Planning & Pitching Travel Itineraries: Here's How to Do It
Okay, it’s time to sit down. We need to have a talk. I have to discuss something that can be challenging to hear. Here it goes: Being a travel advisor is 95% sales.
It may be that you entered the industry because of your passion for sales. If that’s you, *phew!* That was an easy conversation. If you are not Salesy Sally, and you entered the industry more for your passion for travel, I’m here to tell you that it’s okay. Why? Because this article will offer you tips and resources to make the pitching portion of your job as easy as it can be.
If the word “pitch” or “sales” makes your skin crawl, don’t be afraid. Chances are, that if you made it this far with your prospective client, that they’re are at least warm to the idea of rendering your services.
Even if a sales pitch isn’t second nature, you will get better at it as you gain confidence and experience. Not only that, but creating a detailed itinerary (some travel eye candy to go with your pitch), will go a long way reaching the tipping point over to a yes from your client.
As you create and pitch your itineraries, four main things will happen:
- Create a few travel itineraries (that hit different price points, destinations, lodging, activities)
- Present clients with your research and pitch your itinerary, (then bite your nails and stare at your email notifications until they decide what trip to book)
- They decide what trip they want.
- Confirm trip details when they do decide what trip they’d like. Allow me to elaborate . . .
1. Create Travel Itineraries
The visual of an itinerary is nice, not only for your client, but for you to make sure that you're hitting all the hotspots of your itinerary. There are a 101 ways to create an itinerary. You can DIY with your preferred program (Canva, Word program etc.) or you can use an itinerary building tool.
Even if you’re not putting together a custom trip, I recommend creating a custom itinerary that includes little flourishes and details that wouldn’t be included in a standard flyer from your business development manager (BDM).
a few tips on creating your itinerary (or itineraries):
- Make sure it is branded to YOUR agency.
- Go beyond cookie cutter: Include a mix of logistics and experiential information (get sensory in your description)
- If you charge a fee, and you wait until you receive your fee until you put together an itinerary, this may not apply to you. But if you’re giving out a free quote, don’t give away all your secrets. If the information is presented in a way where they could turn around and book it on their own, you might want to reconsider how it’s presented. Just like some of those hotel booking sites don’t tell you what hotel you’re getting when you shop on rate alone, you don’t give every detail about your tour operators and vendors. For example, if you are scheduling a daytime balloon ride activity with champagne and chocolate, you don’t have to disclose what specific tour operator is providing the trip.
- If they have access to it online, put an expiration date on it. Don’t give them limitless access to it forever. Not only will the timeline put some heat on them to make a decision. I also invented a new phrase: “looksy and booksy,” when a client takes a look at your itinerary and try to book it on their own. How long do you let them marvel at your gorgeous itineraries? It’s up to you! But a few days should do the trick. By then they can tell what kind of tweaks they’d like to make on the itinerary or what type of trip they’d like to book (or at least connect with you again to get a new password).
Itinerary Building Tools
I’m not going to lie. I don’t highly recommend the DIY method of itinerary-building unless it’s not something you anticipate doing very often. While it might not be an expense you want to adopt when you first get started, it’s a tool that will be beneficial as you begin to generate more business.
Below is a list of a few itinerary builders you can consider with pricing (if available) and a brief demo video if you want to take a gander.
We’re not doing a deep dive into itinerary builders here, but you can STAY TUNED for a future article where I’ll address what questions to consider in choosing an itinerary builder, with more detailed info on options and examples on what itineraries look like! You can consider this your teaser.
$39/month ($31 if billed annually) with extra costs for things like domain masking and embedding itineraries onto your site. They have a free trial available.
Their base rate is $25/month ($22.50 if billed annually) for the “Individual Plan” and $30/mo ($27 if billed annually) for their “Travel Professional Plan.” A free trial is available and there are discounts if you’re with one of the preferred consortiums.
Axus provides a free 14-day trial. The price is $319 yearly and $35 monthly. There are discounts available per consortia and volume.
Pricing depends on the number of travel customers and starts at $220 per month ($198/mo if you pay annually) for up to 500 travelers per year.
Mtrip has a creative fee structure where you purchase credits rather than pay a monthly fee ($165/ 50 itineraries).
