The big $$$ question: Is it going to cost more if I use a travel advisor?

Please visit my website at www.pilkingtontravels.comand like Facebook.com/pilkingtontravels. 😎

It’s not a simple yes or no answer. I am in this business now because I love facilitating better travel experiences for people. The other reason is because I can make some money doing it. I know that some people hesitate to use a travel advisor because they think it is going to cost them more money, or they can find a better deal online. That is likely not true!

In my training in Baltimore with Virtuoso Travel, we were given the task of discovering why, what, and how we do our job. The “why” was actually pretty easy. This is what I came up with:

Why I am a Professional Travel Advisor: I believe that travel experiences transform lives for the better and ultimately make the world a better place. When we get out of our daily routine and travel, our eyes and minds are more open to appreciating both everyday and extraordinary experiences, from an African safari to a hike in the woods, or from a Mozart opera in Vienna to traditional music in an Irish pub. Travel opens the door to transformative experiences.

There was something missing from my “how’ and “what” statements, and it took a while to figure it out. I think a lot about possibilities and balance, so I want to help everyone, regardless of budget, to realize that there are more possibilities than they imagined. (Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees, or you feel limited by your budget.) I also want to find the balance between the practical budget, the practical itinerary, and what is possible. The possibilities are what you might dream about but don’t believe you can have, or they are what you didn’t even think about. That is why you need a travel advisor with an abundance mindset rather than a scarcity mindset.

Sure, it is easier if a client has a very abundant budget. While I want “high budget” clients, I also enjoy the challenge of making things work within a somewhat limited budget. This parallels my life as a voice teacher. It’s fun to have students who have “natural talent” and can already sing well, but it is a more gratifying use of my skills to uncover a diamond in the rough!

So…

Will it cost more? Probably not! Will you get more for your money and have a better trip? That is my goal! There may be fees sometimes to compensate for my time, but for a simple hotel reservation, there probably will not be a fee, AND you will likely receive added amenities and a higher level of service!

Ready to work on a trip? Let’s talk. Not ready to work on a trip? Let’s talk! I don’t think it’s ever too early to start working on your next trip!

Me: I’m a travel advisor. Them: Is that a travel agent? Myths debunked!

If you’re like me, when you hear “travel agent,” you might have visions of a 1970s smoke-filled office with wood paneling and lots of brochures. That’s not a very good connotation. The idea of a travel agent is a pre-internet person who would book things for you, and that is generally all they would do.

The 21st century Travel Advisor is often a well educated person who is passionate about travel and wants to share that passion with others. I can only speak for myself, but I want to facilitate travel for people by helping them realize everything that is possible. I am doing travel because I love it!

The 21st century Virtuoso Travel Advisor begins with a conversation with the client about their travel hopes, dreams, and desires. We take into account all of the information gained from this conversation and begin a collaborative process to plan a highly personalized itinerary.

As a Virtuoso Travel Advisor, I am part of a global network of vetted suppliers, including hotels, resorts, tour companies, cruise lines, and travel insurance, etc. I draw upon my own experience and knowledge as well as the knowledge and experience of my colleagues to create the best trip possible for my clients’ time and budget.

In the age of the internet, the Virtuoso Travel Advisor is here to know what is legitimately great and what is best for clients. We also have access to many extra perks and amenities that clients would not have available without a travel advisor!

Which do you prefer?

  • Online tax prep or Accountant?
  • Grocery store or Farmer’s market?
  • Boxed wine or Vineyard tour?
  • MP3 or Live music?
  • Aimlessly surfing the internet for deals OR using a trusted Travel Advisor to plan an amazing trip and take care of all of the details?

If you’ve never tried a travel advisor’s services, then please give it a try. I believe you will thank yourself and learn why more and more people are building relationships with professional travel advisors.

TRAVEL IS AN INVESTMENT IN LIFE!

You may contact me below, and please visit my website: www.pilkingtontravels.com.

#TravelTipTuesday: Why you should travel in a group (even a group of strangers)!

Want a free trip? Book a group with your favorite travel advisor! Cruise lines, in particular love groups, and there are very nice rewards available for booking a group! In general, the group leader can travel for free, and everyone in the group gets extra perks, sometimes including discounted fare.

The good thing with a cruise is that you can see members of your group as much or as little as you like! Technically, you’re only a group because you’re booked together. You’re not forced to do anything together while traveling.

