Get the Most Out of Your Travel Agent

Booking air travel, making hotel reservations and arranging vacation travel in general has changed completely with the advent of the internet and many people try to be their own travel agents. While you can arrange seemingly most of your travel yourself, you can’t do as well as your travel agent in a long run!

Travel processionals, whether your local travel agent, tour operator or destination specialist still possess contacts that you as an industry outsider do not have. As in number of other professions, travel agents, whether in a shopping center near your home or an online agency, wherever they may be located, do know something you do not, have way to book and arrange travel for you in ways unavailable or unknown to you.

Traditionally you could contact a travel agent and ask for a quote, whether a price of an air ticket, hotel or a vacation package. For the most part travel agents still provide that kind of information, although there is a limit how much information they may disclose as not all information is readily available to them.

First of all, most travel agents indeed may have at their fingertips routine cost of air ticketing, hotel rates or certain vacation packages available and will be happy to provide the price information to you instantly when asked. But once your travel request will need to be somewhat customized, whether tailored to your dates of travel or your other travel preferences, to find a relevant answer will be time consuming. Because of this time element involved, do not automatically assume an agency is keen to spend the time to furnish the information you seek when there is no commitment you will travel at all.

Look at the situations from the following perspective. In the old days if you had a problem with your car, you’d drive it to your neighborhood car mechanic and asked him to see what was wrong with it. You would drop the car off at the garage, the mechanic would have a look and tell you what the problem was. He would also give you an estimate and it was up to you to decide if you wanted him to fix it right then and there, wait or seek another opinion and another quote. His services cost you nothing.

But not anymore. These days, no garage, no car repair mechanic is willing to spend time trying to find out what’s the problem with your vehicle without charging you at least one hour labor upfront. Pay and he will look and tell you. Up to you if you will decide to take your car to another shop or have him fix it, he has covered his time spent diagnosing what’s wrong with your car.

Similarly, many travel agencies and professional travel planners and tour operators will charge you an upfront travel planning fee if you are requesting travel arrangements that first of all are time consuming, or there is no guarantee you will book anything. All you are after are essentially private tailor-made travel arrangement s and there are no simple answers or options to give you, and the only way to find out will be for the agent to dig and consult all sorts of different sources he has at this disposal and then present the travel alternatives to you for you to decide upon.

When working with a travel agent, travel planner or any other travel professional such as a knowledgeable destination specialist, keep in mind that a certain protocol will assure you will get not only the kind of travel arrangements you want in general but also you’ll gain a true partner that will always work in your best interest whether you’ll travel away from home on business or for pleasure.

1. First of all, when contacting a travel agent, whether in person or online, don’t hesitate to give them your name – don’t worry, most agents won’t spam you back. Without your name when you’re asking for a valuable travel advice most agents won’t take your request too seriously. Call if you wish but most agents prefer not to take notes, email is a way to go and for an agent to look up a fare often a time means he has to plug in a name, so might as well that name will be your real name. If you decide not to accept the booking the reservation will expire and no harm done. If you decide later to purchase the reservation the agent does not have to rekey it into the system all over again.

2. If you’re trying to be you own travel agent, even in part, say you plan to book your own hotels online, disclose it to the agent your are contacting for assistance, he/she may still be interested to help you with the rest of your travel arrangements. Don’t hide your intentions from the agent as agents don’t like to be used for information gathering purposes only.

3. If at all possible, always contact your travel agent or destination specialist as soon as you know when and where you wish to travel, not last minute before your intended departure. That is even more important when you’re planning a trip to a lesser frequented destination.

4. Don’t book your flights and hotels online and ask a travel agent to do the rest, namely the difficult parts, such as complex transportation connections, travel arrangements in remote locations or to book segments that you just feel are not safe for you to book online yourself. Give your agent to design and book your entire trip for you. The worst you can do is design your own vacation package, then copy and email the same request to dozen different agents to see who may be the lowest bidder. Yes, the internet is perfect for that kind of information gathering but look at this from a perspective of a travel agent. If he/she knows you are sending the same request to dozen agents many of them will not be too interested in dealing with you. Then again, telling them the truth they will appreciate knowing what you are doing and approach the whole thing quite differently and in the end they just might offer you a deal.

