Packing for Dummies

How your clients pack their bags for a cruise vacation seems—on the surface—a trivial matter. Some agents believe it's not worth their professional time to discuss packing tips with clients. Anyone knows how to pack, they say. But other cruise-selling agents say that advising clients about packing issues showcases their professional expertise and provides a valuable client service.

First, tell your clients to resist that urge to cram everything they can into every bag. If "stuffed" bags are searched by TSA at the airport, it could cause luggage delays, and necessary items could be lost in the rush to repack and get to the gate. Travelers who pack efficiently are likely to have a smoother airport experience, feel more comfortable in their cruise cabin, and have enough space for souvenirs. They also won't pay excess baggage fees.

It's important to manage up-front expectations on closet space. "To avoid shock when the guest opens their cabin door, it's very important—and part of the service—for a travel agent to explain that accommodations on a cruise ship may be somewhat smaller than hotel rooms," says Susan Helfrich, director, Cruise Events, Richboro, PA. A home-based retailer who specializes in selling group celebrity-hosted cruises, Helfrich notes that modest accommodations, bathrooms and closet space can be tough, because "some people pack a month's worth of clothes for a one-week cruise." Clients who pack effectively will enjoy a smoother, more relaxing cruise.

Helfrich advises her clients what clothes to bring, how to mix and match, and how not to overpack. One secret she shares is putting clothes on hangers as they go into the suitcase. Clients also should write down what they plan to wear daily, then lay the outfits on the bed, mix and match and eliminate items. Agents can also tell cruisers to avoid the dreaded "just in case" mindset. If they haven't worn something for years, they won't wear it onboard either. Give dress suggestions for the specific cruise line. Explain cabin storage. Bag-less Clients

Finally, tell clients about the trip home. Dirty clothes take more space than clean ones. Helfrich has observed clients opening bags on the airport floor and hastily transferring clothes between bags to avoid a $50 excess baggage fee. "This is not a comfortable way to begin or end a trip," she emphasizes.

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