Group Ideas:

  • A group of complete strangers
  • Family Reunion
  • Friends/Class Reunion
  • Bible Study
  • Book Club
  • Solo Travelers
  • Yoga Class
  • Weddings/Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties
  • Wine Group
  • Supper Club
  • Corporate Incentive Trips
  • On & on & on….

Here are a few examples of how groups work with the cruise lines I love best:

AmaWaterways

AmaMagna
  • 1 free (tour conductor) for every 9 passengers
  • 1 free cabin for every 9 cabins (double occupancy)
  • Unlimited tour conductors
  • $250-500 discount per person
  • Group Amenity Program (added perks)
  • Additional perks because I’m a Virtuoso Advisor!

Norwegian Cruise Line

NCL Encore Sing at Sea Cruise 2020
Norwegian Encore
  • 10 berths (people)=1 TC (tour conductor credit)
  • TC can be used by the group leader or divided among the group
  • 5%-10% discount, based on cabin category
  • Added amenities/perks (choose from open bar, specialty dining, onboard credit, cocktail party, etc.)

Virgin Voyages

Scarlet Lady
  • 10 cabins minimum for a group (called “Circles”)
  • Sailor Loot (onboard credit) for everyone (double Sailor Loot if you book before December 31!)
  • Circle Chest: Earn Circle Voyage Credit, based on a percentage of cabin fares, to be used however you like!

I’d love to hear from you with your group ideas!

New Year’s Danube River Cruise!

New Year’s River Cruise with Pilkington Travels, LLC

ROMANTIC DANUBE

7-NIGHTS VILSHOFEN TO BUDAPEST

AmaWaterways fabulous new AmaMagna

 December 29, 2019-January 5, 2020

Link to Facebook Event HERE

Itinerary: Vilshofen, Passau, Linz, Weissenkirchen, Vienna, Budapest 

Spend New Year’s in Linz, Austria!

Enjoy the mesmerizing nightly light display on the façade of the Ars Electronica Center as well as colorful New Year’s fireworks in the sky above. Or head into the main square to join in the local revelry.

Starting at $2299 per person

Holiday Promotion:

  • $1,000 savings per person
  • $50 per person onboard credit
  • Complimentary category upgrade

What is included?

  • 7 nights luxury accommodation in an outside stateroom (most with twin balconies)
  • Computer for internet access
  • Entertainment-On-Demand in all staterooms featuring free high-speed internet access, movies, a music library and English language TV stations
  • Mini-fridge, desk and sitting area
  • Bottled water replenished daily
  • Wellness Program with a dedicated Wellness Host leading various exercise classes as well as discussions on healthy eating and relaxation techniques, both on board and on shore.
  • Internet and Wi-Fi access
  • The Chef’s Table specialty restaurant
  • Welcome Cocktail, Welcome Dinner, La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Dinner, Captain’s Cocktail and Gala Dinner
  • La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs exclusive dining experience
  • Unlimited fine wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner
  • Unlimited sparkling wine and fresh juice with breakfast
  • Sip & Sail Daily Cocktail Hour with complimentary wine, beer, spirits and soft drinks
  • Immersive tours in every destination
  • Bike tours and hikes
  • Knowledgeable guides
  • Personal headset for easy exploration

DETAILS FOR EACH PORT

PRE-CRUISE

Options to add 2 nights pre-cruise in Munich or 3 night pre-cruise in Prague!

DAY 1

VILSHOFEN – EMBARKATION

Embark your cruise in Vilshofen and attend an exclusive Oktoberfest celebration with traditional beer and Bavarian folk music and dancing. Afterwards enjoy a welcome aboard wine toast with  your fellow passengers. (D)

DAY 2

VILSHOFEN – PASSAU

Explore Vilshofen’s beautiful old town before cruising to Passau, known as the “City of Three Rivers.” Join a walking tour or if you prefer to be more active, hike high into the hills for a visit to the “Veste Oberhaus,” Passau’s Castle Hill. (B,L,D)

