“Hotel junkies,” replies SmartFlyer travel advisor Ben Price when asked to describe his mostly Millennial clients. The travel planning wunderkind has built an impressive international reputation among many a jetsetting Millennial before his 30th birthday, which falls next month. “These people work very hard and have extremely limited vacation time. So it is very important to pick the right hotels.”
That is where Price comes in. Not only does the lawyer-turned-travel planner based in Florida spend most of the year on the road, researching under the radar destinations for his experience-seeking, time-challenged clientele, he also understands their aversion to handing over the reigns. “The most common travel misconception among my peers is that working with a travel agent takes the fun and adventure out of your trip. Not true. This is a collaborative, creative process all the way.”
Whether he is snapping Bogotá street art or a sacred cow in his second home of Mysore, India, Price stays in constant contact with clients by G-Chat, text and FaceTime. Travel apps help too, like Tripit and Axus, which he uses to upload all itinerary details including flights, car transfers and hotel reservations. “Then, if I want to suggest a favourite restaurant where they are headed, like Cicciolina hidden on the second floor of a Spanish colonial house in Cusco, I can upload this too.”
Price shares generously on social media (FlyerTalk, Flickr and Instagram are his preferred haunts) but where does this rising star get his travel intel? “Primarily in person,” Price reveals, by visiting the destinations he recommends, whether this means walking the colonial gem lined streets of Panama City’s Casco Viejo, the turtle filled beaches of Tulum, Mexico and even among the backstreet hookah bars of Cairo. “After clients saw I went Egypt, that it was safe and beautiful, I had multiple bookings straight away. Travel is ultimately about trust.”
In an increasingly DIY world, Price says a travel agent optimizes time, anyone’s most priceless and limited resource. He recommends picking one with whom you share interests, because he observes, “Where I send people is almost 100% based on what I get excited about.” His current bucket list includes a Paul Theroux-style train journey from Budapest to Tehran and dinner at Gaggan, a 15-minute tuk-tuk ride from Pullman Bangkok Hotel G.
What advice does Price give his clients before they go wheels up?
- Try the street food at a stall where you see a lot of people, so your pad Thai or empanada will be freshest
- Talk to locals, you’ll remember those conversations long after you’ve forgotten the name of that Hindu temple
- Go slowly or you miss things. Do one-quarter of your To Do list and you will be four times happier