AAA Travel’s Top Travel Advisor of the Year, Joanna Kuo, joins us on this podcast episode to share insights and family travel tips from AAA for planning your vacations this year.
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For more family vacation inspiration, check out all the podcast episodes. Adventure Awaits!
Tell Us About Yourself
I’ve been a travel agent for 17 years. I live in Northern Virginia with my daughters, 13 and nine, and my boyfriend and his 10-year-old son.
I’ve been a travel agent my whole career and I’ve worked with AAA for almost all of it. I left for 18 months at one point to work with a local, smaller agency. And I can tell you there are a lot of benefits to working with a large travel agency like AAA which is why I came back.
What are the benefits of working with a AAA Travel Advisor?
Many of the benefits that are good for me as an agent are also the same things that are good for my clients. AAA is a huge organization, and they’ve established relationships with our partners, like tour companies, flights, resorts, and cruise lines.
Most people know about AAA discounts on hotels and car rentals. We have arrangements with all of our partners to offer some member benefits when you go through a AAA agent, whether a discount or a perk like cruise extra onboard credits, wine and chocolates in your room when you get on board, or a complimentary photo package.
AAA has negotiated with all of our partners so that we can offer these to our members and give that little something extra.
How do you work with your Clients?
Being the ultimate filter is one of the best things a travel agent can bring to the table. When you go online, you have so many choices. I have people come to me all the time and say that they’re overwhelmed. There are too many choices. We can help cut through that.
One of the first things we do is have a conversation and learn about their interests. How do you like to travel? What kinds of hotels do you stay in when you travel? What are the ages of your kids? What do you like to do? Do you have kids that are more into adventure? Are you more into hiking? Are you beach people? I like to learn all that and then can take it and filter it down.
And it’s not just about price. So much of what I do goes well beyond how much things cost.
What are some Top Destinations for 2023?
It’s a lot of going back to where we couldn’t go during the pandemic, like Europe. I have a lot of families doing their Mediterranean cruises and lots of cruises to the Caribbean. Disney has a new ship, the Disney Wish. Royal Caribbean has a new ship as well, Wonder of the Seas.
(You can join us and AAA for KeeKee’s Big Adventures at Sea in July 2023 on Wonder of the Seas!)
I can’t overstate how much a cruise is great for families, the variety of activities, and the opportunity to give the kids a little freedom. And there’s something for everyone in the family to do. Cruises allow you to explore and see different destinations but also get what the kids want at the end of the day: a pool.
The National Parks, which were very strong during Covid, are popular and always will be. Alaska is another great family destination.
I’m hearing many families want to go to Costa Rica and Iceland, which are getting popular.
And I’m telling people to book early. Travel is back, and it’s fully operational. Flight prices, which were high last year, will still be high. And plan for big crowds in popular destinations.
What are some of your recent family vacation destinations?
We’ve done all the theme parks, Disney, and their Halloween and Christmas events.
We did a Disney cruise, which was amazing. Every family should do a cruise at least once. Disney does an amazing job with it. Royal Caribbean is another great cruise line as your kids get older.
During COVID, I rented a car and took my kids to Yellowstone, and we drove all through Yellowstone in two days. It was incredible. And then, this past summer, we did the same thing in South Dakota. We went to the Badlands and Mount Rushmore. It’s a lot of fun to take them to see the things they are learning about in school.
In general, there’s not enough focus on just how beautiful the country is that we live in.
Make the Most of your 18 Summers
It occurred to me when my oldest turned 13 that I had more years behind me of her living at home than I had left with her before she’s off on her own. So, I want to maximize every summer I have left with her.
As Travel Advisors, we can help you plan those 18 Summers like a financial advisor helps you plan your savings and retirement. We are experts, like going to your hair stylist or lawyer. Why would you not go to a travel agent for their expertise?
And there’s often the misconception that you pay more through a travel advisor, which is not the case.
We have a lot of knowledge. We can help you save money and save you time. Your time is just as valuable as your money.
AAA is here to help you. We’re here to help families, and there are a lot of us who not only book travel for a living, but we have our own families, and we bring all of that expertise to the table.
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For family vacation inspiration, tune in to all the podcast episodes. Adventure Awaits!