Planning is half the fun, right? I think so, that's one reason I became a travel agent. Before I earned my travel consultant wings over a dozen years ago, I planned our family vacations looking at numerous aspects of the trip. The two MUST HAVES for my family's vacations are EXPERIENCE and VALUE. Those are two big words serving many wants and needs. EXPERIENCE changed with every vacation. What was the mood we were going for -- relaxing at the beach, adventure in the mountains, theme parks and resorts, cabin in the woods, visiting family on a road trip. Each of these moods had questions to answer -- time of year, budget, length of the vacation. VALUE had several meanings as well. Although I am thrifty, I won't book a "bargain" vacation that ignores experience or safety. Value doesn't mean cheap, it means taking other matters into consideration. For example, if my family budget for a Disney vacation is $10,000 that might mean staying at Disney's moderate resorts during high season for a week or at a Disney deluxe resort for 10-days during low season. Experience and value play the most important roles in my vacation planning.
Then there are the boring but important topics to address. Is travel insurance the same as medical insurance, is Covid-19 covered, what happens if I have to cancel, do I need a passport, do I need a visa, what is the currency, do I need a special plug for my cell phone?
Because I enjoy researching and planning for vacations, I'm happy to look into the boring but important topics.
Before I became a travel agent I often hired travel agents to help me book vacations. They knew details that I couldn't find online. They were able to get me rebates if the vacation price lowered. They helped navigate insurance policies that I didn't understand at the time. Sometimes I would book a part of the trip myself and other parts through a travel agent. I often got theme park tickets and hotels through travel agents and booked airfare myself or we would drive. And it didn't cost me anything -- in fact I usually got better experience and value with a travel agent than on my own.
So let's address the question I posed in the title of this article -- How Travel Agents Make Money And What It Costs You?
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, it didn't cost me anything and often saved me money. Occasionally there were service charges for changes or cancellations, but they were very reasonable, made perfect sense, and still the bottom line was better value than if I booked by myself.
Travel companies earn on average 10% of the pre-taxed price of the vacation. Much depends on the type of travel and the standings of the agencies. Let's say your pre-taxed vacation price was $7000. If you book it yourself, you pay $7000. If you book with a travel agent, you pay $7000 plus get services that will help you understand your destination, cancellation policies, insurance, receive cash back if the prices lower, and any updates on travel concerns. The commission that supplies pay to agencies cover overhead mortgages, rents, utilities, staff, travel agents, training, administration, licenses, and more. You really get a tremendous service booking your travel with a travel agent.
Travel agents love the work. Before you book your next vacation, ask your local travel consultant for a quote and see how it compares. Your vacation starts the moment you email your travel agent.
Over the years you have come to know me as a mother of special needs children, a maker and art teacher. Being a maker and art teacher served my family well during the times when I wanted and needed to be able to drop everything for my kids. Whether it was a heart appointment for Emily or an autism conference for Evan, being a maker and teacher allowed me the freedom to work -- which I love -- and the comfort in knowing that the career I built fit perfectly into our lives.
What you might not have known is that when Emily was 4-years old she was granted a wish from the Make a Wish Foundation to visit Florida for a week and stay at Kids Village, a property dedicated to special needs children through Give Kids The World. It was magical. On the plane ride home Emily and I cried and I promised that we would return to Florida and Disney World soon. I wasn't working at the time and didn't know how I would keep my promise and afford a vacation as magical as the one we just enjoyed. We started planning to return to Florida anyway. We picked the date, January 2000. We didn't know that I was expecting and Emily's little brother, Evan, would be born January 2000. Opting to postpone to 2001 gave me the opportunity to research our future dream vacation in great depth. Along the way I met remarkable people on a Disney forum -- Facebook didn't exist at the time. One of the people in the group contacted me and offered me a job as a travel agent specializing in Disney because of the thorough research I posted on the travel forum.
It was perfect! I needed a job where I could stay-at-home with my children and work in a field that I loved. After intensive training and passing my TICO exam (required in Ontario, Canada), I started selling travel -- primarily Disney.
We also were able to visit Disney annually until Emily's heart health worsened.
I traded my travel career and became a maker and teacher -- only booking travel occasionally on special request.
We had several more happy years with Emily.
She died January 2021 due to complications from her May 2019 heart transplant. She was 27-years old.
My husband, Gary, and I decided not to make any big decisions for one-year, although we did do a lot of talking about our future and what changes we might consider.
When January 2022 came, Gary announced that he would be retiring in April 2022, he's 62-years old. We got our ducks in a row -- as the saying goes.
I have been helping Evan build a business as his autism is best suited for him to be an entrepreneur. He is such a lovely soul.
Wanderlust returned in 2022 and I was hired by Northstar Travel in Ontario as a travel agent -- work-from-home. Covid-19 gave me the opportunity to stay home and dive into re-learning the travel industry and all the new pandemic protocols. Everyone is buying travel insurance now!
This brings me to why I am writing to you.
I wanted to let you know that once again my family life made a pivot.
I will continue to make and teach art, but my main focus will be the travel industry.
We can still chat about art, crafts, fiber, textile arts, homesteading, raising chickens and beekeeping of course. Now we can add travel to our conversations.
I absolutely love talking about travel.
My travel service is free -- travel suppliers pay travel agents commission.
Booking with a travel agent doesn't cost travelers more and often saves money because we have the inside scoop on industry framework and patterns.
Even if you just want to chat about travel you are considering and not necessarily planning, I am here to help. Northstar Travel is a full-service travel company. I will be focusing on family travel, Florida, theme park destinations, beach vacations, and traveling with special needs children and adults.
I started a blog https://www.sandraclarke.ca/travel and will soon post a travel vlog on YouTube. The blog and vlog will have lots of tips and helpful travel information.
Thanks so much for your support over the years.
I'm happy to move forward together and chat with you about dream vacations and bucket list travel.
We are planning a road trip from Toronto to Florida in September. I'll post updates about that too!
Have a great day,