Friday, September 13, 2019

Consumer Rights for Delayed, Overbooked or Canceled Flights

Many travelers have had to cope with at least one of these situations: their flight is delayed, overbooked or canceled. Of course, our clients should know that we’re always watching out for them, assisting them to get on another flight or booking a hotel room if necessary. But it’s also important for travelers to know what rights they have – and don’t have – in these cases.

The law does not require airlines to compensate passengers if a domestic flight is delayed or canceled, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. However, each airline has its own policy regarding what, if anything, it will do for customers. For example, some carriers may offer compensation in the form of meal or hotel vouchers. So it’s always a good idea to ask.

In the case of overbooking, federal law comes into play. Before bumping anyone off a flight involuntarily, airlines are required to ask for volunteers to give up their seats in exchange for compensation. If there aren’t enough passengers willing to do so, the airline may bump people based on criteria such as check-in time, fare or frequent-flier status.

Passengers whose arrival at their destination is delayed by one to two hours (or one to four hours for international flights) must receive compensation of 200 percent of the one-way fare, up to $675. For a delay of more than two hours, (or four hours for international flights) passengers are entitled to 400 percent of the one-way fare, up to $1,350. In order to get volunteers, airlines are free to offer more money than required.

There are exceptions to the rules. Airlines are not required to issue compensation if a passenger doesn’t fully comply with ticketing and check-in procedures, if the flight is unable to accommodate a passenger because an aircraft with fewer seats is substituted due to operational or safety reasons, or if an aircraft with 60 or fewer seats is unable to accommodate the passenger due to safety reasons. And no compensation is required if the arrival delay is less than an hour.

Passengers who find themselves stuck on the tarmac for an extended period waiting for takeoff should know that they have rights under U.S. law, too. Airlines operating aircraft with 30 or more seats cannot allow them to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours on domestic flights or more than four hours on international flights without giving passengers an opportunity to leave the plane. Exceptions are allowed for safety, security and air-traffic control reasons. In addition, airlines must provide adequate food and water, ensure that lavatories are working and notify passengers regarding the status of the delay.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Few among us are lucky enough to sleep well on an overnight flight. But just because you can't get a full eight-hours of quality shut-eye doesn't mean you're doomed to a night of endless sitcom reruns. Arrive at your destination ready to go with these tried-and-true tactics.

Splurge on an Upgrade
Your best chance for a relaxing night's sleep is by paying for the privilege. Those lie-flat beds may be expensive, but for travelers who can't afford to arrive groggy, they're your best bet. If a business class ticket isn't in the cards, at least shell out for a seat with extra leg room.

Layer Up
Wearing loose-fitting clothing made from breathable fabric is obvious, but being comfortable on an overnight flight also requires you to adapt to bewildering swings in temperature. Our expert advice: wear layers.

Keep Your Feet Warm
Nothing inhibits sleep like cold feet, and if you've ever flown overnight, you know those under-seat drafts can be brutal. Protect your toes by donning a fresh pair of warm socks, preferably wool, before you settle down for the night.

Turn Off the Screen
Research shows that limiting screen time before bed improves sleep quality. The same rule applies on planes. Give your body a fighting chance by turning off all LED devices and mobile phones.

It's All About the Accessories
Sometimes it's the little things that help the most. Conveniently, those little things all fit in a small carry-on. An inflatable neck pillow, sleeping mask, pashmina and ear plugs or noise reduction headphones can make a world of difference.

Eat a Light Meal
Stress, anxiety, excitement...these are only some of the emotions stirred by air travel. Add a heavy meal to the mix and you have a recipe for a long night of disturbed sleep. Help relax your mind and body by eating a healthy well-balanced meal.

Travel Leaders Honors Agencies, Supplier Partners During Annual Conference

This year at my annual conference, I was honored to be awarded the Travel Leaders Network, Power of the Partnership Award for being the Top Booker in the U.S. for their PinSIGHT hotel booking tool.

TRAVEL PULSE, June 13, 2019
Travel Leaders Honors Agencies, Supplier Partners During Annual Conference: The organization honors top producers, suppliers and more in Maryland.

Travel Leaders Network honored its top affiliate member agencies during the 13th annual “Power of the Partnership” (POP) Awards. Winners were celebrated on stage at the organization’s annual conference, EDGE (Educate, Discover, Gather, Evolve) which took place at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at National Harbor in Maryland taking place June 13-16, 2019.

“Travel Leaders Network is proud to recognize and honor these affiliate member agencies for their outstanding business acumen, utilization of Travel Leaders tools and technology, demonstrated partnership with preferred suppliers and dedication to serving their clients,” said John Lovell, president-leisure travel, supplier relations and networks for Travel Leaders Group.