5. If you’re after booking shoe-string cost of travel, for example wishing to book the lowest type of accommodations, best be your own travel agent. Do realize that agents can’t book services that are simply too cheap to begin with, not to mention that that kind of suppliers do not pay agent s any kind of commission. The agent may still help you but keep in mind he will be doing you a favor and will be working for you at no charge. If so, appreciate it, email your thank you.

Do realize that to ask an agent million questions, get all the answers, including time consuming quotes, only for you to never replay again is definitely rude and turns agents off completely. If you are polite and respectful many will often work without any commitment on your part, providing you with information you need, working for free. But because of those that just siphon info out of agents so they could possibly book travel on their own leaves not only a sour taste in agent’s mouth but certainly induces the decision to charge au upfront planning fees when a next inquiry comes.

6. On another hand, when it comes to upper end accommodations keep in mind these hotels routinely offer discounts to agents that agents can markup and still offer you room costs below hotel rack rates. Genuine agent is not interested in selling you a higher end hotel in order to make a higher commission but to tailor in a better trip experience for you where he deems it desirable.

7. Keep in mind that there is a difference between a travel agent and a so called Destination Specialist. Most travel agents use online reservation systems to book transportation, hotel and vacation packages. They essentially book or resell ready-to-sell travel offers from a variety of suppliers that do not require more than filling in your name and dates of travel. When it comes to you needing customized arrangements, they will need to contact tour operators and destination specialists that are either part of their consortium or a network they belong to. Depending on the connections they have they will or will not be able to help you.

8. Destination Specialists pride themselves in really knowing their destinations. Many of them have indeed not only traveled extensively but know a particular destination inside-out so they can arrange travel logistics for you based on knowing, rather than looking it up in a brochure or some kind of data base. Many Destination Specialists specialize in difficult, custom designed itineraries and do not sell travel packages. Often a time though not always that kind of service reflects higher markup.

9. Last, please note that many destination specialists as well as travel agents work 110 or more hours per week because especially custom-design travel is indeed very time consuming. Being good at travel logistics does take experience and while with the internet it seems second nature to be able to arrange travel on your own, many travel professional are indeed very good at what they do! They do know more about travel than you, give them a chance, they can save you not only money but also many headaches and above all, they can assure not only that you’ll travel worry-free but that you may have a trip of your life! Keep in mind, a good agent is not after selling you a single ticket or a package tour, they want you to become a repeat client, their go-to-travel processional for rest of your life.

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Working with a Travel Agent – How to Get the Best Value

Often regarded as the easiest ways to book a trip, online travel options have become so numerous and overwhelming that people are turning to travel agents for the convenience of one-stop shopping.

Agents Simplify Your Life

A travel agent does the legwork for you from booking trains, flights and hotels to finding the best deals and securing upgrades. They can get show tickets, make dinner reservations, and even recommend options you might not have thought of. Saving you time, they sift through the options and suggest only the ones that meet your preferences and budget.

Best of all, a travel agent can prevent headaches. Cancellation policies and hidden costs never have to be a surprise. And in the event that you have a problem during your trip (i.e., canceled flight), they can act as an advocate on your behalf to resolve any problems.

Bottom line, travel agents help you get the best value. It’s not always about getting the cheapest deal, but about having trips that live up to expectations. The key is finding the right agent for you and helping them understand your needs.

What to Look For

Travel experience – An agent who has actually traveled to the place where you want to go will have first-hand knowledge of things to see and do and the best places to stay at your destination.

Specialty – You may want an agent who specializes in certain types of trips. Does the agent specialize in luxury travel or adventure tours? Does he or she work with families? Is the agent a cruise expert?

Certifications – Travel agents are not required by law to have any particular certification. Still, a number organizations provide guidelines to help you pick out the reputable agencies. The IATA (International Air Transport Association) certification requires agencies to meet a stringent set of business standards. CLIA (Cruise Line International Association) certifies cruise specialists. Also, certain states offer a seller of travel license.

Affiliation – While some agents work as employees of a travel agency, independent contractors with their own agencies often work under the auspices of a partner or host travel agency in order to share resources, contacts and expertise. Both types of agent can be equally good. If you are working with an independent agent, find out who the partner travel agency is.

