Here’s why you should work with a travel advisor to find the best destinations, get perks, and have a stress-free travel experience. Don’t tackle complex travel planning alone.
In a world that is quickly hurtling towards apps for everything you can think of, some people might be surprised to hear that travel advisors are still highly recommended for stress-free travel. After all, most of us use self-checkout at the grocery store. And who calls up a cab company anymore when an Uber is a few taps away?
Sure, all this progress is certainly making people’s lives more convenient. But some things are not improved by taking personalized, people-centered services out of the equation. Kristen Beck, owner of Pin Your Destination Travel Agency, based in Chicago, agrees with me.
Getting Into The Travel Industry
Kristen’s path towards becoming a successful travel advisor started in 2015 when working for a nonprofit organization for veteran rehabilitation. “We took vets around the world on seven-day cycling tours, going from one beautiful city to another. I would organize their stay in hotels in all these wonderful destinations. Even though I had worked in events before, this experience is really what got me hooked on working in the travel industry.”
Fresh off of this experience, Kristen found work as a flight attendant. Even with all that entailed, she found she was craving more. She wanted a bigger role in the world of travel. “I’d always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and when I got furloughed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I realized that the time was right to start a business. I explored a little bit, and then I finally came across a training program for travel advisors, and I just knew that was it. It was like something clicked. This, I realized, is where my passion lies.”
The course, Careers on Vacation by Cyndi Williams was exactly what Kristen says she was looking for. “The training program really prepared me for everything, from setting things up at the start to working with clients and giving them the best possible experience they could have. They gave us information on what we should do. And all the programs that we needed to sign up for to be official, and all the training that we would need to take. Each and every different destination requires you to take a training course needed. I was taking ours with different cruise lines and locations. I’m really thankful that the course prepared me for all of that.”
A Travel Advisor Is Always Learning
Now, Kristen says she is always eagerly looking forward to taking even more training courses. “I want more. I need more!” she laughs. “I took the Australia course, and that was great – so informative! Right now, I’m planning a month-long trip to Australia for a client, and I just feel so prepared. I know I have all the knowledge I need to help my client have a fantastic trip. The Costa Rican course was also wonderful. It gave me more knowledge than I even need to be successful. So I’m very thankful for the different certifications and the tourism boards I’ve worked with.”
Launching A Travel Business During The Pandemic
When she had completed her training, Kristen launched her business in November of 2020. This gave her plenty of time to set up all the details. “It’s hard when you launch any business at first. It takes time. Sometimes you’re not going to have clients for a while, so while some people would be very hesitant to start a business in a pandemic, I knew it was the right thing to do,” Kristen affirms.
“It gave me plenty of time to truly launch my business – to set up accounting, marketing, and all of that without clients pouring right in from day one. For the first two months, November and December, and then even into January, there weren’t any clients. At that point, I was still mapping things out. Then when the clients did start coming in, I was so glad that I’d taken care of those things early on.”
Kristen found her first clients when her aunt reached out to her wanting to take a cruise. “I didn’t think I’d end up being a cruise travel advisor,” Kristen recalls. “There are so many travel advisors out there that only specialize in cruises -they know so much, and I didn’t think that would be my focus. But then my second client contacted me to plan for 15 people on an Alaskan cruise. I had no choice. I had to throw myself into the cruise industry and gain all the knowledge that was there. I’m so glad I did because now I really look forward to more cruise clients.”
Planning The Perfect Honeymoon With A Travel Advisor
Kristen is passionate about giving her clients the most stress-free, convenient experience she possibly can. So it’s no surprise that she recommends all couples hire a travel advisor to help them plan their honeymoon. “When you’re planning your wedding, you’re focused on so many details for the big day itself – the venue, the flowers, the bridesmaid’s dresses, even the bachelor and bachelorette parties. It’s all about the wedding, and a lot of times, the honeymoon becomes an afterthought. But it should be more than that. It’s your first vacation together as newlyweds. It’s a very special time to calm down, reflect, and enjoy the romance of experiencing magic moments together as a couple.”
The major benefit of using a travel advisor to plan the honeymoon is that the couple can stay focused on their wedding. “It all happens behind the scenes,” Kristen reveals. “Before you know it, your travel advisor presents you with two or three amazing honeymoon options that cater to all your wants, needs, desires, and wishes. You don’t have to spend hours planning it on top of planning your wedding. A travel advisor takes care of it for you.”
The Little Details Always Matter
Another advantage of working with a travel advisor is that they take care of many details clients often forget. “A lot of times people will book their travel so that they only have 40 minutes between flights. If you’re delayed even 20 minutes, though, you’ll be in trouble. When people try to book things themselves, they don’t always consider that. A travel advisor will pay close attention to those details.”
On top of that, there are many perks and advantages that travel advisors can pass on to their clients that would never be possible if they booked their travel themselves. “A lot of people don’t realize just how many advantages we have access to that we can then pass on to our clients,” Kristen remarks.
“Let’s say you want an extra cruise credit. We’ve got it. Or you want a welcome basket when you get to the Caribbean, full of strawberries and champagne. We can make that happen. If you go online and book your trip, you’re just booking a basic trip. But if you book with a travel advisor, you could potentially get, for example, free breakfast every day at a resort that doesn’t normally give you that. Or you could get resort credit that allows you to go to the spa for free. Honeymooners especially should be taking advantage of everything travel advisors have to offer.”
