Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My Cousin / Friend Can Get Me a Great Deal...

How many times have you heard or said that?  We all know someone who's gonna take care of us on the 'inside'.  YUP! VIP at a 5-star resort on your best pal's comp pass.... And who doesn't want it ALL THE TIME!

Today I'm here to tell you that's what WE do. We are your friend, cousin, brother-in-law, sister's roommate's mother's neighbor's boyfriend! And we are good.  I'll soon tell you about 2 of our impressive accomplishments from only last week, but first, let's make sense of the task.

You are curious about a trip to a snow destination.  So, you phone your friend who brags about his ventures 'out west' all the time.  By golly, he knows EVERYTHING!  He tells you where to go, where to eat, which dude at which ski shop has the latest and BEST gear, which hotel has the best breakfast, and so on. And he tells you who to call (hopefully us!!) to make the arrangements.

But... He goes single. You've got a wife and 3 kids.  He likes to meet ladies. Your mother-in-law is coming. And all of a sudden he's become as helpful as the plethora of travel ads in the local newspaper.

Here's where we come in :-)

We will give you the 'insider' deal whenever we can.  We will personalize, customize and organize your package to best suit your needs at the best price possible.  Why not call your buddy???

  • Your buddy lives where you do.  We live IN the snow destination resort(s).
  • Your buddy books 1-2 ski vacations per year.  We each book lots each day.
  • We've been to ALL the restaurants and our daughter's best friend's mother is possibly the maitre' de at a very 'hard-to-get-into' restaurant.. but NOT when we call.
  • We've either been to the accommodation you are interested, or have a pal who works there.
  • We've can rattle off which airlines go to which mountain airports.. EASILY!  And we'll tell you whether to pay bag fees for your gear or rent it when you get here.
And so on... Ask us ANYTHING!  

Here's a couple of  'special' things we were able to accomplish for our customers last week:
  1. We had quoted a stay at a selected hotel and unexpectedly overnight, the 30% off promotion expired.  We were able to retain the quoted price from the day prior and the guest saved 30% exclusively and only for HIM!  Try and haggle with any website on rate.  Ya! Good luck!
  2. A guest was considering a hotel.  We visited the property, introduced the potential guest and by the time we left, the guest was on the VIP list for his upcoming stay! 

The team at Snow Sport GUARANTEES that we will be your cousin, friend, in-law, neighbor, whatever you prefer... NO PROBLEM! 

We hope you'll call your NEW 'buddy' at Snow Sport!


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Dreaded Fees Come to Vacation Rentals

For this week's blog, we thought we'd share an article from yesterday's USA Today.  It talks about the onslaught of fee that are directly affecting our industry and many of the accommodations we represent at Snow Sport. (credit to author Christopher Elliott.. special to USA Today. September 14, 2015)
The article might cause for you to 'move forth with caution".  Because the team at Snow Sport deals with this regularly, please feel free to use us a both a source and ally for protection.  We look forward to keeping you well informed and confident that there will be no negative surprises hidden in the 'fine print'.

Dreaded Fees Come to Vacation Rentals, 9.14.15, USA Today:
First, there was a $25 "check-in" fee when she arrived, which, though disclosed in the fine print of her contract, was unexpected. And then there was a mandatory $200 "cleaning" fee for her unit after she checked out. Neither was part of the original price.Rhonda Moret's vacation rental in Park City, Utah, came with a few surprises.
To add insult to injury, a construction crew in a nearby unit woke her at 7 a.m., on her first morning at the mountain resort.
"So much for relaxing with the mountain breeze," says Moret, a healthcare marketing consultant who lives in Del Mar, Calif.
Don't look now, but vacation rental companies are piling on the fees, many of them pure junk. Among the most common: booking fees, change fees, cleaning fees, hot tub fees, parking fees, reservation fees and — everyone's favorite — amorphous "convenience" fees.
Simply put, rental fees are exploding. And there's a reason why...  

