Here Is My Story…

ETA: 10/10/23
 
Since this post was published we have gained new followers as well as subscribers! AND we have also moved to the gorgeous state of Georgia! So let me share with you all again, my story! Thank you for your support! ❤️
 
Hola mi gente! (or Hola my people)!
 
Hope everyone is doing well!
 
In my debut blog post, I talked briefly about me and the reasons you should work with a travel agent. What I did not tell you was my story and my “why”.
 
What made me decide on this rollercoaster of a business (right before a pandemic) 😱.
If you want to know, read on!
 
Here is my story and my “why”…
I grew up traveling, whether it was a camping trip at a river or the beach in Puerto Rico or a road trip to Disney World from Jersey! My dad (papi), would have us pile into the truck or van and away we went. We would travel all over the island just to go to a restaurant that he wanted to try or to spend the weekend in a different town just because. Once we moved to Jersey, it was the same! I joke that I have tried Chinese food in every state and country I have visited. Papi loved a good Chinese food restaurant. China town in NYC, was one of his favorite places to visit. Even when we drove to Canada one summer, guess where our first meal was while staying in Toronto? Yep, you guessed it…
 

 

My dad’s love for travel, adventure and good food is the reason why I love travel so much and good food but, that’s another post 😂. I‘ve always wanted the boys to have the same experiences growing up, or at least, similar. Looking back, I have been planning travel since my late teens!
 
Before kids and husband, my friends Corinne, Gina, Cindy, and I would celebrate our birthdays in a pretty big way. My birthday would start what Mrs. Westhoven (Gina’s mom) would call “birthday season”. You see, our birthdays were one after the other; mine is in March, Corinne’s is in April, Gina’s is in May and Cindy’s is in June. Once February was over, it was time to plan where we were heading for each birthday celebration. Atlantic City, NYC Times Square, Wildwood or Seaside Heights. We even drove to Boston one weekend to go see Dane Cook (no judgement please 😆). So technically speaking, I have been a travel agent since I was about 19 and didn’t even know it!
 

 

 
While Steve was active duty we managed some weekend trips and even full vacations. Definitely a bit trickier, with a lot of moving parts but in my post Hurry Up & Wait I offer some tips that can make planning a bit easier or you can always call me 😉. I planned every trip back home, the only anniversary celebration that Steve was home for while he was in the Service, in which we had an amazing weekend in Cape Cod. Our pre-deployment Disney vacation and our post-deployment (a different one) vacation to Puerto Rico. Let us not forget the pre-deployment road trip to Wisconsin to visit with my in-laws. Yep, all planned by yours truly. I even planned a quick winter getaway for some of my friends and I to take the kids to Great Wolf Lodge as a deployment surprise for them. Even then it hadn’t hit me that I could do this for a living. Like the majority of my generation and beyond, I thought travel agents were gone, along with VCR’s and Aquanet ( I know, I’m totally aging my self).
 
It wasn’t till our very first cruise vacation that I realized how much need there was for travel agents. I decided one year that instead of birthday gifts, or parties or expensive dinners, I wanted to finally try a cruise. My friend Michelle and at the time manager, would tell me how amazing and wonderful cruises were. I would ask questions and she was more than willing to answer because she absolutely loves cruising. We could’ve spend our entire shift talking cruises! So finally the following year, I decided to research a bit and present this idea to Steve. Now, remember that he was active duty at the time, and he was on shore duty, but in true Steve form, his shore duty involved traveling and yes, going underway (going out to sea). So, presenting a cruise to a Submariner that just got off a boat (submarine) a few weeks earlier, is always tricky! It’s all about the presentation 😉! Apparently I did a good job because he was sold!
 
Booking a cruise is not like booking a hotel. Cruises have their own language and I definitely did not speak it. To make sure that I did not make a mistake that would cost us a few thousand dollars, I found a booking site, Cruises was in the name so that meant that they were the experts right? Of course, I get a call right away and there’s an “agent” on the other end and telling that she is more than happy to help me book this. I am giving her all the information; the cruise ship that we want to sail on, the dates and where we want to sail from. She is talking about midship, forward and aft, interior and ocean view, ocean view balcony. I am following along and taking notes, while slightly confused by all this information but once we decided on a cabin category, we had booked our first cruise!
 
