Edwin and I are big travelers for work and pleasure! Edwin travels around the world for work and we love traveling within the US and internationally for fun, to expand our horizons, to meet new people, and simply to see the world. You can learn so much about yourself and about different people, cultures, histories, landscapes and more through traveling! Since we travel so much, we’ve taken steps to streamline the process as much as possible by staying loyal to one airline (Delta forever!), getting TSA Precheck and Global Entry, and working with a travel advisor. We both know what we like when traveling but we’re so busy that we don’t always have the time to put in the work before planning a trip. We’ve also learned that the benefits you can get when traveling from working with a travel advisor can’t be beat!
I’ve found that so many people I know don’t realize what a travel advisor can actually do for you. So, I wanted to dedicate a post to the topic! I’m overjoyed to introduce my sister, Sarah Attaway of Sea to City Travels, who is a travel advisor! She’s taking over the rest of the post and sharing a bit about her company, the benefits of working with a travel advisor, and how to pick the right travel advisor for you! Sarah knows so much about the world. She is an expert on hotels and experiences worldwide, is extremely well-traveled herself (she’s been to over 40 countries!), and is an incredible listener so she delivers! Without further adieu, meet Sarah!
Hello, Sarah here! I’m thrilled to be introducing my company, Sea to City Travels, to Jillian’s dedicated Rhyme & Reason readers. I began my career as a travel advisor in January 2017 at a boutique travel agency in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a fantastic place to start my career. But when I had the opportunity to move to Los Angeles last summer, I took a leap of faith and started my own travel consultancy. I love my career and am proud of my small, growing, successful business. It allows me the freedom to work wherever I want, choose the clients I plan with and help others create unforgettable memories around the world with their loved ones.
If you’re interested in working with me on upcoming travels, please follow Sea to City Travels on Instagram (@seatocitytravels) and send me an email at [email protected] You can also fill out the contact form on my website. Keep reading for my thoughts on the benefits of using a travel advisor and tips for how to pick the right travel advisor for you!
Benefits Of Using A Travel Advisor
Planning a trip is time-consuming! If you are planning on your own, planning a trip often consumes hours of your life diving into the depths of the internet, scrolling through Trip Advisor, blogs, hotel websites, guidebooks, etc. You may even have a handful of lists from friends that all suggest different things. How does one know when to stop digging and how to decide with so much info?
Working with a travel advisor streamlines that process for you! Some of my clients are very collaborative and we work together to create their best trip. Others prefer for me to tell them what to do and where to stay based on our conversations and my knowledge. Either way, I work on their behalf to use their time wisely and efficiently. Oftentimes, I have a list of ideas in my head that we can talk through to get the process started. I provide vetted and curated information, thereby saving them time they would have spent searching online. This allows my clients more time to make the right decisions for themselves and their travel partners.
I start from scratch with every single itinerary I create. No two client trips are ever the same because every person is different. They may have different budgets or prefer a boutique versus a grand hotel. Time of year also affects what I recommend! One client may want to use every minute of the day to explore a destination. Another may prefer a large hotel suite to return to after a half morning walking tour. Whatever the client preference is, I do my best to incorporate it into their itinerary. Of course, the earlier we begin planning, the more a trip can be customized. If you wait too long to plan and book, you’ll be picking hotels and hotel rooms from what’s available, not necessarily from your top choices.
To begin planning, I always start with an introductory call to discuss my clients’ trip expectations. I get to know them as best as I can so I can curate their itinerary to their desires and needs. It takes time but in the end, each client has a personally tailored trip.
My career is all about relationships! The obvious relationships are the ones I foster with my clients. It needs to be a good fit for both of us in order to make the planning process successful and enjoyable.
Although Sea to City Travels is a one-woman show, I would not be nearly as successful without my collaborative network of seasoned travel advisors. As much as I try, I can’t travel everywhere; I can’t see every hotel. Instead of turning to the internet for information, I turn to my travel agent friends who have personally experienced the places I am seeking information on. While my clients may be able to ask a friend about their experience at one hotel in a particular city, perhaps I can ask my colleagues about their experience at eight hotels in that city. My travel advisor network allows me access to a wealth of reputable information! Remember, travel agents have access that is quite amazing!
In addition, my “behind-the-scenes” supplier relationships enable me to thrive. Each week I am on the phone with suppliers, meeting them for coffee or seeing them at various hosted events. These suppliers are hoteliers, tour guides, and sales reps for hotels, tour operators and cruise lines. They want my clients to be happy and will tell me if a particular client is a good fit or not for their product.
For example, if my client likes very traditional hotels, and I am speaking to the Director of Sales at a boutique art hotel, he/she will first educate me on their product. Then he/she will encourage me to save his/her hotel for another client. Alternatively, if the product is the perfect fit for the client I am working with, and the client decides to book that boutique, art hotel, then the Director of Sales will go above and beyond for my client to make their stay special. This may come in the form of VIP service, hotel room upgrade and a bottle of wine upon arrival.
These relationships are crucial to creating and bringing a client trip to life!
I am constantly learning through various channels on behalf of my clients. I sell the world and while I don’t pretend to know everything, I do spend time consuming information regarding hotels, tour companies, destination tips, and travel trends. In addition to contacting my suppliers and travel agent colleagues to pick their brains, I travel to learn on behalf of my clients. Personally experiencing a hotel and country enables me to create itineraries successfully for my clients.
Since joining the industry three years ago, I have traveled for work to Uruguay, Chile, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Panama, Belize, Carmel, Big Sur, Indonesia, Mallorca, Turks and Caicos, Maui, Peru, Kenya, Quebec City, Miami, Italy and southern Spain. I am also able to take my office on the road with me. So I travel a decent amount with family and friends, which also benefits my clients. Highlights from recent years include France, Austria, Harbour Island, Jackson Hole, Miami, New York City, Nantucket and Canada. Stay tuned for 2020 travel – I am off somewhere fun toward the end of February!
