So Russo turned to Francesca Elisabetta Owens, a travel coach who moderates Travel From the Inside Out, a private Facebook group, for help. Owens, who has lived in Italy for about 15 years, plans trips to Italy for women 50 and older. (Yes, that’s how specialty travel coaches can get it.)
Travel coaches are gaining popularity now that interest in travel is once again on the rise. There is no reliable data on the number of tour coaches, but anecdotal evidence suggests this is a growing area. But what is a travel coach and should you consider hiring one?
Owens and Russo spent hours planning every detail of a nearly three-month trip. This included transport logistics and access to medical care.
“Francesca encouraged me to discover the sweetness of doing nothing, as she calls it,” says Russo. “To relax in the outdoor cafes and restaurants, sit and watch the tourists and locals go about their daily life.”
Most travel coaches are experienced travelers who want to share the knowledge they have acquired on the road. They are not travel agents and generally do not make reservations for you. Instead, they are closer to life coaches, who offer advice and guidance. But instead of trying to improve the quality of your life, a travel coach works to improve your vacation by recommending an itinerary that matches your goals.
“Travel coaches help people set their intentions for their trips,” says Sahara Rose De Vore, founder of the Travel Coach Network, which accredits travel coaches. “When you can identify the ‘why’ of your trip, you can better decide where to go. You can also decide when to go, who to go with, how long to go and what you need to do during your trip. This will help you get the result, transformations and experiences you desire.
A travel coach can help you choose the right destination and plan every aspect of your trip. Betsy Ball, co-founder of Euro Travel Coach, says she tries to take the hassle out of travel planning, so her clients can focus on what matters: “food, wine, culture, the history and people of Europe,” she says.
Some travel coaches develop areas of expertise that you probably won’t find elsewhere. For example, Allie Bahn coaches people who travel with food allergies. Bahn draws on his experiences growing up with food allergies and living in Italy for three years.
“I work with anyone who has life-threatening food allergies or has kids with them and wants to learn how to travel in the safest way possible,” says Bahn. “Many people have never traveled abroad before and are worried about eating safely in other countries.”
So what can a travel coach do for you? Claire Burt, a travel coach and research specialist who works with tourism businesses, explains that a coach will ask probing questions that will help you plan a more meaningful trip.
Travel coaches, she says, “help travelers understand the basic reasons why they want to get away from it all – whether it’s escapism, adventure, personal growth, family time – and have a idea of what they want to feel when they leave”.
Travel coaches can also help their clients overcome their fear of travel. That fear “may be rooted in ongoing issues,” says Owens, the coach who helped plan Russo’s trip to Italy.
So how do you find a travel coach? De Vore’s site lists people who have completed its travel coaching program. Other than that, there are no independent directories for travel coaches. Asking a well-traveled friend for a recommendation or searching online for “travel coach” can be just as effective, although experts say a recommendation alone isn’t enough; you need to make sure your travel coach knows your destination intimately.
“That means they’ve done multiple trips there and can guide their clients to unique places and experiences,” says Jody Halsted, a travel coach who specializes in travel to Ireland. “A good travel coach should know their clients’ vacation goals and interests and be able to create an itinerary that suits the individual or group.”
Other than that, the tips for hiring a travel coach are pretty much the same as for finding a travel consultant. Strategies include asking for references, conducting a detailed interview, and watching for red flags, such as exaggerated claims or lack of experience. Travel coaches usually charge consultation fees for their services. For example, Owens offers a free 20-minute session and then charges $150 per hour.
Some claim that a good travel consultant can essentially do the same thing. “The concept of travel coaching is exactly what travel counselors do,” says Jackie Friedman, president of Nexion Travel Group. “It has been many years since travel agents have booked a trip. A travel counselor is an advisor, coach, cheerleader, problem solver, partner, and advisor. Advisors also often have certifications to verify their expertise, although some travel coaches have them as well.
So why go with a travel coach? For some travelers, where you are going is more important than how you get there. They are looking for someone with deep subject matter expertise and training that goes beyond recommending a destination and booking.
If this is you, maybe you need a travel coach.
Prospective travelers should consider local and national public health guidelines regarding the pandemic before planning any travel. Information on travel health advisories can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interactive map showing travel recommendations by destination and on the CDC’s travel health advisories webpage.