Janet Tracy, The Travel Dreamer

Janet Tracy, The Travel Dreamer

Back in the day, Janet Tracy, travel advisor and owner of The Travel Dreamer, shared her insights on group travel with HAR readers. Now she's back on Travel Agent Chatter, chatting on how she stumbled into $155,000 20-person group river cruise booking, how her enthusiasm for her clients' trips is an innate (and most effective) marketing strategy, why practicing self-care is not only essential to achieve work-life balance, but can also make clients even more enthusiastic to work with you. Janet's motivation is infectious. Listen now to learn how she grew her business into a 1.2 million dollar agency in six years (and wait until the end so you don't miss her tear-jerking warm fuzzy segment).

👇👇👇👇 Read the full transcript below 👇👇👇👇

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Show Notes

We ❤️ reviews! (so much we might do a dance in our T. rex suits to get them)

How to leave a review for TAC on iTunes, Stitchr, and Google Play!

  1. HAR's Free 7 Day Set Up Program:HAR's one-stop shop for learning how to start your agency. (Hey, 12,000 people signing up can't be wrong).
  2. Home Based Travel Agent Forum: This event kindled Janet's motivation to become a travel advisor. Check out their event here!
  3. The Travel Dreamer's website and Facebook page: Janet's website (but listen to episode to learn how Janet garners client reviews without lifting a finger)
  4. HAR's Event Calendar with 50+ events: The user-friendliness of HAR's event page is unparalleled. Check out what travel events are on the horizon.
  5. Signs of a stroke: Do you know what F.A.S.T stands for? If not, you will soon.
  6. Steph's Vasculitis Journey: Real-talk.
  7. Bonus: How to make an oragami swan: If there's one take-away from this podcast, it's that origami skills can help you win huge grand-prize drawings.


Steph: You're listening to Travel Agent Chatter Vol. 13.

In today's episode, you'll be inspired by how a former nurse built a 1.2 Million dollar agency in six years. But what's even more inspiring and moving will be her story about how she realizes she needed a better work life balance. So settle in and listen up, because we'll be discussing why she loves river cruising, why self care for entrepreneurs is so important, and how she turned a river cruise giveaway into major dollars for her agency.

The Travel Dreamer Logo

Now, Travel Agent Chatter is an audio series produced quarterly here by the team at Host Agency Reviews. And we've got a big goal. It's called our 20, 2020 campaign. So what in the world is with all the 20s? So we're looking to garner 20 new podcast in 2020. And what's tricky right now is you can't really get away because I know you're listening. So what you hope us the ratings and reviews really help other listeners find our podcasts. And I know that sometimes just asking isn't enough. So here's the icing on the cake. Ready? If we reach our goal, we'll celebrate by having the HAR team do a video of your favorite dance moves and we'll be in our T. rex suits. So spread the word. The challenge is on. Now let's get on the show.

⭐️Shortcuts to podcast topics: ⭐️

  1. Finding a Host Agency
  2. Marketing Tips
  3. Big Wins
  4. The Importance of Self-Care
  5. Warm Fuzzies

Well, happy 2020, everyone. I'm Steph Lee, and I'm a firm believer that the best way to start the new decade is with a fantastic interview . . . and with chocolate chip cookies. Cookies are a must-have for any joyous occasion. Now, I don't have cookies for you due to the logistics of passing a cookie through your speakers. But what I do have for you that's equally as wonderful is we get to pick the brain of Janet Tracey, the owner of The Travel dream, a former nurse. Janet decided she was ready for a change of scene and became a travel agent at the age of 50, and that was in 2013. By 2019, she was bringing in 1.2 million dollars in sales without any help.

And there's even more than that, because at one point, two million sales was despite the fact that—and this is for reasons we'll get into later—she stepped away from work for a whole month. So you're going to hear about how Janet, the savvy businesswoman that she is, won a cruise that paid off in dividends. And we're talking to the tune of a 20-person river cruise group. We'll also hear about a FAM trip that led to a 30-person group to Israel that filled up in two months. And then for all the hardworking advisors out there, we've got a special section discussing self care and why that's so important. Just a little quick housekeeping: everything related to this podcast can be found at Host Agency Reviews.com/TAC and click on episode 13. And we're talking about the show notes. It's the video transcript. Warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies, which may or may not be there. They're all in one handy place. So make sure to swing by the site and check out the podcast in all its different iterations. And . . . today's schedule, we'll be breaking it down into five segments. The first is going to be finding a host, marketing, big wins, self care, and then we'll finish it with our always warm fuzzy segment. It's a good one. So let's not delay any longer. Janet, welcome to Travel Agent Chatter.

India FAM, Janet Tracy
Janet on an India FAM trip, 2017

Janet: [00:03:53] Nice Steph. Thanks for having me today.

Steph: It's really great to have you. Janet and I have spent the last 40 minutes working on Internet technicalities, and getting the video to work. So for those of you that are watching the video, I really appreciate this. This is not—this took a lot of work.

Janet: Yes, I agree.

Steph: Well, Janet, first off, thank you so much. You're so kind to be taking the time today right smack in the middle of wave season. So thank you for that.

Janet: You're very welcome. Yes, it is wave season. Here we are swimming away.

Steph: I know. Everyone's so frazzled. Well, so you were born and raised in Iowa on a small farm, which I can relate to. I didn't grow up on a small farm, but I grew up in rural Minnesota. And on cute little dirt road surrounded by farms. So, I mean, I think for both of us, our idea of an exotic trip was probably crossing the state line. Is that fair to say?

