On this episode of the The Retirement Success in Maine Podcast we are joined by Luxury Travel Works’ Keri Forbringer to discuss attacking your "wander list" in retirement and how to go about fulfilling your dream of travel and experience. Keri is a Travel Advisor, located in Bangor, Maine who specializes in all things travel.
To start the episode, we spend some time really getting to know Keri. We discuss how a Midwesterner (St. Louis-an) found herself in Maine, not only for college but ultimately where her and her husband found "home". From there we move into travel, and what led Keri to pursue (and make) a career all about travel. We talk about Keri’s time spent abroad and how she (accidentally) found herself succeeding as a Travel Advisor.
We then transition the conversation to Keri’s business. In detail we discuss “hot” destinations and how Keri sees travel changing for retirees as they transition from working full time to not working at all. We also discussed what barriers or limitations travelers might be facing when planning a trip and how Keri can help accommodate those limitations. Keeping with retirees, we discuss the idea of traveling as a multi-generational family. Keri shares specific ideas on how to make the vacation work for everyone, no matter what age, and how everyone can enjoy their own vacation, catered to them, while still traveling all together. The interview discussed why someone would want to consider using a travel advisor, including a couple that planned on celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary traveling but never got around to going until they met Keri - two years later!
Keri then spent some time “busting” the myths out there regarding Travel Advisors. One of the myths we focused on is the cost of utilizing a Travel Advisor’s services. Keri speaks to her prices and how she gets compensated for her services. This episode wraps up with a conversation about how Keri sees the travel industry changing over the next 20 years including some exciting new technology that may be soon available to Keri’s clients.
What You'll Learn In This Podcast Episode:
- Introduction of Keri and her origin story. [2:16]
- What is a travel advisor, compared to a travel agent? How do they work? [10:15]
- Keri’s business, formation, and structure and how does align with her customers? [14:44]
- How can travel and retirement work? [19:24]
- Learn about multi-generational travel as a family. [35:30]
- Who can afford a travel advisor? [40:04]
- Keri’s thoughts on how the travel industry will change over the next 20 years.[46:55]
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Speaker 1: Do you struggle with what it means to be successful in your retirement? Trust us, you're not alone. Welcome to The Retirement Success in Maine Podcast. Here, you'll go in depth with Guidance Point Advisors, investment consultants, to hear stories about how retirees in Maine are navigating a successful retirement, get insight into the inevitable challenges of aging, and define what a successful retirement looks like.
Ben: Well, welcome everybody. My name is Ben Smith, joined by my co-host, the Joey to my Chandler, Curtis Worcester. How are you doing today, Curtis?
Curtis: I'm well, how are you?
Ben: Well! On today's show, we have a really special guest talking about travel. And I know from our clients' perspective, travel is something that they've punted on in their lives a lot, is something they've always wanted to do, or they always have this idea of a place or an experience that they're looking for. So, that was one thing when we were crafting the show, that travel had to be the thing. So, really happy to have a really special guest today. Curtis, why don't you introduce her for us?
Curtis: Yeah. Joining us today is Keri Forbringer, a Travel Advisor from Travel Experts. Super excited to hear what she has to say, not only from our clients' perspective, but on a personal side, I'd love to know the ins and outs of travel.
Ben: Yeah. And so, today's podcast, we're going to talk to Keri a little bit about just why she's passionate about travel, and how did she get into it? What is a travel advisor? And what does that role play for people and her business as well? Then, we really want to get into, again, this concept of retirement success and using travel as a means of retirement success. So, we're going to have these three parts to the podcast today. So, we want to welcome in Keri. How are you doing today, Keri?
Keri: Hi, I'm doing well, thank you. Thank you for having me.
Ben: Thanks for joining us, we're really excited to have you. And I know, you and I have done a little bit of a pre-chat here and gotten to know each other a little bit. So, I'm really excited. I think we think a lot alike, for how we approach our clients. So, this is going to be a really exciting one for us.
Keri: Well, thank you. I'm very excited to be here. I think it's a really cool concept, because you're right, I think, a lot of people punt on travel, and then, they get to their retirement, and they don't know what to do or where to start. So, it's a cool concept.
Ben: So, Keri, we want to hear about you first.
Ben: So, I know, in Maine, you either have, you are from Maine, or you are from away. So, even though you live in Maine, we're going to out you right now and say you are from away.
Keri: I'm from away.
Ben: So, I think you're from St. Louis, is that correct?
Keri: I am. I'm originally from St. Louis, Missouri, had never been to Maine before, I applied to colleges, ended up applying to Bowdoin, ended up meeting my husband at Bowdoin. We got engaged in Acadia, we got married on Sebago Lake, we've got a lot of main connections. So, when a job opened up for him in Maine, it was a no brainer. So, we knew we loved it. We have a lot of memories here. It's great to be here.
Ben: So, obviously, you came through to Bowdoin, but what was it about Maine that really gravitated you to this area, and just kind of like, "Well, this is the area that I, A, want to be in at maybe 18 years old," trying to figure that out much less, at whatever age, trying to figure out where do you belong, and where do you want to be? Why is this been the thing for you?
Keri: That's a really good question. And it's going to sound kind of weird, I think. I would say that Maine feels a lot like home, and that's so weird because the landscape is completely different. Missouri doesn't really have any mountains, we definitely don't have any ocean, we don't have tall pines or anything. But, I got up here and I think it just felt really comfortable. People are nice. The first time I ever came, my mom lost her driver's license in the airport, and we couldn't rent the car to get from the Portland Airport up to Bowdoin, and somebody offered to drive us for free, which was just the coolest thing, like that. Where does that happen? It happens in Maine.
Ben: Without it being like a serial killer or something.
Keri: Right, yeah. Exactly. I know.
Ben: So, can I go into this idea in terms of art? So, you go to school in Bowdoin, obviously, college in those years are very formative for lots of people. So, how did you get into this idea of travel? How did that formulate there?
Keri: Yeah. So, I went to Bowdoin, one of the reasons that I had circled Bowdoin in one of those big books of all the colleges that you could possibly go to, was because they've got a really good government program. And at the time, I really thought I wanted to be a diplomat. And that started, we had an exchange student, and I really got to know her very well, and thought, "This is cool. We can do cross-cultural communication, we can figure out we're different but the same." Very lofty ideas. So, I thought I wanted to be a diplomat, initially. Went to Bowdoin, studied in that direction. And the more I learned about the world and politics and all of that, I thought, "The base idea is there, but this is not for me. I don't really like the political aspect of it. It's a game that I don't really want to play."
