Selling Summer Vacations

Summer is almost here and that means it’s time for vacation! Summer vacation possibilities include road trips, island getaways or a luxury spa vacation. Whichever summer vacation your clients are taking, we’re sharing how to take their summer vacation to the next level and enrich their travel experience.

Including tours for your clients is a great way to enhance their vacation. It may cost a little extra, but the possibility of gaining more information about their destination and skipping lines is well worth it (especially if they’re traveling with children).

Since no family or travel group is the same, customizing trips for each client can really pay off. Remember to pay special attention if your clients are visiting multiple destinations and make sure each flight and hotel meets their expectations.

Now for the budget! If your clients are looking for a cost-effective trip, villas and home rentals can be a great option. In addition to a great price, they are great for families or large travel groups.

Another way to create great memories for your clients is to add adventure! If your clients are up to it, activities such as rafting, hiking, biking and boating can take any vacation to the next level.

In the end, make sure your clients communicate their wants and needs, communicate in return, and the trip is sure to be a success! And don’t forget the travel insurance!

Now it’s your turn. Tell us – what’s your tip for planning summer travels? We look forward to hearing from you!

Tips for Home Based Travel Agents

Last week, four of our TravelSafe team members attended the Home Based Travel Agent Forum in Las Vegas, Nevada. The forum, described as a “unique vehicle designed to help you drive your home-based travel business”, featured seasoned experts who shared tips for home based travel agents.

  • Make a video. According to sources at the Forum, 90% of all internet traffic will be video by 2014. What does that mean for you? It means you can’t afford to not be on YouTube! Don’t be afraid to make a video – simply use your smartphone to record a video. You can speak about a popular travel destination, provide packing tips or promote a travel package you offer. Whichever topic you chose, make sure to look straight at the camera and speak directly to your customers. If you follow these tips, you’ll be a YouTube sensation in no time!
  • Focus on your LinkedIn account. Use your LinkedIn account to it’s full potential by joining various travel niche groups. For example, if you specialize in destination weddings, join groups for brides, island resorts and wedding planning. After joining these groups, create connections by starting conversations with other members online. Think of LinkedIn like a networking event – you wouldn’t attend an event and stand in the corner without business cards. The same thing goes for LinkedIn – update your profile and get social on the platform. You’ll see great results!
  • Start a blog. Creating a business blog allows you to share dynamic and interactive content. You can become an important “influencer” in your travel niche by blogging about travel tips, travel package deals, the importance of travel insurance or any topic of your choice. Whichever topic you chose, it is important to include calls to action in your blog posts. You can do this by asking your readers to comment or share your post. Blogging regularly (2-3 times per week) will position you as someone who people trust in the travel industry and therefore lead to profits!
  • Spice up your Facebook page. It is very important that your business’ Facebook page has curb appeal. You can make that happen by uploading a cover photo to ensure your page makes people want to travel. Also make sure to add interesting content on your page including destination photos, links to your blog posts and questions asking your followers about their travel habits.

Now it’s your turn to tell us – how do you connect with your customers online? Leave a comment below, write on our Facebook page or Tweet us. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Furloughs cause flight delays and cancellations

Air travelers are experiencing delays the government warned us about a few months ago. The delays are reportedly caused by forced federal spending cuts. On Monday, New York City-area airports reported delays for all incoming flights because air traffic controllers were forced to take unpaid time off.

Overall, furloughs kicked in on Sunday for 47,000 Federal Aviation Administration workers, including 15,000 air traffic controllers.

“Throughout today, the FAA has put in place a series of traffic management initiatives around the country to manage both reduced staffing as a result of employee furloughs and weather related issues,” Department of Transportation Press Secretary Justin Nisly said in a statement.

The FAA said there were 400 furlough-related flight delays on Sunday alone. Examples of the flight delays occurred on two Alaska Airlines flights destined for Los Angeles International Airport. The flights were diverted 60 miles away to Ontario International Airport Sunday night due to furloughs and bad weather. Due to the delay, the airline had to bus passengers to LAX. However, the airline waived rebooking fees through Tuesday, citing furloughs.