Janet: Yes, that is a fair statement. Yeah. Going to Omaha was the highlight of the year.

Steph: Yeah. And Janet's in Iowa and I'm in Minnesota. So it's like we could've, like visited each other and been like, we're so exotic.

Janet: Exactly.

Finding a Host Agency

Steph: But you ended up going to school for nursing and did that for 10 years and then decided after your youngest was in high school that you wanted to go into travel despite having very limited travel experience. So you walked into a brick and mortar agency in town and said, you're looking for a job. How did that go?

Janet: Well, I knew I wanted to do travel. I knew I wanted to plan travel because I always enjoyed planning my own trips. So I literally walked into a brick and mortar here in town and said, what do I have to do to work for you? And his comment was a very honest one and much appreciated. In hindsight, he looks me straight in the eye and said, you don't want to work for me. You want to work for yourself. And he said, just go home and Google "Host Agency."

Steph: That's so great. It's the first time I've ever heard of a storefront responding that way. And I have to tell you, I love it. Yeah. So any store friends listening in, if you have someone walking in and you don't want to take on new in-house agents, take note. This is a great way to help people without actually having to help them.

Janet: [00:06:14] There you go. If they're self starters, they're going to take that information, that little bit and go run with it.

Steph: Yes, OK. So you went home, you googled "Host Agency" and what were the next steps?

Janet: OK, so it was kind of like a whole new world opened up in front of me, as I, you know, Google "Host Agency" and what they are. And that, you know, took me under rabbit trails about, you know, consortiums. And what are they and who are they? And I knew that I was going to need some kind of direction, and so I just picked up a very small, short online program that I decided to do for myself. And it didn't teach anything except maybe the history of the travel industry, and you know, how to set up your office if you want to be a home based agent and just some basics like that. And then from that point on, I knew that this is exactly what I wanted to do. And so I kind of took a I don't know, a leap of faith I guess. I happened to stumble across and all of my Googling something about the Home Based Travel Agent Forum that was going to be happening in Las Vegas a very short time from when I was doing my Googling, maybe a month down the road.

And so I actually reached out to them and told them my situation and that even though I was not an active agent nor affiliated with the host agency, I would love to come and just see what it's all about. And they were very kind to make that allowance for me. And I think the main reason I wanted to do that was I knew that I'd be able to visit with a number of host agencies in a trade fair situation, in a face to face, one on one kind of, you know, an environment. And I knew I would only get a few minutes with each of them. Probably there'd be lots of other agents vying for their attention. But I you know, I feel like first impressions are really important. And so, I bought a plane ticket and got a hotel room and I went to the Home Based Travel Agent Forum knowing nothing.

[00:08:28] So I came home physically exhausted and emotionally ready to take on the world, and I was just excited because I knew I had picked the right industry for me, and I was able to do some eliminating down on those host agencies, I probably visited with 8 to 10 of them at the time making any kind of made myself a shortlist.

Steph: Yeah.

Janet: And then was able to make phone calls after that and talk in more depth with them.

Steph: We hear from so many agents that are like at this point in time that you're talking about, they're trying to get in the industry. They've decided they want to for sure do this and they're trying to discover what our host is and a consortia, but they know nothing about the industry. So it's terrifying and overwhelming.

Oh, I'll post well, I'll post a link in the show notes to the Home based Travel Agent Forum, first of all, for people if they're interested. But I'll also post a note, or post a link in the show notes, to our free 7 Day Setup program, which we've had. And Janet, you'll probably wish this was around when you were starting out, but we had over we've had over 12,000 agents go through it since 2017. So it's really popular. And we walk you through the steps of everything you need to do to start your agency, including how to find your host agency seeking daily emails, a supportive Facebook group and step-by-step instructions that guide you from this idea stage to a bona fide agency ready to book travel. You're not. We don't teach you how to book travel, but you're ready to go. And then the host, agency or consortia kind of takes it from there.

Janet: [00:10:05] Excellent.

Steph: And I don't want to spoil things, but you ended up with OASIS Travel Network when you kind of were narrowing things down. And for those that are listening and then in that kind of head, whittled it down to a handful. Walk us through your process of how you ended up choosing OASIS.

Janet: Oh, yeah. So as I kind of went through the phone calls of my shortlist, you know, it kind of became automated as I kind of asked the same questions over and over. And I felt like I got just, you know, kind of since spiels that they had developed for what they say to potential agents. And I had a really refreshing answer from OASIS Travel Network when I spoke with Kelly Bergin. I told her that I was, you know, a grown adult. I you know, I had been around and I was, you know, really just excited about starting this business and was looking for the right partner for me. And instead of kind of going into her spiel, Kelly said to me, well, why don't you tell me exactly what you're looking for? And that was super refreshing to me, because I kind of even though I didn't really know the business, the travel industry, I did know myself well enough to know what I like, what I don't like, how I learn, how I'm motivated and all those things.

