We Specialize in Reliable Travel Information

We Specialize in Reliable Travel Information

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

www.dreamdestinations.com

There is a huge demand for reliable information in our world.  I am amazed at the amount of misinformation and lack of candor among some in the travel industry.  While shading the truth may be a problem, the worse problem is the amount of clutter about almost any topic—how do you know what is reliable information?

  Reliable Travel Information must be in high demand if there are this many searches for travel information (my source a Google Study—that’s another indication of reliable information—citing a source)!

Reliable Travel Information must be in high demand if there are this many searches for travel information (my source a Google Study—that’s another indication of reliable information—citing a source)!

So, how do you solve this problem?  Let’s explore this together by defining the problem, look a little at some of the misinformation we have seen, and, how we attempt to solve this problem for you so you can obtain reliable travel information.

What is Reliable Information?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, reliable is defined as “consistently good in quality or performance; able to be trusted”.

For the travel industry, to me, this means that reliable travel information depends on the quality and the source of the data. 

Quality indicates the data must be truthful, objective, fact based and useful—the content needs all these elements.  Good quality information clearly differentiates between opinion and fact.  Without knowing a lot about whatever you want to research, this may be difficult for the average person to determine the quality of the information.

The source may be easier to research, unless it is anonymous.  Internet Searches, Travel Writers, Blog Writers, Review Sites and Personal Recommendations are all valid sources--some are consistently good in quality or performance; able to be trusted and it is often easy to learn about the author(s).

Facts about Sources of Reliable Travel Information

Internet searches may be a good source but can be manipulated by savvy marketing folks who use search engine optimization to enhance their ranking that is not in line with the value of the content.

Travel Writers, if objective, can be great sources.

Blog Writers (like me) are only as good as their knowledge and experience.

Review Sites and Personal Recommendations can be valid sources but often lack enough knowledge about what is available that the information is not comprehensive enough to make sound judgements.

According to Myles Anderson, in a 2013 study, 79% of Consumers Trust Online Reviews as much as Personal Recommendations.  My guess is that since the reviewers and personal recommendations appear to not be selling anything, they are more objective to the consumer.  While there may be some validity to this concept, the problem is that data can be manipulated online and it is often anonymous. 

Why do we Search for Reliable Travel Information?

There is a lot of confusing travel information available—perhaps nowadays just too much.  We also live in a world of Fear of Missing out (FOMO)—a lost trip chance or our friends got a better deal/trip/value—you insert the right word.  It is a ripe world for advertising that might shade the truth or just be outright deceiving. 

I recently read about a travel service company started by some former Amazon whizzes who are ceasing operation at the end of the year.  Called the Wanderlust Society, the company “sought to help people find inspiration for trips from friends, save ideas from anywhere on the web, view potential destinations on a map and more.  Kleitsch thought the company could fill a void in travel planning by offering more reliable recommendations, sourced from friends and fellow community members” according to the online article from GeekWire.

I am sorry the company is ceasing operations but the fact that they started at all is starling—they believed there just was a void in reliable travel information.

Clearly, there is a problem, if start-up companies are trying to cut through the clutter—so, how do we solve this problem?

Some Reliable Travel Information Guidelines

Here are some of the guidelines I use when I study travel information:

1.     Google Search rankings may be more a result of marketing power than content reliability—if it looks like an ad disguised as fact, it probably is slanted to some degree.

2.     There is lot of disinformation on the web.  (Two of my favorites are—a homeless shelter got over 100 5-star ratings as a hotel and a yard shack became the hottest, most exclusive restaurant in England with a two year waiting time to dine—both fueled by hundreds of fake reviews—neither even existed as a valid business!)

3.     Look for extremes in reviews—100% positive or 100% negative just does not seem reasonable to me.  I always look for the middle ground—why are the praising or panning the reviewed place?

4.     For unknown sources, do not accept only one source—look for additional back up.  I look for pictures in blogs taken by the writer and experiences that would be hard to make up—kinda a trust by verify mentality.

