All too often, we get calls from busy parents a few weeks before a major school vacation, desperate to plan a family trip. The frantic need to go somewhere—“anywhere”—often takes over all practical considerations.
Once we are working regularly with clients, this doesn’t happen. We encourage all of them to have 5-year travel plans. This is a win-win situation for them and for us. With a 5-year travel plan, we know that this year they may be going to the Galapagos Islands, but next year, they’re painting their house. The year after that…they’re planning to go on a safari in South Africa. With this knowledge, we can keep on top of bookings and deadlines. We’ve found that our 5-year travel plan helps clients maximize their travel time and money.
Here are some of the steps we encourage our clients (individuals, couples and families) do to realize their travel dreams.
Step 1: Write a Family Travel Mission Statement. Have all family members sit down and identify what it is they are looking for in travel. Education? Relaxation? Is travel an occasional treat or are they trying to get to every continent before the kids go to college?
Step 2: Develop a Travel Wish List. Have them think about the places they’ve always thought about visiting but also encourage them to fantasize.
Step 3: Work up a Travel Budget. While it may be impossible to know from one year to the next how much one can afford to spend on travel, it’s important to do at least a rough budget looking ahead five years.
Step 4: Identify Time Constraints. School calendars. Work schedules. Sport commitments. These all have to be
Step 5: Analyze Age/Interest Differences. While an 8-year-old son might be itching to go to Colonial Williamsburg, the teen sister might have her eyes on Paris. It’s important to please everyone on every trip and there are numerous creative solutions a travel agent can offer.
Step 6: Determine How Active To Be. Everyone’s different and this is something your client needs to give considerable thought to when planning trips.
Step 7: Plan Second Honeymoons and Other Getaways. While it’s easy for clients to get caught up in family travel planning, it’s important not to lose sight of the importance of setting aside romantic weekends away or seizing opportunities to go off solo or with college classmates (think girlfriend getaways, guys bonding trips…).
Step 8: Write it all down. Our experience says planning five years out (weekends, holidays, vacations) is the most effective way to make sure our clients go where they want to go. Once your client commits it to a document, they are already on their way.
Step 9: Commit, but Be Flexible. While it’s important to have 5-year travel plans, it’s also important to be flexible with them. Our clients often come back from trips with whole new lists of places they want to go.
Step 10: Revisit the Five-Year Plan Annually. We recommend reviewing 5-year travel plans once a year or more often if circumstances change (better job or lost job; new baby…what have you).
Susan Farewell is the owner of Farewell Travels LLC (FarewellTravels.com), a travel design firm based in Westport, CT. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @FarewellTravels.