Travel Consultant Tuesday: Debbie Kolakoski
In this week’s edition of Travel Consultant Tuesday, we interviewed Debbie Kolakoski. With more than a decade of experience and deep-rooted passion for group travel, you won’t want to miss our chat.
What inspired you to become a travel consultant?
As a child, my family traveled a little bit. Mostly, we visited the Caribbean. But I knew as an adult that I would love to explore the world. Over the years, I took on the role of organizing all of the trips me and my friends would take together. When everyone wanted to gather to celebrate something or just get away, I would plan everything from start to ﬁnish. It got to the point where they started to call me 'Julie the Cruise Director.' You know, from "The Love Boat?" That was my nickname and actually still is to this day!
Watch our full interview with Debbie here:
So, when the opportunity arose to work as a travel consultant for Liberty Travel, I didn’t think twice. I started in our Wayne (NJ) location booking vacations for families, couples and singles. As I got more experience, I began working on larger group trips. Since group travel involves a lot of moving parts, you really have to be passionate about overseeing logistics. Travel is 100% my passion.
What prompted you to make the leap into Liberty Group Travel full-time?
While I loved working with my clients individual bookings, I became really skilled at coordinating larger parties. But, there were limitations — in terms of dedicating all my energy to that niche — without being a part of our dedicated Liberty Group Travel team. Once I realized that I could better serve more people in that part of the business, it was a no-brainer. It’s been a few years since I moved over, and I’m so happy with my decision. Group travel is so rewarding.
What's your favorite destination you've visited?
That's really hard to say. I could be in the same destination and stay in a different area or at a different hotel and get a completely different experience. I love the Caribbean, Europe, I've been to Singapore, all over the United States, Hawaii. Send me anywhere! No matter where you go, it's what you make of it.
What types of groups do you work with?
My team works on bookings for customers seeking all kinds of trips. While destination weddings are the most popular, we also help organize celebration groups;(for instance, a milestone birthday), all types of incentive groups, religious groups, school groups, and bachelor and bachelorette parties. You name it, we do it. In any given day, I could be working a 50th birthday party in Cancun, a destination wedding in Punta Cana, a family reunion in Turks and Caicos and a bachelorette party in Montego Bay, so it really just depends what our clients are looking for and we can make it happen.
It sounds like you have a specialized focus on the Caribbean and Mexico. What are the beneﬁts to traveling to these destinations?
It’s true. The Caribbean and Mexico are our top spots to send groups, often because of how cost effective the packages tend to price. When you’re traveling for a meeting, or especially to celebrate a big event, you don’t want to worry about a thing. The all-inclusive plans that are popular in this part of the world make it so easy.
If I wanted to organize a group getaway but didn’t know where we wanted to go, can you help me decide?
Absolutely. We're here for you before, during and after your vacation. At ﬁrst, you may think that your only requirement is a white sand beach. But as I ask questions about what type of experience would best ﬁt your group, we start to match up particular resorts with your style. Depending on the personalities in your group, the “vibe” of the property can also be a deciding factor. Since me and my colleagues have visited these resorts ﬁrst-hand, it’s second nature to us to be able to match the right ﬁt for you.
Why should I book with a Liberty Group Travel consultant versus going online and doing it myself?
Well, for starters, everything looks good online. When you see some professional photos of a resort with photoshopped white beaches at a decent price, I can understand how it seems simple to book on the spot. But when you work with a professional, we know the difference between what looks good in photos and which packages will actually deliver a fantastic experience. Particularly with group travel — when you’re trying to account for so many different departure cities and traveler needs — it becomes overwhelming to organize on your own. Once we’ve decided on your groups’ dates and destination, there’s no need for the group leader to be the communicator. Our team will set up a personalized website for you, then work directly with your guests to arrange ﬂights, their hotel stay and a payment plan.
Are there any other beneﬁts to booking with Liberty Group Travel?
As the group leader, there a lot of concessions when you arrange your group with us. Since Liberty Travel has relationships with our preferred partners that date back decades, we are able to get you extra perks. Depending on the size of your party and the type of trip we’re working on, beneﬁts can include VIP check-in, free nights, cocktail receptions and even complimentary wedding ceremonies. Especially when planning a destination wedding, there are so many details. And that's where we come in. We help you plan your special day from beginning to end. By the end, I practically become the bride's best friend!
Do you think there are any misconceptions when it comes to booking with a travel consultant?
A group leader will come to us and one of the biggest misconceptions is that using a group travel consultant costs more money. They think that there are extra fees associated. But that's not true! We do not charge any extra fees whatsover. You use our expertise and our knowledge to plan that perfect event that you're looking for with no additional charge at all.
Where can travelers connect with you to start planning their group?
The best way to reach me is via email at KolakoskiD@libertytravel.com. It’s never too early to start planning your group trip — especially since we recommend looking 18-24 months in advance — so don’t hesitate to reach out for those 2019 and 2020 vacations!