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Full Trascript of Ep 43:
Tim Murphy: 00:00 We are in the heart of spring break time. Can you just imagine, I mean, are you out there thinking about, Gosh, you know what, it’s last minute right now or beginning of March. I got to get a trip booked. I gotta get out of here. Especially in Minnesota, so cold. Where are you going to go? What are you going to do? Are you going to get online? Are you going to check out the websites? Are you going to go to one of those sites like expedia? Oh man, they got good deals on flights all. Look at this hotel. Look at these pictures. Look at the beach, and then imagine this. All of a sudden you get down there, you and the three kids and you show up to the hotel and you go to your room and you’re like, what? What? What’s this isn’t? This isn’t what the picture showed, and then you go out to the pool and you’re like, wait a minute, wait a minute. This is not what the pool looks like in the pictures. Or you go to the beach and there’s a bunch of garbage on the beach and you’re like, OK, wait a minute, I cannot stay here. That’s why you call marine over at day one travel because that sounded kind of stuff will not happen. Right. Marine think thanks for coming on today, Marie, and I’m excited to have you and you know we are in the heat of a spring break in the heat of spring break is what I just said.
Maureen McKamey: 01:15 Absolutely. It’s so true. Yeah. We’re escaping the bad Minnesota weather and everybody’s starting to go. This is a popular week. End of March is a very popular week and even into the first week of April. Everybody’s traveling.
Tim Murphy: 01:27 Yeah. So I mean are people actually booking spring break trips with their families? I know if they’re in college, they’re broken it like the last minute, but I mean are people actually booking spring break trips here two or three weeks before they’re supposed to take off?
Maureen McKamey: 01:41 They absolutely are to a certain extent wish that they weren’t because there’s so little availability lover’s point and prices are exorbitant. It’s definitely one of those trips you want to plan ahead for, but that being said, yeah, we had some last minute bookings late last week or earlier this week. It’s, it’s still happening.
Tim Murphy: 01:57 Wow, that’s crazy. I’m curious as we get going here in the podcast to figure out if they call you, if you know they’re able to get them maybe a better room then if they’re going on expedia or one of those online sites because we know what, what those are all about. Right? Absolutely. So how did you tell us a little bit about yourself? I mean, how do you get into the travel agency world, especially now in 2018 when, I’m guessing your biggest question is travel agent. Who or what are they?
Maureen McKamey: 02:27 Exactly. And I was honestly something that I googled. I made a career change. I started in, in TV news and that’s what I studied in college. And um, most recently was a news anchor down in Mankato and was feeling a little burnt out. I always one of those things where there are a lot of attractive aspects of the job. There are also some things about the industry that absolutely drove me nuts and so I knew that I needed to change. My husband landed his dream job as a firefighter for the city of Minneapolis and he had followed me kind of through my nomadic lifestyle for you moved from station to station and kind of work your way up. And I decided that it was probably time to repay the favor. This is what I know. So yeah. Uh, and so I started thinking about what else I like to do and I’ve always loved travel.
Maureen McKamey: 03:16 It’s always been a passion of mine. I’ve also just been a naturally curious person. It was something that worked out well when I was reporting and what I was an anchor. It fit in well with news, but it also fit in really well with travel because before I was a travel agent, I was one of those people reading all the guidebook , going in depth, learning about every single place I was going to visit and planning the trips myself. Not as well as I do now because I didn’t know what I was doing had that passion. And so I literally sat down at my laptop one day and googled, how do you become a travel agent? Do they still exist? Is this something that is a viable career choice by chance? Were you one of those that studied abroad in college? Because that’s the other thing is the younger generations.
Tim Murphy: 04:00 I mean studying abroad, taking college classes over here, over there. That’s like a lot of that going on. Exactly.
