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Custom Travel Planning as a side hustle

Most people who solicit Jess.Travel about personal travel planning are looking to supplement their current income. This is a smart idea at first. Building a business like travel planning takes time to build up a customer base. If you are solid travel planner, and treat your clients well, you can assume they will book you time and time again for their vacations. I always make the analogy to insurance sales, meaning once you're their travel planner, you're their planner for life.


This is not to say you can't make a full-time living doing travel planning. As you'll find on social media group pages there's thousands of people doing just that. But, at least for the first year or so, I wouldn't quit your day job. It's important to note that "Travel planners" are a bit different than "travel agents." It might be just semantics, but the typical "old school" travel agent is paid by commissions from the cruises and tours they sell to their clients. They don't often charge fees. Travel planners (at least the Jess.Travel affiliated planners) charge fees. This makes them not commission dependent and makes sure you are paid for your expertise, time, and research. Travel agents are moving slowly in the direction of charging fees, and it's my belief that all agents and planners will charge fees one day.


It should be noted, that Jess herself does not do travel full time, she's a registered Nurse Anesthetist. That's the person who puts you to sleep in a surgery. Although, she loves what she does for a living, travel planning is her real passion. For Jess, it started as just planning for friends and family. She was always known as the travel expert in the family. But after awhile, and sensing a pent up demand for a service such as this, she went pro. The side business grew quickly. After a few years of working with a host agency, she decided to take it to the next step and become our own host agency. The host agency allows us to teach new planners the tricks-of-the-trade.


Myself, having a background in business development, marketing, PR and video production, partnered with my wife to create the host agency.


What can you expect to earn?

This is the most asked question, and hardest to answer. Jess.Travel charges $99 per travel day to plan someone's trip. You might think that since you are competing with free that this would be tough to get. You'd be wrong. There is a size-able audience of customers willing to pay handsomely for a personal travel concierge. And why wouldn't they? Personal travel planners handle all the logistics soup-to-nuts without any worry about booking commissionable services. You can suggest an airbnb, as easily as you can book a Marriott.


Most trips are 3-14 days in length. Extrapolate that times how many clients you can get, and you can do the multiplication. It's certainly possible to have between 20-40 clients per year, barring pandemic related travel restriction.


It's your business, so you are free to set your daily rate at whatever you like. You can even set a flat fee or a minimum fee. Over the years, Jess' daily fee has ranged from $35/day to the current $99.


Can you get commissions on bookings?

Absolutely. More often than not the best options for lodging, tours, car rental etc, will be with a supplier which you can receive commission on via our portals. The portals are just travel agent backdoors to travel sites you're already familiar with.


On the low end, Jess makes around $1000 on a single trip. That can go much higher when dealing with luxury, cruise, international, group, and long-term travel.


Jess will give you the resources to know where to look for the travel suppliers your clients need.


What are the best ways to become a successful custom travel planner?

The number one way to drum up business is with a social network presence. Whether it's an already established peer group of friends and family or not, having a group of people who trust you to solicit your services to is the way to go. This is the way of the world. If you have a large group of friends and family, that should jumpstart you right away. If you need to build up a social media following, we will help consult you on starting a page on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.


The number two way is with direct paid ads. These ads go right to people who need or are actively searching for travel planning services. Google ads lets you pick your daily spending amount, and set the keywords and audience you'd like target. Facebook and Instagram have a similar mechanism. However, I've found that every dollar spent on Google comes back at least two fold. Facebook is more about audience building for the future. Those followers probably aren't booking right now, but you'll be on their mind when they are. I suggest a Google Ads Smart Campaign at first. This is the easiest for a beginner. Google basically does the heavy lifting.


Having a great, easy to read website is also extremely important. I built Jess.Travel's site using Wix, because I have fun dabbling, but you can hire an expert to make you one or use Square space or Wordpress as well.


When to expect the payoff?

Most people book travel 3-6 months, even a year out. So, you'll need to stick with it, and commit some dollars to your marketing, brand, website etc. Although you'll get your travel service fees immediately, most commissions pay out 30 days after travel. So, you can see this is a long haul game.


Are you ready to become a personal travel planner?

If you think this is something you were born to do, you're probably right. Reach out to us to start your journey.