Here are Ten Questions you should always ask your custom Travel Planner.
1. How do you work with clients – what is your business model?
The answer to this question will tell you how the planner will work with you from the start of your relationship until you complete your trip. Read more about business models here.
2. Is there a fee for an initial consultation?
Most planners have a complementary consultation to check to see if there is a good fit, then charge a fee for planning your actual trip. Some have up-front fees, others have planning fees, others take commissions on the back-end. For the most part, a trip can be very similar, but the way the planner is compensated may make a difference in what they recommend for you.
3. How is the final price that I pay determined?
The main difference will be complete tour packages (with all elements included for one price) vs. disaggregated trips, with each piece paid for separately, either in advance of your trip or during the trip. If the former, then a set price is determined in advance and your planner will itemize everything included in the price of the tour using formulas standard to the industry and their company. If the latter, then your final price may not be determined until after the trip is complete and all bills have been converted to your currency and paid.
4. How will you support me when I am in your destination? Do you have resources in the country?
Some planners maintain support staff in the country you will be in, or have on-call staff and emergency contacts. Others have small companies and take care of most of this themselves. If you are traveling to a more exotic location you will want to be sure that you feel confident that your planner and their company will be there for you if you have an emergency situation.
5. What will my final product look like? What is included and what will I pay for once I am there?
Get a description of exactly what the planner will deliver. This will include things like the detail of the itinerary, any vouchers for services, maps and information about the destination, tour services, contact information,
6. Do you offer fully escorted tours or fully independent or some combination?
Some companies only offer fully guided tours, other off independent tours with some guided days and some have you completely on your own the entire time. This will often depend on the destination, the language where you are traveling, the regulations in the country as well as the nature of the travel industry in your destination. Plans can range widely. For some places, your planner will put together a plan with only great hotels and some activity and dining recommendations. On the other end of the spectrum would be a fully guided trip from start to finish with every day planned out in minute detail. Some planners can work with a range of options, but others will only take projects of a certain type. The corollary to this question is Do you plan my entire trip or only parts of it? If you want end-to-end planning, you’ll want to know the answer to this question. Some planners only do hotels and guides, others plan every little detail.
7. Tell me about your expertise? How often do you travel to your destination? When was the last time you were there?
Current knowledge is what you are going to the travel planner for. While the Covid restrictions have obviously reduced the ability of a planner to have totally up-to-date knowledge, they should have contacts in the country who can provide them with good intel and what is new and what the current travel situation is. Most experienced experts travel to their destination specialty once or twice a year.
8. What other destinations do you plan for?
The answer to this question can give you insight how the planner works with your desired destination. Some planners handle multiple destinations throughout the world (essentially, more like travel agents with a specialty). Others handle a few countries in a narrow region of the world. Others focus totally on only one place. The main difference for you is that if you love your planner and they only do one place, you won’t be able to use them for other destinations. But if you want to get the deepest knowledge and access to special places, you’ll usually have to go to a specialist in the narrowest area possible. Think of it as similar to medical or legal advice. A generalist works well for the basics, a specialist is needed if you really want to have a deep dive into a particular place.
9. Tell me about your typical client profile.
Getting the planner to tell you this will give you an idea of whether you are a good fit for their services. Without putting too fine point on it, some planners can be very exclusive and only deal with very high end clients. Others deal with a broad range of clients but then their services on the high-end are not what that type of traveler is accustomed to. Some are exclusive, some are inclusive.
10. What are your company’s terms and conditions?
Be sure to ask about the terms and conditions you will be subject to once you decide to move forward. Post-pandemic terms have gotten significantly more important to both travel providers and travelers and getting an understanding of the roadmap for the services that will be provided is an important way to start off your busines relationship.