“These travel professionals are true leaders in their field and we are very proud to have them as members of the Travel Leaders family. The recognition they are receiving today is well-deserved and highlights the impressive work they are doing,” added Roger E. Block, president of Travel Leaders Network.
Member agencies with the highest supplier sales in 2018 were honored with the Chairman’s Award, and the member agencies with the highest supplier sales in 2018, Travel Leaders Network’s President’s Award is given to member agencies with the largest supplier sales growth in 2018.

The winners include:
Chairman’s Award
—Chairman’s Host Award – Cruises & Tours Unlimited; Chad Burt (Jacksonville, Florida)
—Chairman’s Elite Award –; Anthony Hamawy (Dania Beach, Florida)
—Chairman’s Pinnacle Award – Vacations To Go; Emerson Hankamer (Houston, Texas)

President’s Award
—Coasters & Castles Travel; April Botta and Lynne Macolini (Middleboro, Massachusetts)
—Cruise Travel Outlet; Bill Walsh (Salem, New Hampshire)
—International Voyager; John Maguire (Morristown, New Jersey)
—Pavlus Travel Group; Craig Pavlus (Albuquerque, New Mexico)

Top CruisePRO Booker
—Vacations To Go; Emerson Hankamer (Houston, Texas)

New Member
Travel Leaders recognized the newest affiliate member who has demonstrated outstanding support for the network, along with its programs and tools.
—World Travel Holdings; Josh Tolkin (Wilmington, Massachusetts)

Top Worldwide and SELECT Hotels Program Booking Agency
—Travel by Pathfinders, Inc.; Kristi Lewis (Grosse Pointe, Michigan)

Top Distinctive Voyage Sales
—KHM Travel Group; Chantelle Nye (Brunswick, Ohio)

Top pinSIGHT Booker
—Pams Path to Travel; Pam Horst (Redwood City, California)

Top Participant in the Network’s Program with American Express
–Pavlus Travel Group; Craig Pavlus (Albuquerque, New Mexico)

Distinctive Voyages Awards
Travel Leaders Network recognized these advisors for exceptional participation in the network’s “Distinctive Voyages” program, which includes hundreds of sailings throughout the world that feature exclusive, complimentary amenities.
—Distinctive Voyager – Mary Ellen and Trevor Burton, SST Travel (Mooresville, NC)
—Excellence in Service – Karyn McNight, TerraMar Travel Inc. (Hemet, CA)
—Excellence in Service –Jill Skrzynski, Cruise Holidays (Rochester Hills, MI)
—Outstanding Marketing Campaign(s) – Garry and Anita Thompson, Cruise Holidays – Attheta Travel (Oklahoma City, OK)
Travel Leaders also honored its supplier partners at EDGE.
“Our business is built upon strong, highly valued partnerships with our preferred suppliers,” said Lovell. “With these awards, we are honoring those that have truly gone above and beyond in the areas of partnership and support to ensure our mutual success during the past year.”

Monday, September 9, 2013

How to Travel Like A Travel Professional:

I travel often, it is a requirement of my job.  If I don't travel and see places, experience things- how credible am I to my clients?   Not very.  Now I can't travel every place , see every hotel or dine at every restaurant, nobody can - but  I have to keep experiencing different places and things to keep my travel blood flowing.  I know that many people probably assume that I get to travel for free or for great discounts and I'm here to tell you that it is a myth.   Travel Professionals usually pay and often times pay just as much as you do for their trips.   Yes, there are some freebies here or there, but they are few and far between.  Often times if we want to go someplace for a week, if we want free hotel rooms that may mean changing hotels 3-4 times in that week- which is not ideal because you end up spending more time checking in and out of hotels.

I have been fortunate to travel First Class on many of my recent trips in the past couple of years, but that is in large part due to knowing how to play the mileage and upgrade game with the airlines.  Each airline has their own quirk and program, so I am here to give you some insights that I've learned along the way.

Virgin America- my favorite airline domestically - I fly them whenever I can- they offer very affordable upgrades within 6 hours of flight departure time- you can secure the upgrade online or in person or over the phone.  Online is fastest and easiest.  I have been known to get up at 2am to secure my upgrade or better yet not go to bed until 2am after I've secured my upgrade.  Cost varies depending upon length of the flights- but a cross country flight is approximately $140 one way.  For less, you can upgrade to Main Cabin Select which are seats that offer more legroom in the Coach section.  With both upgrades you can order anything on board for free and with Main Cabin Select you get one free checked bag with First class you get two free checked bags.  So the cost of the extra comfort is really quite a bit less when you consider these other things you'd be paying for on board.

