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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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"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.

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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.

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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.

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Will We Ever Experience Excellent Airline Customer Service Again???

Will We Ever Experience Excellent Airline Customer Service Again???

We are weekly getting complaints from unhappy clients who have been disappointed because they cannot get the flights they want using their frequent flyer miles.  They received those miles because they were loyal customers.

You might be interested to know that a while back Consumer Reports tested 9 airlines over a period of several months and as you would expect, found major differences between the carriers on their frequent flyer programs.

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Royal Caribbean For Forty-Five Years!!

Royal Caribbean For Forty-Five Years!!

Among the ships celebrating years of service this year is both Princess Cruise Line for 50 years and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line for 45 years.  Both lines cater to the mass market vacationer with features on every ship that boggle your imagination. Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has been sailing the Caribbean for 45 years.  They currently have 5 ships sailing year around; 10 ships are in operation during the summer months.

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Exciting Family Vacations

Exciting Family Vacations

It’s so much fun helping families plan for their vacation….just knowing how much fun they are going to have and the new experiences they will enjoy and the memories they will be making.

In my estimation, some of the best vacation options for families are the all-inclusive vacations.  That means all costs are considered and paid for before you travel.  And a lot of the time, the tour operators will throw in a promotion where the land package for the children under 12 is free.

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Swimming Pools And Name Entertainers...On Ships!!!

Swimming Pools And Name Entertainers...On Ships!!!

An article in this weeks Travel Weekly by the cruise editor, Tom Stieghorst, poses the interesting conundrum of the necessity of swimming pools on cruise ships.

A reason for this question to come up was his experience on the new ocean-going ship, the Viking Star.  As I have mentioned before the Viking River Cruises position on their 40+ river ships is a no-swimming pool policy.  Of course, one of the reasons for this policy is that they do not cater to families, but to the over 55 market.  The new ocean-going Viking Star does have 3 pools; main pool midship, an infinity pool aft, and a counter-current pool in the spa area.

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Las Vegas Can Only Dream...Orlando Is Real!!

Las Vegas Can Only Dream...Orlando Is Real!!

We do a lot of talking about the visitor count in Las Vegas, and how they drew record visitors in 2014, but their count of around 40-41 million visitors pales in comparison to the visitor count in Orlando.

There was a report out this week that Orlando becomes the first destination to surpass 60 million visitors, an all-time record for the U. S. travel industry.  They reported that there were 32 million room nights sold in 2014, resulting in bed tax collections topping $200 million for the first time in Orange County.

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First Quarter Cruise News

First Quarter Cruise News

Wave season for 2015 has just completed, and the cruise lines all seem relatively upbeat regarding present and future bookings.  Carnival reported that their prospects for the year look so good that they will not have to resort to close-in pricing discounts later in the year to get their ships filled. The world’s largest cruise company reported a net income of $49 million on revenue of $3.5 billion, and they reported that the upcoming Alaska season as “super strong”.

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Buy Abilene And The Big Country First!!

Buy Abilene And The Big Country First!!

We participated last week with Business Expo, and we had a good many folks to stop by our booth and talk a little travel.  Three or four of them wanted to tell me about the trip they took, but of course, they did not make the reservations with anyone at The Travel Factory.  Don’t they know that we could give them the same price they paid, and we could keep some of the money circulating in the Abilene economy?

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Love Those Airlines

Love Those Airlines

A big thanks for all those folks who stopped by our booth yesterday at the Abilene Expo.  The Travel Factory and Supertravel have had a presence at this business extravaganza for 30 of it’s 31 years, and we enjoy visiting with other businesses in town and many of our clients and friends who have allowed us the pleasure of helping with their travel arrangements.

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The Holy Land...Just How Dangerous Is It???

We have just returned from Israel, traveling there with a small group of Big Country pilgrims, who, without a doubt, had the time of their lives!!  This was my third time to travel to this Holy Land, and I can assure you that we had no fear whatsoever touring that land from the Sea of Galilee on the north to Masada on the south. 

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You Haven't Lived Until You've Cruised!!!

You Haven't Lived Until You've Cruised!!!

The above slogan is a favorite from Cruise Lines International Association.  They say that in terms of value, variety and satisfaction…..”You Haven’t Lived Until You’ve Cruised!!”

Every day more people discover the inclusive pleasures of a cruise vacation.  More and more singles, families, couples, honeymooners, second honeymooners and groups of friends are sailing away on the vacation of their lives.  This year, over 18 million people will enjoy a cruise vacation.  It’s easy to see why.

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It's Hard For The Internet To Be Relational

It's Hard For The Internet To Be Relational

We talked a little last week about the airlines and their relationship with travel agents. . .how they ceased recognizing us for selling and promoting their product, still expecting us to do that and service their/our clients, but for nothing.  Their intent was that the consumer would readily go to their web sites and purchase their tickets. 

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Travel Agency MVA (Most Valuable Asset)

Travel Agency MVA (Most Valuable Asset)

Last week we talked about being relational. If we are honest with ourselves, as travel agents, our most valuable assets are our clients(friends) who after we have helped them with their travel plans, continue that relationship with additional bookings throughout the years.  

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