What is romance without a get-a-way? And for many of us what is a get-a-way without feeling that you got your money’s worth? Today’s guest is going to help us cover these bases and many others … on this edition of Frank Relationships.
FRANK RELATIONSHIPS: THE TRAVEL AGENT
Guests: Jessica Griscavage
Date: May 06, 2013
Frank: What’s a romance without a getaway? And for many of us what is a getaway, feeling that you didn’t get your money’s worth. Well today’s guest is going to help us cover these bases and many others, on this edition of Frank Relationships.
Welcome to Frank Relationships where we provide, candid, fresh and frank look into relationships with goals of acceptance, respect and flexibility. I’m Frank Love and you can find me, my blog and my various social media incarnations at franklove.com. Once again, I’m joined by my partner in crime, Dr. Gayl. What’s up?
Dr. Gayl: Good morning, Frank.
Frank: Who doesn’t enjoy traveling, especially with that special someone? Get away from the grind, explore new unfamiliar or unfrequented places and to forget the baggage back home.
I’m a little different. Sometimes all I need is a hotel room to curl up in and escape and it can and has been just on the other side of the city, but we’re not talking about morons like me, we’re discussing travel as though we have style and pizzazz, which is where today’s guest shows up.
She’s an A-list travel agent and she can help you find the perfect luxury vacation, honeymoon, romantic excursion or family vacation.
Think you can navigate the travel world better than she can? You may want to reconsider, because Jessica Griscavage is going to school us about travel, luxury and deals in a manner that only a professional could do. Good morning Ms. Griscavage. Welcome–
Jessica: Good morning.
Frank: To our show.
Jessica: Good morning, Frank.
Dr. Gayl: Good morning.
Jessica: Good morning. Thanks for having me.
Frank: You bet. In today’s world of information overload, the internet and online travel companies, how in the world does a travel agent stay relevant?
Jessica: You know that’s a good question and actually, it’s a question that I get all the time. I love the internet. I have, absolutely no issues with it. It’s a great resource for us and it’s a place where my clients can go and look at the different resorts that I’m suggesting to them.
It’s not something we’re afraid of. There’s so much information on the internet and actually that’s a reason why people come to us. It’s just so overwhelming and with everybody able to blog and post reviews, I mean you really want somebody who can kind of get to the truth of it and narrow it down and make sure our clients are choosing the right destination and the right resort. So, it’s a great tool, but certainly it doesn’t hurt us at all.
Frank: Does that mean it’s gotten to the point where it’s not about getting the information it’s now about pairing it down. It used to be the other way around.
Jessica: I think so. I think that’s really fair to say. If you were to go in and type in,” I want to go to the Caribbean,” you’re going to get so much information. There’s so many different islands. One may not be right for you, one may be better for you and you may end up in a huge resort where you’re a small boutique type person, but you just don’t know. It’s really nice to pick up the phone and actually have a conversation with somebody about what your needs are.
Frank: And I assume along the way, you actually get the opportunity to frequent and visit some of these places, so you can tell them you’ve been there and whether it’s a nice happening spot or whether it isn’t.
Jessica: That’s true and actually, I have to say one of my favorite parts of my job, but I do. I try to get out there as much as I can or even if I go on a cruise somewhere, I’m always-one of course, checking out the destination, but two, anytime I can get into a hotel or resort to do a full on-site inspection, I love to do that.
I really like to know as much as I can about the whole world. What’s great? What’s not? What’s perfect for some people or may not be right for another person, but I do. I try to travel as much as I can.
Frank: How do you deal with a perceived or possibly perceived conflict of interest, where a hotel or resort invites you out and I assume they comp you, and of course they want you to refer people to them and what do you do to prevent that from getting in the way of your judgment? Hey, when you get there and they comp you, but the place is a dump or the service is absurd, so that your client benefits more than just, simply the resort?
Jessica: That’s a good question and luckily not something that I really ever run into. Where I do sail the world and I work with all different budgets, our clients tend to be more on the luxury market, so I really haven’t run into that where I’m going into two, three star resorts. It’s just not really personally what I do. So it tends to be on the upper tier a little bit.
If I ever come into a service issue, I certainly talk to the resorts and my partners about it, but whenever I go into a resort or a hotel, I keep an open mind, because what’s right for me may not be right for you.
There’s a hotel lobby that’s may be very understated. That’s perfect for the person who just wants something small or boutique, doesn’t want to be overwhelmed. But you may prefer to walk into a hotel where you want this big grand lobby, with a big bar and a vibe and music, so-
Jessica: Yeah, exactly, exactly, so you have to just not think, “Oh, I don’t like this, because another client might and that’s really where my job comes into play. Is find out who you are, what you’re looking for and what’s right for you, but just to get back to your original question, I never feel pressured to sell a property.
Jessica: I never have and I’ve got great partners, really great partners and they know I’m looking out for them.
Frank: Nice. Let’s go back. I got a story of where a few weeks ago, I was eating out and the woman who was the waitress was doing a horrible job. She was not attentive. I was looking up for her and she didn’t come back until much later than was good with me. So eventually, I said to her, “You know, the service is really not that good. Every time I looked for you or wanted an adjustment to my order or something like that, you weren’t around. I’m still going to tip you like I would anyone who did well, but I got to tell you, it was not up to par.”
How do you suggest our listeners give positive feedback or give feedback, so that it’s accepted in a positive way when they visit a resort or when they’re dealing in the service industry? When they’re paying their hard earned money, but the service just isn’t up to par and they know that people are surviving off of their tip dollars?
