So you want to take your business abroad? Plan destination weddings in Mexico or do photo shoots in Zanzibar? While it’s exciting to take your on the road, it takes a lot of extra organization and strategy to do it well. The first step is equipping yourself to be a savvy traveler and citizen of the world.
Here are 7 tips I’ve used to become a destination wedding planner.
1. Learn to pack
As a global professional, your number one task is to manage the crazy. If you ARE the crazy – running through the airport with seven different bags flying in all directions – you are not doing yourself or your client any favors. Invest in the right luggage that will help keep you organized and looking professional and check yourself when trying to squeeze in that last pair of shoes that you definitely don’t need.
2. Apply for frequent traveler accounts
Of course, we all want to rack up miles to earn free and discounted travel, but did you know that free frequent traveler accounts on some airlines and car rental companies give you benefits like shorter check-in lines, priority boarding, VIP access and after-hours customer service? I assure you that each and every one of these privileges is going to save you stress in one of your travels, but in addition, they will elevate your image with your clients. If your client gets more priority services than you do, you could actually be holding them back rather than helping them move forward.
3. Apply for Global Entry
While it’s a hassle to go to the airport for the required interview, after that one hour of nuisance, you’ll get 5 years of streamlined travel. Global Entry gives you TSA Precheck status as well, so you can zip through security on the way in and fly through customs on the way out. If you travel often, it saves you lots of time and stress, but more importantly, if you are traveling with or for clients, you want to be the least encumbered one in the bunch. Better that you are relaxing in a café on the other side of security waiting for your clients than the other way around.
4. Get an Amex and use it for everything
For me, a part of being a destination wedding planner is having the opportunity to explore new destinations any chance I get. If you enter the destination market, you will find that sometimes resorts or hotels will invite you to visit their property on a complementary “FAM trip” (short for familiarization trip). That’s great news, except for the fact that in many cases they won’t pay for your flight. But if you have an Amex card, you will have amazing versatility to use points on any airline while still racking up frequent flier miles. If you’ve ever seen a photo of me in a fancy, far-flung resort, I assure you my Amex points took me there.
5. Keep your travel documents up to date
Most countries require that you have at least 6 months left on your passport in order to be admitted through their borders and renewing a U.S. passport is not a quick and easy task. Keep yourself up to date so that you can be at the ready to fly when the opportunity knocks.
6. Learn your way
When traveling in a foreign destination, it may be your inclination to take a taxi from place to place, but, when it is safe to do so, take the opportunity to drive yourself or walk around so that you can actually learn the ins and outs of your location and find the stores, services and restaurants that may be valuable to you or your clients. When the event day comes and you need to pick up extra socks for the groomsmen or an umbrella for the shoot, you can be an excellent resource and get the job done.
7. Open your mind
International travel is ripe with new experiences – everything from unfamiliar foods and languages to different shower valves and tipping customs. Be ready and be open. The more you can take in, absorb and accept, the more you can help your client and become a resource at the destination. Resist the urge to continually say things like “we do it this way” or “back home we don’t…” and acknowledge the excitement and intrigue of being surrounded by another culture.
Once you are well positioned as a great traveler, you will relieve yourself of some of the inherent burdens of the experience so that you can better focus on running your business in a fabulous location.
View Lindsay’s course on destination event planning here.