Are you ready for a little peak behind the curtain? People ask me a lot how I’ve been able to become so successful, so quickly, building a travel business from scratch. My answer may sound simple, but it’s the most complicated part of my job: I have good connections.
“Connections, Connections, Connections!”
You’ve heard it said of real estate that it’s all about “Location, Location, Location!” As the daughter of a fella who has spent his entire adult life building, selling, and investing in real estate, I can absolutely attest to the truth of this statement. The most beautiful home, office building, or restaurant doesn’t stand a chance in a crappy neighborhood. In the travel industry, connections are as important as location is in real estate investments.
Connections—forming them, protecting them, & maintaining them—are my big secret to success. My dad did this very well in his business, and I was fortunate enough to have a front row seat to his journey to success. Creating connections with high quality service providers, and then building a wall around those relationships with loyalty and mutual respect, is just as critical an element in my business as it was in my dad’s. I spend more time and energy on this than I do on everything else except actual client work. Why? Because better connections equal better experiences for my clients. And I, my friend, am in the experience business.
Connections: My Secret Weapon
So what does this look like? How do I even meet these people? Of course, I can’t reveal all of my secrets (wink, wink), but first and foremost is through my own travels. I happen to believe that I have the best private driver in all of Paris at my disposal, but I wouldn’t know that for sure if I didn’t use him myself, right? Thankfully, my family and friends are very understanding about our vacations doing double duty as reconnaissance missions! And since I haven’t figured out how to travel everywhere, I also attend international trade conferences and stay super-engaged in a tight-knit community of savvy travel professionals I trust and can lean on for smart introductions.
I also lean heavily on my clients to help me expand my rolodex. Seriously! If a client has the best meal of her life in London, I want to know the restaurant so that I can reach out to the general manager and let him know about her wonderful experience. And the next time I have a client in London in need of a great dinner, I know exactly who to call for reservations.
You may be wondering what exactly this has to do with you. If you’re already trusting a well-connected travel advisor with your vacation plans, then the answer is not much. But rumor has it that some folks are of the mindset that complicated itineraries and niche travel experiences are just as effectively booked using an online booking engine. If you find yourself in that category, I’m awfully glad you stumbled onto this post–for your own sake. Here’s why:
If I, as a travel professional, consider my hard-sought connections to be the game changers of vacation planning, what makes you think that you can put together a trip of the same quality using Google?
Trust me when I say that it isn’t that easy. If it was, I wouldn’t get feedback like this from my clients:
“You made this trip possible.”
“We could not have put this together without you.”
“You saved us from months of research and countless mistakes.”
Travel Advisor or Booking Engine: You Decide
I don’t want this to sound like a plug (or a rant), so forgive the fact that I am speaking from personal experience. Online booking engines have convinced us that all we have to do is select a city and enter our dates for departure…then, Presto!—a vacation has been magically booked for you!
Bad news. The internet has a big case of imposter syndrome.
Fact is, there are lots of 3rd party websites out there who make big bucks ripping off unwitting customers on everything from hotel rooms and flights to tours and travel insurance. Do I think they are trying to rip you off? No, not exactly. But an online booking engine doesn’t have to look you in the eye and admit that it is auctioning off your vacation plans to the lowest bidder, regardless of quality, consistency, or service level.
Their dirty little secret is that their job is done as soon as the transaction is processed.
A Well-Connected Travel Advisor is Your Secret Weapon
Here are a few examples of what my connections are able to accomplish for my clients:
- After hours access to some of the world’s coolest museums and sights (such as the Louvre, the Acropolis, & the Tower of London), so that you can explore their treasures in tranquil privacy.
- Visits to artisan workshops (think Venetian mask makers & Irish crystal cutters) so you can see where the real magic happens and maybe even get a hands-on lesson.
- Exclusive access to wineries that are generally closed-to-the-public…and perhaps even break bread with the winemaker.
- Explore private palaces and apartments that are still inhabited by royals and aristocracy.
- Spend an evening (or even a week!) on your own completely private island.
- Participate in an actual ongoing archaeological dig.
- Hit the street markets with a world-class chef and prepare a dish in his private kitchen.
- Luxurious private shopping experience in the most exclusive boutiques and luxury stores in Milan.
- Arrange a helicopter tour of the French Riviera.
- VIP tickets & hospitality at the world’s biggest sporting events.
Of course, these don’t even scratch the surface of the out-of-this-world experiences I’ve had the opportunity to arrange on behalf of my clients. Through my connections, I’ve been able to pull off a hot air balloon ride over Champagne country before an exclusive invite-only dinner at Moet & Chandon. I’ve even planned proposals atop the Eiffel Tower and overlooking the Tuscan hills.
>>> For more ideas, check out this post on celebration travel.
And, naturally, we are constantly cooking up more foodie experiences than you can even imagine. All of these dreams-come-true are courtesy of one of the world’s greatest collection of connections. These folks are the unsung heroes of your trips. They listen to my crazy dreams for you and execute them in glorious fashion.
How does this pertain to you? Because the only connection you need…is me.
Like any good collector, I am constantly evaluating every piece in my collection, hunting for those prized gems, and weeding out the fakes. It’s ambitious work, but I take it very, very seriously. After all, I keep this collection for the exclusive and unmatched pleasure of my clients in hopes that their every experience will be truly #JetlagWorthy.
Here’s to you & making all your crazy travel wishes come true!