This week there has been a major announcement in the travel industry of which you may or may not be aware. Marriott and Starwood; two major players in the hotel world, completed their merger and have formed one company. Some of you may have Starwood (SPG) loyalty points. You can earn them by staying at certain properties (W hotels, Westin Hotels, Le Meredien, and St. Regis) and by using credit cards that allow you to earn points which may be redeemed toward hotel nights. Marriott has bought the Starwood Brand and now all of their hotels (JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts. EDITION Hotels. Autograph Collection. Renaissance Hotels. Marriott Hotels & Resorts. Courtyard. AC Hotels. Fairfield Inn & Suites. SpringHill Suites. Residence Inn. TownePlace Suites. and Marriott Vacation Club) are part of that same loyalty program.

If you haven’t joined the Starwood (SPG) loyalty club yet, I suggest that you do. It is free and the benefits are wonderful: free hotel nights at some of the most fabulous properties around the world.

TALES FROM THE ROAD: In other news, it pays to have a travel advisor… I have a few clients on the road this week. I heard from one happy couple who reported that they were upgraded to a fabulous ocean-view bungalow suite at the Pelican Hill Resort, where they had booked just a standard, entry-level room. They were staying at the resort while attending an event for the 41st Orange County Women Lawyers Association Gala. In addition to their upgraded room, they received a complimentary spa treatment, as well as two full breakfasts. Why? Because they booked through a Virtuoso Agent. It’s all about who you know. When you book through a Virtuoso agent, you can be assured that the agent has a personal relationship with the resort or property at which your guests will stay. In this case, I had a personal relationship with the General Manager at Pelican Hill, who assured me that my clients would be well cared for.

Meanwhile…in Zambia some other clients arrived for check-in at their hotel only to find that their reservation had been lost in the system. Thankfully, they were able to reach out to me via email. Within minutes, I was on the phone with the front desk manager in charge of check-in. I emailed the hotel confirmation to the hotel, who had indeed lost the confirmation. The front desk was able to proceed with check-in of the guests.

When you have a travel advisor there is someone to call. When you book through the internet or via a call center, there is no one to call. I was able to fix the problem and put the clients’ minds at ease. Even though the guests had been successfully checked in, my responsibilities had not yet been completed. I continued to reach out to the hotel to locate the General Manager. Once the General Manager responded to me, I was then able to arrange for a special dinner to be provided for my clients, to make up for their inconvenience and frustration. Yes, there was a mishap. But there was someone to help sort things out and make things right; someone who was working for the client to ensure that the client was priority one. That is why a travel advisor is so very important.

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get. – Warren Buffett

Things happen when you travel. You can’t control everything. If you have an advisor who has your back, things get done. Your holiday is saved. You’re not yelling at your husband or your wife. You can yell at me. (Okay, not too much. I tend to be sort of sensitive, but you get my drift.) I’m here to fix the messes and make sure your trip goes smoothly.

It really pays to have a travel advisor. I won’t get you the cheapest vacation. That I will promise you. I won’t shop for the cheapest hotel. That’s not my goal. What I promise you is that I will get you the best value for your money. That doesn’t mean only 5 star hotels, by any means. It means quality hotels and quality tours. If you’re looking for a bargain, I’m probably not your best choice. If you want quality, value and personal service, I can do that for you.

Let me plan your next trip. Don’t leave your next trip to chance or to an inexperienced advisor. I have traveled the world for over 35 years. I have been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. I have a photo-journalism undergraduate degree with an art history minor. I have studied both art and photography in Europe and I’ve never stopped traveling since. Let my knowledge, experience and wisdom work for you.