The Travel Factory Blog

My initial working career was as a teacher, coach, and administrator at the high school and university levels for 13 years. Those responsibilities certainly prepared me for the travel business which I entered in May, 1976. I have been a partner in the business since 1981, primarily specializing in group business. My initial group efforts were with ...high school and college groups, especially athletic teams and senior trips. Then we escorted many groups doing mission efforts to France, Denmark, Norway, Australia, Korea, Brazil, Japan, Taiwan, and Great Britain and the Holy Land. Domestically we’ve planned and escorted groups to Las Vegas, Reno, Hawaii, San Francisco, Phoenix, and Idaho. Read more... More

October... National Plan A Cruise Month

October... National Plan A Cruise Month

Did you know?   Who would have thought….but it IS a good idea!!!  The Cruise Lines International Association has declared October to be “National Plan A Cruise Month”.  I am of the opinion that ANY month is a good month to plan a cruise, and the best tip of the day is to allow an experienced professional travel agent help with the plans.  They know the ships and after visiting with you a while will know which ship will match your personality and needs.

Continue reading post
  549 Hits
  0 Comments
549 Hits
0 Comments

Another Outstanding Cruise Experience

Another Outstanding Cruise Experience

For the life of me, I just can’t see how a person can have a better vacation than at least 7 days on a cruise ship!!!  We just finished our tenth cruise out of Galveston with a bunch of great folks on the Rudy Cruise, this time on Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Navigator of the Seas.  Not once did we have to decide “where we gonna eat tonight, honey”; never once did we have to make up our beds or clean our room (and they did it at least twice a day); never once did we lack for something to do, even if it was only getting involved with a novel or two; never once did we wish there was some kind of entertainment available after dinner; I could go on, but that’s the kind of vacation I want to have, a complete getaway from the daily normal back home.

Continue reading post
  640 Hits
  0 Comments
640 Hits
0 Comments

Airlines - High Blood Pressure Topic!!!

Airlines - High Blood Pressure Topic!!!

I try not to bring this up because just the thought of it makes my face and ears go red with additional pressure, but recently I read another column by one of the best watchers of airline antics in our area, Tom Parsons, of Dallas Morning News fame, and his comments sent me into one of those “hissy-fits” my grandmother used to have.

Continue reading post
  637 Hits
  0 Comments
637 Hits
0 Comments

Let’s Talk A Little Las Vegas!!

Let’s Talk A Little Las Vegas!!

I’ve checked, it’s been almost 10 months since I have mentioned Las Vegas in my weekly missive, so I thought I’d re-visit that topic.  Of course, Las Vegas changes almost as much as you change clothes, so almost every month something is different.

Continue reading post
  655 Hits
  0 Comments
655 Hits
0 Comments

More Travel Questions And Answers

More Travel Questions And Answers

Last week we talked about some travel questions that we periodically get, and hopefully we were able to give some answers that help our listeners and readers as they plan their trips.  We have some more questions to address today.

How can I find the best travel insurance?  Some folks say they want some cheap insurance, but that usually means that they will have less coverage in case of a cancellation.  The reason most folks purchase travel insurance is to protect their investment in case they have an emergency that requires them to cancel the trip.  And most travel insurance policies cover the cost of the trip if you cancel because of a “covered” reason…sickness, accident, death of one of the travelers, a next of kin, and some even cover in case of the death of a business partner.

We often sell the insurance provided by the tour operator or cruise line.  They don’t self-insure, rather use a third party insurance carrier.  The cost is usually 8-10% of the cost of the tour.  Travel Guard is a travel insurer that we sell for independent tours, and often we find that they have more coverage for about the same price as the cruise or tour company.

Why do I hear that the cruse line has better fares than I can find through a travel agent?  That’s not true, otherwise travel agents would discontinue selling that cruise line.  Virtually all cruise lines will have the same price product as the travel agent.  Often the travel agent might have some group amenities like on-board-credit, bottle of wine, photos, or fruit in the room that the cruise line is not offering.  When the cruise line sells direct, they are not discounting the commission they would have paid a travel agent for selling and servicing that sale, so the consumer is paying for services they never receive when booking directly with the cruise line.

When is the best time to book a European river Cruise?  The best time is right now—the boats do not hold but 190 persons, so it doesn’t take many phone calls to fill them up.  Some folks wait until they are able to book the air, and make their commitment at that time.  Many successful river cruisers book their reservations 10-14 months in advance.  Because of the lack of rain and snow the past few years, the rivers have been very low on some of the rivers causing them to have to bus between some ports.  In contrast, some years they have had too much rain and snow and the boats can’t go under the bridges.  Just like any other travel, the weather is no respecter of our vacation plans, so go anyway, and determine to enjoy the adventure of travel no matter what the weather does.

