Macau | Camels & Chocolate

Introducing: Kristin Luna, Travel Adviser

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A dirty little secret for you: I love to play around with booking engines. I probably spend two months solid testing out flight combos and the like to get the best combination of price, schedule and number of stopovers—nothing makes me madder than knowing someone else flew cheaper than I did (a rarity). Call it the Type A in me, but that’s my favorite part of the travel process by far. My desktop is littered with Excel spreadsheets of hotel prices and restaurant reviews and other information for any given upcoming trip. (I’ll share one such glimpse at my personal planning docs after my Scotland trip this month to show you just how full of crazy I am.)

Macau | Camels & ChocolateSo it was kismet when I was out to eat with Steve and Carol Koening back in April at my small town lake marina. Steve, who spent 25 years in the banking industry, has long been a client of my dad and he joined his lovely wife Carol in opening Group Trek Travel in the Nashville area back in 2001. I thought they were only half-serious when they asked me to come on board as a travel consultant. But then, we chatted over coffee in Franklin back in August, and by the end of our meeting, I’d signed the contract. I guess sales is a good career for Carol after all—it took her under two hours to sell me on the job!

I know what you’re thinking: I clearly have so much free time on my hands to take on yet another job, right? (And I still haven’t told you about the two awesome and extremely time-consuming businesses I’ve started in the past three months! I can’t even wait, I’m so giddy but due to contractual stuffs, it will likely be another month or two before I can share either. Hint: Neither of them have anything to do with this gig, or even travel in general.) Well, the thing is that 1) I can do as little or as much travel consulting as I like (as an independent agent, I don’t have a quota to meet) and 2) I’ve already been doing trip-planning for a bevy of friends and family members over the years, so why not be a registered agent who not only has the tools to get the traveler in question much better deals than published rates—plus, need I add, making a little extra money to go to my travel fund while I’m at it? It’s a win-win for both parties.

Svalbard | Camels & ChocolateOne misnomer is that travel agents will cost you more—this is absolutely not the case. You are getting airfare and hotels at often a much better rate than you could find on your own, plus the added bonus of having someone do all the booking for you–and you don’t pay a penny extra. Travel agents work on commission that is paid by the airfare consolidator or consortium (services that you only have access to if you are an established and registered agency).

Diving in Borneo | Camels & ChocolateBefore I even had my software training, I was booking a 12-day trip for Ella’s favorite San Francisco dog trainer to the South Pacific with her boyfriend. I was so pleased that not only did I get them the resort they wanted, but I managed to find it at more than $1,500 off what they would have gotten booking directly through the property. (No easy task, let me tell you—there are more than 50 different booking engines and services this particular agency uses!) I can’t wait to mail her a packet of information on all my favorite spots on the islands she’s visiting! (Yes, call me crazy, but I fully plan to personalize as much of each client’s trips as I physically can.)

One Foot Island | Camels & ChocolateI primarily will be specializing in leisure groups, though if you’re an individual and want to take a trip of seven nights or more, I’m happy to help there, as well. Shoot me an email at kristin (AT) grouptrektravel (DOT) com, and we can chat.

Truth be told: I always wanted to start a honeymoon planning service, as little makes me more giddy than planning someone else’s vacation (uh, other than planning mine!), so this is a perfect jumping-off point for me.

Ready… set… let’s see the world!

*****

I’ll be posting updates to trips the agency is already planning in my footer from time to time. If you’re wanting to take a fall vacation, we have a few spots open (both for couples and for solo traveling females) on an amazing 10-day trip with Nashville’s Barefoot Gang travel group to Italy, visiting Lake Como, Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast. E-mail me or leave a comment if you’re interested, and I’ll be in touch!

COMMENTS
  • September 10, 2012

    Sounds like a great new gig for you Kristin!! Love that there’s no pressure, no quotas, etc – just benefit for you and others. We are so alike in our Type A, research personalities. Congrats!

    • September 10, 2012

      I read your interview you posted and saw that we’re obsessive Type A birds of a feather with our planning docs. Even more evidence that we *need* to meet! I think you should plan a trip down to Nashville soon 😉

  • September 10, 2012

    A. This is a PERFECT job for you. (Aside from the fact that you’re insanely busy already!)
    B. I can haz this job, too?
    C. Had no idea travel agents were such a good deal! My wheels are turning…
    D. Like you I’m so Type A and I like to do everything travel-related myself, but I think that’s exactly what’s going to make you SO great at this.

    E. CONGRATS!

    • September 23, 2012

      You can! I’m sure there’s an agency in JAX that would be THRILLED to have you. You’d be great at it!

