How can thinking like a travel agent transform your getaways into unforgettable adventures? We have some tips that may change your outlook on travel forever, all thanks to adopting an agent state-of-mind.
Whether you are currently living the dream as a travel agent or it has long been your dream gig in retirement, it's just a fact that travel agents see creative possibilities in travel that might be missed or overlooked by others on the very same trip. To a travel agent, all corners of the world are open, just waiting to be explored. To be in an agent state-of-mind is to think outside the box, whether this means thinking beyond a cruise-line itinerary or off the beaten path entirely. Is this way of thinking all new to you? If so, read on for four steps on the journey to developing a new and refreshing view of travel.
Whether in business or life, research has shown that stepping outside of your comfort zone can bring untold growth and development as a person. The key, according to a Harvard Business Review article, is finding a reliable (and not too scary) path from where you currently feel comfortable doing things that will help you grow. Travel is the perfect avenue for this: you are already, by design, leaving behind what is familiar and everyday to you, but you know it is a temporary condition and you aren't committing to the unknown forever. Experiencing new food, new people, different living conditions, and maybe even a new language expand your brain's ability to apply creative problem-solving, according to a University of Southern California Annenberg School professor.
Once you have recognized the rich benefits of pushing beyond your zone of comfort, you will have a new resolve to make it happen. If you already have an appetite for travel, this may be the final push you need to really dig deep on your next trip to find the experiences you've always wanted to try. Read on for the second step of putting this into action while you travel.
You can plan and plan for an amazing trip (which is great and certainly a key role of any competent and professional travel agent), but, ultimately, spontaneity is where the true magic lies. While you're on your trip, be willing to set aside carefully laid plans for something even more extraordinary.
Look for unexpected and memorable experiences that only a trained eye may be able to see:
Another critical part of thinking like an agent during your travels is to look beyond the pre-packaged and marketed idea of a place and value something a little deeper than that as you experience somewhere new. Tourism, although technically an experience, can very easily start to slip into what feels like a purchase of something rather than an authentic snapshot of what life is like in a new destination.
To avoid this trap, think like a travel agent and value authentic experiences over a souvenir mentality. Spend more time outside on the streets of a historic city than inside a museum gift shop; strike up conversations with local store-owners, cab drivers, and restaurant waitstaff to understand what makes the people of this place tick. Ultimately, you will enrich yourself and others much more by valuing cultural connection, conversation, and observation over overwrought tours of must-see and greatest hits in the area.
Don't keep your newfound sense of wonder and travel bliss to yourself! Spread the word to friends and family. Not only will this benefit them (trust us, they will be thanking you later for family trips that have suddenly become exciting and fun instead of monotonous and drama-filled), it will also help you savor the experience of travel all over again. You may even find yourself building a new clientele as people recognize you as an expert in seeing travel with fresh eyes--your dream of working as a footloose travel agent may be closer than you think!
Here are some great ideas to get started sharing your travel:
Need more help and resources? You can always turn to Outside Agent Link for resources, support, and ideas to maximize your approach to travel and ability to inspire and engage others in their own travel adventures.
It's a sad and stress-riddled fact that Americans are not using enough of their vacation days. Many leave more than ten vacation days 'on the table' even when there is no year-end payout or roll over into the next year. The problem isn't that people don't want to vacation, they do. Instead, there are a number of other factors that push people toward working harder, for longer hours, and taking as few days off per year as possible. Maybe they want to cash out their days at the end of the year, or maybe their boss has simply pressured everyone to 'show dedication' by not taking any time off.
But as a travel agent, dedication to your job means reminding people why we need vacations in the first place. In order to earn a living and follow your dream of bringing happiness to travelers, it's important to understand why fewer Americans are taking their vacation days and how to change their minds for their own health and happiness. Here are four approaches to help you remind your clients that they have earned those vacation days and have every right to enjoy them.
Much of the resistance to taking vacation days is associated with a fear of losing income, showing a lack of work dedication, or leaving teammates in the lurch back at work. This has led both to fewer vacation days spent and, when the days are used, vacations that tend to be very short in duration. Usually, a professional will take a Friday or Monday off to get a long weekend and you can use this as your foot in the door.
Even if your clients are only willing to take short vacations, they still have the option to really luxuriate during those days off. Encourage your clients to book a luxury hotel, take a few tours, or do something exciting and unusual any time they have some time off. In fact, they don't even need vacation days to enjoy a well-timed weekend getaway. And as a travel agent, you can promise they'll be rested and back in time for work.
Another reason people are vacationing less is a concern about expense or travel hassle. They don't want to spend three hours of their precious vacation time on a plane or a large portion of their 'fun' budget on travel. But that doesn't mean they can't still enjoy all the delights of a fully booked vacation.
The staycation trend celebrates enjoying your own home city, seeing the sights and finding activities that normally only visiting tourists enjoy. Embrace this and sell the idea to your clients that they don't have to travel to enjoy their weekends and vacation days. There are luxury hotels, attractions, museums, and seasonal events close to home that don't require a plane trip, car rental, or hours spent in transit.
Some people don't take their vacation days even when there's no financial benefit or roll over because they're afraid to leave work for long periods of time or seem undedicated to their job. But these professionals aren't being fair to themselves. Their PTO (paid time off) is part of their employment package, like health care and retirement contributions.
Your clients have every right to use their vacation, especially if they have more to lose than to gain by leaving it unused. Remind your clients that if they have time off that is going to expire, they might as well start taking long weekends or plan for an extravagant winter holiday just before it times out.
Finally, you can appeal to a reluctant client's sense of responsibility. While they may not want to take vacations for themselves, their romantic partners and children will wind up bearing the burden. When one person in the family refuses to take their vacation days, the entire family misses out. Whether it's date nights with their spouse or summer theme park trips for the little ones, remind your clients that their vacation days aren't just for them. They're to be spent with the ones they love. If they won't vacation on their own, they may be motivated to plan a vacation for their girlfriend, wife, husband, or little ones instead. And vacationing for a family is a great way to help a client justify spending a little time relaxing for their own benefit as well.
For more great travel agent tips, contact us today!
‘Tis the season for holiday love and cheer, but nothing can put a damper on that seasonal joy like holiday travel. If your clients are flying or driving to your holiday destination, stress and delays are always a concern. Share these holiday travel tips with your clients to help them maintain the holiday cheer while traveling this season:
Stick to a carry-on bag if possible
Checking a bag at the airport means more lines, a longer time waiting at baggage claim and sometimes lost bags. If you can, stick to only one carry-on bag for holiday travel. Be sure your bag fits into the carry-on guidelines for each airline so you don’t get saddled with excess or oversize fees. If traveling with young kids, give them a backpack for their carry-on as opposed to a roller bag, which could slow everyone down between flights.
Don’t forget these carry-on essentials
With all the people flying during the holiday season, lost or delayed luggage will be a possibility. If you are checking bags, be sure to also bring a carry-on bag full of essentials in the case your luggage arrives at your destination after you. Pack these important items in a carry-on before your flight: a toothbrush and toothpaste, travel pillow, snacks, a portable battery to charge your phone, a change of clothes and any medications.
Ship your gifts
Gift boxes and presents are cumbersome to carry around in the airport and take up a lot of valuable space in luggage. With the high costs of checking a bag on most airlines and the possibility of damage, you’d be better off shipping gifts beforehand. Here’s a helpful list of shipping deadlines during the holidays. If you aren’t able to ship your presents, don’t wrap them before you arrive at your destination. Airport security will likely need to see inside boxes and bags and will remove the wrapping.
Get a ride to the airport
This time of the year, airport parking is even more of a headache than normal. Not only do you have to pay the high price to leave your car while you’re away, finding a parking spot and waiting for the transport bus could make you late for your flight. Save money and time by finding a friend that can drive you to the airport, or use Uber or a local taxi service. Schedule the pick up at least two or three hours before your flight is set to board; better safe than sorry.
Go over new TSA rules before the airport
Few things can put a damper on holiday cheer like a bad experience in the TSA line. This holiday season, TSA is rolling forward a new rule about electronics in carry-on bags. Browse the list of items that can and can’t be brought through the security checkpoint. While you’re on the site, consider signing up for TSA PreCheck, so you can get in shorter lines at security.
Bring an extra empty bag for your return trip
Undoubtedly, over the course of your trip, you’ll collect gifts and other items to bring back home from family and friends. Don’t run into a space problem on your return flight. Throw an empty, compressible bag in your luggage to hold your new goodies for the trip home. If you receive any large items or an item that isn’t allowed on an airplane, have it shipped!
Consider travel by train
While this might not be an option for everyone traveling this holiday season, traveling by train is a cheaper and less stressful option for some. You can find if Amtrak can take you to your destinations on their website here. Not only will you avoid clogged roadways and busy airports, your family will get to experience the beauty of traveling by train. Extra bonus, you can check two 50 lb bags for free with Amtrak in addition to your two carry-on items.
