fbpx

The Money compass Podcast

Catch Up with our latest episodes
SpotifyApple Podcasts

Special Guest : Sarah Laverty

Apr 7, 2022 | Episodes, Special Guest | 0 comments

This episode of The Money Compass podcast was published on 6th April 2022. You can listen again by heading to our Episodes page, or on your favourite podcast player.

In this Special Guest episode Emma is joined by Personal Travel Expert, Sarah Laverty.

Sarah’s Top Tips

  • Always use a travel agent as you can get more of an understanding of what you are paying for as they have more experience. You will also be offered more opportunities to do extra activities that wouldn’t have been stated on a normal booking website as they have many more links to tour guides etc.
  • Travel agents, especially independent ones, will always prioritise your time and tend to constantly be “on call” whenever you may need them. For example, if something goes wrong with their customer’s flights etc they will always be on standby to help them find solutions to any problems they may face.
  • Travel agents will always try to make their customers holiday a perfect experience, whether that is for a special occasion like a honeymoon or a standard family holiday, they will always put all their needs into consideration. They also make friendly relationships with their customers so that the customers feel more comfortable to contact them if they have any queries.
  • Travel agents also usually try to plan a better priced holiday when considering extras and add ons, and this works out as a better value for money overall on the price of the holiday.

The Independent Travel Expert

Emma Knights

Is there kind of a cost saving in using a travel agent? Does it tend to cost a little bit more? What would you say your view on it is?

Sarah Laverty 

I think it can be both to be honest. Generally, a travel agent will always be able to give you the same price as online. There are times when we can’t, and in that time then the benefits of using a travel agent really do cover that sort of additional cost. It’s never huge, it’s never a big amount, and then you also have to think about that huge benefit that your travel agent is basically on call, and you can always get through to them.

If you use someone that is independent, you know that you can get hold of them. You’re not going to be sitting on a three-hour long queue, trying to find someone, to then also have to maybe call back again and explain your situation to the next person that you’ve spoken to and the next one.

Emma Knights

You’ve got the same point of contact all the time?

Sarah Laverty 

All the time, they know you, they know your family, they know exactly what it is that you want. I get people phoning me at eight o’clock in the morning and I’m there and if I can’t answer the phone straight away, then you’ll get a phone call back within 10 minutes.

This is the same in the evening. So, we’re always here, when you’re checking in on your flight, making sure that you’re away and making sure that everything’s gone smoothly. It’s those little things just to make your life easier.

Emma Knights

I suppose there might be a slight extra cost, but it’s probably because you’ve given your experience and you’ve suggested something that’s different to something that you would just go and find online. So that’s where the extra expense is going to come.

Sarah Laverty

Exactly. A bit like if you were needing marketing advice, you would go to a marketing expert rather than doing it yourself on Canva or something like that. You’re going to pay that little bit extra to have an expert in their field that will actually give you exactly what you want.

Emma Knights 

Fantastic So would you say there’s a particular type of client that you work with primarily? Or is it anyone and everyone that uses you?

Sarah Laverty 

Anyone and everyone, I deal with all spectrums of holidays, from minimal budgets up to unlimited.

I would say the majority of my customers are people that are looking for that slightly higher end trip. People that are looking for something that maybe you can’t put together online, who need that expert advice and they want their hand held a little bit. They’re planning something a bit different, they’re going to places that they don’t know much about and maybe doing a multicentre and just need a little bit more help with putting something together and want those special extras added in.

For example, having a private tour guide for a particular place that they wouldn’t have maybe even thought about going to because they weren’t sure it was there. So, I would say that that’s the majority of our customers.

Emma Knights 

Yeah. I suppose as well, having private tour guides and things like that, someone booking it themselves that have no experience of ever going anywhere, you wouldn’t necessarily know, there’s something extra to see that a private tour guide could take you to find.

But someone like yourself will know, oh, if you go here, it would actually be really handy to have this sort of person to do this with you because then you’ll get all these extra experiences that if you just went there and had a look around, you’d miss.