Value for Money
Sea to City Travels is a Virtuoso-member agency and is an independent affiliate of Cadence Travel. I am also a Preferred Partner with dozens of hotel companies globally, including but not limited to Four Seasons, Marriot Luxury Brands, Rosewood, Belmond, Dorchester Collection, Hyatt, and Relais and Chateaux. These memberships and affiliations grant me access to the best rates, added amenities and exclusive promotions at no extra cost to my clients.
While I do charge a nominal fee to protect my time while planning a trip, I never want my client trips to be more expensive when they book travel through Sea to City Travels. I make my living through commission that is already built into hotel, transfer and touring pricing whether or not you book through an advisor. For example, if you book a hotel directly for $500.00/night, the hotel keeps the entire $500.00. If you book the same hotel room through me, the hotel will send me a portion of that $500.00. Working with an advisor just changes the allocation of money. However, if I can save you money through my preferred partner rates or available promotions, I will! Your time and money are important to me so I try to maximize both as much as possible.
Peace of Mind
As much as I try to avoid any issues for my clients while they are traveling, things out of my control can occur, such as lost baggage, a stolen wallet, or a snow storm cancelling flights – I was on Bali when the volcano exploded in 2017! Should issues arise while my clients are traveling, I try my best to be as available as possible to them.
However, my clients travel all over the world, which means we are constantly dealing with different time zones. In their final itineraries, Sea to City clients are provided with in-country, 24/7 contacts. These contacts help me create my clients’ itineraries so they are as up-to-date as I am regarding the ins and out of their trip. This means my clients have direct access to in-the-know locals at any time of day should they require support!
How to Choose The Right Travel Advisor
One of the most important things about working with a travel advisor is that your personalities work well together. Ask if you can schedule a call with the advisor; it’s a quick way to understand if you are each a good fit for each other. I begin every new client trip with a phone call to talk about my services and my process. I also want to hear about the potential client’s trip expectations. During this call, both parties should better understand if they are a good fit. It’s a two-way street; I have to agree to work with them and they also have to agree to work with me.
Some advisors require a minimum spend in order to work on a trip so this should be one of the first questions asked. I personally don’t have that requirement because I feel that each destination requires a different financial commitment. Budget is also dependent on the time of year of travel and how long a client travels. A long weekend getaway to Cabo does not require the same budget as a 10-day African safari. These are both trips I would happily plan.
Although Sea to City doesn’t implement trip spend minimums, I only book five and some four star hotels. In addition to the hotels, I book private transfers and experiences where applicable. Therefore, it’s extremely helpful for clients to come to me with a general understanding of what they plan to spend on a trip! If I can meet client expectations for less than their budget, I absolutely will. However, I am also very upfront if I am not the right fit due to budget constraints!
I find that many of my new clients have never worked with an advisor! Additionally, they are sometimes skeptical about why they should work with a travel agent. When reaching out to an advisor, assess how an agent responds to your inquiry. How quickly do they respond? How much information do they give you about their company, the process and the benefits they provide? Is that information personalized to your initial trip plans? Do you feel they are excited that you contacted them?
From the minute a potential or returning client inquires about a trip, I want them to feel I am working for them. I promise clients a response to their emails within 48 hours during the business week. But more often than not, I respond within 24 hours or less. I either respond with a ton of info, or let clients know their message has been received and I am working on their request. Clients can tell when an agent is too busy to communicate in an informative way; I never want them to feel they aren’t a priority!
When you’re interviewing a travel agency for your upcoming trip, ask them what they specialize in! Some advisors specialize in a style of travel (i.e. beach or wellness). Other advisors may specialize in a certain region of the world. Sea to City Travels loves a good honeymoon but we also enjoy when our honeymooners return and ask about anniversaries, babymoons, weekend getaways, etc. We can’t wait for our honeymooners to grow their families so we can plan their spring breaks! As our clients mature, the type of travel we plan for them changes. We also work with a lot of “baby boomers” and families with adult children. Our clients range from approximately 25 years old to 75 years old.
In terms of destinations, we sell the world. In saying that, there are “hot” destinations that we sell often and repeatedly, including but not limited to Italy, Greece, Portugal, southern Africa, Thailand, Bali, Peru and Patagonia. Our older clientele often enjoy river cruising. Our multi-gen families either like to relax in the Caribbean or even return to destinations now that their children are adults. For example, everyone travels and returns to Italy! I also lived in Southeast Asia for a year so the region has a special place in my heart.
In thinking about specialty, I also want to caution you about not working with an advisor because your destination of choice is not a “specialty,” unless they say they won’t plan it! As noted in my list of benefits of working with an advisor, we are constantly learning. We have the connections; we know where to find information and we have trusted friends in the business who are more than happy to educate us on your behalf. If it’s not a specialty yet, that doesn’t mean we can’t make it one!
Ask Your Friends
We are so thankful that our clients refer Sea to City Travels to their friends and family! If you’re searching for an advisor, ask those you trust or whose travel styles match yours if they have previously worked with an advisor they’d recommend. Of course, if you’ve enjoyed my post on Rhyme & Reason and you’re interested in working with me, please reach out! I’d love to hear from you.
Thank you so much for reading along with me in this post! If you are thinking about planning a trip now or anytime in the future, then please feel free to reach out and send me an email at [email protected]! You can also fill out the contact form on my website. I would be overjoyed to hear from any Rhyme & Reason readers and to work with you! Don’t forget to follow Sea to City Travels on Instagram (@seatocitytravels) for lots of travel inspiration! Cheers, Sarah