Drive later in the day
If part of your holiday travel involves a road trip, plan to leave later in the day. Many families think heading out in the morning will help them avoid traffic and congested roadways. However, the roads will be much less crowded at night during the holiday season.Try to avoid leaving on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, if possible, as these will be some of the busiest travel days of the year.
Don’t forget to contact your bank
Credit card fraud is rampant during the holiday season, and many banks will be keeping an extra eye out for unusual charges. To avoid having your card frozen while traveling, call your bank or inform them through their mobile app of the dates you’ll be traveling on and your destination. They’ll put a travel flag on your account so you won’t run into any problems with your card during your trip.
The travel industry is an ever-changing industry. The popular destinations clients asked for last year are old news. From the screens of their smartphones, everyone has access to a plethora of information online about new, exciting destinations and a multitude of travel options. It’s more important now than ever for travel agents to stay abreast of the changing travel market and how it affects their clientele. Below are three travel and tourism trends that have affected the industry recently and how they could impact travel agents:
Focus on smaller, more authentic local destinations for couples as opposed to top tourist destinations.
It’s time to brush up on those off-the-radar destinations around the world as opposed to the large “tourist traps.” Destinations that offer a taste of the local culture are in higher demand. Couples are looking for a trip that allows for a more organic travel experience. You’ll see an increased amount of clients looking for a travel agent who can help them plan a niche vacation.
Increase in people mixing business travel with personal vacations. This trend has been coined “bleisure” travel.
Travel agents should research the profile of the typical bleisure traveler. Many individuals who are interested in this trend will be younger professionals with a family or spouse. Look into more luxurious or family-friendly hotels in popular business travel destinations. Professionals may focus on their work responsibilities for the first part of their trip, but want to plan more vacation-like activities for the remainder of their stay. It’s also a great way to upsell a current business travel client. Tell her, “why not have your family meet you out in San Diego and tack on a few days to visit the zoo or Disneyland?” She’ll appreciate your attention to detail.
Sustainability and eco-friendliness have become more important to tourists.
You may notice an increase in questions about the social and economic principals of different destinations and the resort and hotel sustainability practices. Travelers want may be less likely to rent a car when they travel and instead opt to stay at a destination that allows for walking as the primary means of transport. This ecotourism trend also focuses on supporting the local economy as well as a heightened consciousness of traveler’s carbon footprint. Brush up on the best destinations for pedestrian and bicycle travel like Amsterdam, New York City, D.C., Copenhagen and Boston.
We’ve written before about the importance of blogging as a marketing tool for independent travel agents. However, between communicating with clients, calling airlines and hotels and your many other responsibilities, it’s easy for your blog to fall to the wayside. While the weather begins to cool down and the pumpkin spice flavors begin to appear, take the time this fall to refocus (or get started) on your travel blog. Here are some autumn-themed topics to get your creativity flowing:
America offers many examples of the beauty of fall. Write a blog sharing some of the best cities in the country where a family could fly or drive to see the autumn foliage. Don’t forget to include pictures!
Halloween is one of the oldest holidays still celebrated in many countries around the world. We all know about the trick or treating and pumpkin carving traditions in the United States, but how do other people celebrate this October holiday around the globe?
Thanksgiving is just around the corner and it’s never too early to encourage your clients to book holiday travel. Put the thought in their mind with some tips for planning travel for their families this Thanksgiving.
As the weather cools off this fall, share some delicious autumn recipes from around the world. What hearty stews are popular in Northern Europe this time of year? Are there any unique ingredients one country only uses during the fall?
While fall isn’t the busiest season for traveling, there are still many benefits to taking a trip during this time of year. Encourage your clients to book a vacation or getaway this fall by listing some advantages they might not have considered before.
One of the first thoughts in many people’s minds when they think of fall is Oktoberfest. Started hundreds of years ago in Germany, this festival is now celebrated around the world during late September or early October. Write a blog discussing the history behind Oktoberfest and how it came to be the popular event it is today. Bonus: you can also write about seasonal beers that are offered around the country and around the world for beer lovers.
If you search for “travel agent” online, you’ll come up with almost 60 million results. How can you, as one independent travel agent, stand out in this mass of information? The answer is simple: find a specialized travel niche. It may seem counterintuitive, but narrowing the scope of travel services you market can actually increase your sales and get you more clients. Follow our tips for choosing your travel niche and get started on a career as a successful independent travel agent.
The niche market you choose will only be successful if your potential audience is interested in that particular type of travel. For example, if you live in a community full of older, retired couples, you’ll probably have better luck specializing in cruise or destination travel as opposed to adventure or business travel. Consider demographics such as age group, income bracket and employment in the area where you’ll be setting up. Make sure the market for your niche is strong enough to support your business.
Being interested in an aspect of travel is not enough to make you an expert in that niche. While this interest may lead your decision in choosing your area of specialization, you must offer plentiful, unique knowledge about it in order to be a successful niche travel agent. Read books about the subject, keep up on related news, and, most importantly, go experience it for yourself! First hand experience will give you confidence and authority when discussing travel planning with a client.
Don’t pick a niche you are ambivalent about just because you think it will make you the most money. You must be passionate about your niche. Passion is contagious, and your clients will pick up on your excitement and dedication when you’re planning their trip. Whichever travel specialty you pursue, make sure it’s a subject you look forward to learning about and working on every day. This passion will be evident in the vacations and trips you plan for clients and will lead to new and return business.
Once you’ve determined an area of specialization, set up your image to fit it. Your image as a travel agent ranges from the marketing materials you give out to the way you set up your office. If you’re focusing on family vacations, make your office kid-friendly. If you’re selling luxury travel, use language that’s focused on elegant details. Think of your image as the first impression potential clients will experience when seeking out your services. Clients won’t give you a chance to show your excellent travel planning skills or expert knowledge if they get the wrong first impression.
No matter which niche you choose, your passion and knowledge on the subject are sure to set you apart and lead to a fulfilling career as an independent travel agent. And with Outside Agent Link, you’ll have access to all the additional support you may need, whenever you need it.
With approximately 15,000 airports in the United States alone, there’s a broad spectrum between the best and worst airports to travel through. It’s important to know which offer the best transportation, amenities and layover-killing entertainment options (and avoid the ones that don’t have much of either). From on-time departures to restaurant selections, here are our favorite and least favorite U.S. airports:
While this is one of the busier airports in the country, it’s still not a bad place to travel through. The Charlotte airport has a flight cancellation rate of only 1%. Although the airport is growing in traffic, it has done an excellent job of increasing the number of runways and expanding concourses to accommodate more flights. Also, travelers find that CLT is easy to get to and get around. If you find yourself with a longer layover here, you’ll have easy access to free wi-fi, multiple dining and shopping options, and some delightful rocking chairs to relax in (which has become the calling card of this Southern hub).
There are good reasons why this newer, medium-sized airport has been consistently ranked near the top for the last five years. Unlike many others, the Indianapolis airport was designed in a way that allows for optimized flow through TSA checkpoints and baggage checks. Additionally, travelers love the selection of stores and dining available inside the two spacious concourses. Indianapolis International takes pride in its local culture, as well, and visitors will get a good taste of Indy cuisine and history while they’re there.
This New York airport gets a lot of hate from travelers due to its reputation for long delays and flight cancellations. On average, passengers spend 24 minutes in the plane waiting for take off, one of the worst wait times in the country. Wi-fi is difficult to access and many travelers rank LaGuardia low on the cleanliness scale. In addition, those driving to pick up a friend or family member from this airport should plan to leave early and get stuck in traffic. If you want to leave your car at the LaGuardia airport while traveling, expect to pay a pretty penny, as well. Daily parking rates start off at $29. JFK is a better option when flying into and out of New York City.
LA may be a city associated with luxury and excitement, but its airport is consistently ranked near the worst in the country. Visitors to this airport should expect long security lines, not enough seating, expensive food and dirty bathrooms. According to many, traffic to the airport is a nightmare and the lack of signage leads to confusion and frustration. However, there are some multi-billion dollar renovations on the table for LAX that will hopefully improve travelers’ future experiences in the airport.
To some travel agents, working with a large group of people to plan a single trip may sound challenging, but there are tons of benefits to booking group travel, from working with new potential clients to earning more money. From new to seasoned travel agents, here are four crucial tips for planning a harmonious and successful group trip:
Almost every group will have one individual or couple that takes charge in the planning process. Discuss with the members of the group to determine who will be your main point of contact throughout the entire process. This way, you won’t be calling 12 different people every time you confirm a reservation. Also, meetings between you and the client will be far more productive if not every member of the group needs to be there to make a decision.
You’ll find that money will be one of the largest points of dissension among the group if a budget is not agreed upon right off the bat. Some individuals in the group may be fine with paying an extra $100 a night to stay in one hotel, while others would rather save that money to spend on new experiences during the trip. It’s essential that one of your first steps in planning be getting every member to agree on a certain price range for the entire trip to stay within. This will allow you to book lodging, transportation and other activities that every group member will feel comfortable participating in.
