photo: Henk Meijer/Alamy

How AMA Travel Experts Get You the Best Trips for the Best Value

By AMA Staff

Shelley Samycia is like a travel agent for travel agents. She’s a member of AMA Travel’s product team that works behind the scenes—researching travel trends, gathering and comparing information from tour companies and other suppliers, negotiating special deals for members, and packaging bucket-list trips. The product team then shares that knowledge with AMA Travel counsellors across Alberta.

Members of the product team have their own areas of specialization. For Samycia, AMA Travel’s cruise sales manager, that means she lives and breathes cruising. She scouts the best deals and itineraries, working closely with suppliers to learn about special sailings. She meets with frontline agents to answer customers’ cruising questions, like what side of a certain ship to book or the restaurant with the best steak tartare.

“We are a great resource for agents, whether they are new to the cruise industry or have years of experience,” says Samycia, who has personally sailed on 102 cruises—and counting! Other members of the product team are also in-house experts about cruising, as well as soft adventure, coach tours, escorted trips, foodie or solo travel. They are always on hand to offer deeper expertise to AMA’s team of 200 across Alberta.

“No other company in the province has that kind of core team backing up its frontline staff,” says Nikola Berube, AMA Travel’s director of sales.

Because AMA Travel is based in Alberta, our experts understand what fellow Albertans want, need and appreciate when travelling. “There are often hundreds of booking options available in a destination,” says Terry Vander Linden, product marketing manager at AMA Travel. “It’s difficult to know which one is best, particularly if you’re headed to a far-off location like Asia, Africa or South America. Our experience allows us to narrow the options down to the very best, and the types of trips we know an Albertan would typically enjoy.”

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You also get the benefit of an Alberta-based support team. If you run into problems on a trip, there’s a real person back in Alberta by the phone 24/7 to help.

AMA Travel always has a finger on the pulse of travel trends and news. In January, for instance, Celebrity Cruise Lines put together a special charter flight and Caribbean cruise out of Edmonton. AMA Travel had exclusive advance notice, which meant it could pass on the best availability and pricing to members before anyone else.

“We often get that kind of insider info before anyone else,” Berube says. Many of these offers can be found on the website, where the team posts hand-curated daily deals and adds new hotels to its ever-expanding hotel inventory, all backed by AMA’s best-price guarantee.

Other companies might sell the same trips, flights, packages, cruises, car rentals and hotel stays as AMA Travel, but you often get more for your money with AMA. Expect service and advice, along with the combined buying power of AAA/CAA auto clubs for the best pricing.

You’ll also be able to access value-added member benefits. That might be a bonus upgrade, $150 onboard credit on a cruise, welcome reception or other extras, all negotiated exclusively for members by AMA’s product team.

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AMATravel.ca offers online booking for almost everything AMA sells. It’s also fantastic for quick transactions on flights, cruises, car rentals, hotels, all-inclusive vacations, and last-minute deals. Travellers can search multiple airlines and see results in one place, or search by destination and supplier.

But when it comes to planning a big trip, there’s no replacement for an in-person appointment with a travel counsellor. “It’s the best way to take advantage of the team’s incredible breadth of knowledge,” Berube says.

No matter what stage of trip prep you’re in—dreaming, planning, booking—there’s a good chance the behind-the-scenes team at AMA Travel has already done the work for you.

ama travel experts cruise table
photo: PhotoShoppin/iStock

BEHIND-THE-SCENES SUPERSTARS
The cruise guru: Shelley Samycia
She’s been on a whop-ping 102 cruises during her 36 years at AMA Travel—and she can tell you something special about an extraordinary number of ships, cruise lines and destinations. Shelley can also match any type of traveller, from adventurer to luxury-seeker to parent, with the perfect cruise. “When a client gets to have the experience I described to them and more, that’s what I love,” she says.

The world traveller: Elaine LeJambe
Elaine has been to the ends of the earth and back again—literally! She has visited more than 50 countries, and she lived in Greece for 22 years. Her travels give her unique insight when she’s tailoring packages and personally escorting tours for AMA members. “I add from my own experiences places where I think members would want to go, and experiences that I want members to have,” she says.

The industry insider: Terry Vander Linden
Terry works closely with suppliers to hand-select and promote tours, trips and destinations he knows will appeal to AMA members. Before joining AMA, he spent 13 years at Fun Sun Vacations, so he has unique insight into the travel industry, and, often, an inside track on the newest and best deals. “Because we’re looking at the options all day, every day, we can pick out the gems,” he says.