A pro can do wonders in planning that big family trip

Family reunions usually involve folks coming from different parts of the country. These types of trips, though, definitely call for extensive planning, and it’s often delegated to one family member. That can be quite a burden on even the most organized person.

But wait, there’s another option. Instead of having your mom or aunt coordinate everything, consider working with a professional travel advisor who can reduce the stress, time and effort involved in planning all the little details of putting together a trip that may involve 20, 40 or even 100 people.

Deciding where the family wants to go—whether it’s a cruise, lake resort or world-class theme park—is just the first step. However, there is a lot more involved in planning a trip. Will family members be flying there? Will passports be required? What about meals and hotel reservations? These are just a few of the key issues that confront reunion planners, and issues that a travel advisor can handle with their knowledge and expertise. They can create a family trip that’s full of wonderful memories to last a lifetime.

Working directly with a professional travel advisor does indeed have its advantages, and I was able to get some insights from industry pros who have been in the business for over two decades.

Tim Rinkoski, Premium Travel and Cruises

Tim Rinkoski, Premium Travel and Cruises

Tim Rinkoski, Premium Travel and Cruises

Tim Rinkoski, general manager and co-owner of Premium Travel and Cruises, has worked in the travel industry for over 25 years. When a family trip is being formed, “there should be one person for communication, emails, etc.,” he said. “If there are multiple families in the group, and they ‘need’ to have their own ‘main person,’ then this should be made known early on to have a good line of communication. When issues happen, having multiple people ‘checking’ and then trying to make changes only causes more issues. Too many people think they know how to do things, but they don’t.”

Rinkoski and I talked more about the family member who has been designated to be “in charge” of organizing the trip. He said, “As much as we like to think this person will know what we need, it is best to have a form/ checklist to cover all the information a supplier, cruise line and hotel needs to make the individual bookings.”

Rinkoski added, “It’s details, details, details…not just age, but birth dates, passport information, medical issues and now vaccination information. There are also other things to keep in mind like dietary information, bed configuration, table seating, availability of childcare/ babysitting services, if needed. The list is endless and depends on what the group is doing, their length of stay and the destination.”

Another area where a travel advisor can add value is travel insurance. Rinkoski said, “Travel insurance is now almost mandatory for entrance to some countries. Yes, people always think they do not need it, but history shows those will be the people who will need it (when they do not have
it). For travelers who do more than two or three trips a year, there are now policies available for ‘year-long’ travel insurance.”

Wendy Rosenberg, Party Cruiser’s Etc.

Wendy Rosenberg, Party Cruiser’s Etc.

Wendy Rosenberg, Party Cruiser’s Etc.

Wendy Rosenberg, luxury cruise specialist at Party Cruiser’s Etc., has worked as a professional travel advisor for almost 25 years. She is an Elite Cruise Counselor Scholar, also known as an ECCS, through Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

Rosenberg said working with a travel expert has definite advantages because “sometimes there are unexpected changes that could occur – possibly a cancellation of a flight, changes with a cruise and their destinations. And as a professional travel advisor, we can assist you with this.”

When planning special group travel, Wendy explained, “With each group there are key components that are involved. If it is a special celebration, helping the group members and the group organizer decide on excursions, dietary needs, airfare, benefits and perks, the actual destination (cruise or destination/country) as well as the price point are what I can do for them. With my coordinating, arranging and doing the complete booking, the group members don’t have to worry or stress because I do all the research for them.”

Rosenberg provided an example of a successful group booking she handled for a family. She was working on a river cruise that a gentleman wanted to get arranged for his family, and he was going to pay for it. Wendy worked directly with his daughter, who was working full time and didn’t have time to coordinate all the details.

Rosenberg said, “I planned a special Vietnam river cruise group on the Mekong with AmaWaterways for a multigenerational family. It was a group where family members lived in places over the country….I coordinated all their air schedules for arrival at the destination and their pre-cruise hotel stay. Some of these family members wanted to do a post-cruise stay, at different destinations, so I was able to arrange this, did all the registrations, bookings and documentations.”

She continued, “When these family members returned, they called to thank me for helping them out and coordinating all the logistics involved. Organizing this special family group truly created amazing experiences for them and memories of a lifetime. I was just so glad I could do this for them.”

Final Thoughts

When the outbreak of COVID-19 happened in late March 2020, some types of travel had to hit the pause button. Cruising was one of these. But people are traveling again, and “safety bubbles” have been created by travel suppliers, including cruise lines, many of which now mandate that travelers not only be vaccinated but tested before departure.

However, new travel restrictions can occur at a moment’s notice, and this is where using a travel advisor provides a great benefit. They are there to help with not just arranging your family trip but keeping you on top of potential changes and the options available.

By Cindy Bertram