5.     Apply your critical thinking skills to the info—what is the date of the info, don’t rely on just star ratings, are there enough reviews to make an informed judgement, what is the source of the info, what is their website like—you get the idea—just do not accept the info without examining it with open eyes.

6.     Look for industry sources that value their reputation—reputable sources back up their info with facts and solid opinions and are not influenced by their vendors.

  Hard to fake a picture like this on a cruise tour to the Acropolis in Athens, Greece—a good indication we have been there!

Hard to fake a picture like this on a cruise tour to the Acropolis in Athens, Greece—a good indication we have been there!

Some Examples of Misinformation in the Travel Industry

A while back, I read an article about river cruising.  A quite respected travel agent was touting her expertise in river cruises in a national level magazine for travel agents.  In the article, she used an example of her knowledge of river cruising and said she recommended to her clients to go on a river cruise on the Seine in France for the great wine tasting opportunities in the region. 

I was stunned—while France has wonderful opportunities to sample vineyards throughout the country, the region of the Normandy area is famous for Calvados (an apple based brandy) but there are not many vineyards—the climate is just not right.  The correct choice would be either the Rhone or the Bordeaux region for a wine themed river cruise—both are significant wine growing regions.  This is a classic case of incorrect information, not fact based, and an agent who didn’t really know her stuff.  If her clients were expecting great wine tasting experiences, they would be sorely disappointed unless they brought the wine onboard the rivership. 

The writer and publisher should have noted this glaring error, but allowed it to go to print.  Sometimes even usually reliable sources are dead wrong!

Another example is brochures making a river cruise look perfect when there are potential problems that are glossed over.  If you want to cruise the Elbe River, the brochure makes it sound like it will be perfect, yet the consistent low water situation often results in small cruising distances and a lot of long, disappointing bus rides.  The same goes for the Po River in Italy—short distances for the cruise, a difficult river to navigate due to swift water and unfavorable river banks that impede docking operations in some locations, turn a river cruise into a glorified bus tour.

  3 AmaWaterways riverships rafted (tied together) in Vienna—you would never see this picture in a travel brochure, since some cabins views are blocked—may be or not a big deal to you during a vacation, but you can trust us to tell you about this!

3 AmaWaterways riverships rafted (tied together) in Vienna—you would never see this picture in a travel brochure, since some cabins views are blocked—may be or not a big deal to you during a vacation, but you can trust us to tell you about this!

How we solve the Reliable Information Dilma for You

It is our job to sort thru the clutter and decide what information you need to make an informed decision.  For me, this often is the advantages and disadvantages of a desired trip.  We use this technique a lot when working on a desired trip with our clients.

Here are some other techniques we use:

First, we need to know our stuff about where you want to go.  If we don’t know, we must be honest and tell you we need to learn enough to make reasonable recommendations or refer to another advisor to help you.  This requires us to apply the research guidelines we provided you earlier in this blog.  

Second, better yet, we believe in gaining a lot of personal experience by going to see the places first hand—we use our experience to enhance your trip experiences.

The third part is honesty and transparency—we value our reputation and back up our opinions and recommendations with facts and sound reasoning.

The last part is handling expectations and desires—what is the best value trip, given constraints we all have when traveling—money, time conflicts, etc.  

A Great Example of Reliable Travel Information—Our 2018-19 Europe River Cruise Company Comparisons

Screenshot_2018-11-15 Europe River Cruise Company Comparisions - Europe+River+Cruise+Company+Comparisons+2018-19 pdf.png

I’m going to make a bold declaration here—there is no other detailed source like our 2018-19 Europe River Cruise Company Comparisons with multiple comparison charts on the internet.  Here is the link Our 2018-19 Europe River Cruise Company Comparisons

Yes, there are some good books, even charts with check marks and comparisons of 2 cruise lines on the web, but nothing as in- depth as our resource.  We clearly identify fact from opinion, we are not sponsored by anyone that might influence our work, and we strive for totally accurate information.  We are proud of our first page Google ranking—earned not promoted by clever SEO techniques.