Keri: So, I don't know, I went with that idea, I took it and went into international education. I taught English in Salzburg, Austria, for a couple years. Yep.
Ben: So, how was that experience?
Keri: It was unreal. I mean, it was one of the best things ever. I don't think I went into it thinking, "This is going to be my long-term forever job." I had met my husband, now husband at that point already. So, the plan was always to come back and we were going to get married, whatever. But, that was my little bit of fun after college, went over and taught English. Those two years-
Ben: So, you were living apart?
Keri: Living apart, for two years.
Ben: That's quite a test.
Keri: It's a relationship test. Yeah. In Austria, they assign you to a school. So, you don't get to pick. And that's true for teachers across the board, whether you're an international, English as a second language kind of teacher or a normal teacher there. They put you into a big pot basically with your skill set, and schools that need you kind of say, "Oh, well, I need these subjects and I need somebody to fill these roles." So, the school I was assigned to, the schools that I was assigned to were Catholic boys high schools. I am not a Catholic boy. But it was actually, it was one of the coolest experiences. I mean, I still talk with a lot of my co-teachers, still talk with some of my students.
Keri: Some of them have since come over here and been au pairs, or employed in America. Some of them are international DJs now. It's very cool to see what they're all doing.
Ben: Wow. That's awesome. Very cool. So, now you're abroad, as in, you're now teaching. And on the diplomat side, you know you're not going to do that.
Keri: No. But, I think, it all kind of comes back to helping people experience the world, and experience things that are different from themselves. But, get more comfortable with that. Because, that's where the cool stuff happens. Where, you show up, and you're like, "You eat what for breakfast? Oh, but that's actually great." Yeah. And I think the travel planning side of things. I came back, still didn't really know what I wanted to do. Got a degree, I got a master's in tourism, trying to help plan travel from the destination side of things. So, something, with the goal of working with someone like Visit Maine or whatever. Where, you plan and make sure that travel benefits everybody, not just in one specific area, or one kind of person.
Keri: And fell accidentally into the travel planning from the client side of things, because, I realized that I had always been planning travel. Like, my family came to visit me in Austria. Before that, I was an exchange student in Germany, my family came to visit me there, and I planned their trip. And they showed up, and we drove around according to my itinerary. And my brother pointed this out, actually, I saw him this past weekend. I have two younger brothers, and one of them, I've planned... Well, I've planned both of their trips for a while. But, when I planned his honeymoon, and that kind of stuff. So, he pointed out that, every trip he's taken I have planned, in some way or another-
Ben: So, you've been in control of your brothers' lives.
Keri: Poor boy. So, I reached out to somebody who I knew was doing travel planning. At the time, I lived in Massachusetts. So, this is several years after coming back from Austria, reached out to her, and it turns out that she's from Missouri as well. So, we were both misplaced Midwesterners. We sat down, we had a lot in common. She kind of took me under her wing, and here we are. I have been planning travel ever since.
Ben: So, what is that about it for the experience for you, what is it that brings you joy? What is it that, you go, "Man, that gives me the best feeling when I've planned it for maybe family members, and I've seen that..." That was maybe the first test for you, that you're getting the feedback of, "I never would have done this and that." Or, "That was the best thing." How did that translate for you? And what is it about it that really makes you feel fulfilled there?
Keri: I think it's all of it. I love talking to people when they've come back, I also love the pre-planning stuff, where people come to me, and they say, "I have no idea." Or, they say, "I have an idea of where I want to go, but I am so overwhelmed, I don't know where to start." I had clients recently who were planning their anniversary, it was their 40th anniversary. And it was their 42nd anniversary by the time they went, because it took them two years to figure out what they wanted to do. And they reached out to me, it was about to be their 42nd anniversary. I said, "We can make this happen. We can get this on the calendar, finally." So, I love that.
Keri: And I think it's really cool to put together an itinerary or a trip that somebody has been dreaming about, and they just don't know how to translate it into reality. And then, when they come back, I love to follow up and hear, "Wow, that was so cool." Or, "Can you believe? I ordered this ridiculous thing. I thought I was ordering a salad, and it turns out it's just a pile of shredded baloney." I think that's cool, and they think it's cool and it's creating memories, and it's giving people time to be together, It's giving people time to explore. And your time is precious, right? All your time off is limited. So, what can you do with it? And I like to help people figure that out. It's fun.
Ben: So, maybe a segue here for you. Obviously, there's a lot of myths around travel advising, and I think people think of maybe about a travel agent, is kind of this idea, and we have a similar thing in our industry about financial advisors. They feel like it's like, you are pitching me a stock and you're trying to convince me to buy this company that I don't know anything about, so that you are the expert in it. So, it's whole like transactional thing. So, in our previous conversation, we talked about, there's a whole evolution, and I think there's maybe a thought out there, about, well, hey, internet now, you can just do this yourself, and it's not that big of a deal. So, can you walk me through that progression-
Keri: Why would you use somebody like me?
Ben: Yeah. Why would you use somebody like you? But also, what is that role? And how has it changed?
Keri: Sure. I think you used a great word, which is, transactional. I think people really have this vision of travel agents as being really transactional. Which is, I think, once upon a time, was true. Now, when travel agents, I think, held the keys to travel generally, they might have been able to more shape your trip. But, there came a point where people, they were handwriting tickets, and they were booking your plane tickets in your hotel rooms, and maybe not doing a whole lot else. You went out, you bought a book, and you figured it out on your own. So, there's been an evolution of the word, and it's still kind of contentious in the industry, what do you call yourselves?
Keri: Travel agents is what I think most people know. But, I call myself a travel advisor. Some people will call themselves travel planners, travel consultants, travel designers, there's all kinds of different things to try and capture what we do, because it's really an all encompassing. So, we can book the plane tickets, and the hotel rooms, and the train tickets, and whatever else. But, we also put everything together from top to bottom, and tell you how it all fits. And we can show you, well, these are the alternatives to what you had in mind. Or, we can suggest things. I mean, I usually, for all of my clients, I give them suggestions sheets, if I can, and that's pretty much everywhere.