A Tailor-Made Honeymoon Experience
Choosing the right travel advisor for your honeymoon is just like choosing any other service, Kristen says. It can take some time to find the right one, but it’s completely worthwhile once you do. “There is no one-size-fits-all for travel advisors, and I think that’s a really positive thing.”
“To make sure I’m a correct fit for my clients, I recommend a consultation call at the very start – something very chilled out and low-key. It’s just a good way for us to have a friendly chat and for me to get to know someone’s travel style. For example, are you a three-star person who’s not going to spend a lot of time in your hotel but rather be out and about? Or are you a luxury person where you want to feel like you’re on vacation and being pampered? It’s all about those questions. It’s all about taking the time to chat and get to know the client so that I can narrow down a trip that is totally custom-made for them and their preferences.”
Then, after the initial consultation, Kristen throws herself into research mode. “It typically takes about a week for me to research some good options and to present them. Then I’ll email the clients two to three different options, and together we’ll narrow it down even more. Once the trip is decided on, I give them an online itinerary that goes day by day. They are able to download it to their phones in a PDF format and have access to it even when they don’t have access to the internet.” Kristen recommends booking with a travel advisor about six months before you plan on departing for your honeymoon.
Destination Weddings Made Easy
It’s not just honeymoons that travel advisors are experts in. Destination weddings, which are becoming more and more popular, are also made much easier and convenient when you work with a travel advisor.
Related: Destination Weddings And The Extra Challenges Involved for Planners
“If you find a travel advisor that will do your destination wedding, it’s such a flawless experience for you,” Kristen enthuses. “First, you need to reach out to your travel advisor. Tell them that you’re considering a destination wedding and want to see what the options are. They’ll have connections to all the destinations you could imagine. So, for example, you might be considering having your wedding in Jamaica. But your advisor might call up the Dominican Republic, and they might be offering an additional thousand dollar spa service and guest discounts on rooms. All sorts of different options and choices.”
“Your advisor can reach out to many different resorts to find the information you need, so you should definitely go to them first. They also have a direct connection with the hotel event planner, so your travel advisor becomes your middleman. You can tell your advisor what flowers you prefer, your ideal seating plan, your decor preferences, and they help coordinate that. Then when you arrive, you’re greeted by the event planner to do one final walk-through, and everything else is taken care of for the big day!”
Think About Your Guest Experience Too
Asking guests to travel out of the country for a wedding can be daunting. Still, Kristen says working with a travel advisor can ensure a headache-free process that will have your guests feel completely comfortable with the whole experience. “Of course, it’s always an option for guests to book on their own. But it’s so much easier to have your guests use the travel advisor who is actually planning the event. They can do so many things, like ensuring that your guests get picked up and shuttled directly from the airport straight to the resort, so they don’t have to figure out their own logistics and do their own planning.”
“It’s already a commitment for them to go somewhere out of the country, and some of them might be inexperienced travelers. Guests often have a lot of questions about arrival and departure times, babysitting, that kind of thing. The advisor planning your destination wedding is going to know all of those details.”
Travel advisors can even make sure non-destination weddings run smoothly, Kristen says. “If it’s a wedding with a lot of guests coming in from out of town, I recommend the couple write on their invitation or on their website, ‘We work with Pin Your Destination as our travel company, so if you want any assistance in getting to Chicago, selecting a great hotel or making sure you have transportation, they can do all of that for you.’ The couple can talk to me and get all that information up front.”
A Tradition Worth Continuing
Now that travel is opening up again in various countries, working with a travel advisor is more important than ever. Travel should be joyful, not stressful, for everyone involved. Kristen agrees, noting that while some people see using a travel advisor as “old school,” the entire process (not to mention the end result) is enough to change any skeptic’s mind.
“Any time you talk about using a travel advisor, people are surprised that we’re still around. But what people don’t know is that travel sites are actually online travel agents and advisors. You’re paying the website the commission just like you’d pay us, except you still have to call an 800 number, you still have to wait on hold, and when you finally talk to someone, it’s not a personalized experience at all.”
Related: Destination Events & Multi-generational Family Travel
“It doesn’t cost you any money to use an actual human travel advisor and have a one-on-one experience. You know you have someone to call if things go wrong, someone who is going to be there for you no matter what during your vacation,” she attests. “Using those online travel sites can be like going down a rabbit hole. You find it on their site. Then you have to Google the resort and make sure it’s legitimate. And make sure you’re not being scammed and that you’re going to get your money’s worth. Travel advisors have connections. They literally work with business development managers at each and every property, every hotel, resort, airline, cruise. You name it. We have a direct connection to someone who actually works there. If there’s ever a question or a problem, we have someone on hand to deal with it.”
Travel Doesn’t Have To Be Stressful
Whether you’re planning for a romantic honeymoon, a dazzling destination wedding, or even a business trip, the smart move is to work with a travel advisor. Travel will always carry a little bit of stress. So why not minimize it as much as possible and leave the logistics to the experts? You can focus on feeling at home, away from home.