  • September 10, 2012

    Sounds like the perfect job for you for sure! I’m definitely the opposite, and hate the actual ‘trip planning’ process of travel… From the other side of coin, I’m glad there’s and easier way to figure out the best way to enjoy a trip 🙂

  • September 10, 2012
    Corey

    Congrats on the new job! Would you please send me the details of the Italy trip? Thanks!

  • September 10, 2012

    Awesome! This is right up your alley!

  • September 10, 2012

    Congrats Kristin! Hey, question for ya… can you book trips for people with the start & end point of their trip outside of the US? Curious Canadian here who likes to travel 🙂

  • September 10, 2012

    This is so awesome!!! I will ABSOLUTELY employ your services for any upcoming trips! So cool!!

    xox

  • September 10, 2012
    JeJe

    Yyyaaayyyyy…..

    • September 10, 2012

      Maybe you need assistance planning a group trip to Europe in 2013? 😉

  • September 10, 2012

    That’s quite the news. But not surprising. I mean, why wouldn’t you do something like this?

    Another thing to celebrate when we meet 🙂

    • September 10, 2012

      And I have something else even more exciting in the pipeline–something I might even be able to involve you lovely lads in! =)

  • September 10, 2012

    Exciting! I used a travel agent for our honeymoon because she got a better price, but usually I’d rather be in control of the details (and am not doing a fancy enough trip to make subcontracting worth it). If you decide to change your focus, let me know…we don’t have any 7 night luxury trips coming up, sadly, but if the money turns out to be in booking last minute quick trips around South America, then with this new job I’m your ideal client!

  • September 10, 2012
    Sonia Gawel

    I hope you’ll specialize in SCUBA trips because I’ll be taking advantage of that! 😉

    • September 11, 2012

      Oh, girl, you know that will be top of my list! I’m in the throes of planning Scott’s and my annual dive vacation over Thanksgiving. So fun!

      • September 11, 2012
        Sonia Gawel

        Ooo! I’m taking an annual SCUBA trip over Thanksgiving too! We’re going to Ocean Frontiers Dive Resort in Grand Cayman. You?

  • September 10, 2012

    Congrats on the new gig! Regarding the honeymoon planning, I’ve actually planned a few honeymoons (or I should say, did the research and presented options) as wedding gifts. My friends, who didn’t travel much, loved this idea.

    OK, but here is my travel agent pet peeve – maybe you can give some insight into the situation – on my recent trip back to the US from Norway, my school was paying for the ticket, and I had to use a university contracted travel agent to get my ticket. The ticket that was booked was actually 2 separate tickets, one from Trondheim to Copenhagen and one from Copenhagen to Seattle via Frankfurt. I was rather ticked off because that meant I was going to have to pay baggage fees twice (about $400 for my 2 extra bags, but thankfully there was glitch in the computer and the fees were waived). That in itself is annoying enough, but given that I almost missed one of my flights, I started to think about what would have happened if I missed my flights on the second ticket if I was delayed due to flights on the first ticket. That could be a nightmare! My flight to Norway had been booked on 2 tickets as well, making me think that is rather common (or at least with the travel agent that I used). Given that the tickets were only a bit below what I could find them for (and the fact that I like to be in control of the details, things like connection cities and times are important to me), it made me think that I’d much rather always book my own flights instead of using an agent.

    Long winded, but any thoughts?

  • September 10, 2012
    Brandy

    Sounds like a gig that’s right up your alley! I usually book my own trips, just because I find it enjoyable, but if I ever need any assistance I’ll know who to contact!

  • September 10, 2012

    Congratulations on the new gig! It sounds absolutely perfect. Planning makes me so happy I spend hours planning trips that never even happen! I can’t imagine getting to do it for people who will actually go 🙂

  • September 10, 2012

    honeymoon planning you say…

  • September 10, 2012

    Super awesome! I’ll have to keep this in mind. 🙂

    Can’t wait to hear about your other projects!

  • September 10, 2012

    This is tremendous news! Congratulations! And I love, LOVE the idea of a honeymoon travel planning service. Can’t wait to hear about what else you’ve got in the pipeline! I hope you get to spill the beans SOOOON!

  • September 10, 2012

    That’s awesome, Kristin. Congratulation and good luck ! 😀

  • September 11, 2012

    I Love to Plan. Isn’t that at least half the fun of traveling. Dreaming of all the possible places to see. Yet I’m always looking for a good deal so will keep you in mind. Hope you can share your other new projects soon.