DAY 3

LINZ, AUSTRIA

The ship arrives in Linz where you’ll have several choices of excursions. Opt for a full-day excursion to Salzburg where you’ll tour the historic center, Mirabell Gardens, Residenz Square  and the Old Market. En route to Salzburg, stop at Mondsee, home of the famed Basilica St. Michael and site of the wedding scene in “The Sound of Music.” Alternatively, you can join a morning walking tour through Linz’s old city center and by the Mozart House; or go on a guided bike tour along the city’s famed “Culture Mile” and the Danube. During the afternoon, you have three more options of excursions. Choose a half-day in Salzburg or take a scenic drive through the beautiful Austrian Lake District with a stop in St. Wolfgang. You can also choose to visit the charming mountain town, Český Krumlov, located just over the Czech-Austrian border. (B,L,D)

DAY 4 

WEISSENKIRCHEN

Cruise to Weissenkirchen, gateway to Dürnstein located in the heart of the Wachau Valley. Once here, you can choose to join a walking tour in Dürnstein along its cobblestone streets to the Baroque Stiftskirche, Dürnstein’s famed church tower, and savor a tasting of the region’s renowned wines. Or for the more active adventurer, hike up to the fortress where Richard the Lionheart was once held. (B,L,D)

DAY 5

WEISSENKIRCHEN

Journey to Melk to tour its magnificent Benedictine Abbey, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Overlooking the Danube River, Melk Abbey is one of Europe’s largest and most revered monasteries with stunning Baroque architectural details and numerous frescoes and religious artifacts. Alternatively, take a bike tour along the Danube River, soaking in views of the serene Wachau Valley. Later in the evening, be treated to a special cellar tour and wine tasting of locally grown, world-renowned Riesling and Grüner Veltliner at the acclaimed Schloss Gobelsburg, which has a documented viticulture history dating back to the 12th century. (B,L,D)

DAY 6

VIENNA

Experience the regal elegance of Vienna with one of three different excursions. Join a city tour that takes you by the majestic Opera House and the former Imperial Palace of the Habsburg Emperors. Afterwards, visit Vienna’s historic city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and see St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the world famous Spanish Riding School. Alternatively, join an exclusive tour to a famous Viennese café for a taste of sachetorte, a sinfully rich chocolate cake, and sekt, an Austrian sparkling wine. For those who prefer to get more active, you can cycle along the Danube and through the Donaupark. During the afternoon, enjoy free time or bike to the majestic twelfth-century Klosterneuburg Monastery. (B,L,D)

DAY 7

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY

Experience Budapest in one of two ways: on a city tour or a hike. Your city tour begins with a visit to the vibrant Great Market Hall brimming with vendors selling everything from food to souvenirs. The remainder of this tour takes you to both the Buda (hilly) and Pest (flat) sides of the river. As an alternative choice, hike up to Castle Hill for breathtaking views of the city below. Spend your last evening on board cruising around the famed Parliament Building as the city turns on all her dazzling lights. (B,L,D)

DAY 8

BUDAPEST – DISEMBARKATION

Disembark the ship as you prepare for your flight home. (B)

CONACT ME FOR MORE INFO!

Travel: How to get the best VALUE

My company is Pilkington Travels, LLC, and I would be honored to help you plan any trip, large or small, so that you get the best value and have the best experience. Feel free to contact me using form below, visit my website, find me on Facebook, and follow me on Instagram.

We all want a great deal, and I understand that! I am very thrifty in many aspects of my life so that I can afford to travel. I don’t really like the expression, “you get what you pay for.” Sometimes you pay for a little and get a lot, or sometimes you pay for a lot and get little. It isn’t necessarily black & white, especially with travel.

Here are a few ways I think you can guarantee the best value for your time and budget!

