The Planning Process

I took a little New Year break, in case you didn’t notice.  Not the fun, Christmas-vacation sort, but rather the “is this Covid or the flu?” kind of a break.  (Think it was the flu.  Still waiting on test result.)  But I’m back, and I want to talk to you about….going away.

If I had money, I would pack a bag and take off right now, to God knows where, perhaps even against the CDC’s recommendation.  Carnival Cruise line sent me a fabulous offer just two days before the news told me to stay off the cruise ships.  Not that I would be going anyways, because money.  I am a very thrifty traveler, because I do it very rarely.  All the major trips I’ve ever really been on have been with an organization or other folks that planned everything and let me tag along. 

Now, I am going to Salem in the fall with some friends, and I realized right away that I didn’t know what the heck I was doing, so I looked around for tips on travel planning and found: travel planners.  The “travel agent” of old still exists, it’s just morphed a bit for the future.  I chatted to one for a second and then mid-conversation, I realized I was a blood traitor, politely ended the text chain, and immediately messaged my cousin, Sarah Hamar.

A little about Sarah.  She is not only a travel planner, but a mom, wife, and athlete.  She used to work at a bank, but recently left that job to pursue travel planning fulltime with Marvelous Mouse Travels.  Now, the reason I didn’t think of her at first was because I associate Marvelous Mouse with Disney, and I am not a Disney girl.  Sarah most definitely is, so it’s the perfect job for her.  She’s been going to Disney every year since she was born, and as a kid I envied her trips, more for the sunshine than the Mouse.  Alas, my little self thought of her family as world travelers, especially when she started killing it in hockey and joined road teams.  However, it wasn’t until she found herself in Scotland one day, taking a college course, that Sarah herself realized how much she loved travelling.  She told me it was the best experience of her life, and ever since she has made travel important to her, venturing all around the US and even working in Disney for a time.  Oban, Scotland, specifically, has been her favorite destination so far.  (I had to look up photos…they’re in the slideshow at the bottom.)    

Anyway, eventually Sarah got a husband and a couple of kids and a day job at the bank, which was fine, but didn’t scratch the adventure itch.  So, she got involved with Marvelous Mouse, and spent about 8 months working 10-hour days just so she could quit that day job and do travel planning full time.  Now, she does what she loves and has extra time with her family, and yeah, I’m super proud of her.  I’m biased.  She’s my cousin, after all.

Anyway, I was also super curious, because she’s an independent contractor, and that’s the dream as far as I’m concerned.  I was surprised by how similar her schedule is to mine, though we are in such different fields, but I suppose all freelance work has its similarities.  We both do our email and our social media, then work on our projects.  Sure, mine is a book or a blog and hers is this awesome-sounding Halloween Disney Cruise that even my non-Disney self would attend.  I also asked what motivated her, and she said success, so that must run in the family because I am fueled by book sales, Patreon subscriptions, and general compliments.  If she’s not booking travel, she’s not making money.  I feel that.  If I’m not writing something down, then there’s no potential money down the line. 

So, anyway, my broke-self was worried I couldn’t afford her services, and then I come to find out…it’s FREE, guys.  Resorts pay her.  Cruise lines pay her.  You don’t pay her, so of course, my thrifty inner traveler screamed “Sign me up!”

But I don’t want to go to Disney. 

Casually, I ask if she does other destinations and she tells me yes, sure, wherever, and inner traveler rejoices again.  See, in 2005, when booking your own hotels online was first a thing, I made some reservations for a hotel in New York for a night because I had an audition in the morning.  It was more stressful to book and plan that small trip than it was to actually audition at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.  Now, I haven’t booked my own travel since, and I’m sure technology has made it worse somehow, so I am soothed by the presence of Sarah and others like her who can figure it out for me. 

I really enjoyed learning about her experience, and as I approach 1k words here I realize I’ve just been selling you my cousin this whole time.  Which is kind of the point, see.

I love my cousin, so I think you should love my cousin, obviously.  But that aside, she has a talent that I do not possess, and I feel that should be applauded.  I mean, my very favorite compliment is “I wish I could write like you.”  Girl, I wish I could plan like you!

I am very much looking forward to my upcoming trip, which I am sure I will write more about as it approaches, so here is another character in the story for you.  Sarah Hamer, the travel planning princess.