Sarah Laverty 

Precisely. We’ve got contacts with guides on the grounds in most destinations around the world that we know personally or have had an awful lot of dealings with. They will also take you to places that you wouldn’t know, they’ll take you off to a little restaurant that will be fantastic, that is quite often off the beaten path which you would never find yourself. You get to know them, and they will really enhance your experience whilst you’re away.

Emma Knights 

I think they bring the culture as well, don’t they when you can work with local people, they’ll take you to somewhere the locals would go rather than a touristy destination where anybody that’s booked a package holiday online would just turn up almost as a bus full of people turn up there. They’re going to take you somewhere a little bit different.

Sarah Laverty 

Yeah, completely.

Emma Knights 

Would you say there is a direct link between what people earn and how much they tend to spend on holidays? Or would you say sometimes, people that might have a lower income, want those same experiences, and will just take longer to save up for them?

Sarah Laverty 

I think on a general basis, there is a link and people that do earn more do spend more so that disposable income situation.

When it comes to honeymoons and things like that, people will save up for longer to get that once in a lifetime trip and especially for a honeymoon, that really is hopefully a once in a lifetime trip and people do save up for years for that and will spend more than they would on a normal holiday, just to get that extra special trip.

I love planning honeymoons because everyone’s so excited for them and you can really put something special together.

Emma Knights 

Would you say that people tend to have just one holiday a year? Or would you say that people have multiple holidays a year? What’s kind of the norm now for people?

Sarah Laverty 

Well, I think the norm has changed in the last 18 months. But let’s go back to pre-COVID, I would say that people are taking more than one holiday a year. We went through all our stats and things like that recently, and the average was coming up at two and a half holidays. Not that you can have half a holiday, but just on an average. So, people were looking at maybe two holidays abroad, and then maybe one in the UK. That could be a big holiday plus a city break plus a let’s say caravan holiday with the kids in the UK or a cottage or something like that.

Emma Knights

So, it kind of varies between people though I guess some people wouldn’t have a holiday at all for several years and would just have one big one every now and again.

Sarah Laverty

Yeah, very true. I also think that now going forward from COVID, there are more people that haven’t been able to travel for almost two years, or certainly not easily. So, I’ve noticed that people are making the most of that and getting things booked in.

Yeah, I think as well, people that haven’t been on holiday for a long time previously, have then realised actually I would like to go away more often. They might even make it a more regular thing than pre-COVID because of not being able to go anywhere and do anything it’s made people change their mind about travel.

Sarah Laverty 

I think so. I think as restrictions are easing, things are getting a little bit easier, and the testing and things like that are in place and it’s going to be in for a while now. But people are starting to accept it, and plan that into their holiday.

Emma Knights 

It almost becomes a norm, doesn’t it?

Sarah Laverty 

I think that’s exactly it. It is becoming a norm and it is becoming easier. It is just going to be one of those things that we have to deal with.

Emma Knights 

You mentioned earlier about honeymoons and obviously people save up for those for quite a long time to be able to have something quite special. But do you find that people come to you years in advance of booking holidays? Or do they come last minute, and how do they tend to then go about paying for them?

Sarah Laverty 

It’s one extreme or the other, really. You get the people that want to go away next month and that’s absolutely fine but there are lots of people that do come well in advance, years in advance especially for the big trips, something that they’re really looking forward to, or they’re planning it for a special occasion, or 40th or 50th, wedding anniversary, etc.

They will often start planning before they can even book and we will never turn them away and we will start the planning process then. This is because those sorts of trips they will need tweaking multiple times until we get it right. Then we have that plan in place, it’s all written down, it’s there ready for as soon as the booking window opens, we can go ahead and get that booked.

Then they can start getting excited and know that that holiday is done. So rather than coming to us, when the booking window opens to start the planning process, which then obviously cuts into that time, we’ll start at any point and get that trip really nailed down.

Emma Knights 

Fantastic. So, when you say the booking window opens, do you think people should get booked up so that if you haven’t thought of it in advance that you’re then too late and miss out on things.