These delays are the only beginning. FAA workers are required to take a total of 11 days off by the month of September. The workers must take off at least one day every two weeks which means 1,500 controllers could be off the job per day.

“The best indicator of what this is going to be like is (that) we ran delays on Sunday — not one of the busiest days of the week — … on a perfect weather day,” said Stephen Abraham, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association representative in JFK.

In addition to delays, there were another 400 flights canceled Monday and 50 flights canceled Tuesday cancelled as of 5 am ET.

So what is your best bet for dealing with the delays? Be sure to check your flight status before heading to the airport. Be sure to purchase travel insurance to make sure your travel investment is protected against delays, cancellations and many other unforeseeable events.

We’d like to hear your thoughts about the recent flight delays and cancellations. Leave a comment below, write on our Facebook page or Tweet us. We look forward to hearing from you!

Kindess shining through tragedy for Boston travelers

Here at TravelSafe, we continue to keep the Boston Marathon bombing victims and their families in our thoughts. In the midst of the pain and heartache, stories of heroism and kindness offer a glimmer a hope.

We wanted to take a moment and share some of these stories – inside and outside of the travel industry.

  • All of the major airlines and several hotel chains are waiving some fees and penalties for travelers looking to change their Boston travel plans after Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon.Here’s a summary of airline waivers as of early Tuesday:AirTran: Boston passengers with flights booked for April 15-17 may reschedule their flights up to three days after their original scheduled departure date.American: Boston passengers with flights booked for April 15-17 may reschedule their flights through April 20. The ticket reissue fee will be waived for one change.Delta: Boston passengers with flights booked for April 15-17 may reschedule their flights through April 20. Ticket reissue fees will be waived, but a fare difference may apply.JetBlue: Boston passengers with flight booked for April 15-17 may reschedule their flights through April 21. Both change fees and fare differences will be waived. For travel beyond April 21, the change fee will be waived, but a fare difference may apply.Southwest: Boston passengers with flights booked for April 15-17 may reschedule their flights to within 14 days of the original travel date. Southwest has a standard policy of not charging change fees.

    United: Boston passengers with flights booked for April 15-17 may reschedule their flights to within one year of the date of ticket issue. The change fee will be waived, but a fare difference may apply.

    US Airways: Boston passengers with flights booked for April 15-17 may reschedule their flights through April 21. The change fee will be waived, but a fare difference may apply.

    As always, check with your airline directly for any changes to the issued waivers.

  • Sandra Sukstorf had only recently watched her husband cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon when she heard the explosion. As she and her husband wandered the streets, he so exhausted he could barely walk down the stairs, another hotel opened its lobby to the tired runners. When they couldn’t get back to their room, Sukstorf posted a message online and, within half an hour, heard from more than 200 strangers offering a ride or a place to stay.
    • El Pelon Taqueria, a Mexican restaurant with locations in Boston’s Fenway and Brighton neighborhoods, promised free Wifi, outlets, food and drinks to people who needed it. Owner Jose Torres said on Twitter that he was only repaying the kindness Boston showed him in 2007 and 2009, when his restaurants burned down twice in electrical fires.
      • Each of these acts remind us that when humanity is in the midst of an inhuman tragedy, it rises to show that kindness and compassion is all around. Tell us, what acts of kindness have inspired you during this tragedy?

    Travel to Cancun on the Rise

    According to the Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau, more than 2 million visitors will be visiting Cancun this Spring.

    Throughout the past month, families, students and friends are selecting Cancun for their vacation destination. In fact, Easter week saw more than 500 daily flights and an approximate 90 percent occupancy rate. The vibrant city held events like Oasis Dance U brought together a variety of performers from the worlds of electronic music, hip hop and dance, as well as top DJs from around the world that attracted thousands of vacationing college students and other audiences.

    Now it is your turn to tell us – is Cancun a popular spot with your clients? Has anyone shared safety concerns about traveling to Mexico? Leave a comment below, write on our Facebook page or Tweet us. We look forward to hearing from you!

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    Report: FAA to allow Kindle use during takeoff

    Reports are circulating that the Federal Aviation Administration may allow travelers to use Amazon Kindle devices during takeoff.