Keri: It'll be either my own personal experience, or experience of other travel advisors that I know. "Here's a great restaurant that I think is really worth your time to go check out." Or, "This is a secret spot where you can watch the sea turtles in Hawaii." We spend the time to try and get to know the destinations, and also, spend the time to get to know you, as a client, to put together a trip that's for you. Because, your ideal trip is not my ideal trip, is not Curtis' ideal trip.
Ben: And from the experience side too, is, what I didn't know, which I had found out from our conversation, was, my thinking was, "Well, Keri really knows Austria. She was there, so, if I want to go to Austria, then, maybe that's who I'm talking to is Keri. If I'm going to somebody that's like in the Bahamas..." Maybe bad example recently here. But, if there's somewhere that I'm looking to go, that, do I have to go to somebody that has that expertise? But, you have a whole network of people that you've worked with and talk to, and all that. Can you explain how that works for you?
Keri: So, I am part of a host agency and a consortium. Those are two different things. The consortium, they are a bunch of members from all around the world, suppliers and travel advisors, who belong to the consortium. And then, there's a host agency that helps negotiate contracts with different people around the world, different suppliers around the world. So, we have people on the ground everywhere. I mean, at every country in the world, we have somebody on the ground, who's a local, who knows the terrain, knows what hotels are where, knows what tour guides are good. And some of them, it's really fun. I can talk to them, they'll be like, "Oh, yeah, well, my cousin's a tour guide here, my..." whatever.
Keri: It's really, it's important, I think, to be able to get that local perspective everywhere. So, we have a bunch of people absolutely everywhere. Some companies do operate the way that you were mentioning. Where, they have somebody who's a European expert, somebody who's a Caribbean expert, somebody who's a whatever. But, some of the rest of us are just kind of, I'm an independent contractor, I work for myself, and totally, I do it all. And while I might not be an expert somewhere, I'm going to reach out to the people who are, so that you get that expertise.
Ben: Sure. Okay. So, in regards to them, I know it's a good kind of transition moment then to your business, right? As you're doing independent contracting, and you have your own business doing this, but you also are plugged into other groups as well. Can you talk about how you came into that organization structure, and why you think it's aligned with your customers today?
Keri: Let's go back, what do you mean by aligned with my customers today?
Ben: Yeah. So, in regards to like you could have, maybe I could just be joining like the largest travel agency group, and I could just plug into them there, and I can just be one of them. Versus, like, well, I want more control over, maybe I'm a smaller business, I'm an independent contractor. I'm structuring our business this way, because of, there's maybe a need that I'm able to fulfill or have more control over certain things. Obviously, is pros and cons to all those different structures. I guess, what I'm asking is, and thinking about, why would somebody then choose to work with you, and they go, "Well..." Because, we get the same question, right? As we go, "Hey, Guidance Point Advisors, you guys are pretty small."
Ben: So, why do we work with large national firm that you've probably heard of, with all these resources? So, from that end, how would you feel like? What's the niche that you're fulfilling there? And how do your customers best fit into that?
Keri: Yeah. I think that when it comes to working with a small, independent contractor like myself, the real benefit is that I have the ability to take the time to really get to know you. So, I am planning your trip, not Joe Schmoe's trip, I'm planning your trip. And we could have an hour and a half long conversation, or we can have a 15 minute conversation. You give me all the information, and I can put it together, and we could really work back and forth on what makes the most sense for you. We also, as independent contractors, can tap into a lot of the big names that you hear of. So, probably most of the big names that you'd hear of, Viking Cruises, or something like that, rather than booking direct.
Keri: You would end up coming to me, you'd say, "I don't know what I am doing." Or, "I want to go on a river cruises. There're 10,000 river cruise lines, what's the right one for me?" And we have the ability to work together, but then, I can also book. Through these bigger companies, we have privately negotiated some benefits for you to work through me, with some of these big companies. So, if you're working with a Viking Cruise, like, I can sometimes get you a shipboard credit, that you wouldn't have gotten otherwise. Or, I can get you, and it happens a lot with hotels, big name hotels, specially the high end ones, they are going to upgrade you, because my name is attached to the booking.
Keri: Or, they're going to give you a free hundred dollar spot credit, or a hundred dollar food and beverage credit or something. And you also get a welcome amenity, it's kind of cool. I have clients, friends, family members, everything, who've never experienced travel like this before, and they're totally ruined for life. My husband is now just, I don't know that he's ever going to be able to travel not like this. He's going to walk in and look at the table and see if there's a note with his name on it. And that's what you get when you book through a small travel advisor. And maybe some of the big ones too. There are many different ways for this business to work. But, for me, that's how it works.
Ben: So, can you go through a little bit of the formation? I know you're working on things right now too, in terms of that. So, what's your vision for how your business is going to look over time? What do you want to accomplish with that? And where do you want to go with, like, is it personalized still, just a one-on-one experience with you, and that's kind of the size that you want, and just, "that's going to carve out my income, and that's how I'm going to do it"? Or, are there other goals that you're looking for with the business?
Keri: Ultimately, I think that I would love to grow. I think that we're at a really cool point, where, a lot of people are traveling. People in many different generations. So, I know that we're talking specifically about retirement, but we're also seeing a huge influx in younger people wanting to travel a lot earlier. They, I think, have seen their parents not travel, delay travel, and then, get to retirement and say, "What do I do now?" And so, they're traveling already. So, I think there's huge growth potential just from an industry side of things. From personal side of things, eventually, and even very soon here, probably, I get to a point where I cannot personally have my hands on everybody's trip, but I can bring in somebody else who can.
Keri: Or, add people who have specific expertise, and it might not be on the trip side of things, it might be other things, like invoicing or some of the more nitty-gritty business side of it. So, yeah.
Ben: Got you. So, maybe this is a good time to just kind of rotate into, again, retirement success in Maine is where we're trying to go with this, and people that are retiring. So, what are you seeing in terms of what's maybe the "hot items," maybe not climate wise hot, but, what are things that people are really interested in right now, in terms of, they're looking for experiences, they're looking for things that they've never would have thought of or done, and they're just coming back to you and saying, "Man, that was one of the best things I ever could have done in my wife"?