Jessica: Well, first, if they’re at a hotel or resort and they’re having an issue, certainly they should go talk to somebody. Start with the front desk if it has to get elevated to a manager, just like you would at a restaurant; just like what you had. And hopefully there the manager on duty will help and fix the situation, but that’s where I think a good travel advisor comes into play, because we have the relationships that an individual wouldn’t.
So, if a client of mine came back and it just didn’t work out wherever they were, we have the clout and the relationships to fix it. Or in a lot of times our clients, they love us and they call us and they’ll call us while on vacation, which I love to hear, especially when everything is going great and they love to share pictures. It’s so easy nowadays.
But I can pick up the phone and fix the problem and I can do that worldwide and it’s really why it’s great to have an advisor, because we’re going to fix it. When you booked it on your own or the internet, you’re a person, but we’re there to VIP you and make sure it happens. So, if God forbid something went wrong or the service wasn’t up to par, come back, tell me and I’ll fix the problem.
And they’re going to listen to us, because our business means a lot to the vendor.
Dr. Gayl: So, it sounds like you guys are pretty involved in the whole travel aspect of the vacation or getaway.
Jessica: Oh, absolutely. From beginning to the end and you really want to choose a travel agency that has that clout and has that name and I’m very lucky at McCabe World Travel. We’re part of Virtuoso, which is a phenomenal consortia of the luxury market. It’s invite only–invitation only, to be a part of this and we partner with hotels, resorts, cruise lines, tour operators, ground operators throughout the world and just our relationships mean everything and we’re there to VIP you and make sure you have a phenomenal experience.
Dr. Gayl: You mentioned Virtuoso. Could you explain that or elaborate on that for us?
Jessica: I’d be happy to. To sum it down, it’s really a consortia of really just the top percentage travel agents throughout the world really and we partner with the luxury market. What that means is we’re working with a hotel that’s part of our Virtuoso network. It’s huge value for our clients, huge; a lot of times upgrades breakfast, which is really important. You think breakfast, that’s not a big deal, well at some of these resorts, breakfast can be $35 per person. That’s $70 per day, times seven nights, that’s a huge value. If you booked that on your own, you wouldn’t have that.
Through, for us you can get the best room possible. Hopefully you’re going to be upgraded, you’re going to have breakfast, a lot of times resort credits and that’s just on the resort level. I mentioned a little bit about ground operators and that means, we have partners–
Frank: Wait a second. What is a ground operator?
Jessica: Yes, exactly. So they are these companies, again, affiliated with Virtuoso are throughout the world. So, let’s say Italy, which is a hugely popular destination. We can arrange tours and transfers and guides that just nobody can get their hands on that are fantastic.
Last October, I traveled to Italy and met with my partners in Italy and did a tour with them and we went to Pompeii, for example. If I had just done Pompeii on my own, I would have been, “Oh great, these are fun to rock. Great and neat.” I mean, she brought the city to life. I could visualize what it was and it was just phenomenal.
And they have access to places that the general public can’t get. We were in Rome and we were at the coliseum and I got to go underneath, where the gladiators used to come out.
It was just a phenomenal experience and it brings the cities to life. We have great partners in Turkey and Italy and everywhere. All around the world, Europe and Asia, everywhere, Australia, and it can be as simple as me arranging a transfer to and from the airport or “Wow, do you just want that over-the-top experience where you’re going to learn and really get immersed in the destination that you’re at?”
Frank: I heard you use two terms. One, advisor and the other, agent and I’ve been using the term agent during the entire interview thus far. Is there a difference?
Jessica: Actually, on my business card, it says, “Advisor,” not agent. I think it’s just perspective. For me, an advisor starts from the beginning, listens to your needs, listens to your budget, which is really important, and really advises you on the best destination.
Agent, you could say it’s the same thing. For me, it might be more of like an order taker, “Oh, I want to go to Jamaica.” “Okay, here you go.” But why do you want to go there? What time of year are you going? Are you going during hurricane season? Maybe a different destination would be best for you. So, I think advisor means that we just get into it a little bit more in depth.
Frank: Is hurricane season in the Caribbean one homogenous season period of year or does it change based on whether it’s the North Caribbean or South Caribbean, anything like that?
Jessica: Yeah, the weather’s so hard to predict right now. It’s changing all the time and you just never know. I mean, really hurricane season is June through November, which is a huge portion of the year. Have I taken a risk and gone in the summer? Yes, I have and I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve never been caught in a hurricane, but as you know, here they happen.
Jessica: Sometimes tend to happen towards the later summer, but I guess it just depends on the year and the weather pattern. But there are some islands. They say the A, B, C islands, like Aruba, that really tends to never get hit. Carasau near south, Barbados, little bit kind of outside the hurricane belt, per say. A little bit safer. To have that honeymoon in August or September, October, we talk about it. We talk about the risks. We talk about travel insurance and we look at other destinations.
Maybe they go to the Pacific coast, Cabo or maybe Hawaii or a different destination.
Dr. Gayl: And the prices are more reasonable during hurricane season? Correct.
Jessica: Yes. You’re going to get a better “deal.” Because it’s off-season for them, but if you want to travel during, what we call, festive season around the holidays, it’s “Whoa,” do the rates really go up.
Dr. Gayl: Oh really? Okay.
Dr. Gayl: You also mentioned, luxury a couple of times. How are individuals invited to your particular travel agency?
Jessica: You mean clients or the consumers?
Dr. Gayl: Uh-huh.
Jessica: They’re welcome to call.
Dr. Gayl: Because you said it’s invite only, correct?
Jessica: No, no. Our agency to be a part of the Virtuoso network is invite only.
Dr. Gayl: Okay.
Jessica: Your listeners can pick up the phone and call me any time.
Dr. Gayl: Okay, and since you mentioned luxury, tell us about that?
