Was I alone in assuming that most travel agencies have gone out of business by now? With search engines that tell you the cheapest flights and hotels, I wondered if people even used travel agents or just trusty Google. Enter Christina Carzoo from Christina Carzoo Travel, who had me sticking my metaphorical foot in my mouth after the first 2 questions of our interview. She taught me that there is a distinct difference between booking a family vacation to, let’s say Disneyland, and booking a family vacation when you aren’t quite sure where you want to go. You can work with someone who has vast connections and personal experience, instead of relying on reading review after review to decide where to stay, what time of year to visit, or even where to go! But don’t take my word for it. Let her words speak for themselves:
All Events Planned: How would you describe your style, your personality and/or your brand?
Christina Carzoo: We are a boutique luxury travel planning agency and turn what can be a stressful and time-consuming process into a fun one for our clients! Your honeymoon is the most important trip you will ever take and that’s why you should really make it count. We approach travel planning similar to a wedding planner by creating custom luxury trips based on your interests and travel style. Our agency is constantly traveling the world and vetting out properties to ensure we are sending our clients to the best properties and providing them with an experience that will stay with them long after they return from their trip. Our recommendations for our clients are always backed up with our personal experience and strong relationships we have cultivated.
AEP: Who is your ideal client? (Even if this is describing past couples you've LOVED working with)
CC: My ideal clients are curious about the world and want to experience a trip that is beyond basic. Each trip I plan is unique because each client is unique. I love learning about their interests and travel style, crafting a trip that is planned with them in mind. For honeymoons, I really love couples who like to pair adventure along with relaxation. I get it, planning a wedding is super-stressful on top of the everyday stressors of life so going to a tropical vacation and planting yourself by the beach or pool with a drink sounds (and is!) fantastic. We certainly help clients do that all the time and provide an amazing experience for them! However, for most people, the honeymoon is the most important trip they will ever take and in most cases one of their only opportunities to go all-out before buying a house (if they haven’t already) and having kids so I love it when people pair a safari in Tanzania with the Seychelles or want to discover the beautiful islands of The Maldives along with the exciting city of Dubai. Maybe they don’t like beaches at all and would prefer to hike Machu Picchu in Peru or explore the diverse landscapes of New Zealand. I love clients who want to experience the beauty our world has to offer. While all of those I just mentioned are more exotic options, of course I love planning relaxing trips to beautiful destinations too and that makes up a big part of our business.
AEP: What are a few mistakes couples sometimes make when booking a honeymoon/ people make when booking travel?
CC: 1. Not fully considering what they both want from a trip
2. Not having a realistic budget for their destination and or amount of days you want to be gone
3. Not taking into account the seasonality of the destination you are wanting to visit. For example, the Greek Isles are an amazing honeymoon destination but if you are getting married in November it isn’t a good choice for you as most of the islands restaurants and resorts shut down and the weather isn’t as great.
4. Not reaching out to a travel professional for advice and planning. While the internet is full of information to help you plan your trip, you are really losing a level of service, peace of mind and expertise (along with some seriously amazing perks!) you get when utilizing a travel agent. Travel agents have spent years traveling the globe to personally vet out properties and form relationships with hotels and suppliers which helps you have an amazing trip. Our reputation and job literally depends on you having the best trip ever. The random reviewer on TripAdvisor isn’t basing their entire professional reputation on their review and they may be very different from you in what you like and base a good trip on. We save you so much time and are able to make suggestions and offers that are unavailable to those planning on their own.
AEP: What questions should people be asking when booking a vacation with an agency?
CC: I think it is important to find an agency who has great hotel and supplier relationships and who invest in traveling the world themselves. I would ask them about both of these points specifically in addition to how do they come up with the hotels they recommend? If the agency you contacted doesn’t have a vast travel background how are they going to help you plan a trip full of valuable insight? If they aren’t asking you a lot of questions, your trip will be less tailored to your interests and budget as you would like.
AEP: What is YOUR dream vacation??
CC: I’ve been lucky enough to travel to all seven continents, seeing many places on my original list of dream vacations. The funny thing about travel is the more you see, the more you realize you haven’t seen! I would say of the places I have not yet been to I would love to do another safari (taking my daughter when she is old enough), this time in Tanzania. I’m also very hopeful to go to Thailand and Cambodia, or Chile to see Easter Island and the Chilean side of Patagonia.
AEP: If you had a client who had endless funds what unique ideas and products/services would you offer them?
CC: This is such a good question and I love the idea of planning an epic, around the world trip for a honeymoon! We could start by flying out of California to explore the beautiful landscapes of New Zealand, then relaxing in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora, heading to Asia and hitting up Bali and Thailand, then making our way to Europe by going to the romantic countries of Greece and Italy and stopping in Paris for some amazing food and rich cultural city experience before heading back home.
AEP: What do you think sets you apart from other travel agents?
CC: Expertise, connections and experience. While there are many travel agents who can book a trip, many provide services more transactive in nature. We take a very consultative approach with our clients, tailoring everything to them and drawing upon our vast travel experience to give them a trip as unique as they are. My host agency I work under, Epperly Travel, is constantly traveling the world to experience hotels and destinations, allowing us to provide the best experiences for our valued clients. We are one of the only agencies in Ohio that is a Virtuoso agency, an elite, invitation-only consortium of the top 1% of travel providers in the world. Epperly Travel is an affiliate of Travel Edge, which means I have access to and relationships with global luxury hotels, boutique hotels and villas, reputable and award-winning tour guides, private transportation and more to ensure my clients have an incredible experience. I can also ensure you receive VIP service with amenities such as upgrades, food and beverage credits, and other services not available through the mass-market companies one finds on the internet, and at no added cost! I help my clients by taking the time and stress out of planning travel, while providing them additional perks, expert destination insight and insider information.
AEP: What are some of the biggest misconceptions about your industry?
CC: The biggest misconceptions ar that we don’t exist anymore and are unnecessary. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth! Since the introduction of discount sites years ago, such as Expedia and Travelocity, many thought of travel agents as a declining profession. Gone are the days of old school travel agents sitting behind their desks booking travel in a purely transactional manner. In reality, the modern travel agent has their boots on the ground and is exploring exotic locations and properties on the regular, building relationships with suppliers and hoteliers to better provide their clients with destination insight, diverse experiences and peace of mind when booking their global travel. These frequent travels and relationships benefit the savvy clients who seek out their services tremendously. They are able to save valuable time and energy sifting through all the noise on the internet doing their own research, and they can be assured their precious investment will be planned perfectly as each item on their itinerary has been vetted and chosen with their interests in mind. A 3rd common misconception is that it will cost more to use a travel agent. The truth is that we have access to the same rates you find with the hotels direct and sometimes we even have promotional rates not found online!
Please visit Christina’s personal website www.ChristinaCarzooTravel.com for more information about her travel planning services.
Okay, now I’m guessing you’re about to get lost in cyberspace, looking at images of some of the amazing places she described. The world is so vast and we only get the chance to see so much of it. I hope this helped gain perspective about travel agents and how beneficial it can be to use one! Now I need to get in touch with an investment advisor so I can plan one of those incredible safaris… :-)