book with an advisor

booking with a travel agent

*Trigger Warning* Yes, yet another article that champions women, but celebrates the travel advisor community**

Working as a travel advisor hasn’t always been so rosy. I’ve had an array of jobs over the years and this by far is one of the most difficult. Mostly because I spend half of my day justifying my profession. “Who needs travel agents when you have the internet” Or “Oh, I don’t want to pay fees, I book everything online.” And my favourite, “travel agents are more expensive.” You may be one of those folks that books all of their own trips, or maybe you’ve used a travel advisor in the past and didn’t really see the benefit, or maybe you just don’t see the point in using a travel advisor, and that’s okay. But perhaps I can sway you a bit.

Travellers like yourself who book online are independent minded. You like to do your own thing. You think outside the box. You might really enjoy the research process. You probably have your go-to travel websites.  And at the end of the day, you want the most bang for your buck. But if entrusting your travel plans to a travel advisor meant you could have everything you wanted for your trip, and made a direct, and meaningful impact on someone’s life, would you do it?

There are hundreds of articles out there explaining why you should book with a travel advisor. Heck, I even wrote one of my own this year. And thankfully, the message has resonated. My profession has made a healthy comeback this year. Travellers of the Millennial and Gen X generation are finally realizing the host of benefits travel advisors offer. Exclusive perks, unparalleled expertise, a strong voice of advocacy when things go wrong, and access to an infinite array of products, just to name a few. The sky is the limit if you’re willing to work with a travel advisor. But what these articles don’t discuss is how booking with a travel advisor directly impacts an essential part of the tourism industry: Small business owners. Entrepreneurs. Women.

booking with a travel agent

According to, women make up just over 70% of the travel consulting positions across America. However, only 33% are actually leading travel organizations. Which means, despite their abundance of experience, women continue to be overlooked for senior positions. But the tide is turning and women are finding new ways to create opportunities. We are drawing attention to new travel niches including ethnic-focused and underrepresented groups, we are founding unique travel brands, and  for independent agents like myself, we’ve left the traditional brick and mortar agencies behind to break free of the old model to promote travel our way.

book with a travel advisor

In addition to female travel advisors comprising of the majority of the workforce, many of us make partnering with grassroots, female-run organizations in local communities a priority, especially in developing nations. As an adventure travel specialist, I often choose travel companies such as G Adventures and Intrepid, that focus on the empowerment of women through locally run collectives to lift women and their community out of poverty through partnerships, rather than the ineffective international aid model.

I am proud to belong to a number of female travel advisor groups, of all varieties, specializing in various niches, destinations, and travel styles. These environments are professional, full of mentorship, innovative ideas, encouragement, an infinite amount of knowledge for every possible scenario, representing over 120 countries around the world, and boasting travel experiences from 195 nations (yes, EVERY SINGLE COUNTRY). Most of us have never met, yet we’re a close-knit community who share one important thing in common: The desire to show our clients the world their way.

book with an advisor

So how can booking with a travel advisor, make a positive impact? 

Booking with a travel advisor is more than a credit card transaction and the hope that you get a great holiday out of it. In most cases, you are supporting small business, and supporting innovation. It means you’re helping a mom, like myself, support her family and put money away for my son’s college fund. It means you could be helping a retired Air Force veteran like my friend *Katlyn stoke her passion to share the world with her clients, from outside the confines of her uniform. Your trip to the Napa Valley or family vacation to Croatia could be helping my colleague *Nicole keep amazing mom *Janine, a retired history professor with early Alzheimer’s, out of a seniors home and living independently with around-the-clock-care, so she can spend the rest of her days, sipping Earl Grey in her beloved library. There is a mosaic of stories behind our little army of human search engines.

We don’t work in gargantuan call centres, in teeny cubicles, with a binder full of aggressive sales protocol staring us in the face. Some of us work in co-operative work spaces (that we pay for ourselves as part of our overhead).  Some of us work out of our home offices. And some of us work from the road because we mobile consult with clients. We’re invested. Dedicated. For us, your holiday is personal.

Now, after I’ve said all of that, I certainly don’t want to discredit all of the incredible male travel advisors who work tirelessly to provide incredible travel experiences for their clients. I am proud to call each and everyone of them a colleague. And ultimately, it doesn’t matter who you book with, you’re still supporting small business over large scale online giants that see you as little more than a confirmation number, and that’s a good thing. I merely wanted to give you some food for thought if you’ve ever wondered how booking with a female travel advisor can often make a difference. Women still face challenges that men do not in the workplace, especially when they choose to have a family. Women are still getting paid less than men in many organizations. Owning their own travel business means they can provide for themselves, and/or take care of their families on their terms, without “losing their place” in the work force and without salary bias.

