How many times a week do you talk to a client who tells you how stressed out they are? Work, the kids, and the house – egad they just need to unplug and get away for a while and recharge! We nod and smile knowingly. “Yes, yes…it’s very important for not only your mental health but your physical health as well to get away from all the everyday stresses!” We tell them, “Not only will it make you feel better, but you will be a better employee, parent and spouse when you take a little time away.” Then away we go to plan an awesome adventure for them.
Hmm…let me ask you though, when was the last time YOU went on vacation?
I am not talking about a “trip” here. As travel professionals we are always traveling somewhere – a trade show, a FAM, a Seminar at Sea, maybe even escorting a group to an exotic locale. We travel with purpose and one eye on our businesses at all times. You know the drill, you wait till the flight attendant is threatening to toss you out on the tarmac before you shut off the cell phone and, as soon as you land, it goes back on to see if any crises occurred in the 3 hours you were unavailable. At any hotel we stay in, we make sure we meet the manager and take notes and pictures for that next client that might need it. Maybe we even take a quick peek at the hotel next door. Going on a cruise? First stop is usually the internet cafe to purchase an internet package to stay in contact for the week.
No, I am talking about a real, bon a fide VACATION. One where you took the necessary steps to allow yourself to unplug for a week and recharge your batteries. One where your spouse and kids weren’t giving you what I call “The Look.”
Hint – if you have to think about this question too long – keep reading!
I had a sneak peek at what this would be like when I attended a mountain retreat earlier this year and was probably the only one there not upset that I had no cell phone service. I arrived on Friday and by Sunday when I was playing in the snow with my adult daughter, I realized that the tightness in my chest that I hadn’t even realized I carry with me 24/7, was gone. It felt so good, I really didn’t want to come down from that no-cell phone-zone mountain – and it had nothing to do with any religious awakening.
However, I had experienced a “spiritual” awakening of sorts –I realized that little by little, over time, I had let my life priorities become a bit too skewed in the direction of work. Thus began my quest to find a way to test my theory that the world would indeed continue to revolve if I decided to step off the grid for a short while.
Upon my return to real life that Monday, a discussion arose with my online colleagues – most of whom run one-person offices as I do – about how ludicrous it is that, as travel professionals, we never really get a real vacation anymore. I related how last year I had tried to get away – however, the stress to try to keep the balls in the air while I was gone and the mess that I returned home to just made the whole thing not really worth it. So we began to brainstorm about what we could do – what systems we would need to have in place – to really feel comfortable stepping away from our businesses to escape and relax.
What I discovered is that it takes a bit of preparation and a lot of trust, but the key is to place your business in the hands of an experienced professional who will treat it as their own – because you know darn well that the moment you leave there will be that one wishy-washy client that decides that the trip you’ve been working on with them for a month just has to be booked that week. Enter Susan Schaefer, agent extraordinaire, who freed my mind from my bonds of work for a week.
So how did we do it? How did I get one whole week with my hubby without “The Look”?
Email: In the past I have done as we all do and put an automatic out of office reply with a number to call in case of emergency. What I found was I still returned home to irritated clients who didn’t have an emergency, but were miffed I was unavailable to answer their questions for the week I was gone. So this time I requested Susan monitor my email and proactively contact any client who emailed that week just to touch base and communicate that she would be more than happy to answer their questions or assist them. This alone gave me the peace of mind to let go and relax because I knew that I wasn’t going to walk back into a hornet’s nest upon my return. It also actually saved me money as I didn’t have to buy an internet package on board the ship to check email!
Client Information: Here is where my “paperless office” method really helps me. I use Client Base as my CRM with Client Base Online, so I was able to give Susan access to my database. I also maintain an electronic filing cabinet in my “My Documents” file with a separate file for each client where all documents pertaining to that client are stored. Giving her access to this was easy as I utilize a free online service called Dropbox where I created a folder to share with her.
Phone: I already use a service called RingCentral to help route my calls to wherever I need them to ring, and it also delivers my voice mails to me via email. I simply set this to ring directly to voicemail, Susan retrieved the voice mails via my monitored email, and once again proactively contacted any client that called.
Agency info: A key component was establishing what I was comfortable with Susan doing. For me, providing her with my agency booking numbers as well as a few logins was not a problem. Passwords are easily changed to a temporary one and then back again if necessary. By providing Susan with this level of control she was able to book and berth a cabin into an established Carnival group and make a date adjustment to finalize a quote for a vacation package I had been working on so I could process the deposit as soon as I returned to the office.
So did it work? Yes! I am happy to report that I did, in fact, get a real vacation and was able to not only relax and breathe for a bit without thinking of my clients – but it also had the unanticipated benefit of allowing me to rediscover the reason I am in this crazy business to begin with – my love of travel.
Barbara Oliver CTA, MCC is the owner of All Together Now Travel based in Valencia, CA and specializes in Family and Family Reunion/Group Travel. Our tag line “A Journey Shared…is a Memory Forever” voices our commitment to strengthen family relationships, one adventure at a time. She can be reached at (661)255-9656