The Benefits of Booking with a Travel Agent

Picture this: You just landed in an exotic location that has been on your bucket list for years. The weather is perfect, and despite being a little jet lagged you’re ready for a day filled with experiences. You wheel your suitcase over to the check-in, hand them your ID, only to be told that even though you booked and payed for a deluxe suite, the system has placed you in a standard two-twin room on the side of the hotel furthest from any ammenities. Would you rather:

A) Call the online booking site you used for your getaway, and wait in a two hour queue before receiving nothing but an apology and an attempt to get you in your preferred room the following day.

B) Get into a heated debate with the receptionist who says she can do nothing for you as the system says you booked a standard two-twin room.

C) Phone your travel agent who will work on rectifying the issue while you take a deep breath and go have a meal.

Whenever I mention working for a travel agency, nine times out of ten I’ll receive a confused look followed by “people still use travel agents?” For some reason the rise in technology and convenient online booking services  like Expedia and Booking.com have led people to assume that travel agents are obsolete. However, statistically, while old-fashion storefronts boasting travel agencies may have decreased significantly the amount of independent agents working from their homes or remotely has almost quadrupled in the last decade. Working remotely is a benefit in itself, as you can now have one agency of five different agents working and knowledgable about five completely different regions.

For many such as myself, planning a trip is almost as fun as the adventure itself, and I have a complete method to madness which often begins a year before I plan to travel if traveling domestically. And yet, there are  several locations where I would most likely turn to a travel professional to make sure I get the most out of my time away.

It seems too frequently I have to dispel the myth that travel agents are irrelevant, but honestly that debate never gets to far due to the significant amount of benefits that come from booking with a travel professional.

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Time Savings

While I find that many clients look for a travel agent because they aren’t sure where to begin in terms of research, there is a decent size group that either does not have the time to plan a trip or simply does not want to spend their time stressing over putting a trip together. Travel agencies give clients the option to say “Here is where I’d like to go. These are some of my interests. Help me plan something amazing.”

Knowledge and Experience

Knowledge and experience are developed in a variety of ways. Some agents have extensive travel experience, both internationally and domestic; have a strong understanding of a specific region or multiple regions, have a degree or an educational background in the travel and tourism field, or any collection of the three. While it’s easy to do a Pinterest search and throw together an average itinerary, in the end I’d prefer a trained or experienced pilot driving my plane than someone who has simply watched planes fly.

Cost Savings and High Quality Ratio

Any agent you are booking with should have a grasp on common cost saving methods, even ones as minor as knowing which day of the week to search for a plane flight, to which weeks to avoid traveling to which areas. However, most agents will also prioritize quality; meaning they will aim to plan within your budget while still piecing together a trip that will meet or exceed your expectations.

Less Stress

If you’ve ever booked a trip package or planned a trip piece by piece, you have most likely experienced the frustration of being stuck on a phone chain as you’re transferred from department to the other. If you’ve booked with an accommodating travel agent, you should expect to not only be able to rely on them before your trip but during your trip as well. While the agent handles any discrepancies or issues, you’re free to begin your trip the minute you arrive.

Personal Experiences

At Map to Magic Vacations, there is an emphasis on personalized client experiences. Map to Magic Agents will get to know each client and their travel party as much as possible during the first days of correspondance from travel preferences and interests, to specifics like “Grandma loves rides that spin but hates rollercoasters” or “Jenny loves fish but is strongly allergic to shellfish.” Similarly, having multiple agents with varying niches allows the opportunity for a perfect client-agent match. While some agents have more experience traveling with young children, another may focus on traveling with allergies or traveling with handicap accommodations. While it can be difficult to entrust your entire trip in the hands of someone else, the aim of any good agent will be to get to know the client almost as much as they know themselves.