Keri: Yeah. So, I'm going to qualify this by saying, travel is so subjective, and there are a lot of things that are never going to appeal to everybody. But, we've seen a huge influx, or uptake, I guess, is the better word, in people wanting to go to places like Portugal. That makes a lot of sense from here, from the East Coast. The flights are quick. It's like six hours from Boston. It's faster to go to Portugal than it is to go to California.
Ben: Right. It's crazy.
Keri: It's crazy. And it's not all that expensive, it's not all that expensive. Once you're in country, it's in the eurozone, so, it's still on the euro. The euro is still stronger than the dollar, but the dollar is pretty strong right now. For a while, when you were talking about climate wise, actually, one of the things that I have learned in the industry in the past couple of years, is, cold is hot. Like, people want to go to cold destinations. Scandinavia was really in, Alaskan cruises were really in. I think we're seeing people move away from that again, and we're seeing more people, Italy, it's been really hot. It's, I mean, I feel like everybody's going to Italy, which is cool. It's gorgeous. It's a great place to go.
Keri: Retirees, I think it depends on their comfort zone. So, if people have traveled throughout their work lives, they are now taking the time to go to those places that are farther, that they wouldn't have gone to. And if they didn't travel, they're taking this, it's a step down. So, we're seeing, the first wave, the people who never traveled, they're taking those bucket list trips. They're going to see the Coliseum, they're going... Whatever that bucket list is, that's what they're doing. The next step up, if there were people who did take those trips while they were working, they're now going to Japan, to Southeast Asia, to New Zealand, because it's farther away, you have to take more time to do it.
Keri: And a cool thing that I'm seeing with retirees is that they can travel in the offseasons, or in the shoulder seasons. So, they're not paying peak prices, which is great. And they can spend more time, and they can really get to know a place, which is very cool too.
Ben: So, in terms of, and I know, and I'm going to ask an average question, which is, a non-average thing that everyone is all subjective to. But, if you're looking at, well, as a theme, as you've mentioned about personal time off that people have in their working lives, and they could never take 10 days, right? They could never take 14 days. What are you seeing there happen, especially for that demographic that now has all this time on their hands, they can do anything they want. Obviously, there's other resource limitations that they may have as they're thinking about things. Like, I then retire, and I now have all these things to do. How are you seeing people's travel itineraries change from pre, like, when I'm working, to when I'm now not working?
Ben: What would be the list of things that you would see of... Because, again, if I'm a retiree, I've never retired before, I don't know. What sort of things should I be thinking about?
Keri: Yeah. I think, so, we are seeing people travel longer, we saw that, but I think that opens a wealth of options. I don't know, what do you think about? You think about how far away a destination is, how expensive it is in destination, how expensive it is to get there. And these, I think, people know, but they maybe don't have them listed off in their head. And the places that are inexpensive to be in, are not necessarily the places that are inexpensive to get to. For retirees, specifically, I don't know. This is a very challenging question.
Ben: Sure. That's okay. I guess I would also then maybe lend back to, is this idea about maybe barriers that people are experiencing, that, to your point about the 40th anniversary. And there're obviously multiple things that they go sit down and go, "All right, we're going to take this trip on the 40th anniversary, and this is our milestone in our marriage. And we want to do something that really puts that cherry on that sundae, and multiple things blocking." So, what do you... I guess-
Keri: What are the barriers?
Ben: ... from you, you're inserting yourself at year 42 in that example, you go like, "All right, well, there's five things that I can just take care of for you right now, and we can just remove, and now, you're free to go and have a good time." Explain that. How does that work?
Keri: This goes back to, I think, one of the very first questions that you asked, which is like, "Why? Hasn't the internet made you obsolete?" And the answer is, I think, actually, it's made it, so that we're more useful. There're so many options on the internet, and people start to try and do it themselves, and they get so overwhelmed with all the details. So, that's what happened with this 40th anniversary trip. Super easily, they come to me and they'll say... No, they wanted to go to Italy. And they had been to Italy on a cruise many years ago, kind of around Italy, and only spent hours in any destination, not really anything else. So, they knew they wanted to go back and revisit some of the places that they'd loved and that they hadn't seen the first time around. But, there were so many places.
Keri: So, I can really easily come in and say through a conversation, is, all of my trips that I plan, start with a conversation. They really get to know the clients and what they want. So, that particular trip, I could come in and say, "Okay, you cannot go in your timeframe. You are trying to fit into many things, and I think you're going to end up doing the same thing you did on your cruise, where you only spent a couple of hours in each destination. Let's take a step back, see what your priorities are. Is it to see the Colosseum? Awesome. Then, we'll make sure that you have a full day in Rome, so that you can really see that." And I think that, a lot of times, people are looking for validation. That's, when they have all of the options, they want to know, "Well, is this worth it? Is this something that I really want to do when I'm there?"
Keri: And I can say, "Well, my clients have enjoyed this one in the past. Or, I have a really cool option here. Is Florence on your list? Do you really want to see the statue of David? Then, we'll get you a private tour, we'll get you in there, and you can see it. Or, you can see the dome, Brunelleschi's dome in Florence for early hours, or you can see it with an architect, somebody who really understands what they're talking about. Is that your thing?" So, I think it's some of the truly unique experiences that people are looking for, that they can't find on their own, they don't know where to find them, or they don't necessarily know what they want. And I can help do that.
Keri: And I think, also, there's the details, the logistics of everything, it really overwhelming for a lot of people. "Can I get from point A to point B? How do I do it?" And I can pre-book your tickets. And you have tickets in your hand with directions that say, you go to this platform, at this time, your train will be there, you have seats reserved. You don't have to deal with all of that. I've watched, I've traveled with my parents, my mom came to visit me with my aunt once, and I watched her kind of freak out at the train ticketing booth. And I can do that for her very easily and just have her have that already in it. It makes a world of difference.
Ben: Yeah, this whole concept, which, maybe the last 20 years, internet is this democratization. Information is democratized a lot, and that we can all do this, right? I guess, it doesn't make this whole industry or many industries obsolete. But, there's so much of it, that there's now a bigger need of people being disorganized, so, they need to get organization. Right? So, that's one thing I've gotten from our end on the financial side is, "I've saved here, and I've done that." And, "Why did you do it?" "I don't know." There's no why to, there's no purpose, so, there's no organization and planning behind it. So, you go through organization, they're very low confidence. So then, "Well, I've never been here before, and I don't want to mess it up."