*Names have been altered to respect privacy

booking with a travel agent







travel empowers women

Adventure travel has been my favourite niche to sell for over a decade, and for many reasons. I think it encourages travelers to appreciate the symbiotic relationship between Earth and animal kingdom; It provides travelers with the opportunity to experience an alternative way of life; And more recently, adventure travel empowers women in local communities by providing employment opportunities, financial independence and a sense of personal agency. And with rate of international tourism on the rise each year (up 7% according to UNWTO) and women occupying more than 85% of positions within the industry, it’s not only important but absolutely essential  to support women living in these local communities.

travel empowers women

Why women specifically? 

When it comes to education, women and young girls are the first ones to lose out or be denied access to formal education. Domestic or familial duties often see them plucked out of school, forced into marriage, made responsible for taking care of their siblings at home, or exploited in some way that takes away their agency. A lack of education may hinder access to economic independence and make them vulnerable to exploitation. Tourism can be a means for women to glean a respectable living without formal education. It can provide a way for them to participate in the formal economy and most importantly, this empowerment encourages them to create long-term and sustainable opportunities for themselves and their communities.

travel empowers women

So how does adventure travel empower women? 

Adventure travel tends to bring travelers off the beaten path, which often means you’re experiencing deeper cultural immersion and traveling through more rural and traditional communities. Travelers who choose these types of experiences do so because they want to engage with local cultures, they want to learn about their histories, art forms, cuisine etc. Adventure travel empowers women in a way that they are able to use their domestic skills such as cooking, hosting or creating handicrafts to make money. In parts of the world where a ‘working woman’ was against tradition, adventure travel and tourism has opened doors, planted the seed, and as you will read next, encouraged local women to be entrepreneurial.

What can I do to support women in local communities with my travel choices? 

When you are doing your research on adventure travel companies who give back, there are plenty of options, around the world, who contribute to the empowerment of women. However, not all give the same way. I have two organizations for you to consider.

The first adventure travel company to think about is Canadian based G Adventures. The company was founded in 1990 by avid backpacker Bruce Poon Tip, and has more than 680 itineraries in more than in 130 countries. After escorting travelers to the furthest reaches of the planet for 13 years, The Planeterra Foundation was born in 2003:

Planeterra connects social enterprises to the tourism marketplace by providing catalyst funding, capacity training, and a market link for small businesses supporting women, youth, and indigenous communities.

Planeterra focuses on long-term sustainability and social enterprise. Which means, they work in partnership with local communities, ensuring projects are spearheaded by those on the ground. 100% of the proceeds provided by G Adventures goes directly to fund the more than 50 projects they operate across 6 continents. From Women on Wheels in New Delhi, to the Sisterhood of Survivors in Nepal to the Nagadas Community Homestay in rural Java, there are ample opportunities to give, learn about local issues and fascinating cultures, and empower women.

travel empowers women

Another adventure travel company I enjoy working with is Intrepid and Intrepid Urban Adventures, an Australian based group offering up more than 1500 itineraries in 120 countries. Like G Adventures, their focus is on locally led initiatives:

We support local organisations tackling important community issues all over the world – from conservation and wildlife protection, to education, healthcare and human rights.

The Intrepid Foundation receives proceeds from its tours, but if you choose book your tour with them and donate to the Intrepid Foundation, they will match your donation (up to $1000 per individual donor), they pay for all administrative costs which means 100% of your donation goes to the project. The Intrepid Foundation not only supports the empowerment of women, but also works in concert with locally run organizations to eradicate illiteracy, provide vocational help and support to those living with disabilities, and encourage social change through story-telling. With forty-four projects in total, you are bound to find one that aligns with your passion.

So if you’ve been dreaming up a culturally immersive, environmentally enlightening or socially transformative trip, and want to support the most vulnerable in local communities, remember that adventure travel empowers women when you partner with the right organization.

“Why would I need a travel agent when I can book everything online?”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that or read that, I could quit selling travel and wander the world full time. With the plethora of online information at your fingertips, it would seem that booking that dream trip to Hawaii or all-inclusive getaway to Mexico is easy as pie. But before you jump on those rock-bottom cheap travel deals, or entrust some random booking engine with your credit card, find out why travel agents are still relevant in 2018.