As a travel agent, you undoubtedly know the importance of booking a few restaurant reservations for your clients before their trips. However, when the size of the reservation goes from a family of four to a group of 12 adults, unplanned restaurant outings turn from an exciting night out into long waits and hungry, grumpy travelers. Some restaurants may be unable to accommodate such a large party, while others may give you a heads up about an extra charge for serving large groups. If you’re going overseas, keep in mind that some establishments will be cash-only, too.
When traveling in a large group, it will be impossible for everyone to see and do everything they hoped to during their trip. One couple may be more adventurous and want to spend the afternoon hiking in nearby mountains. Another may be hoping to spend hours shopping their way through the city. As you plan the group’s trip, make sure you’re allowing for a large chunk of free time almost every day. That way each member of the group will be able to plan his or her own outings for the day before coming back together in the evening.
Any travel agent knows that no two travelers are exactly alike. Every client that comes to them has their own personality and set of preferences that carry over into their vacation planning. So how does a travel agent become an expert at pairing their clients with their perfect trip? The trick is asking the right questions in order to get to know the unique wants and needs of each traveler. Here are six open-ended questions to ask when planning a trip for your clients:
This is perhaps the most important and obvious question to ask your client, but you’d be surprised how often it’s overlooked. The motivation behind a trip will vary from person to person. Some people may be after a getaway from routine. Others may need a quick trip to refresh and rejuvenate them. From family bonding to self-discovery, every client will have a different motivation for traveling, even if they’re heading to the same destination.
Does your client love nature and outdoor adventure? Do they want to party all night with new people? Is exploring the history and culture around them important? You want to make sure the trip you plan them fits the kind of experience they’re after. A hike through the jungle might sound like the perfect afternoon to an adventure-loving client, but not to someone wanting a relaxing beach vacation. This question will give you an idea of what destinations and activities are the best fit for each client.
Don’t think you can judge this answer based on appearance. You never know if your elderly clients might want to go parasailing or skydiving. Even the most physically fit clients may not be looking for a trip where they have to exert themselves. You might have the perfect activity in mind for a client, but find out that they aren’t able to walk up the many sets of stairs that activity requires. Asking this question shows your clients you’re planning their trip with their physical comfort in mind.
From rare, exotic foods to exciting, foreign cultures, travel offers your clients many new experiences. While some may be up for a trip outside their comfort zones, others may be less thrilled by the prospect. This question not only helps you determine the best destination for your client, but also dining and daily activities.
Some clients go to a travel agent so they can have a detailed itinerary for their entire trip. It’s important for some to stick to a structured schedule for each day of their travels. On the other hand, some clients may not want their days jam-packed with events and instead want the freedom to change their plans when presented with unexpected opportunities. Asking this question lets you know if your client needs a full schedule of daily activities or a simple list of suggestions.
Has your client had a bad experience when traveling in the past? Perhaps a sudden illness that struck overseas or a missed flight that led to an unexpected overnight layover? While it’s impossible to predict most of these unpleasant occurrences, you can do your best to help your client prepare for them in the event they do happen. Find out what your client may be wary about when traveling and work out a plan beforehand. Let them know you’ll be available to help them find a solution if their trip takes an unexpected turn.
Traveling to a new country is an exciting opportunity that you’ll look forward to for months ahead of time. However, before your international adventures can get started, you must first board a long flight across the world. Being unprepared for these long-haul flights can negatively impact your entire vacation. Start your trip off right by following these five tips to survive your next international flight like a pro:
After nine hours in a stuffy airplane, you’ll find that changing clothes can do wonders to refresh your mind and body. Even if you’re flying in the dog days of summer, make sure to pack at least one pair of socks and a sweater. Airplanes will be cold, even if your overhead vent is turned off. For your in-flight outfit, compression gear is a good choice to keep your blood flowing and also keep you warm. About an hour before landing, change into your destination outfit so you’re fresh and energized once the plane lands.
Water is the key to a successful long flight. It’s essential to drink plenty of water the day before, the day of and after your international flight. Staying hydrated while flying also means avoiding alcohol. In fact, drinking on a long flight will only serve to make the experience less comfortable for you by dehydrating your body and messing with your sleep. Pass up on the Jack and Coke and get a glass of ice water each time the flight attendant comes around. All that water you're drinking will mean more bathroom breaks, giving you the added bonus of more opportunities to stretch your legs.
Most international flights offer in-flight entertainment in the back of the seat in front of you. Watching the newest comedy or action blockbuster is a great way to pass the hours, but that can only happen if you have a set of headphones. To fully immerse yourself in the movie and forget your cramped, noisy surroundings, opt for a pair of noise-canceling headphones. That way, the screaming of the baby eight rows back doesn’t work its way into the movie’s main action sequence.
In-flight food often tastes more like a frozen TV dinner than most people prefer, but avoiding food entirely for international flights will only make you hangry (hungry + angry) when you land at your destination. Even if you plan to eat the meals provided by the airlines, pack some healthy snacks for the time between meals. Fruits and nuts make excellent, fiber-rich snacking that will keep your digestive system happy. Try to avoid packing food that is heavy in carbs to avoid adding to the bloatedness that already comes from flying.
Most people’s major complaint after an international flight is how poorly they slept. Before you get to the airport, purchase an eye mask and pack of soft earplugs. Although the pilot will likely dim the overhead lights when you should be sleeping, people are still going to have their overhead lights on and windows open. An eye mask will block out the light and help you zone out of your surroundings. Ear plugs silence the various noises around you and keep you from waking up every time someone hits the flight attendant call button.
Vacations are a time to relax, unwind and enjoy yourself. However, sometimes things don’t always go according to plan, and your dream vacation has become a nightmare. Here are 5 situations where you’ll find yourself wishing you’d let a professional handle all the details of your trip planning:
If you’re traveling outside the country for the first time, you’ll likely be needing a passport before your big trip. Your schedule gets swamped and before you know it you only have a month until you leave and you still haven’t sent in the passport application. According to USPS, it takes approximately 6 to 8 weeks for your passport to be processed. Without a passport, your trip is now a no-go, and you’ll find yourself wishing you’d known to plan ahead of time. Travel agents are aware of the time frame needed to get a new passport and can tell you where to go to get the picture taken and the times of year that approval may take longer.
With the vast amounts of information available online, it’s nearly impossible to know where even start to find accurate information about your upcoming trip. What flights do you need? How will you get to and from the airport? Where is your hotel located? What local customs do you need to be aware of? In addition to all of the research necessary for a trip abroad, you may find booking your hotel and flights is more of a hassle than you imagined. Between language barriers, fine print and hidden charges, you’ll probably need a vacation just from booking your vacation. A travel agent would have handled the entire booking process for you and provided you with the information you needed to know about your destination.
It’s all too common to hear nightmare stories about miserable international flights. Sure, you might be saving $100 booking the economy seat on that travel site, but is it worth it? A 9-hour flight can seem like it lasts forever if you’re stuck wedged between two complete strangers and rows behind your travel companion(s). If you’d booked with a travel agent, they would have made sure you were seated with your family or friends and even secured you one of those coveted window or aisle seats.
Remember all that information you found on the internet when you were researching your trip? It may have failed to inform you that your hotel is located in the heart of the most dangerous part of the city. The quality and location of the hotel you stay in makes a huge impact on the overall mood of your trip. Even if your hotel is in a good location, there can still be problems with overbooking or canceled reservations. A travel agent knows what parts of town have the safest, nicest hotels, will call ahead of time and confirm your hotel room or alert the hotel if you’re running late to check in.
Just because you're on vacation doesn’t mean you're immune to catching a flu or cold bug, or, in the worst cases, a medical emergency. Finding ibuprofen, antihistamines or cough medicine can be far from easy in a foreign country where there isn’t a drugstore on every corner. And how do you know if that urgent care or hospital will be covered by your insurance? You didn’t even know you needed to get a medical insurance policy to leave the country. While a travel agent can’t prevent sudden sickness while traveling, they can make sure you’re properly prepared in the event illness strikes. Travel agents can work with you and your insurance to get you a policy that covers you during your trip and quickly find you a reputable doctor near your hotel or resort.
As members of the hospitality industry, travel agents bread and butter comes from the relationships they have with their clients. However, between attracting new clients and retaining old ones, it’s easy to slip into a sales-only mindset and neglect building real connections with your customers. If this struggle sounds all too familiar, take a look at these tips on how to build strong, genuine relationships with your clients:
Your clients aren’t coming to you to buy a car; they’re there to get help planning their dream vacation. However, if they come in and feel like they're being talked at instead of listened to and engaged with, they probably won’t come back.
Yes, sales talk will work its way into your discussion, but if you’ve spent time learning what the client is looking for and asking them questions, it will work itself into the conversation much more naturally and successfully.
Also, this conversation shouldn’t stop after your client’s trip is over. Reach out to them and ask for feedback on how it went and what you can do better for them in the future.