 

The Benefits of Booking with a Travel Agent | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | www.maptomagicvacations.com

 

 

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The 7 Friends You End Up With on Every Road Trip

Aside from growing up in a city where there is almost always something to do, there was another huge benefit to living in New York. With the Northeast being as concise as it is, most states just require a weekend, and a decent car to be able to visit. Naturally, as soon as most of my friends were of driving age, it was impossible to stop us from venturing out to a new town whenever we had the opportunity. Eventually, our road trips extended slightly further down the East Coast. And while we have yet to take on any extensive cross-country trips, you get a good sense of each of your friends travel personas when you’re stuck in two cars during a fourteen hour drive to Myrtle Beach.

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Circa. 2013

The Co-Captain

This friend, found in the passengers seat, holds many important responsibilities including managing the GPS, having all necessary addresses readily available, and making close calls when it comes to turns on foreign roads. This role is essentially one of the most important, as the driver is too busy being a responsible driver and keeping his eyes on the road to be able to make any Apple Maps or GPS adjustments. Aside from making sure everyone gets to their final destination in a timely manner, the Co-Captain may also inadvertently become manager of the aux cord which is largely responsible for the theme of the drive.

The Hype Man

This friend doesn’t always offer much other than loud singing, non-stop talking, and narrating every sign that you drive passed. But what would a road trip be without that friend who shouts “cracker barrel!” every time you pass a rest stop?

The Nag

This the friend who you generally love, but who finds a way to grind everyone’s gears on a road trip; Generally by nitpicking the tiniest of details, and by having a problem with virtually everything. Like being the only one who doesn’t want to stop at that roadside diner, or wanting to specifically sit on that one side of the car for no other reason but preferring it. Luckily, if you grew up with siblings, it’s easy to tune out this friends negativity for a majority of the ride.

The Photographer

This is the friend who has no problem forcing the driver to pull over at the side of the road because “the angle of that distant mountain range looks beautiful from here” as if you’re not headed in that direction anyway. But who else would develop a full Facebook album of trip photos that the rest of the group could miserably look through while they’re back at work the next week?

The Ghost

This friend isn’t even there, in a figurative sense of course. This friend is not part of any of the conversations, bad singing, or rounds of “Don’t Get Me Started” during the ride because they are sleeping during the entire trip. But they do make occasional appearances during food breaks, at rest stops, or during boarder crossings.

The Survivalist

This friend may be high in the rankings as everyone’s favorite friend to road trip with, due in part to the bag of the snacks and cooler of water bottles that enter the car along with them. In my group of friends, this friend is also the one who loves to drive the longest stretches, carries a flash light with two sets of extra batteries, and always has a pocket knife and a new box of matches. If I had to choose one person to be on my zombie apocalypse team, this would definitely be my first choice.

The Concierge

This friend has researched all the most popular sights and attractions in every town you’re passing through. And while you may not be particularly interested in visiting the “World’s Biggest Whatever”, this friend also has the names and Yelp rating for all the local food spots along the way.

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One of the most spectacular parts of traveling is meeting new people, but often some of the greatest people are the ones who were along for the ride. We’ve had our share of mishaps, from wrong directions, to spontaneous blizzards, to car sickness, but I still  can’t wait to be back on the road, in an overly packed car with my best friends, while jamming to “American Pie.”

 

 

 

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A First-Timer’s Guide to A Day at Old Orchard Beach

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, it should come as no surprise that a significant amount of my summer memories trace back to the Coney Island Boardwalk. Whether it was for a stroll and a hot dog (or two) at the original Nathan’s, or a night of fireworks and back-to-back rides at Luna Park, there was always something memorable about a day at the boardwalk.

It’s those memories that are the reason I’ve always had a fondness for coastal boardwalk towns. So naturally, when we began planning our extended weekend to Maine, we knew we couldn’t leave Old Orchard Beach off of the itinerary.

Old Orchard Beach has gone through various transitions throughout it’s long history, at one point being home to a racetrack, the area of which was purchased in 1952; and even spent five years as the home to an Animal Fair. But many parts of it’s historic past still remain: Pier Fries has been feeding visitors for almost a century, and the Old Orchard Beach Pier has been a hangout for beachgoers since 1898!

