When I was younger, I never knew what I wanted to be. This continued into college, and by accident, I scored my first internship in advertising. I’ve since been working in advertising for the last seven years. Moral of the story: don’t get an internship by accident. Kidding, of course. But I always knew that I wanted to do something more meaningful with my life, and traveling always seemed to be at the top of my wish list. If I was in Paris, then on the last day I was planning my next trip to Prague. If I was in London, I was dreaming of never leaving.
The day finally came a year ago when I was sifting through my favorite travel blogs, and I thought, “Why can’t I do this?” I knew that I could make one hell of a travel blogger, so I decided to give it a go. Now, I am a traveler-extraordinaire with a wonderful little community of readers, and, as my latest venture goes, a trip planner.
Trip planning was something I had always been good at. I received countless compliments on the places I had found to eat, and the hotels I had recommended to stay. Even locally, I always had a knack for being in the know when it came to the best spots to eat and drink. Instagram was (and still is) a huge part of the way I shared the spots that I found around town and in other countries. People would take notice, and then reach out to me for tips. It wasn’t until recently that I decided to turn it in to a little venture of my own.
Once I started traveling a lot, I developed my own method for scoping out the best hidden gems in each city. After all, I too had to have my resources! I created my own search techniques for Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Instagram. My biggest discovery was that I could utilize Instagram as a search engine, rather than just looking at it as a creative outlet or social media. It was at this point I realized that I could help change the way people travel. For instance, one of my biggest pet peeves are overpriced touristy restaurants. With my search techniques and experience traveling, I knew these could be completely avoidable for my future clients, and I set out to make that so.
The Industry Needed a Change
Now, I didn’t actually think my little travel planning company would make a significant change, but, it was a start. Travel agents and travel planning companies were too mundane and by the book. It’s hard to find much value in travel agents today, because they continue to treat their clients’ needs the same. It’s all about sending their clients to the timeless hotels and restaurants that have worked for so many clients before them. So, I started thinking about people’s preferences and likes, and I quickly came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to treat everyone the same. I knew I could start a travel planning business tailored to people’s interests while traveling, and I wouldn’t send them to the same spot as the next guy.
In no time at all, I had created my first prototype ‘questionnaire’ that I would send to potential clients. The questionnaire would help me to get to know the person, and what their travel preferences and habits were like. You’d be surprised at how many people don’t want to visit museums, or how many people prefer hole-in-the-wall culinary experiences as opposed to fine dining. I also found out that some people preferred to walk everywhere, and others preferred taking Uber. And so I became your not-so-typical travel agent. Instead, I was focused on providing something I knew the industry lacked: hand-picked vacations tailored towards people’s interests and likings.
Blogging and Trip Planning
In 2016, I quickly rolled out my Trip Planner services on my website, Coat and Coffee. I was able to use blogging as a means to turning my readers in to my clients, and I’ve been loving every moment of it since! Creating customized trips for people was something I never thought could give me so much excitement and satisfaction. A client being happy with a beautiful undiscovered museum I picked, or a cute little coffee bar, would just make my day. Today I continue planning people’s vacations in order to help monetize my blog. This helps to keep advertising to a minimum on my website, and gives me some return on my investment.
How To Start Your Own Vacation Planning Service
Decide what value you want your future clients to receive, and build your brand on that. Are you the best at European travel, or adventure travel? Maybe you’re like me and want your clients to eat at really outstanding restaurants. Whatever angle you take, make sure you can provide that value. Create a professional website and start marketing your services. If you want to gain experience, ask a few friends who have recent trips coming up if you could plan their vacation for them! That’s always a great way to get started.
I love planning people’s vacations because it allows me to do what I love, even if I still am stuck working in advertising (for the time being anyway). Really, don’t get an accidental internship… It all started because of a passion, and that passion turned into wanting to change an industry of cookie cutter travel planning. I hope more people will follow suit, so that one day everyone can have the personalized vacation of their dreams.
This is a guest post by Emily from Coat + Coffee.
Emily is a part time travel blogger living in Phoenix, Arizona, who specializes in European travel and loves sharing tips and hidden gems. When she’s not in front of her computer, she’s out exploring the newest coffee shops around the world. Emily started her own blog Coat + Coffee to inspire others to travel smart with helpful tips, and non-touristy editorials about the best cities in Europe.