A major advantage independent travel agents have over those big travel websites is the ability to pick up the phone when a client calls you with an emergency. Let your client know once the trip is booked, you are still there for them to answer questions or find solutions to unexpected situations.
This may mean waking up in late at night to find a client a new flight when the first one gets delayed or quickly responding to a Facebook message with a list of doctor’s offices near your client's hotel. Being reachable via phone, email and social media gives peace of mind to your clients and shows them you care about the quality of their trip even after you’ve been paid.
Every independent travel agent offers a unique set of knowledge and experiences that they’ve gained during their career. Sharing these stories with clients shows them you care about your job for more than just a paycheck.
Include a bio on your website explaining what drew you to a career as an independent travel agent and why you love fulfilling other’s travel dreams. When meeting with clients, don’t be afraid to let them know if you’ve traveled to their planned destination and what you loved about the experience.
These personal touches can work the other way as well. Ask clients what means of communication they prefer and when they want to contacted. If a client has a large family, tell them about the best family-friendly activities, tours and restaurants in the area they’re staying. Personalization is crucial to lasting client-agent relationships.
You worked hard to get those clients who come back to you for all their travel needs. Now, be sure they know you appreciate them and want to continue working with them in the future.
Whether offering loyalty programs or even taking them out to dinner after they return from a big trip, remind these clients that they are special to you. Never assume you’re entitled to their business and no longer need to work on that relationship.
You can find more success from a strong base of loyal clients than dozens of new ones. In fact, statistics from Gartner, Inc. say that 80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers. Keep this in mind and nurture your existing relationships so those loyal clients keep coming back vacation after vacation.
Building genuine relationships with your clients is rewarding for everyone involved. It allows clients’ needs to be better met and also keeps them coming back to you for future travels. Independent travel agents who put in the extra work to grow these relationships will find they have a more successful and fulfilling career!
The New Year brings a fresh start and like many, you likely made a few resolutions. Resolutions are great ways to set your mind towards a goal and better yourself. As an independent travel agent, some of your resolutions likely revolve around creating a larger client list and increasing your sales. Here are 4 resolutions for travel agents that will ultimately help you achieve those goals as well!
Attend training events.
As a home-based travel agent, there’s no harm in continuing your education through training events. In fact, you’ll actually benefit from it. Not only will you make connections with other agents who could refer you down the road, you’ll also stay at the forefront of the industry making you a go-to travel agent.
Bonus: With Outside Agent Link, all levels of travel agents get access to Travel Leaders meetings as well as training events.
Utilize social media.
If you’re not using social media already, or if you’re just using it sporadically, consider making it a bigger part of your process. Social media is a great way to help show potential clients your personality as well as showcase your knowledge of the travel industry.
Bonus: We want you to be as successful as possible. Here are a few ways your travel agency can use social media effectively.
After all, you likely got into the industry because of your desire to share your love of travel with others. Don’t let life and work get in the way of enjoying your own passion of traveling. Have you always dreamed of going somewhere exotic? What about a simple escape to a nearby town? You work hard as a travel agent, so treat yourself to trips that will keep you inspired to plan amazing trips for your clients.
Bonus: If you specialize in planning trips to specific destinations make it a goal to visit that destination in the new year. You may already have familiarity with the location from previous trips there, but it never hurts to refresh your memory and take a break from the daily grind of travel agency life!
Take a step back and look at the big picture.
It’s easy to get lost in the planning and ultimately fail in making connections with your clients. In 2017, aim to look at things from a wider lens. This will help you keep from getting bogged down in planning and will ensure you’re making valuable relationships with all of your clients. Better client relationships will mean more referrals and most likely an increase client retention.
Make 2017 your best year yet with these resolutions for travel agents!
Creating your travel agent company name can be hard and you’re probably wondering how to even come up with a good name. Below you’ll find a few tricks that may just help you come up with the next best name in the industry!
1. Look to see what other companies in the industry are named.
You don’t want to copy any of their names, but this gives you a good opportunity to see some examples of good company names (and in some cases bad ones as well). Take note of some of the names that stand out to you and ask yourself why they stand out.
2. Think about your target audience and your brand.
Jot down all of the words that come to mind when you think of your target audience. For example, are you planning trips for families? If so, you could write down words like, “family fun”, “kid activities” or “family bonding”.
After you’ve brainstormed some words that describe your target audience and their desires, think about your brand. What is your brand? In other words, who are you? Who do you want to be? How do you want people to perceive you?
The words you write down during this brainstorming session may never make it to the final company name, but it helps you get your creative juices flowing and allows you to focus on the important aspects of your company.
3. Keep your name short and to the point.
You want your name to be easy to say and easy to remember, so don’t come up with a 4-word company name or try to utilize extravagant wording that your average person will not understand. You also don’t want to use weird, different or extremely quirky spellings of words. For example, “business” spelled “biziness”.
Your name is the first thing that potential customers will see, so you want it to easily give them clues to what your company does.
4. Have a meaning behind your name.
The meaning behind your name doesn’t have to be spectacular, but it’s always great to have a connection to your name. You’ve worked hard to build your business, so why not have a name that strikes a nerve with you?
The tips above are great starting points if you’re stuck in a naming rut, but as you fumble through the naming process add in your own brainstorming techniques. After all, naming your travel agent company is your choice and there are many different ways to come up with a name that fits you and your company.
Many people choose to travel in November, as it is a great opportunity to explore the world before the craziness of the holidays set in. Tickets and vacation packages also tend to be cheaper during this time, as most people are saving up their money and vacation days to travel for the holidays, which means you get to take advantage of great savings!
Here are our picks for the 4 best cities to visit in November:
Where do you want to go this November?
Family vacations to a new and exciting location are a wonderful way to create cherished memories that will last for a lifetime! But traveling and vacationing with children can be stressful and overwhelming, especially if you’re not prepared. Follow our tips on how to prepare for traveling with kids to ensure that your family vacation is successful and fun for everyone!
Work with your travel agent to find activities, museums, and other fun stuff to see and do that is kid-friendly and will keep your children entertained. Most major cities have children’s museums, but there are other attractions—like monuments, galleries, and museums—that may not have a kid focus, but would still be appropriate for children. You agent should be able to help you narrow it down.
Before you set off on your vacation, do some research on a few restaurants you’re interested in trying in the cities you’re going to visit. Input your hotel’s address to find restaurants within close distance to where you’re staying or what attractions you’re visiting. Have your kids look at the menus beforehand so you know that they’ll find something on the menu they’d like to eat (to avoid any meltdowns in the restaurant later).
Everything from coloring books, to actual books, to an iPad stocked with games and kid-friendly movies will keep your kiddos entertained during the more lackluster parts of the trip (like on the plane or driving to your hotel).
Many people operate under the false impression that being a travel agent is a dying career field. In reality, The American Society of Travel Agents says that 41% of Millennials used a travel advisor in the past year. The travel agent industry is growing every year, and more people are relying on our expertise and experience to book successful trips year after year.
"We must be happy with who we serve, and the customer needs to be happy with who they work with. We no longer have anyone coming to us 'shopping' for a trip, or price- instead, we have an engagement together with a full review with the client with clarity to avoid any disappointment."
- Ralph Iontasca
“I have been associated with Travel Leaders, Thomas Hogan Travel in Myrtle Beach since the early ‘90’s. When I first joined this group I had little knowledge of the Travel business.
With the information provided when you become an ‘outside agent’ you soon learn the rules of business and agency ethics. Now any job is not too big or too small to give the clients the attention that they deserve.
I look forward to many years of the fine service that the employees of Thomas Hogan give to their outside agents. My website at the “outsideagentlink.com”, gives my clients a place to make contact with me in a professional manner that gives them confidence in my ability to give them good service as a travel agent."
- Warren "Al" Sandham
“What we sell in terms of cruises is a commodity. It’s the worst thing in the world to sell. I made sure everyone in the agency understands they are selling themselves. We focus on the value we add and never forget the fact we’re there to make somebody happy.”
- Gary Smith
“I have never regretted this decision. Not only do we as agents have the ability to earn as much as we want but we have the tools to work with. Training is always available. I especially appreciate all the assistance that is given to help complete a travel plan for a client, promptness with the commissions, the web site for each of us and the communications. Someone is always willing to help and answer questions. I am impressed with the professionalism and the fact that the suppliers have a great respect for the company.”
- Audrey Pierce
Summer is in full swing, but if you haven’t planned your getaway yet, there’s a number of great places to see without breaking your budget. July is a great time to visit countries in the southern hemispheres, as they’re experiencing cooler temperatures than most of the US.
When it comes to romance, few cities are better to visit than Tuscany in Italy. Think of it as date night at your favorite Italian restaurant on a much larger scale. July is the best time to visit, as it is nice and warm, which means the perfect weather for taking a vineyard tour, shopping, or lounging poolside at your rented villa.
