As their name implies, The Unique Traveler offers distinct experiences, crafted intentionally with more than 25 years of experience, personal consultations and a worldwide network of travel partners.
The tour operator is run by Kristi Howard and Angie Wheeler, the latter of which serves on the Family Travel Association board in order to support the industry and be as informed as possible. Wheeler believes “some of the best memories, most long-lasting memories you will ever make will be with your family on a vacation.”
We talked with Wheeler about what The Unique Traveler has to offer and what she’s been up to lately.
Please give us a brief history of your relation to travel.
I have always been a planner and I liked to plan my family’s vacations when I was growing up. It’s not easy to make everyone happy, but I found that if you try to listen to everyone and get their involvement early on in the process, it makes it a better experience for everyone. I continued to plan my personal vacations, as I was on my own and later after I was married and had kids. I really enjoyed the process and when the opportunity rose for me to become a professional travel advisor, I jumped at it. I like the flexibility it gives me and I really love helping my clients plan great vacations.
Can you tell us all about the work and mission of Unique Traveler?
I am primarily a family travel agent, but since no two families are alike, no two trips are alike either. I like to really listen to my client’s needs of what they want to get out of the vacation we are planning together and involve them through the whole process. I let them know that I will be with them throughout their trip and I love to hear from them afterwards to find out what went well and what could be improved. My goal is always to plan a memorable vacation that they can look back to in years to come.
Why is family travel something you’re passionate about?
I am very committed to family vacations. I believe they are very important in creating bonds and memories among family members. I can fondly recall my own family vacations with my siblings that we still reference to this day, and I know that when my own family travels together, we always treasure those special moments together. Whether it’s a car trip to the next state or a cruise to Alaska, family travel is something I think all families should participate in, if possible.
Do you have any recent travel highlights to tell us about?
My family and I did a split stay at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando this past Spring. It took a bit more planning than usual because my oldest is now in college, so we had to get him from the University of Dayton and us from St. Louis. Both of our planes were late—my son’s didn’t land until well after midnight and we were finally reunited around 1 a.m. at the Orlando airport. We hadn’t seen him since January and our trip was in March, so it was really special. We had a great time the whole week. And while it was sad when we had to go our separate ways, we still had some great memories together.
Are there any challenges you’ve faced in recent years related to marketing travel, and if so, how have you worked to overcome them?
COVID hit us all, but especially those of us in travel. People were very reluctant to travel, but I have seen a real uptick this year. Marketing is never my favorite thing to do because I would rather be planning a trip, but it is necessary. I survive on referrals, so that is my primary focus, but also social ads or local events.
Anything else you want readers to know?
I think travel is important to everyone. You get so much back. You learn about other cultures, history and ways of life and you meet some great people. Everyone should try to take a trip when they can because you only regret what you missed. “Life is a book and most people have only read one page.’
Photos Courtesy of Angie Wheeler.
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