You are ready to plan your destination wedding, but maybe you still need to choose a location, and you don’t even know your date yet. People are starting to ask you where this wedding is going to be, how much it will cost, where can they book, and you’re still at the first stage! (I can feel you getting overwhelmed from way over here.) SHEESH, all these questions and you just got engaged yesterday (or, maybe just feels like it was just yesterday).
Remember, the most popular reason for getting married away from home is NO stress, and to do something different. So, let’s figure out how you are going to stick to that policy...
You need a Travel Agent.
What? Travel Agent? Aren’t those guys dead? Do they even have travel agents anymore? Don’t worry; you’re not alone in thinking that!
The fact is travel agents are a crucial part of the destination wedding planning process. Let’s talk a little bit about what we mean.
Do I Really Need a Travel Agent?
As your travel agent, planner, concierge, advisor, curator, or whatever other crazy thing we call ourselves, we will be here to assist you and advocate on your behalf. We will be your lead negotiator, therapist and group manager.
The first thing people always ask is this: Do I really need to work with an agent? Well let me ask you a few questions: How many of you change your own oil? Do you diagnose yourself when you are sick? Do you dye and style your own hair? Some of you can do those things on your own, but mostly because you’re a trained expert — the rest of us need to go to the experts. Wedding planning is no different. You can’t plan the biggest day of your life alone.
Travel Agents provide industry knowledge. We have connections around the world, and not only can we use them to help you score perks, but also, we have been to several properties ourselves to know the ins and outs. (I often see 8-10 resorts in a single day on any given trip.) We know the no-no’s and the highlights of each resort and hotel.
A good agent is not a part of a multi-level marketing scheme. We are business owners with a purpose. We want to take the stress and uncertainty out of a crazy situation. We solve problems, and we want you to simply have the best day ever.
So, you want an agent, but for a destination wedding, you want one that specializes in romance and/or group travel. These are niche specialties in the tourism industry that focuses on those special areas.
There are several ways to find an agent, but one of my favorite groups is the Destination Weddings & Honeymoons Specialist Association. There, you can find tons of agents who specialize in romance. At TravelBash we service people from all over the country — 90% of our clients don’t even live in my state of Florida. We use email, FaceTime, FB messenger and text messaging to communicate with our best clients.
What do Travel Agents do?
I’m so glad you asked!
Travel agents typically focus on the how and the where. So, when it comes to you and your guests, that means thinking through how you will get there and where you will stay.
First things first, if you have a date in mind, the next thing you need to do is choose a destination and property. (In order to make sure they can get your date on the calendar, you want to try to do this at least 12 months in advance.) While it may seem stressful, this phase of the process is the fun part! We take a look at your vision and personality and try to find a destination and resort that fits well. Some couples choose all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and others choose boutique properties in Europe. A travel professional can help you identify the perfect location.
Need help brainstorming a few ideas? Take a look at our top 20 destination wedding locations!
You want to make sure the resort and destination is one you truly love! It’s your day and you won’t get it back.
Next, once you have chosen the perfect location and resort, it’s time for us to focus on group contracts and amenities. Booking at an all-inclusive resort is VERY different from booking a hotel room in the states. There is a lot more to it, and resorts require a deposit (usually, based on the number of rooms held, which often consists of at least 10 rooms).
Quick Tip: Groups are usually entitled to a lower rate than advertised; they are also able to get some special amenities! Did I also mention you get wedding credits and special bride and groom perks? Make sure to ask about this. Now back to your group contract!
You will choose the type of rooms you would like to hold for guests, as well as pick your own room. It’s like a kid at Christmas! But there are several questions you should know to ask ahead of time. For example, can guests upgrade their rooms, what if they want to extend their stay, can the room accommodate children, what about ADA accommodations? These are all things you will want to discuss.
A few other things to note: Most resorts will require the wedding contact to sign a group contract to secure a block of rooms. You will need to make sure you know the amount, when its due and what’s all included. Will guests need transportation and/or insurance? If so, is that extra?? When are group deposits and payments due? These are all things your travel professional will go over — with all of that, do you still want to plan this bad boy by yourself?
Now that you have gotten that out of the way, let’s get to the GUESTS! Again, travel professionals often play the role of the group managers, or sometimes even “herders!” Once you have sent out Save-the-Dates and/or have the wedding info with signed contract, we will help you share the news share with your guests. I always have a template I use with initial contact for my client’s friends and family.
A private FB group is also a great way to share all the exciting news and information about your wedding. If there any questions, your travel professional can be there to answer for you.
Another quick note: When guests do not book with the group, your wedding perks get messed up; so, don’t give them a choice! You want your booking to count for as much as possible, and booking as a larger group helps you get FREE stuff. Also, most resorts charge a day-pass fee to couples for guests that do not stay at the same resort — that can start anywhere from $75-$100.
With the info in hand, guests make a small deposit (usually $100 per room, plus the cost of insurance). Fortunately, guests can often pay the balance over time — no need for upfront lump sum payments like at regular hotels. Your travel professional will be there to answer any other questions or suggest certain activities and excursions while there. Usually, final payments are always due at least 90 days (3 months) before the travel date, depending on your contract.
Another helpful tip: Does Grandma hate computers? No worries! Your travel professional should have no problem assisting her and sending documents via snail mail.
At this point, we finally get to help you with the planning! That means all of the florals, colors and actual day-of activities, like the ceremony and reception. We can assist with all of this, but you will be assigned your very own wedding designer from the resort that will reach out to you with everything you need to plan your special day.
Extra Tip: In the Caribbean, they can be slower than us here in the US — they have 100 brides and weddings happening every day, so they might not respond to your email as fast as we would. They are truly on Caribbean time! Expect an answer between 3-5 days after your message. If you need immediate help, you have your travel professional.
Right before your big day, your agent will send out all travel documents, reconfirm bookings and selections, transportation and any requests you and your guests may have — and maybe, they’ll throw in a special gift or two (wink, wink). From there, it’s smooth sailing!
So, what have we learned today?
Travel agents are not just a thing of the past! The business model may have changed but the service has not. They are invaluable resources and are imperative for pulling off a destination wedding — and after all this information, I’m sure you can see why.
Salute to all my travel colleagues and happy planning, bridal beauties!
Drink Eat and Hire a Travel Professional!