No One Likes Planning Their Own Vacations, So Here’s How Not To

Tour operators do the dirty work, you reap the rewards

By The Editors

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15 April 2016

Vacations are fun. Planning a vacation? Not so much. It takes a lot of due diligence to research and plan and a successful trip.

This is why there are travel planners and tour operators. But choosing one is not as simple as a Google search; finding a good travel advisor can be as daunting as sorting out the trip itself.

Ergo, we hit up some of our trusted favorites for tips on what to look for — and avoid — when choosing a professional to help you plan your vacation.

In their own words:

Narrow Your Search

“For you and your travel partner, this will ensure everything from that point falls into place. And whatever the goal, coming to terms with it as your planning begins can help ensure smooth sailing from that point on.”—Steve Born, Vice President of Marketing, Globus family of brands

“Look for a travel planner who has traveled extensively. Especially to the destinations you are considering. It's always smart to work with someone who has first hand insider knowledge, as well as a deep network of high level connections, as this will truly set your experience apart from just booking it yourself.” —Stacy Small, President/Founder of Elite Travel International

“Never be afraid to ask the travel advisor for a reference or two to existing clients.” —Stacy Small

Trust Their Expertise

“A great travel planner should tell you what to do. Once they understand the experience you want, they should be insistent on the recommendations they make. Great travel planners are bossy.”

Dean Smith, President, Flight Centre Travel Group - The Americas  

“A great travel planner is as important as your hair stylist or trainer. The more you get to know each other, the better your travel experiences will be.” Dean Smith

Ask Questions

“Does the company you are considering have local employees where you are going? If so, they will have the access and connections to get you into places not available to others? They will also have the local knowledge needed to change up your itinerary if the weather doesn’t cooperate, the activity proves to be more challenging than you expected or you simply want to make a change.”—Phil Otterson, President of Abercrombie & Kent USA

“If planning an adventurous trip, see if the guide’s trained in First Aid.  And see if the guides are Wilderness First Responders.”—Phil Otterson

“Find their deposit and cancellation policies. See how long have they been in business, and if they’re members of the United States Tour Operators Association.”—Phil Otterson

Know Your Limits

“For a lot of us, ‘on my own’ sounds great until we arrive and we find ourselves looking for some direction. The type of tour company and the tour style provides a wide range of services between fully engaged vs. independent with support.” —Steve Born

“There is no such thing as bad vacations, just bad fits. We look at ourselves as almost like an online dating service for travel enthusiasts it's all about perfect matchmaking.” —Rob Harper, Director of Business Development, Costa Rican Vacations and Panama Vacations

—Karen Loftus

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