Philosophy – What is the agent’s philosophy on travel? Asking this ensures that the agent is a good match for you. For instance, if you cringe at the thought of roughing it in anything less than a four-star hotel, an agent who believes a hotel room is nothing more than a place to sleep may not be the best for you.

Your Role

Travel agents try to avoid shoppers who seek free information, then go elsewhere to book. To get an agent to work hard for you and offer options you may not be able to find anywhere else, assure them that you are serious about giving them your business.

Also, the agent needs your input in order to offer informed recommendations. Let the agent know what kind of experience you expect, what type of hotels you prefer, and your budget. Tell him or her what you liked and did not like about your past trips. This way the agent will be clear on your priorities.

Understanding Your Needs

A good travel agent will ask a lot of questions. Even a request as straightforward as a trip to Paris should be met with a myriad of questions from which airport do you prefer to whether you prefer museums or shopping.

How does the agent respond to your concerns? Make sure he or she is receptive to what you want and makes suggestions based on your expectations, – not based on what the agent wants to sell you.

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Sears Promo Codes – What Can I Buy With Them?

A lot of people are looking for ways they can save money. Whether they are buying food, clothing, household items, and necessities, it is the innate nature of an individual to look for a discount. If they cannot find a discount, they will look for a cheaper option. This though, does not apply with Sears promo codes.

The beauty about having a code is that you can get to save some items on your shopping venture. Since you have gotten a promo code for Sears, you can make use of the discount only with the brand. But you should not worry on what you can use it with as Sears has a complete line of everything that you can possibly need or want. The only thing they lack is food.

You can use your promo code if you will buy appliances, automotive/tires, beauty, baby, bed, bath, home, books, clothing, electrical gadgets, gifts, fitness, sports, health, jewelry, and a lot of other products. With Sears, you can easily have choose what you want to buy as they have such an extensive array of available products that you can choose from. You can even buy gifts for your friends.

The list of items that you can buy with your Sears promo codes seems to be endless. Your needed items can simply be bought at Sears. Because of this, you do not need to go to another retail store so you can complete what’s on your list. Truly, this fact alone can already save you some money on transportation costs that you would have otherwise needed to spend.

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Top Brand Professional Automotive Tools Reviewed – Know Your Budget

The tool market is well serviced in terms of brands, design, quality and price. The key consideration is to evaluate your needs. For example, it is pointless buying a laptop capable driving sophisticated 3G games when really all that is required from the unit is basic desktop and internet work. This kind of example also applies to buying tools. For instance, why waste one’s budget on buying the most expensive tools when their application is for occasional hobby type tasks.

Lets start with an overview comparison. It is widely agreed that the best quality and designed tools are manufactured by the Snap-on company. This brand of tools is designed for the professional market. No tool brand is perfect and infallible to failure. However, the Snap-on lifetime warranty means that when a tool breaks, it is replaced or repaired by the service representatives. Snap-on tools can be bought from their distribution trucks and vans that visit automotive workshops. Alternatively, their online catalog allows purchasing via the internet. Second-hand and recycled Snap-on tools are also eagerly traded through websites like eBay and eBay Partner sites.

As noted above, Snap-on automotive tools are at the upper price range. However, there is no shortage of professional grade tool brands at price points below that of the Snap-on brand. For example the brands: Matco, MAC and Cornwell are equally respected in the professional automotive sector. Matco, MAC and Cornwell off a range of professional tools that deliver quality and reliability while carrying sound lifetime warranties and professional after sales service. And are less expensive than the Snap-on brand for the budget minded professional automotive technician. The availability of these brands for sale is similar to Snap-on tools. Trucks visit and distribute tools at automotive workshops. Also, online catalogs and auction type websites offer buy opportunities.

For those budget sensitive buyers, the next set of tool brands is SK and Craftsman. The manufacturing quality of these brands meet USA standards and carry similar lifetime warranties like those brands mentioned above. So, for the semi-professional or hobbyist application these tool brands are an ideal choice. Some may argue that the SK brand, although not as popular, is a little superior to the Craftsman brand. But this opinion is subjective. Craftsmanship and SK brand tools are a more accessible to the buying market. For example, Craftsmanship brand tools are stocked at Sears stores, while the SK brand is found in automotive parts stores and outlets.

