How to avoid a vacation disaster

Celeste Gray almost couldn’t avoid a vacation disaster back in 2001. She was used to traveling without a plan, which allowed her “plenty of room for spontaneity.” And then, while traveling through Spain, she got a little more spontaneity than she’d bargained for.

“After 9/11, all flights were canceled, and the airport in Barcelona was filled with stranded travelers,” remembers Gray, who owns and manages vacation rentals in Asheville, N.C. “During that sudden global shutdown, banks immediately closed, leaving many of us stranded without access to money for alternate plans.”

A compassionate airline employee fronted her the money for a train ticket to France, where she waited at a friend’s home for flights to resume. But the experience changed her. Today, she doesn’t leave home without travel insurance, cash, an emergency kit and contact information for the nearest U.S. Embassy.
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Do I need a travel agent for my next vacation?

Planning a trip after the pandemic? Maybe it’s time to call a professional. A competent travel advisor can help you navigate the strange new world of airlines, hotels and rental cars. Travel is radically and almost unrecognizably different after the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why you need a travel agent, say experts.

A travel expert can handle any emergency that may arise when you’re on the road — everything from a missed flight connection to a hotel that closes unexpectedly. But remember, an online travel agency is not the same as a travel agent.

“Try dealing with an online travel site at 10 p.m. when your connecting flight gets canceled while you are in flight,” says consumer expert Chip Bell. “Travel sites are filled with data and information; travel agents are filled with wisdom and ingenuity.”

It’s a discovery a lot of travelers made at the start of the pandemic.
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This is how to plan a vacation after the pandemic

So how do you plan a vacation after a pandemic? That’s a question keeping tour operators like Phyllis Stoller up at night.

She’s considering limiting group sizes, avoiding buffets, and bringing an endless supply of masks and hand sanitizers on her trips. Stoller, who is president of The Women’s Travel Group, says the changes will be expensive but worth it.
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