Jessica: Again, I just want to say that certainly we work with any budgets, so not everybody has the ability to travel on a five star level all the time. And some times, we’ll take a trip. Let’s say you’re going to four different cities in Europe, maybe we’ll do a three and a half four star, but the city that means the most we end with a bang.
Probably, I would say the upper tier resorts: Four Seasons, St. Regis, Ritz Carlton, Park Hyatt, those type of accommodations.
Frank: What are some of the different types of expertise that travel a agent might have?
Jessica: I’m very fortunate at McCabe. We just have phenomenal advisors and whereas, we all do sail the world, and again, having our partners throughout the world, help us do that, we all tend to kind of have our niches that we like to do.
One of my colleague’s, she loves Africa. Another colleague of mine is just in love with South America. So, we all kind of-we do everything. We tend to–it just kind of happens. Where our interests lie, we do a niche. I personally, I really enjoy couples, honeymooners, romantic getaways, and I love family travel. It’s something that’s really near and dear to me.
Frank: Do you deal more with the man or the woman?
Jessica: Both. I have some clients where they’re both equally as involved and then some, either the man or the woman is the leader. I’ve got to say, I think its probably about 50/50.
Frank: Tell me a good story about a man, planning a vacation.
Jessica: Recently, I had a client, who actually found my name. He doesn’t even live in the country, but he contacted me. He did his research and he knew who we were and some of the types of things that we could do for him and he had already planned a vacation, but wanted to propose to his fiancée, which is always fun and exciting and I get just as nervous as he does. Like, “I hope it goes well, I hope it goes well.”
So he left the resort that he was staying at and I had a really phenomenal resort. The one and only *(inaudible) 18:34 and this is one of my favorite resorts as well.
A one-night stay there and it wasn’t just the room. That’s easy to book. Anybody can do that, but again, through our relationships, he had breakfast and all these great amenities. But we took it a step further. I helped him with the actual proposal.
So they had a private candle lit dinner on the beach and she was a vegetarian, so we had a special menu made and we had the wines picked out. And then we even got a guitar player to come down, and he proposed and the torches. It was gorgeous.
And she said, “Yes,” which was exciting. So, now I’m working on their honeymoon to Tahiti, which is a lot of fun and a destination that I love. But it meant the world to me. He sent me a picture of the proposal. For such an intimate moment, to be a part of that was just amazing. And I’m so glad and I love this and now I get to help them with their honeymoon and then their travels after that.
Frank: Right. The kids.
Jessica: Then, the baby moon. You can’t forget the baby moon, which is an up and coming trend and then it comes into family travel, which I love to do.
Frank: Hold on.
Frank: The baby moan?
Dr. Gayl/Jessica: The baby moon.
Jessica: Oh come on, you know the baby moon.
Frank: I’ve got four kids–
Dr. Gayl: Frank, has no clue what that is.
Jessica: Frank, you should have been on four baby moons by now.
Dr. Gayl: Right.
Frank: Okay, can you tell us a little bit about the baby moon. Oh, man.
Jessica: Oh, my goodness. You should know. This is an important trip. It’s the trip before you have the baby. And a lot of times, the man plans it–
Jessica: But with a lot of influence from the wife. Now of course, obviously, doing what I do, I planned my own. I went to Santa Fe, which sounds so bizarre. But we have the *(inaudible) 20:33 here from where we’re at and I was craving Southwest Mexican food during my entire pregnancy. And all I wanted to do was eat and that’s what I did. I went to Santa Fe and I had chicken tortilla soup everyday and it was phenomenal.
Dr. Gayl: Bless your husband.
Jessica: He watched me eat.
Frank: Did he go with you?
Jessica: Of course he went with me. Yeah. No, but I planned my own, but typically, the wife just wants to be pampered, spa, beach, relax and rest. And depending on the mom and her comfort level or mom-to-be, I should say, some are happy to get on a plane and fly, some want to do like a driving trip. They feel a little bit more comfortable doing that.
But it is important to really talk it through. I had a dad-to-be and he was like, “How about Napa? I’m like, “Yes, your mom really wants to–”
Frank: Get drunk.
Jessica: “Watch you taste wine. Yeah, not fun. No, pick a different destination.”
Dr. Gayl: Now, have you had any men to come and say, “I want to plan a baby moon for my wife?”
Jessica: I think the wife kind of–
Frank: Yeah. First, the men have to hear about it.
Jessica: Hopefully, you’re listeners are hearing this-dads. If you have any dads to be out there, they need to start thinking about this. But you’re definitely prompted by the wife to do it. But yeah, it’s very up and coming. A spa tends to be key on that. Moms-to-be tend to really want some spa treatments.
Frank: Do you ever do just getaways for the guys or for the girls?
Jessica: I do. It tends to be more women. I just had a bachelor party in Vegas, a very popular destination obviously, to do bachelor and bachelorette parties.
Frank: I wonder why?
Jessica: Yeah, right. But female travel in groups is huge.
Dr. Gayl: Uh-huh.
Jessica: Sometimes it’s just for fun. A lot of times it tends to be around a big birthday.
Dr. Gayl: Yeah.
Jessica: The 40th birthday tends to be a huge one and I think it’s fun for the girls to get away. I tend to do a lot of South Beach actually, which is, again, another fabulous destination, because there you have beach, clubs. You also have awesome dining. You got a little bit of everything, but sometimes its spa related, sometimes it’s venture related, but I do. I love the little groups. It’s fun.
Dr. Gayl: Yeah. My friends and I went to Miami for one of my friend’s bachelorette party. It was nice. It was like five or six of us.
Jessica: Wow, wasn’t it fun?
Dr. Gayl: It was fun.
Frank: Was there a stripper?
