit, she continually monitors your price and if she sees the rate go down, she does everything to get you that lower price, a cabin credit, or an upgrade.
“I can't promise anything, but on one booking alone, the rate went down 3 times before my clients left on a 7-night cruise,” she said. “Their savings amounted to $882 and they were happy to have an unexpected cabin credit when they sailed.”
Schreiner has built an impressive portfolio of clients who want her services not just locally but from all around the country and as far away as San Francisco.
“All of them come via recommendations and word of mouth referrals,” she said.
“A great many of my clients are so crushed for time that all they want is is to be pressure-free when it comes to their future travel plans; some just want to hear a recommendation that they’re making the right decision on a destination,” she said.
To be an independent travel agent, Schreiner says she has to be very patient, be willing to give more than she receives and be happy in the job.
A big part of Schreiner’s job is helping clients book a cruise. Choosing which cruise line and ship is right for her client depends on many factors. It’s not the same as selecting a flight or a hotel. Cruise lines have many more options to consider. Do they want an inexpensive inside cabin or want to spend considerably more for a suite. Then there’s dinner seatings, shore excursions just to mention a few.
“My life is good as an independent agent because I can set my hours with my clients and devote my full attention to them and not spend time in an office,” she said. “My clients are fully aware that I work from home and therefore available to them outside of normal business hours.”
Growing up in Long Island, NY and Michigan, Schreiner always thought about the exciting places she could visit.
“My personal adventures have taken me throughout the Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii and Central America, she said. “I like to scuba dive so I’m very lucky to have visited some fantastic dive destinations in the world,” she said. I’ve even swam with sharks.”
“It’s my job to keep my clients worry-free when they travel. They deserve expert advice and value for their precious vacation time and dollars so it’s important for me to create a long-lasting impression and to cement my clients’ trust in me,” she said.
Editor’s Note: Amalya Judi Schreiner is bonded and insured and has access to all the major travel companies. She is member certified with CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association), TPI (Travel Planners International) and YTB (Your Travel Biz.)