|Samantha McClure in Varanasi, India.|
For agents specializing in family travel, perhaps the greatest challenge is planning a round-the-world adventure. These complex itineraries, which can last an entire year, pose unique complexities for travel agents because they combine the logistics of a round-the-world vacation with the need to ensure that the children receive proper education on the road. Recently Travel Agent spoke with Samantha McClure, owner of Austin, TX-based Small World Travel, an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso agency, about this small but unique family travel niche.
“I have always specialized in educational family travel, and was approached by a client family five years ago with the notion of doing a yearlong journey,” McClure explained. “They interviewed multiple tour operators and travel consultants before deciding that we would make a good team. That was the first one, and we learned a lot about how to pace, plan and advise the clients throughout the journey. There is a tremendous learning curve, and while no two ATW journeys are the same, we now have systems in place to plan future trips.”
Clients put Small World Travel on retainer for the entire time it takes to plan and carry out the adventure, and the agency works specially with the clients to plan all aspects of the itinerary.
“Families tend to have a mission, theme or wish list of countries,” McClure explained. “We start with that and try to put it together in terms of being in places at the best time of the year for weather, festivals, etc. We plan travel, accommodations, guides, cultural interaction and service projects. It becomes like 15 mini-trips strung together, and they’re all different.”
Education Is Key Component
One of the most unique challenges—and opportunities—posed by this type of trip is the need to ensure that the client family’s children receive a year’s worth of education—though, as McClure explained, children often receive much more.
“It’s not that difficult to maintain a year’s worth of math, and the rest of it—history, writing, geography—is all based on where they’re going,” McClure said. “It’s like three years of school altogether.”
Small World Travel works with each family to develop a curriculum that adheres to whatever national, state or local standards the family requires, including the creation of assessments and a final portfolio that students can submit for academic credit.
When asked about her favorite around-the-world itinerary, McClure responded, “That’s a tough question. Each one has been completely different. If I had the opportunity to plan my own ATW journey, I would definitely take segments from each one! If forced to choose, I would say it’s a tie between the Wilcox family and the White family, mostly because they best embraced the educational and adventurous spirits of such an amazing journey.”
Because of the challenges posed by this unique niche-within-a-niche, few travel agencies offer it extensively. “As far as I know, I’m the only one specializing in this,” McClure said. “I’ve met a couple of other agents who have done one ATW, but not to the extent and involvement of ours.”
About Small World Travel
McClure founded Small World Travel in 1999 in Austin. The agency is an independent affiliate of Brownell and a member of Virtuoso. Visit www.smallworld.travel for more information.