Keri: Yes. Oh, yeah. The high stakes too.
Ben: Yeah. "I'm paying all this money, and I've told everybody and my friends, this is my dream."
Keri: Yeah. "It's my 40th anniversary."
Ben: "And I want to actualize it, and I want to actually do this. And what if I plan it, and I go with my spouse?" Then they go, "You poor schlub, you messed it up. We should have done this, this and this, and we didn't even get a chance to do that. Are you kidding me?" So, there's this whole, there's a little status to it, there's confidence is a part of it. So, in terms of benefit language, we see the same thing of the service end, is, that's what people want. It's not the transaction of, "Hey, I need you to go book like...", Look, people can go to Expedia, they may go to travel app, they can do that booking, but that's not the thing, all right? It's all those other things that we just talked about.
Keri: Right. When I was talking to my brother recently about his honeymoon, I asked him, "Why?" Aside from the fact that I'm his sister, "Why would you do this?" He said, "You took the chance out of it." Which is, I think, a very cool way of putting it. Like, they didn't want to screw it up. It's their honeymoon, there's high stakes. You only get one shot at your honeymoon, hopefully.
Ben: And you don't want the embarrassing story of, "Yeah, kind of stunk." That's a kickoff to your relationship, that marriage. That's a big thing, and we want to experience something magical. My wife is a big Disney fan. Which is why, I think, from our perspective, it's like, we go back there a lot, just because it's the magic of it, right? And they just do a great experience for you, and the concierge level work, and the kid friendly stuff. And it's all this together as a family, but there's something for everybody. Again, and some people go, "Well, I wouldn't go to Disney on a bet." Well, some people love it, and some people don't. But, that's what we're looking for, when we go on vacation the three of us, is that experience together.
Keri: Yeah. And you don't have to think about it. Some people, for them, it's their dream to plan the Disney trip, or their dream to plan whatever trip. And that person is probably not the right fit for somebody like me, because they like that. That's what they really want. And then, there're some who are kind of in the middle, where they feel like, "Well, I really need a framework. I need somebody to give me the framework of the trip." And I'll go do the research of all of the specifics, because I like that. And then, there are people who don't have the time, don't have the desire, don't have the energy for whatever reason, the confidence to plan it at all, and don't want that.
Keri: And for them, they're going to get an itinerary that's front to back, that's got maybe even dinner reservations included, just so that they don't have to think about it at all. And I see a lot of people who are still in their work life, who are just way too busy to do any of that. That's that kind of person frequently for me, who, their time is so valuable. I mean, everybody's time is valuable, but their time off is so limited, that they want to make the most of it, and they don't want to take any time during their off hours during the week, to plan any of it.
Ben: Sure. I think, a lot of the folks on travel, for retirees, is this whole, I'm now retired, and then I travel. What about sustaining that through your retirement? So, it's like, well, now, I'm 75, I'm 82, I'm 87. Life doesn't just stop because you turn 87, is this whole idea about, well, I want to continue to do things, I now have limitations of them. We all have limitations, and myself included, with that stuff. So, I might be anxious about certain things, or I'm very particular about this. What advice would you give to somebody that is at certain stages in aging? And how should they think about travel? Or, should they not travel? What point would you give them advice to the aging process and traveling?
Keri: Sure. There are lots of pieces of advice that I can give in this. I am always team book the ticket. Just take the trip when you can, but that's not realistic for everybody. And maybe your resources are limited, maybe your time is limited, who knows? But, pick those top destinations, that's the first thing that I would do is, sit down and talk with the people that you want to travel with, and figure out, what are your travel priorities? And if that's a safari, I mean, plan that out. And make sure you can save for it, maybe it's not the next trip that you take, but you can slowly start putting things away, and start thinking about it for the future, and start planning it out.
Keri: For people who are getting a little bit older, who might have mobility issues, or even younger people who have mobility issues, there are ways that you can work around it. There are places that are definitely friendlier to get around. We see a lot of people in that kind of genre, who would be interested in something like a river cruise. Because, it's a floating hotel, and everything is taken care of. And they can see a lot of destinations without having to unpack and repack every time they want to see a new place.
Ben: I'm just thinking about our clients a lot in that situation, because, if somebody just had a hip replacement, but, they're six months out and they're feeling better, and they can do some things, but you can't go on a tour that averages 11.4 miles a day of walking.
Keri: Right. Yeah, those people, I think, one of the hardest things that I think people have to come to terms with themselves is knowing their own limitations. And I struggle with this, I'm sure most people do. In my head, I still think that I can go, I don't know, hike a mountain, then, come home and feel exactly like it did before I started hiking, and that's not true. Yeah. So, know your own limitations. I also highly encourage those people to book travel insurance. I encourage everybody to book travel insurance. I, myself have travel insurance, every time I travel. I think it's super important, and I've seen it be very important. So, it covers, it's your medical care when you're abroad. It's a huge thing.
Keri: Because, some countries, it depends on the country, but some countries, there's a huge charge for certain things, or it's an upfront charge. You don't want to have to pay for your whatever treatment upfront. It's evacuation, if you need that. It also covers if a family member gets sick and you can't go. It covers pre-existing conditions if you book within a certain timeframe, which is all really important. Unfortunately, I've seen this happen a lot with retirees, or baby boomers, older travelers in general, it goes up, the cost increases with age, because you're a just scared person to travel. But, it's still really important. I don't travel without it.
Keri: It's actually in my email signature. I don't know if you noticed that it says we encourage our clients always to book travel insurance.
Ben: Just makes so much sense, especially with even our own in the U.S., our medical system to access, to figure out what the rules are, to what's covered? What isn't covered? Then, you're going to go to Portugal, and you have to be an expert in about one hour probably, if I have a medical issue, and I need to get it taken care of, well, I need care, but I also don't want to go bankrupt because I needed care. How do I figure this out real fast? And how do I take care of, A, a very urgent need, and make sure I don't go bankrupt while I'm doing it?
Keri: Right. Yeah, there're so many things that could go wrong. And ideally, nothing goes wrong. And I've had most of my trips, nothing goes wrong. But, even something small and inconvenient, I don't know, you step on something, you hurt something, it might not be trip ruining, but it could be, and you don't want to have to chance that. So, yeah, I always encourage people to book medical insurance, or travel insurance, because it covers your medical, that's my number one reason, and also because it covers the inconveniences of like, your bag gets lost, your flight's delayed for more than six hours and you miss everything, you're covered.