Despite all of the activities to currently available to enjoy in the area and our limited time, we managed to have a pretty jam-packed day.

Get Down to the Beach Bright and Early

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I typically prepare for any trip including those shorter in length by researching all of the popular “where-to-go’s” and “what-to-see’s”; and remember virtually every “Must Visit Beaches in Maine” article having Old Orchard Beach pretty high in the rankings. Like most beaches, I’d suggest trying to arrive earlier in the morning to claim a spot and unwind before the noon crowds roll in.

What I enjoyed most about Old Orchard Beach is how it provides the best of both worlds: the liveliness and excitement you’d find at many popular pier-inclusive beaches, but also the relaxation and beauty of beaches like Myrtle Beach. And while there was a steady influx of visitors, we still never felt the beach was overcrowded or chaotic, making for a pretty relaxing morning.

Take a Walk Along Old Orchard Beach Pier

As expected, the pier was packed; but once you get passed the hoards of people Old Orchard Beach Pier is the ideal chill-out spot for people of all ages. Considering there is almost no way to avoid it, kids will definitely want to stop at Pier Pizza before heading down the Pier. Those looking for that summer kick-back atmosphere can head on over to Tequila Frogs for some Mexican Bulldog Margaritas. But if you’re just looking to get out of the sun for a minute and enjoy a relaxing meal, Hurricanes Raw Bar is definitely the spot.

While weekend beach vacations can be the ideal go-to for college students, I have always felt that these trips are perfect for families as they’re often affordable and generally don’t require too extensive of a drive if you’re living on the East Coast. Families can add Old Orchard onto their spring break idea list without fear of a bad time, because there truly is something for everyone.

Relive Your Childhood at Palace Playland

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Palace Playland, which boasts being New England’s only beachside amusement park, is exactly what you look for when it comes to coastal amusement parks: a wide variety of nostalgic rides, complete with a slight grittiness. As we walked up, the first ride that caught our attention was the Pirate, which you’ll generally find a variation of at most amusement parks or block parties, making it the perfect first stop for our nostalgic trail through Playland.

Considering the inflated per-ride prices at many of the places I used to frequent as a kid, we were amazed to find out that a Day Pass got you unlimited access to every ride in the park. Needless to say, we ended up staying at Playland a bit longer than we had originally anticipated but it was entirely worth it.

Play a Relaxing Round of Schooner Mini Golf

Schooner Mini Golf is about a five minute drive from Old Orchard Beach Pier, and is your typical 18-hole mini golf course..if that course was complete with a large replica Schooner! On this day there were only about two other groups on the course, which was ideal as it gave us the chance to take our time but also saved us from the occasionally extensive wait. Per usual, I ended up coming in second to last place, which I accepted with pride as I still managed to beat my usual score. Portland Schooner Mini Golf plays off its theme so well, and provides an array of holes that are actually pretty challenging, but the staff also add to the experience. There aren’t many places that have workers that leave you in a better mood after a quick two-minute conversation while purchasing tickets.

And don’t think you can leave Schooner Mini Golf without grabbing a Cookies’n’Cream shake for the road. I mean that literally, as you can’t exit without passing by their on-property ice cream window; but considering that it was around 92 degrees at the time, there wasn’t a better way to end of the evening.

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Our day at Old Orchard Beach was packed with excitement and still there are so many things we wish we had gotten the chance to do, like parasail passed the pier, enjoy the Thursday night downtown fireworks, or drop by the new Harmon Museum. But as always, it’s just an excuse to return.

But until then, we’re left with some great memories and a craving for some Pier fries.

 

*Quick Tip: Old Orchard Beach is a pretty popular spot, so parking was definitely a bit challenging. Come prepared to pay for parking and check out a list of local parking lots and their contact information here.

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A First-Timer's Guide to a Day in Old Orchard Beach | Maine | agreatbighunkofworld.com

 

A First-Timer's Guide to a Day in Old Orchard Beach | Maine | agreatbighunkofworld.com