The experienced and professional travel agents at The Travel Factory are eager to answer travel questions, better still will be able to not only help you plan and sell you the vacation of your dreams, but will be available to answer your questions before you go, and be available to help if needed when you return.  Give them a call at 698-1421 or 800-760-4040, or see our website at www.thetravelfactoryabilene.com.  You can even make reservations with Funjet Vacations at that site and still enjoy the service of our experienced agents.

Continue reading post
  655 Hits
  0 Comments
655 Hits
0 Comments

Travel Agency Questions And Answers

Travel Agency Questions And Answers

A travel agency, if they are a good one, not only sells airline tickets, cruises, car rentals, hotels, and travel insurance, but they also serve as a free library of knowledge of all things travel…..and if they don’t know the answer to the question immediately, they will more often than not, find the answer.

Continue reading post
  686 Hits
  0 Comments
686 Hits
0 Comments

Passport Tips

Passport Tips

There’s a real good country and western song out called “Don’t Wait” and that is my theme song for this column today.  You just never can tell when you might get an invitation to go to an exciting international destination, and if you have a passport in hand, you are READY!!!

Continue reading post
  674 Hits
  0 Comments
674 Hits
0 Comments

Cruising From Texas

Cruising From Texas

Time’s a-changing again!!!!  For the past three years, Texans have enjoyed the benefit in the fall and winter of having the presence of four cruise lines cruising from Texas ports. 

Carnival has been a constant, year around participant with 4 and 5 night cruises and 7-night cruises out of Galveston since 2006.  Two years ago, Royal Caribbean joined them out of Galveston on a year around basis.  Three years ago, Norwegian Cruise Line began 7-night service from a Houston port, and Princess also joined in with 7-night service from Houston.  Great competition!!!....which resulted in great prices for the Texas travelers.

Continue reading post
  804 Hits
  0 Comments
804 Hits
0 Comments

There's Always A First Time On A Cruise!!!

There's Always A First Time On A Cruise!!!

One of the exciting experiences I have in escorting cruise groups is seeing individuals and families going on their first cruise.  The anticipation and wonder is fun to watch!!!  We have many of these “first-timers” on the Townsquare Media cruise, more endearingly known as the “Rudy Cruise” after their Morning Show announcer on KEAN, Rudy Fernandez. 

Continue reading post
  647 Hits
  0 Comments
647 Hits
0 Comments

The Travel Factory Website

The Travel Factory Website

Several years ago, we had questions requesting to go to our website for additional information about our agency or tours and cruises that we were promoting.  My response had always been, “we don’t have a website”, just give us a call.

So, a couple of years ago, upon recommendation of a fellow travel agent, I contacted a professional webmaster in Nashville, TN.  We had a phone meeting about what I was thinking and he made some excellent professional advice based on his experience with other travel agencies, so I employed his services.

Since we are in a “technical age”, I wanted our name and presence on the World Wide Web so that when we were closed, or when someone who was shopping for some information from a professional travel agent, they could at least find some information on our web site.  So with Peter Beare’s help, we have a site.  He is so good with pictures and videos and adding them to some of our group tour opportunities.

You can also go there to see a little history about our agency, the agents who are working here, and a little information about their experience.  We will often receive post-tour comments from our guests, so some of them have also been included on the site.  Photos taken by past guests also appear on our site.

Every year we plan group tours and cruises for The Travel Factory Gang, and those travel opportunities are summarized under the heading of “Cruises” or “Tours”.  For those opportunities, you still have to contact us for additional information and to make a reservation.

We did put on the site a tour operator that we have been using for many years, Funjet Vacations, and you can shop for tours that are offered by Funjet on our site.  You can make a reservation and pay for it with your credit card from the site.  Funjet Vacations will then contact us for continued follow-up and service needs on the tour, and we will receive the credit for the booking.

Since we started, I have also been publishing our Thursday Morning Travel Tips on the website under our blog.  You can find that when you log in to our site, go to “About”, click on the ladder the subject of “Blog”.  You can then read all the Tips since we initiated the website, and see the number of folks who have visited the blog.  It is really interesting, at least to me, the subjects that are of most interest, and the number of people who click on that blog.

I’m still a little old-fashioned.  I like and enjoy the face-to-face contact, but for those who like to explore on the web, here is another valuable site.  If you do want to visit us personally, just come by at 4150 Southwest Drive at the Plaza at Park Central located between Rosa’s and Chick-fil-A on the south side of town.  You can call too at 698-1421 or toll-free 800-760-4040.  We have the experience to help guide you to the perfect vacation that fits your families needs and budget. 

Continue reading post
  716 Hits
  0 Comments
716 Hits
0 Comments

Luggage, Luggage, Where Art Thou?!!

Luggage, Luggage, Where Art Thou?!!

Recently I read a report that the airlines had greatly improved their record of lost luggage incidents over the past year, but I can testify that it still happens.