So I basically told her I'm looking for a host agency that is affiliated with a good consortia. And I knew that they were affiliated with Signature Travel Network, which had gotten amazing reviews online. And so I was pretty excited to hear more about Signature. But I was looking for someone who could provide me with an online presence in a in a website, but that it would be pretty low key and low maintenance for me. I wanted, you know, that legitimacy that an online website gives you. And I just really didn't want to have to mess around with it very much so. And then I told her that, you know, being the age I was, I knew I was a self-starter. I love to learn on my own. I don't necessarily want to be spoon-fed. I didn't want to be hand-held. I didn't want someone looking over my shoulder telling me everything to do. I wanted to make the mistakes if that was what was going to happen or research the right way to do it.

[00:12:37] And then I just wanted someone there that I could contact in case I couldn't find my answer or in case I got myself in a pinch or something. And I kind of went through what I was looking for. And she just paused, and Kelly said, "I think we're exactly what you're looking for." It was really, it was really kind of a match made in heaven I guess. I've never regretted a day of hooking up with OASIS Travel Network. And they've you know, they've been good to me and I've tried to be good to them.

Steph: And yeah, Kelly is great. Yeah. Yeah. I love working with Kelly. She's just she's just so nice. So.

Janet: Yes, and all of her staff is amazing, too. So it's a great place.

Steph: Will you. I mean, what you're saying I think is a great tip because you knew what you wanted, and I think that's what people need to really do before they start looking for a host agency. Otherwise it's so difficult to tell them apart. You need to know exactly what you want, and that is what's going to help you narrow things down.

Janet: Exactly. Exactly. That's a really good tip.


Steph: Well, let's switch gears and talk marketing. And it doesn't seem like there'd be a lot for us to talk with your marketing since you told me that 90% of your clients are referrals, and you haven't really paid for any marketing. But your first group, Cruise, came about organically through your husband and some of his buddies at the golf club. And this kind of goes back to your website, which is what reminded me. So you're working with this group to figure out which cruise to go on. And I thought you did something really interesting and unique the way you use your website. So tell us about how you use the offer I.D. number on your site to sell.

Janet: OK. So one of the things that I liked about the websites that Signature Travel Network offered was that they're very interactive and we, we can actually have clients book themselves cruises on our website. Although I'll be honest and say that has not happened for me. Usually by the time they get to that point where they're kind of ready to make a decision, they reach out to me. And that's what I want them to do anyway. I want to be hands on. I don't I don't necessarily want them to book something and then find out it was the wrong thing.

Steph: So you're not an OTA that's right.

Janet: That's right. I have much more to offer than just a booking.

Steph: Yes.

Janet: So, anyway, with Signature, our websites are again hooked directly with all of Signature's offerings, and they have a great internal system, whereas each cruise that's available out there through every cruise line, every ship, every potential itinerary is given an offer I.D. number, and it's all an internal deal. It's a 7-digit number. So when, when I am doing a search for my clients and that's my preferred way to do it for them, rather than them searching on my website. They can do that preliminary work that I want them to come to me, and I'm going to go to Signature—Signature's intranet site and I'm going to do the search for them and the cruises that I narrow it down to and the itineraries that I feel is best for the for those clients. They're assigned to these internal offer I.D. numbers.

[00:16:03] So when I met with my first cruise group at my husband's golf club––and by the way––I'll just mention that the reason it all came up is the guys were out one day and one of them said, geez, we have a big anniversary coming next year. I suppose I should take my wife on a trip or something. What are the other ones said? Well, jeez, I do, too. We're going to have a big anniversary. And my husband piped in and said, well, let's just do it and I'll have Janet plan it. And I was like, wow, you're my best Pied Piper ever.

Steph: That's fantastic.

Janet: So all the guys that a together that day and of course, word of mouth got out. Oh, there might be a trip. I called a meeting at the club and we rented out a room and I told everyone to bring their laptops. And then I you know, they all hooked up to the Internet and they opened up their laptops. And I said, OK, I've got three cruises for us to look at and talk about, and we can ask questions and discuss and all of that. And it's really easy. It's an easy way to see these. And I said, see, up in the right hand corner on my website, there's a little white box that says offer I.D..

All you have to do is put in this seven digit number hit enter and voila! The cruise shows up and every detail about it, the ship, when it was built, when it was refurbished, the cabins, the cost, everything, the ports, everything you want to know about that cruise is is there interactively available.

And so we all sat around the table, everyone searching. And by the time we all got done discussing, it was unanimous around the table which cruise we were going to do. And everyone signed up that night. It was crazy.

Steph: That's amazing. Yeah. And I'll link to your website in the show notes so people can take a peek at how that works, if they're interested in it. And if any listeners are like me and do some online stalking of the guest, they'll also notice that you've got quite a few rave reviews on your Facebook page, which I'll also link to. But how do you get those?

Janet: [00:18:16] Honestly, I know that we probably should be asking for those, but I just don't. I think that I get so excited and enthusiastic about my clients trips and I'm invested in them, you know emotionally and personally. And so when I reach out to them at the end of their trip and tell them welcome home and I want to hear all about it, I'm I am sincerely saying those things that I just think that people see that. They can see if you are a sales person or if you are someone who's really trying to make their dream come true. So I I just kind of attribute it to that, that, you know, they know that I'm excited. And I think they I think people appreciate that. So it's just, again, been organically that people have gone on and given those reviews. And I'm very appreciative and we do need to ask more. I do think that's a good thing.

Steph: Yeah, well, you've definitely got a nice base for having not done anything. So congratulations on that. Thank you.

Big Wins

Israel Group, Janet Tracy
Janet Tracy's group trip to Israel, 2019.

