Officially, I only do Italy. However I have spent a lot of time in France and Switzerland and the Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark). On occasion I will plan other destinations for clients — but only if I have worked with those clients in the past and only at the platinum trip planning level.
Ok here’s where I am going to toot my own horn. I am hard working, detail oriented, and will provide you excellent customer service. But anybody can say that. Here are nine specific reasons you should work with me that separate me from other travel consultants:
This Wall Street Journal article does a great job of outlining four reasons you should use a travel consultant:
When should you reach out to a travel agent?
• If you want someone to call when things go wrong: Nearly 70% of affluent consumers who use travel agents say what’s most important is that an agent protect them or help them when things go wrong with a trip, according to a study by Harrison Group and American Express Publishing. “Travel agents are a kind of insurance,” Taylor say. For many agents, this means being on call at all hours.
• If you’re pressed for time or just want to avoid hassles: About one in three travelers feels overwhelmed by the amount of travel information online, according to the American Express Spending & Savings Tracker, a survey that looks at Americans’ spending and saving habits. If you’re in this group, or simply don’t have time to deal with trip planning, travel agents can do it all for you. Tell them where you want to go and the types of things you like to do, and they can put together a list of options for you and book them, saving you time. Agents are particularly useful to travelers who plan to take complicated trips, or go to multiple destinations or with multiple generations, says Gonchar.
• If you want more of a local experience: Good travel consultants have relationships with locals in your destination, experts say, so they can do things like arrange for you to have dinner with a local family, recommend restaurants and pubs that residents like but tourists don’t tend to know about, or find a tiny B&B for you to stay at where you can get to know the owner.
• If you want a highly customized experience: More and more travelers are asking for one-of-a-kind trips specifically tailored to their likes, says Gonchar. A foodie might want something like a private cooking class in Italy, a meet-and-greet with a chef she’s been reading about and a table in the private wine room of a restaurant. While she might not have the connections to get this done herself, a travel agent with deep local knowledge might be able to make this happen for her, Gonchar says.
We should discuss this before we begin.
Your Italy Beyond the Obvious itinerary will be pre-organized, everything will be pre-booked and double checked, but you have to be able to execute it on your own when you get there. You’ll know where to go, when, and how to get there, but you’ll still have to leave your hotel, on your own, in a foreign country with a foreign language and using foreign currency (and possibly in a jet-lagged fog). Local guides can help a lot here, but if you haven’t spent time in foreign countries, it’s very difficult for me to paint the picture of exactly how overwhelming it can be.
Sure. Italy’s main sights are famous for good reason. Sometimes “beyond the obvious” means the way you travel, not what you see. So maybe you want to see the main sights with a 2 year old in tow, or maybe you want to avoid crowds as much as possible.
Sometimes. But more importantly, you can be assured that all recommendations are good value for the money. You get what you pay for, so I don’t necessarily recommend the least expensive option. However, I am used to working within a budget.
Return on your investment is in 2 parts:
Time saved during the planning process: To organize a trip to Italy with the level of organization and detail provided by Italy Beyond the Obvious, plan on spending about 8 hours per travel day if you are going to do it yourself. A 10-day trip would therefore take about 80 hours for an average person to plan (including internet and guidebook research, time spent on the phone to Italy, booking time, and double-checking everything). By contrast, plan on 2-3 hours spent via phone or email with Italy Beyond the Obvious. For a 10-day trip, that’s about 77 hours of time saved. How much is your time worth per hour?
Time used more efficiently on the trip: when a trip is well-organized ahead of time, you won’t waste time getting lost; showing up at the train station and realizing that train doesn’t run on Sundays; fixing errors due to the language barrier during the booking process; or waiting in line for 2 hours for a museum that could have been pre-booked. We estimate that travelers with organized pre-booked itineraries can accomplish 20% more in a day, and don’t forget: you accomplish more in a single day, at a lower stress level, for more enjoyment.
Let’s say your 10-day trip to Italy works out to cost $600/day, including everything. Let’s say you have 12 hours per day of “out and about time”, to enjoy, explore, and relax. Each Italian vacation hour essentially costs $50. A 10-day vacation has 120 vacation hours. Therefore being able to do 20% more because of a well-planned vacation equals 24 hours during the vacation which are spent relaxing and enjoying Italy rather than spent problem-solving and stressed in a foreign country. To put a dollar value on it, those 24 hours x $50 per hour is $1200 worth of time that can be used to enjoy Italy instead of lost due to planning mistakes.
Put your own numbers in to the examples above in 1) and 2) (and take into account that part 2 can be multiplied by number of people traveling together) to calculate how much you will actually save by having Italy Beyond the Obvious plan your Italian vacation!
No, you’ll still need the guidebook, however Platinum Trip Planning itineraries include historical information that can replace a guide book. The written itinerary is an outline of activities, contact information, and a daily route map, and will be about 1 or 2 pages per day. If you would like guidebook suggestions we are happy to provide them.
The short answer is: the business model. Here at Italy Beyond the Obvious, we can offer all the services a travel agent can offer, except we don’t book flights. We have a depth of Italy knowledge that few travel agents have. Travel agents receive commissions for booking hotels, cruises, flights, or tours for travelers from their portfolio. From a business perspective, they must spend their time booking things that give them commission, or they won’t be in business for long.
As travel consultants, we charge for time and expertise. We want to be able to spend the time on the areas that will make your trip absolutely amazing. We spend a lot of time on things that do not offer commissions such as:
I have two children and have traveled a lot with them, so yes I have lots of suggestions for traveling with kids in Italy. What influences trip planning more than anything else is how you travel with kids: some people want a kid-oriented vacation, so move from beach to playground to children’s museum. Others want to do the same things they’d normally do, but move at a slower pace and be back at the hotel in the middle of the day for nap time. We’ll customize it based on your needs.
Don’t worry, we’ll work together until it’s perfect.
Coaching does not need to be 7 consecutive days, and yes we can take a break or two while you work on bookings. However, I have more coaching requests than I can say yes to, so they are often scheduled out several weeks. The important thing is to get the coaching days on my calendar.
You get access to Madeline and Claudia during your Italy trip, which means we cover you 24/7! Past examples of clients using on-trip support include:
Fees are based on groups of 6 people. If your group is larger than 6 people please contact me to ask about fees.
Absolutely. And, you should ask us for the cost breakdown, because the vast majority of the time, we can create the same trip for a lower cost. Online tours are sold at a package price, and when we break down the individual costs – even with our highest end Platinum level planning services – the total trip cost always comes out lower.
It depends on when you are going and how flexible the itinerary can be. For trips in high season, the more notice the better. For a low stress planning process, 4-6 months is ideal. For Platinum itinerary planning, we need 3-4 months to plan your trip. For Gold itinerary planning service, we need at least 2 months to plan your trip. For coaching service, as long as you can get on my calendar, you can do it last-minute.
Answer this question: how much time to you have?
a) You don’t even have time to be reading this. You need bells and whistles, i’s dotted and t’s crossed, and for it to Just Get Done —–> Platinum itinerary planning
b) You’d like someone else to manage the project and you’re okay with a relaxed itinerary ———> Gold itinerary planning
c) You’re happy to do it yourself, just not sure where to begin / suffering from information overload / traveling next week / need guidance and tailored recommendations AND you have 40 – 80 hours to dedicate to planning your own trip ——–> Coaching
d) You just need an hour or two of time to give advice on an existing itinerary ——–> hourly consulting (contact Madeline at [email protected])
Contact us, we’re happy to answer all of your questions.
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