By Gwinn Volen
Spring break is around the corner. The uber-organized have long since planned their vacation or staycation, but for others, like myself, it’s scramble mode. Travel planning makes my head want to explode, and as a full-time working mom, there isn’t a ton of time to sort through all of the important details that make a vacation special. My husband is great and patient with this kind of thing, but he doesn’t have the bandwidth to deal with it either.
I rarely hear about people using travel agents these days, but I decided to give it a try. Though travel ideas and vacation deals are seemingly at our fingertips, in reality, I think we need them now more than ever. There are so many online choices for hotels, flights, activities, it’s really challenging to wade through fact vs fiction on what’s actually fun to do.
I called local travel agent Maria Poole and honestly feel like a bag of bricks has been lifted off our backs. We are down to two different trip options, and I can’t say enough great things about my experience with her. Poole is professional and personable and has listened closely to our feedback on what our family likes to do. She’s given us thorough itineraries with optional add-ons. And though she is a luxury travel agent, she has respected our more “thrifty” nature and given us a few different pricing tiers.
Even if a hotel is less expensive, she makes sure it’s not gross. From experience, I’ve learned that the cleanliness ratings on Hotels.com don’t always match up with our comfort level. Not every Hampton Inn is created equally, and I’m speaking to you Orlando.
I asked Poole to answer a few questions so that others in my boat can gather vacation ideas and tap into her if they are overwhelmed. She will definitely remain on speed dial for us for future trips. Our kids will fly the coop sooner than we think, and I’d like to bottle up good travel memories rather than those that come when the trip is hacked together with unvetted hotels and missed bookings.
What Are Your Top 5 Spring Break Trips?
Machu Picchu, Grand Canyon, Galapagos, Colorado, Costa Rica
What If You Could Pick Anything?
Montana Glamping! Experience the American Safari, explore the vast untamed wilderness and come home to your perfectly appointed tent. As you sit around the campfire with a glass of wine in hand and gaze at your kids’ faces which are smeared with a variety of smore’s, the refrain “home, home on the range” may not seem so hokey after all!
2nd Fave: Quebec, Canada
For a truly unique-ahem, frozen spring break experience, take the fam to Hotel de grace! North America’s only frozen hotel. Rebuilt every year, it is completely constructed out of snow only open from Jan- Mar, but it’s an experience you’ll never forget!
Is It Too Late To Book A Trip?
Not necessarily, even though it’s peak season it’s reasonable to find great rates ranging from all-inclusive mega resorts to stylish boutique hotels.
My advice, be flexible with your travel dates and destinations. Make a travel wish list: My affiliation with Virtuoso provides access to negotiate exclusive amenities and VIP access not available to the general public. While planning your tailor-made itineraries I use our preferred portfolio of hotels and suppliers to help you find a destination for your vacation and experience the very best that travel has to offer.
What Are Your Favorite Trips If Budget Is Of No Concern?
Any Ideas For the Budget Conscious?
All-inclusive resorts and large cruises offer great value. I would also consider booking resorts and hotels that offer a true stay-cation experience! I advise clients to stay longer at the hotel property and take advantage of the spa, and the vast amount of complimentary activities!
What About Trips Nearby? Any Good Options?
As a luxury agent, there are several Virtuoso trips within 6 hours!
Charleston Belmond Place, Water Color Resort, Sunset Key Cottages, Resorts in South Beach and Montage Palmetto Bluff.
Are Travel Agents A Thing of the Past? What Made You Go Into the Travel Business?
My business is doing great due to the internet being so overwhelming. I SAVE TIME AND EFFORT. The internet has become flooded with information and opinions that are often contradictory. I save my clients time and energy by getting to know exactly what they are looking for and delivering the client the best options for their desired budget.
My decision to go into the business started with my love of travel. I have been lucky and traveled extensively. Honestly, when I would tell friends of my travel’s they would say ‘can you do that for me! I found that there was a need and I used that to take a dream and turned it into a dream job. I love being a travel advisor!
What Is Your Speciality?
I’ve traveled extensively to over 20 countries bringing back experiences and knowledge of the destination while providing extensive experience to cultivate trips of a lifetime for my clients all over the world. I specialize in all destinations however my favorites include: Italy, Ireland, Spain, Switzerland and South America.
Best Family Vacation: Italy
Best Couples Trip: Safari in Africa, Italy
Trip of a Lifetime: Africa & the Indian Ocean by Private Jet
How Do We Get In Touch?
You have your wishlist; places you’ve dreamed of going your entire life. Then, there are experiences you haven’t imagined yet. I will help you get there!
About the Author: Gwinn Volen is a wife, mom and real estate agent at Ponte Vedra Club Realty.