What makes a corporate financial manager who has worked in manufacturing companies through his entire career decide to become a travel agent? And second, why should someone use me as a travel agent in an age where people can go to the internet and create their own vacation trip? To the first question, it comes from a lifetime of experience traveling to Europe, and a real lack of help when I tried to enlist a travel agent in my own planning. For the second question, it is true that anyone can plan their own trip online – but it requires time and knowledge the traveller may not have, and will usually end up being more expensive.
So let’s take a look at these one by one:
I love to travel – especially to Europe.
When I graduated from college, I went straight into the US Army, and immediately got sent to Germany on my first assignment. This was back in the late 70’s, early 80’s. Germany was still a divided country. The Soviet Union was still a large threat to the United States. I will have to admit that my first reaction was not that enthusiastic.
But over the next three years of living in Germany, several things happened. First, I developed an acquaintance with several German people. I got a chance to see how they lived, and found an appreciation for the culture and their way of life.
Second, I met my wife, who at the time was an American schoolteacher on the military post. She lived “on the economy” as we called it, meaning she lived in a little German neighborhood in one of the little villages near our post. We got to do things like attend a German Fasching party. Fasching, in southern Germany, is the period right before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. We went on Volksmarches, where a community would sponsor a 10 kilometer or 20 kilometer hike through the countryside. At the end, there would be a beer tent with bratwursts and pretzels and you would get a souvenir, either a little plate, or medal or plaque, for your walk in the country. A lot of American soldiers would proudly put these souvenirs in their homes and tell you about each one.
Third, my wife Dell, then my fiancée, and I travelled around. We went to Holland, Paris, and southern Germany (Garmisch and Berchtesgaden). From there, we went cross-country skiing, visited Salzburg Austria, visited Neuschwanstein, Dell also got to visit England, Switzerland, and Italy. Rothenburg was just a short drive from where we lived, and we would often spend an afternoon there. We went to Munich, and to this day, this is my favorite city in the world. We went to the Christkindlmarkt in Nuremberg. These Christmas Markets are large open-air markets where you can buy gifts, food and other things. I can still remember being in the Nuremberg Christkindlmarkt. It was mid-December, and very cold. But the smells of roasted almonds, and bratwurst, the sites of the hand made crafts in the market stalls, and the warmth of “Gluhwein”, which is a warmed spiced wine, made it all unforgettable. To this day, when we travel to Germany, it feels more like a second home.
After three years, we were transferred back to the US. By this time, I was really beginning to regret coming back, because we had such a great life in Germany. By the time we got back, I knew that I was not going to make the Army a career, but I still wanted to travel. At one point I even considered working for the State Department.
Fast forward over my career, and I have been very fortunate to work with international companies. From working with these companies, I have continued to spend a great deal of time in Europe, and have been to Spain, England, France, Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Romania and Portugal. Dell and I have also been to London and Italy on our own trips in the past few years.
Good Help is Hard to Find
Another reason I decided to become a travel agent is because of my own challenges in finding a good one. When Dell and I travel, we like to be somewhat on our own, and in control of our own schedule. Granted this is not something that everyone wants. But with our knowledge of Europe, we are very comfortable dealing with local transportation and the local cultures. But we want to get to know the area. One of my favorite things to do when traveling to Germany on business trips was to schedule the trip to go over a weekend. Then, on Saturday morning I would drive in to Dusseldorf and spend the morning in the “Altstadt” or Old City. At noon, I would then find an outdoor cafe on the banks of the Rhine River, and just “people watch”. So, for us, we travel more than just to see the sites. We also want to experience the culture as much as we can.
So, a few years ago, we were planning our trip to London. I wanted to include seeing the British Grand Prix, and we also wanted to go to the Theater District in London, to see a play. I knew I would need some help planning this, so I started asking around for the names of different travel agents, and got three referrals. I called each of these referrals – and none of them returned my call. We then went to see a local travel agent, and I spent five minutes telling her how we like to travel, and that under no circumstances did we want a bus tour. The very first thing she pulled out was a book of bus tours. Finally, we went to Dawn Gray at 4 Moons Travel, and she did an outstanding job of helping us set up the trip.
I am now working with Dawn and learning all I can from her.
Using a Travel Agent vs DIY
So why use a travel agent? Why not just go online and do it yourself? Here are a few reasons.
First, is knowledge and experience. A travel agent has more extensive knowledge and resources of where to go, how to get there, and what to do. Their access to travel services and service providers is more extensive. Not all travel services are alike. Some are better than others. They can also vary greatly in what is included. There are also a lot of things that the general traveler may not know or have access to, like trip insurance, or knowing the documentation required for traveling to a specific country. To put it simply – this may be your first time traveling to a specific location, but the agent may have booked dozens of trips to that same place. From planning these trips, they will know more about what to expect than the first-time traveller.
Second is cost. A travel agent has access to programs that the general public won’t see. I tested this myself recently when planning a trip to Scotland. I went out and planned the same trip through the services I had available, and then as if I was planning the identical trip on my own. The difference in cost was surprising. You also have to beware of conditions attached to the trip when planning on your own. Is the trip cancellable and refundable? What does trip insurance cover? There can be a lot of “Apples and Oranges” when comparing different options.
The last is time. We are all busy. The demands of work and family can leave little time to properly plan the trip. The purpose of a vacation is to get away from our daily stress. If planning a trip makes it more stressful, isn’t that a bit counterproductive? A travel agent is there to do all of this for you.
So that is why I am here:
- Travel has been a fun and exciting part of my life, and I want to help others experience the same things.
- I am making a commitment that I will make every effort to customize each trip to your interests.
- I will return every inquiry, whether e-mail, phone call or other request, within 24 hours.
- I will plan every detail of the trip to make it as stress-free as possible.
- I will do everything possible to make the trip fit your budget.