Maureen McKamey: 04:07 And it’s a great. It’s a great thing to do. In all honesty, I encourage any student who’s interested in that to, to do that. I did, I studied in Tunisia, in North Africa. My parents looked at me like, why can’t you go to Spain or France? Like little kids. What’s wrong with you? That’s crazy. Africa. Yeah, let’s go there. So yeah, spent some time in the Sahara desert. Um, Tunis. The capital is just this beautiful Mediterranean town. And yeah, I loved it. And that was one of the things that stoked my passion for travel. I grew up traveling to though we always were taking family trips. My parents were really good about making that a priority. It was always something that they felt was a good thing to spend money on. They have that big station wagon with the big back end where they can throw the mattress and you could then it got a man for many years.
Tim Murphy: 04:58 So yeah. Tell us a little bit more about your travels as a kid. Because I would say that, you know, I feel like everything inspires where you end up when you’re a kid, it’s like, you know where you’re going to end up when you’re a kid, but the journey to get there, you never know where it’s going to take you. Right, exactly.
Maureen McKamey: 05:12 And it started at a very young age. I mean to the point that when I was a baby I had was just born and I’m a November baby and my dad who is from Michigan wanted to get me home to his, his mom for the holidays. So I’m literally a month and a half old at that point. And there was a huge snowstorm between Minneapolis and our drive to southwestern Michigan. They lived in St Joseph. I’m right on Lake Michigan and it was nuts. I think the closest I’ve ever come to divorce was that drove my mom saying, are you kidding me?
Maureen McKamey: 05:48 You have our new baby in the car. You were driving out to Michigan in this weather, but, you know, it was a fantastic trip. And again, that was really focused around family, about visiting. Um, a lot of the people that we cared about that was a common theme. We would go to Michigan where, where my dad’s mom was, we would go to Florida where my mom’s parents were all the time. Nice to be able to have a place to stay when you’re going down to the beach, you know, it makes things a lot of fun. But we were also always really big into nature and hiking and um, trips that were focused around something like that. And so we visited so many national parks. We went to yellowstone, to Yosemite, to the Canadian rockies, which I can’t wait to go back. This was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. I’m so dona. Arizona’s one of my favorite places on earth and so anything where we could get outside and get active, that was always a big draw for us.
Tim Murphy: 06:46 Just curious as a human being because you were raised in a curious environment of travel and adventure.
Maureen McKamey: 06:52 I think that’s very true. I grew up in a family of of nerds to be honest. You know, my. My Dad is a font of useless information and I inherited that trait. It’s genetic and so just learning things and then telling everybody else what you learned, you know? Again, that was one of the things that initially drew me to TV, but now I get to do the same thing in this job and go to these places and then tell my clients, yeah, I’ve been there. This is what you want to see. This is what you can probably skip and this is where you want to stay.
Tim Murphy: 07:21 We’ll take us back. So you’re on the Internet and you’re like, OK, travel agencies, you’re googling. Really take us back to that and how you ended up here at aon travel.
Maureen McKamey: 07:29 Well, at first I told my husband and my parents and all the people that I was talking to this career change about that this is what I wanted to do. And they all looked at me like I was nuts. I mean, I honestly got some jokes about going from one dying industry to another little cruel isn’t entirely fair and it’s, it’s definitely not true, which is what I discovered. I through this search, found a travel academy that’s up in Eagan here in Minnesota that draws people from all over the country. Actually even all over the world. We had um, a girl in my class who was from South Africa who came there and they train travel agents. They train a flight attendants, people who want to work on cruise ships and you’re cross trained in all of it. So now when I’m sitting on a plane and I’m watching the flight attendants and I know what they’re doing, cause I was trying to do that too.
Maureen McKamey: 08:24 But you know, it was just one of those things where I knew that if there was still a school existing that was training people in all of these industries, clearly the industry was not dying. And what I learned while I was there is that not only is it not dying, it’s actually having a resurgence because of, and we’ll talk a little bit about this later, I’m sure, but people in the age of Expedia know they can go on and book everything themselves, but what they’re finding more often than not is that actually they don’t want to do it themselves. And so even though this industry was hard hit when the Internet first started becoming a big factor, it’s changing and we’re really on the upswing now, which is fantastic.
