So Russo sought help from Francesca Elisabetta Owens, the travel coach who runs Travel From the Inside Out, a private Facebook group. Owens, who has lived in Italy for about 15 years, plans Italian tours for women 50 and older. (Yes, that’s how professional travel coaches can get it.)
Travel coaches are gaining in popularity now with the interest in travel growing once again. There is no reliable data on the number of travel coaches, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it is a growing field. 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 the logistics of transportation and access to medical care.
“Francesca encouraged me that I could experience the sweet life of doing nothing, as she calls it,” Russo says. “To relax in the outdoor cafes and restaurants, sit back 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 gained on the road. They are not travel agents and usually do not make reservations for you. Instead, they are more like life coaches, who provide advice and guidance. But rather than trying to improve your quality of life, a travel coach upgrades your vacation by recommending an itinerary that matches your goals.
“Travel coaches help people set intentions for their trips,” says Sahara Rose de Four, founder of the Travel Coach Network, which certifies travel coaches. “When you can define the ‘why’ of your trip, you can better define your destination. You can also decide when to go, with whom to go, when to go and what to do during your trip. This will help you gain the outcome, transformations and experiences you want.”
A travel coach can help you decide on the right destination and plan every aspect of your trip. Betsy Paul, co-founder of Euro Travel Coach, says she tries to take the hassle out of planning trips, so her clients can focus on the things that matter: “the food, wine, culture, 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 trains people who travel with food allergies. Bahn draws on her experiences growing up with food allergies and living in Italy for three years.
“I work with anyone who has a life-threatening food allergy or has children with them who wants to learn how to travel as safely as possible,” says Bahn. “Many people have never traveled abroad and are concerned 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 tour companies, says the coach will ask probing questions that will help you plan a more rewarding trip.
She says travel coaches “help travelers understand the underlying reasons they want to get away — whether it’s escape from reality, adventure, self-growth, or spending time with family — and have an idea of what they want to feel when they get away.”
Travel coaches can also help their clients overcome the fear of traveling. This fear “could be rooted in lifelong issues,” says Owens, the coach who helped plan Russo’s trip to Italy.
So how do you find a travel coach? De Vore lists people who have completed a travel training program. Apart from that, there are no independent guides for travel coaches. Asking for a recommendation from a well-traveled friend or searching online for a “travel coach” may be just as effective, although experts say a recommendation alone isn’t enough; You should make sure that your travel coach knows your destination closely.
“This means that they have taken multiple trips to the site and can direct their clients to unique places and experiences,” says Jodi Halstead, a travel coach who specializes in travel to Ireland. “A good travel coach should know his clients’ vacation goals and interests and be able to create a customized itinerary for the individual or group.”
Other than that, the guidelines for hiring a travel coach are the same as for finding a travel advisor. Strategies include asking for references, conducting a detailed interview, and observing red flags, such as exaggerated claims or lack of experience. Travel coaches usually charge a consulting fee for their services. For example, Owens offers a free 20-minute session, then charges $150 per hour.
Some argue that a good travel advisor can do essentially the same thing. “The concept of travel coaching is exactly what travel advisors do,” says Jackie Friedman, President of Nexion Travel Group. “It has been many years since travel agents have just booked travel. A travel advisor is a consultant, coach, cheerleader, problem analyst, partner and advisor.” Consultants often have certifications to verify their expertise, although some travel coaches also have them.
So why go with a travel coach? For some travelers, where you go 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 making a reservation.
If so, you will probably need a travel coach.
Prospective travelers should take local and national public health guidance regarding the pandemic into consideration before planning any trips. Health Travel Notice information can be found on the CDC’s interactive map showing travel recommendations by destination and the CDC’s Travel Health Notice web page.