  1. Use a travel advisor! Travel is PERSONAL, and our job is to help you get the best value and be sure you have an itinerary that is customized just for you. A good travel advisor has partnerships around the world to ensure that you are getting what you want. We also have access to special pricing and special amenities that add extra value to your vacation. As a Virtuoso advisor, I have access to highly vetted partners to ensure that you get exactly what you pay for. You also have an advocate from start to finish to help things go smoothly, make wise choices, and help if anything doesn’t go smoothly. If you haven’t used a travel advisor, or if you are afraid of paying more for your travels, I really suggest you give it a try!
  2. Try an ocean cruise! Before I went on my first cruise, I was very skeptical and had no idea whether I would love or hate the 7 days on board. By day 7, I wanted to LIVE on a ship. It was the most carefree, fun vacation I had ever had. Since meals, accommodations, and transportation are part of the trip, there are no worries. You wake up when you like, eat when you like, etc, and you get to explore several interesting, new ports. Cruises have a bit of a reputation for nickel & diming you, but with the assistance of a travel advisor who knows how that works, you will be sure to enjoy the value of a cruise! By the way, most of my experience is with Norwegian Cruise Lines, and I love them. I can help you find the best fit for you!
  3. Try a river cruise! Enough with the cruise talk! No, never! I have to separate the ocean cruising from river cruising because they are a totally different ballgame. River cruises are a bit more expensive, but probably not as much as you might think. Of course, you still have the meals, accommodations, and transportation that are part of the cruise, but other things are included as well. River cruises usually include 1 free shore excursion per port, and they include wine & beer at meals. Although you have to fly to Europe, they also often offer free or discounted flights. They are also a smaller and more intimate experience. I am particularly a fan of AmaWaterways, but Viking, Uniworld, and Avalon Waterways, among others, are wonderful. Booking through a Virtuoso agent gets you even greater value!
  4. Try a tour. I’m sure this makes some people cringe and gives you visions of being on a charter bus with 60 people. Ick! This isn’t necessarily true. There are a number of providers that offer small group tours and groups various sizes, even private tours. Your travel advisor knows the reputable companies! If you are traveling solo (solo but not alone), or if you like to meet people when you travel, this can be a great way to go. Also, the added value of a tour is that you probably have a guide, all of the planning is built in, and the cost is probably reasonable since it has been negotiated by the tour operator.
  5. Choose your destination wisely. This may seem obvious, but some places are more expensive than others. Norway is amazingly beautiful, but it is quite expensive. Locations even vary in price. For example, the Dominican Republic is a great value right now because of the bad press. If you’re afraid of dying, you really should fearing that. This article, along with others, discusses how the deaths were unrelated, as well as how the media created too much hype about them. Also, Mexico is a relatively inexpensive place to visit, but it’s no less wonderful! Again, your travel advisor can help you find the location that gives you the best value!

P.S. I forgot to mention all-inclusive resorts, but they can also be a great value. In this post, I compare all-inclusive with cruises.

I would love to hear from you!

UPDATE Sing at Sea 2020: Singing & Wellness Cruise

I am a travel advisor and voice teacher with almost 20 years of teaching experience (bio at the end of this post), so I am combining my passions into one fun and exciting opportunity!

SING AT SEA!

Come and commune, relax and revive, on land and at sea where your wellness will thrive!

If you enjoy singing, want to be a better singer, or think you can’t sing and want to try it out in a safe environment, then this cruise is for you! If you enjoy travel, then this cruise is for you! If you love food, fun, and community, then this cruise is for you! Contact me below.

Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady, June 7-12, 2020

  • Fly to MIA (on your own, or I can arrange)
  • Cruise leaves from Miami
  • Pre-cruise hotel optional (and highly recommended). If you do this, we will have a pre-cruise dinner to get acquainted and get the party started! (I can bundle flight & hotel)
  • Embark on a 5-day cruise to Costa Maya, Mexico and Virgin’s FABULOUS “Ibiza Inspired” exclusive beach club in Bimini, The Bahamas
  • Enjoy all of the amenities of a brand new cruise ship, including meals, entertainment, and accommodations.
  • Participate in daily singing and wellness activities, including private lessons
  • Fly home a happier, healthier person because of the experience of singing, travel, wellness, and community.

The Itinerary:

  • Day 1 Miami – Departs at 07:00 PM, Depart 2 hrs before
  • Day 2 Sailing
  • Day 3 Costa Maya – 09:00 AM, local time
  • Day 4 Sailing
  • Day 5 The Beach Club At Bimini – 09:00 AM, local time
  • Day 6 Miami – Arrives at 06:30 AM
Scarlet Lady!

Since I am starting this small, anywhere from 3-10 participants will be ideal. Each participant will have private voice lessons, group classes, and discussions over dinner. No matter what, I will ensure that there is plenty of time for FUN!

The estimated cost for participants should be $2000 or less (plus flight), depending on the cabin chosen. Non-participants may join you in your cabin for a reduced rate. Also, Scarlet Lady has solo cabins, which means that solo travelers don’t have to pay double!

