When you get up on Wednesday morning to the possibility of more snow and a long, dreary commute, the folks at Patterson Travel want to remind you that the time to start thinking about your summer vacation is now. And, if you use a travel agent, you can pay for your trip in installments.
"They make a deposit and then it’s usually 40 days before the trip that they have to make the final payment," Linda Hawkinson, co-owner of Patterson Travel said.
That's just one of the perks to using a travel agent instead of booking a trip yourself. Hawkinson, who owns Patterson Travel with Eileen Sellers, said the reason Patterson Travel can stay in business, even with Internet sites that allow travelers to do-it-themselves for less, is because of the customer service they provide.
"They want to talk to a person," she said. "They want to talk to someone who knows where they want to go.
"They don’t have time to sit in front of the computer for two hours looking for something."
Hawkinson said all of the people who work at Patterson Travel are well experienced at what they do. The person in the office with the least experience has still been in the industry for 12 years. That means they have taken multiple trips, can get the best price for their customer and know what to advise the people to see while on the trip. Being a travel agent is not a position that requires a degree, necessarily, although Hawkinson said there is a program at Joliet Junior College for that field.
"Joliet Junior College has a travel course, a short one," Hawkinson said. "They offer that. A lot of it is experience while you’re working. If you’re really interested in the field of travel, there is a lot to learn."
In addition to knowing the destinations and being able to get the traveler the best deal, those in the travel industry have to keep up with the latest regulations. If someone is interested in the industry, has a bubbly personality and is meticulous, Hawkinson said they may have what it takes to be a travel agent.
"We would do one-on-one training until they are comfortable," she said. "We don’t require a degree or even a certificate.
As far as trends in the travel industry, Hawkinson said that river cruises in Europe are very popular.
"It’s very luxurious and very fun," Hawkinson said.
The agency has also added a feature to its Web site where brides can register for their honeymoon trip and share the information with guests, who can then pitch in for the honeymoon or buy parts of it, like a romantic dinner or a day at the spa.
And people still come to Patterson Travel to book a vacation domestically.