"Rental managers only get a commission on the rental part of the transaction," explains Andrew McConnell, the chief executive of Vacation Futures, an online vacation rental marketplace. "But most negotiate that they get to keep 100% of fees. In this way they can make owners think they are getting a great deal with a lower commission, but actually take more of the all-in revenue by shifting more of the revenue to other fees."
It's a model that closely follows the one used by airlines, which quote a low base fare but then add fees for everything from carry-on luggage to seat assignments — items that had traditionally been included in the price of a ticket.
These fees seem to be getting worse, although no one formally keeps track of them. Reputable vacation rental companies are resisting the surcharges, but eventually, the lure of easy money may prove too difficult to turn down.
While it's true that vacation rental owners and managers have to shoulder expenses that other lodging companies like hotels don't, renters will invariably say there is only one right way to sell a rental: by quoting a price that includes all mandatory fees.
But the vacation rental site recently tested customer pricing preferences on its site and determined that more guests booked a vacation rental when they saw a low base price with the added fees broken out.
"Customers actually preferred to have each tax and fee line item listed in the quote," says Scott Breon, Vacasa’s chief revenue officer.
Of course they do. Time and again, travelers claim they hate surcharges, but then are lured by the product with the lowest price tag, even when the added fees may ultimately make it more expensive. Businesses say they're simply meeting a demand.
Fees are the perfect way to alienate your customers," says Michael Straus, who co-manages a ranch and organic farm in Northern California that can be rented. At the Straus Home Ranch, the fees are simple: a cleaning fee and a refundable security deposit.
That's in line with the industry's so-called best practices, which roughly translate into "the thing they ought to be doing."
"Disclose all fees up front," says Isaac Gabriel, the president of EZ Resort Vacations, an online timeshare rental marketplace, "regardless of the amount."
But the revenue vacation rental companies and owners receive from these fees is hard to turn away. In many ways, fees are the ultimate win-win for rental owners. You can quote a low price, making your rental look cheaper than the competition with an all-inclusive amount. Then you can pile on the extras and make lots of extra money.
Bottom line: as always, buyer beware. "Review the booking policies on the management company's website, and ask a representative questions about rental cleaning or additional occupancy fees to avoid unnecessary and surprising charges," says Mark McSweeney, the executive director of the Vacation Rental Managers Association, a trade group.
Vacation rentals are fast becoming the most fee-happy segment of the travel industry. Don't get taken.
How to avoid a vacation rental 'gotcha' 

• Do your homework before booking. "Ask if there will be any additional fees or charges before placing your deposit," says Jeanne Dailey, founder and CEO of Newman-Dailey Resort Properties, a property management company in Northwest Florida. Steer clear of a rental agency you've never heard of or that has bad online reviews. Reputable agencies don't charge junk fees.
• Watch the big fees. Change fees are the worst, ranging from several hundred dollars to the cost of the entire rental. They're often unavoidable, but a good insurance policy can protect you if you need to change your vacation plans, says Devon Puryear, revenue manager for Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort on Hilton Head Island, S.C. "Travel insurance is often offered when renting a villa or home, usually through a third party," he says.
• Make them explain. Some fees, like the "convenience" fee and the "hot tub" fee, are so absurd that a company may have some trouble justifying them. If you're confronted by a surprise fee, even after doing your homework, challenge it. You may be able to negotiate your way out of paying it.
You don't need to do this on your own.... Let a Snow Sport agent be your source for full disclosure, best value recommendations, and mostly, save you LOTS of time planning!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Wait, summer is almost over?

“Wow, it was cold this morning!” “The color of the leaves is changing!” “It’s September already?”
This is all I heard last week. So I had to act to make sure I am making use of the last few nice days of this summer. What’s the best way to do that in Colorado? Hiking? No, getting on the river! Thank God, a friend is a raft guide and was able to get a big raft for us to join!
Should we take the dog? “No, we are going to hit class III rapids!” All right then, off to Shoshone in the Glenwood Canyon!

The weather forecast just changed and rain was showing for 1PM. But hey, it’s only 10.30 and we are in the mountains. The weather forecast changes every 5 minutes so let’s go! Grab life jackets, water and anything that’s unnecessary for a boat and shuttle to the Shoshone exit.
God, it felt great to be on the river! The rapids were so much fun and once we finally made it to some hot springs, we were able to warm up and get soaked! Plus, no rain until we made it back to the car!
What a fun trip and a great way to enjoy the last bit of summer! Thanks to our friend for taking us out!

I hope you are enjoying your last days of the summer. Or are you ready to plan your next ski vacation?
I am here to help! Send me an email and I’ll get you started:

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Truth About the Family Celebration: aka.. Infiltrating the Fortress

As niche' destination travel agents, we often times plan, sell, and officiate group and family gatherings, such as weddings, anniversaries, and family reunions.  We guide the group leaders through the process and often mediate decisions.  Having the privilege of offering our beautiful snow / mountain destination resorts (year round) is invigorating and exciting. The rewards on 'game day' are innumerable... The 'thank yous' and 'hugs' make it that much more fun! 
If you are thinking about what to do for your next celebration, let us tell you!

The Perfect Guest Experience, Right?

