Do you have clients that want a FIT (Free Independent Traveler) trip? Where do I start? What booking sites do I use? How do I pull it all together? There are many questions. I do not have all the answers, but I book FIT trips two different ways: 1) I use a company that can put everything together in one package or 2) I book everything piecemeal.
For both methods, I start the qualifying process by sending them a list of questions before our one to two hour appointment: where do you want to go, what do you want to do, where do you want to stay, what are your travel dates, how long can you be gone, how many are traveling, how do you want to travel, etc. When travelers have the questions in advance, the conversation moves along smoother. I take a notebook and make lots of notes. I do not ask, “What is your budget?” because the answers to my questions will let me know about spending levels even if a dollar amount isn’t mentioned. Once I have all this information, I put a timeline together that doesn’t assign everything to date but provides a plan that will make the most of their time. I also encourage them not to schedule something every day. Traveling is exhausting and having a day or two to be spontaneous can be a nice break.
When my clients have approved this timeline I submit it to a company that can book everything for me. For a family of six going to France and Italy, I used Europe Express. The agent and I worked together to meet all my client’s needs. When the itinerary was complete, I passed it on to them for review. I tell clients to take the time to review it carefully, but I also let them know that availability and pricing can change at any time. This itinerary is complicated—lots of moves over two and a half weeks: flights, trains, rental car, hotels, activities, and travel insurance, from Denver, Paris, Normandy, Rome, Naples, Catania, and Palermo. A big advantage of having a FIT trip booked through one company is that there is one deposit and all payments go through that company.
When I book a FIT for a single stay in the U.S., Caribbean, Mexico or Hawaii, I use VAX. For a family of five going to Mexico, I used Funjet Vacations via VAX to package airfare, an all-inclusive resort, airport transfers, and travel insurance. VAX offers various options for each segment so I can choose what works best for my client. I like that itineraries can be saved and easily retrieved, proposals can be emailed, and reservations can be made from a saved itinerary.
I also book FIT trips piecemeal. I start with the same conversation and timeline. The difference is that there are more bookings and payments, which takes more time. This type of booking is a great way to educate myself because lots of research is needed. Picture a funnel, I start with the big items and then work down filling in the smaller items. My clients are going on a British Isles cruise, which is the first big item. They want a few days in Scotland before and a few days in Ireland after. I worked out a timeline with some of the things that they want to do, determined the beginning and end dates, and booked the flights—second big item. Next, I added hotels, transfers, activities, and travel protection—the smaller things going ‘down the funnel.’ I arrange everything chronologically and check off my timeline to ensure I have all the elements. I used Bedsonline to book all the hotels, an airport transfer, and an activity. Even though the booking is in ‘pieces’, there are sites where I can book several pieces at the same time.
To wrap everything up, I use Travefy to organize a packet that contains: an itinerary, flight information, hotel and activity vouchers, maps, area information, and more—all in chronological order.
When booking a FIT trip, consider the depth of the itinerary when determining the method that will work best for you and your client.