Flexibility to create a career on your own terms and the freedom to do it anywhere are two qualities that make a travel advisor career special for anyone, but for parents balancing their work responsibilities while raising children at the same time, it’s not just a bonus – it’s a necessity.
It’s not a coincidence, then, that travel-loving parents have been flocking to the travel advisor scene as a way to build meaningful income while getting that work-life balance that they crave.
At a recent Fora event, we sat down with co-founder Henley Vazquez (and mom of three) as well as a panel of travel advisor parents including Gaya Vinay, Kerry Boyd and Brian Lonergan, to hear about how they find success, why travel advising works for them and what we can all learn along the way – whether we’re parents or not.
Love all of this? Catch a replay of the livestream for the full conversation.
Travel isn’t just fun for kids; it creates important teachable moments, too.
Gaya, who’s based in Boulder, Colorado, spends a lot of time on hotel site visits so she can actually see the properties she recommends to her clients. A lot of this time, she’ll take her children along. “My children love the special treatment that we get,” she said. “We go to hotels and I get to meet the sales manager or the GM and they always say hi to the kids and they love that.”
But getting the special treatment isn’t the most important part of the hotel site visit from Gaya's perspective as a parent. Instead, it’s the opportunity to teach her children about the hospitality industry as a whole. It's the opportunity to shine a spotlight on the people who make it what it is, and the hard work involved:
“When we travel, I point out that there are a lot of people working [at the hotel or destination] to make sure the children are having a good time. It’s not just magical. It’s not a wave of the wand that makes this happens. There are people working incredibly hard there. We talk with them a lot about how hotels support whole economies and support livelihoods and are such important jobs. It’s very much a fiber of the countries and communities we’re in,” Gaya explained.
Travel advising doesn’t need to be done during traditional business hours.
Brian Lonergan is a dad of two kids who lives in New York. He works full-time on the Fora staff as Travel Sales Manager, plus maintains his own portfolio of clients and runs a Japan travel company called Ichi-go Japan. While he balances a busy schedule, Brian leans into the belief that flexibility is everything. “I can’t imagine many careers where I’d have the flexibility that I do to leave early and pick up my kids,” he said. “It’s a career and a job that lends itself very naturally to non-traditional scheduling, flexibility and work-life balance.”
Brian’s secret to making travel advising work is a tactic he calls “playing the time zones”: he’ll spend his morning focused emailing with suppliers in Africa and Europe, holds off on emailing California until the late afternoon, and reaches out to his colleagues in Asia just before putting the kids to bed. This allows him to focus his energy when and where it's needed and incorporate his travel advisor schedule into his day, rather than the other way around.
“I didn’t want to go back to my previous corporate life where I would have to work 60 hours a week and ask someone for permission to take time off and get an OK to go to my kids’ school board for volunteering,” added Gaya, who focuses most of her work in the morning hours when her kids are at school.
“What Fora offers is the ability to be a micro-entrepreneur. You have so much control over your day. Whatever you put in, you get that much out, and having the ability to have that much control over my day was very appealing.”
You can start this career at any time.
Kerry is a Boston mom of two teenagers who also balances her Fora responsibilities with a career as a teacher. She admits that her kids were a little surprised when she took on a new career with older children at home. “It was great for my kids to see that mom can do something different even at this stage of her life,” Kerry said. “They’re getting older, I’m getting older, but these are exciting new adventures.”
Though it may feel like starting a career as a travel advisor is a whole new responsibility, the reality is that many prospective travel advisors, who are travel-lovers to begin with, have been refining perhaps the most important skill their whole lives – knowing and recommending great travel experiences. When it comes to the other part of travel advising, like building a portfolio, making bookings happen and partnering with great properties, Fora steps in to make it easier than ever. It's something you can tackle at the beginning of your professional career, as an add-on during retirement or anywhere in between.
Don’t be ashamed to ask for help.
Starting a new career isn’t always easy. It requires a lot of self-dedication, and oftentimes gets started with you tapping your own personal network. But many of our most successful travel advisors cite asking for help as one of their key tools for success.
“I have no qualms asking people to book travel through me,” Gaya said. “All my years I’ve helped so many people, donating to their running causes and helping with their nonprofit support. And now I call people and say ‘are you booking travel? Can you book through me? The worst thing that can happen is someone is going to say no.”
Asking for help also means tapping into the larger Fora advisor community for advice and support when you need it. Thanks to Forum, Fora’s global community platform, advisors can stay connected with each other, trade travel tips and client experiences, and even pass opportunities onto each other that might be a better fit elsewhere.
Communication is everything.
Travel advisors are masters of communication because they’re doing it all the time – from deeply understanding their clients’ needs and priorities to organizing important logistics with suppliers and hotel partners.
Kerry believes that truly listening to her clients and asking the right questions is the key to her success. “The more you can listen to somebody and where they’re coming from, the more successful you’ll be,” she said.
That same courtesy of truly listening and understanding shouldn’t stop at your clients, though – it should also be extended to suppliers, hotels, tour operators and other people you’re working with. Brian takes the time to thank overseas suppliers for speaking with him in his first language of English. “I thank them for speaking English to me and you’d be amazed how much that relaxes them and gets them on your side. Communication with your suppliers can’t be overlooked.”
“Nothing is ever perfect in travel,” added Henley, “So having empathy for the suppliers you’re working with, the hoteliers and what they’re dealing with, and empathy with your client [is very important.]”
Prioritize your clients.
As a parent, time is limited, so finding success as a travel advisor also means really sitting down and identifying what your priorities are, who your clients should be, and most importantly, who they’re not. That’s where leveraging Fora’s network comes in handy – because you can still give clients an amazing booking experience by referring them easily to another travel advisor who can help them, saving you face (and valuable time).
“Sit down and really think about the clients you’d like to have. Once you frame that I think it will help you allocate your time better. If you say ‘I’m going to book travel for everybody and everywhere and do everything’ you're not going to do it well,” Gaya said. “For me, it helped me define my day and say ‘I have three hours this morning, and these are the types of clients I want.’”
Gaya suggests listing out the top three clients that would be ideal for you and to think about how much money you want to make annually from your new career as a travel advisor, then working backward.
“If you don’t think you can do it all, think about what you can do, and go from there,” Kerry added.
Being a great travel advisor and being a great parent go hand-in-hand.
Travel-loving parents can check off a few boxes of experience that will lend themselves well to being a travel advisor, perhaps without even knowing it. “Your life as a parent involves juggling many things at once. Handling unpredictable situations, calming people, inventing things along the way, and that really folds into what we’re doing,” Henley said.
Perhaps due to all the natural ways travel advising goes hand-in-hand with parenthood, the industry itself has become decently parent-heavy, and with that comes a certain empathy throughout the industry for parents, both as travel advisors as well as clients. “We embrace the chaos of parenting and talk about how that helps us rather than looking at it as an albatross hanging around our neck,” Henley said.
Looking for more insight on what a travel advisor actually does? Read our post: what is a travel agent?
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