My Final Thoughts

Reliable travel information—who would have thought it would be so hard to find the answers about your desired trip?  We hope these guidelines and the stories in this blog will help you make more informed decisions and get you started on the right trip for your vacation.

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.JPG

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

Veterans and Visit Dream Destinations, LLC

Veterans and Visit Dream Destinations, LLC

By Hank Schrader, Maj (ret), Infantry, USMA ’71

On the 11 of November, 2018, we will be celebrating the 100 Anniversary of Veterans Day.  This celebration started as Armistice Day, as on the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month the guns fell silent with the end of WW I.  It has evolved in the US to Veteran’s Day.

The last 100 years has shaped our modern military.  For 55 years of that era, our clients have served and helped with this process.

So, I thought it would be appropriate to salute the many veterans and their families who trust us to plan their travel.

They are an amazing group who have defended our country and deserve recognition for their sacrifices.

Overview

Currently we have about 91 folks who actively use us to plan their travel (I define active as have or will use us in a 2 year period).  Of those, 46 are veterans.  For you math whizzes, that is 50.5% of our clients.

They are quite a diverse group.  Most served in the Army.  We also have veterans from the Air Force and Coast Guard. 

We all have an instant bond.  We trust one another.  We know what sacrifice is all about.  We are proud we served our country.  We are humble and satisfied we did our jobs without much notoriety.  We respect one another.  We respect what others in the military have done with us and for us and those who came before and will come after us—it is an unbroken string of dedication, service and often times personal sacrifice.

So let’s learn a little more about these present day American heroes who are members of the Dream Destinations’ family.

They have Served Our Country with Distinction

For about 55 years or so, this group has been involved safeguarding our country and furthering America’s foreign policy.  They have served in combat in Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Bosnia, the Global War on Terrorism and the Gulf Wars.  Some have served as Special Forces and in the Delta forces.  They have flown aircraft, jumped out of them, maintained them, and used them to pursue criminals violating our laws.  They have protected our coasts, fought in jungles, in the desert sand countries and in the mountains.

It takes a special breed of person to do what they had to do for our country—if it was in a news headline of the last 55 years or so and it involved a military operation, someone in this group had something to do with it.  They did not read about history—they helped make it.

The Army Group

Not surprisingly, if you know anything about me, my West Point graduate friends make up the majority of our Army veterans who travel with us.  Anyone of this group who went through the 47 months of West Point and served their country for 5 years or more as an officer is a dedicated leader of character (kinda of refreshing to talk about character is a positive light, isn’t it?).

I would be remiss if I did not also include the many other fine officers and NCO’s (sergeant’s) who also use us for some of their travel needs.  They are an equally distinguished group.  Regardless of how they entered the Army, we are equals in dedication and service.

While we never boast about earned ranks from our Army friends, they range from Major General (2 stars) to Command Sergeant Major.  Many were key players in shaping our Army’s legacy and destiny.  They achieved distinction by earning high ranks—it is a mark of their dedication and exceptional service to our nation.

  6 West Point veterans from left to right Jim, Tom, Alan, Hank, Bill & Mark and West Point Track Coach Joe 6 June 2014 at Ste, Mere Eglise on our D Day Tour

6 West Point veterans from left to right Jim, Tom, Alan, Hank, Bill & Mark and West Point Track Coach Joe 6 June 2014 at Ste, Mere Eglise on our D Day Tour

  Hank (USMA ‘71), Jane, Len (USMA ‘74), Jim (USMA ‘71) and Maureen on an AmaWaterways River Cruise

Hank (USMA ‘71), Jane, Len (USMA ‘74), Jim (USMA ‘71) and Maureen on an AmaWaterways River Cruise

  Our Niece, Sergeant Mindy Dahl

Our Niece, Sergeant Mindy Dahl

The Air Force Group

This group is dominated by Air Force Academy grads—the same kudos about leaders of character apply to these wonderful folks.

