“Good morning and thank you for calling ACM Travel Consultants. How can I help you today?”
I’ve never worked (or even been trained) as a travel agent, but with just about everyone I know planning the trip across the Atlantic ‘to visit’ this spring, I’m starting to feel like a one-woman booking machine.
I knew when Andrew and I moved here I wouldn’t be able to work, at least not in the traditional sense, but I had enough to keep me busy with my photography, writing and a million hobbies. I never dreamed that making travel arrangements would become a full-time job.
My days now revolve around travel plans. My mornings are spent checking to see if I have hotel confirmation numbers in my email inbox, comparing reviews on cheap hotels in Venice and studying bus schedules for Northern Ireland. My afternoons are spent conferring with my fellow travelers via Skype and email.
The slides, camera gear and photography magazines that once covered my desk are now buried under guide books, maps and itineraries. I even had to dedicate a calendar to who’s arriving when and where we are traveling with them.
Expedia.com and Tripadvisor are at the top of my internet favorites list. I’ve booked more hotels online in the past few days than I have since we arrived here.
Because we’re on a budget, I’ve become the Queen of the Internet Deals. I enjoy the thrill of the hunt. It may take me three whole days, but I will find a cheap place to stay in Austria that isn’t a total dive.
I also have been maxing out any points program we’ve ever used. One of the (only) upsides of Andrew being sent all over Europe for work is his plethora of airline and hotel reward points. Airmiles, Aeroplan and Priority points are all doing their part to get us around Europe.
The downside to the free hotel stays is even more time spent researching the restrictions of each plan and trying to find hotels of the right chain in each of our destinations.
While the internet offers up more travel information than has ever been available to consumers before, often it seems that there is too much choice. There are thousands of hotel booking sites, each offering “the lowest rate”.
In addition, users are often able to rate hotels and describe their stay. For every good review, it seems that there are three negative ones. Finding out that the quiet little B&B I was about to book is next door to an all-night dance bar adds even more stress and time to booking online.
I’m not one for detailed itineraries. While I do want to know where I’ll be staying each night, I don’t believe in scheduling every hour of the day. For me, the best thing about traveling is the surprises you find along the way.
That said, I have been trying to plan the driving route we will take on my parents’ European adventure. We won’t have a whole lot of time to do things, so I want to make sure the route we choose will allow us to see as much as possible.
My map collection has grown exponentially in the past week. I haven’t broken out the highlighter just yet, but I have been researching the most scenic routes between Innsbruck and Köln.
In a burst of travel booking enthusiasm, I’ve even offered to help plan trips that I won’t be part of. Several friends will be visiting Andrew and I and using our house as a base for their own European adventures. I’ve introduced them to low fair airlines and destinations they hadn’t even considered. And yes, I have even offered up my hotel booking expertise if needed.
So, for the next few months, my hobbies will be on hold — the things I do for the sake of family, friends and travel opportunities.
“Thank you for choosing ACM Travel. Your bill is in the mail … and have a great day.”