Wave Season 2019 is the busiest time of the year during the busiest year in recent memory — and travel advisors are scurrying to keep up with the demand. Agents share their best survival ideas here.
Susanne Griffing Yonts, of Any Seasons Travel, said: “Once a client deposits a trip, it doesn't leave my hands until I add all the information in ClientBase, invoice, and set all the activities. I have three folders on my desk: payments pending, paperwork pending, and quotes being worked. It has made a huge difference. No more shuffling through piles to figure out where something is. I hate piles of mixed-up stuff on my desk. And it's much easier to just move the folders out of the way when I have walk-ins. But the best thing I do for my day is a 45-minute walk at 5 a.m. It really sets the tone for the day and gives me energy to focus. Throughout the day, my Apple watch reminds me to get up and move once an hour, and I have an app to remind me to drink water.
Write it down
Lists are popular with travel advisors. “I keep lists to keep me on track. I stick to a strict routine when working a file so I don't forget anything,” said offered Perrin Cothran Conrad, of Azalea Travel. “On the flip side, I've done things I would not recommend: sitting for long periods, not exercising, eating frozen meals and junk food, powering through migraines and a kidney stone without respecting my health, and not getting enough sleep. For the most part, I'm an example of what not to do! January was my best month yet, and February has been great, too. As long as I remind myself that things will probably slow down next month, I have the strength to keep going.” She also blocks out time to spend time with loved ones: “I've worked 14-hour days and through weekends, but I have set aside time for things like a girls' shopping weekend and a couple of family days.”
Adrienne Sasson, of Rubinsohn Travel, explained: “Whether it is Wave Season or other busy times of the year, I go old school and keep a to-do list. This helps keep me on track. I don't overbook appointments, which means I don't overload myself. To keep sane, I make sure to pull myself away from my desk and devices to have lunch, even using that time to take a short walk to get some air.
Yet another agent, Dillon Guyer, of Guyer Travel International, said: “Sticky notes! I keep two on my laptop. On the left side, I have leads and big goals, things I'm able to look at over the longer duration of time. On the right side, I have my daily goals, things I know I need to do today. This organizes my thought process, adding any small idea and crossing it off as I go. It keeps me all in check, not missing something or leaving a client behind.”
And, Tracey King Szakal, of Generations Vacation, said: “I have a running list – not on Post-its (which I wish I owned a stick share in) – and I cross things off. That makes me feel sane, at least.”
Lauren Capotosto Doyle, of The Travel Mechanic, suggested hiring an assistant; automating what you can; and getting the tools to make you successful, such as Travefy, Trellis, orTravel Joy.
Similarly, “I have an assistant who does my invoices, e-tickets and welcome letters, so I can focus on what I do best, research and sell travel,” noted Cindy Almond, of Romance and Foodie Travel.
Not everyone feels comfortable turning tasks over to an assistant, though. “I have five ICs who help back me up when I’m away or I just can’t take on a new client. I would love to hire an assistant, but I feel I can’t trust anyone with my clients’ private information unless they are personally in my office daily,” said Estelle Legeai Wilkinson, of Wanna Get Away TraveI.
Take care of yourself
No matter what industry you work in, taking care of yourself is a must to avoid burnout, or worse. Here’s how Tracy Whipple, from Travel on a Dream, does it: “I have been crazy busy for the last two months, but I make sure that I am eating at least one good meal a day in the middle of the day and not relying on fast food/take out. I have also set a general shutdown time. Of course, things happen that require my services after those hours, but it's a start. I save most of my administrative duties for the weekends, but I still work long hours on the weekends to get caught up. It helps that this is winter and I don't want to be outside!”
Stick with what you know
This is a no-brainer, but sometimes we need to be reminded. Lindsay Foerster, of Foerster Travel Inc., explained: “I have found that the biggest key to success in this industry is booking what you know. Clients are coming to you as the expert, and if you’re spending so much time researching for a trip, you’re going to put in so many more hours than you should have to. So, book what you know really well. Then, partner with amazing tour operators who will help you plan all the itineraries for destinations you don’t know. They have reservation agents who will do all the legwork for you, and you just sell it to the client! Be smart. Be efficient.”
Focus on your customers, but don’t waste time on window-shoppers
How do you decide which customers to invest in and which ones to pass on? “Qualify, qualify, qualify to make sure you are working with real opportunities and not just tire-kickers,” said Geoff Millar, from Ultimate All Inclusive Travel Inc. “When we are really busy, it is very important to really prioritize the opportunities.”
For Sylvia Curbelo Longmire, of Spin the Globe Travel, it is all about speed and getting help. “Even when I don’t really feel like working, I know I have to get back to clients or make phone calls pretty soon after inquiries come in, or either I will lose the client or they will slip through the cracks because of all the incoming work. I definitely keep a running list of all inquiries with details so that I don’t get clients confused with each other. And I hired a virtual assistant. She handles things like adding my client information into my database, sending out emails to my subscriber list with various cruise line promotions, and doing some itinerary and destination research.”
Cathy Udovich, of The Travelstore, talks about timing: “I've been trying to focus on the clients and what they need, and leaving the administrative side for the end of the day, or maybe even some quiet time over the weekend. Invoicing and building passenger records takes time, and if the phones or email are busy, I want to respond quickly. The rest can wait a day or two.”
Keep yourself motivated
“Set goals and track sales to remain motivated,” said Jennifer Belanger Hand, at Jennifer Hand Travel Pro. “Chunk your time. Mentally prepare for the long days. Eat healthy for energy. Coffee, coffee, coffee.”
And when all else fails ...
“Red wine helps,” quipped Susan Rutan, of Cruise Planners – Apassion4Travel.com. For some of us, that may be the best advice of all.