Their service includes flying aircraft, missile defense, and support operations.  Their technical skills were and are exceptional and they are equally great leaders.

A Special Shout—Our Niece Mindy

We do have to point out a special member of the Air Force group—our niece Mindy.  She is on active duty, serving as an E-7 (Sergeant) and a financial specialist.  Dependable and fun loving—she is a positive testament to the good folks serving us in today’s military.

 
 Denise & Mark Thomas in his Coast Guard Dress Mess Uniform & Kilt

Denise & Mark Thomas in his Coast Guard Dress Mess Uniform & Kilt

Our Dear Friend Mark, the Coast Guard Master Chief

As the lone Coast Guard military member of this group, Mark may be one of the most unique.  31 years of service, retiring as a master chief, and a true connoisseur of wines (earning professional certification as a wine educator).  We have traveled with them since 2013 and are much better for knowing him and his wife Denise.

Denise and Mark have helped us learn more about wine and with our Scottish heritage.

It never surprises me to learn about the hidden talents of my military friends—they are doers, thinkers, problem solvers and fun to be with.

  Anne & Hank 1987 at Ft. Ord, CA, all dressed up!—she’s my biggest cheerleader!

Anne & Hank 1987 at Ft. Ord, CA, all dressed up!—she’s my biggest cheerleader!

The Family Members

We should never forget the spouses and family members who support the men and women of our military travel clients.  They too are a special breed who often made it possible for their significant other to serve without worrying about the home fires.  They are our champions, our biggest cheerleaders and put up with us.

My Final Thoughts

It is humbling to know these distinguished folks trust us—we try to uphold their high standards by serving them as well as they served or are serving our country. 

What is even better about this group is they are friends first and clients second—we are honored to know them!

I hope you have enjoyed reading a little about the brave folks who trust us with their travel planning.  Please take a moment of two to think about how these folks and any other veteran you might know have helped you live a safe, secure life and have allowed you in some small way to pursue your dreams.

I know I can speak for the group by saying they would all say it was an honor to serve their country. 

Well done my comrades in arms—you have made America a better place to live in due to your service.  YOU FOLKS ROCK!!

 Captain Hank Schrader in Panama 1979

Captain Hank Schrader in Panama 1979

A Great Europe Festival

A Great Europe Festival

On 6 June 2019, we will be in Ste. Mere Eglise, leading some wonderful folks to witness a great festival as part of our 75th Anniversary of D Day tour.

This village played a key role in the D Day invasion for the airborne forces.  Due to its location, it was important that Ste. Mere Eglise was taken from the German occupiers.

So, let’s learn about the airborne operations of the D Day invasion and a little about Ste. Mere Eglise.

You Should Become Part of the AmaWaterways Family

You Should Become Part of the AmaWaterways Family

I was at a meeting the other day, and one of my best friends and a very good client, remarked he had just received the new River Banks Magazine from AmaWaterways and saw his cruise director featured in the magazine.  He told me, “I’m glad I am part of the AmaWaterways family.”

This is not an unusual reaction or statement! Let’s explore why this special company makes folks feel part of the family—how can they create an experience so special folks want to be known as members of the family?

How to Get the Right European River Cruise for Your Next Vacation

How to Get the Right European River Cruise for Your Next Vacation

Every time we plan a river cruise vacation, in some form or another, we have several steps we go through to get the right match for our clients.  Our goal is to get our clients the best river cruise trip possible, based on what is most important to them.

In broad terms there are really 5 factors we consider.  So, let’s explore these factors together to help you get the best possible river cruise for your next trip.

Our Travel Video Website Page

Our Travel Video Website Page

Our Travel Video Website Page

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

www.dreamdestinations.com

A unique feature of the content on our website is the Travel Video Page.Most travel agencies post video made by others or shoot small snippets of a tour or ocean liner or rivership.We have taken a different approach—each video is a collection of our pictures put together in a video slide show.