Dr. Gayl: There was no stripper. She didn’t want a stripper. It was mainly alcohol.
Jessica: Yes, well that’s the place to it. Miami’s a hot city. You must’ve had fun.
Frank: Okay, what about the ladies? You got a good women story for us? Where a woman contacted you, put together a trip and you just beamed at the outcome?
Jessica: I did. I don’t know if it’s that exciting of a story, but it’s what I like to do, so it’s exciting to me. But I have a group of women who came to me, and again, they wanted to getaway and they ended up–actually just like I said–going to South Beach. And in fact, actually now they go every year, so it was so great to be a part of that, to pick that destination. But I’m like, “Oh, how do you all know each other?” And they told me, “Oh, we’re old sorority sisters.”
Oh what sorority were you in? I was in a sorority,” just a kind of conversation. That got me thinking and I just looked up sororities and they were. I figured out what their flowers were. I figured out what their colors were.
Dr. Gayl: Oh, that’s so nice.
Jessica: So, when they got to the resort and we have a phenomenal relationship with Ritz Carlton Hotels, I had their room completely decorated in their sorority colors, their sorority flowers and it just brought them back. It just brought them back to how they all met each other with the pink and white carnations and the balloons and the decorations and they felt like they were at a rush party again and they loved it and they go back every year.
Frank: Okay Jessica, I got the perfect scenario for you.
Jessica: Oh, gosh.
Dr. Gayl: Brace yourself, Jessica.
Jessica: I’m braced.
Frank: I want to take my wife to New York and the way I envisioned it, we’re getting on the $25 mega bus. How you going to hook us up? What you going to have at our seat as we get on the bus?
Dr. Gayl: She said she specializes in luxury.
Jessica: I got to say, I don’t have clout with the buses. But that bus is great value by the way.
Frank: Yes, it is, absolutely. I mean, from avoiding getting a ticket, to not having to pay tolls and to being able to sit back and go to sleep. Yeah, $25 is perfect.
Jessica: Yeah and parking in New York. *(inaudible) 25:30. It’s like half your hotel bill.
Dr. Gayl: Right.
Frank: That’s right.
Jessica: It’s pretty pricy per night. No, you take the bus or the train or fly.
Frank: So, we’re going to take the bus up and then check into the Ritz Carlton. How’s that?
Frank: Does that make sense?
Jessica: I think that sounds great. You got two choices there. You’ve got Central Park and Battery Park. Battery Park being closer to the Statue of Liberty.
Frank: Okay. Alright, well I’ll let her know.
Jessica: Yeah, right. And then, of course, you’re going to do all the private shopping tours. Either you’re going–
Frank: Oh, yeah.
Jessica: To bring your cards. She’s going to charge whatever she wants. She’s going to meet with the designers.
Frank: Oh, you really know me.
Dr. Gayl: Yeah, right. Unless she meets another husband once she gets there.
Frank: Why in the world is travel important to relationships?
Jessica: I think it’s so important. I’ll just speak personally. My husband and I, even before we were engaged, we just traveled-
Frank: How long you been married?
Jessica: I’ve been married 10 years this June.
Frank: Is he still good looking?
Dr. Gayl: Congratulations.
Jessica: Thanks. Thanks.
Frank: Is he still good looking?
Jessica: He is. He’s very handsome.
Jessica: A little bit, no. Okay, now he can’t listen to this. No, he’s very handsome and we always traveled and we loved it, but it was just us. Or we took a trip with friends too, overseas. But it was just a time to connect and I think we’re so busy and we’re constantly on our phones and texting and emailing. And it’s a time to just put it away and be together and discover the world.
You mentioned the internet, yeah you can kind of be anywhere in the world online, but to really see it with your own eyes. It’s huge. And now, for me, it’s especially important. I have a three year old and both my husband and I we work so hard and I just crave that time where it’s just us. It’s just our family connecting and it means the world to me.
Even just being on the flight, which can be challenging with a toddler, I just love being with him. The phones are off. It’s great and it’s just us.
Dr. Gayl: What are great family vacations, now that you mentioned your child? What are great family vacations for people to take?
Jessica: Again, this depends on the family and us stepping in as advisors and finding out what’s right for them. The ages, the children, so it’s kind of a broad question, because I like to kind of narrow it down.
On the east coast it may just be, going down to South Carolina, enjoying some beach time and golf time or Florida. National Parks are a great thing to do. So, it depends on how far you’re willing to go. I think Hawaii will still always be one of my favorite destinations. It’s exotic, yet it’s still in the United States, there’s no language barrier, it’s around the US dollar and there’s something for everybody to do of all ages.
Do you know a popular trend that I’m seeing is parents taking their high school graduate somewhere and letting them to pick the destination, which Is interesting.
I’m working with a family right now and the son has always wanted to go Italy. So, they’re going to do Venice and Rome and Florence and the Amalfi coast and the son picked that destination. So now, it’s interesting. We’re planning the day-to-day and the touring and the son is driving. He’s driving what they’re doing and what they’re seeing.
Dr. Gayl: That’s pretty rewarding.
Frank: Very nice.
Jessica: Yeah, yeah, but I think that’s great. They’re always going to remember this. Its right before their son goes off to college. This is kind of the last hurrah. What a send off–
Jessica: And they’ll be together for ten straight days. I think everybody should just take time and do that. I just think it’s so important.
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You’re listening to Frank Relationships and we’re talking with A list travel agent, Jessica Griscavage, about vacations, luxury excursions, and getting your money’s worth with both.
Please tell our listening audience how they can reach you and use your services.
Jessica: Thanks, Frank. Again, they can reach me directly. My phone number is 703-762-5056. That goes right to my desk. They can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or they can visit our website, which is mccabeworld.com.
