So, Where Should I Go?

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

One of the biggest problems Anne & I face in making our personal travel decisions is “Where Should We Go?”  You might think this is an easy problem for a destination specialist like us, but in reality, the more you travel to one area of the world, like Europe, the more difficult it becomes.  Why?  It seems so simple—do you revisit places you have been, look for new places, combine the two, emphasize cities, or peaceful stays in the countryside.  There are so many choices—what should I do?  And when all choices are great options, it becomes even harder.

We are facing this exact problem on our upcoming river cruise adventure in December of this year–what should we do after the river cruise and where should we go?

Brugge Bridge
Brugge Bridge–Should We Go Here?

So, let’s explore this dilemma together and see if we can come up with a logical process that will make your decision-making easier and, more importantly, provide you a way to maximize your travel time.  And you will get to learn our decision about our upcoming post cruise stay.

Travel Decision Making

In my opinion, there are 5 steps in the travel decision-making process.  First, you want to go on a vacation somewhere.  Second, you begin a search process, looking for some type of inspiration.  Next come comparisons—what will I do or see while on my vacation.  Now comes the suppliers and vendors–will their product or service that I select provide me the vacation I desire?  Last, you evaluate the decision—did I make the right choices? 

Vacation Time—I want to Go Somewhere

The first step in this process is a decision to go somewhere.  During this phase, you have to decide how long you can go, develop some type of budget and select a general destination.  During this phase, you should ask yourself–why am I going?  Once you know the why, the rest of the decisions become easier.  They always have for us.

The Search Process–Inspiration and Destination Knowledge

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We can save you a lot of hassle and time–let us do this for you!

There are lots of ways you can begin your destination search.  Usually it is a cool picture, maybe a book description, maybe a TV show or Movie or Video posted on the internet—it doesn’t really matter how it starts.  You begin to see yourself experiencing something new, or perhaps returning to a familiar place where you can relax or be stimulated.  Or maybe you just don’t know enough but want to try something new or different.  Maybe you went to our website and researched some of the pages to learn about trip ideas or went to our Pinterest site and looked at the over 5000 photos we have taken during our travels or requested one of our 50 Europe City Guides. 

Now that you have been inspired, you next need to learn about where you want to go.  Destination knowledge is the combination of 3 types of knowledge–objective knowledge, subjective knowledge and experience knowledge.  We use all three when planning your trips and, even if you don’t realize it, you do the same when thinking about (or better yet dreaming about) your upcoming trip.   I wrote a recent blog about this subject—it’s called the Power of Knowledge—Our Gift to You.  Here is the link  READ THE BLOG

Travel Planning 101—Comparing What is Available for Your Travel

I think there are 3 main ways to make travel decisions.  They are 1) advantages and disadvantages method (most common), 2) simple prioritization (best opportunity) and 3) to acquiesce to us. I also wrote a blog about this called Making Wise Travel Choices.  Here is the link:  READ THE BLOG

In the military, during our formal decision-making process, we used to call this phase evaluating the course of actions.  We would decide on what to do and decide on the advantages and disadvantages of each course of action.  While this was a more formalized process than is necessary for planning travel, it is essentially the same process you use to plan your trips.  Each traveler makes a series of choices (courses of actions in military terminology) and then compares the advantages and disadvantages of each part of the trip to each destination.

Already this is sounding overwhelming, but we have a good solution for you—this is part of an earlier blog I wrote about the search process.  Here is a chart I developed, addressing some common travel problems and our solutions to help you. 

Trip planning does require a lot of work to get it right, and it is a hassle.  Wouldn’t it be better to let us solve the trip research for you?  Here are 7 Benefits to you if you let us plan your trip:

Problem Benefit to You Our Solution
Will I get the best value for my money? Spend your money wisely We match the right vendor(s) to provide a trip that will exceed your expectations
Will I get the right trip? A better vacation We learn your dreams and turn them into a reality
Will I make wise choices? A better vacation and no fear of missing out on great experiences Our 23 years of experience in the travel industry coupled with our first-hand knowledge and numerous professional certifications will help us provide you with the best options available
Will I remember all the details? No unforgotten trip details We check all the details so you do not have any missteps or forgotten arrangements
Will I spend too much time researching my trip? Saves you time & eliminates hassles Once we know what you want, we do research to get you the highest quality, expertly planned trip
How can I best protect my vacation? Peace of Mind We can help lead you to the right people to answer your questions about insurance options
How do I know I can trust my advisor to do the best for me? Someone thinking of your best interests We are members of several professional organizations and we have earned the trust of hundreds of clients.  We encourage you to read their comments about our service

LEARN MORE

 

Trade Offs—What Can I Afford and What Will I Get?