Ben: So, Keri, I want to go to another point on travel, especially for retirees, and family is important to a lot of us, right? Is this idea about, well, hey, I'm now retired and I have my kids, who are now professionals. And of course, then, you generally get into grandkids. And this whole idea of, hey, we're talking about travel and it can be tough for just two people, or one person that wants to go do this. What about the concept of, I want my kids to go with me and my grandkids, but I'm sure people are having heart palpitations even thinking about, a two year old, a newborn, a six year old, plus my kids, plus me, different rooms, different itinerary, can that even happen?
Ben: And how would one even go about doing it? How does that whole thing work? A multi-generational part.
Keri: So, I am seeing such a huge increase in multi-generational travel. And I know, I'm not the only travel advisor, we talked about it. I have this huge conference every year in August, and it was one of the big themes. There's a whole subsection of travel that's basically labeled family travel. And this year, a lot of the family travel is focused not just on like the immediate family unit, parents, children, but multi-generational. Where, we're talking about grandparents, parents and children, so many of those trips. So, one of the very first trips that I planned is actually a 60th birthday celebration, that was, grandparents, parents and grandchildren. There was one grandchild. But they went again to Italy, Italy is a hot destination, I told you.
Keri: But, I know that they have also gone and done, they did Costa Rica, as a family. There are companies that really focus on that. Disney Adventures is a huge one. There's a company called Tauck, that does a multi-generational trip. There's usually a low end age limitation. So, that's mostly because they go to more adventurous places, and you don't want, like, if you're going to the, I don't know, on a safari, or you're going somewhere where there's wild animals or something, you don't want the kid shouting when they see it, and scaring and putting people in danger. But, they do. A lot of these companies, people are really starting to take notice and making it a lot easier.
Keri: Because, there are people who would prefer to go, I mean, there are lots of different ways to do a multi-generational trip. You can go to a all inclusive resort that has a kid's club. And maybe that's what you absolutely want. You want to spend some time adults only, and the kids get to go do their thing. Maybe you want to go on a Disney Adventure's trip, or a Tauck trip, or whatever. Maybe you want to rent a villa in Italy and sit by the pool with your whole family, and it's just a change of scenery, and a chance to be together.
Ben: And from there too, it could be that, I just think about my parents, they love to tour. They want to get up at 5:45, and just grab a quick little breakfast, and hit the road at 6:02, and be on the road until eight o'clock, and eat for a total of like eight minutes and 24 seconds, and just binge, right? And just see everything, do everything. And my wife and I can look at that and go, "Wow, that's way too intense for me. I need some like two hour or three hour window, where we're just kind of relaxing and just taking it easy. It's just a vacation. So, vacation is different to everybody and how they view it. So, in terms of multi-generational trips, is that something that happens?
Ben: Because, I'm sure that would be a big barrier to actually people, even a family deciding to even go on a trip, is like, "I don't want to vacation with you. You do that, I don't want to do that. I don't know if I can pay money for that experience."
Keri: Yeah. No, there's definitely a lot of that. It depends on what you want to do and where you want to go. But, a lot of those kinds of clients, I would recommend, everybody gets their own room. It might not be the most affordable option, but it might be the best one for your sanity. I mean, you never know. Or, people can travel at their own pace and meet each other somewhere. And that's something that a travel advisor can absolutely help you coordinate. If it's somewhere that's bigger and scarier, it's easier for people to wrap their heads around something like that when it's stateside. So, you don't have to go far to make something like this happen. I had clients in South Carolina and they all just wanted to rent a bunch of beach houses.
Keri: And that kind of thing too, grandma can get up at 5:30 and walk the beach, if that's what she wants to do. And mom can sleep until 8:00 or whatever, if she can. So, it's all subjective. It really depends on what the priority is, but it is totally possible to make a trip work for many different kinds of people.
Ben: So, you mentioned affordability from the one perspective. So, I think, from a theme that just always comes up is this idea of affordability. Right? It's like, well, I'm now spending a lot of money on a trip. Can you talk about your service, though? Because, I think when we talked, I think what was in my mind was like, "I probably couldn't afford that. That all sounds wonderful."
Keri: Yeah, "But not for me."
Ben: "I'm not sure if we would spend a ton of money to do it." Can you talk about just your pricing mechanisms, how you get paid, how you're compensated for your time in customizing these trips?
Keri: Yeah. Actually, this is funny that you asked this. I mean, it's an important question. We get asked at all the time. But, even yesterday, I was on an airplane, and the woman next to me said, "Oh, well, you're travel agent. I can't afford you." I think that's, I know, that's not true. Most travel agents, we get paid in a number of different ways. The first would be, some people charge a fee, I will charge you a fee if it's a really complicated itinerary. My fees are not exorbitant. Maybe, the most complicated travel planning fee that I've charge is $250. And that's the high end, that's a multi-week, multi-destination, multi-everything. A lot of coordination involved.
Keri: Most trips, well, if it's easy for me, if I have a very straightforward booking process, there's no fee involved, or a low fee. But, that's not the book. The way that we make our money is actually built into the prices that you would even see as a consumer, online. So, you go to marriot.com, or whatever it is, Bonvoy or something now, you go to a website, a hotel website, and you see a room price, that price already has my commission built in. So, we're not upcharging you, it's already there. You can see it clearly.
Ben: And you even mentioned, again, we talked before, it was like, even like discount travel websites also reflect that commission. Some of them do it.
Keri: Some of them do it and some of them do not. There are some of the discount travel websites, I would be cautious. You can definitely still book a room and you can definitely still get a quality product there, but you have to know that you're low on the food chain. So, something happens and they oversell the hotel or whatever, you're the first to get walked, that's what it's called. You physically get walked from one hotel to another because they've run out of rooms, and you're at the bottom of the food chain. Or, you get put in the room, the loud room by the elevator, or the one that's farthest away from anything that you want to see or whatever.
Keri: They can read that in the booking, what they see on their end, it says, "These people booked through booking com." Whereas, "These people booked through a travel advisor. Oh, and by the way, the travel advisor has already reached out to me to say, Ben's arriving at 9:00 P.M., his flight is late." And they might keep the hotel restaurant open for you. That's happened to two of my clients actually.