Sarah Laverty 

On specialist holidays that can be the case, especially on cruises.  Avid cruises that go multiple times of year know exactly what they want on certain ships, they want certain cabins. If they’re not there booking on the day that they open, they may not get the cabin that they want.

Emma Knights 

Okay, so naive question here. What in particular about a cabin on a cruise ship is important? Obviously, I know the level on the ship that you’re on I can understand and whether you have a view or not. But what else would there be? Why would you be so picky about your cabin?

Sarah Laverty 

If people know their cruise ships and have been on them before they know the particular location, they want to be in. So, it’s not just about deck number but that’s very important whether they want to be midship whether they prefer to be on the aft whether they prefer to be forward, not being near the lifts, not being near the stairs, the laundrette, they know exactly where on the ship they want to be. So, you’ll find that people that do know their cruises will be booking two years in advance.

Emma Knights 

Well, I didn’t know that. I’ve got a cruise booked for next year and I literally had no idea. I was just like, oh yeah, let’s have that room I didn’t even consider that.

Sarah Laverty 

For the people that don’t cruise that often, It’s not so much a problem. It’s the ones that know where they want to be and if they can’t get that, then quite often they will wait and book another cruise to make sure they can get the cabin that they want.

Emma Knights 

Wow, that’s quite extreme, I wouldn’t have expected that. How do people tend to pay for holidays? Do they tend to pay for them as a lump sum all in one go? Do they pay for the monthly? What’s the norm, or is there not a norm?

Sarah Laverty 

The norm is to do a small deposit at the time of booking, and then pay the balance when it’s due, which tends to be 14 weeks before departure.

There are multiple other options as well. We also offer a direct debit system so people again, can pay a small deposit, and then the direct debit will just come out of their bank account every month, they don’t need to think about it, and it’s all taken care of.

If customers don’t want to have that fixed amount every month, but don’t want to keep it in their own bank account until balance due the risk of spending it, they can always just pay off bits as and when they want to. So, if they find that they’ve suddenly got a little bit of spare extra cash and want to put it onto their holiday then they can pay it off at any point.

Emma Knights

You’re almost like their savings account and you’ve got it there then ready to pay off the balance when it needs to be paid.

Sarah Laverty

Yeah, I make it as easy as possible for people.

Emma Knights

Sounds good to me. So do you have an example of a client that you’ve booked a holiday for and what the benefit of you being used was in that scenario. So maybe something that went wrong and obviously having you has been handy to have or something like that.

Sarah Laverty

One example we had a few years ago now was customers flying out to the Caribbean, they were transiting in Barbados and hurricane season was in place, so flights were being affected. The flight wasn’t moving on to Antigua, so they were stuck. Luckily, we were straight on it, we had them rebooked onto the flight the next day. They were on a through ticket that was protected by the airline, so they were put up in a nice four-star hotel for the night all their food was provided, and they were fully taken care of.

They were talking to passengers on the plane next to them who had booked that inter Island flight separately they had packaged it all themselves and they were stuck at the airport. They couldn’t get on a flight the next day because everyone had already been re protected onto that flight. They were having to source their own accommodation and they were left stranded; they were stuck on their own. Not ideal is it.

So, it’s those situations, which luckily, touch wood, don’t happen very often. But it’s when you do have someone on the end of the phone, it really does make your life so much easier when travelling. The last thing you want to be is stuck when you’re away somewhere that you don’t know, you’ve got no idea where you are or who to speak with.

In another instance, literally as COVID hit and I had a customer who was flying out to Honduras to go and see her new grandson and it was the day before America closed its borders to UK citizens. So, she should have technically still been able to travel because it wasn’t until the next day. But she was on the phone to me, it was four in the morning, and they were refusing her boarding at the airport, which to be honest, now in hindsight was a good thing because otherwise she would have been stuck there for potentially six to nine months. She was in an absolute panic at the airport, but she knew that she could get hold of me at that time of the morning.

Emma Knights

That was four in the morning. What are you doing awake at that time?