News of the Brexit vote means that travel to the UK from the US has become a bit more affordable. The great thing about going to Wales is that it is chock full of adventurous activities, like zip lining, hiking, surfing, and rock climbing (to name a few). If you like festivals, Cardiff hosts a great international food & drink festival in mid-July that allows you to get a true taste of the Motherland.
Like much of the US, most of the citizens of Helsinki go on vacation in July, meaning that the city is much more affordable, and it feels a lot more private than other times of the year. Attractions include architecture museums, design studios, and more! Come hungry, because Helsinki is revolutionizing Nordic cuisine.
There’s been a lot of discussion recently about whether travel agents are still relevant today compared to do-it-yourself websites that abound online. The short answer: yes, travel agents have more expertise and connections that those DIY sites lack. We read a lot of things about travel agents, some true and some not so much. So we decided to take a deeper look and debunk some of the biggest myths about travel agents:
As our hundreds of independent travel agents can attest, this is simply not true. According to the American Association of Travel Agents, agents sell 51% of airline tickets, 87% of cruises, and 81% of tours and packages for travel. Travel agents are still both relevant and effective in the travel industry!
Have you ever tried to book a family vacation to Paris without ever having been there? There are so many factors that go into planning a big vacation like that: where will you stay? What will you see? Where will you eat? What’s a good price to pay for airfare? Travel agents handle the details so you have the best vacation possible. So it may be true that you can get cheaper baseline tickets to things, but travel agents have the inside track to getting upgrades, perks, and packages that are sometimes based on vendor-agent relationships (that you’re not likely to find online).
Like doctors and lawyers, travel agents all have a base line of experience and training, but many of them choose to specialize in different locations or vacation types. When you’re looking to book a family trip, find an agent who specializes in that kind of travel (rather than, say, a business travel agent). Always make sure you’re doing business with an agent who has proper training and good connections like all of our OAL agents.
As you may have guess from the aforementioned statistics, travel agents can arrange a whole slew of services besides just flights and hotels. They can also arrange car rentals, personalized tours and experiences, restaurant reservations and recommendations, and package deals in addition to being a great resource for knowing what sites to see and which to skip, what area of town is safe to stay in, and other insider info.
Starting a home-based travel agency has a number of perks and flexibilities that traditional jobs lack. Here are some of top reasons to start a career as an independent travel agent:
Being a travel agent can be an extremely rewarding and fun career that allows you to help people see the world. But it’s not a career for everyone. It requires a lot of dedication, personality, and attention to detail. If you’re ready to start your career as a travel agent, follow these tips to be successful:
Remember, the happier you can make people, the more likely they are to return to you in the future. Think of the long term, rather than just the immediate sale, and emphasize building a long term and sustainable client base. Ready to get started with your travel agent business? Learn about our programs and how you can earn up to 80% commission!
Travel sales isn't easy. In fact, it takes a lot of customer service and going the extra mile to make it work. At Outside Agent Link, we know that not all host agencies are one-size-fits all. Here are five tips for choosing the right agency for you:
1. Consider fees vs. return
Many host agencies charge a monthly or annual fee. What do you get for this fee? Though $15-20/month might not sound like a lot, it can add up on your expenses line item. Especially if you're just starting out, research which host agencies charge the most, the least and what services it includes. Also check the fine print because many agencies will charge hidden fees.
2. Show me the support
If you're getting started in the travel business, it's important to surround yourself with a team (even remotely) who can help you succeed. Some host agencies claim to offer support, but it's not 24/7 or it's just a series of pre-recorded webinars. You need a live human being who can answer your specific questions, so be sure your host agency offers that. At Outside Agent Link, for example, we send weekly emails detailing promotions for various vendors, things to keep in mind and tips for your success. Not to mention our 24/7 customer service support line!
3. What does training look like?
Training is just as important when it comes to travel sales. And you don't want to be trained by just anyone; you want a seasoned travel professional who can tell you the ins and outs of dealing with airlines, cruiselines and other vendors. You need to learn the jargon, negotiation tips and more. Choose a host agency that has a good training program--and be sure that it doesn't cost thousands of dollars.
Be sure that your host agency offers the options to create a branded website (or have one created for you), as well as email marketing and other options. These services can cost you thousands of dollars a year and any time a host agency can help you out, you will be happy. Everything is going digital these days, so you need to take part in the online marketing game whether it be through advertising, email marketing or social media. Be sure your host agency is on top of these trends and willing to help you in any way they can!
5. Continued education
Though this can go under "support," it's important that travel agents are always abreast of new and happening trends in travel. This is especially true if you want to garner any younger clients. What's the hot new destination for summer? Are people paying more to get better seats or more small luxuries aboard an airline? How is booking travel changing with the introduction of technology? These are all things you need to know, and your host agency can help!
As you may have guessed, Outside Agent Link offers all of this and much more to our travel agents. We hope that if you're considering a new host agency, you'll take a look at our home-based travel agent programs.
Our sister company, Thomas Hogan Vacations, is no stranger to helping out stranded travelers, and this week was no different. Due to Winter Storm Jonas, we had clients seemingly stuck in San Juan, Puerto Rico (because their travel took them through Charlotte, NC). They were told that all flights were canceled and the airlines weren't going to be able to rebook them for another three days. Naturally, they called our agents.
Krissi and Ashley got to work immediately and worked until 9pm that night to get all Thomas Hogan clients rerouted home. All passengers were home or stateside on their originally-scheduled night.
This is just one of many, many examples we have of travel agents coming to the rescue of their valued clients. Airlines can't always do a lot to help you, so it's important that you have a travel advocate and expert on your side.
If you're thinking about becoming a travel agent, this is the kind of customer service and extra attention it takes to compete in this market. It's not just about low fares. People want to know that they have someone on their side to help out when things go wrong. And if you are shopping for a host agency, these are the people you want training and supporting you!
Are you ready to become an independent travel agent with loyal clients like Thomas Hogan Vacations'? We're the host agency you want!
Is there anything better than going somewhere and feeling truly small, truly changed and truly inspired? We think not. Here are five amazing (and shareable) inspiring travel quotes from Project Inspo. Now, where are we going next?
Travel Leaders is the leading travel franchise in the United States. So why be affiliated with them? We'll tell you the advantages right now:
1. Expand your network
There are over 4,000 independent travel agents associated with Travel Leaders across the nation. That's a pretty amazing potential network of agents you can tap for expertise requests, partnership opportunities and more.
2. Emphasis on customer service
Travel Leaders has an amazing reputation for agents with impeccaable customer service records, as well as personalized travel planning. Taking a custom approach is something all clients appreciate.
3. Award winners
Travel Leaders has been awarded with 65 prestigious travel industry awards since 2009. That's more than 10 per year to date!
4. Marketing help
You don't need to worry that you're not a marketing guru. Travel Leaders and Outside Agent Link sets you up with marketing - including a website and email marketing - to help you find clients for your burgeoning business (or help clients find you). Travel Leaders also has several tools on its site to aid potential clients in finding your agency once you're listed! You can choose to specialize in a "travel interest" as well (such as destination weddings, eco-adventure, and more) so that your clientele and business stay more niche.
Independent travel agents tell us all the time: Canada is underrated. Some people love to poke fun at the Mounties or call the nation "America's Hat." But the fact is that there is not only a lot to do in Canada, its serene beauty is awe-inspiring. Here are a few places we think your clients would love to visit - from nature lovers to urban aficionados.
Jasper National Park - Alberta
This is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, located in Alberta. We think we can let this breathtaking picture from National Geographic speak for itself:
The Tulip Festival - Ottawa (May)
This festival is the perfect outing: gorgeous flowers, artists in the gardens, a Royal Tea Party and more!
Toronto's Wine Country
The Urban Wineries Tour goes from Niagra and back in the spring and summer. Spend 4-5 hours sipping on delicious Canadian wines of all kinds (just make sure you take a cab back to your hotel).
Got other suggestions for visiting Canada in the spring? Tweet us: @OAgentLink!
Independent travel agents, you cannot ignore your email and content marketing as a viable tool for finding new clients. And the holidays are a perfect time to get people thinking about travel. How? Here are a few ideas:
1. Ask for referrals
You know what they say: referrals are the best marketing. Therefore, send your loyal clients an email and ask them to share their great adventures with friends. Encourage them to forward the email to friends. Maybe you give them an incentive to share, maybe you give the recipients incentive as well. You can try free upgrades or deals if some of the vendors you use run holiday promotions anyway. If you think it's too much to ask someone to forward a marketing email, ask for testimonials from your current clients and put them on your social media accounts and website to add more legitimacy and authority to your site.
2. Stay social
Social media is buzzing this time of year with deals and articles and people reaching out to each other. Stay top-of-mind by updating your Facebook page with relevant travel information and specials. Encourage people to think outside the box with their gift-giving and plan a trip instead of buying things!