Tim Murphy: 08:24
New Speaker: 08:24
New Speaker: 08:24
New Speaker: 09:05 So why did you end up actually becoming a travel agent? I mean, because that’s a deep seated question on, you know, Gosh, well, OK, I’m going to change my career from this to something totally different.
Maureen McKamey: 09:19 Why I kept thinking about what I love to do and I kept coming back to travel and it was something that I kind of brought my husband and, well he was one of those people that I think initially was totally content, never leaving the United States and never really going that far from where we lived. And my best friend is from France. She got married to um, one of our friends. We all went to college together who is from southern Illinois and so they had two weddings, one in the complete boonies in southern Illinois and one in France. And we knew we had to go. And I was of course thrilled. My husband was apprehensive, but we went to France and then we spent some time in Spain after that he was hooked and I was reminded of how much this was a passion of mine. And so I realized that, yeah, I am curious about everything and I am already studying everything I can before I go on these trips.
Maureen McKamey: 10:10 Learning as much as I can so that I can plan out a trip that’s going to be an enjoyable one for me. And then I started thinking about whether I could somehow call it a job and that’s what. That’s awesome. That’s so cool. Yeah.
Tim Murphy: 10:24 Because I, I’m a huge believer in that. It’s like, don’t sit there and say, well gosh, I gotta go get a job. So there and say what will I do or what makes me wake up every morning excited to do whatever it is I’m going to do and yeah, I’m going to get paid for it. Exactly. Isn’t that the way to go? Yeah. Yep. And I highly recommended it’s a good way to figure out exactly what you’re passionate about. So, OK, now you have the job here at [inaudible] travel. How long have you been here? Almost two years. It’ll be two years this summer.
Tim Murphy: 10:53 So you’re here for two years. I’m guessing you’re loving it because you’re still here for two years. What is it about you that somebody is going to love and what you have to offer them when it comes to booking a trip?
Maureen McKamey: 10:53
New Speaker: 11:09 I think that immediately people see my passion. I deal with people in all different forums that I talked to them on the phone. Uh, I correspond with him via email a lot of times we have people who stopped by and they sit down for an appointment and that’s actually one of my favorite ways to interact with people because I feel like once they meet me and they see how excited I am about planning their trip, they’re sold and I can kind of convey some of that over the phone and over email as well. But I do love sitting down with people and, and talking to them, meeting them because that’s really one of the things that I offer that you can’t get from the Internet.
Maureen McKamey: 11:43 I’m personally get to know all my clients. I talk about their travel styles. I asked them about what they are interested in, what they want to see, where they want to go. And I craft a trip, curated a trip that is personal to them. I don’t give somebody a generic itinerary. I mean every time somebody goes to London, I don’t give them the same itinerary and say, check all these things off your list. I get to know them. I talk about what they want to do and I’m able to really personalize it to something that is going to be memorable to them. Well, and it sounds like you take a heck of a lot of pride digging deep for that place to have a glass of wine or to have that meal that nobody else is going to have because at the end of the day, everybody wants to travel because they want the experience.
Tim Murphy: 12:31 Right. So tell us how deep do you dig? I mean, do you have a story of. Oh, let me tell you about this trip. I plan. I mean, how deep do you go to make sure that when they come back, I mean they’re like marine. Seriously, that restaurant you’d send me to. How did you even find that place?
Maureen McKamey: 12:31
New Speaker: 12:49 I do actually have some great clients who have booked a couple of trips for and they wanted to take this trip to northern Italy and Switzerland and they just wanted to do at all. They were one of these, um, these types of personalities where they were just so passionate about everything. They didn’t know where to start, but they knew that they wanted to have an incredible trip and they want it to take the train as much as possible because when you’re in the Alps, you want to be curving around through those mountains and seeing those vistas.