Frank: You were talking about children and not necessarily taking them on a vacation sometimes. What are some of the child care options that you might suggest to a couple who has a little one or a big one and they want to take a trip? What would you suggest, just simply, as a parent and as an advisor?
Jessica: You have so many options, believe it or not, and that may seem very overwhelming to some parents, but there’s so much product out there that is great for all ages. First one to talk about, is cruising, which is a huge value, because all of your meals are included, whether you’re just doing the Caribbean or even Europe, which is great. You’re seeing Europe on the American dollar and you know what your costs are. It’s huge, but-
Frank: Is that a good or bad thing?
Jessica: It’s a good thing.
Frank: Seeing Europe on the American dollar. We’re not doing too hot I thought.
Jessica: Well exactly, so you’re not having any conversions of dollar to euro and it’s pre-paid. You’re not getting any conversion fees charged on your credit card. That’s great. Get it done and know that all your meals are paid.
Frank: Got it.
Jessica: A lot of credit cards too, they’re going to charge you every time, a conversion fee and that’s going to add up. So to have all of your meals included is really huge.
But the cruise lines have children’s programs. Most starting kind of four and up and what’s great is, they group them into their appropriate ages. So, you have your teen’s club, you have your tween clubs, you have toddler, kind of elementary school and the activities are really geared towards the appropriate age.
Disney Cruise Line is a great example. That’s a cruise line that actually has a nursery on board, so if mom and dad need just a little bit of break from the baby, they can get that break.
A lot of them also offer babysitting services. Many resorts also have babysitting services. The last time I was in Hawaii with my family, my husband and I had a babysitter and we got a night out, which was great.
There’s all-inclusive resorts that have kids programs. Many of the luxury resorts that we were talking about have phenomenal children’s programs.
The Four Seasons has the Kids for All Seasons, which is actually complimentary, and again, are really in depth about each destination.
Ritz Carlton has phenomenal children’s programs, some with like, Jacques Cousteau, where they’re really learning about the environment. So, they’re getting a little bit of something, while mom and dad are getting a break. Some of the all-inclusive also cover babies.
Jessica: Which is hard to find? Not all resorts will do that complimentary, but there are some out there.
Frank: Okay. Conversion fees, you mentioned that a minute ago. How do they apply? How expensive can they get and how do you avoid them even if you’re buying something in that place when your trip is already pre-paid?
Jessica: I still, for the big purchases, when I’m overseas, will use my credit card, but one, before you leave the U.S., you call your credit card company and say, tell them that you’re going away and where they are, because there’s nothing like getting there and your card not working and unfortunately with fraud now, credit cards are so quick to stop charges going through. So, you have to let them know that you’re going.
Jessica: And call them and ask them, “If I’m going to Europe, what is my conversion fee,” and some credit cards are better than others and you would just have to talk to your own cards and then find out what’s the best one for you to use, because some of them will charge you to convert to U.S. dollars. So, if you’re having massive purchases, you’re in Turkey and you’re buying this beautiful rug for your foyer at home, you want to make sure you’re using the right card for that.
Frank: Got it. Any insight into whether debit cards are hit with conversion fees also?
Jessica: I think it depends on your bank.
Jessica: But you want to be careful of that too. Just-that’s debit, one swipe and you’re done–
Jessica: If you lose it or if somebody takes it. You just want to be careful. I feel like you’re safer with credit cards.
Frank: Okay. The competitive nature is all over the place. Now is there a since of competition with other travel agencies or other travel agents to get good deals? Might a resort put out a great deal, but only have one slot or two slots that agents may be rushing to get their people into? Is there a culture of that nature?
Jessica: Not that I’ve seen, which is great. At my office, we all work as a team and my colleague asked me to talk with one of her clients, because I had just recently come back from St. Bart’s and that’s where he wanted to honeymoon. So, I got on the phone and told him in my experience and handed it back to her. I believe in helping each other out. Good karma, it all comes back to you and that’s how our agency works. We all help each other out.
I’m very fortunate, in a sales environment, that I feel absolutely no competition. We’re here to help each other and the motto I take. I just don’t feel the competition. I think we’re doing great and you hope that resorts don’t undercut you. But again, for us, it’s about the value; what we can bring and what our relationships can bring.
Frank: Got it.
Dr. Gayl: What’s the average cost for an advisor or for an agency?
Jessica: To use one?
Dr. Gayl: Uh-huh.
Jessica: It varies. Sometimes we have plan-to-go fees. It just depends what the situation is. If you’re doing around-the-world, changing hotels every four nights, there’s going to be a plan-to-go fee for that.
Sometimes it could be as easy just a good faith deposit and that happens sometimes where I would only charge it should you not book your travel through me, just to cover my time. Just like a lawyer needs to cover their time.
Dr. Gayl: Right.
Jessica: It’s really varies. If you’re booking a hotel through us, you’re not paying anymore than if you booked it directly. We’re just bringing you the relationship and added value.
Dr. Gayl: How far in advance should someone book you or look into a travel agency?
Jessica: Depending on the season. It’s interesting. This past week I’ve had requests for 2014, 2015 and then next week.
Dr. Gayl: Wow.
Jessica: If you’re looking to travel over the holidays, you need to do it now. If you’re looking to do a summer in Europe, for example, a little behind the game; you need to get on it now. It just varies, and depending on the trip.
We get a lot of last minute getaways. “Oh God, I haven’t thought about this.” And we make it happen. We prioritize people leaving sooner just to make sure it can happen.
But if you’re thinking summer and fall; you really need to get on it now. Anything for the rest of this year, now’s the time to start thinking about it.
Frank: When you were talking about the fee, were you saying, plan to go?
