Aunt Barbara’s Travel | TravelResearchOnline


Aunt Barbara’s Travel

We like Aunt Barbara. We really do. She’s a great gal and everyone loves being around her. She tells great jokes and is always sharing her latest recipe at parties. She’s the one relative we all look forward to seeing at Thanksgiving.

Aunt Barb rocks.

But what do you say when she offers to plan your upcoming vacation?

It sounds pretty good. She has gone on some great trips. She has always loved traveling. She knows her way around Google and TripAdvisor like no one’s business. She always finds a deal. And she just signed up to “become a travel agent.”

Awesome. It sounds too good to be true! And it’s totally understandable to consider it. After all, who wouldn’t like to save some time, effort and have their vacation all planned out? What could possibly go wrong?


The problem with this scenario is that many (if not most) clients will have the same expectations of Aunt Barb as they do with a professional travel planner. After all, anybody can be a travel agent, right? And if that’s true, why not let Aunt Barb handle it all and save yourself some hassle and maybe some money?

It’s true that anyone can search Google, read TripAdvisor, and work an online booking engine. The airlines and suppliers have made sure of that. But it’s a wholly different thing to have them deliver the experience most travelers expect. While Aunt Barb will certainly find you a destination, will it be the destination for you? Aunt Barb will find a beachfront resort for you. But will she know that a Mahogany Tide rolls in each night along with its oppressive smells? Aunt Barb will find a hotel with a four star restaurant attached to the lobby. But will she know that it is scheduled to close for renovations just before your arrival? Aunt Barb will find a “tropical paradise” for your honeymoon. But will she know that the same “tropical paradise” is also the preferred paradise for 200 spring breakers?

Obviously, the difference begins to come to light. Off the top of my head, here are a few things where a professional travel planner will excel over Aunt Barb.

A professional travel planner may have….

  • Traveled to the destination personally and can offer first hand advice.
  • Spent years or decades studying geography, travel styles, and lifestyles for experiences that fir their clients.
  • Participated in multiple continuing education programs throughout the year.
  • Cruised on dozens of cruise lines—not ships.
  • Personally know the concierges and general managers at key properties.
  • Know how to work the GDS to find the best value for their clients.
  • Has a network of other professional whom they trust to seek additional advice.
  • Knows the best and most efficient routing of flights to maximize a client’s experience.
  • Understands that there are many airports in Washington, London, and Paris and how to navigate them.
  • Based on experience, can strongly suggest alternatives to a client’s initial desires.
  • Is not focused on earning a commission but creating the ideal experience for the client.
  • Is focused on making a fair and reasonable profit.
  • Treats their business as a business and not a hobby.

Do you have some more to add to the list? Please leave a comment.

  11 thoughts on “Aunt Barbara’s Travel

  1. Joanne Hunt says:

    Be sure that you have purchased trip protection insurance and should any unforeseen issues arise be there to assist you.

  2. Have a statistic of many travelers experience to analyze, compare to the Aunt Barb’s only own experience.

  3. Vacationagent says:

    This article should be required reading for all my clients. Excellent points!

  4. Teri Hurley says:

    If you had said that Aunt Barbara was not a new travel agent but simply one who enjoyed travel and wanted to plan for others, I would have sided with you. However, I don’t think that new agent Aunt Barbara is any different than anyone else starting out in a new profession. We don’t get here by osmosis! She needs time to hone her craft. Is she to be as educated as a seasonal veteran? Of course not. But one does not get seasoned without a beginning and the time to obtain that education and experience established agents have. Give the Aunt Barbara’s of the world a break. Some will excel to become tomorrows travel experts.

  5. I agree with Teri but only to a point. Get your experience in the shadows learning as much as you can but in the end a person who has visited a vacation destination over 25 times in 30 years has it all over someone who thinks all they need is a computer. Sorry.

  6. Donna Evans says:

    We have on site agents throughout the world, access to value added features, specialty designations for what we know best and sell most, “friends” around the world to rely on the best service, fabulous customer service and EXPERIENCE. Site inspection, site inspetion, site inspection wherever we go.

  7. Be sure that you know there are lots of different train stations in almost every major city — and sends you to the correct one for your train.

    I am putting this article on our company Facebook page. Love it.

  8. Tracy Kidd says:

    I agree with Teri Hurley’s comment!! At the risk of being called “Aunt Barbara” LOL, I have to admit there are quite a few things on that list that I as a new agent definitely do not know yet. Thank goodness I have resources to go to but I would imagine that alot of newbies don’t have that.

  9. NW CTC says:

    An experienced agent will have site inspected well over a dozen resorts and hotels in any given location and will know the strengths, weaknesses and personality of each. Thus, a recommendation will be based not just on a single stay at a single resort (or the great time a neighbor had on their family vacation) but on broad experience that facilitates recommendation of the best choice for an individual client. Ditto with cruise lines, tour operators, etc.

  10. Juanita Davis says:

    If deciding to let someone else plan your trip also do your own research on your destination so they you are just as sure as taking them for their word and you have some knowledge also. When deciding on a destination make sure you know why you want to visit there instead of going off someone else’s experiences so that the trip just is just enjoyable for you as it were for them. Everyone is different and I might like something more or less than the person planning my trip. Don’t be hesitant to ask questions.

  11. Juanita Davis says:

    Have a good reason why you want to go to destination. Also, know what types of festivals, events or what the place is known for so that it makes your trip more enjoyable to you liking and interests.

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