Well, let's skidaddle to our next section of the podcast, which is Big Wins. It's my favorite one. So you had applied for one of signatures FAM trips to Israel and ended up being accepted. It was a pretty thorough process. Walk us through how your FAM trip ended up turning into $155,000 group booking that sold out in two months.

Janet: Yes. Again, I think enthusiasm and sincerity is a lot of it, because I personally was excited to visit Israel. So not only from a business standpoint, but just, you know, on a personal level, I was really excited to be in the Holy Land. So once I was accepted on the trip, I kind of started a preliminary––to say, I guess, a preview of what I was going to be doing. And while I was traveling, I was very diligent to post on Facebook and Instagram, and I really shared personal stories and observations. And I thoroughly enjoyed my trip while I was there, but also felt like I was bringing along my friends and my clients with me and wanted to share that with them.

[00:20:46] By the time I got home from the FAM trip, I was inundated with messages and phone calls and emails about people saying, "Oh my gosh, I wanna to do that. I want to do what you did. How do I do it? When can we do it?" And so I actually ended up going into my church office and talked with the pastor and asked him if he had ever been interested in going. And of course, yes. Dream trip for him. So I said, what if I can make that happen for you and your wife, and we will take a bunch of people with us.

And so he became my biggest advocate and Pied Piper and talked to people in the church and outside of the church. And we literally had––I decided that I was going to cap the trip at 35. I just thought it was in those narrow streets of Jerusalem that's probably enough people to keep track of and count heads. And I felt like I wanted to provide a really more personal, intimate experience for the clients. So even I was I started booking people in the trip, I wanted them to know I was capping it. I wasn't just trying to fill the bus. I wanted to keep it at a level where everyone would feel like they had individual attention and it wasn't just herding cattle.

[00:22:06] So, yeah, I ended up with actually 33 people signed up in two months. Only about half came from our church, actually. And then the other half was just from all these people that had reached out to me when I got back and wanted to be a part of it, too. So it was a really eclectic group of people that traveled together, which made it even more interesting. You know, we shared ideas about cultures and traditions and churches and things like that. So it was a great experience. I didn't end up having two people cancel at the very last minute. So 31 was the number I took and we all had a bowl trip of a lifetime.

Steph: Yeah. That's amazing. Yeah. So your luck doesn't just stop with getting accepted into these fabulous FAM trips,.

Janet: Right.

Steph: You are one of the people. I'm always jealous because, you know, the industry gives off all these fabulous prizes at the events. And I mean, I've been in the industry a long time and I have never won anything. I'm always like, "oh, it's going to be me!" and it never is. So early on in your career, you won a river cruise. So I have a few questions about it.

Janet: OK

Steph: So the first one is. Do you crumple your business card into a card shaped like an Origami swan or what? Advice for how you get yours to be drawn? Because I need to know.

Janet: Oh, I wish I had something like that to give you. But no, honestly, I think they printed off all of our names and put them in a literal hat. I believe it was a hat.

Steph: Oh. So you didn't get to do anything tricky?

Janet: No, it was pure luck.

Steph: Oh, that's a shame. All right. Well, it's very disappointing. And I apologize to all the listeners that tuned in, hoping to figure that out.

Janet: I would think, though, that the thicker the paper on your on your business card, that would probably be an advantage, don't you think?

Steph: [00:24:03] Well, yeah, I haven't tried that. I have tried folding a different shapes. It doesn't work very well. But you came up with this really neat strategy that I haven't heard before to build your business. And that was to form a group around the cruise, you had won.

Janet: So my original thought was just to be selfish and take that trip. Yeah, take my mom or my husband and just go on a great trip and enjoy. And the more I thought about it, it was it just seemed kind of like a no-brainer. Like, why not invite some people to go with you? Maybe they'll enjoy it, too. And it was my first, I guess, time dipping my toe into the river cruising world.

Steph: Yes! That's crazy.

Janet: Yeah, I had never done it before, so it was a little scary. I'll be honest, you know, telling people what I thought it was going to be like. But I will say that the cruise that we went on was a Uniworld cruise. And it far exceeded my expectations and promises. So I did not, you know, go home feeling like, oh, maybe I over-promised. No, they over delivered. So anyway, my husband and I both decided, yeah, let's invite a few friends. And it became a hot topic of conversation, not only at the club, but at the church and in our circle of friends. And we ended up with 20 people on that trip. And I think every single one of them would say they would––it was one of the highlights of their lives again, and that they would definitely recommend it to anyone. And you once you have 20 people that are happy campers over a product, they're going to tell 20 or 40 people, and then they're going to come to you because they're going to tell them what a great experience they had with you. So I don't know. I guess the advice would be take advantage of every opportunity, even if it is kind of a free trip for you. Why not? Why not turn it into a group even if it's a small group to start with?

Steph: [00:26:17] Did you tap to your previous groups at all kind of marketing to go on this cruise? Did you reach out to them?

Janet: Good point. Very good point. So that very first group that we did from the club and it was it was a Princess Cruise and it was in Europe and it was a great itinerary. Again, everyone still talks about it. That was in 2014 and it still comes up almost every other time we're together. Wasn't great.