I always tell folks we travel to Europe as many times as we can during a year until we run out of money—most all of us have constraints of some sort—time, travel costs, work demands, family situations—all can affect the desired outcome of your vacation.  Here is simple advice–pick the level of products and services that will provide you the best value.  Don’t let money drive the decision–every time we cut a corner on a vacation to save a couple of bucks, we regretted it.  It always led to poor experiences.  There almost always is the “sweet spot”–great value but not too expensive to bust the budget.  Let us help you find it.

So, Where Do I Go?

The real answer is that there are usually no perfect choices. I do think it becomes easier if we help you, as you can see by the 7 problems we can solve for you in planning and taking your vacation.

For our upcoming vacation in December, we had to make a lot of choices on the pre and post river cruise part of our trip.  Our travel buddies decided to go to Iceland; we opted out and decided to stay in Brugge for a longer stay.  We choose that option primarily for a little more relaxing time in Brugge—familiar, great sights, good food and a chance to slow down.  We found the right air at the right price after 3 weeks of searching and decided a longer stay was best.  I’ll let you know in a blog in early 2019 about how the trip turned out  (spoiler alert–I think it will be great!).

Bruges
Here is the view from the room we will stay in on the upcoming trip–pretty cool!

My Final Thoughts

As you can see, making wise travel choices, is more complex than you may have thought.  Trip planning is not easy.  Making sound decisions are critical to the travel planning process.  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 and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience.  And, you want someone who can help you with the decision-making process.  We think we have all these qualities.

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 hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

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
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Our New Website—www.dreamdestinations.com

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

October is my favorite month of the year.  I was born during this month, I got married to Anne during October and there are good football games being played, so it is only fitting, in my eyes, that we would upgrade our website and get it online in October.  We are very proud of the new site and best of all, it will serve you as a great resource place to help you get inspired for your next vacation.  So, let’s take a closer look at www.dreamdestinations.com.  Our challenge to you is to decide if this is a good, useful website that can benefit you.  We think it is, but you decide.  Please send us your feedback—we would love to hear from you!

How to Evaluate our Website

Since we have challenged you to evaluate our website, it is only right that we provide some criteria to make your assessment.  There are 2 areas that I believe one should use when evaluating a web site.  They are: 1) the Quality of the Information and 2) the Quality of the Website.

Quality of Information can be assessed by answering 5 questions.  They are:

  • Is the information accurate?
  • Who are the authors and what are their credentials?
  • How objective is the source?
  • How current is the information?
  • How extensive is the coverage of information?

Quality of a Website can be evaluated by answering these 5 questions.  They are:

  • How universally accessible is the site?
  • Is the site well designed?
  • Does the site contain high quality content?
  • Are Internet technologies fully utilized?
  • How original/creative is the site?

So based on these criteria, let’s examine our website together.

Overview

Our website is designed to help you have a better trip by providing great information (content) about cruises, European river cruises and European vacations and adventures.  It answers your questions about what travel opportunities exist, the best way to get there and what to see after you arrive.  It educates and inspires and you’ll find it is easy to use.  We have 8 topic headings that make the site easy to navigate and find what you are looking for on our website.  The topic headings are our Homepage, Specials, Blog, Resources, River Cruises, Cruises, Europe and About.  By my count, there are 113 PowerPoints on our website, hundreds of pictures, almost all taken by us, and 82 blogs.  We believe our website has high quality content that is accurate, objective and extensive.