Keri: I reach out, I let them know what your anticipated arrival time is, what your preferences are. So, you show up, and maybe you're, I don't know, allergic to something, down pillows, all the down pillows will be gone, if they can. They try and make it tailored to you, and they take really good care of you.
Ben: Great. Nice, that's good to know.
Keri: Yeah, it's not more expensive. Now, I will also caveat this, by saying, if price is your number one priority, I think we're probably a bad fit. I am never going to try and sell you something that's not a fit for you. I don't know, if you think that your number one party is budget, then, I don't think that I can provide the best trip for you. My focus is more of making your trip absolutely the best that it can be, at within your comfort zone of price. But, it's just not worth it for me to go through and make sure that, I don't know, if-
Ben: Because, at some point, you're getting value for the money you're spending, right?
Ben: So, even if you keep stripping out value, then, what are you really experiencing? And that maybe it's not the experience you're trying to give your clients ultimately, right?
Keri: Exactly. It's hard to articulate. So, I think that you did it well.
Ben: Thanks. So, I guess, then, to go to say that segment, right? There's, say, somebody is very budget conscious. And they're thinking about affordability, and they're thinking about just trying to experience things. And I don't know if it's a main thing too, or maybe it's just, still, there's a generation that's this echo of the Great Depression. It's this, the frugal with every penny. Which is, obviously, how wealth can be created. Is just, kind of, "I didn't make a whole lot, or I was very modest with how we did our life. But, because of how frugal we are, we have this level of wealth." So, we experience that a lot with our conversations with our clients.
Ben: But, if somebody is trying to be affordable, maybe it's not through you, but, how would they maybe start trying to accomplish something like that type of vacation, maybe if they're doing it on their own, or they were going to be very affordable, they're not maybe using a travel advisor, what resource would you tell them that they should consider or think about?
Keri: I mean, I think that it's a big process from top to bottom, to try and figure out all of the pieces. It's like a Tetris game. It's part of what I like about it. You figure out where you want to go, and what your budget is, what you can afford. And maybe, if it's somewhere that you have always wanted to go, let's say, it's England, you want to go to London, always wanted to go to London, maybe you go not during high season, that helps your dollar stretch a little further. Maybe you stay a little bit further out, that also helps your dollar stretch a little further. But, you also have to take into consideration that there's transportation costs associated with that or whatever.
Keri: Maybe you are frugal when it comes to breakfast. There are a lot of places around the world where breakfast isn't a thing. And you live like a local, and you eat your croissant and espresso, cappuccino or whatever it is for breakfast. And not have three ginormous meals a day or whatever, which tends to be my preference when I'm traveling. But, also, if you're booking with a travel advisor, a lot of times, my trips that I provide for clients, automatically include breakfast. So, you've got one meal off the table, and you can use that as your big meal of the day, if you want to, and make your dollar stretch further.
Ben: Energy up and start getting to the day. Yeah, nice.
Keri: That's it, yeah. Or maybe not, I don't know. Group trips tend to be a little bit more affordable too, not always. But, instead of you planning out every detail, you've already got the cost put together, you know what you're paying upfront, and they've negotiated a group rate because they're filling a hotel or a bus, or whatever. They've already got the transportation built in. That kind of thing might be an easier way to see more places and make your dollar go a little further.
Ben: Okay. So, one final question for you today. So, obviously, we've talked a little bit in this podcast today about the last 20 years and how travel is just, how you travel, where you travel, how you book things, how you experience it, is completely changed in 20 years. So, you've been to a lot of conferences lately, and experiencing where things are going, where it's at. What would you say would be the next 20 years? What would be the themes that you think are going to continue to change? Where do you think things go? Again, especially where people, either pre-retirement or in retirement, they're thinking like, 65, today, or they're thinking 70, and they then think 20 years out or 15 years out, what should they be thinking about and prioritizing? And where do you think things go in the travel industry?
Keri: There are a lot of ways that I could take this answer. I think the travel industry generally is moving towards, people are looking for a unique, they're looking for new and not crowded. Overtourism is the buzzword in the industry of late. And I think, you've seen it, I've seen it a lot. Where, you see, cruise ships crashing into the docks in Venice, and people feeling like, uh-oh. Or, we see it in Maine, where people will talk about it, "Oh, gosh, we're overrun with tourists in a certain areas."
Ben: There's Portland, you talk to anybody in Portland, and there's just-
Keri: Yeah, people got a lot of thoughts to that.
Ben: Yeah, what a biff. It's great, but you can't move, you can't drive. And Bar Harbor similar. You're seeing all these pockets of areas where it's just, man, it's just tough to move. And I think from a local perspective to go, well, that's, obviously go offseason. It just, I can't stand it, honestly.
Keri: Yeah. No, it's really interesting. So, I think that we're going to see a lot of movement in that area with people paying attention to it, maybe going to places that are a little bit more off the beaten path. But, also, hopefully, we're seeing destinations understand that they have to do a little bit of thinking upfront before you get to that point, to make sure that tourists aren't all going to the same three stores in Bar Harbor, or the same whatever. Can we get them somewhere else? And make sure that there's infrastructure that benefits the locals and the tourists and whatever. So, I think we're seeing that. I think we're seeing a lot of people traveling a lot more frequently.
Keri: We hear so much of people saying, "I want to spend my money on experiences, not things." Which, I know, probably is very frustrating for you.
Ben: No. I think, our experience is we want them to maximize their best life, right?
Ben: So, if they identify their best life has the experience, well, better than that, than buying the BMW, or buying the dream car, or upsizing their house, or buying the camp. It's like, we're not here to judge people's happiness.
Keri: It's true. Yeah.
Ben: So, let's hope you find that happiness, and then, do make your dollar stretch as much as we can, to do all of it.
Keri: Right. I think, maybe it's more. What I mean is that it's harder because it's not a fixed cost, it's something that can expand or whatever.
