January is typically the busiest month of the year for travel professionals. With the rush and distraction of the holidays behind, families begin to prep for spring and summer breaks; empty-nesters recognize that they need to get their vacation added to the travel calendar's shoulder season, or maybe squeeze in a mid-winter getaway; and the uber-savvy travelers recognize that this is the perfect time to plan fall travel, because it's never too early to engage your travel advisor.
That’s great for me as a business owner, and my “to do” list typically grows each day. I wake up with my list of trips to research, documents to deliver, articles to write, emails to return, social media posts to post… and there are usually more new ones added than old ones crossed-off when I leave my desk at the end of the evening.
I love that, though! This is my passion; it's what gets me up every morning. However, sometimes I have to shake my head and chuckle at some of the requests I receive, and the way in which I receive them. So please permit me a tangent, and I'll hopefully clear up some misperceptions of what I do.
When I first meet with a prospective new client, I field the usual questions - why should I use a travel agent? How do you get paid? What can you do for me that I can’t do for myself online? Here’s the thing…if you want to book round trip air from Charlotte to Buffalo and stay in the Holiday Inn Express on the corner of 1st Avenue and Main Street, you don’t need me, and I'm okay with that. In fact, I welcome that fact that there IS travel you can do without me. Think of it this way - you can change a lightbulb in your kitchen by yourself, but when you want a full remodel, you call the design/contracting professional.
I am that design professional, an expert in custom-crafting vacations that are going to provide you with the EXPERIENCE you are longing for. So what I do is not just about “selling travel”. Designing your vacation itinerary involves hours and hours of research, detailed planning, and jigsaw-puzzle precision (I LOVE jigsaw puzzles!) to put together a 3-week custom European journey through 3 or 4 different countries for a family that wants to immerse themselves in each culture with art or culinary classes. I am happy to go to any lengths necessary to craft that perfect EXPERIENCE for my clients...and I am very good at it!
Or you can think of me as your guide, a Yoda in the saga of your epic vacation; or the compass that provides direction as you navigate the unknowns and mysteries that international travel presents. Pitfalls? They're out there. Wouldn't it be great to simply skirt and avoid them completely? If a horned serpent of a hazard appears in the hero's (i.e., YOUR) way, the trusty all-knowing sage of a guide provides a side route, or magic remedy to soften the serpent's attitude, allowing you to proceed with your adventure confidently.
Whenever I receive an email that says “I found a deal online for a week in Jamaica at the XYZ resort for $599…can you beat it?” My answer is always 'No', but then some questions like...how do you know that the XYZ resort is a good fit for you? Do you know what the “deal” includes? Just this week, a client sent me something similar, and said that the online price included round trip air. To my trained eye it looked too good to be true and it was….the price was only for the resort, no air included. Then a similar request using an ad for 'cheap Maui condos': turns out the price they were looking at was “per adult”, tax not included. Do you want your vacation to be described as "cheap?" Really?
Saving money is great, and I’m all for staying within budget and getting a good value for my own travel dollars, but don’t reduce your vacation to being treated like a commodity. I really do have your interests in mind, so trust me to do what I do best - to find you the perfect fit and the greatest value for your precious vacation time and budget. And if anything goes awry on the trip, you have an advocate for your well-being. Try getting the red-hatted, bearded gnome to pick up the phone at 4:00am to argue with a French hotel desk clerk about the noise level in your room, or anything else for that matter. Now, that's value for your travel dollar, and a dose of peace-of mind.
So, I am asking a favor today...please forward this to at least one of your friends who you think might enjoy receiving it. It will help them understand the benefit of having an advisor to bring value to their travel plans. We enjoy mystery, we just don't like being a mystery!
'til next week!
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