Frank: Okay, got it. How should a traveler choose an agent? You had someone reach out to you from across the world, it sounded like, but how do you find that perfect agent for you?
Jessica: I think it always starts with the first conversation. Do you fit? Are you feeling a connection? Are they listening to you? I think that’s huge. Are they asking you the right questions? But you want somebody that listens and doesn’t talk over you and really hears where you’re coming from and who you are and what’s been important to you. Where you want to go? What your bucket list is?
I like to just not do the trip, but I want to know, “What are you thinking about next or the year after? And what’s the right time to do it?” You should find somebody that you really connect with and you just have that click, kind of like a hairdresser.
Dr. Gayl: Right.
Jessica: We’ve all fired some in the past and you know and I’m in love with mine and I would never leave him right now.
Frank: Yeah. I’m real close with my hairdresser too.
Jessica: I don’t think some of my clients–probably their spouses does. We all just tend to kind of open up with people like that.
Dr. Gayl: We mentioned baby moons and engagements. Are you involved in destination weddings and things of that nature?
Jessica: We do. We do. Actually, I’m working on a couple right now from the Caribbean to Orlando to Hawaii, actually.
Dr. Gayl: Okay.
Jessica: So, we do. We definitely help with that and help certainly with the destination and the accommodations. But I help and step in as much as I can, but I’m not picking the flowers.
Dr. Gayl: Right.
Jessica: There’s wedding coordinators to do that on site, but I get them in contact with those people.
Dr. Gayl: Okay, so what aspects are you involved in?
Jessica: Finding the right destination, then finding the right resort and then of course, accommodations, travel, transfers, that type of thing.
Jessica: But here to step in any time, they’re like, “Oh, I’m not getting any answers that I need.” I pick up the phone and make sure. It gets done.
Frank: And how do you and the wedding planner avoid stepping on each other’s toes? Or how do you work together closely, without stepping on each other’s toes?
Jessica: We just don’t, because I let the wedding planner plan and it’s his or her job to listen to the bride.
Jessica: But I have to say I love destination weddings and seems so much more popular now. Every wedding I’m going to now, it seems like I’m flying somewhere to go to, but I think it has to be for a bride and groom that to let things go a little bit, where here, if you were at your hometown, you have a little more control.
You can walk into the flower store. You can walk into the cake store. Like the Caribbean, you kind of just have to have that, “Everything’s going to work out,” laid back attitude and know it’s going to be great. Every Caribbean wedding, I’ve gone to has been phenomenal.
Frank: Nice. Tips has got to be on the mind of quite a few people other than myself. When you’re traveling it seems like there’s service everywhere or at least when I’m traveling. You’ve got the rental car company. They send a bus to pick you up from the airport to take you to the rental car facility. Do you tip them or do you not tip them?
Jessica: It’s not required. It’s up to you.
Frank: And what do you suggest as a tip?
Jessica: Well, I don’t want to give you a vague answer, but it really depends on where you’re going and what’s customary.
You know here, it’s customary, probably looking at 20 percent on a restaurant bill where in Europe, they don’t do that. It’s part of their job and just to leave a couple euros is more than enough. So, it really depends on where you’re going. And again, that’s where our relationships and guides come into play, because they’ll tell us what’s customary at the time. But any time somebody handles my bags, I’ll certainly give them a couple dollars or they bring them up to my room, a bellboy or something like that.
Frank: So, I get to my car and then I drive to the hotel. I avoid valeting my car, because I’m me. But if I valet my car, I’m requested to tip. Any suggestion there, or basically has to do with where you are?
Jessica: I’m kind of a three to five dollar person.
Jessica: When taking my car, hopefully your listeners don’t think I’m cheap.
Frank: No, they’re listening to me too.
Dr. Gayl: Exactly.
Jessica: You’re not doing the valet.
Frank: Right. Okay and I’m walking into the hotel, the guy opens the door for me. Do I tip him?
Jessica: I don’t.
Frank: Okay, get to the front desk, get a room. I assume the desk agent is giving me the best room. Well no, I don’t assume that. He looks at me and says, “He’s a moron.” So okay, I don’t tip him, because he doesn’t give me a good room. Do I get in trouble for that? Am I going to get phone calls throughout the night or am I gong to see roaches and that kind of thing?
Jessica: Well, he’s going to say, “Why didn’t call Jessica from McCabe World Travel.”
Dr. Gayl: That was good, Jessica.
Jessica: Yeah, right. No, no, I don’t, but if somebody brings my bags up, I do.
Jessica: And that will vary on how many bags.
Frank: Got it and break that down. So, one bag? What might you tip?
Jessica: It depends on the hotel as well too. If it were a luxury hotel I’m going to be in, again, that’s three to five dollar range, but if it’s the car seat and the stroller and four bags and all of my heavy laptop bag and all that, I’ll go a little bit higher.
Frank: What if the luggage rolls verses it doesn’t roll does that matter?
Jessica: I don’t think so.
Frank: Okay, alright-
Jessica: They put them on those carts.
Frank: Well, if they have to pick it up, I can see a-
Dr. Gayl: Well, they put them on a little cart.
Jessica: Yeah, you got the cart.
Dr. Gayl: It isn’t like they’re lugging 10 bags–
Frank: I’m thinking about.
Dr. Gayl: Up 20 flights of stairs.
Frank: I think I would prefer to see him not put my stuff on a big carousel thing or cart. I want you to work for it. If you put it on a rolling thing.
Dr. Gayl: You want him to work for your $2.00?
Jessica: Yeah, you better tip them then.
Frank: Yes, and take the stairs. Don’t an elevator. That’s cheating. What do you think, Jessica?