    The FAA’s Portable and Electronic Device Advisory and Rulemaking Committee is reviewing current policies and will end those deliberations in July. The committee has more than two dozen members, who include representatives of the FAA, Amazon, airlines, pilot and flight attendant unions, aircraft manufacturers, the FCC and the Consumer Electronics Association.

    The current guidance is that travelers have to turn off everything while below 10,000 feet, but that may all change.

    Over the past few years, the FAA has been under mounting pressure to either allow passengers more electronic freedom onboard aircraft, or provide solid scientific evidence why they can’t. Critics point out that pilots now employ iPads in the cockpit for navigation purposes.

    So tell us what you think — should passengers be allowed to use electronic devices during a flight? Leave a comment below, post on our Facebook wall or Tweet us. We look forward to hearing from you!

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    Statue of Liberty Scheduled to Reopen by July 4, 2013

    The National Park Service is expected to reopen the Statue of Liberty to the public by July 4, 2013, according to Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar.  Liberty Island experienced extensive damage due to Hurricane Sandy.

    “Hurricane Sandy inflicted major damage on facilities that support the Statue of Liberty – destroying the docks, crippling the energy infrastructure on Ellis Island and wiping out the security screening system – but we are fully committed to reopening this crown jewel as soon as it’s safe for visitors and not a second later,” Secretary Salazar said.

    “Lady Liberty was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, but just like New York, she will be back – and stronger than ever,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer. “Being open for the summer tourism season isn’t just important symbolically, it’s a boon to the city’s economy and businesses, as the statue attracts millions of tourists from all over the world to our shores. I thank Secretary Salazar for his extraordinary work – he was uncommonly focused on getting this job done, and the people of New York appreciate it.”

    “We worked together to address safety and security concerns to reopen the crown and now he has helped bring this national treasure back after Superstorm Sandy. The Statue of Liberty will stand as a symbol of the whole region rebuilding even better and stronger after the storm,” said Senator Robert Menendez.

    The reopening of the monument will also help the New York economy. Approximately 4 million people visited the park in 2011, generating $174 million in economic activity and supporting 2,218 jobs, according to an annual report released by the National Park Service.

    However, the economic boost will require an investment from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Lands Highways Program. The program committed $28 million  to roads and bridges in federal parks and recreation areas in New York and New Jersey damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

    Tell us — are you looking forward to Liberty Island reopening?

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    Top 5 Family Travel Tips

    Traveling with kids can present challenges, but with these tips your trip will be smooth sailing!

    Traveling with children adds another layer to your travel plans. You have to be prepared for all kinds of situations, so we’ve compiled five tips you can use while traveling with your family:

    1. Don’t forget necessities! Make a packing list before you travel to ensure you don’t forget anything. Be sure to add these things to your list:

    Medicine – Children’s Tylenol, Benadryl, cough syrup and allergy medicine

    Baby wipes – You can use them to clean surfaces, hands and faces. They are also great on a hot day to cool the kids’ hot faces, too.

    Snacks –  Nuts, granola bars or oranges are great to have on hand for both road and air travel.

    2. Choose the right departure time. If you have little ones, try leaving at night as you might get lucky and have your children sleep the whole way!

    3. Be prepared for airplane travel with these tips:

    Pre-plan. Check out the airplane seat diagrams and try to plan where you want your family to sit. You can sit across the aisles, near the bathrooms or divide and conquer if fighting siblings is a battle you know you’ll have to fight.

    Pre-board. Check with the airline to see if they allow pre-boarding for families with small children. If that is not an option, send in one parent with the luggage first, and have one parent stay behind with a child (or two) so they can move around until the last possible minute.

    4. Choose your distractions wisely! Bring along books and toys that are easy to pack, don’t have a lot of loose parts and are entertaining. Forgot to pack the toys or they’ve lost interest already? No problem. Simply find some paper and pens, pencils or markers and ask your children to draw you a picture.

    5. Lastly, relax and cut yourself some slack! If you expect there are going to be a problem or two, you won’t be disappointed when they arise. If you get stressed when you can’t find your hotel, your kids will get stressed, too. When you think of it as “exploring the neighborhood,” everyone will feel better. Simply go with the flow and everything will work out!