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Bucketlist Alaskan Cruise

It’s high noon and while much of the ship is congregating in the Lido Market for lunch, or out on the crowded observation deck, we’re perched on our private verandah, cameras in hand, trying to catch our breath with every passing spectacle. The sun affectionately bathes the jagged shorelines of Glacier Bay, emphasizing glistening, snow-packed crevices high above and turquoise, iceberg riddled waters below. Seabirds effortlessly ride the arctic thermals at eye level, and in our gentle wake, small fish leap from the depths to catch levitating insects on the ocean surface. What is almost as impressive as the scenery, is how 82,500 tonnes of steel can navigate its way through such narrow passages, and making about as much noise as a small canoe. And then you see it. The Marjerie Glacier; An impressive twenty-one mile long, twenty-five story high wall of vibrant blue glacial ice. This is what a bucketlist Alaskan cruise is all about, and it’s not a trip you want to put off any longer.

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family fun

Traveling with children under age 2 (or any age) is a daunting proposition and can cause a great deal of anxiety if you’re not prepared. And therein lies the key; Preparation. When my little guy was born back in July, the countdown to getting his first passport stamp began, but so did the painstaking research into what we were going to need to make his first plane ride as seamless as possible. Here are some tips and lessons I gleaned from my own research and experience, as well as a few from other family travel experts:

Before You Get to the Airport

1. Baby Gear Rental Companies 

If you’re traveling with children somewhere in North America, look into renting baby gear to ease streamline the packing process. Loose Lips Magazine contributor and new Mommy Jessica Proctor was recently in Palm Springs (the same week we were as it happened) and rented a crib and high chair from Desert Baby  For a mere $40 a week this company dropped off and picked up the equipment from the doorstep of her AirBnb!

2. Don’t Overpack Your Checked-Baggage

I admit it, I was so guilty of it this. My son was born in the summer and I was gifted so many adorable  outfits that he couldn’t wear because he was so little and since I was finally heading to the sun, I brought them with me. All. Off. Them. Let’s be real. He ended up wearing maybe 8-1o outfits during the 8 days we were there. An outfit a day is fine, plus a couple of extras for any possible “blow-outs.”

traveling with children

3. Pack Your Diaper Bag Carefully

Just because you’re traveling with an infant doesn’t mean Airport Security are going to go easy on you. If you bring your own formula/breastmilk (yes, you can do this), do yourself a favour and place it in one of those giant freezer bags for easy inspection. Do the same with your diaper creme, and anything else in liquid form. Here are a few things you should absolutely include when packing your diaper bag:

  • Plenty of Diapers
  • Diaper Creme
  • Wipes
  • Baby Tylenol – Frequent flyer Beth Claridge never left home without it
  • 2-3 onesies for any necessary outfit changes plus one full outfit in case your luggage gets lost
  • At least one outfit change for you (You can pack this in your own carry-on)
  • Plastic bags to place any contaminated clothes
  • Change Pad (Airplane and airport bathrooms are gross)
  • Anti-bacterial wipes (Airplane seats are even more gross!)
  • Teething toy, soother,
  • Burb Cloth
  • Bibs
  • Blankie for snuggling up
  • Toys you don’t care about (because let’s face it, something’s getting lost along the way)
  • Muslin Baby Cover – These are perfect for breast feeding, swaddling (if you’re babe is into that), or as as a blanket.
  • Freemie Cups – New Mama @criscortijo just took her little one on a long-haul flight to Peru and like most new moms, she had to pump every few hours. This product allows you to do it discretely.

3. Cover Your Bases with Travel Insurance

I have the insurance conversation with every one of my clients because I think it’s downright irresponsible to travel without it, especially if you’re traveling with children anywhere in North America. While many credit card companies offer travel medical it can be quite limiting, with lengthy lists of pre-existing conditions that would prevent coverage. Plus, if you miss your flight, are delayed or miss a connection, travel insurance is there to cover the costs. If you’re traveling with your wee ones, you don’t want to take any chances with substandard insurance. Ask your travel agent about the type of coverage you need and travel with peace of mind.

traveling with children

4. Book Seats Ahead of Time  

In the past you may have played the whole “I’ll-take-my-chances-at-check-in” game to avoid paying for advanced seat selection, but trust me, you don’t want to deal with that mess when you get to the airport. You are at the mercy of ground staff, and not to throw them under the bus, but it’s not their responsibility to seat where its most convenient for you. So unless you want be stuck in the middle seat, miles from the bathroom or separated from your travel partner, always pay the extra and book your seats (with me!) ahead of time.