Our Homepage

AmaWaterways Wine Cruise
A picture of Anne & Hank on our Homepage

Our homepage tells you that we specialize in ocean cruises, Europe River cruises and European adventures.  It also informs you that we can help you have a better trip by providing trips that 1) will exceed your expectations, 2) help you make wise choices, 3) eliminate hassles and 4) help you get the best value for your money.  Lofty words, but how do we provide customers with the highest quality, expertly planned leisure travel trips?

How Are We Different than Our Competition?

We provide you 6 reasons to use us.  They are:  Experience, Certification, Knowledge of the Industry, First Hand Knowledge, Membership in Professional Organizations and Ability to Earn Your Trust.  In each of these 6 areas, we spell out what sets apart from other travel consultants.  After reading these 6 reasons, it clearly establishes us as travel experts who apply our knowledge and industry resources to help you get a better trip. 

One thing you will never see on our website—a booking engine.  The reason is simple to us—we need to match you to the right trip and we cannot do that without talking to you and learning exactly what you expect from your trip.  We are not selling travel, we are helping you make memories.  We will get you the best value for your money if you will spend some time us.  The more we can learn about you, the better we can serve you.

How about this for original content—we create our own videos.  This is a unique feature our website—our videos come from PowerPoint presentations that only use our pictures.  There is a new show posted to our site every 2 weeks.

We are also members of the Better Business Bureau, with an A+ rating.

Our Specials Page

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Flash Sale on Norwegian Cruise Lines

This is where we have good travel values.  It may have a flash sale (like today’s (19 October 2017) one day only) or tell you about a good value river cruise (our 2018 Rhine Cruise) or inform you about our upcoming 2019 D Day trip we will escort.  When we find a good value, we add it here.

Our Blog Pages

We try to write a blog every week or so.  The most current posts are in the blog section.  We have written 82 blogs and we have most blogs posted by subject in the blog/archives section so you can quickly find the information you need.  Our blogs are well respected—some of our vendors regularly read them and pass them on to others in the travel industry.

The Resources Pages

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A River Cruise Safety Briefing on AmaWaterways

Every traveler needs tips and information to make their trip easier and safer.  In this section you can get travel tips, river cruise FAQs, learn about safety, learn how to use the trains in Europe learn ways to protect your money and about travel regulations.

Cruises Section

The Disney Wonder
The Disney Wonder ported at Castaway Cay

We cover ocean cruising in the Caribbean, Europe and North America.  The Cruises section covers it all—port destinations, and cruises we have taken in the Caribbean, North America and Europe.  It focuses on ocean cruises only.

River Cruises Section

The AmaPrima
The AmaPrima

Perhaps the highest quality information on this website, is the 2 pages on river cruising.  In my opinion, this section is exceptional—you will not find anywhere on line as in-depth a description of Europe River Cruises.  The Europe River Cruise Comparisons is even better—73 slides about the 8 major lines.  We cite facts but when it is our opinion, we clearly state it is our opinion.

Europe Section

We cover 44 Europe Countries of the European ContinentIt is divided into the 4 regions of Europe and also includes a Little Treasures of Europe section that is not commonly found on websites.  Each of these 5 website pages list our 50 Europe City Destination Guides by region.  These guides are designed to help enjoy your stay and get the most out of your visit.  We will gladly send you any or all of these free guides after you contact us about a future tripThe drop down menu makes it a convenient, easy way to get these pocket-sized city highlight guide.  There are hundreds of photos in these 5 sections, most taken by us during our travels.

About

There are 2 areas here.  First is a list of our certifications and some more detail about us.  The second area is pictures some of the great folks who travel with us—we call it the Dream Destination’ Traveler Hall of Fame.

My Final Thoughts

We have tried to convey information about our specialties and how they can benefit you.  We have also tried to get you to consider, when deciding whether to use us or not, why you should use us.  We feel that you will get the highest quality, expertly planned trip because of our excellent credentials combined with our passion to help you and our attention to detail—it is a true winning formula! 

Did our new website convey this to you?—we certainly hope so! 

Last, but not least, on our new website (www.dreamdestinations.com ), there is an easy way to let us know where you want to travel.  It is called Send Us Your Travel Request.  This short form will start you on the road to a great travel location.  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 hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

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