Maureen McKamey: 13:18 And so we actually booked them on, I believe it was three separate, um, beautiful train rides throughout northern Italy and Switzerland and they got off the train too, but it was one of those things where that was something that they were very passionate about. And when you’ve got these big panoramic windows, there’s no better way to see Switzerland. And so that’s one that comes to mind. Another one was when I had to do some real digging. I, uh, have a good client of mine, have loyal clients who goes on these fantastic trips. I’m always asking him where he’s going next because it’s fascinating. I mean, he, um, I most recently booked airfare for, I think he was taking a trip to Zambia and so he’s going to Africa and that was fascinating. He’s been all over the world, but he was taking a trip to New Zealand for a big tour that he was doing there and wanted a transfer from the airport to where he was to his hotel in this small town in New Zealand.
Maureen McKamey: 14:19 And a lot of times it’s very easy for us to just book a transfer or have somebody come pick you up, take you to where you need to go next. And um, he was going to Nelson, New Zealand. There were plenty of transfers and Auckland pent, plenty of transfers other places, but it wasn’t where he was. And so to have to do that digging and find somebody who was going to drive him from point a to point b was a challenge. And it seems like a little thing that, you know, isn’t that big of a deal. But this was very important to this client. And so I did finally find somebody went back and forth with the time difference between here and New Zealand and for a number of days to try to figure out exactly what he wanted. And the transfer was there when he arrived at the airport and everything went fine, but it was, it was a little bit of a stress.
Tim Murphy: 15:03 So you don’t have the exact answer for that. And isn’t that really where your value comes in?
Maureen McKamey: 15:08 Absolutely. Yeah, because we, I will do that digging. I will find what people are looking for, whether it’s easy or not.
Tim Murphy: 15:13 So. So let’s go back to the Internet. The Internet. It’s so easy. It’s on my phone. I’ll have to do is click, click, click, boom, boom, boom. And I got a trip. I got a room, I got everything. But like I said in the intro, is it really that easy? I mean, tell me about this
Maureen McKamey: 15:30 good question. That’s what we always warn people about. Um, the fact of the matter is when you see a photo of something on the Internet, how the hotel take these beautiful photos, they bring somebody in who is going to make the rooms and the pool and everything on site at the resort look fantastic. Or life or not.
Tim Murphy: 15:52 I mean, is it kind of like that supermodel on sports illustrated who she’s gorgeous. But they definitely touch it off.
Maureen McKamey: 15:58 She’s airbrushed. Exactly, yes. And she’s probably gorgeous in real life to some of these resorts are not gorgeous in real life too. And so in reality, we’ve actually been to a number of these places. We take trips every year where they, you know, people always talk to us about, oh, must be really tough to have to go on a work trip wherever we’re going, but it really is work. We’re touring, you know, 10 or 20 hotels within a day and we’re going in and out and taking photos and taking notes so that we can come back to our clients and say, yes, absolutely. This hotel is as advertised and I would love to book it for you or absolutely not. Do not stay there. You will absolutely hate it.
Tim Murphy: 16:40 OK, you gotta. Tell me a story. I mean, seriously, there’s gotta be a story where all, yeah, I booked this trip on expedia or whatever website price line and it was not even close. I need your help.
Maureen McKamey: 16:53 We do have calls like that all the time. People will call us after, you know, we’ll go through the process, will quote something out for them, they will come back to us and say, Oh, you know, we booked it online and sorry, maybe I’ll contact you next time, but then those are often the people who call us from the hotel and say something went wrong, something happened and we really need your help. In all honesty, sometimes it’s family members. Who are your worst clients? Might? I think most the best horror story that I’m like, well I’m not gonna use you, but if I really have a problem, I’ll call you exactly how I planned my own honeymoon. That’s one of the benefits of this job and so my husband and I, we love Spain. We went back to Spain and I picked out most of the places that we stayed.