So I did reach out to those people once my husband and I decided, you know, well let's just invite some people. And a good chunk of the people that went on that first cruise with me ended up on this cruise. And then a year later, a good chunk of those ended up going to Alaska with me. So, you know, you just kind of get your core people of travelers. And and I feel like maybe it's a little bit because I'm just kind of in this sweet spot of life. We are, you know, now making more money in our lives than we've ever made before. Our age group. Maybe our children are starting to supply grandchildren for us. But for some of us, that hasn't happened yet. Yet we're not in retirement age either. So, you know, we've got to be a little bit selective about how long we're gone. You know, we can't go on a three week Australia trip at this point. But, hey, we can have two weeks. We sure can. So I feel like I'm in a good place. As far as the age of the friends, I have as late Baby Boomers were. We're ready to travel.

Steph: [00:27:54] Yeah. Yeah. Well, if any of the listeners are hearing this story and thinking, man, I need to go on more FAMS and attend more conferences, I'll put a link in the show notes to event calendar. But make sure to check it out because we have FAMs listed and webinars and conferences. We have over 50 listed for 2020. And so, it's not your regular industry calendar. It's got search filters and categories that make it easy to find what you're looking for. And it's not one of those ugly Google calendar event calendars. Do you know what I'm talking aboutJanet? Yeah, ours is pleasing to the eye. So check it out at HostAgencyReviews.Com/events And I'll put the link in the show notes too.

Janet: That's a neat feature.

Steph: Yeah. Well, OK. So. Besides these breakthrough these wins, I should say, you've kind of become a big believer in FAMs, and you realize that you needed to travel in the way you wanted your––like the type of travel you wanted to book. And the Uniworld Cruise pushed you to take that river cruise, which you probably wouldn't have otherwise experienced, and now it's like 20% of your business, right?

Janet: Right. Exactly. Yeah, I got that piece of advice from a much more experienced travel advisor than I am. She kind of became a personal mentor and friend. And yeah, one of the pieces of advice she gave me is you need to go to not only just travel. Yes, you need to go travel. And that's definitely something I would tell any new agent or an agent trying to build their business, go travel. People are watching you, and they want to do what you do. But the other part of that is go travel in the in the way that you want to sell travel.

So you don't have to stay with the same types of inexpensive cruise lines. Go on one that's a little bit nicer, a little more upscale, a little more luxury. Show your followers and your listeners and your clients what else is out there and tout the reasons that it's more expensive. Point out those things. You know that, hey, it might be a little more upfront, but in the long run, you're getting more for your money. So, I think it's really important to kind of not only visualize that go out and do the kind of travel you want to sell. Now, I wouldn't say being in the Midwest to that I focus on luxury travel. That is not the clientele I have. It's, we are fairly conservative Midwest people. But you know what? We will also pay for something if we feel it's worth it. And so, you know, a lot of what I do is not necessarily convincing people that it's worth it, but showing that.

Steph: [00:30:49] So that's kind of the method behind when you're doing the social post, when you're traveling.

Janet: Yes, exactly. Yes. I want them to see what's possible because a lot of people like me when I started the business. Your dreams are small. I, I was excited, you know, thinking about the prospect of having $50,000 sales my first year. And then I blew through that in three months. And it's like, Oh! Oh! So set your goals higher!

Steph: Yeah, exactly. Well, we also talked about kind of the value to suppliers when agencies get to experience their products firsthand. You're a shining example of how profitable it can be. I mean, it it turned you into a lover of river cruising.

Janet: Yes.

Steph: And I know that you love to chat about it with your clients. So when you're talking to your clients about river cruising, what are your selling points and what what sold you on it?

Janet: Right. I think that some of the reason that people decide maybe travel is not for them is they see it as very stressful and they see it as, you know, being part of a herd of other people on and off the ship or, you know, in and out of the museum. They get intimidated by the idea of trying to find their way around. What am I what am I going to do when I'm there?

[00:32:18] And I think that one of the most amazing things about river cruising is the fact that it's a small ship with a very small number of people. It's an intimate atmosphere. It's very laid back. They, they's really not a lot of decisions to make. The the little beautiful ship pulls up in front of the quaint us little town you've ever imagined in your dreams. And they take you on a little walking tour or a wine tour, or whatever. And they show you around a little bit and then you have the whole afternoon free to wander yourself. And those are the kind of things people crave. I believe they they really––sure they want to check things off their list, but they also want to experience the culture and they want to meet the people and observe and people-watch. Who doesn't love the people-watch. It in a café with a glass of wine and a little toppings or something and just watch people and their mannerisms and you know how they enjoy life. The Europeans have a ways slower pace than we do in general, especially in the small towns. And I think river cruising takes you to the heart of Europe, and to the heart of the culture of what it used to be in days, long ago before the big cities came up. So I really think people walk away from river cruising, not only feeling relaxed because everything's taking taken care of for them, but also feeling nurtured and educated in the real Europe. So those are kind of the things I tout when I talk about river cruising and the amazing beds.

Uniworld Group, Janet Tracy 2017

Steph: [00:34:06] Oh, yeah. You've talked about that. Tell everyone!

Janet: Oh, my gosh. OK, so well particularly Uniworld, they they have their mattresses all handmade in England. The queen of England sleeps on one of these mattresses and they're made of interesting things which people always want to know this. They're made of. I hope I'm getting this right. Silk, and cashmere and Argentinean horse-tail hair.

