A feature that was written for & by A Foodie Stays Fit.
A recap of our experience using a travel agent for our honeymoon — our first time using a travel agent ever — and why we LOVED it.
I am SO excited about today’s post. I love traveling, I love re-living our honeymoon, I love Heather and I think the gift of travel would be the ULTIMATE last-minute gift to give for Christmas. The best part of the holidays is making memories and one of the best ways to make memories is to take a trip together. (Or, if you read this after Christmas, file this away for Valentine’s Day! Or forward this post to your significant other for a little nudge. 😉 ) You can guarantee I’ll be sending a link to this post to Tommy. ha!
When Tommy and I got engaged, we knew it would be a short engagement (6 months) and we knew it was going to be NUTS. Even though we had a very small wedding (only 25 guests), we had a lot to get done in 6 months, including planning the wedding, finding a house (which we ended up closing on the week before the wedding), moving both of us out of our apartments, and still actually working while trying to accomplish all that. (And we both work a lot.) The honeymoon hadn’t even crossed our mind, until THANKFULLY, a longtime blog friend, Heather, reached out and offered to help plan our honeymoon as a gift to us. I 100% believe we wouldn’t have had a “real” honeymoon without her. We would have put it off and then done something that was sort of cool a few months later just to check the box since other plans had to take priority. Instead, we had the most amazing trip. And when I say amazing, it’s not a hyperbole. The trip was more than we ever could have imagined.
But, to be totally honest, I had no idea how the whole travel agent thing worked. I definitely bought into the stigma associated with travel agents (i.e. WHY would I hire one when I have the internet?), but Tommy and I both admit that we were wrong and we both agree that we NEVER want to book a big trip without Heather. I got a lot of questions from family, friends and blog readers about working with a travel agent so I wanted to do a little Q&A about the whole process! Let me know if you have more questions – happy to answer. And if you have a trip coming up (big or small), reach out to Heather. I can’t recommend her enough.
Why did you decide to use a travel agent?
Well, Heather kind of forced it on us 😉 but the reason it was such a blessing to us is that she saved us SO MUCH TIME during a season of life where we truly needed the help. Without her, we would have spent HOURS researching places to go, then HOURS researching the best places to stay, then HOURS trying to figure out all the flights and transportation from the airport. Instead, we spent maybe 2 hours of planning (answering the questionnaire mentioned below, chatting with Heather, and then reviewing places she sent) and it was all FUN. Planning the honeymoon would have added extra stress, which is just wrong on so many levels, and instead it became something we really enjoyed.
And how cute is she?? 🙂
What did you like about working with Heather?
The whole process felt very personalized. To start, we filled out a questionnaire that was honestly really fun to do as a couple. She asked questions like “What’s your favorite city in the whole world?” “What type of hotels do you like?” “Do you have any mandatories? e.g. gym, specific diet, all-inclusive, spa”. After that, we did a video conference with her to talk through our answers and share more details. And that call was just FUN. (I keep saying “fun” over and over but Heather really is FUN!) When the FaceTime ended I told Tommy, “Heather and I would for SURE be good friends in real life.” She’s smart, witty and really good at her job. And then, when we arrived on our honeymoon, we were BLOWN AWAY by all the upgrades and special touches she provided. You can see a full recap of our honeymoon and what she did here.
What didn’t you like?
What I didn’t like was not knowing all the alternatives you find when you go down the rabbit hole researching trips online. But, to my point above, it would have taken a LOT of time. And, to be honest, we did ask Heather for alternate options on a couple things and she provided them and explained why she recommended what she did. I guess I’m really grasping at straws for what I didn’t like; we had a great experience with her.
Why did you choose where you did?
We chose St. Lucia because we wanted something that was relatively easy to get to (no 12+ hours of flying!), was relaxing but still had plenty of activities to do, and had good food that could accommodate my dietary restrictions. The Sugar Beach Viceroy was PERFECT for us.
What questions did you have going into working with a travel advisor?
Honestly, I had NO idea what to expect or what value she would bring since I just figured “Well, I have the internet; I could do all this.” I was wrong. So I guess the questions were, what does she get paid, does she save me money, does she make the trip better? And, of course, HOW does she do all that? She definitely saved us money, made it better with major upgrades and super thoughtful touches (like a picture of Maizey waiting for us in our room).
And it was nice knowing she had our back so we could focus on relaxing. For example, we planned to play golf on our honeymoon but when we got there we didn’t want to. (We wanted to hit up the spa instead!) We texted Heather and she canceled golf, made spa reservations AND changed our dinner reservation to accommodate the spa visit. BOOM. We didn’t have to spend any time on our trip managing logistics.
I got asked the below questions a few times, so I reached out to Heather for her answers!
How do travel agents get paid?
Like most travel agents, I work on commission, which means I receive a commission percentage from the travel suppliers I work with. This does not mean that you pay more for a trip component by working with me. However, I do charge a non-refundable trip planning fee. I do this so I’m not beholden to certain suppliers. For example, sometimes I like to recommend accommodations or tours that do not give travel agent commission. My planning fee allows me to always have my clients’ best interests at heart. My fee also allows me to offer you concierge planning services. With that, I manage every detail — large and small — of your trip. [We LOVED having her full-service help leading up to and throughout our trip!] My fee also ensures that I’m compensated for my time and expertise, whether or not you finalize your trip with me.
Why would I not just book my trip online?
I can’t think of one good reason to book a vacation online anymore. While “crowdsourcing” (aka asking your friends on Facebook 😉 ) or researching via TripAdvisor provides a starting point, my role as your advisor is to be your matchmaker. The process I take you through, in the beginning, is so that I can get to know your wants, needs, preferences, budget, likes, dislikes, etc. — that way, I’m 100% sure I’m matching you up to the destination, the accommodation, and the activities that best fit your goals for your trip. When you’re reading those reviews or asking friends, you’re getting a different perspective and opinion each time. And that may not match YOU perfectly. There’s no value in a bad vacation or one you come away feeling like weellll, I didn’t love that place, but meh it was doable. Our time is such a precious commodity and I take that very seriously. Something the internet can’t possibly do 😉
I’m happy to answer your questions on how or when it’s best to work with a travel advisor so feel free to email me. And follow me on Instagram, Facebook or take a peek around my blog to see some of my trips. I’ll be in Iceland in just a few weeks so I hope you follow along!
Teri and Tommy, as I’ve said 100xs time, you two have been nothing but a pleasure to work with and I’m so grateful to call you two “real friends” now. Thank you for letting me share with your community!
Right back at ya Heather! We love you!