There’s a palpable shift happening in the travel world. Millennials today are using vacation days at the highest rate of any other generation. Of the 658 million vacation days that went unused in 2015, virtually none of them came from millennials. Not only are we using our paid days off to travel, millennials with families are spending twice as much on travel than millennial couples.1 We’re raising global citizens, and it’s a beautiful thing. The movement to collect experiences rather than physical things has been forged by our generation, and alongside this shift, we have also become the most demanding luxury consumers. We’re not demanding in the white glove, butler kind of way, millennials are more demanding in the personal touch, think of all the details kind of way. These demands can only come from a more experienced traveler, and as a travel advisor, I can see and feel this movement not only with millennials, but with all generations.
The key to fully utilizing those vacation days and maximizing your vacation experience might surprise you: planning ahead. Insert here your travel advisor.
WE ARE THE EXPERTS FOR INTERNATIONAL DESTINATIONS TO WHICH YOU'VE NEVER TRAVELED
Travel advisors are well-traveled themselves and have often been to the places you would like to go. When they haven’t personally traveled to a specific destination, they are surrounded by a network of destination specialists and tourism boards who have all the information anyone could ever need, and that’s not considering their colleagues sitting just next to them who probably have been wherever they haven’t.
WE CAN MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS WHEN YOU'RE NOT SURE WHERE TO GO
The world is vast and sometimes it’s difficult just to decide to where you’d like to travel. A good travel advisor will get to know you and what type of experiences you enjoy so that they will be able to offer advice on where you should travel next. On the other hand, some travelers know exactly where they want to go and they want to cram fifteen days worth of activities into six.
Travel advisors offer tremendous help in prioritizing which activities are not to be missed, and which can be optional.
A TRAVEL ADVISOR GETS TO KNOW YOUR PERSONAL PREFERENCES AND UNDERSTANDS WHAT YOU TRULY WANT OUT OF EACH TRIP
When planning any trip, big or small, a good travel advisor will start with a lot of questions. What motivated this trip? Have you always dreamt of this adventure and you’re checking off a bucket list item or are you visiting friends that live abroad? How are you envisioning your time on vacation? Do you envision beautiful hotels, sleeping in, and hidden, local restaurants in the evening? Or are you imagining a skip breakfast, take your coffee to go, off to explore type of trip? Do you have a budget in mind? What are your priorities within this budget? (Hotels, food, activities?) I think you get the idea. Before beginning to research and putting together some ideas, it is so important for us to get on board with your trip and to know exactly what you’re looking for. This in turn enables us to design an itinerary that is unique to you.
When a multi-generational family contacted me to begin planning a 2-week trip to the Galapagos Islands and Peru, we had an in depth conversation about their ideas for this trip. This family is very interested to interact with local cultures, to go out of their way for authentic experiences, to try the local food, and to stay in local accommodations rather than larger, chain hotels. I could see a clear theme in their style of travel. In order to fully immerse yourself in a new culture, it often takes time. A whirlwind trip, trying to fit in everything you want to do and see in a small number of days, doesn’t always offer a lot of opportunity to get a taste for the culture. During our conversation, I suggested that they split their visits to the Galapagos Islands and Peru into two 10-12 days trips. After considering with their family, the agreed and decided to spend 10 days in Peru which enabled them to enjoy their last few days in the city where their daughter was to live for the next six months.
RESEARCHING A COMPLICATED, INTERNATIONAL ITINERARY TAKES TIME, AND SOMEBODY'S GOTTA DO IT
Travel advisors know that you’d prefer trying a new restaurant this weekend than spending 30+ hours Googling “what to do in Thailand”. For travelers who enjoy the planning experience, a travel advisor is simply what it seems: an advisor. They’ll often come back with various options for hotels, experiences, and excursions. You have the fun part of picking and choosing what interests you most. You’ll be able to participate in the planning process without sacrificing your weekend plans or worrying about the boring details of how to get from the airport to your hotel.