Steph: It is the horse hair on the exterior or the interior of the mattress

Janet: It's all inside, and that come together encased in the cotton thing. But yeah. And my husband and I were the first night we crawled into bed. We were just both like, oh, this bed is amazing. And it was about an inch, you know, maybe off one side more than the other. And we literally tried to move it over and get a centered that we couldn't move it. These are, yeah OK, I've talked enough about the mattresses, but this is one of the things that I talk about was the luxury that you're going to be in and the way you're going to feel spoiled rotten by the time you get up.

Steph: Yeah, I mean, you've sold me on. I've never been on a river cruise in like I think I need to go.

Janet: You do. You do.

Steph: Well, so it's not just two for you, you're doing the river cruise, but oftentimes you do pre and post. So what do you end up . . . what do you end up doing for bookings for that? Who do you use and why?

Janet: Right. Yeah. I am a huge fan of Avanti destinations for my pre and post cruises and this could be for river cruises or ocean cruises. Avanti is a wholesale package or they work directly and only with travel agents. Their agents are very well educated, amazing to work with and they can do everything for you. They can do the air and they can do the hotel, the tours, the transfers. Even if it's something you make up, you know, some kind of tour that clients specifically what, they will find someone to make happen. So, and again, they they don't necessarily focus on luxury. It's more that comfortable four-star level, which my clientele tend to go for and feel comfortable in. So yeah, I will package the pre and the post on the flights and everything through Avanti. And that's more commission for you, more sales for you. So, you know, it's a win win and clients are so happy. I would say my group clients are—this is just something that dawned on me, we didn't even talk about this—I would see my group clients are probably the most happy clients I have, because they're there's just not a lot of decisions they have to make in their flights and stuff. I do it all for them. I group them all together. We're all going to fly on this flight. We're all going to stay in this hotel and we're going to have a great time. And, you know, so I think there's something really comforting to clients to just kind of let you handle all of those details. And they're just along for the ride.

Steph: Yeah, I. Super, super nice when you don't have to make any decisions on vacation.

Janet: So, yeah, I do. I mean, it isn't just the cruises that I book. I will book everything around that too. For sure. Yeah.

The Importance of Self-Care

Steph: Yeah. Well I want to move on to a different subject and it's one we haven't touched on yet, but I think it's one that's been very front and center for both of this year, which is self care. Yes. It's easy to work yourself to the bone whether you're an employee or an entrepreneur. I feel like the work life balance in the digital age is more like work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work. Do a pinch of life. And then the rest is work. And I think it's especially relevant now that it's wave season for agents. I bring this up because would you feel comfortable sharing? We talked about your Israel trip earlier, but would you mind sharing what happened on your Israel trip? Because it was pretty life-changing for you.

Janet: [00:38:20] It really was. Yeah, I'd be happy to share that. And in fact, I want to share it, because I do think that it's important for people to think about self care, because here's the deal: we as travel agents are pleasers. We want our clients to be happy and we will do anything to bend over backwards to make that happen. And so what happens then to us and to our families and the people around us is they kind of, you know, we shove ourselves aside and we ignore those those little hints that we're getting that maybe we're not feeling well or we stop listening to our bodies. I mean, how many times do you sit in your chair at your desk and think, I think I've been here for three hours and I haven't even gotten up. I mean, it's so I feel so unhealthy.

So what happened in Israel again? I had 31 people with me that I am completely responsible for. It also happened to be spring break week. So I had, you know, 45 or 50 other people traveling that week. And in addition, it's when those 737 planes were grounded. A lot of those spring break people, you know, I had to find new flights for them or shuffle and scramble and get them to their destination. And there are lots of frantic phone calls. It was a super stressful time. The Israel trip was about 11-day trip. And again, it was over spring break. So I'm trying to not only take care of my people, but I'm fielding all these other things going on to about the second to the last day of the trip, I had about an hour between our full day of touring and the dinner that we were supposed to do. And I was on my computer trying to answer emails. And it it suddenly hit me that I couldn't see my laptop. Entire left side of my vision was just gone. And, you know, lots of things crossed your mind. And I was thinking to myself, "Oh, my gosh, am I having a stroke?" Well, I had a couple of nurses in the group. They came in and they kind of tested me and they said, no, you're not having a stroke. It's you know, I think you're just having a migraine. Just get some rest. So I went to bed, slept about 12 hours, which I needed. And the next day, the vision was okay, but I did not feel well. I finished up the trip, traveled all that way home and was having a really hard time getting over the jet lag. Or so I thought. And about a week after that, this vision thing happened again.

Steph: Same type.

Janet: Yeah, same type. Long story short, I ended up in the E.R. with a blood pressure of 220 over 110 and an immediate MRI was done, and they determined that in fact, I had had a small stroke in Israel, that only affected my vision, and it was because it wasn't a typical stroke where, you know, there was a clot or an aneurysm or something like that. It was just literally the blood vessels at my eyes slammed shut and have damage to them, you know, because of the high blood pressure and stress and the stress.

Steph: Yeah.

Janet: Sadly, from my hospital bed, I was doing final payments because they were due. I mean, this was just sort of my mentality, my denial of what was happening to me, like, I've got to get this done, I've got to get this done. And, you know, within a week it hit me hard. Oh, my gosh, this could've been so much worse. I'm very lucky to just have had this huge two by four against my head, this warning. And the thing is, as I thought back for four or five months, I had known I wasn't feeling well. I had known I was too busy. I was working 14 hour days, six, seven days a week. I ignored all that because, you know what, my clients needed me. I have to get this done.