 
 
Once we booked, I did what every cruiser or future cruiser does. I joined Facebook groups for our sailing, I read reviews, I watched YouTube videos. I did it all. I knew everything about the ship we were sailing on, where to eat, what shows to watch, what to skip, how to sign up the boys for activities, I knew ALL of the things. Except that we needed travel documents. Back then, your sail pass was part of the travel documents along with your cruise contract and your luggage tags. These documents are issued 30 days prior to sailing and your travel agent is the one that receives them from the cruise line. I called my “agent” and she never answered. So I went straight to the source. I called the cruise line who let me know that my documents were emailed to my “agent”. I tried to reach out to my “agent” again and someone else answered the phone, this other person said “she may not work here anymore, we all work from home so I am not sure who that person is”. Great, I thought, I may or may not have an actual agent to answer any questions. At this point I just ask to speak to a manger. The manager gets on the phone and tells me that the cruise line is responsible for emailing travel documents to the clients. Now I am just confused, nervous and upset that I need these documents and I am about two weeks before sailing and no one is giving me a straight answer. Throughout this ordeal, not a word from my “agent”. I called the cruise line again and explain the situation and they were wonderful, and emailed my documents right away. I then printed out our passes and our luggage tags. Went cruise shopping, because when you start watching all these video, you realize how much stuff you “need”. I’m sure Steve’s eye twitched every time there was an amazon delivery at our steps! 😆
But we were cruise ready…
 
We finally board our cruise and we had a blast! We were hooked! On the last sea day we go the the “Next Cruise” presentation, and they are talking about how to book, and if your current cruise was booked through an agent, if you decide to book while on-board , that new booking goes back to your travel agent to manage it. They are expressing all of this love for travel agents. While I am sitting there grumpy about how horrible of an experience I had at with mine. At that very moment, I remember turning to Steve and saying, “I should become a travel agent”. Now, one of the beautiful things about my husband is, he believes I can do anything! He said, “you should”.
 
When we got home, I started to do research on how to become a travel agent. I researched for a while. What did I need? Did I need to go to travel agent school? Did we want a franchise or did we want to be our own small business? Did I want to be part of a host agency? What is a host agency? I spoke to other travel agents who were more than willing to give me valuable information.
 
Little side note, I did eventually receive a call from my “agent”, she wanted to know if I was ready too book our next cruise…😐
 
After all the research and going back and forth about a host agency, I decided to go with the host agency that I am with to this day. I love their core values and what they stand for, as they align with mine. After meeting our president and the staff, it solidified that this is what I was meant to do and where I was meant to be! I decided that I was going to be the best travel agent that could possibly be.
 

 

 
I do not want anyone to go through the ordeal I went through. A bad experience can ruin the memory of that first cruise or that milestone celebration trip. I love the planning aspect but, what I love the most about being an agent is, seeing my clients creating memories and having a blast while doing it. Whether it is a romantic getaway for two or a crazy and exciting family vacation. I love creating those perfect moments.
I know the feelings and the memories that make me smile, even as I type this about my very own childhood. I can still hear my dad singing to whatever song was on the radio as we were making our way to our destination and it makes me smile.
That is what I want to share with the world. I want to share the excitement of trying out new things, learning about new cultures, going on adventures, but most importantly, helping families, couples and friends create everlasting memories… That my friends is my
“why”…
 
ETA: 12/12/22
At the end of August 2022, I decided to part ways with KHM (my first host agency). They were a great first boyfriend, a “Dean” for you Gilmore Girls fans! As grateful as I am to them, their agency and mine were heading in different directions and I realized we were not going to get married. I will forever be grateful for everyone I met and all I learned from everyone at KHM. But, I needed to do what was best for me and Hola Beaches Travel, LLC.
 

 

 
 
Have travel questions? Looking for travel tips? Or suggestions on what topics you want to read about? Email me at zahi@holabeachestravel.com .
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