frequently asked questionswhat our clients want to know
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Q: Why would you start a travel company during a global pandemic?
A: We view Journey Softly as a relaunch of a travel company, and the start of a new travel brand. We have been in the travel industry for two decades previously operating as Rosenfeld Group (1999-2001) and TravelMBA (2002-2009), and then as part of WorldStrides from 2010 onward. We recognize the huge pent up demand for international travel that has built up over the past year, but we realize that travel in the years to come may look very different. Our friends, neighbors, and clients are telling us they are looking for different travel experiences than in the past. First, they say, they are apprehensive about being on crowded tour buses and cruise ships, crowded museum tours, and crowded restaurants – even after they have been vaccinated. Second, they tell us they are looking for more authentic travel than they might have experienced in the past. They indicate they want more customized programs with more opportunities to interact with locals and experience cultures. They want to be more mindful of the environment and to leave less of a footprint when they travel. And they want to know that someone is monitoring their destination in case there are COVID-19 flare ups and rule changes. All of this plays to our strengths of trip planning, risk management and social responsibility/sustainability. To us, there is a clear need for Journey Softly.
Q: What makes you different?
A: With any service provider you hire, whether it is a landscaper or a home remodeler or a travel professional, you want to feel that they are not only technically competent but that they truly understand what you are looking for. At Journey Softly, you will quickly discover we treat your travels with the same care as if we were building a trip for our own families. We recognize how limited your travel time is and how crucial it is to have an itinerary that matches your needs. No two journeyers are alike, so no two itineraries should be alike. Regardless of your preferred itinerary, building your journey in the right sequence and integrating unique personalized experiences will create memories that will last a lifetime. Our business model of working with local partners in every country we support means that you have the eyes and ears of those who live in country helping to develop your program and support you while you are there. And our industry-recognized risk management means you can rest and relax, knowing that someone is always looking out for you during your trip.
Q: Who are your travel partners?
A: During the past two decades, we have built a portfolio of local travel specialists in each country we support. These are most typically small companies that offer personalized service and love customized travel. We have met the majority of these partners in person, either directly in their country or at conferences and trade shows around the world. We love them for their attention to detail and willingness to go the extra mile. They respect us for always working hard for our clients and looking out for their best interests.
Q: Given the uncertainty with the pandemic, when can I start planning?
A: We are all eager to travel again, but the uncertainties of COVID-19 restrictions both at home and abroad are creating confusion on when it will be OK to visit other countries. For that reason, we encourage our journeyers to start the planning process now – and to plan two separate trips to two separate locations. We will defer the booking of actual reservations until it becomes clear that it is safe to travel. There are several benefits to this approach. First, the simple exercise of talking about travel can soothe the soul knowing that the pandemic will end. You can start to picture in your mind the international experiences that await and live vicariously through the planning process. Second, by planning two trips, you not only have the flexibility to travel to whichever destination opens first, but you have a second trip in your pocket for a future journey. As our part of the recovery from the pandemic, we are currently charging only one planning fee for two itineraries.
Q: How do I start planning?
A: Click on Contact in the menu bar and send us a message. We will schedule an initial no-obligation consultation to hear your ideas of where you might like to travel, to learn about how you like to experience international destinations, and to share our initial thoughts on destinations and safety. We will also answer any questions about how we work, and will discuss additional topics like travel insurance. If you are comfortable with the conversation and want to proceed, we will discuss planning timeframes and make arrangements for payment of the planning fee.
Q: Why do you charge a planning fee?
A: The majority of our creative work on behalf of a client is done up front, and it is a huge time investment. One of the struggles that the traditional travel agency model experienced were people coming into a storefront agency, spending an hour or two gleaning information from a travel professional, and taking that information and booking online. There needed to be a more fair solution for both travel professionals and clients alike. Our approach to our business divides travel into two distinct “products”: itinerary development and travel booking/risk management/support. For the itinerary development, we charge a $500 fee that adequately compensates us for the time and creative energy it takes to build you a customized itinerary in partnership with you and our partners overseas. Once an itinerary is planned, you are free to book online or with another travel company, as you see fit. Of course, we hope you choose to book your travel with us so you can achieve the full benefit of our itinerary development expertise, our continuous risk management/global monitoring services and our world-class in-country support. If you do choose to book with us, we do credit half of the $500 planning fee against the cost of the trip, since we do earn revenues from the booking as well.
Q: Why don’t you have sample itineraries on your website?
A: You can tell from reading our sample destination pages that there are so many options in every country. The odds are extremely small of us posting an example itinerary that meshes with your needs. We would much rather have a conversation, get a sense for your personal interests, and then create an itinerary that makes sense for you and your fellow journeyers.
Q: What are your personal favorite destinations?
A: Rick’s top four are Turkey for its history and the people, Israel/Palestine for the blend of cultures and hospitality, Costa Rica for nature and friendliness of locals, and Australia for its diverse ecology and laid-back environment. In addition, Laura adds Ireland for the slower pace and ability to authentically interact with locals, New Zealand for its natural beauty and unique experiences, and Vietnam for the food and chance interactions with locals outside the big cities who live a more simple lifestyle. You will notice that none of the reasons include “shopping”, “sitting on the beach” or “visiting popular tourist attractions”. It is all about connections with people, learning about cultures, and experiencing the natural beauty and history that each destination offers. Certainly based on your interests we can build in time for seeing the sites, going to the market, and sipping a daquiri by the pool. But journeying softly is about the more personalized experiences and interactions that will leave you with the most powerful and beloved memories of your trip.