Updated: Sep 16, 2020
I get it! I really, really get it. I am a DIY person to the core, and I love to save money when I can! I also believe in supporting small business and dealing with real humans who care. OTA (Online Travel Agency) is the term for the popular DIY travel sites. They make the prices appear very enticing, but I typically find the same prices, and sometimes less!
Something I learned early on is "Your leisure time is your most valuable asset." The travel advisor's job is to help you make the most of it.
Time--Researching for a trip can be extremely time consuming, whether you are going away for 2 nights or 7 days, you want to find the best fit and the best price and value. That is what I am here for. Beginning by asking questions to get to know what you like, I narrow down your options for you from all of the sources, and I present you with a handful of options that I think are a good fit. If you are planning group travel, such as a destination wedding, the travel advisor takes care of all of the reservations. As a bride or groom, you don't have time for that! Also refer to #4 for another real time saver.
Training & Expertise--There's not a college degree for being a travel advisor, but there is a lot of training available from destinations and suppliers, as well as places like the Travel Agent Academy. I took part in an intense, weeklong course, called VCTA (Virtuoso Certified Travel Advisor), which also involved 6 months of assignments and follow-up calls. When I travel, that is also training and research, and I love it! There is always something to learn and discover, and a good advisor has a voracious appetite for learning and sharing knowledge.
Relationships--Being a travel advisor is all about relationships. The relationship between client and travel advisor is the obvious one, and part of my training as a travel advisor involved listening skills and asking good questions in order to get to know clients. Learning where clients want to go is only a beginning. It is also important to know about overall interests, likes, dislikes, etc. A way to start building this relationship is to come with a small request. Also very important are relationships with suppliers (hotels, destinations, cruise lines, etc). Magic (money saving, added value, VIP treatment, etc.) can be worked when an advisor has a good relationship with a supplier. Everyone wants the clients to be happy, but suppliers want the advisor to be happy so that they will send them more business. You don't get this level of care when you DIY. Real example: A couple was comparing river cruise options, and I was able to negotiate a better rate with the company I knew was better!
Fixing Things--When you use a travel advisor, you have a person to fix things if anything goes wrong. What if there is a pandemic, and you have to cancel or change your travel plans? You can wait on hold for hours, or you can just call me to take care of it for you. My friend also used an example of when her child lost his MagicBand at Disney World. She was freaking out, not knowing what to do, so she called her travel advisor, who advised her on what to do. Imagine being stuck in Costa Rico and something goes wrong. Good luck finding a number for the OTA, but you can just text me to take care of everything!
Money & Value--I believe that one of the big hesitations is that people think it is going to cost more money when using a travel advisor. There is no price gouging. That would just be dumb. When pricing hotels, resorts, cruises, etc, I check several sources to be sure you are getting the best price and value. Often, one source will have a higher price, but the client gets more (free breakfast, resort credit, etc), so the value is greater. Sometimes there are fees, often referred to as a planning fee, which is compensation for the time researching your options, reaching out to suppliers, and putting together a proposal for you. In my business, fees vary based on the complexity of the request, and sometimes there are no fees. Just ask.
As I am writing this, we are in the midst of a pandemic, and there are varying levels of comfort with travel right now. When you feel comfortable going somewhere, even a 1-2 night getaway, that is a great way to give this a try. Especially during the days of COVID, let's start small. If you're ready for 7 nights in Cancun with your entire family or a 2021 European adventure, that's great too!! No request is too small or too large. Even if you know exactly what you want and would appreciate the extra level of care and personal service, you can ask me to take care of it for you. That doesn't fully utilize my services and expertise, but as I see it, that would be the beginning of a new, mutually beneficial relationship. My job is to make your life and your travel experiences more beautiful! Click on the icons at the top of the page to email or call me! P. S. Support small business.