    Share with us – what’s your best family travel tip? Leave a comment below, post on our Facebook wall or Tweet us. We can’t wait to hear from you!

    Top 10 Mediterranean Destinations

    The Mediterranean is full of vacation spots that can satisfy any traveler’s wish list. It’s such a popular spot, National Geographic has named the top adventures worth exploring in the Mediterranean. Read the list below and tell us which one of these you’d like to add to your travel wish list by leaving a comment below, posting on our Facebook page or Tweeting us. We’d love to here from you!

    1. Cycle the Tour de France

      The world’s premier long-distance cycling event is for pros only—but there’s nothing stopping you from enjoying some of the world’s best bicycle routes by following the Tour de France’s annually changing path from dizzying mountain passes to the charms of France’s sunny Mediterranean coast. Many outfitters provide logistical support for cyclists who want to ride some or even all of the legendary stages of “Le Tour,” and some packages combine rides with VIP spectator access to the real race. Independent cycling options abound thanks to charming communities and welcoming locals all along the French Riviera.

    2. Windsurf in Turkey

      Turkey’s beautiful coastlines and clear waters draw legions of visitors each year, but those looking for reliable winds tend to descend on a scenic, formerly sleepy fishing village called Alacati. Between May and October north winds blow reliably here across a turquoise bay on the Cesme Peninsula. Competitors of the Professional Windsurfers Association hold World Cup events at Alacati, which lend the town a festive flavor, but the area may be best suited to beginners, and the area’s surf schools thrive.

    3. Dive Into Alexandria’s Classical Past

      Few dives can match those to the sunken treasures offered in and around Alexandria, Egypt—a glimpse of ancient civilizations from the pharoahs to the Romans. Sites like the sunken City of Cleopatra, in today’s harbor, allow divers to explore statues, amphorae, columns, and even ancient buildings. Shipwrecks in the region date from ancient times to World War II. While some dives are “experts only” and visibility can be a problem, even beginners can get their feet wet in this watery corner of the ancient world.

    4. Ski the Abruzzo

      Fun in the Mediterranean sun needn’t always include sand and surf—snow sports also thrive not far from the lapping waves. Italy’s Abruzzo region, with its long Adriatic coastline, offers great skiing, surprisingly reliable snow, and picturesque villages stocked with topflight eateries. And visitors to Abruzzo will share slopes like Roccaraso and Campo Felice with far more Italians than tourists, who are typically drawn to the more famous Alpine resorts to the north. In fact most of Abruzzo reflects a quieter corner of Italy—a rustic throwback to an earlier era that’s also evidenced by far lower prices.

    5. Kite Surf Tarifa, Spain

      Europe’s southernmost port town is perched on the Strait of Gibraltar and draws kite surfers to a dozen or so beaches well situated to feast on howling winds funneled through the strait. A wide selection of schools can help even newcomers to the sport get up and running in relatively short order. If the wind dies down travelers can flee Europe via a fast catamaran that reaches Tangier, Morocco, in under an hour.

    American Rail System Gains Speed

    In 2009, President Obama shared his plan for a high-speed rail across the United States. Whether the rail system will ever get built remains to be seen, but one artist, Alfred Twu, has determined where exactly those speedy rail lines should go.

    Twu posted his design on Facebook and since then, the post has gone viral. With the overwhelming response, Twu created a petition to the White House to fund the system, and the petition has over 27,000 signatures after one week.

    If the petition works and the government decides to go ahead with the project, the trains would zip across the country at 220 mph. Sound futuristic to you? You’re right, but it might not be as far off as you may think. Advocacy groups have marked potential dates between 2030 and 2050.

    Overall, the project is estimated to cost between $1-$2 trillion. If this cost is divided over four decades, the government would be responsible for about $25-$50 billion each year.

    To get a closer look at the map, view or download this .PDF file. And tell us, do you think the rail system will bring the United States up to speed with the rest of the developed world? Would you travel on the high-speed rail system? Leave a comment below with your answer.