Setting appropriate boundaries, preparing to be out of the office and the best way to sell a travel product: All that and more came up in a recent conversation with travel advisor Melissa Sanchez.
Sanchez is based in Rochelle Park, N.J., where she runs her agency, Spellbound Vacations, from her home.
Like many other advisors, she came to the travel industry after another career; in her case, it was television news. She got her start in Liberty Travel’s Clifton, N.J., storefront in the fall of 2010. She needed more flexibility, though, and opted to join a host agency. After several hosts, in November 2020 she joined Independent by Liberty, where she has remained since.
While Sanchez books a variety of travel for her clients, her specialization is family travel with an emphasis on Disney and Universal.
Here is the first part of a lightly edited transcript of my conversation with Sanchez. Part 2 will come out in this space next week.
Q: When you left TV news, why did you decide to go into travel?
A: I knew that I wasn’t going to be that full-time, stay-at-home mom. That just wasn’t me, and I wanted to do something that I was really passionate about. We are really passionate, as a family, about traveling, being on the go. We live right outside of New York City, so we’re always in the city, we’re aways doing different things — museums, traveling to different places. It just seemed like a good fit, and I am a super Type A personality, so the research and organization was right in my wheelhouse.
Q: Did you intend to focus on Disney, or did that happen after you started in travel?
A: I did intend to do that. We are Disney Vacation Club owners, we were owners at that time. I’m an Annual Passholder. It just seemed like a natural thing to focus on because I knew it so well personally.
Q: Do you have advice for advisors who are either just starting out and want to sell Disney, or want to start selling Disney if they’re experienced with other products?
A: Whether it’s Disney or, honestly, any other location, I feel very strongly if that’s what you want your focus to be, then you need to have experienced it. You need to be boots on the ground, visiting a location multiple times a year. I think if you want to start selling Disney, you have to have some sort of background in it — at least, that’s my opinion on it. I don’t think it’s a product that’s easy enough to just jump into.
There are so many intricacies in booking a Disney vacation. It’s more than just, “I’m going to choose this hotel and we’re going to go to the parks every day and have a great time.” There really is such a planning process beforehand that if you want to be that Disney expert, that Disney planner to sell this product, you need to know it like the back of your hand to be able to give your customers, your clients, what they’re really looking for so they can have a full, enjoyable experience.
Q: How often are you in the parks?
A: Usually anywhere between two to four times a year. I try to go often enough where I’ve experienced the different seasons, I’ve experienced the different festivals they have at different times of year, whether it’s a Food & Wine Festival or the Festival of the Arts. I try really hard every couple of years to at least have been to one of those festivals, experience the new rides, the new attractions. I think it’s really important that, when your clients say to you “Have you done this?” your answer can be yes, or it can be “I haven’t yet, but I’ll be there next month and I can let you know.”
For more from my conversation with Sanchez, including on boundary-setting with clients, check out next week’s home-based agent news eletter.
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