I just got an e-mail from a client. “Hi Susan, we’re wondering if you have our itinerary yet?”
This was from a new client, a honeymoon couple I literally just “met” (on the phone) 24 hours ago. We spent an hour talking about their trip, which is a 2-week self-drive itinerary in France. They wanted the itinerary dotted with great experiences, vineyard visits, cooking classes, biking excursions…and they prefer a vintage sports car. Their budget is decent—but not the kind of numbers doors fly open for.
I had told them I’d get them a working proposal within a week’s time…but I guess, they didn’t hear that part? Hmmm.
While I pride myself on being up to the minute with technology and my company runs 24/7, our itineraries take time. They are all crafted specifically for the clients we design them for. No two itineraries are alike and many of them include lots of challenging components.
It’s one of the reasons we survive as a word-of-mouth business. People come to us looking for professionals to carefully develop personalized plans for them. They don’t want canned itineraries. They want to feel special and cared for.
However, increasingly we find our clients expect super-human processing time. With the internet at our fingertips, the average person can do trip research in minutes simply by entering in arrival and departure times and filling out simple online forms. Many assume this quick research is all we have to do to put together a magical trip
Couldn’t be further from reality for us.
Each client’s trip has to have 100 percent focus and is an ever-changing work in progress until complete. It usually requires a great deal of back and forth with international partners and developing it can go on for days.
Hotels of course always require a huge amount of our focus. It’s critical to understand a client’s taste. Just because they can afford it, not everyone wants the hushed and fussy environment of some five-star hotels. But are they going to be comfortable in a four-star? They want authentic but are they going to text me complaining there’s no place to open their luggage in the room? And then there’s of course availability. You might have a great hotel for their first night, but as the itinerary progresses, not all the beautiful places are available. So you have to work with what is available. Can a mediocre hotel kill an itinerary? I assure you. It can.
And then there are the many, many other decisions. They are going to Berlin and want an art tour? Well, what sort of art? Will Museum Island appeal to them or do they want edgier galleries with newer art, or what about the Museum Berggruen in the western part of Berlin, which has an impressive collection of works by Picasso, Matisse, Klee and others. Oh and since they are there, they should get over to the Gemaldegalerie to see the “Meeting the Madonnas” exhibit, which is part of the Raphael anniversary celebrations in 2020.
These are the little details that I find myself thinking about at 3 o’clock in the morning. These are the details that take time and human focus. They are the details that make the difference on how well an itinerary works.
We are not machines and if a client expects us to act like one…you might suggest they plan their trip themselves.
Susan Farewell is the owner of Farewell Travels LLC (FarewellTravels.com), a travel design firm based in Connecticut. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @FarewellTravels.