By Paul Tumpowsky
December 18, 2020
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Credit: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Travel technology has improved the way we trek and trip in many ways, making it possible to book a dream vacation with just a few taps of our fingertips. But in other ways, travel technology has made the process of trip-planning infinitely more complex. There are more options to consider, sites to compare, methods of booking, and gotchas to watch out for. 

That’s one of the reasons I founded Skylark, which combines the high-tech speed and convenience of online booking with the human expertise and 24/7 service and support of a luxury travel agency. We’ve negotiated deeply discounted airfares with our airline partners, as well as special rates and amenities with luxury hotels. Our website then uses cutting-edge algorithms to pair these up and create the best travel packages that suit your needs. On top of that, we add a team of expert travel advisors to give you solid recommendations and ensure you have an amazing vacation. I’m honored to have been chosen as a Travel + Leisure A-List Travel Advisor for four years running, not only for my ability to secure these great deals for clients, but also to provide a superior level of service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  

 Everyone enjoys saving money and planning a trip seamlessly. But there are many other reasons outside of ‘getting a great deal on travel’ to why affluent customers should work with a luxury travel advisor in a post-COVID world. Travel may be complicated for some time, but its rewards are no less fulfilling — and maybe even more necessary than ever in this age of anxiety. One we’ve come to recognize at Skylark is that the most valuable product we can offer our clients is peace of mind. In this environment, with rules and regulations changing daily, with so many unknown factors to deal with, it’s so much more important to work with a trusted advisor at your side.  Skylark checks in real-time at the time of booking and within 48 hours of departure, the travel restrictions, testing regiments, e-visas and health declaration requirements based on your origin, destination and nationality. With that said, I’ve come up with six key tips on how to get the most value from your travel advisor:

Book With Someone With Airfare Expertise

Air is going to be a very, very complicated part of the equation going forward, with ever-changing flight schedules, rules, entry requirements, and so forth. Not all travel advisors are airfare experts — in fact, many of them leave flight booking to someone else. It’s important that your travel advisor can not only get you a great deal on airfare, but also knows which flights are less crowded, which airlines are better at social distancing, how to get you home quickly in case of an outbreak, and so forth. 

Book Each Component of your Trip With the Same Advisor

You want someone who can coordinate travel itinerary and the many different pieces of the trip and make it all feel seamless (even if it isn’t). In the past, travel coordination has been relatively straightforward, but in today’s environment; trip planning is complicated by everything from international transfers to connecting airports to even finding the right time slot for museums that have imposed new entry requirements. All of this is easier if you work with a travel advisor who has expertise in all of the different elements of your vacation planning. 

Plan in Advance 

The combination of flight cancellations, changing rules and restrictions, lockdowns and border closings, and other factors is going to make travel a lot harder to predict. And it means that travelers will need a much more flexible attitude, both during the planning process and while they’re on the road. My advice: Be vocal about your specific needs when you’re speaking to your advisor. There's no better time for us to ask our hotel partners to fulfill clients’ special requests. But beware that not everything is possible in the best of times, and right now they can be even more challenging.

Have a Positive Travel Attitude

From what we hear from our clients that have been traveling since COVID began, and from our own recent travel experiences, our partners are trying their hardest to deliver an amazing vacation experience. But they have many obstacles to overcome. Early check-in and late check-out are harder to come by because the rooms take longer to clean. The restaurant you love in a certain city may not be open, or may be serving in a dramatically different environment than what you're accustomed to. Think of it as an opportunity to experience something new and different from what you’re used to. And remember to practice empathy: Many people working in the industry — from travel advisors to hotel staffers to flight attendants — are undergoing enormous stress right now while still striving to help you relax and enjoy your vacation. Genuine, caring interactions and attention to travel etiquette go a long way.

Consider Travel Protection

It’s never been more important to be safeguarded if things go wrong, whether that means personal safety or protecting your financial investment  with trip insurance. Speak to your travel advisor about medical evacuation insurance in case someone in your party becomes ill, as well as trip cancellation and interruption insurance. Some countries are even requiring visitors to carry insurance. Not all policies include protection against COVID, so it’s best to get professional advice. In addition, use a credit card that offers its own protection when booking hotel, airfare and rental cars, but be aware that if you pay your advisor, and they pay for the components of the vacation, that some if not all of these protections may not be valid. 

Know Who to Call if Something Goes Wrong

I usually say that your travel advisor is the only resource you need in case something goes wrong on your trip. But in the current environment, that may not be enough. My suggestion is to figure out, before your departure, who to contact in various scenarios. It’s still usually your travel advisor, but it could be your consulate in the country you’re visiting, your hotel’s front desk, your credit card company, or someone else. Compile a list of travel emergency contacts complete with phone numbers and email addresses, print it out, and keep it with you. Of course, we hope that nothing ever goes wrong, but it is always best to be prepared.