3. Blog posts
Your website is an invaluable tool. People need to find you and your differentiators quickly and easily on search engines. A great way to ensure your content is always fresh on your site is to start a blog. You can write about places you've been or places you've sent clients (that they loved); you can also write about what to do in different regions and what to avoid. It's a great resource for your clients, but helps new people find your business as well. You can start 2016 off with a bang by having a full-fledge content strategy with a blog.
Got more ideas for holiday marketing? Tweet them to us @oagentlink!
Arriving at a destination without your luggage is an awful way to start your vacation and your customer deserves better. Travel insurance can reimburse for the replacement of essential items and turn around the bad beginning!
Many U.S. Healthcare & Medicare plans don't cover international travel
If clients have an accident or become seriously ill and are unable to fly home via normal airline service back to the United States, this can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Travel insurance, however, can help cover the costs when your client's healthcare provider won't.
Lost or forgotten medication?
You want your customers to be healthy and happy on their vacation. That's the key to repeat business. No matter where your customers are, your clients can contact the insurer's travel assistance services to help them easily locate a pharmacy to purchase the medicine they need.
Vendor goes out of business
When times get rough, companies can file for bankruptcy without notice. History proves this can happen even to highly popular, veteran travel companies. Travel insurance can pay back pre-paid expenses if a cruise line, airline or tour operator goes out of business, which is great for an unpredictable economy.
Cash is King
A refund isn't really a refund unless you can spend it anywhere you want on whatever you want. It's too bad that when something goes wrong, airlines and cruise lines usually only issue credit vouchers with lots of stipulations. Travel insurance, on the other hand, can get your customers their money back. It's the best way to protect the client's valuable investment and assure that even if this vacation doesn't go as planned, they'll soon be planning another one with the help of you, their invaluable travel agent.
If you think "entrepreneur," you might think of a 20-something white male in a hoodie up at all hours on the Internet. But the truth is that entrepreneurship has changed. The fast-moving tech world is giving rise to all kinds of personalities and people from various backgrounds seeing success. So what can you learn from them? The answer is a lot! They're hard-working individuals driven to disrupt their industry. And Outside Agent Link, as well as the travel industry as a whole, could use some disruptive and innovative individuals. Here are some of the great pieces of advice we've read:
"Being comfortable is the enemy." - Sara Rotman
"The best advice I ever received was from my first accountant when I was discussing the launch of my company," says Rotman, founder of ad agency MODCo, which has clients like Vera Wang, True Religion, and Tory Burch. "We were speaking about my business plan and how much money to borrow to launch. She wisely said, 'Only have enough cash on hand to barely survive; never so much that you are comfortable. It's important to stay scared in the beginning.'"
"Do the work. Out-work. Out-think. Out-sell your expectations. There are no shortcuts." - Mark Cuban
"Don't be afraid to ask for help." -Chip Wilson
You can't be afraid to ask for help. No one knows it all, but you're not going to learn anything without asking questions.
"Simplicity is everything." -Dan Horan
We love this advice because as business owners, we tend to overcomplicate things. Often the simplest answer is the one that gets the job done--and with the most efficiency. It's also the most effective way to communicate: simply.
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others."
This one is from us! This is actually an old proverb that emphasizes the importance of surrounding yourself with the right team. At Outside Agent Link, for example, we know that in order for our at-home travel agents to be successful, they have to have the right support and training. That's why we offer both consistently and for a lot less than our competitors.
Working from home requires a lot of discipline because, let's face it, there are a lot of distractions at home: dishes that need to be washed, dogs that need to be walked, kids that need to be tended to, etc. Some people can find themselves doing everything but working when they're at home. We've rounded up the five ways to know if becoming one of our home-based travel agents is for you:
1. You are highly organized
This is a trait that cannot be understated while working from home. A successful work-from-home professional needs to be able to compartmentalize his or her time in order to maximize productivity. If you get easily distracted, often forget to finish assignments, or are a multi-tasker, you might need to brush up on your organization skills before committing to a full-time, work-from-home gig.
2. You work smarter, not harder
One of the best reasons to work from home is having a great work/life balance: you're not stuck in the car for a long commute or in endless meetings all day. But that fact is negated if you have to work harder to get things done at home. You will be very successful if you are always looking for a better process or way of doing something. If you need a little help, try starting with these tips:
- Track your time to find out how much time you're spending on various tasks
- Prioritize tasks and use organizational tools to save time
- Simplify client communication with regular follow-ups and updates via email marketing
3. You are results-driven
Working from home can feel aimless without measurable goals in place and a strategy to achieve them. Therefore, being results-driven is the ultimate key to success. Make S.M.A.R.T goals (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, time-bound) and create a process for measuring your success and a timeline for how often you'll assess success.
If you have these three qualities, or are willing to work on them, you are sure to be a great success working from home. But what are you going to do? Our independent travel agent programs might be a great fit for you; you can test it with this quick quiz.
Being a home-based travel agent is a lot of fun, but it also requires a lot of hard work. Think you've got what it takes? Take our quiz below and find out!
For each true answer, give yourself 3 points. For each false answer, give yourself 1 point. Give yourself the amount of points corresponding with your answers that begin with "On a scale of 1-10."
1. True or False: I'm a great communicator.
2. True or False: I'm good at managing my time independently.
3. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being best), how often do you try to learn new things?
4. True or False: I am a problem-solver.
5. True or False: I am a good negotiator.
6. True or False: I like serving others.
7. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being best), I like to keep up with new technology.
8. True or False: I am very organized.
9. True or False: I know how to network.
10. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being best), I am a people person.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
0-21 points: You may make a good travel agent, but it is probably not your passion.
20-25 points: You will be a good travel agent, but it might require work on your organizational and people skills to optimize your chance of success.
26-40 points: You should definitely pursue a career as an independent travel agent.
41-51 points: What are you waiting for? This is your passion and it's time to take the next step!
Here are some things that your travel agent wants you to know!
What to Pack
Aside from the essentials (don’t forget your toothbrush), here are a few things you may not have thought about bringing (but our agents recommend):
Two semi-formal outfits for a Captains Dinner and an evening out
A light sweater if flying on a plane
Comfortable shoes for excursions and exploring
Water shoes for boating
Nausea medicine (just in case)
An underwater camera
Small bills if you wish to tip your crew
More sunscreen than you think
Things to Consider
--When booking, make sure you talk to your travel agent about potential weather in that area. For example, summer is hurricane season in the Caribbean and you may experience more rain than you want to on your trip. Your agent should be able to discuss with you the best times to visit (and book)!
--If traveling to an international destination, be sure to brush up on your conversational language of that country or bring a digital translator. You don’t want to be stuck in a tiny town needing to use the restroom with no way to communicate, believe us.
--Pre-booking your excursions can help you plan better for your trip – including budgeting and packing. If you’re more of a spontaneous type, ask your travel agent which excursions are the best and which you should avoid.
--Know your safety options. Talk to your travel agent about any potential hazards at your stops. Your agent can speak to any of your concerns—from rip currents to crime.
The moral of this article is: be prepared. Talk to your agent about any and all concerns and get his or her ideas on things to see and do. You don’t want to miss out on anything and your agent is your best guide!
This may seem like a no-brainer in a sales role, but there are plenty of people out there who want to become independent travel agents who don’t know how to deal with people. The most successful travel agents are ones that make the client feel at ease and can convey trustworthiness. After all, many customers are taking your advice and flying around the world hoping that you know what you’re talking about! Opening the conversation (yes, even on the telephone) with a smile will start conversations out on the right foot. And if a client is late on a deposit, you can keep them off the defensive by simply being friendly.
They never stop learning
There is no such thing as knowing enough about travel. This world is a huge and sometimes daunting place. Many travel agents have an area of expertise, a place they’ve traveled many times and know like the back of their hand. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be opening to trying new vendors, new destinations and new modes of transportation. Learning is the key to success and you will be able to bestow that knowledge on your clients, making their trips more seamless and less stressful.
They’re not afraid to go to bat
Using a travel agent is not mandatory anymore. Travel agents have to go beyond the pale to keep their clients coming back trip after trip—and sending their friends to you as well. The best travel agents are the ones who are willing to go to bat for their customers—especially when something goes awry. Don’t be afraid to get down and dirty with an airline or cruiseline that canceled your client’s trip. They won’t soon forget it.
Offer Personalized Service – Dale from California
“The most important thing to remember when selling travel is that everyone has a computer and therefore thinks they can get the best deals. They’re coming to you for a personal touch, so don’t be afraid to go above and beyond for clients. Repeat business from a loyal customer is worth more than anything!”
Lend your Expertise – Lana from Tennessee
“Sometimes clients will come to me who are skeptical about using a travel agent. But once they see that I can give them the expertise that a reviews website (and strangers) can’t, they’re sold. Experienced travel agents can read people, tell them where to go, recommend excursions, and shop vendors to get the best prices and upgrades.”
Go Big – Tricia from Georgia
“People come to travel agents because they want the experience of a lifetime. I like to present my clients with great, big options for the vacations of their dreams. They may not take it today, but you can be saving up to take that trip later!”