  • September 11, 2012

    Darn it! Pity I can’t make use of your services. Oh, and I can so see you doing the honeymoon thingy (Eh yeah, just said thingy!) – this astute insight by just reading your blog. 🙂

  • September 11, 2012

    What exciting news! I love looking at booking sites as well but um I AM HORRIBLE AT IT. If we ever meet in person I would love to know your secrets. I have had a few successes, a $560 RT ticket from NYC to Hawaii non stop, and a one way ticket from Bangkok to NYC for $330!!! Unfortunately I never got to take that last flight because I had a little crisis and went home two weeks early. Oh well.

  • September 11, 2012

    I spend so much time looking for the perfect flight price I have often thought that even if it was a teeny bit more money it would be worth getting a travel agent just for the time savings.

  • September 11, 2012

    Oh, what a PERFECT job for you!

  • September 11, 2012
    haidang

    lol at this statement: “I guess sales is a good career for Carol after all—it took her under two hours to sell me on the job!”

    im really glad you are finding time to do this because i actually think you would make an amaaaazzzzzing travel agent/consultant since you do have traveling ocd like me and everything needs to be personal, perfect, and as meticulous as possible. take it easy and dont stress though.

    i also think the honeymoon consultant gig will be amazing. you would rock every couple’s world!!!

    what else was i going to say? oh yeah….businesses. transitioning as entrepreneur extraordinaire!!! yay ;- )

  • September 11, 2012

    Congrats…I know you will be great! And can’t wait to hear what else you are up to!

  • September 12, 2012

    Congrats on the new gig! Looking forward to hearing about your top secret businesses as well!

  • September 12, 2012

    Spreadsheets! That’s what I need!! Thanks for feeding the travel geek in me. 🙂

  • September 12, 2012

    Makes perfect sense to me. You’d be a kickass travel agent!

  • September 13, 2012

    I guess it was only natural!

  • September 13, 2012

    Congrats on the new job! Sounds like something you’ll enjoy AND be great at. I hope this also means we’ll start learning some tips about finding the best deals 🙂

  • September 13, 2012

    Oh man. I need to start using you for getting us cheap flights. I suck something fierce at finding them.

  • September 14, 2012

    Woohoo! Congrats! You make me feel lazy, that’s for sure. haha. 🙂

  • September 14, 2012

    Love it! Sounds like an absolutely great match for you.

    I’m also a lover of the hunt for the best travel deals. I get a little obsessive about it all.

  • September 16, 2012
    Beth

    Congratulations on the new gig! This sounds like a perfect fit for you. What’s your secret for finding such cool jobs?

  • September 16, 2012

    Congratulations on the job! Finding great deals is a gift that must be shared for the good of others.

  • September 16, 2012

    I have the exact opposite personality — I book and just want it done. This is so great for you. Congrats!!

  • September 17, 2012

    Sounds like a great opportunity for you! I am a travel planning nightmare. My husband usually ends up booking my hotels at the last minute for me because if it was left to me, I’d end up sleeping on street corners!

  • September 18, 2012

    Wow, it sounds great! I’ll contact you if I plan another trip. Because.. to be honest, I can’t find in planning and booking etc. any pleasure! 😀 So, good luck, Kristin.

  • September 18, 2012
    Ace

    Hi Kristin,
    We just returned from our first trip overseas to London! We booked through Orbitz and the itinerary showed only one seat confirmed on the way over, but two on the way back. I called and then was given another confirmed seat! I thought this odd; if I had not called, would I have been seated willy-nilly on the plane? Also, on the way over, we had a 4 hr. and 50 minute layover in Philadelphia before our flight to London. On the way back, we had a 5 hr. 30 minute layover in Philly before our flight home. Ugh! I wondered if the seat thing, the long layovers (and the nagging question: could I have done this better and any cheaper?) could have been answered by using a travel agent. I, too, always assumed that using a travel agent was much more expensive, so I was excited to hear you are going to be doing travel consulting! I love the idea of letting someone else take care of the details and I am definitely going to contact Group Trek Travel and would love to speak to you about future trips! BTW, I was excited too when you moved to Nashville; we live in Mt. Juliet!

  • September 18, 2012

    The last few years I’ve been thinking more about how to do this exact job but could never figure out how to be a location independent travel agent. Great job and figuring it all out. Now I know its possible!! One day things will work out for me too!! 🙂

  • September 19, 2012

    How exciting and perfect, congrats!

  • September 20, 2012

    Sounds like this is the perfect job.

  • October 25, 2012

    Great write-up and thank you for shedding the light on travel agents, not costing you money! I was in the business for 10 years – loved it and miss it everyday. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about jumping in again. Enjoy!

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