Please contact me with your interest and availability, and I will answer any questions you might have.

Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady Beach Club at Bimini
Jonathan Pilkington’s recent solo engagements include Verdi’s Requiem, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Haydn’s Creation, Handel’s Israel in Egypt, Mozart’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, and Orff’s Carmina Burana. He sang the tenor solo in New York premiere of Mendelson’s Humboldt Cantata and was the tenor soloist for Elliott Carter’s The Defense of Corinth with the National Chorale at Avery Fisher Hall. He was a guest soloist at the 2014 Bassi Brugnatelli International Conducting and Singing Symposium in Robbiate, Italy. Additional performances include concerts with Lyric Intermezzo in Augusta, GA, a recital appearance at Reinhardt University, and solo recitals at Piedmont College and Winthrop University. In early 2017, he completed a tour of concerts with Karen Sigers, piano, featuring the songs of Samuel Barber, including a performance at Spivey Hall in Atlanta. In October 2018, he toured California to promote an album of songs with classical guitar, including transcriptions of Schubert’s Winterreise. Pilkington has performed many major choral works with the New York Philharmonic, American Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and others, and has been guest lecturer in vocal pedagogy for University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, the Sautee Chorale, and St. Bartholomew’s Church in Atlanta. With degrees from Shorter College (B.M.), Westminster Choir College (M.M.), and the University of Georgia (D.MA.), Pilkington, formerly Assistant Professor of Music at Piedmont College, now teaches at The Lovett School, United Music Studios, Perimeter College-Georgia State University, and The Galloway School, in addition to his own private voice studio. As a dedicated voice teacher, he has participated in the highly selective NATS Intern Program and competed further training at the LoVetri Institute for Somatic Voicework™ at Baldwin Wallace University, and he serves as the NATS District Governor for Georgia. He also serves as a staff singer at First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta.

Intentional Work in Music & Travel: Making the World a Better Place

You might say that I have entered the “gig economy” in my own way. I am a freelance voice teachersinger, and travel advisor. I love all of the things that I do, and that is important to me. Without the security of a full time job, a bit of stress can enter in, especially when things that I thought were going to happen don’t happen. It is easy to feel mistreated or misunderstood and to be motivated by stress, fear, or money.

I’m quite certain that those things are not going to lead to success, so I have to remind myself of what I realized at the end of July. As I was leaving a week of training for both singing and travel, I began to put some things together. I was wondering how the two careers I’ve taken on will work together, and it started to become clear as I made my way home.

As a singer I believe that I can make a difference in the world by affecting the audience members. They might not go solve climate change because of hearing me sing, but they might be kinder to the person who cuts them off in traffic on their way home. It’s a small change, but who knows, it might save a life!

My high school voice students sometimes say that they don’t want to major in music because they want to do something that makes a difference in the world. I understand that they mean, of course. They want to work biotech or in a non-profit and make a big, tangible difference. That is wonderful, and I respect that! If someone believes they can be happier and more fulfilled doing something other than music for a career, then they should do the other thing. 

I do hope (and believe) that my teaching makes a difference, though, even if it is not realized until years later. Maybe I make someone aware of a postural issue that could have developed into a bigger issue later in life. Maybe the tedious work of vocal technique makes a difference when a former student is a heart surgeon. Maybe the study of voice remains with the student who goes on to become a lawyer, and singing is the only thing that brings them joy.

In the travel business, it would be very easy to get caught up in trying to sell the most high-end, luxury  hotels, resorts, and cruises since more money is made from them. Honestly, I hope the find the clients who can afford those things, and I don’t see any harm there. However, I must come back to what inspires me about travel. Mark Twain’s quote sums it up best: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” I’ve said it before, but each time I travel, I learn something else about the world and the people of the world, which makes me a better human. I want everyone to be able to travel, in whatever capacity is best for them, so that they will have similar experiences.

The other side of travel is seeing amazing (natural or manmade) sights of the world, and John O’Donohue’s words sum that up: “Beauty is that in the presence of which we feel more alive.” This quote is in my email signature, because it applies to singing and travel. First, I think our minds have to be set on seeing and recognizing beauty, then the beauty of music, or of people, places, things, and experiences, will make us feel more alive, thus making us better people and making the world a better place.