Steph: [00:42:23] It's wave season.

Janet: Yeah, it's wave season. Yeah. Oh, yeah. It was on top of all of it too. So yeah, I had a huge eye-opening experience with that. So it was, I know in the intro you said that for a month I basically sat back from my business but it was really four months.

Steph: Oh wow. Yeah.

Janet: That I did not do any new bookings. Now I would work a couple hours a day to service the bookings that I already had, and people that were traveling. But that was it. I completely gave away any inquiries that I had to other, other travel agent friends. And so now I feel like I'm back up to full speed, but not over-speed. I'm working eight hours a day. I am limiting myself. I've gotten myself some help. I've got someone that comes to my house for a couple hours a day. I've got other help that does like a lot of the technical reporting stuff for my host agency. I've got a gal that comes in once a month and takes care of my books and, you know, my expenses and things like that. So I've given away a lot of those little tasks that aren't necessary for a travel agent, but yet were bogging me down and causing me to work extra hours. So I am limiting myself. Also, I I would say a year ago when this all happened, I was probably working on twenty five trips at a time. And if that's a lot, it's I'm I'm taking big trips. Some of them groups.

So now I know that if I'm at the 10 to 12 mark, 10 to 12 trips at a time, I feel like I can give my clients the good service I want to give them. And I can also take care of myself and walk out of my office at 5:30 at night and and feel good about what I got accomplished and that all the rest can wait until tomorrow. So that's my big, I guess, tout or please, listen to your own body. Listen to yourself. Give give yourself what you need. Treat yourself a little bit once in a while. We work hard.

Steph: [00:44:32] Yeah.

Janet: Rely on us. And you know, they do want good service from us. And of course, being who we are and why we do what we do, we want to give that good service, but not at the expense of our own health and our families.

Steph: No, when you know, when we originally connected Janet and I, the episode was supposed to be 100% about river cruises. And and after she shared her story, we just kind of connected because I'd also mind wasn't stress related. Mine was from my illness. I have. But I'd had like a small stroke, a TIA maybe six years ago. So I saw this as a great opportunity to discuss a topic that I think is just as important as marketing or education to your business. It's just not something that gets talked about, though. And one thing you've done, Janet, that I think is, again, very brilliant is you have a wait list that you now tell people. So. So, yeah. Tell us more about the wait list, how you communicate it and how it works.

Janet: So right now during wave season, the wave list is enacted. It actually started mid-December. For some reason I started, I could feel the wave gearing up mid-December around here.

Steph: All the snow we've had.

Janet: [00:45:53] Yes. And the cold. Yeah. So I again, kind of keeping the promise to my family, too, that, you know, they want me around. So as a promise to my family and myself, I said I'm going to limit myself to twelve trips at a time. So once I got I reached that limit. I get an inquiry from a client and I simply email them right back and I say, oh, you know, I'm so happy to hear from you. I would love to help you on this trip. Please understand that I'm in a you know, we are in a busy booking time right now and to protect the clients whose trips I am working on and to protect my own health. I am working on a waitlist right now. It it is probably a week or two weeks out. And I will be able to reach out to you and let you know I'm ready to get to work on your trip. And then I just kind of end it with if you want to be placed on my wait list. Let me know and kind of leave it at that because it kind of leaves the door open for them to go somewhere else if they want to. But it's so interesting because I've not had someone do that yet. Every single person that I email, I almost think there's like maybe an element of making you seem more desirable.

Steph: I agree.

Janet: Gotta wait list, but also maybe an element of respect that you want to focus on the troops you're working on now and you don't want to spread yourself so thin that you are not doing a good job. And so I just think that that, you know, people do respect that even in this busy age where we know almost wear it is a badge of honor to say, I'm so busy, it's OK to say, OK, I'm at my limit and I want to give you good service. And so I will reach out in a week or two when I'm ready and I will give it 100% for you. And so it has it has worked. And I am really happy about that because I don't like to disappoint people. And yeah, most of us don't. But I don't sense at all that people are disappointed. In fact, when I reach back out and tell them, hey, your name came up on the list, I'm ready to get to work. They're very excited and ready to go.

Steph: [00:48:08] Yeah, I feel like it's a great solution to the problem. So thank you. Thank you for sharing that and for sharing your story. I think I speak for everyone and I hope you don't mind listeners that I'm actually speaking for you here. But, you know, I'm glad that you're OK and I'm happy you adjusted your course before any permanent damage occurred. And I don't want to say any serious because I know you had a lot of recovery in there. There's a lot of things. But I think these life changing moments happen a lot more than any of us are aware. I think it's something that's usually really personal. So people don't typically share unless you're me.

Janet: Or me or me.

Steph: Like I was super open about what I'm going through and medical odyssey I've been on in the last six years. And so I've I've been very public about my journey with living with vasculitis. That's a rare disease that I've been that's been really debilitating at times for me. I'll put a link. OK, thank you. I'll put a link in the show notes in case anyone's curious about it. And I'm also going to put a link to signs of a stroke in there as well. I had no idea that's what I was having until I failed the test. I mean, I'd had some like half my body was numb. There were some signs I should have known. But I was just like, I just I'm not. I'm just really tired. So.

Janet: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. You know, you can you can fool yourself for a long, long time and tell yourself that you're OK. I'm OK. I'll get through it. It's just temporary, blah, blah, blah. We lie to ourselves. So, you know, it's OK to make an awareness of it once in a while. So people, you know, hopefully there's someone out there maybe that needed to hear these stories.

