As travel advisors, it’s easy to believe that you need to be on call all the time and that you can never take a day off or set that OOO. If you know us, you know that we are big on boundaries and we simply don’t prescribe to the philosophy that advisors have to hustle and grind 24/7 to become successful in their business. In fact, we think that by setting boundaries, you become viewed as more professional and respectable by your audience.
In this episode, we are discussing how you can prepare to take a real vacation or go on a FAM and feel like you can be fully present. Our goal is to empower you to take back your time, while also feeling confident that your clients are fully taken care of while you’re OOO (out-of-office).
Work with well-vetted partners
We’re not even going to touch on this in our checklist, but in this episode, we share a specific situation that exemplifies how DMCs can help you feel confident while stepping away. Listen in to hear a bit more about how a very lucky client ended up on a private boat when their flight delay resulted in missing a ferry.
There are so many times that we’ve compromised our own sanity and peace to try and be everything to everyone, and unfortunately in this industry, there seems to be an overriding philosophy that you have to be on demand for all of your clients at all times. And that’s not any other industry. Why us? Why do we have to do that? Why can we not step away? Why can’t we have a real vacation? In fact, some advisors wear this grind as a badge of honor, instead of just saying “no.” The reality is that in-destination partners are much more well-equipped than we are to find solutions when a crisis occurs. Find the good ones and stick with them!
Mark the calendar for your OOO dates
So now onto the checklist! We follow this to a tee and it’s proven to work every time. Let’s dive in!
As soon as you know the dates that you’ll be out of office, add those dates to your business calendar. We also recommend adding an “out of office” section in your email signature so that no matter what, any e-mail correspondence with people, it is right there. Do people look at it all the time? Who knows, but at least you’re dotting all your I’s and crossing all your T’s.
Find a “backup buddy”
After you add those dates to your calendar and your signature, if you have the opportunity, identify somebody as a “backup buddy.” We love this because you’ll want somebody to be there if things hit the fan. When you’re traveling and you know your cell phone is in airplane mode or cell service is unreliable, you never want that feeling of panic that arises when all of a sudden you get service in your phone is blowing up. So even having a backup, whether there’s somebody inside of your host agency that you trust, or you know it’s somebody on your team internally (like a virtual assistant), having that backup is paramount. Once you identify your backup point of contact, place those dates on their calendar so that they are aware.
Block your schedule
Next, go into your Calendly, or whatever scheduling software you use, and block those dates immediately. This is something that is easy to forget- the dates get added to the main company calendar, but the dates on the scheduler are still active. We recommend blocking the two weeks prior to your departure so that you don’t have last-minute items that you are working through as you are preparing to travel. This also gives you a nice window of time to wrap up everything else that you are working on!
Give your clients a “heads up” when you will be OOO
One month prior to departure, you’re going to want to let all of your clients know that you’ll be going out of office. We have a template in TravelJoy in the Elevated Experience Workflow that we recommend using for this communication. We send the email template to notify our clients that we’re going out of office and it provides a link to schedule a call in advance. Not only do we send this to our booked clients, but we send this is everyone in the pipeline starting from inquiry and beyond. If someone has a pending proposal, they will be made aware of the timeline that they have to actually solidify their plans. Clear is kind. We would always rather over-communicate than leave anyone without answers or a surprise auto-reply to their “we’re ready to book!” email.
This level of communication also sets the tone for anyone who may have just begun working with you. It lets them know that you’re always going to create an opportunity to set a meeting, but you’re not always going to be available to just jump on a phone call at their whim.
Wrap-up your upcoming trips
The next thing you’re going to do one month prior is to get it ALL out – specifically, your wrap-up documents. We say this with love, but start heckling those suppliers to send any and all documents to you as soon as they can. We recommend just being honest with your partners and saying something to the gist of “hey, I’m going to be out of office and I want to make sure that these clients are well-prepared before I leave.” Even if these trips start two or three weeks after your return home, you’re going to set yourself up for a smoother transition back into the office if you send these before you’re out of pocket. We recommend pairing the final documents with the electronic itinerary, destination-specific tips, entry-requirement reminders, and a Loom video walking your clients through every detail of their logistics. You may still get some questions, but you’ll avoid panicked emails from clients stating that they don’t have details for their upcoming travels and feeling like you’re leaving them in a lurch.
Stop taking new leads
Two weeks prior is when we recommend stopping taking new inquiries. You can communicate when you’ll be back in the office and if they want to wait, they can! Otherwise, you can provide them with another travel agent’s contact information that you feel confident would provide a great experience. Even if you think that you can wrap up the itinerary quickly, you never know when someone is going to delay a deposit or decision. The worst case scenario is when you are taxing on the tarmac and trying to get someone’s payment information when instead you should have wrapped up everything with a bow and moved on to enjoying Champagne in the lounge.
Collect deposits & balances
After that, we recommend communicating to anyone with pending intake calls or proposals; give them an update and remind them of your departure date. It’s always great to include your departure dates in your proposal email and be clear about when the quote will expire (or that pricing and availability are subject to change). Something we recommend is making it clear that you’re not rushing them, but that you’re communicating it for their benefit and saying “I would hate for you to lose out on this amazing pricing or this amazing room category.”
You’ll also want to send any invoice reminders for unpaid final payments that are due during your travel dates.
Create your VA (Virtual Assistant) Task List
If you have a team, there are things that you need to do to prepare them for your departure, as well. We recommend creating a task list and goals for the time you’re out of office with a list of top priorities and secondary tasks. Whether it be to create blog posts, send all passport and expiration reminders, send birthday emails for the month, thank you cards…whatever your task “wish list” looks like!
Audit your trips
Whether it be your VA or you, a big item to check off before leaving is auditing all of your trips. So that you aren’t getting any emergency calls, double-check that all client birthdays are accurate, names are spelled correctly, and the dates on the tickets match the dates in Travefy…the whole shebang. In fact, we have a trip audit checklist in our Niche Premium digital resource library!
Set your away message & voicemail
We are big fans of having autoresponders on at all times for general information (we share more about this in our Niche community), but especially when you’re actually out of office! We recommend including information about the dates that you’ll be unreachable, Calendly links to schedule calls for when you return, emergency vendor contacts, and FAQs that people can easily reference if they have a question.
Changing your voicemail is a great thing to do- but is easily forgettable! Having an easy and quick voicemail directing anyone to your email, or informing them of your leave, can save you from appearing as if you have become unresponsive for no apparent reason.
Let your clients know when you’re back
While this may have nothing to do with actually preparing to go OOO, it can save you some stress from random emails or call requests. We don’t believe anything can be over-communicated, so sending out an email with a picture of yourself in the destination, an update that you are now accepting inquiries, and a link to schedule any calls is a fun way for clients to know that you’re ready to jump in and help them again.
In summary, take the vacation or allow yourself to fully be present on that dream FAM! Utilize all the resources available that technology provides and enforce the boundaries that you’ve worked so hard to educate your clients on. You’ve earned it!
What was your favorite moment of the show? Share in the comments below!