Do you enjoy a nice vacation and think that planning it is half the fun?
You love getting a great rate on a luxury hotel, scoring discount theme park tickets, securing coupons for restaurants… as well as setting up an itinerary to maximize the fun you’ll have during your time off.
Or maybe you’re just interested in making a great extra income for some no-stress part-time work…
Either way I have a fantastic opportunity for you. You can work in the comfort of your home, on your schedule, in your pajamas if you want.
I’m talking about planning someone else’s vacation – finding the best deals, the biggest attractions, and customizing itineraries for each client for destinations all around the globe.
The New Travel Agent
Once upon a time, folks would go to a travel agent’s office to sort out all the details of their vacation. But these days, it’s much easier to go online and use websites like Kayak.com or Travelocity.com to book cheap flights, find reasonable hotel rooms, and all the rest. Most traditional travel agents were out of a job years ago.
The problem is, the process of planning a trip still takes time and effort and not everyone enjoys sorting through the details. For a lot of folks, that kind of ruins a vacation.
They’re not ready to go back to a travel agent… if they could find one. But they do need some extra help… and they’re willing to pay.
That’s where you come in. After conferring with your client, you’ll be the one sorting through the listings for flights, booking hotel rooms, arranging transportation, and even buying tickets for theaters or museums. There will be some back and forth as you suggest certain locations and activities and they give them a thumbs up or thumbs down. But for the most part they trust your judgment.
That’s why it’s so important to get to know your client before you start the job. Find out their budget, what types of things they’re interested in (gourmet restaurants, water parks, museums, rock concerts…), and their preferences as far as hotels, airlines, and whatever else. Doing this background research will save you and your client a lot of time.
You’ll be using a variety of tools and websites to find the best and most suitable vacation itineraries for your clients. This is big: always check TripAdvisor.com for reviews of places you’re booking just in case.
You can do all of this from your computer. If you have a laptop, anywhere in the world could be your “office.” It’d be pretty ironic if you financed your own global travels by planning other people’s vacations, right? Well, it’s totally possible with this opportunity.
So if you’re the type of person who loves sifting through pages of tropical vacation homes, cruise line packages, airplane fares, and bundling them all together, you might have what it takes to be a top-notch vacation planner.
Making Vacation Planning Your Business
The beauty of being a stay-at-home vacation planner is that as long as you have a computer and access to high-speed Internet, you can provide the same level of service at a fraction of the cost as storefront travel agents. This means your costs stay low and you can pass those savings on to your clients, with a good chunk going to you as profit.
You make money by charging a commission or service fees for the travel your clients book. For everything you book for a client – be it a hotel room, flight, cruise, or rental car – you get paid a percentage. The more complex an itinerary is, the larger your cut. Alternately, you could charge a flat or hourly fee.
If you’re seriously committed to becoming a vacation planner, there are a few key areas you should study before you start offering your services:
* Cruises (what is included in the price, what isn’t, where the ports of call are, etc.). These are hugely popular.
* Popular vacation destinations (Disney World, New York City, Paris, etc.).
* Vacation package deals (these can be easier and cheaper to book than each individual component).
* Travel sites like Kayak.com and Priceline.com. You need to know them backwards and forwards.
It might also be a good idea to specialize in a specific destination or type of travel.
You see, a travel agent is expected to be very knowledgeable about what destination or package they’re selling. And since it’s impossible for someone to become an expert on every travel destination in the world, it might help you if you booked exclusively cruises, for example, or trips to Disney World, or adventure travel in Central America.
So how do you offer your services?
Start a website or blog dedicated to your niche or specialization. Start up a free email newsletter with your top travel tips or the latest deals you can book for your clients. And post your availability on freelance sites like elance.com or freelancer.com.
Get active on travel forums like Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree, posting a link back to your business’s website. You should also reach out to your personal network: family, friends, social media friends… let everyone know you are in business.
All these efforts will drive traffic to your business. It can be a gradual process. But since your start up costs are basically $0, it’s no big deal. Grow the business in your spare time.
If you’re very serious about becoming a vacation planner, you can actually become certified in the U.S. by the International Association of Travel Agents Network. There are other organizations, but they basically serve the same purpose: once you become a member, you’re licensed as a certified travel agent. And that means easier and better clients will seek your business.
Plus, you get the added bonus of discounts on your own travel, whether it’s flights or hotel stays. In some cases, hotels, resorts and attractions will offer you free stays to try out their facilities. You see, you’re testing them out so you can recommend them to your clients. Pretty sweet deal, right?
I’ve done a bit of that myself, and I wasn’t even a certified agent, just a part-time vacation planner. Free hotel and spa treatment. Not bad.
The Future of Travel
According to current trends, the travel industry is not only growing worldwide, it is expected to keep right on growing. This means the demand for good, knowledgeable travel planners will grow, too. And as more and more folks gain knowledge about using the Internet to book simple things like flights and car rentals, the travel agent will be expected to pick up the more complex and interesting side of the vacation. That’s where finding the best hotel and attraction deals comes into play.
New resorts are being built, cruise ships are getting bigger, and more cities are discovering the economic benefit of tourists. All this adds up to a very positive outlook for vacation planners like you.
I wish you the best of luck!
P.S. I just gave you the insider tips you need to become a successful vacation planner who works from home. But here are a few more resources to get you inspired and started on a good and profitable foot.
Industry Trends and News