In summary, if price is no restraint, then tools from the Snap-on range are considered to be the best quality. Where quality and service is still a priority, then brands such as: matco, MAC and Cornwell offer offer quality profession lines of tools as less expensive price points. Finally, the brands SK and Craftsmanship serve the semi-professional market with tools that are not subject to the high demands of daily professional usage. The advice for any buyer is assess the task application of the tool, and allocate your budget to buy the right tool for the right job.

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Automotive Dynamic Guide – How to Be Ready to Drive in a Foreign Land

If you are going to be behind the wheel of a new rented car, and in a strange foreign land where you have never driven before, what should you do in preparing to drive?

Just not so long ago, I was in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia, located just north of Singapore. As those of you who have traveled widely to Asia would know, the traffic on the roads in most of the Asian countries is heavy throughout the day, and many times driving habits take precedence over traffic rules and regulations, especially when the searing tropical heat bears down on cool heads, and raise tempers!

Before me was a small locally produced Malaysian car – the Perodua Kancil- named after the tiny deer that can run swiftly through the Malaysian jungles.

And I need to use that car, to brave the heavy traffic of the day to move to the next nearest city of Shah Alam to attend to a business meeting.

Alien to the area, alien to the car- what should I do?

Indeed, when you are confronted with such a situation, what should you do?

Keep cool – and PLAN your journey, and use the car intelligently.

For instance, perform the very, very basic inspection on your car before you even use it. This means:

1. check the tires and their pressure

2. check the engine oil and their brake fluid

3. check the battery

4. ensure the brakes are functioning ( there’s nothing like to take it for a short slow ride to put it to the test! )

Plan your journey- for instance, do not be afraid to ask directions and record them down so that you can always refer to the notes. Plan the timing of your journey – so that you can always drive during the slower traffic periods, away from the maddening crowds in the rush hour traffic. Protect yourself especially your eyes from the glaring tropical sun by wearing light sunglasses. Be properly attired. And wear shoes! The last tip on wearing shoes may seem funny, but when it is perennial summer in the tropics, many visitors, especially those who come from the cooler temperate countries would be tempted to wear only sandals!

And when you go on the roads, observe the speed limits. Do not push your vehicle to the maximum speed limits especially where you are driving along strange highways and where traffic jams are a norm.

In my personal case, I was astonished to see cars doubled parked along busy suburb shopping areas and feeder roads while I cruised my way to my destination. I wasn’t sure whether that was allowable, as the double parking of cars in two rows converted the road into a narrow one way path, leading to congestion at many parts. It sure was a “revelation”!

But in a strange land, where you are not the expert in local traffic rules, it is best to play it save. Drive defensively and plan your travel to ease your journey, and you will enjoy that ride.

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Unique Oil Change Concepts Research

In the mobile oil change business there is no standard system, many folks simply build what works or buy a biz-op unit that makes since to them. For years we have studies these various types of units in the market place. If you are in the oil change business you realize how serious it is to stay efficient. In our company like anyone else in this industry, we are out to bring new innovation to the market. We have been looking at ways to better our services.

We have been to http://www.Kibbi.com in Elkhart, Indiana, we have viewed there unit in another state. We have discussed these and other concepts with other engineers and thinkers. What we have decided is that all ideas are worthy of exploration in our quest to find the most efficient and most environmentally sensitive units. Why are we so driven to build a better mouse-trap? Why are we un deterred with the exploitations of Box Stores changing oil, such as Wal-Mart on what appears to be a below cost endeavor at $12.99. Why do we believe that it is possible to stay efficient enough to compete? Because we see the new innovations out on the street and see entrepreneurs everywhere are rising to the occasion.

Well this year in San Diego, Jiffy Lube is announcing a new program for franchisees with extended bays and adding everything from brake jobs, and engine repair including complete R and R rebuilding of motors. It makes sense for them due to the increased competition in the market place. Midas Muffler has also gone to changing brakes and oil changes. Tilden Franchise is also looking to co-partner with other services and to bundle services to compete. Jiffy Lube’s largest franchisee with well over 150 stores; was de-listed by NASDAQ; are we witnessing a new era in automotive repair and oil changes? We think so.

