A Day in the Life of an Independent Travel Agent
by Nancy Dorrans
First, A Look Ahead at Upcoming Trips
Shaking my snow globe, the flakes swirl round and round… And I’m dreaming of a White Christmas, snow filled ski slopes, hot chocolate and another tour to the Winter Carnival in Quebec in February.
Looking further ahead to spring and summer, multi-day tours are in the works to Washington, DC, for the Cherry Blossoms in early April; Cape Cod/Nantucket Daffodil parade later that month; and a Broadway weekend in NYC in May. Or consider a small group adventure: an April school vacation bike tour to Portugal, a Tanzanian Safari in July or Vietnam and Cambodia in the late fall.
Everyday is so different…
While on one hand I’m looking ahead, on the other hand I’d like to offer a glimpse into a day in my life as an independent travel agent. It is almost impossible to put my typical day into words, since every day is so different… But here are a few highlights from one day last week.
I received a call from a friend that was planning to fly his own plane to Chicago to help his cousin with the corn harvest. He couldn’t get the GPS on his plane to work, and asked me to book him on a commercial flight to get him there on time.
I charge a service fee to book flights, and when I told him what the fee was, he said, “What a deal and such a huge relief since I usually screw this up on my own. You should charge more!”
Since he only booked a one-way flight, I jokingly told him I’d charge him again for his return!
Before leaving for Mexico…
Another client/friend and her sister contacted me to book a late fall sister’s getaway. After several quotes to different islands, they ended up booking a trip to the Mayan Riviera of Mexico. They were leaving in a few days, when they contacted me with a couple of last minute questions…
“Is there any kind of coin op laundry on site if we pack too light? Is there a dress requirement for dinners at the resort or is casual fine everywhere? Are sandals fine everywhere? What is the cost for a checked bag? Plugs are standard US plugs right? Is there anything we should plan to have or bring that you’ve found to be helpful but not anticipated?
“If we’re planning to use the spa for massage or facials, can you check on availability for appointments (using provided spa coupons!) and see whether we should reserve a time now or if that’s ok to do there? Weather forecast looks warm in the 80s with a good chance of rain. What is normal this season? All day rain? Or spotty ten-minute showers here and there? Is a simple raincoat with a hood good enough? Or are umbrellas recommended? What am I missing? So freaking excited!!”
And then a follow-up email with just a few more questions…
“If we take vitamins or prescription meds, is a seven-day supply in a day-by-day container fine or do we need the Rx bottle with our name on it? Is a light jacket recommended? Good sturdy walking shoes are good enough for the ruins right? We don’t need hiking boots or anything? This is tourist-light activity right? Thanks again! Have I said this before? I’m sooooo looking forward to getting outta dodge. My teenager is driving me out of my mind.”
I answered her questions and then turned to my list of things to do:
- Call Radio City Music Hall to confirm seats for the Rockettes for the December 3rd to 5th NYC Holiday Extravaganza tour.
- Send some additional information on Prague and South Africa to the client signing up for the Ireland/Scotland private group tour next September.
- Call hotel in NYC to add more rooms to the contract.
- Contact ski tour operator for a ski package quote for clients from Maine that are currently living in London and want to ski the Alps over Christmas.
- Check in with a friend that wants to take his daughters to a Caribbean island over the holidays. Tell him I’ll be talking to the sales representatives at the Maine ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) annual trade show and will find out what islands and resorts they recommend after a season of devastating hurricanes.
There is a long list of ongoing tasks, too. Consider, marketing, research and training, Google forms, docs, sheets, web updates, email newsletters, processing payments, bookkeeping, writing this monthly column, confirming reservations, networking, welcome home letters, webinars, social media posts…
No two days are alike for an independent travel agent. This is part of the excitement of being in the travel business. I never know what challenges I will face each day.
As for what adventures lay ahead, I know my customers will keep it interesting.
Nancy is a West End resident and independent travel agent at Adventure Marketplace.