For Sharon Benzing, a travel consultant at the AAA store in Hamilton, her favorite part of her job is also the most important: “I love to work with people.”
Benzing’s career history spanned the medical and legal sectors until four years ago, when she decided to make a change. “Of course, I had worked with people in the medical field, but in the legal field you deal with sitting at a desk and typing documents, so I missed the interaction with others,” she said.
While a job as a travel consultant had sounded like fun in the past, she’d never seriously pursued it. But when her attorney retired, she saw an open position with AAA and decided to make the switch.
Benzing’s people skills make her a natural for the position, and they’re what can set a travel consultant ahead of the pack.
“[It’s about] listening to people’s requests and assuring them that you’re going to work all the details out for them so they don’t have to worry about it,” she said. “It just gives them peace of mind.” She noted staying in contact with clients, being attentive to them and welcoming them when they come home are also key.
Benzing called a group trip she planned and escorted during September 2017 the highlight of her time at AAA. Thirty-four family members, friends and neighbors embarked on a Princess cruise to Glacier Bay National Park by way of Vancouver.
The experience, she said, was worth the work: She now counts Alaska as her favorite vacation destination.
While most of Benzing’s clients are experienced travelers, many want to try new experiences, like river cruises. “I always like putting together trips for people who have never cruised. I love cruising – I think it’s great,” she said.
A popular travel trend for the coming months? One word: Hawaii.
“I’m booking Hawaii like crazy right now,” said Benzing. “I have four couples going there in 2019 and six who are planning to go this year.”
When it comes to booking travel with AAA versus with other companies, Benzing said AAA’s the clear winner. The long-standing brand signifies honesty, trust and a commitment to quality — something people may not get when booking through other agencies or online.
Finally, Benzing is full of tips for first-time travelers.
“If you’re flying, take a dose of patience – always. Just try to relax and have a good time,” she said. “Try something new. And try those little mom and pop restaurants; they can be really good.”