We watched recently as Roger Penske left Kmart as they closed the doors on 500 stores nationwide and now are merging with Sears in their re-organization plan and closing another 150 stores. In Tucson, AZ for instance we see Kmart on the North West side of town pulling out of the market and then we see a new awesome Valvoline Oil Change Facility on the same property with a 2 million dollar carwash and Detailing Center? Why, well as Lance Fisher the proprietor sees it, he can bundle services, get a no interest loan deal from Valvoline, give the customers what they want and his incredible facility will draw three different services to the same property. Is this the answer to the price wars, bundling, like Microsoft? Well Lance Fisher bets with real money in Tucson, is that a good bet? We think it is, you should see this place, WOW, one of the nicest carwashes in the country, ranks up there with Auto-Wash East and Danny’s Family Carwashes in Phoenix.

These are just a few of the latest interesting changes in the Industry. Some would say this Industry is stagnant. We disagree. We are watching Kendall battle for the latest changes in oil change interval extension and the war against traditional thinking with AMSOIL, Mobile One and others. Lots of new innovations and claims to come; who will lead? Well as we approach the pack and have our sights on the Yellow Jersey, we believe that the team who can service the customer and bring the value will be team yellow. We know this is an up hill grind and we will pursue the race with open eyes and an open mind. If you are in the Oil Change Business Think on this.

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Caring for Leather Car Interiors

Leather consists of thousands and thousands of intertwined fibers, with penetrable pores throughout–just like skin. Proper maintenance starts with cleaning the fibers. Cleaning removes fiber-severing abrasives and pore clogging dirt and dust, both of which will breakdown the leather over time and give it a less than pleasing texture and appearance.

If you have pets, then you may want to invest in pet pads or pet seat covers for your interior. You will also want to look into a good reflective sun shield.

With regular cleaning and conditioning, a leather interior will last for the life of the vehicle. Leather is tough and abuse resistant. The main concern is to determine is what type of leather interior you have, then choose cleaners and conditioners designed specifically for the task. Traditional leather interiors are made of 100% leather, where as some modern interiors are leather coated with a supple vinyl.

A quick test to determine which type you have is to use a small amount of cool clean water. Traditional leather will absorb water, where vinyl coated leather will repel it. Either way, a few drops of water won’t harm your interior.

The next step is to determine the right cleaners and conditioners for your leather. Saddle soap and conditioners, while good for your baseball glove or go-go boots, are not to be used on automotive leather of any kind. The soap contains alkalis, which can permanently damage the material in your seats. Household detergents and cleaners can damage leather as well. Always use only a product designed for the type of leather your vehicle has.

Removing harmful oil and dirt deposits is the crucial first step. Always use clean soft cloths to prevent damage to, or inadvertent removal of the leather dye. Stubborn dirt lodged into crevices may require the use of an upholstery brush. Removal of gunk and grime must be done before conditioning the leather, as you don’t want to permanently push these contaminants into the pores.

The next step, probably even more important, is conditioning. This nourishes and moisturizes to lubricate individual fibers, keeping them from becoming brittle and dry. It replaces essential, natural oils that evaporate. How can you tell a good conditioner? A good conditioner will offer UV protection. Like human skin, ultra-violet rays will quickly cause deterioration of the leather and shorten its lifespan significantly. A good conditioner will be absorbed into the leather, not sit atop the surface or leave residue behind. The surface should not be oily after application. The very best conditioners are pH balanced, have stain repellants, waterproofing agents to protect from accidents.

While cleaning and conditioning your interior be sure not to leave any tools or sharp objects in your pockets that could put a hole in your seats and your good time. As with any cleaner, conditioner or chemical that involves the potential for ruining something really expensive, always test first in a small, inconspicuous area.

Inexpensive leather cleaners and conditioners will contain petroleum distillates, silicon or silicon oils, and gloss agents that deliver an inferior, greasy finish that does nothing for the leather, and transfers to anything that the leather comes in contact with. These chemicals are harmful to your leather.

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