I’m a travel agent who once had to convince people that they needed me. Here’s why I don’t need it anymore

I have a passion for travel. I joke that I vacation in Nashville, Tenn., where I live, but my real home is at the airport, on a cruise ship or in a European city.

I have always found value in using a travel agent, especially when I was in another career and too busy to book my own trips. My travel agent always told me she thought I would be great at it, and after turning her down many times, I joined her team. We now co-own a Cruise Planners franchise together and I have been an agent for seven years.

I love helping people experience things for the first time.

Sailing is my personal passion. I have found that the most successful travel agents discover a particular country – so my areas of expertise are all-inclusive resorts, cruises and European land travel.

I love helping people experience things for the first time. I tell my clients, I can be as practical or as stripped back as you want. Some of my clients are veterans who don’t need my help booking a flight or a hotel.

However, I also have a family of three who just returned from their first trip to Europe and wanted help with everything. I enjoyed preparing their itinerary, from flights to transfers to tours and excursions, to help them have the perfect vacation that fits their budget.

I do not charge my client fees. I am 100% free. I make my money from resorts, cruise lines and hotels that pay me a commission to bring them clients. I’m also able to get customer rates lower than those on resort or cruise websites, as well as free amenities.

I have so many offers for familiarization trips that I have to turn them down all the time

Because I’m in the Cruise Planner’s Millionaire Club – meaning I make over a million dollars in sales a year – resorts and cruise lines always want me to do family cruises. I have so many offers that I have to turn them down all the time. I pay for personal trips out of pocket, and they make me more of an expert on cruise lines and resorts.

Most of my business comes from word of mouth and referrals. Getting bookings is easy, however, I don’t want bookings – I want clients who work with me because they want boutique service. You can call me, email me, text me, message me on Facebook, even message me on Instagram – my phone is attached to my hip. You can email sites like Expedia, but you’ll get a response within weeks – versus hours with me.

This is important now as the ride is in a state we have never seen. Some people call it a revenge trip, but I hate that phrase because it sounds so negative. What we are seeing is that people are traveling more and people are spending more; the person who used to fly economy is now flying Business or First Class.

Now people are looking for great travel agents – especially those with authority

When I started, I often had to convince people of the benefits of using a travel agent. I would tell people at cocktail parties that I was a travel agent and I would always get the same response: ‘Are they still around?’ The Internet completely revolutionized travel. People thought that since they could book things online, they didn’t need a travel agent.

But now people are looking for great travel agents – especially those with authority on the resorts, cruise ships and cities they want to see.

I think the pandemic taught us that life is short. It has helped people see the value of travel agents and want to travel more. Even in my travels, I find myself focusing more on new destinations and new experiences.

When you fly, download the airline app on your smartphone. It is the fastest way to be notified of any changes from the airline.

Buy travel insurance. People don’t realize that not only does it cover trip cancellation, but it also covers emergency medical transportation to get you back to the US, which can cost hundreds of thousands.

Give yourself a little extra time at the airport, especially with the layover time for international travel, when you have to go through customs, get your bag, check it again, and go through TSA again.

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