Geezy peezy, y’all, Anahata Travel is a year old! While I’ve been in the travel industry longer than a year, I can’t believe I’ve been in business for myself an entire 366 days. I know it’s a bit cheesy, but milestones really get me in a reflective mood. So here are four things I’ve learned in the past year as your travel agent.
#1 Planning is the *Most* Important
What else did you expect to read from a travel agent? I’m not against spontaneous trips as an idea—they can be crazy fun! But I’m a fastidious planner by nature, and I have found that not planning can lead to disappointing trips, or worse: disaster.
Last summer I visited my friend in North Carolina, and while it was mostly a fun friends’ visit, we thought about making plans to go to Outer Banks to see the wild horses. Well, the last thing you want to do when you’re in the midst of visiting good friends is do travel research, so we decided to wing it. Had we put in some research time we wouldn’t have tried to visit during the time people check into their condos, and we wouldn’t have gotten stuck in a traffic jam.
Trust me when I say planning is ridiculously important. I know someone—not a client of mine—who decided to go to Alaska in March. Not being from Alaska, this person failed to anticipate snow on the ground. Not just a dusting, but feet! Without proper travel research (and no travel agent), this person rented a smart car, took it to go hiking, and promptly got it stuck in the snow! There had been no other car tracks—no one else had been hiking.
It could have ended disastrously—stranded in Alaska, no cell service. Luckily, someone came by with truck and was able to pull this person out. Yeesh! Can you imagine being stranded in Alaska with no one to help pull your smart car out of the snow?
#2 Suppliers Need Help
I hope you like stories, because this post is full of them! This story is called, “How Kelsey Got a Cruise Client.” Not the catchiest title…but I digress! I received an email one day asking my help with planning an Alaskan cruise. This client had been researching Alaskan cruises on his own, and filled out a form stating he was not working with a travel agent on a supplier’s website. They cheerfully responded that day, assuring him that they could answer any questions he had. He emailed them back that day.
Three days later, they still hadn’t responded.
I responded to his email the very day he emailed me, answered his question (“Where’s the best room for someone with seasickness?” It’s midship, by the way.), and booked him all in the same day. Suppliers try, but sometimes they’re just so big that potential clients get lost in the shuffle. Luckily for my client—and the cruiseline—I was able to book the Alaskan cruise this client wanted despite not hearing back from the cruiseline.
#3 You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
Sometimes you do know what you don’t know, like, “Where’s the best room for someone with seasickness?” (Just in case you forgot: midship.) But in my experience, there are always a few things that never occur to clients, so they can’t even ask for them. Travel insurance is a big unknown for lots of reasons. First, planning a trip—thinking about a trip—is thrilling! Especially if you’re planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip, it’s easy to get caught up in the euphoria and not think about potential hazards.
Say you’re finally going to the Bahamas. You’re taking your two weeks of vacation during the summer (like most Americans), and you’re ready to go. Except your trip will be smack dab in the middle of hurricane season. If you didn’t get travel insurance, and your flight gets grounded or you have to evacuate, you’re not getting your vacation money back. And it’s not only weather that can be a problem; you can’t anticipate strikes, illness, jury duty, work emergencies—you get the idea.
Another unknown I see a lot is layover times for flights. Well, surely if the airlines have given you a timetable for your two flights, there’s no way you could miss your second flight, right? Right?! If you’ve never flown before, this way of thinking could seem perfectly logical. And because you haven’t, you don’t know to take into account delays, crowded airports, the amount of time it actually takes to get off the plane, not to mention that the doors to board close about 15-20 minutes before take-off. Hope you didn’t plan for less than an hour layover, because you might not make that flight!
#4 Voting with Your Dollar Works
The main reason I became a travel agent and specialized in sustainable travel was to make the world a better place. If you’re anything like me, lately it seems like your voice isn’t being heard. US politics seems hopeless, and no one in charge is listening to your complaints. But I’ve got news for you: voting with your dollar actually works!
Years ago, when I first became interested in sustainability (specifically with food), I viewed money differently than I do now. Money was a thing I needed to purchase items I needed to stay alive and items I wanted to enjoy my life more. I don’t know who turned me onto the idea first—probably Michael Pollan—but I came to view money differently. Money isn’t just a tool I can use to acquire things I want & need, it’s also a tool I can use to show my support (or lack of support) for a company and enact change.
This has totally revolutionized the way I spend money. No longer do I feel I can ethically buy meat raised in a CAFO; no longer do I feel I can buy clothes made in a sweatshop. I’ve chosen to take my money and spend it on companies who I believe are actually helping, not harming, the world. And it works!
In 2011, SeaWorld was one of the top performing theme parks in the world. They boasted a 13% attendance growth just that year. But in 2013, the documentary Blackfish was released. If you’ve never seen or heard of Blackfish, it chronicles SeaWorld’s treatment of orcas, and focuses on one specific orca that killed three trainers. Needless to say, the public was very distressed by this discovery. Between 2012 and 2015, yearly attendance at SeaWorld dropped by nearly a million people!
It would have been one thing if people had been outraged by what they learned about Blackfish, but still continued to go to SeaWorld. But these people (maybe even you!) voted with their dollar and chose not to spend their money at a place whose practices they thought were unethical.
Because of this, SeaWorld has canceled their orca show and will stop breeding orcas altogether!
Guys, you’re just as capable of making change as the folks who boycotted SeaWorld. Voting with your dollar works in every industry, and you have the power to do it!
So as you can see, I learned a lot this year—a loooooot! I can’t wait to keep working with you this next year! And I can’t wait for us to learn even more!
Now get out there and go!