Travel Advisors Help Families Plan Ahead

Travel Advisors Help Families Plan Ahead

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Families that use a travel advisor give them the highest ratings among all suppliers.

One of the greatest challenges families face taking more vacations is the planning process. Busy with various commitments and overwhelmed with the volume of information they have to sift through, many parents simply never get around to planning ahead.

“I think indecision plagues most families,” said Terri Weeks, Travel Planner and FTA Certified Family Travel Agent at Big Rock Travel. “They don’t know where they want to go, or don’t have the budget for the places they want to go to – so they procrastinate.”

“Families are busier today than ever before. Finding the time to research and plan a vacation is difficult. And because moms and dads know it’s going to take so much time to plan, they put it off until the last minute,” said Penny Cooper, owner, Embrace the Magic Travel.

Sarah Marshall, TravelAble Vacations, agreed with Cooper. “For my families, one of the biggest obstacles is simply time.  There are only so many hours in a day and when you factor in therapies and doctor’s appointments and school, it is hard to fathom taking a reprieve.  It is also hard to forward think when you don’t know what will happen from day to day.”

Serving families who have members with disabilities, Marshall sees even more stress and strain. “Many families choose not to think too far ahead in case illness or behavior issues prevent them from going (another reason I recommend travel insurance!).

At other times, the overwhelm clouds a parents’ thoughts about vacations they are already dreaming about. “I have lots of conversations with clients that begin with: ‘I don’t know where to go,’” said Marshall.  “When I start discussing their likes and dislikes, and qualifying them, all of a sudden, they say, ‘Well I was reading about this amazing destination.’  So they had done the research, they just wanted validation from a professional that their research was correct.”

According to the 2018 FTA Family Travel Survey, 31 percent of adult respondents who use travel advisors to plan their vacations said they are glad to pass on researching and booking vacations because it’s too time-consuming. Twenty-one 21 percent said researching vacations presents too much confusing information.

“Often, last-minute planning also means families have missed out on the best deals and incentives that were available to those who plan ahead,” Cooper said. “Marketing has convinced people that ‘last minute sales’ are better than early bird specials, but more often than not, the last-minute deals reflect lower categories at higher prices or with fewer inclusions.”

“Recently, I had a client that was waffling about taking a trip, and I completely understand.  She had never traveled before with her young autistic son.  While she had traveled extensively prior to his birth, the idea of how to travel with him kept her from taking the leap,” Marshall recalled.

“When she was finally ready, she decided she had to leave immediately, like within one month!  There were many options for her, but the prices at that point were higher than she wanted to pay.  She chose a cruise with very limited availability, and over the course of a week going back and forth with her on what room type and cruise options she wanted, the availability decreased and the remaining prices on the boat were nearly $2,000 more expensive than when we started.” The family ended up not going.

Susan Glover, owner at Favorite Place Travel, has seen similar situations, where failing to plan ahead created issues.

“I had a family of Harry Potter fans who planned a whole trip to the U.K. to cover as many Harry Potter sights as possible. They started the preliminary planning well in advance but couldn’t nail down final dates until about 60 days out.  By that time the Jacobite Train (aka the Hogwarts Express) tickets were sold out for one leg of the journey. And for the return leg, they couldn’t sit in the same compartment. They were scattered over two different cars, so they couldn’t experience it together.”

Offload the planning to an agent

Cooper finds that families who haven’t used a travel agent either think they no longer exist, or “they think we are too expensive and don’t realize a professional helps them overall with a savings of time, money, and fulfilling a better vacation experience.”

Weeks can spend on average 10-15 hours planning a one-week family vacation with a full itinerary. “Typically, the road trips I plan require more planning than airline trips because my clients typically stop at multiple locations with lodging required at each stop,” she added.

“From research, to comparisons, to booking, to deposits / payments, to reviewing emails, to changes, to printing documents – there’s a lot to do to bring a family vacation together,” said Cooper. “In my experience it takes a Family Travel Advisor between 32-40 hours on average to plan a family vacation.”

Multiple stops only make the planning more complicated. “I had a client who wanted to visit both Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Yellowstone National Park,” Weeks said. “She wasn’t sure how she should divide her time between the two. She was leaning toward allotting just one day to Yellowstone. I convinced her that she should spend 2.5 days in Yellowstone. After she returned, she agreed that 2.5 days was the right amount of time and appreciated the routing suggestions I gave her.”

Marshall finds that it takes her one hour of planning for every day of a vacation (e.g. seven hours for a seven-day vacation). Road trips may take 2-3 hours for every day, she said, “because there is a lot more thought into which activities are worth veering off the path, how much time the family wants to spend driving versus touring, the safety of the roads at night or during certain times of the year.”

I’ve had clients say, “I want to go to the Caribbean but I don’t know which island,” said Glover. “I know which resorts are more family friendly, which areas avoid a long transfer from the airport, which locations have the most activities for older kids.  My knowledge can save the client countless hours of Google searches.”

What many families also don’t realize is that when they hire one travel advisor, they may in fact be getting the experience and expertise of dozens of other agents. “We are networked with other advisors who share their knowledge. We also have access to information from hotels and suppliers that helps us in our research and planning,” Weeks said.

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One response to “Travel Advisors Help Families Plan Ahead”

  1. Frank Gricus says:

    I don’t understand how an agent gets compensated for the planning involved in a family trip. Is it through commissions? If there is a fee, how is it determined and is it part of the “package”?

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