Jessica: I think when you go to New York you should request the top floor. I think that you should request that he take the stairs.
Frank: Alright, and I’ll tell them up front what his tip will be, so he’ll have some incentive to do it.
Jessica: Yeah, you want your bags, right?
Frank: Yeah, yeah, what can I say? How long you been a travel agent?
Jessica: I’m going on nine years now.
Dr. Gayl: Oh, wow, almost as long as you’ve been married, huh?
Jessica: Yeah, yeah. Actually, I left my previous job about the same time. So yeah, I think I’m eight and a half now and it’s been great. It’s been wonderful.
Frank: What’s it take? What did you have to do to become a travel agent?
Jessica: There are still travel schools out there, certainly and a lot of people do that. I just came–of course, I think the best travel agency. The president of our company and the owner of our company are so phenomenal and they’re so well known and I just got the best hands-on training possible.
But there is continuing education. We are certified and I’m learning everyday and we’re very fortunate here in our office. We have vendors that are constantly coming to our office to educate us on the products, to tell us what’s changed, what refurbishments have been made. There’s always some trend.
A couple years ago, all the hotels had iPod docking stations, which was so new at the time. Now, that’s just common; when flat screen TVs came in. They’ll tell us, “Oh, we put $2 million into new TVs, so we’re constantly learning what’s going on. And then, again, to our Virtuoso network, constant training: webinars, webex’s, conference calls; just so you know what’s new, what’s hot, what’s going on. Always learning about the destinations, everyday learning something new.
Frank: Okay. You’re listening to Frank Relationships and we’re talking with A-list travel agent, Jessica Griscavage, about vacations, luxury excursions, getting your money’s worth and all things travel.
Please, once again, tell our listening audience how they can reach you and use your services.
Jessica: Sure, thank you. Well again, I’m Jessica Griscavage with McCabe World Travel and my direct number is 703-762-5056. My email is email@example.com.
Frank: Explain travel insurance.
Jessica: Yes, I think travel insurance is huge. I think of travel as an investment and it is an investment and it can be costly. And there’s so many different products out there and depending on the trip, it’s my job to give you your options and veer you in the right direction. But for the most part, travel insurance is going to protect you, should you cancel for a covered reason: sickness, death in the family. And unfortunately, we see this come up all the time, where you think nothing can happen to you, it does and it’s always when you least expect it. So if you have a huge trip planned and somebody gets really sick, you need that coverage to really protect your investment.
Travel insurance is also going to protect you while you’re traveling, giving you, depending on the policy, sometimes $50,000 in emergency medical benefits or medical evacuation. There are products out there like Med Jet that will evacuate you to your hospital of choice. So, if you’re on safari and something happens to you, you can say, “I want to go to John Hopkins,” and they’ll get you there. And it’s important to have.
I just had a, not too long ago, a honeymoon couple, they were planning some of their arrangements. They were kind of up on the shore, their house got broken into while they were gone and somebody stole their passports.
Dr. Gayl: Oh, wow.
Jessica: Which is terrible. The poor bride and groom, they’re planning their wedding and, because of the trip that they had and the type of insurance I had, I was able to move that trip for them, so they could get their passports renewed and get their passports in time to take the trip.
Jessica: If they hadn’t had travel insurance, they would have been out several thousands of dollars. And who plans on that happening?
Dr. Gayl: Right.
Frank: How do you get a passport? Do you need passports for your children, your infants? What’s your insight on all of that?
Jessica: I think everybody should have a passport. Period. But again, [the nature of wanting to] 50:23 but you never know. You never know where you’re going to go off to, but you need it. Everybody needs one. Every family member. You need it for Canada, you need it for Mexico. There are destinations where you don’t need them. Again, Hawaii being part of the U.S., although I kind of take the better safe than sorry, anytime I live the continental U S, I bring it with me, even when I go to Hawaii, even though I don’t need it.
You never know. What if you have to land in Canada or Mexico or something happens. I just think it’s always great to have. My son had a passport before he was four months old, because, obviously we were traveling pretty soon.
You should have it and you can just go on to the U.S. passport website, download the forms that you need. Instructions will be there and you can go into the office, you can renew online. And it should always be valid. Always make sure it’s valid at least six months from the time that you return back to the U.S.
Dr. Gayl: And how far in advance should you apply for one? How long does it take?
Jessica: When you need it them for Canada and Mexico, they had a hold up, but you probably get them six to eight weeks. But you can always expedite it. If you’re leaving in two weeks, you just pay for it.
Frank: Okay. And what’s the difference between a passport and a visa?
Jessica: Passport, everybody needs when you’re leaving the U.S. A visa, some countries require one and it’s something that you just have to apply for in advance.
Frank: And do they stamp it in your passport or do they–
Jessica: Uh-huh, exactly.
Jessica: In some places, for example, like Turkey, you actually pay for the visa when you arrive. It just depends on where you’re going. Russia for example, it’s a little bit more complicated. You need to do it more in advance. Again, ask a travel advisor where you’re going and do you need a visa and when you should start the process.
Frank: Do you need a passport for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Alaska?
Frank: Or Guam?
Jessica: Technically, no you don’t, but I don’t know. Again, I go on that “better safe than sorry.” But no, you can go to St. Thomas and St. John in San Juan and Alaska without a passport.
Frank: Got it. And what about Guam?
Jessica: You’ll need a passport.
Frank: You will?
Jessica: I think so.
Frank: Okay, alright. Let’s say this. You’re a travel agent; you’re not working for the state department, so we’re not holding you to it.
Jessica: Yeah, don’t hold me to it, but I really think you should have it.
Frank: Okay. There was a time when for minors of birth certificate will do instead of having a passport. Any insight on what’s going on with that right now?