5. Try to Book Flights According to Babies Sleep Schedule

This is not always possible, and often, we are at the mercy of carrier schedules. However, if you’re traveling overseas, red-eye/overnight flights can be easier in terms of your baby adjusting to jet-lag. Your baby can sleep through the night (if you’re lucky enough to have one of those little angels) and wake up in the morning in destination. Some moms find it’s easier to book their flights in the morning because their babies are fussier near the end of the day and into the evening hours.

traveling with children

6. Invest in Good a Travel Stroller

My smart minimalist friends prefer to use baby carriers when they travel, but consider either investing in a good travel stroller or rent one when you’re in destination. Strollers can double as a high chair and, if you’re traveling in a hot climate, having a miniature furnace strapped to you 24/7 is no fun. We use a Mountain Buggy Umbrella Nano Stroller – It only weighs 13lbs, folds up small enough you can store it in an overhead bin, and takes seconds to fold out.

7. Check-In 24 Hours Before Flight

Similar to seat selection, some people don’t bother checking in online 24 hours in advance, but there has never been a more crucial time to get into the habit than if you’re traveling with children under age 2. You want to avoid standing in as few line-up’s as possible, so pre-pay for your baggage, make sure your seats are selected, and if you haven’t brought your own snacks, consider purchasing your meals ahead of time (if you’re traveling with a low cost carrier) so you don’t have to worry about anything other than keeping your little one occupied on board.

At the Airport 

traveling with children

8. Arrive Early

I know, I know, I’ve just told you to check-in 24 hours in advance, so why should you have to arrive early? Because going through security with children under age 2 can be a stressful experience. And you never know if you’ll have to make a trip to the bathroom (or multiple) for a “hose down.” Arriving 2.5-3 hours before an international flight will give you plenty of time to drop off your bags, get through security and make the little one is as fresh as a daisy for their flight. Remember to pre-pack your milk and any gels or creams (diaper creme) in plastic bags (I used giant freezer bags) for quick inspection.

9. Board Last!

You know when they announce that anyone traveling with children or in need of assistance may board first, ignore that. Unless you have a grave concern about overhead space, you don’t want to pro-long the amount of time babe spends in close quarters. Use the “divide-and-conquer” method if you’re traveling with your partner. Have them go on board first with the carry-on, and you can follow later. Before your seated, make sure to have those secret weapons like snacks, fun toys, or GASP, a pre-loaded iPad tucked away below the seat in front of you rather than up above. It’s all about easy access.

10. Take a long, deep breath

Give your babe a bottle or the breast during take-off and landing. The sucking motion will help them equalize those little ear drums. Your little one might cry at one point during the flight. They may even scream for a brief moment. But remember, it’s only a moment in time. And while there may the odd dirty look, people do have more compassion for struggling parents than you might think. Chances are, many of your fellow passengers are parents themselves. Don’t be afraid to move around the cabin (when it’s safe of course), make friends with the flight attendants, and above all, breathe. It’s going to be okay.


traveling with children

Bon Voyage!

north shore residents

For North Shore residents, spring is taking its sweet time to arrive. Some days, it feels like the sun pinned up a “Gone Fishing” sign and left us for good. We’re nearing mid-May and record-breaking rains, perpetual grayness, coupled with a barrage of bad news coming at us from every direction might mean it’s time to let the boss know you’ll be taking advantage of some of those much-deserved vacation days. If you’ve been dreaming up a spring holiday for some time, and need some travel inspiration, here are 10 destinations options to get you started.

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being bumped

There is nothing worse than arriving at your gate, passport in hand, luggage all checked-in, beach bag slung over your shoulder, sun sand and fun mere hours away and then, a few ominous words tear you from your cocktail-infused daydream: “Would Mr. Joe please come to the front desk?” You gather your things and saunter up to the desk, all the while secretly hoping you’re about to get a surprise upgrade to Premium Economy when you’re about to get hit with the “you-thought-you-were-getting -to-Maui-tonight-but-guess-again” schpeel. The airline staff gives you an apologetic look and utters the words: “You’re being bumped.”

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Every travel consultant worth their salt has a portfolio of trusted tour companies to share with their clients. I have a few favourites, depending on the demographic, but for anyone between 18 into their mid thirties, one of my top choices is Topdeck. With more than 40 years of awesome tour experience under their belt, Topdeck has more than earned their stripes on the organized tour landscape. And after personally travelling with them on three separate occasions in Africa, North America and Europe, I have 5 great reasons to get you on a Topdeck tour:

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The objections (and misconceptions) to conventional cruising are endless, and to be honest, as an independent traveler myself, cruising was never been my preferred method of travel. But a recent family cruise around the Hawaiian Islands made me appreciate why travelers love cruising. Dining like royalty, being rocked to sleep every night, exploring a new port every day – It’s exciting. But if you’re like me and love the idea of seeing the world from its oceans and waterways, but doing it with 2500 people makes your wanderlusting heart palpitate, I have a solution; Tap into your inner ‘un-ness’ and set sail on an UnCruise.

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