This past weekend, I had the privilege of being a guest at a family Bar Mitzvah.  Knowing full and well what the family is going through to prepare and execute this massive event, one wants to lay low, act independently, and if called upon to help, be timely, decisive and accurate...
But, when large #'s family members actually get together, the results offer new and unanticipated challenges...

In this case I learned, much too slowly, the importance of  'keeping an eye on my room key'.


The First Invasion (or Who's knocking in the middle of the night?):
I was staying with my cousin and early in the morning on the day of the Bar Mitzvah, specifically 5:58 AM, someone was desperately trying to get into the house. Phones are ringing and doors are banging. I just assumed my cousin, with whom I had not stayed with in many years, had 24/7 friends, so I rolled over and let him 'deal with it'. He ultimately answered the door and in walks another relative from 3000 miles away who thought it would be 'fun' to decline his invitation and 'surprise' us. All I'm thinking is 'another one in line for the shower'...

Act Two (or the neighbors wondering "Who's the psycho lady in the street in a bathrobe?"):
'Surprise guy' had left his luggage in his car and realizes such AFTER kicking me from the bathroom and immersing himself under the shower spout... And noisily and desperately he yells from the bathroom and sends me out to his car to get his suitcase.  Well... the door had closed behind me and of course... I am locked out... with suitcase in hand and wearing only a bathrobe. A second rescue by same cousin, who fortunately, was no longer under water in his shower. Whew!

No End in Sight (or Bring your own key or stick with someone who has one.):
The synagogue service was over.  Bar Mitzvah boy is now a MAN, speeches are done, hugs and kisses exchanged, and father of  Bar Mitzvah boy is holding an inventory of envelopes in his breast pocket and silently is wishing that he could keep it all to help pay the invoice for the day. We all are free for a few hours until the BIG party that evening.  I had ridden to the synagogue with cousin and 'surprise guy', who reveals that he had only come for a short time and must get to the airport. Well, cousin wants to visit elsewhere, and I want to go home.  So, 'surprise guy' agreed to take me back to the house on his way to the airport.  We arrived with a small cushion of time to make the flight and only then realized that cousin had our only house key between the three of us. This most challenging rescue required a dash to another cousin's home where a spare key had been staged after a myriad of frantic phone calls.

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect (or Who's the homeless guy without the shirt?):
Once back in the house, I went to change clothes and 'surprise guy' was rushing to get himself together for his flight... Or, so I thought... Yet ANOTHER knock at the door... NOW WHAT?? I open it to find him standing there shirtless and once again, locked out. Apparently, he found it necessary to iron his shirt before leaving for the airport. (This, in itself, is quite a bizarre way to spend limited time cause who, in a hurry, really needs to wear a freshly pressed shirt to sleep on an airplane?  WHATEVER!!) Apparently, in his search for the ironing board and iron, he had wandered beyond the confines of the locked fortress.... 

Perhaps I learned something? YES! There's very good reasons for lots of alcohol followed by loud music and the complete inability to hear one another in conversation. But, never assume you'll stick with the cousin with the key :-)

A Message to Our Hosts:
You took charge of everything, You told us where to go and when to be there. You planned our meals, our entertainment, and who we should sit with. You told us what to wear, chose our music and party favors. You shared great speeches, granted numerous honors and expressed enormous gratitude to us for coming from so far away... We loved it all, and thank you. We hope you are enjoying this 'back-story' :-)

After all this, invaluable advice from a seasoned travel professional:
  1. When checking in, ask for as many room keys as possible.
  2. Be sure to stage reliable cousins in the area with extra room keys.
  3. Reconsider answering the door in the middle of the night.
  4. Pay it forward by sharing your story.
And finally, I'll close with wise words written and recited by the Bar Mitzvah boy... a fine reiteration of his studies and lessons learned:

" mitzvah really interested me.  It is the LAW of the “Rebellious Son”.  “When parents have a difficult son who does not obey his father and mother, they shall discipline him. If the son refuses to listen, gets drunk, and eats like a pig, and the community agrees that he cannot be controlled, the men of the community shall stone him to death.  In this way you will remove the evil influence, and the young people of Israel will hear about the punishment, be afraid, and in turn, be respectful and obey their parents”.  But, according to the rabbis, a rebellious child has never been stoned to death, and this punishment does not really exist.  So I asked myself, if this has never happened in history, why is this law in the Torah?  After thinking about this question, I realized this “law” is just to scare children into behaving! I managed to turn 13 without getting stoned to death... " JK August 29, 2015

It's probably appropriate to close with a quote an often used by 'surprise guy':  "That's my story and I'm sticking to it." 
What's yours? Call me and I'll help you create it :-)