Maureen McKamey: 17:36 There is this hotel that I can’t wait to go back. It’s set within the Alhambra grounds in Granada. The Alhambra is as big UNESCO World Heritage Site Palace and so we stayed literally at the palace. Cool. But my husband, when we went back to Madrid for the end of the trip I wanted in on this, he wanted to pick something out and so we were staying in apartments. We worked with a bunch of different rental properties and that kind of gives you a local fuel. You’re among everybody else as opposed to being a tourist zone with hotels. And so he really wanted to pick a place out. He picked a place that I had not seen any reviews on. I clearly hadn’t been to. And it was cheap. It was definitely a cheap. But it looked OK from the photos and so I was hesitant because I know better, but it was our honeymoon and I had done so much of the planning and I wanted to let him have a piece of it.
Maureen McKamey: 18:31 And Oh my God, he. He swears never again. We stood outside for two hours because by the time we arrived there was nobody there to give us a key and let us in. And so we’re trying to use our phones that don’t work in Spain to try to convey to somebody that we need to get in. We finally met some women who lived in this apartment complex and we’re able to get ahold of the manager and help us out. But it was literally two hours of our night that were wasted just trying to get in. And then when we got in, it was outdated. It was small. It was nothing like what the pictures had advertised. And thank goodness it was only for our last two nights because I would’ve killed him.
Tim Murphy: 19:16 So is it true you get what you pay for? Absolutely. So true. It’s really true.
Maureen McKamey: 19:20 And he’s never allowed to pick out of hotels or apartments on our vacations ever again. And he knows that he’s learned his lesson, but I’ve never. Yeah. That’s so cool. That’s great.
Tim Murphy: 19:29 Well, I hope you have a blast on your trip for a, your wedding. That’s going to be awesome. So. All right, well, you know, if I’m sitting there, I mean obviously what you have to say has a lot of merit. And I know there’s plenty of people out there listening right now that have probably had an experience similar to one of the ones that we’ve talked about. How do they reach out to you? You know, one of the things I think because again, you know, you do get what you pay for and it might cost a little bit more to have a travel agent. What are those things that people are probably thinking like, oh gosh, but you know, do I really want to pay that extra amount or mean take us through some of those obstacles that people are probably thinking about right now about a, well, do I really want to use a travel agent?
Maureen McKamey: 20:08 Right, absolutely. And that’s a good question. There are a number of different factors and one of the things that people don’t always realize is that we’re often very competitive. We can sometimes come in under what they’re seeing online and also work with a number of great vendors who have different promotions going on. They have different sales and we’re able to compete a lot at the time. It’s not all the time. Sometimes you really are paying for the service, paying for the value of what you’re getting with working with us, but we do have people who are price checkers and they’re, they’re comparing us against what they’re finding online and, and we have a lot of luck either, you know, I’m finding something that’s just as close almost as close or sometimes, like I said, coming in under the, under that bar and so that’s great, but there are also things that I think are absolutely worth spending money on.
Maureen McKamey: 20:56 What are the things that I always recommend? A big spring break destination is Mexico, of course. Um, or anywhere in the Caribbean really. We send a lot of people. Puntacana has been very popular lately and these packages with your airfare and your hotel, you usually also have these transfers included. The ones that are included are a shuttle. You get on the shuttle. It stops at every single resort along the way and drops off people. And the resorts in these places are not just, you don’t just pull off the road into a parking lot and you’re there. These roads are usually set back and then you go through some jungle and then you get to the beach and then you get to the resort, so you’re going down these long driveways each time, dropping people off, coming back, and then you move on to the next one and maybe eventually they get to yours, but you’re spending two hours on this.
Maureen McKamey: 21:49 Right? And we do tell people about that and we also tell them that in most cases it’s so inexpensive to upgrade to either a shared shuttle, so you’re still there with other people, but it’s only going to one resort, so you’re all just going directly to where you need to go into private transfers. If you’re there with a big multi-generational trip, if you’ve got a family and you know kids all the way up to grandparents, just get a private transfer. It’s so much easier and you’ve got one big car that’s going to take you exactly where you need to go without any false. I mean, a lot of times I priced it out and to upgrade to these shared non-stops, so take you directly to your resort. It’s like 15 bucks a person. It’s a no brainer. Again, you get what you pay for it, right? It’s just one of those things where I say, absolutely yes, please, please upgrade because you will thank me for it when you’re not sitting on the shuttle for two hours.