Be Their Advocate – Ashley from South Carolina
“The human element is the reason people are moving from shopping on faceless travel sites to working with travel agents again. They know that saving 5% is nothing if they don’t have someone to call if things go wrong. Work hard to get them the deal and be there to follow-up with them.”
Build Relationships – Rose from Illinois
“Whether I’m building relationships with vendors or clients, I’m always keen to be polite and patient. It really does make all the difference—especially when dealing with complex travel plans and international trips.”
When it comes to travel, there can sometimes feel like a lot of confusion with vendors and tours. What's the difference in an American Plan and a Modified American Plan for meals, for example? To best serve your clients, independent travel agents need to know the quick and easy way to explain these terms. Here's a breakdown of some that are often perplexing:
High Season - The time of year where this destination is most popular, when there may be a possible increase in price for rooms, tours and services.
All-inclusive - This term can be used by travel agents to explain that the fare includes airfare and land accomodations. It may also be used by resorts to explain rates that include meals, entertainment and/or excursions.
Baggage fees - All U.S. airlines except Southwest now charge baggage fees. Most clients may think they can avoid this by not checking baggage, but some airlines charge for carry-ons as well. It's best to familiarize yourself with these fees and inform your clients before they book their trip.
Add-on fare - A transportation fee (such as bus or airfare) that may be appended to a client's itinerary to get him or her to the tour's departure city.
Double Occupancy Rate - Hotels use this term to describe the rate per person based on two people staying in a room.
Double Room Rate - Hotels use this term to describe the rate per room with two people staying in it.
Travel insurance - Clients can purchase this through a tour operator or service provider so that they may receive a refund in the event that they need to cancel due to illness, baggage loss, etc. It is voluntary for a client to purchase this and may not be offered by some operators and vendors.
Continental Breakfast - Cold breakfast items, such as milk, muffins, pastries, butter and jam.
American Plan - Three meals
Modified American Plan - Breakfast and dinner
Now that you're equipped with knowledge about the more confusing terms, you're ready to sell to new clients and help them plan a trip of their dreams!
Email marketing is not dead--as long as you're doing it right. Email is still a very powerful and viable option for generating leads and cultivating relationships with current and potential clients. But it has to be done right. So how do you do it "right?" Here are a few tips for success: 1) Don't spam. This is the cardinal sin of email marketing. Don't just put a boring newsletter together and email it to everyone on your list. And certainly don't put a catchy headline that generates a great open rate but fails to deliver with the email's content. Those are two great ways to generate a lot of "Unsubscribes." 2. Tailor content to your audience There's no reason you should send out the exact same marketing emails to current and prospective clients. They each want something different from you. Your current clients are looking for their connection with you to be deepened. Your prospective clients are still looking for a reason to do business with you and not someone else. Tailoring your content and sending out just two lists could make a huge impact. 3. Test, test, and test again Don't be afraid to test varying subject lines, send times and images in each of your email marketing sends. It's important you understand exactly what people are responding to so that you can deliver more of that and less of what they don't want. Don't send something just to send it. 4. Make it fun Our inboxes are already riddled with boring stuff. Make your emails a breath of fresh air by writing compelling content that people will actually want to read. Spotlight a particular place--whether it be a city to visit, a restaurant with an incredible signature dish at that destination, or a site to see. Highlight a current customer who had a terrific trip and share their testimonial. Offer travel tips, promotions and fun anecdotes. Write your emails to your customers with as much gumption as you would start a dinner conversation with them. 5. Find the balance At first, it can be difficult to find the right amount of sends for your customer. Maybe they want to see something from you once a quarter. Maybe they want to see something bi-weekly. Ask your customers what they want from you and test appropriately. If you get on a bi-weekly schedule, however, make sure that you have something compelling to share that often. If you have doubts, then start with once a month or every two months. You can always increase, but decreasing can be confusing to your recipients. Got more email marketing tips? Tweet us: @oagentlink!
School might be back in session for most, but it's still summer out there, and that means there are still ways we can enjoy it (even if it's on the weekends)! Here are five perfect activities for the hot days and nights of August:
1. Make a frozen treat
It's hotter outside than it has been all year, so it's the perfect time to get creative with your DIY. If you're in the mood for a light, cool refreshment, then try making a frozen lemonade or root beer popsicle. If you prefer something with a little more punch, you can try a boozy milkshake. And for the less adventurous (but equally as thirsty), there's always the standby frozen margarita.
2. Catch up on your reading
Pleasure reading makes the world go 'round -- or at least your brain cells. It's been a leisurely summer, so don't forget to jump start your cognitive skills with some good reading. May we suggest: BossyPants by Tina Fey, The Sunlight Night by Rebecca Dinerstein and The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson.
3. Host a theme party
Nothing brings people together like a great theme party. Try something fun like a Roaring '20s Soiree, a Superhero Social or a Greaser Get-Together. All you need are some finger foods, great music and a signature cocktail to keep the party rolling into the hot summer night.
4. Dig in
Have you neglected your garden or yard this summer? Seeing patches of yellow from a dry spell or too many weeds from a Southern weather saturation? It's the perfect time to take back the yard and prepare it for cooler months ahead. Plus, gardening is proven to be therapeutic. Just don't forget your sunscreen!
5. Do nothing at all
Dog days of summer are also built for something else: sleep and relaxation. If you want to just kick back in a hammock or on the beach with a friend, don't feel guilty. The cooler months are fast approaching so soak up that sun while you still have a chance!
One key to being a successful independent travel agent and setting yourself apart from other agents is to make sure that you’re always up on current events, new technology, and trends. With so many sites out there, it can often be difficult to figure out which travel sites are the best resources.
Here are our picks for the top 5 travel news sites:
TravelPulse.com is an excellent resource for travel agents. This site aggregates breaking news that impacts travel in the US and abroad. Featuring the latest and greatest news about airports, car rentals, entertainment, tourism, hotels, and factors impacting travel, TravelPulse.com makes it easy for you to keep your clients up-to-date on their upcoming trips.
The United States Tour Operators Association’s website is full of helpful info for beginner and established travel agents. Their site helps you think like an agent and gives you advice on things like volume purchasing for group travel and their blog is a great resource for finding more info on destinations you haven’t visited yet.
The TSA’s travel agent resource website is full of FAQs about travel, printable travel info regarding governmental regulations (like the 3-1-1 liquid rule for air travel), and tips for traveling with children, and best practices for packing different items in your suitcase.
TravelWeekly.com features breaking news on travel industry information, especially cruise ship info. They also host travel chats on Twitter weekly where you can get advice from other agents or weigh in on your travel experiences. Other resources include webinars, deals, research, and photos that will come in handy when planning travel for clients.
Including both USAtoday.com/Travel and 10Best.com travel guides, USA Today makes it easy for you to give travel advice to clients as if you were local to that area. Learn the best places to eat, see, and stay with advice from real travelers.
What are your favorite travel resources? Let us know in the comments!
No matter what industry you're in, there are three qualities that all successful small business owners possess. And having these qualities is a great way to ascertain whether or not you're ready to take on the challenge of becoming your own boss and selling travel as an independent agent. All successful small business owners possess the powers of:
The business landscape is ever-changing with the constant influx of new technology, so it is very important that small business owners are able to adapt and change business processes to better aid their customers. Likewise, it's also important that they are able to ascertain if a new technology is something that will help or hinder a customer's experience, and how to tell if something is just a flash in the pan.
When you think about it, this one is pretty easy to see. After all, going to work for yourself is not an easy feat. In order to go out on that limb alone, you have to possess a certain amount of confidence. And oftentimes, you have to "fake it 'til you make it." If you've got the confidence to go in the direction of your dreams, then you will be able to ask for the sale, and then the sky is the limit for you as a businessperson!
The best small business owners are first and foremost natural (or seemingly natural) self-promoters. They make connections with people that influence their markets and industry. They take the first step to put themselves--and their companies--out there. It may seem like a daunting task, but this is a power you must possess (or teach yourself) in order to be successful. It is important to make connections seem organic and not just for your gain. Creating relationships are key to any business venture, especially when it comes to the customer.
What other qualities do you think successful business owners possess?
Working from home can be a difficult endeavor, especially for those of us home-based travel agents who have trouble staying focused or managing our time. To make matters worse, you've got distractions like social media and Buzzfeed. Luckily, there are tons of organizational tools that will help you stay on task. Here are a few of our favorites:
What is it? A virtual organizer that allows you to save links from the Internet, take notes and track tasks. And that's just the basic package!
The convenience and ease of Evernote cannot be overstated. As an organizational tool, almost nothing beats it. Additionally, Evernote has a great iPhone app that allows you to stay organized even when you're on the go (or traveling, yourself)!
What is it? A time tracking tool.
Toggl is an easy-to-use time tracking tool that will allow you to see just how much time you spend on single tasks or clients, allowing you to evaluate and optimize your task times. It is also available in an app, too, if you find the desktop version too inconvenient to use.