Alaska Airlines- who I just recently flew to Hawaii offers upgrades within 24 hours of departure when you check-in online.   The cost of the upgrade varies depending upon how far you are flying, but for Hawaii it was $100 each way - a very good value!  Again, you get the free checked bags, the free food/drink/movies, etc. so that actual seat doesn't cost you that much more for the comfort.

United airlines has a huge following of flyers because of their mileage program and they have made some changes in the recent years- I'm not a huge fan of their program but they do fly to just about anywhere and can help to save money when you need to.  What I don't like is when you use mileage to upgrade, they also charge you a co-payment fee which is pretty equivalent to the cost of the upgrade charges that carriers like Virgin or Alaska charge you to upgrade flat out (using no mileage).    But I use them when I have to.  I tend to use mileage for a free coach ticket and then pay for economy plus seats- but this also gets expensive to do.  We recently booked flights to New Orleans and used mileage for free coach and then spent about $300 for economy plus seats and all you really get is more legroom.  We will still end up paying for checked bags, on board food/drink, etc.

So overall, we don't travel for free- each trip costs us something- we may pay a real person price on a cruise, but then use mileage/points to fly for free.   We may get a few free hotel nights, but then pay for additional nights to extend the stay to avoid having to move hotel to hotel.  We may get invited to a Travel Agent 2 day cruise to nowhere that is completely free, I've had the pleasure of attending several of these and I've traveled two times to enjoy these experiences- but then I've paid for my flights to get there.  In the end it all balances out, but it's never all free.  I have to work the system just like everyone else and it is my job to help you work the system and get the best value for your vacation dollar as well.

I have a variety of credit cards that earn points with United & Virgin America.  I have the Alaska Airline credit card that gifts you a companion certificate every year.  I use these to the best advantage that I can. I also belong to hotel reward programs and earn points mostly with Starwood, Marriott and Hilton.   I have redeemed points with Starwood to secure hotel reservations in places that would cost a large sum of money at times when I would never get a Travel Agent rate (think New Orleans over Mardi Gras)- using points for our trip next year to New Orleans saved close to $900 for 2 nights hotel!

Travel is a fun business, I would not have just celebrated 23 years in this business if I didn't love it and I have to say that the past 9 years have been the best.  Being the owner of my agency & traveling a lot more than I did the first two-thirds of my career!  It's been awesome and I can't wait to see what the future of this career has in store for me!  I love helping clients make their travel dreams come true! 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Benefits of Going Offline when Traveling

To have a true vacation, you need to completely escape. Yet that’s getting harder and harder to do when you’re virtually tethered to your online life. It’s difficult to recharge your own batteries when you’re constantly charging your tablet or smartphone.

When your mind relaxes without interruptions, it’s easier to focus on whatever is right in front of you, allowing you to experience it in a richer, more satisfying way. A vacation—whether it’s a relaxing retreat to the Caribbean or an engaging journey through China—is filled with moments that deserve your full attention, so we suggest you do the following to get off the internet and on with making memories.

Make it Clear – Tell all your friends and co-workers that you will not, under any circumstances, be checking email. You can be reached for emergencies, but you cannot be reached to review the final draft or decide where to take mom out for dinner on her birthday.

Eliminate the Temptation – Out of sight is out of mind, so hide your phone or put it in the hotel safe. It will feel strange to walk around without that electronic brick in your pocket or purse, but your body will readjust quickly.  

Back to Basics – You can still read fascinating stories and discover new information without being online. All you need are books. Bring several, because when Facebook and Pinterest aren’t hijacking your attention, you suddenly have the time and mental energy to read quickly.

Accept Not Knowing – Don’t Google anything. There will be times when you want to know something—like the name of that actor from that movie who is a dead ringer for your waiter—but on this vacation, you need to adopt a Zen-like appreciation for not getting the answer.

Once you’ve made the decision to digitally disconnect, connect with us. We know plenty of places around the globe that will make it easy for you to leave the internet far, far behind.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

To Insure or Not to Insure ....that is the question.

The answer- always insure!    I have for years explained to clients the importance of Travel Insurance and have seen many instances over the years when clients would not take my advice and ended up losing a great amount of their money on trips that they had to cancel for things that they never though would happen to them, therefore they didn't take out Trip Insurance.

