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Cathy Brooks-Oliver

Scottsdale, Arizona Travel Agent

Personalized Trip Planning

Many clients look to me to plan trips that allow them to get up close and personal with locals and gain a deeper understanding of the places they visit. For example, I sent an elderly well-traveled couple to Southeast Asia on a Uniworld Mekong River cruise. They were thrilled to have the chance to eat with families in their villages and see walk through the rice fields with a guide who explained how it is planted and harvested. They couldn’t stop talking about how kind the people were and although they have stayed at the world’s best hotels and frequently dine in Michelin-starred restaurants, they raved about the meals cooked for them by locals.

Of course, everyone’s idea of what is special is different. I’ve had clients say, “send me to someplace warm with a great beach; I don’t care where.” I have to point out that they do care; do they want to go zip-lining on their vacation, see lots of people at their beach, have nightlife, or a true retreat where the stars are the only entertainment at night.

I find that clients often think allowing for spontaneity will be fun, and it is; but that is different than spending your precious vacation time driving around looking for hotels or trying to figure out where to park. When I plan a trip—especially an off the beaten path, I take care of all those little details that can sap the fun out of a trip. I have a photo on my desk of a family standing in front of a geyser with a note saying “Hands down, this was the best experience of our lives”. It’s from a client I sent on a family vacation to New Zealand.When I plan your trip, it’s carefree and it’s filled with the experiences you want. I am very detail-oriented and you’ll receive reminders for everything—packing, shots, visas...

And I don’t just have one favorite hotel in a city. I select hotels based on my client’s interests and fantasies. For example, in Paris, the Bel Ami Hotel is an adorable five star boutique property in the Saint-Germain-Des-Près area; the Plaza Athénée is a grand hotel that plays to the haute couture traveler—they can even have an outfit created specifically for them. And the Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris is an Art Deco landmark just off the Champs-Elysees.  

In my seven years leading a team of top-tier clients at American Express, I often have been asked why anyone should book with a travel agent. The answer is: we know what most people don’t even think to ask, and then take care of every detail so you can get the most out of your trip. A case in point: The daughter of a client booked her own hotel in Germany and it turned out to be a nightmare of a place. Her frantic mother called me and I booked her into a great hotel I was familiar with and sent a car to pick her up. At midnight! Her daughter will never travel without me again and tells all her friends the same.

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