For the “cherry on top,” I must mention my other favorite quote, which really brings everything together. While it may sound religious in nature, I hope that even an atheist can see the value in the words of St. Irenaeus of Lyon: “The glory of God is the human being fully alive.” Music and travel ultimately make us more alive and more human, so this is the world-changing intention that I have for my work. I’m putting it writing and making it public to hold myself accountable to it!

Magical New Year’s Eve Danube River Cruise?

AmaWaterways Ship New Year's Eve Fireworks

Ama means love, and who wouldn’t love to be on a river cruise? Truly, I can not think of a way I would rather ring in the New Year than on a river cruise on the Danube. The thought of experiencing Christmas markets in European cities after Christmas, then enjoying a gourmet dinner onboard, followed by viewing fireworks from the ship at midnight, sounds like a dream come true to me! Read (or skip) to the end to see details on the AmaMagna New Year’s Eve Cruise, and contact me for more information!

Budapest, Hungary

A river cruise is such a great value! Also, on AmaWaterways, the single supplement is less than 150%! Here I highlight some things that are above & beyond what is typically included on an ocean cruise:

  • 7 nights luxury accommodation in an outside stateroom (most with twin balconies)
  • Computer for internet access
  • Entertainment-On-Demand in all staterooms featuring free high-speed internet access, movies, a music library and English language TV stations
  • Mini-fridge, desk and sitting area
  • Bottled water replenished daily
  • Wellness Program with a dedicated Wellness Host leading various exercise classes as well as discussions on healthy eating and relaxation techniques, both on board and on shore.
  • Internet and Wi-Fi access
  • The Chef’s Table specialty restaurant
  • Welcome Cocktail, Welcome Dinner, La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Dinner, Captain’s Cocktail and Gala Dinner
  • La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs exclusive dining experience
  • Unlimited fine wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner
  • Unlimited sparkling wine and fresh juice with breakfast
  • Sip & Sail Daily Cocktail Hour with complimentary wine, beer, spirits and soft drinks
  • Immersive tours in every destination
  • Bike tours and hikes
  • Knowledgeable guides
  • Personal headset for easy exploration

ROMANTIC DANUBE
7-NIGHT VILSHOFEN TO BUDAPEST CRUISE

December 29-January 5 on the AmaMagna
» Countdown to midnight amid the mesmerizing display on the
Ars Electronic Center in Linz
» Enjoy colorful New Year’s fireworks in the sky above at midnight
» Visit charming villages like Passau, Germany and Dürnstein, Austria,
still dressed in their holiday finery
» Explore Vienna, the “City of Waltzes”, from the Imperial Palace to
magnificent St. Stephen’s Cathedral
» Attend the exclusive New Year’s Eve celebration on board

AmaMagna Ship Tour

5 Travel Hacks: The Pilkington Perspective

I love travel, whether it is to a nearby town or a far-off country, and as a travel advisor, I love helping people to discover the benefits and joy of travel. Based on my personal experience, here are 5 things that make my travel possible, easier, and more enjoyable. I would love to hear from you, so please contact me through my website, Facebook, or at the bottom of this page!

Credit Card–First of all, I pay off my credit cards every month, and I that is the most healthy relationship you can have with a credit card! However, I pay for everything with a credit card because I get points for that. As a travel advisor, I am here to “sell” travel, but I understand that airfare can be the worst part of paying for a trip. If you use a credit card with good travel points, that can help to offset your expenses a bit. I have 3 main cards now that are very useful. Chase Ultimate Rewards are the best for redeeming for travel, and they add up fast since you often get extra points for things like dining, travel, and gas. You can redeem points for things other than travel, but they are worth more when you redeem for travel. I have used the American Express Delta Skymiles Card for the longest time, and I hold onto it since I get free checked bags when I fly with Delta!

Budget–I use YNAB (You Need A Budget) and swear by it for keeping my finances under control. It is a different take on budgeting, and the idea is that you give your money a job as you make it. Each month, I set my budget for the things I know, such as mortgage, car payment, etc, and since I’ve used the app for a long time, I am usually a month ahead, meaning that this month’s money pays for next month’s expenses. When you have more money than you need for a month, you create a “buffer” category (for unexpected expenses, etc), or put extra in your TRAVEL category!

