So Russo turned to Francesca Elisabetta Owens, a travel coach who moderates Travel From the Inside Out, a private Facebook group, for help. Owens, who lived in Italy for about 15 years, plans Italian trips for women 50 and older. (Yes, that’s how specialized tour buses can get.)
Travel coaches are gaining popularity now that interest in travel is on the rise again. There is no reliable data on the number of bus tours, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it is a growing field. But what is a travel coach and should you consider hiring one?
Owens and Russo spent hours planning every detail of the nearly three-month trip. This included transportation logistics and access to medical care.
“Francesca encouraged me that I could experience the sweet life of doing nothing, as she calls it,” says Russo. “To relax in outdoor cafes and restaurants, sitting and watching tourists and locals go about their daily lives.”
Most travel coaches are experienced travelers who want to share the knowledge they’ve gained on the road. They are not travel agents and usually do not make a reservation for you. Instead, they are closer to life coaches who offer advice and guidance. But instead of trying to improve your quality of life, a travel coach works to improve your vacation by recommending an itinerary that matches your goals.
“Travel coaches help people set goals for their trips,” says Sahara Rose De Vore, founder of the Travel Coach Network, which accredits travel coaches. “When you can identify the ‘why’ for your trip, you can better decide where to go. You can also decide when to go, who to go with, how long to go, and what to do during your trip . This will help you get the results, transformations and experiences you want.”
A travel coach can help you choose the right destination and plan every aspect of your trip. Betsy Ball, co-founder of Euro Travel Coach, says she tries to take the hassle out of travel planning so her clients can focus on what matters: “the food, wine, culture, history and people of Europe.” , she says.
Some travel coaches develop areas of expertise that you may not find elsewhere. For example, Allie Bahn trains people who travel with food allergies. Bahn draws on her experiences growing up with food allergies and living in Italy for three years.
“I work with anyone who has life-threatening food allergies or has children with them and wants to learn how to travel as safely as possible,” says Bahn. “Many people have not traveled abroad before and are concerned about eating safely in other countries.”
So what can a travel coach do for you? Claire Burt, a travel coach and research specialist who works with tourism businesses, says a coach will ask probing questions that will help you plan a more meaningful trip.
Travel coaches, she says, “help travelers understand the underlying reasons they want to get away — whether it’s escape, adventure, self-growth, time with family — and get an idea of how they want to feel when they go.”
Travel coaches can also help their clients overcome travel fears. That fear “may be rooted in age-old issues,” says Owens, the trainer who helped plan Russo’s trip to Italy.
So how do you find a travel coach? De Vore’s site lists people who have completed its travel coaching program. In addition, there are no independent directories for travel buses. Asking a well-traveled friend for a recommendation or searching the Internet for “travel coach” can be just as effective, though experts say a recommendation alone isn’t enough; you should make sure that your travel coach knows your destination intimately.
“This means they’ve made multiple trips to the location and can guide their clients to unique places and experiences,” says Jody Halsted, a travel coach specializing in travel to Ireland. “A good travel coach should know their clients’ vacation goals and interests and be able to create a customized itinerary for individuals or groups.”
Furthermore, the guideline for hiring a travel coach is almost the same as for finding a travel consultant. Strategies include asking for references, conducting a detailed interview, and watching for red flags, such as exaggerated claims or lack of experience. Travel coaches typically charge a consulting fee for their services. For example, Owens offers a free 20-minute session, then charges $150 an hour.
Some argue that a good travel advisor can essentially do the same. “The concept of travel coaching is exactly what travel advisors are doing,” says Jackie Friedman, president of Nexion Travel Group. “It’s been ages since travel agents just booked travel. A travel advisor is an advisor, coach, cheerleader, problem solver, partner and adviser.” Counselors also often have certificates to verify their expertise, although some tour buses have them as well.
So why go with a travel coach? For some travelers, where you go is more important than how you get there. They are looking for someone with deep subject matter expertise and training that goes beyond recommending a destination and making a reservation.
If that’s you, you probably need a travel coach.
Prospective travelers should consider local and national public health guidelines regarding the pandemic before planning any travel. Travel health advisory information can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interactive map showing travel recommendations by destination and the CDC’s travel health advisory website.