By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert
Throughout our careers as professional travel consultants, I believe the real value of using us to plan your vacation, is saving you time and hassle. You have a fixed amount of time for your vacation and using your time wisely will enhance your experiences during the trip. Getting it right usually turns a good trip into a great trip.
So, let’s explore the value of time in travel and try to answer the question—How Do You Value Time on a Trip?
A Starting Point—Opportunity Time Costs of Travel
Most travelers have a set amount of vacation time for a trip. As a result, we make decisions about travel that are time and comfort related. Some will want to spend more to arrive faster or travel more comfortably during the trip (for example, a direct flight with no layover or taking first class seat versus a different level of service); or some will accept a delay for a lower cost (for example, accept a layover flight with one or more stops); or even delay parts of their trip for compensation (for example, the airlines pay you money to take a later flight). Another way of saying this, is how much would you be willing to pay to save time and how much would you want as compensation for your lost time?
While this may seem fairly simple, there are other factors involved. Saving time may increase your ability to see more, or it could just make your travel less stressful or safer. In short, there are always trade-offs we need to manage, as few of us have unlimited time or money to travel.
Let me give you a really good example to make this point more clearly—my travel to Europe throughout the years. My first trip to Europe was right after graduation from West Point in 1971. I went with a friend (a fellow West Point graduate), we each had backpacks, a Euro Rail Pass and sort of followed the guide-book Europe on 5 Dollars a Day. It was a great trip, low-budget, lots of hassles (no reservations), very flexible, more a wander than a planned trip. The key was we had 6 weeks and not a lot of money. Saving time was not as key as saving money.
As you can imagine, with age and more resources, Europe travel became more about saving time while traveling, reducing stress, and making it more fun, more comfortable and elegant. However, we seldom get 6 weeks to go to Europe—it usually is for 2 or 3 weeks nowadays. Saving time is often more important than saving money.
Opportunistic Time Costs
In travel, I believe there are things you can do that will increase the value of your time. Some may cost more money, some may just involve careful planning and some may just be a special opportunity that suddenly comes up. While planning a great trip, I think you need to balance all three of these factors to get the best results.
So, how do you make the perfect balanced trip? I think the first step is to identify your core values of travel—why are you going and what do you want to experience? Here are my core values when I travel or think about planning a trip—perhaps these will help you understand why you travel and what you want to experience on your future trips.
My core Values for Travel
When I travel I do so for several key reasons. They are: To add balance to my life, to look for beauty, to satisfy my curiosity about a place, to help me grow as a person with new experiences and cultures, to help me to gain knowledge and learning, and to help me seek pleasure, happiness and wisdom. These values, for me, answer the question of why I travel. But they do not answer what I want to experience. To answer that question, I need to research the destination and then evaluate what I will get to see and experience and how this destination will match my core values. So now, travel outcomes become more complicated. To add to this problem, I also have to evaluate the services that vendors offer—will their products and services match my expectations?
My Core Values for Vendors
When I travel, I want to be treated with: fairness, honesty, and respect. These core values are a must. Once I am confident of the level of services and manner I will be treated, now I look for the most important item—what value does the vendor add to my travel? What is their level of service, how will they enhance my comfort when I am away from home and what will they let me experience?
I hope it goes without saying, this is exactly how we treat you when you use our services—with honesty, fairness and respect. It is all about trust—will you trust us to deliver what we say we will and will we deliver on time?
Time Stressors for Travelers
There are many time stresses when you travel. Moving from one place to another in an uncomfortable or rushed manner is often a big stress factor and can make the trip really horrible. Let me share a story about traveling way back in 1990—we were in Europe during the World Cup soccer tournament. To save money, we decided to take an overnight train from Paris to Amsterdam. Seemed like a great idea—we would save one nights hotel cost. The only problem was that our sleeping compartment was not for us alone—when we got on the train we found we were sharing the compartment with 2 strangers from Argentina who were following their team. It was a very uncomfortable situation to say the least, but luckily since I am fluent in Spanish, we were able to communicate our discomfort and work out who would sleep where. The train was not air-conditioned or it was not working, so our options were a very hot night of little or no sleep or constant screeching noises with the windows open as other trains roared past us. When we finally arrived the next morning and found a hotel in a smaller town outside of Amsterdam, we slept for a whole day. And to add to our discomfort, we both had heat rashes on our legs. So folks, we saved some bucks, but lost almost 2 days of our trip. This is poor travel. Now we still use overnight trains on occasions but have learned to carefully research all the details and levels of service—a great lesson learned!
Another time stressor is searching for the right hotel. If you are winging it, this can be another problem. If you expect a certain level of accommodations, you could be aced out. Another stress factor is spending too much or being located in an unsafe part of town—trust me, we had also made these mistakes.
Even if you get the moving from place to place right, and find the right place to stay, perhaps the biggest stress factor is missing a chance to see what you came to see or waiting in long lines to see or experience the sights. Most key sights are closed on certain days or holidays and can require advance reservations. For example, few people want to stand in line to see the Vatican Museum for 4 or more hours in the blazing sun during July in Italy—we have witnessed many who have made this travel mistake—if they had reservations, they would have skipped the line altogether.
Another stress factor is making your own plans. Will your selections match your expectations? Will you miss out on a key experience you did not know about? Did you forget the transfer from the airport to your hotel? Did you allow enough time to make a train connection? Are you in the right place on the right day of your cruise to see the sight you just spent thousands of dollars to see? The list goes on and on.
Addressing the Stress Factors
To me, this all boils down to two factors—trip satisfaction and convenience. Every time we plan our own travel, and I see how complex it is to get the trip right, I just can’t understand why some folks believe they can achieve trip satisfaction by doing their own planning. Maybe they get satisfaction from extensive research—I’m just not sure. Time value experts often ask this question when evaluating convenience and satisfaction—what would you be willing to pay someone to do the work for you? This is a great question in my mind, and my answer is even better—it usually costs you nothing extra, as the vendors pay us—the price of our services is already factored in to the vacation price. The reason is simple—the vendors alone can’t reach enough folks to sell their products by themselves, so they use travel professionals like us, to find customers for them. It is a huge win-win—you are hiring us as your travel expert for free in most cases. As Anne likes to say, “Free is good!”
Why not just buy my trip online?
I am amazed at the number of folks who think they can plan travel better than we can. “Oh, I’ll save money and everything I need to make a decision is on the internet”—this is some variation of the responses I have heard. My reply—here are 4 reasons you should use us instead of doing it yourself. They are 1) it will be less stressful, 2) we will get you a good value for your money (often matching or even less than you found), 3) we will make it an enjoyable buying experience, and 4) we will make your lives better through our knowledge of the right travel products for your trip. Perhaps, most importantly, you will have a real human being to help you—we can answer your questions and understand your needs.
My Final Thoughts
Time during travel is precious. Trip planning is not easy. Time and money issues are complex—we all want the best at the least possible price. We help you solve those complex issues, saving you hassles, time and worry. We are travel experts, ocean and river cruise experts, and Europe destination experts. We have first-hand knowledge of almost anywhere you want to visit in Europe. We know our products and the vendors who sell them to you. We have designed special tours for dozens of clients, led several and will continue to find just the right vacation that will exceed your expectations.
When you are spending your hard-earned money for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip. You want someone who will understand your expectations, know your time and budget limitations, and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience.
Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you! We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel. Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at email@example.com. We want to help you: Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations! Your journey begins here!
HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years. He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA). This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years. He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees. His other Certifications:
- AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
- Viking River Cruise Specialist
- Scenic River Cruise Specialist
- Emerald Waterways Specialist
- Avalon Waterways Specialist
- Brit Agent