Airport Security–Another perk with some credit cards is free TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, or Clear. Having one of these is so nice! TSA PreCheck has become so popular that it sometimes seems like it’s not worth it, but I still think it is. If nothing else, you don’t have to take off your shoes or take your laptop out of your bag. That makes the line move faster! Global Entry makes you feel like a rockstar during international travel, because you pass by hundreds of people and get through the immigration line so quickly. I don’t have Clear, but they seem to have the shortest & quickest lines! Also, if you don’t fly often, it is great to do a little homework on how security works these days. Wear as little jewelry as possible, be ready to remove your belt & jacket and take off your shoes, take everything (EVERYTHING) out of your pockets, don’t carry a gun, and have your ID and boarding pass ready!

Luggage–Invest wisely in good luggage. This investment doesn’t have to be a major financial commitment. My current carry-on bag is the Amazon Basics Carry-On Spinner for under $50, and it does everything I need. I also go the orange one, so it stands out, in the event that I have to check it! I also have a good, larger suitcase that I bought from Marshall’s or TJ Maxx, for when I know that have to pack more and need to check my luggage. Also, I use packing cubes, and they are wonderful for organizing your packing and getting as much as possible into your suitcase!

Travel Advisor–You work hard for your money and likely have little leisure time, so it is smart to hire an expert to advise you on how to get the greatest value for your resources! A travel advisor is your best friend and can make things so much easier and enjoyable for every aspect of your travels. We can also open your eyes to new possibilities. Think you can’t afford a river cruise or a trip to Europe? Well, maybe you can! Don’t think you need travel insurance? Maybe you should consider it. Whatever your choose, a good travel advisor is there for you every step of the way and enjoys the process.

5 MORE Facts About Using a Travel Advisor

Pilkington Travels, LLC is my company name, and I am an independent affiliate of Travelex International. That is a mouthful, but it is all important! Travelex International, established in 1992, is a Virtuoso® member travel agency that advises travelers in personalized leisure travel, custom group travel & corporate travel. As a Virtuoso® member, one of the top 1% of travel agencies worldwide, we provide custom itineraries for our distinctive clientele to the seven continents of the world and throughout the United States.

In my previous post, I provided 5 facts about using a travel advisor, and now I have thought of 5 more!

  1. Bulk Air–If you Google “airfare discounts” or “cheap air,” you will come up with some results, like Airfare Watchdog or Scott’s Cheap Flights. They are both sites that advertise drops in airfare rates. They are very useful in helping you to be aware of sales (or mistake fares) by the airlines. However, they don’t actually sell airfare at reduced rates. A travel advisor has access to bulk air. This is usually available when you book air and accommodations together, but it is also possible to use an airline consolidator, which sometimes possible to find cheaper flights without booking a hotel. I once saved someone $1000 on a multi-city flight to Europe!
  2. Rapport–A relationship between a client and a travel advisor can be a wonderful thing. Our entire job is to help you use your money wisely and have an amazing vacation. We work to find things that will ensure that you have amazing experiences, and we’re there for you if anything goes wrong. Who else in your life does that? Over time the relationship grows, and you can always be dreaming about your next trip!
  3. New Ideas–One of the most exciting things for me as a travel advisor is when I present someone with an itinerary, and they say, “I never would have thought of that!” I do a happy dance inside when that happens, and it happens frequently! A travel advisor is there to advise you, based on their resources and expertise, as well as what they know about you. Be open about your wants & needs when talking with a travel advisor. For example, someone recently told me that one resort appealed to her more because it had an espresso machine in the room, instead of a drip coffee maker. I love details like that, and it helps me to create the perfect plan!
  4. Things you can’t Google–Travel advisors have access to sites you have never heard of and can’t access. We also have global networks of people we can contact with questions about anything. As a Virtuoso advisor, I have access to “on-sites” around the world, which are people around the world who can help me to make specialized arrangements in their country.
  5. Small Business–Doesn’t it always feel good to support a small business? There’s even “Small Business Saturday” the day after Black Friday. When you go to Expedia or Priceline, you are supporting a large corporation and probably aren’t really saving much money, if any, over using an advisor. You also don’t have the personal touch and expertise of your travel advisor, who can help you find the best hotel, flight, etc for you. I can’t speak for other travel advisors, but nothing is too small for me. Even if you just need a hotel room for one night, I would be happy to help!

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Check out some of my latest posts below, especially “Sing at Sea 2020”!