TripIt has a free plan. The “Pro” plan is $49/ year. The downside seems to be that the (free) program is tailored more towards travelers than travel agents.
2. The Pitch: Presenting clients with your research
You’ve already sold yourself or your agency so now it’s time to sell these itineraries. Your pitch (or presentation) might be as simple as making a follow up call to chat on highlights of your itinerary and to make sure you’re available for any questions.
This sounds easy. Maybe it is for some of you. You can have the most amazing trip in the world planned for a client, but if you struggle to communicate to your client what makes that trip so amazing, all your research time could be wasted.
When you present your research to your clients and they behold the glory of your itinerary, they will remember why they’re so dang happy they came to you in the first place instead of falling into the internet black hole of trying to plan and book their own trip.
When you present your trip itinerary, here’s a few things to keep in mind:
1. Sell the experience (not just the trip):
I chatted about this in the last step on qualifying suppliers, but it bears repeating: GET SENSORY. (See, it's so important that I'm literally type-shouting at you).
You’ve researched all these details, and now it’s time to put them to good use! In between logistics like transfers, cost and amenities, tell them what about this vendor/destination/hotel/cruise line made you think of them, whether it’s the smell of the donut shop two blocks away from their hotel (because you know they love baked goods).
This is especially important for destinations a client has never visited. If you say "Dominica" to me, that doesn't really conjure anything because I have no memories or experiences attached to it. But if you describe the thrill of getting a late night wake up call to witness hawksbill turtles laying or to participate in releasing their hatchlings from the nursery while you’re in Dominica, then you're really getting my attention.
Can online travel agencies (OTAs) do that? No. But you can. Because you're a freaking hero.
2. Don’t quote a price unless there is space held at that price:
Don’t offer a firm quote unless you have an absolutely price guarantee or space held on every aspect of that itinerary trip. If the price you quoted is only available for x number of days, make sure you are abundantly clear about the timeframe/deadline that it’s secure at that price. If you can, pad the deadline so you have a buffer to hold space at that cost when your client chooses the itinerary.
3. They Decide What Trip They Want
This is the nail-biting part. It may take some time and hand-holding to get your client to take the plunge. But the suspenseful silence and constant checking of email/text/voicemail is all a part of courting your client!
Hopefully it won’t take too long, but as a tired mom who often forgets to check her personal email, I can see how clients might drift into the chaos of constant laundry. If time starts to drag on, you’ll want to periodically check in with them.
Don’t be boring though (this is a good rule in general)! Sending them a recent news/blog article on the destination they’re interested in, whether it’s about their mouth-watering culinary history or a cultural event going on! Recommend they join your exclusive FB group if you haven’t invited them already. Engage. Engage. Engage.
When in doubt send pics of baby turtles. Everyone loves a baby sea turtle (I've done extensive research on this).
4. Confirm Trip Details
Phew! Your client didn’t drown in a sea of laundry after all! They made their choices and you’re ready to go!
Here’s what to keep in mind when confirming trip details:
- Fill out Trip Confirmation Details: We have a form to help you confirm trip details. Even if you don’t use our form with your client, it’s a great guide to ensure you have the right dates, correct details/passenger names, passport requirements. The form includes an area for them to sign that they’ve looked over their itinerary and everything looks okay.
- Required Travel Documents: Make sure you go over (in writing) passport requirements and links to important websites for international travel on visas, vaccinations, and traveling with children you’re not the legal guardian of. Our pre-made form has this all set for you.
- Confirm Travel Insurance was Offered: Cover your rear by having clients signing to say you offered them trip insurance or to remind you if you accidentally forgot. (Also part of our form already!)
- Get cc Authorization: if you don’t have that yet, so you can make bookings on behalf of the clients.
↳Tip: if you have the space held with name only and don’t want to make the booking until closer to the penalty time frame (especially with groups), you may choose to do the cc authorization later . . . just be sure you pad the deadline for the client to get you that info so they don’t miss their booking deadline. PAD IT!
Once the clients give you the green light, it’s time to book!
That Wasn't So Bad, Was It?!
You are so close to having that trip booked like the travel agent advisor boss we KNOW you are! Did I miss anything? Do you have other tips and tricks? Give us a holler in the comments (you know you want to!).