We’ve all heard the horror stories about Familiarization Trips, or FAMs, where some poor agent ended up with the roommate from hell. You know the one — stumbles around the room nude, drinks like a fish, and brings strangers back to the room at all hours of the day and night.
Obviously, that kind of behavior is inappropriate pretty much anywhere; but certainly on a FAM. But, coming to a consensus on exactly what behavior is expected, appreciated and appropriate when one is fortunate enough to be invited on a FAM trip, is a bit more difficult.
While I am by no means an etiquette expert, my last column seemed to strike some nerves, so I have drafted what I think are the top ten guidelines for FAM trip behavior. Follow these, and you’re likely to be invited back!
- RSVP. If you are invited, then please make sure to respond (promptly) and let the host know whether or not you will be attending.
- Show up. If you say you are coming, then you need to attend. Barring a true emergency, it’s not fair to waste a slot that could have gone to another interested agent.
- Don’t bring uninvited guests. Yes, some FAMs allow non-industry companions, and that’s great. But don’t pretend that your spouse or best friend is a “travel agent” just so they can sit on a beach while you work.
- Bring your sense of humor. We all wish our clients would remember this one, so please try to set a good example. When we travel, unexpected wrinkles can (and do) happen, so take it in stride and don’t take it out on the FAM host.
- Know your limits. Some FAMs involve strenuous activity – touring multiple hotels, walking in the hot sun, and climbing countless sets of stairs. If you don’t think you’ll be up to it, there’s no shame in declining the FAM invitation. But don’t go on the trip expecting that everyone else will go out of their way to accommodate your physical limitations. If you are in doubt, call your host and ask.
- Be a good guest. Act as though you are at a friend’s house for a dinner party. Be on time for scheduled events, drink responsibly, and engage in friendly conversation with the other agents. Did I mention drinking responsibly?
- Keep a low profile. This one should go without saying, but the resort or cruise line is not going to appreciate it if you swagger around talking about how you are traveling for free, handing out business cards, or in any way soliciting their guests.
- Don’t monopolize the host(ess). Presumably, everyone attending a FAM is there to learn. So don’t monopolize your tour guide, sales manager or BDM with your personal questions and issues. If you have a situation or a client that you really need to discuss, it’s better to exchange business cards and follow up at a more appropriate time.
- Be kind to the staff. The waiters, bartenders and housekeeping staff do not care that you are a travel agent, and they do not need to treat you any differently than the other guests. Likewise, you should behave like the other guests—treat them with respect, smile, thank them, and yes, tip them.
- Say “Thank You”. Naturally, you can and should say “thank you” in person when you take leave of your host, but I think it’s also a nice gesture to follow up after the fact with a written thank you. If you send a nice email or, even better, a handwritten thank you note, I can guarantee that you will stand out in their mind – and in a good way!
Do you have more tips for FAM behavior? What are some of the behaviors you have witnessed that made you cringe? Please comment below!
Ann Petronio is a travel consultant and the owner of Annie’s Escapes, Inc. in Cranston, Rhode Island. She creates custom-tailored vacations for busy couples, families and groups. www.AnniesEscapes.com