Jessica: I would still, again, get the passport. It just speeds everything up too, but it depends on where and the situation. Some cruise lines like when going to the Caribbean, they’ll be okay with just a birth certificate, but why not get it?
Jessica: Get it.
Dr. Gayl: And speaking of newly weds, what about when women change their name or their name hasn’t been changed yet? What should they do?
Jessica: That’s a good question, because the bride is so generally excited to be misses and the change the name, but you don’t have time to change the name before your honeymoon, so your airline ticket has to match exactly your name as it appears on your passport. So, for your first honeymoon trip, you travel under your maiden name, when you get back then you start the process.
Frank: That was a most excellent question.
Dr. Gayl: I get one gold star for this.
Jessica: Yeah, it really is, because you don’t have time. You have to wait until you get the marriage certificate, then you have to go to the passport office and you have to start changing all your names and paperwork. So, that’s an excellent question. Yeah, and it’s another point to that, just to reiterate it, because I think it’s so important, your name has to match exactly as it appears on you ID or your passport.
So, if somebody called me Jess, I can’t have that on my airline ticket. It has to be Jessica Griscavage. It has to match it exactly.
Frank: Got it
Jessica: Just the security is getting a little tougher.
Dr. Gayl: Right.
Frank: Besides a passport, are there any other documents should be carried when traveling?
Jessica: Always have your ID. Always have your passport. If you’re traveling somewhere that your visa–one thing to think about to, if you’re a single parent and you’re leaving the country, you should have a notarized letter from your ex-spouse, giving you permission to leave the country.
Dr. Gayl: Oh, wow.
Frank: Okay, interesting. What does that do?
Jessica: It really depends on the country, but you could be stopped, showing that you’re trying to leave the country with your child.
It’s just a documentation to have when traveling with a minor. I like no surprises and I like to have my bases covered.
Dr. Gayl: Right.
Frank: Alright. What can an agent do if someone’s in Tanzania and they have an emergency. If they called you, what would you be able to set in motion? Any suggestions or ideas?
Jessica: Depending on the situation, certainly with the time change, hopefully they’re with one of our preferred vendors that can take care of it right away and they contact us. But yeah, we’re here. We’ll make it happen.
A good example of the volcanic ash, if you remember in Iceland a couple years ago–
Jessica: Anyone who was stuck who had booked their airline tickets through a travel agent, we were able to access the record, reroute and find ways to get our, get our clients home. If you just booked it on your own, you we’re just a number and you’re on the phone waiting in line.
I actually had that experience when I was coming home from Tahiti during hurricane Sandy and was stuck in L.A. on a Monday. And the airline wasn’t going to get me home until Thursday.
I found a way. I couldn’t miss my son’s Halloween. I found a way to go via Atlanta to Richmond and drove home from there, because I had booked here and our agency had access to that record.
Dr. Gayl: What about the difficulty that recently happened with the ship–
Frank: Yeah, the cruise ship?
Dr. Gayl: Right. How would you guys be involved in that tragedy?
Jessica: I have to say, I think they took care of–they refunded and did absolutely everything that they could, but that was a tough situation. Luckily we didn’t have anybody on there, but I would make sure that my clients was compensated as much as they could’ve been.
Frank: Any publication you recommend our listeners reading to research travel?
Jessica: Yeah, I love Travel and Leisure. I think it’s a phenomenal, a phenomenal publication, so definitely look at that. You can find, of course, information on our website mccabeworld.com. I would also search Virtuoso, because there’s great travel ideas in there as well; certainly looking online.
Dr. Gayl: When thinking of traveling, when someone is trying to find a low key travel agency, I guess, or the quick and dirty, what should one person do?
Jessica: What do you mean, quick and dirty?
Dr. Gayl: Someone that can’t afford luxury, I guess.
Jessica: One of my first questions I ask is what’s your budget?
Dr. Gayl: So everyone should always have a budget?
Jessica: Oh yeah, you have to.
Dr. Gayl: Okay.
Jessica: Because I’m not going to offer you, let’s say a two, three star hotel if you have a budget when you expect five star, or vice versa.
Dr. Gayl: Right.
Jessica: Don’t be afraid to tell your agent your budget. Don’t think, “Oh I’m going to give them a budget and they’re going to try to go to that or higher.” No, we need a range of what works for you and that’s were we can be creative and really customize it. We do little weekend getaways, somebody who just has $200 per night. We just need to know to really make it right for a person.
So yeah, they should always call and be upfront with what their budget is. If we can’t make it happen, we’ll be very honest, but we always try to find something for everybody, because I believe in travel and I think everybody should do it.
Frank: Very nice. You’re listening to Frank Relationships and we’re talking with A-list travel agent, Jessica Griscavage, about vacations, luxurious excursions, getting your money’s worth and everything travel. Last time, please tell our listening audience how they can reach you and use your services.
Jessica: Absolutely, they can find me at mccabeworld.com or firstname.lastname@example.org is my email. Or they can call me direct at 703-762-5056.
Frank: Along today’s journey, we’ve discussed passports, how to get them, why they’re important, children, what to do in terms of leaving them at home and bringing them with you and travel insurance.
I hope you’ve had as much fun as I’ve had talking with A-list travel agent, Jessica Griscavage, about vacations, luxury excursions and all things travel. I’m certainly grateful for the opportunity and the information.
As always it’s my wish for you to walk away from this conversation with a heaping helping of useful information that will help you create a relationship that’s as loving and accepting as possible.
Let us know what you thought of today’s show at facebook/relationshipflove, on Twitter @mrfranklove or at franklove.com. On behalf of my producer, Phileta Legette, keep rising. This is Frank Love.