I will say that for years, I have not listened to my own advice.  Call it stupidity or thinking that I could probably use my clout with vendors to get penalties waived - who knows.  But what I do know is that last year before we took our trip to Paris, for some reason I just didn't feel as though my mom was in the best of health and I FINALLY researched and purchased a Travel Agent annual policy with Travel Guard.  Now granted, Travel Guard has some pretty nice annual products for Travel Industry Professionals, but they have very affordable policies that I sell for clients.   Now that I have this annual policy, they remind me when I need to renew it and I've now had it for two years.

This past October, Bill & I traveled to the East Coast for my cousin's wedding in Connecticut.  We booked a decent airfare with Virgin America, I had some free car rental certificates that covered us for the long weekend.  We were staying with family.  When we landed into JFK and picked up our car, I wasn't thrilled with what we had (in the past with my Hertz Gold, usually there are some pretty sweet upgrade offers for free, so I take my chances with that)- well I ended up negotiating a deal with the sales guy to get my SUV upgrade for $25/day- this 4 day rental would have cost us $100 plus tax.

Then Sunday night came and Hurricane Sandy arrived on the East Coast, fortunately after my cousin's wedding and after we were safely back at the house.  Soon came the calls that my cousin's kids would not have school on Monday, my cousin who drives a school bus would not have work and we were buttoning down the hatches in preparation for possible loss of power, which also means loss of running water in this neck of the woods, then came the text message from Virgin America that our Monday flight was canceled.

We were rebooked for a Tuesday flight, not too bad until we received a text on Monday saying that our flight was canceled again.  I spent 3 hours on hold for Virgin America and once I got in touch with them, the best they could do was rebook us on a Friday flight home from JFK.  My husband needed to be back to work, big projects that needed his attention and that was critical.  I had my laptop, so I was able to work from my cousin's house (fortunately we didn't lose power), but he was stuck.  I had to resort to other options and then the light bulb went off- WE HAVE TRAVEL INSURANCE!   I made a quick call to Travel Guard to confirm what I believed to be true and then made arrangements on another airline to get us home on Wednesday.

We had to fly from Boston to get home, which means we had to change our rental car return.  This meant that my "free day" certificates were no longer applicable and we were stuck with a rental bill of over $700, plus new airline tickets that were almost $1100, and our unused return tickets on Virgin American for $200 - OUCH!   But I knew that the insurance would cover these expenses because our trip was interrupted/canceled due to a covered reason and her name was Sandy, Hurricane Sandy!

Today I received my check in the mail for payment- just about 6 weeks after filing the paperwork.  Usually, claims take about  weeks to process, but given the number of Sandy claims they would have had, plus all of the holidays in between, I thought payment in 6 weeks was perfectly acceptable.

My advice- always insure your trip!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Disneyland 2012

I just returned from a 2 night, 3 day trip to Disneyland.  Hard to believe my last trip was December 2009! Of course, I have plenty of Disneyland reviews on my website: Disneyland Reviews; but there is always something new or different to note from each visit.  So I will go over those points here.

We checked in around 11am and were very surprised and happy to learn that our room was ready.  We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel since it has recently been completely renovated.  Our room was in the Fantasy Tower, which is the Tower with the Main Lobby.  I had never stayed in that tower either!  We had a great view of the renovated pool area with the Monorail Water slide!
The rooms are very nice and are decorated very tastefully with the Mickey Mouse subtleties throughout, I personally loved the Mickey Mouse hand sconces in the bathroom & the Mickey Mouse faucet handles!  The beds were very comfortable, although I'm not used to sleeping with a 9 year old and not only kicks in her sleep, but is also a bed hog!   I managed. Nothing to complain about with the room at all.

As for the park visits.  I was able to experience the new Little Mermaid ride in California Adventure, it was cute and true to Disney story-telling form.  I also got to watch "World of Color" for the first time.  We made reservations in advance for the pre-fixed dinner at the Wine Country Trattoria which also gave us reserved section viewing.  It was well worth doing.  The dinner was very good and we ended up with water side viewing (a.k.a. the "wet zone")- but all in all, we didn't get too terribly wet, it all depends on which way the wind blows!   I am really looking forward to my next visit when I can see the new CARS land that will be opening up this summer!  From the pictures and what I could see from the ferris wheel's areal view, it is going to be pretty awesome!

In Disneyland Park, there really wasn't anything new to experience since my last visit with the exception of the revitalized STAR TOURS ride.  It is no longer the Endor Express.  It sill has some Star Wars references & characters, but it is much more high tech and also in 3D.   The "ride" resembles a bit of the Soaring over California feel, all in all- I think they did a fantastic job of revitalizing this ride.

We had decent weather considering it was February, of course anything goes in Southern California- we had sunshine, a tiny bit of rain and some pretty cold nights- so layered clothing was the way to go! All in all a fun visit!