Sarah Laverty

Well, the phone woke me up. Luckily, people don’t tend to call at that time but in that first month of COVID hitting, I was tending to be on the phone with customers up until about one o’clock in the morning if they were in the States and then back on the phone at four o’clock in the morning for my customers that I had in New Zealand, just coordinating all of their trips home to get them back as quick as we could.

Emma Knights 

So that’s a bit of a clue of how COVID has affected kind of the travel industry. What else has changed anything?

Sarah Laverty

I think a huge amount has changed. Now that things are starting to bounce back after the worst time in the travel industry’s history, people are looking to do things differently now. I think the industry has changed slightly as well. We’re all there to help customers it’s all travel agents are there for, it’s to share their love and experience of travelling with other people.

Costing unfortunately has gone up. We’re seeing quite an increase for 2022 in prices, and I think it was always understandable that it was going to happen, especially as we are now looking at two years’ worth of increase.

Emma Knights

It has come as more of a shock because we haven’t seen those gradual increases in prices.

Sarah Laverty

Exactly, we would have seen it last or for this year, which didn’t really happen, and it’s all being pushed on to next year. Tour operators are trying to make their money back and it was always going to happen.

We all think that actually, they’re desperate to get people travelling again, so price is going to be rock bottom. That really isn’t the case, they can’t afford to. We’ve seen it in the States, especially with car hire, the cost has risen dramatically.

I think things will level out again, they really will, I just think the next year will be a little bit higher than anyone planned, but people are desperate to get away. So unfortunately, the costs, we are going to have to suck up a little bit, but I do think they will start to level out. The sales will come and there will be some bargains out there for sure.

Emma Knights 

Just a matter of when. So, you obviously get to look into lots of incredible places for your clients for holidays. Are there any that you’re envious of that you haven’t experienced that you’d like to do?

Sarah Laverty 

Always. I always get a little bit of holiday envy. The one that’s on our bucket list is an African Safari. We’ve not wanted to do it yet just because I’ve got a 10-year-old son and I think it needs another couple of years for him to appreciate it. We’ve had plenty of opportunities to do it whilst he was younger, and I couldn’t think of anything worse than taking a noisy six-year-old on a safari and ruining it for everyone else. So, I think give him another couple of years and that’s going to be our one, once he’s 12 or 13.

Emma Knights

Fantastic. A question that we normally asked to all of our podcast guests is probably going to be a very difficult question for you. If you don’t have an answer, I will accept that you can just give it a few different places. But we like to ask what is your favourite holiday destination?

Sarah Laverty

I can never answer this one. There’s been too many and all for different reasons. I’ll give a few answers.

Emma Knights

That’s fine. We will all appreciate it because we will all be looking into it. So go for it.

Sarah Laverty

Thailand is my most visited destination. I love the food; I love the people and I just think it’s such an amazing country.

Also, Svalbard in Northern Norway was probably one of my favourite trips because it was so different. I headed up there for five days to go looking for polar bears and snowmobiling for five days. So that was just amazing and just something so different.

Indonesia is also one of my favourite countries, it’s so diverse with obviously, so many different islands, each with their own culture. It’s just an amazing place with the most fantastic scuba diving.

Emma Knights

Fantastic. So, I’m now going to have to follow you on Instagram and everywhere because I’m sure I’m going to be very, very envious of all the places that you post on there. But if any of our listeners want to get in touch with you, what’s the best way for them to find you and get in touch about planning their own holiday.

Sarah Laverty

Email or phone is always the best way to do it.

Emma Knights

Fantastic and what we will do rather than you reading them out on here, is include your contact details in our podcast summary. So, if anyone wants to get in touch, they’ll have your details to hand.

Sarah Laverty

Perfect. Thank you very much.

Emma Knights

Thank you so much for joining me today Sarah, I really appreciate you putting up with my technical skills. My technical abilities today haven’t been the greatest, but I really appreciate your time.

Sarah Laverty 

Thank you for having me.

Emma Knights 

And with that we’ve completed today’s episode. We hope you have enjoyed following along with us today and taking another step closer to a financially secure future.