One of the reasons that they have shown great improvement is because there are fewer pieces of luggage being checked.  Since they started charging for checked luggage, not only have the number of pieces being checked diminished but also the increased weight of each piece has been reduced.

Continue reading post
  629 Hits
  0 Comments
629 Hits
0 Comments

We Want To Be Your Travel Agent!!!

We Want To Be Your Travel Agent!!!

Way back the first of March we tooted the travel agents horn, especially when talking about shopping in the Big Country.  A couple of weeks ago one of the travel magazines I subscribe to, TravelAgent, had a column on a similar theme….”reasons to use a travel agent”.  I thought that using some of the editors suggestions would be a good tip for my Travel Factory listeners and readers today.

Continue reading post
  657 Hits
  0 Comments
657 Hits
0 Comments

Hawaii, This Year, Next Year, Any Year!!!

Hawaii, This Year, Next Year, Any Year!!!

The travel trades I’ve been reading say that there has been an uptick this year in interest in travel to Hawaii.  We’ve booked a few, but in our area not necessarily any more than usual.  According to a recent visitor satisfaction survey, the islands score at the 98% level, so obviously it is a very inviting and popular vacation option.

Continue reading post
  686 Hits
  0 Comments
686 Hits
0 Comments

Airline Hassles

Airline Hassles

One writer comments that “airline travel isn’t for the faint of heart these days”.  And that is the truth, based on a lot of testimony from travelers who have been by the office in the past few months to give us a review of their trip.  Airline travel is still the best and fastest way to get from point A to point B, but recently it’s the negative treatment and lack of concern by the airlines that is so irritating.

Continue reading post
  632 Hits
  0 Comments
632 Hits
0 Comments

Booking Hotels

Booking Hotels

Have you had any good experiences lately booking hotels on-line?  The excellent travel ombudsman that writes a weekly column for the Dallas Morning News, who I have referenced often, Christopher Elliott, is seemingly monthly having to help out a traveler with their hotel snafus.

Continue reading post
  592 Hits
  0 Comments
592 Hits
0 Comments

More Hotel Musings

More Hotel Musings

Just recently I heard of someone who had experienced a bad situation with a hotel reservation that they had made on-line and were complaining about it.  Someone with some inside hotel information told that person that guests who book through the on-line agencies often receive the standard rooms, or ones closest to the ice-machine rooms or elevators.  If they book through the hotel’s website, more importantly, if they are members of that hotels reward program, then they typically get the more desirably located rooms.  So, the tip here is to consider joining a loyalty program of a hotel chain that you like, and begin staying there to build up points.  Not only will you be recognized favorably when making the reservation but you just might get a free hotel stay down the road.  Simply tell your travel agent your preferred hotel and give them your reward number; it’s as simple as that, and more to the point, you most likely will not be disappointed with the accommodations that are selected for you.

Continue reading post
  657 Hits
  0 Comments
657 Hits
0 Comments

A Great Family Vacation

A Great Family Vacation

My wife and I just returned from a week’s vacation with our children and grandchildren……11 persons in all.  It wasn’t a unique trip, one that we had done two other times before, but the experience reinforced our belief that cruising is one of the best family trips you can take.  We have 5 grandchildren, a 17-year old, a 13-year old, two 10-year olds, and a 6-year old, and all of them now, after three cruises under their belt, are experienced cruisers. You can turn them loose on any ship and they can find their room.

Continue reading post
  655 Hits
  0 Comments
655 Hits
0 Comments

"If You Think Airline Fees Are Refundable, Think Again"

"If You Think Airline Fees Are Refundable, Think Again"

That headline is copied from a column in the Dallas Morning News written by the “Travel Troubleshooter”,Christopher Elliott.  He was responding to a question by a reader who had to cancel an airline flight because his traveling companion became too seriously ill to travel.

Continue reading post
  940 Hits
  0 Comments
940 Hits
0 Comments

Is Disney Always Right?!!

Is Disney Always Right?!!

We’ve mentioned before that Disney is seriously deciding to take up river cruising, emphasizing family vacations on the river.  Remember, the ships on the rivers are not fashioned with swimming pools, water slides, rope courses, video game rooms, theatres both inside and out, miniature golf and basketball courts, and counselors who entertain with various games and activities that keep the kids occupied and involved.

Continue reading post
  684 Hits
  0 Comments
684 Hits
0 Comments

Last Minute Vacation Bookings

Last Minute Vacation Bookings

In recent weeks we have heard from several cruise lines that they are attempting to break the cycle of last-minute discounting in order to fill ships to their preferred 100% occupancy.

This is important for them because this discounting undermines their marketing assertions that booking early will benefit their guests because they are getting the best fares offered on a particular sailing.  Carnival even said that they were going to hold firm on pricing even if their ships sail at slightly lower occupancies.

Continue reading post
  754 Hits
  0 Comments
754 Hits
0 Comments