What is it? A social media management tool
If social media is a priority for your independent travel business, you should consider using this tool. Hootsuite allows you to write and pre-schedule content across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. You save time and keep your social media sites fresh. Also, it offers link tracking capabilities if you're linking to your website.
What is it? An email marketing tool
MailChimp is a very simple-to-use email marketing tool that can allow you to keep in contact with your clients, telling them about current specials happening or sending out a monthly newsletter. The templates are easy to use, you can link to your website or social channels from the email, and you can manage your contacts (and send different promotions to different target audiences).
What is it? A note-taking and tasking tool
If you're the kind of person who loves to write things on cocktail napkins and post-it notes, then Trello is for you. You can organize your thoughts on cards and categorize by column.
Some people think that technology is making it easier to travel because of online deals from faceless companies like Travelocity or Expedia. But that's not the kind of technology we're heralding in this article. After all, we know that having a travel agent is worlds better than booking through a search engine. Technology, and more specifically gadgets, is making traveling easier regardless of where you're venturing off to. Here are 3 of our agents' favorites to recommend to their clients:
1. The All-in-One Conveter
If you're traveling outside of the U.S., it's possible that you won't be able to use your electronics without a converter. However, some countries (especially in Europe) have varying types of outlet sources. Never fear; this all-in-one converter is the perfect solution.
2. The Back-Up Battery
The Power Card is about as slim as a wallet and can charge your phone up to 60%. Since it's a USB, it can also be used for digital cameras, iPod, etc. It's rechargable, so it's the perfect thing to throw in your carry-on in case your game of Words with Friends has drained your device.
Additionally, mophie has a battery charging phone case that will giv eyou 100% charge in minutes after switching it on.
3. Electronic translator
Never let the language barrier hold you back again (and don't worry about packing a bulky paperback dictionary). Go beyond asking where the bus station and the bathrooms are, too. With these electronic translators, you can fully communicate and learn more about where you are.
There you have it! Our favorite three must-have travel gadgets. Did we miss yours? Tell us about it in the comments!
We took a poll. And here are what our agents had to say were the five best things about starting their home-based travel agency:
5. Travel is flexible
Travel itself is a flexible industry. There are high seasons, where almost all of your clients will be looking for deals (summer holiday with the kids or grandkids, over the Christmas/New Years break), but there will also be down time. During this down time, you can do what you want: exploring ways to grow your business, spending time with family and friends or, of course, travel!
4. Agent perks
Becoming an independent travel agent gives you a few perks. With your newfound negotiating abilities and network of vendors, you will be able to take advantage of travel deals for yourself as well!
3. Make your own schedule
You’re the boss. You answer only to your clients. So if you want to be available only on certain days or certain times, that’s your prerogative. Kids got a soccer game each Thursday afternoon? Be there without guilt! Husband earned a long weekend from his company? Take that Monday without fret! When you work from home and for yourself, you can be as flexible as you need.
2. Obtain work/life balance
Much like making your own schedule, working from home allows you to have a work/life balance you may not have gotten before. Instead of spending an hour in the car on your daily commute, wasting your lunch hour at the water cooler or staring at the clock from 4-5pm, you can get what you need to get done quickly from home and carry on with your life. More efficiency, less stress.
1. Unlimited earning potential
Like lots of sales job, the earning potential is limitless with hard work. At Outside Agent Link, our agents earn top commission in the travel industry—80%. Depending on how hard you want to work, you can sell group, corporate or individual travel and make a great living, providing for your family as the breadwinner or simply contributing more as a part-timer. Your earnings are really up to you!
10. You love helping people
Helping people is a wonderful benefit of becoming an independent travel agent. And you’re not only helping them save time and money, but helping them to relax and have fun. There’s nothing better!
9. You need a flexible work schedule
Starting your own travel business gives you the unique and distinct pleasure of setting your own hours according to your schedule.
8. You need to work from home
The reasons to work from home are numerous. Maybe your spouse is in a job that relocates a lot, perhaps you’re a caregiver for an elderly family member or small child. Working from home can be the answer for many situations.
7. You need extra income
In uncertain times, there’s no better reassurance than having a little extra money in the savings account. Becoming an independent travel agent with Outside Agent Link can allow you earn up to 80% commissions on the trips you book, the highest in the industry.
6. You’re a stay-at-home caregiver
Whether it’s your mother, grandfather or child, caregiving can be a full-time job and not allow you to explore many traditional 9-5 jobs. However, with the flexibility of schedule and working from home, starting a travel business from home could be just what you need to earn money while still focusing on your familial responsibilities.
5. You’re retired or semi-retired
Outside Agent Link is the perfect fit for retirees, whether you used to work in the travel industry or not. Plus, it’s the perfect time for you to travel, so maybe you can put your extra income from the business into a fund to see the parts of the world you’ve been wanting to!
4. You’re looking for a big change
The American workforce has changed in recent years. People are no longer entering a company and staying for 30 years. People are looking at their career paths as a "jungle gym” (to borrow a term from Sheryl Sandberg). If it’s time to shake things up, this can be a great way to sharpen your entrepreneurial and sales skills, while maintaining clientele. You may fall in love with it or choose to move on, but you have shifted directions in a positive way and improved your marketability.
3. You’re unhappy in your current career
The best reason to try something new is your work/life balance and happiness level. If you’re not happy at your current day job, you need to quit and find something that is fulfilling. Here are 5 signs you’re ready to quit your day job.
2. You love to travel
What better reason do you need to become an independent travel agent? You can leverage connections and networks for your own vacations later—not to mention make extra money to add to the travel savings fund. Additionally, there may be discounts and promotions you have access to as a travel agent that average people would not.
1. You’re ready to be your own boss
Being your own boss can be a daunting task, especially when thinking about the discipline it takes to work from home. But nothing worth doing is ever easy! So, if you’re ready to take the plunge and work for yourself, then becoming an independent travel agent could be the perfect career move.
Quitting is not something we’re taught to do. In fact, most people try to avoid it at all costs. But sometimes, quitting is the smart thing to do—especially when it comes to feeling freedom in your career. Here are five signs you need to quit your day job (and find a new path):
1. You’re feeling disrespected
Respect is a huge motivator in our professional lives. We want it from our colleagues, our boss and even our families (in relation to what we do for a living). If you’re feeling disrespected in your line of work, chances are that you are at the wrong company or under the wrong direction. You want a job that challenges you to work hard, but one that is also rewarding as well.
2. You have no work/life balance
If you just read that headline and thought, "What’s a work/life balance?” it may be time to quit. Yes, your career is important, but so is your family, friends and personal wellbeing. In order to be professionally successful, you have to have some downtime. If you never take vacation, or even a weekend off, you won’t be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor, which could lead to regret later.
3. You’re bored
The best jobs are the ones that excite you. Maybe not every task is thrilling (especially those time sheets, media plans or HR paperwork), but overall, you should be feel challenged and fulfilled. If you’re bored at work every day, chances are you aren’t living up to your full potential.
4. You’re not making enough money
Money is a huge factor when it comes to be satisfied with your job. If your present company isn’t paying you enough for the time you spend, and you have already requested more but to no avail, it might be time to change it up.
5. You dream of quitting
Yes, this may be the most obvious, but if you’re thinking about quitting, you probably should’ve already quit! It’s never too late to get started on a new career path and to take control of your life. No job is perfect, but if you’re suffering from any of these professional woes, it may be time to quit and find a new path. If you’re passionate about travel, Outside Agent Link offers a way for you to work independently, and from home, with up to 80% commissions, with training and support available.
The sun is shining, the birds are chirping. And you’re inside working. It can be hard to get motivated when you’re working from home and in an industry that requires client service, like travel. But don’t worry; we have three quick and easy ways to get motivated that you’ll love.
1. Take an active break
That’s right! One way to help you get back to work is to, in fact, take a break from it. The important word here, though, is "active.” Don’t sit on the couch and get sucked into a Netflix marathon or a daytime soap opera. Instead, get outside and take a walk. Do some stretches or yoga in your living room. Put away the dishes and wipe down the counters. Set a timer for 15 minutes and get to breaking! Once your 15 minutes is up, don’t move onto another housework task. Sit back down at your computer and get to work.
2. Turn up the jams
Music can be a huge motivator, especially if you’re sleepy. Some people do best when listening to songs they know and love. Others work best when there are no lyrics. Browse some new playlists on Pandora or Spotify and turn it up. Opening a window for some fresh breeze might be helpful as well. And if you need to stand up for a 30 second dance party, so be it!
3. Listen to a podcast, speech or TED Talk
One surefire way to get motivated is to hear about other people doing great things. Try listening to "The Daily Boost” podcast, YouTube "commencement speeches” and choose some famous ones, or simply go to TED.org and view some talks you’re most interested in. You will love hearing the advice, the jokes and you will come away feeling inspired.