WE ENSURE YOU TRULY EXPERIENCE THE DESTINATION (NOT JUST TICK LANDMARKS OFF A LIST OF THINGS TO SEE)
Guidebooks and online blogs are great for helping to make a list of everything you should do and see while visiting a destination, but have you ever come home feeling like something was missing? Rather than standing amongst the masses trying to take a photo sans tourists, a travel advisor can often arrange a private tour before a place opens or even include areas on a guided tour that aren’t open for public. They have also built relationships with in country destination specialists that can offer insights into experiences that you didn’t know were possible such as accompanying dogs in the Italian countryside hunting truffles or enjoying a Viennese opera over dinner on your private hotel balcony. These ideas seem fancy, but often it’s about who your advisor knows rather than how much money you’re willing to spend.
WE UNDERSTAND THE TRUE VALUE OF SOME EXPERIENCES
Travel advisors know when it’s worth splurging. When planning your own trip, setting a specific budget per hotel, per meal, and per activity guarantees that you’re missing out on some incredible opportunities. Focusing on an overall budget rather than an itemized spreadsheet, a travel advisor might send you on a $5 local tour one day and a $200 private experience with a chef the next because she’s been there and she knows that these are the best experiences on offer, regardless of the price tag. Most likely, you would never do that for yourself, but when you come home raving about that one day with the chef, that was the most amazing day in your entire trip, your travel advisor will smile, knowingly. Focusing on experiences and the big picture budget-wise is one secret travel advisors might not want me sharing with you. A recent article3 echoes this sentiment in reporting that millennials are currently using the services of a travel advisor more than any other generation because they understand the potential this service has to enhance their overall experience.
TRAVEL ADVISORS OFTEN HAVE SPECIAL ACCESS TO BENEFITS, PROMOTIONS, AND AMENITIES
Because travel advisors often work together in large networks, they can sometimes secure an early check-in, complimentary breakfast, or even a welcome amenity for no additional cost. While most travel advisors will charge a planning fee for their time, the benefits they can offer exponentially outweigh the costs.
WE TAKE CARE OF THE DETAILS BEFORE YOU EVEN THINK OF THEM
When traveling, finding a good place to eat can often be the most frustrating. Unfamiliar territory, a desire to eat well while on vacation, and the insanely short interval of time between going from hungry to hangry unfortunately means that travelers often eat a lot of mediocre food. This is a shame as authentic, freshly prepared meals when traveling is a large part of the experience. A good travel advisor will often be one step ahead of you, offering restaurant recommendations that are convenient with that day’s itinerary and sometimes, they’ll have made a reservation on your behalf.
YOU CAN'T VIP YOURSELF
A lot of vacations are planned with a celebration in mind. Whether it’s a honeymoon, your grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary, or a week away while your children are at summer camp, there’s always a reason to celebrate. Hotels don’t pay much attention to these details until your travel advisor makes a phone call on your behalf.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, WE'VE GOT YOUR BACK WHEN SOMETHING DOESN'T GO AS PLANNED
It’s almost impossible to travel without at least one small hiccup along the way. Maybe your flight was cancelled, your hotel was overbooked, or you missed your train. A travel advisor is there to not only help you figure out these situations, but also to make sure that it doesn’t effect the remainder of your itinerary.
Here’s another example from my experience with clients. This family rented a villa in California for the winter and they unexpectedly needed to return home for a family emergency. They called me to explain the situation and we booked round trip flights the same day to get them home to their family. When they returned to California one week later, they were relieved to have been able to return home to their family, stress free, without having to disrupt their experience in California.
WE'RE WITH YOU EVERY STEP OF THE WAY
It begins with an idea, maybe we send some inspiration your way. We go through all the options and decide which you’re most excited about. When we send you the final itinerary for your departure that’s six months from now, our work has only begun. A good travel advisor will contact your hotels just before you arrive to be sure everything is in place. We’ll keep up on your itinerary throughout your travels to make sure we catch any details that might fall through the cracks. And when you return, we’ll be the first to welcome you home!
This article was originally written for and published on Matador Network.
Photos courtesy of DTTSP.
Whitney’s love of experiential travel began when she studied abroad in New Zealand. Upon returning home, this seemingly small decision led her on an unpredictable path to do everything in her power to continue exploring the world. Within one year, she headed to Africa for one month to visit a friend who was volunteering with animals in need of rehabilitation support, and upon graduating only 6 months later, she moved to France for no other reason than the study the language and experience the culture firsthand. Fast forward 8 years, 2 languages, and 20 countries later, Whitney has successfully combined her passion for foreign languages and experiential travel with her professional experiences and launched Undiscovered Sunsets, a bespoke, experiential travel agency.