Steph: [00:49:59] Yes. And I. Well, what's interesting is, since I've been so open about it, I I've been so surprised the number of emails or Facebook messages I've received from agents that are dealing with life-changing scenarios, whether it's caring for the elderly parents or maybe for a child that's sick or they're themselves chronically ill or a loved one or a friend. But it's just these life changing-scenarios so many people have that kind of force them to reframe their priorities. Absolutely. So I guess as we start to kind of wrap up this episode, I think the great takeaway tip to think about besides how to fold your business card, which turned out not to be a great tip and no fault of your own, Janet, but also like take away that work isn't everything as––it isn't. And what's equally important is practicing self care, treasuring the health you have and the people around you and really recognizing the small joys in life.

Janet: So, yes. And, you know, I mean, it may sound kind of cliche, but I enjoy my job more now, working less hours because.

Steph: I'm sure.

Janet: I'm not stressing out all the time. So, you know, if you're at that point in your life where you're kind of thinking, do I still like what I do? You know, maybe.

Steph: Try the waitlist here. Yeah,.

Janet: Yeah, yeah.

Warm Fuzzies

Steph: Well, so speaking of small joys and like things to improve your life. That's a beautiful transition to our closing segment, The Warm Fuzzies.

So for those of you that are new this time along, this is where, this is our segment where we leave all of our listeners going, "Aww that's just so sweet." We focus on the small acts in life that have made a big difference. So, Janet, end this with a bang. Tell us something you and your clients have done. That was sunshiny and warm.

Janet: [00:52:00] Actually, this is a very, very recent story. I had a lady contact me and I've known her for a really long time. She I've always respected her a lot because she's one of those people that always has a smile on her face, you know, sunshine over her head, even if it's raining and I know that she went through many years, I hate to even say a number, but it was 5+ years of her husband struggling with cancer and she maintained ,her sunny attitude through the whole thing. And, you know, we're gonna get through it. And, you know, she has a faith. And so she relied on that a lot in this lady did lose her husband not too long ago. And he bless his heart, he left her some money and said, I want you to go travel and do the things that we could never do together.

And so I met with she and her sister and we planned two trips. And so the first trip, they actually just got back yesterday. They—I sent them to Cabo. And I just thought that would be a fun sister place to go, and I watched all week long as she posted pictures on Facebook of all the people she had met and the smiles on their faces and the fun things they did and the great food and drinks that they enjoyed, she had her sister. And I sent her a text message this morning and said, "oh, my gosh, I'm sure you're back at work. But I just I want to I can't wait to talk to you about everything". And she just gushed in the text message about how amazing the trip was and how much she appreciated it. And now, even though she was a little apprehensive about trip number two, which is Ireland now pumped for Ireland.

Ireland Scotland Golf Group, Janet Tracy
Janet's Ireland/Scotland golf trip in 2018.

Steph: [00:54:02] Yay!

Janet: Yes. And so I I love making people's dreams come true. I know everybody out there does, too. And sometimes I think we need to remind ourselves why we do what we do.

Steph: Yes. That's why I love to end with this, because I like burnout is common in the travel industry. And it's nice to hear these stories and to kind of come back so . .

Janet: Yes. So. Did that trip, for her husband.

Steph: Yay! Well, we did it again. We've gone through another episode of TAC. Before we go, though, if you're listening, don't forget your need. Don't forget we need your help with the 20, 20, 20 campaign. And if you have a minute. And if you've never left a rating, it literally really does take a minute before you close the podcast app on your phone, scroll to the review section and leave a rating or review for Travel Agent Chatter. I mean, I think the world really needs a compilation of me doing the most popular dances on the internet in a t-rex suit, don't you? It's the one thing the internet is missing. And if we get the 20, 20, 20 campaign goal, that's what's going to happen so . . .

Janet: Woo!

Steph: Well, Tracy, thank you for bringing in the new decade with us and sharing your story. I really appreciate it.

Janet: Thank you for having me. It's been a pleasure.

Steph: And to our listeners you're the best. I'm so happy that you chose to spend an hour of your day listening to the origami swan techniques for the conference-goer. That was so much fun. All of us here at HAR are sending you huggable sparkles and Origami paper.

So take care until next time you can watch a video, read a transcript and view the show notes of today's episode by visiting Host Agency Reviews.com/TAC clicking on episode 13. You know, I have to tell you while we're here, I like that you stuck around this long. Usually there's boring stuff at the end of a podcast, like maybe the credit roll or whatnot, but you should know, not this podcast. So I may as well tell you a little known fact about me is I used to be a TGI Friday's server. That's right. And because you braved this podcast to the various surprises you visit HAR, that's har.news/TGIF and you can see a picture of 20 -something Steph in my TGI Fridays getup. Thanks for listening!

About the Author
Steph Lee - Host Agency Reviews

Steph Lee

Steph grew up in the travel industry. She worked with thousands of agents in her role as a former host agency director before leaving in 2012 to start HAR. She's insatiably curious, loves her pups Fennec and Orion, and -- in case you haven't noticed -- is pretty quirky and free-spirited.

If you’re looking for Steph, she leaves a trace where ever she goes! You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest as 'iamstephly'. 🙂 She doesn't do TikTok as no one would ever see her again.