Ben: Ask our realtors, the real estate thing can very expand-
Keri: Yeah. Oh, I guess it's true, yeah. So, I think that we're seeing a lot of people take a lot more trips, generally. But, I hope that that means that, specifically, for retirees, or people close to retirement, they're planning for it in the future. And I know that there're some software that's being developed already, that helps people plan for those trips. So, they take part of what I'm doing and put it into an app or whatever, so that you can plug in, "Okay, my top three lifetime bucket list destinations are... here's what the cost is right now, if I put in all of these things that I'm sure that I want to do." And we're a long way, I think, from that being, everybody can use that kind of thing.
Ben: From the financial planning side, we would love that. "Here's your travel, you guys identified it. Now, here's how it fits in the plan." Oh, man, that'll be fantastic. We'd love that.
Keri: Yeah. Well, I've been talking about maybe beta testing that particular software. So, if I do, I will absolutely let you know.
Ben: Keeps us in loop. That's awesome.
Keri: Yeah. It's called Wonderlist, which, is, I think, a very cool name also, as an aside. But, regardless, I think people actually sitting down and thinking through their wonder list. Whether it's through a very professional setting, an app, me, something like that. Or, just a conversation. Where you can say, "Okay, well, what can I afford? And where do I want to go?" So, you don't get to the point where you can't travel, because, it's important. You're making memories, you're spending time together, you're seeing things. I mean, I'm biased, I think it's very important.
Keri: But, I think, most people would say, "This is my priority, spending time with people and exploring," and whatever. "And I wish that I'd done more of it." So, yeah, I hope that we're seeing a trend towards really planning it out.
Ben: Yeah, excellent. Well, Keri, I want to thank you for coming on the podcast today. This is a really fun conversation. Really, clearly, you have a passion for travel. So, it's always fun to talk to somebody that just gets it, they're excited about it. That's what gets them motivated for the day. So, thank you for being on, we really appreciate your time.
Keri: Thank you for having me. This is very cool.
Ben: Okay. So, we're going to try to obviously keep going here. So, as there's more themes, I'd love to have you come back, and invite you on a future episode.
Keri: Yeah, I would love that. Thank you very much.
Curtis: Thanks you so much.
Ben: Thanks so much.
Ben: So, Curtis, is really a treat to have Keri on the podcast today. It was a fun time hearing a lot about her, is kind of her passion for travel and how she got into it. And also, is, I know for people that are from away, coming to Maine, getting into the culture and understanding how maybe Mainers as a group are a little bit different, right? So, I think what I personally took away from that, I had a lot of amusement about the idea of the travel advice industry changing, and it seemed like there's a lot of parallel to how we as financial advisors and investment consultants have changed. That, it's really gone from this transactional type approach, to more advice driven. And putting that client or that person at the center of what you're trying to solve for them, and helping prioritize and organize and getting them confident, and it's a lot of the soft stuff that you just don't think about. Right?
Curtis: There is a lot more to it, I think, and you're spot on it. It's certainly going hand in hand, or, at least, parallel with where we think our industry is going.
Ben: So, it's fun to hear that you're so myopic, as you just get very internally focused on yourself and your industry and where you are to have her on, and not just for us, personally, kind of a cool little takeaway there. From the retirement success side, what takeaways did you have from us talking to Keri today, Curtis?
Curtis: I thought it was really interesting how she touched on, there's kind of two levels, or two trends that she's seeing with retirees and travel. It's, you see these individuals who, and I think she worded it as, people who traveled throughout their working life, and checked off the bucket list trips, are now in retirement, and they're doing the trips that, the next level, if you will, of they're doing, I think, she mentioned Southeast Asia, and going these places that you may not traditionally think of. Whereas, someone who maybe doesn't travel a lot while they're working or going through their career, may get to retirement and be, I think she referred to them as the bucket list trips. They'll go see the Coliseum, go see the Eiffel Tower.
Curtis: So, I thought that was really cool that, she is seeing those trends and she was able to relay them to us.
Ben: Yeah. And what was a pretty cool thing too from the success side, we have a lot of conversations with our clients about goal actualization and attaining things that they've always wanted to do, and aligning money to it. So, you start thinking about when she started talking about organizing, and putting a trip in place for somebody. Is, you start thinking about yourself and like, "Well, hey, I go to this trip, and I think I'm going to be okay when I go to the Coliseum." But, then, you're like, "Well, look, I don't speak the language, I don't know the culture here. And what if I eat at the wrong place? And what if I'm traveling in the wrong side of town? And I don't really know all that, I don't have that local Insider." And you can build up to a trip and have it not work well.
Ben: So, you can even then progress that into a retirement of, you're 85 years old, and now, you have mobility issues, or you have food sensitivities, and, "How do I express to my waiter or waitress that I have a food sensitivity?" So, all those thing is like, well, your needs are going to change over time, and having an advocate at your backend call that, "Hey, I'm in the middle of the trip and I'm concerned about this, how do I go about resolving this?" Someone that's going to advocate for you, use the reservation systems that they've worked with you on, to make sure you're having a successful trip for the money you're paying.
Ben: Because, I think that's a lot of the concern is, "I'm paying a lot for something, and if I'm only enjoying 50% of it, or 60% of it, just feels like 40% of it might be a waste." So, yeah, those are really a neat take on where we're trying to go with retirement success.
Curtis: Yeah. And to your point there of spending a lot of money on something at the counter, I was shocked at her pricing. I think, for the amount of work that she relayed to us that she does for these people on trips, I was expecting a lot more of, she called the travel fee that she charges upfront, and then, naturally, the rest of her compensation is worked out in the booking process itself. You don't see her rates directly when you book your hotel, you book your flight. I was really shocked at her low prices there.
Ben: Yeah. So, kind of neat little, again, insight in the industry, here's maybe a resource that people don't think about and use, or maybe they should consider using a little bit more, as they're putting together those very important trips. So, I was saying, she used example of the couple of the 40th anniversary that didn't go until year 42.
Curtis: Yeah, it's crazy.
Ben: Right? I think we all get into that anxiety stuff. So, yeah, I thought that was a really kind of a fun conversation to have today, and I really appreciate Keri being on the podcast. So, with that, I wanted to wrap up this episode today. What you'll find, if you'll actually look at our website, we're going to have this listed as podcast number three. So, go into blog.guidancepointllc.com/3, you can find a little bit more about Keri, about her business. You can find some of the resources that we talked about there. So, if you want more information, go to that website, happy to have you there. But, until next time, looking forward to talking to you again.
Curtis: Sounds good.