A professional travel advisor is like an octopus!

A professional travel advisor is like an octopus!

A professional travel advisor is like an octopus.

An octopus is an ocean creature that’s well-known for having eight arms and a spherical head. Did you know it has three hearts and blue blood? It will spray ink to discourage predators, and when there is trouble, it can squeeze into (or out of) tight spaces and find a way out.

It is resourceful, curious, and intelligent. That’s a professional travel advisor!

Are you anxious to travel? I know I am. An opportunity came up recently that I thought I could not pass up. All I had to do was to give a deposit, and that’s what I did. Now I have to admit I am knowledgeable on which travel suppliers are solvent and honest; this one is for now. But what about months from now? Because I have worked with this company for years, they know me personally; that was why I had the opportunity; therefore, I was willing to take that chance of losing a $500.00 deposit.

COVID has changed everything forever. Yes, especially travel. For those who loved to travel, there are many attractive opportunities. In emerging countries, changes in the cruise ship industry will make it safer and more enjoyable. Always beware of scams. Remember, you are not just working with one company, nor is that company working without other companies. Each travel supplier hotel, airports, airlines, taxi, cruise, shore excursions, transfers, etc., has its own COVID rules and regulations, not to mention their state and country regulations.

“I didn’t know,” can get you a fine or even prison time. Over the counter medicines, such as cold medicine are considered in some countries as controlled medicines. Taking traditional medicine, such as some decongestants can get you a huge fine or imprisonment in Japan. In China, Winnie the Pooh can get you a fine. Let’s not forget chewing gum! Yes, that can get you jail time in Singapore. So can sleeping pills. When traveling to Thailand, you need to know their “Blue Laws.” If not, you might end up in jail. In the past, many tourists were able to get out of trouble by saying, ” I didn’t know.” Many did not! Laura Plummer discovered that the hard way; taking in pain killers landed her in a Cairo prison. Airplane enthusiasts have even been arrested and sentenced to three years in a Greek jail for allegedly committing espionage by photographing military aircraft at an airshow.

Laws are different in every country. Respect them or you might find yourself experiencing them. Now you add COVID regulations and possible bankruptcies. Don’t count on your travel insurance; not all travel insurance will cover these expenses. Find out in detail what is covered; do not assume. COVID-19 is considered preexisting, so are so many other things. For most insurances bought from cruise companies, you get one page with generic information that goes out to everyone. Let’s face it, insurance companies are not nonprofit; they are there to make money, so you need to know in writing if the insurance covers your needs and what to do if the unthinkable happens.

When you are stranded in another country, you need an advocate to help you. When my husband and I were stranded in a third-world country, I got him out, which was scary. Today, I still hear him saying, “Honey, please do not let me die here.” The unthinkable rarely happens, but the knowledge and support you have will affect the outcome when it does.

As a professional, I can say I am NOT a travel insurance expert; most travel agents and travel advisors are not. Yes, cruise companies can sell third-party travel insurance. However, that does not mean you are covered. Not all travel insurance policies are the same; especially now. You must have coverage that meets your needs. This requires a licensed travel insurance agent to explain what coverage you have after telling them about your preexisting conditions.

Buying a vacation without planning is dangerous and, honestly, in a word, ill-advised. You need an octopus as your advocate. While as a Verified Travel Advisor, I do not squirt ink to deter problems, but I am always on the lookout for possible issues, and will advise you, and work on a solution. COVID added even more responsibilities on travel advisors without compensation, and in some cases returning our commission when we fight to get refunds, transfer of travel insurance, etc. Future travel knowledge is what can turn the vacation into a holiday.

Sticking your head in the sand never worked before, and especially not now.

Like an octopus, Verified Travel Advisors are dedicated, specialized, resourceful, curious, intelligent, and have contacts.

Let’s get back to my trip…

I decided not to go. One of the main reasons is that to get into Croatia you had to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test 48-hours before you arrive. Travel time from Las Vegas to Croatia is around 32 hours. I had two layovers in different countries, each with their own COVID-19 rules. There were so many glitches that could potentially arise if things did not flow smoothly. If I could not get a COVID-19 test with negative results, travel 32 hours, and arrive in Croatia on time, I would lose $4,000 in airfare, $2,000,00 in hotel accommodations, plus additional costs. 

Yes, I am still planning on going to Croatia and the surrounding countries. The keyword is planning; at this point, I keep an eye on COVID-19 rules and regulations, airlines, reading up on the culture, and contacting the embassies of the countries I want to visit. Every journey I take from now on will be a voyage of a lifetime, with memories that will last forever.

Designing a holiday with your family can be very rewarding and can save you money and precious time. There are many great places to travel to.

Even at the young age of 72, I will be returning to southeast Europe to visit these emerging, fascinating and beautiful countries. The last time I was there; honestly, I bought a vacation. I did no research, didn’t even check the itinerary. I thought, hey, they are all the same. I was a tourist! This time, I will skip the tourist sites and discover the undiscovered, hidden jewels that I missed in the past.

Even before COVID-19, buying a vacation without planning in most cases meant you had a McDonald’s break which most tourists were happy about! I was!

If you do not investigate and understand the culture and what there is to see, you will only be visiting the tourist sites. By not understanding the culture, customs, and laws, you cannot avoid common problems that could turn your vacation into a nightmare.

Are you a tourist or a savvy traveler?

One thing I have learned over the years is that life is precious, and you never know when your last trip will be. When I planned a journey for my clients, I want them to have beautiful memories that will last a lifetime.

There are many beautiful adventures. Which one would be a trip of a lifetime for you? Planning and research is the key! You will find hidden jewels, places, and things to do that you only dreamed of.

As I’ve mentioned before, somebody murdered my son Kenley. One of my memories that keeps me going is the beautiful times we spent planning and traveling.

Your time is precious; spend it wisely.

Happy Travels!

Sara Raney, Professional Travel Advisor