One of the comments Janet and I see most often on our social media posts are people telling us how much they wished they had our jobs. I understand where that comes from, and we take it as a compliment. We travel a lot, and we post lots of pictures. We do that to inspire each of you to travel, even when it means going outside your comfort zone. Travel is an investment in yourself…in experiences, other cultures, and above all, in memories.
That’s the fun side of travel. As travel advisors, we also have to deal with the sausage making side. We try to keep all that messiness hidden behind a curtain, but I thought I would pull that curtain back, just a bit, to let you see some of what we do to help you get the most out of your travels.
Let me start by sharing that when you are a travel advisor, you never get a vacation. No really...you don't. My fitbit challenge group always knows when I'm traveling...my daily step count goes from under 3,000 steps per day when I'm home...it's a long commute between my desk and the coffee pot...to over 10,000 and often 20,000 steps per day. Most of the steps I take when I travel aren't getting me to the fun; they take me to all corners of the resorts, destinations, and cruise ships we visit so I can check out the things I think YOU might enjoy. These trips aren’t devoid of fun for us, but usually the fun is in learning so we can share with our clients.
We made the decision early on to reinvest the bulk of our profits back into our business, and most of that is in the form of travel. It is a myth that travel agents get lots of free travel. Maybe at one time that was true…many years ago, and long before we got into the business. Occasionally we get to take advantage of some discounts available only to travel agents, and we get invited to participate in cruise ship inaugurals or supplier familiarization trips, but those opportunities aren’t free. They allow us to stretch our travel dollars further than we otherwise could, but we have yet to enjoy any “free” travel. Most of the time when we travel, we pay what you pay.
Anytime we travel we make the most of it, arranging inspections of as many properties as we can. We post pictures of Janet's neatly pedicured feet relaxing on the beach because we want you to see the experience you'll have. We keep the pictures of her swollen and sweaty feet tired after a long day of inspecting properties hidden behind the curtain. You're welcome!
We firmly believe you can’t be a travel advisor, a good travel advisor, if you don’t travel often, so we do. We also believe in continuing education. There is no formal certification or licensing requirement to be a travel advisor, which is probably why there are so many bad travel agents. Janet has gone through the most prestigious and demanding voluntary certification programs the industry offers, and we've both attained specialty certifications for the areas of travel we sell.
In addition to traveling and staying current on our certifications, each year we spend many hours in supplier training and at conferences to keep up to date with changes to brands, destinations, and properties, as well as travel trends. During the height of the COVID pandemic Janet spent a ridiculous amount of time keeping up with the constantly changing travel restrictions, testing, and vaccination requirements. We heard far too many horror stories from colleagues who had travelers show up for a flight or a cruise only to be denied boarding because their COVID documentation wasn’t adequate. We didn’t want that to happen to our clients.
It only takes about 20-30 minutes to book a trip...it's the least time-consuming thing we do, but being a good travel advisor involves much more than navigating a booking engine. Before we ever get to booking a trip, we’ve spent hours researching and sharing the options, customizing each trip to fit our clients' needs. We don’t follow a one size fits all approach like some travel agents, where your vacation dreams are shoehorned into a set of options constrained by the agent’s limited experience, or those that make them the highest commission.
We are travel advisors, not booking agents, and we work hard to find the travel opportunities that best fit your needs and your budget. Sure, you might be able to find trips that cost less money than what we plan for you, but that usually involves making compromises and taking risks than rarely turn out well. Remember...when we travel we usually pay what you pay...we've gotten very good at finding the best value for our travel dollars and we share that expertise with all of our clients. We don't play games with pricing. We take the time to give you a real price quote from the beginning and update it as we customize the trip to your needs. And if a better price becomes available after we've booked you, we'll do everything we can to get it for you, or to explain why the "deal" isn't available for your booking and let you decide if the trade-offs required to get the "deal" are worth making. They almost never are.
Once we've booked a trip for a client, we service their booking until they return home and even beyond that if there are any lingering issues to be worked through. You won't get that when you book direct from a supplier's consumer website, or from a discount online booking service, which is why the internet is full of travel horror stories. We share a wealth of information with our clients to ensure you make the most of your time. I won't get into all that we do to service our clients' bookings. That's part of the messiness better left behind the curtain along with Janet's sweaty toes. I'll just say it generally means multiple phone calls and long hours on hold, often educating suppliers who know less about their products than we do. We don’t mind…we’d rather be the ones making calls to suppliers and spending time on hold than our clients.
Travel comes with risk, but a big part of the value we bring to our clients is minimizing the risks, and then giving you a resource to turn to if something unexpected comes up. We can’t completely avoid things like flight delays and cancellations, or changes in cruise itineraries, but we can minimize the risks and put you in a position to recover quickly if something does happen. We spend a considerable amount of time planning for all the things you wouldn’t think of, so you don’t have to. If it has happened to someone sometime, we do whatever we can to try to prevent it from happening to you.
Travel is still fun for us, but it is a different kind of fun. Just as many of you enjoy our travel vicariously through our social media posts, we enjoy your travel when you come back and share some of the amazing memories you’ve made. And the greatest compliment you can give us is when you refer us to your friends and family. It means we’ve succeeded in keeping all the messiness that goes into planning travel hidden behind the curtain, so you can enjoy creating lifelong vacation memories. That’s more than a tag line for us…it is our passion.
(Originally posted on 19 Dec 2022)