Tim Murphy: 22:39 So how do you mean? How do I get ahold of you? How do I touch base? And if I do get a hold of you, am I going to be getting some sales pitch? Are you going to lock me into something? I mean, I don’t know. I’m kind of iffy about it. That’s what everybody thinks when they get off the internet and they don’t have control
Maureen McKamey: 22:56 of course. And let’s start with the basics in order to contact us. You can go to our website. It’s www dot [inaudible] dot com. Then you can either send sandy and email. She’s our boss and she usually kind of divvies up what the best fit is, which agent she’s going to send you to. Um, or you can, you know, reach out to me directly or call us on the phone. Nine, five to nine to five to five, five and, or just stop by the office. We’re right over in this. We share a parking lot with fuddrucker’s, so we’re easy to find for 94 in France.
Tim Murphy: 23:28 Yeah. So this is just a small little agency. This isn’t some big conglomerate, right? Yes,
Maureen McKamey: 23:32 exactly. We were told lately by um, one of our vendors that were medium size, so we’re going with that, but yes, you’re right. Where we’re very personable. There are just a few of us here and we really know each other well and we get together and um, you know, really support each other and support our clients. So that’s awesome.
Tim Murphy: 23:49 Was there anything you want to share with the audience about travel that maybe I missed?
Maureen McKamey: 23:54 Yeah, you know, I guess just getting to your, the second part of your question, which is, you know, are we going to give people that high pressure sales pitch? I hate that. I absolutely hate that. I’ve been on the other end of that for other industries, for other things that I need and we’re never going to tell you you need to book this now. We’ll work with you, we get to know you, we make sure that we’re finding you a trip that is going to be the best trip that you want to take and then we work with you. Sometimes. You know, I’ve actually told people before, for example, that one airline schedule wasn’t released yet and so the other airlines were pretty highly priced and so they may want to wait until that schedule is released to get more competitive pricing. I would’ve loved to tell them book now because you know, obviously that’s a benefit for me, but I’m going to be honest with my clients to I’m going to let them know that if they are budget conscious and they are looking to make sure that they’re getting the best value for their money, that yeah, that’s on the high end for airfare to that destination.
Maureen McKamey: 24:55 And so I really just try to be honest straight forward and to make sure that they know that I’m looking out for them.
Tim Murphy: 25:02 So I always like to ask all of our guests. One other question, and I’m a big believer in giving back, especially giving back to the community. Giving back to your clients, is there anything in particular that you guys do to give back?
Maureen McKamey: 25:13 We actually do. We have a couple of different charitable events coming up. Sandy is actually instrumental in putting together an [inaudible] motorcycle ride and we as the owner, right? Yes, yes, exactly. And so she always puts together a big donation basket that we can contribute, that has usually a voucher towards a trip or maybe sometimes even, you know, a free hotel stay and an airfare. We work with our vendors to get those donations so that we can contribute them. And uh, we also have another one coming up and I can’t exactly remember all the details, but we are actually giving away worked again with one of the hotels that we work with a, it’s a, I believe a four or five night hotel stay plus a really nice travel voucher for the airfare, which if you play your cards right, you’re probably flying down to Mexico, which is the destination first class instead of code. That’s cool. So we love being able to use what we do as an instrument to reward people for silent auctions. Things like that for giving back to causes that we believe in.
Tim Murphy: 26:14 That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Well, thanks a lot for coming on a marine. It was amazing to hear your stories and I hope that you opened a couple people’s eyes who jumped on the Internet and want to book their spring break.
Speaker 2: 26:26 Thank you so much. I really appreciate you coming in and chatting with us.