Wiser Financial Advisor – Cruise Trip Tips for the Holidays and Beyond
Hi, Everyone. Welcome to the Wiser Financial Advisor with Josh Nelson, where we get real, we get honest, and we get clear about the financial world and your money. This is Josh Nelson, Certified Financial Planner and founder and CEO of Keystone Financial Services. Let the financial fun begin!
Today I’ll be talking with Cheri Smith, the founder and CEO of Wishes and Waves Travel. Cheri is an expert at planning the trip of a lifetime, something I talk about with clients all the time as a way to bless people with gifts and experiences during our lives instead of just leaving everything at the end.
Josh: Thank you Cheri, for joining me.
Cheri: Thank you for having me.
Josh: We talk to our clients all the time about their adventures, their travel plans and things like that, but this has been a whirlwind lately. Everything shut down in 2020 and everybody stayed home and now the travel industry is crazy. When you go anyplace, it’s busy.
Cheri: It is. It felt like we were at a standstill in 2020 and then 2021 was 60 miles an hour and now we’re at 120 miles an hour and everyone is traveling these days.
Josh: We just got back from Disney World and it was busy. People definitely want to be out doing stuff right now. You wouldn’t think of it as a recession. They’re talking about us being in a recession or going into a recession, but a lot of evidence leads otherwise. So let’s talk about what you’ve been working on recently with clients—not only the good stuff, but also some of the challenges that people are experiencing as they’re trying to book that trip they’ve wanted to do for a while.
Cheri: Well, most of the year has been busy but the last 60 to 90 days have been very busy. People are calling, and the biggest challenge is inventory. People have these bucket list trips: they want to go to the Christmas markets on the Rhine River in Germany for example, and there isn’t availability. I think people have an idea that travel is down and they call and want to go somewhere—and there is nothing available. So that’s been a challenge, because I am seeing a lot of people asking for those trips.
Josh: I’m seeing that too. And personally, we just booked our spring break flights for next year and it was insane. You helped us with that. Thank you. But booking that far out was still expensive because there’s a supply issue.
Cheri: There is. And I thought of you yesterday because I had another client working on a trip to Hawaii. The flights were a little high and they kind of hemmed and hawed and said, “OK, I guess we’ll buy them.” Well, a week went by and those flights were already listed at $200.00 a piece more. I’m seeing that over and over again—that you can’t sit on these things. I hate to sound salesy and say, “The time to buy is now.” But if you want to go somewhere and you want to do something, you need to do it now, because if you sit on it, either the inventory won’t be there or the price is going to be sky high. Right now you cannot get on a plane for probably less than 500 dollars.
Josh: Yeah, I know. In the financial industry, we read up on what’s happening with the travel business and the cruise business and everything like that. A lot of the issue is lack of supply of workers. Pilots, ground crew and everything. So it’s not just about the flights themselves, it’s the people. There aren’t enough people to be able to fly the planes and staff them.
Cheri: Yes and I think that is a problem we’re going to see for a few years until they really fix the staffing issues that everyone is having. It isn’t just here in the US, either. We saw over the summer in Europe that they didn’t have enough staff at the airports and weren’t able to accommodate people. They were canceling flights because they just couldn’t get people through.
Josh: Lots of pent-up demand. So many people want to be traveling right now, but there isn’t as much supply, and that’s what we talk about with our clients. As far as the inflation problem, it is not just a US problem, it’s a global problem. There are a lot of dollars out there. A lot of money, but not enough goods and services and workers, so there’s a shortage of everything right now. Even so, what are some of the fun trips that you’ve been able to book for people recently—some bucket list trips or things that people were wanting to experience?
Cheri: They tend to fall into two categories. One is domestic, so I’m booking a lot of Hawaii, which is great for families. It’s great for people who want something tropical but have done the Caribbean or the West Coast. In the Midwest and the East, not as many people have traveled to Hawaii because it was closed for so long, and there were so many restrictions on traveling. The other domestic one is Alaska. It blows my mind the number of Alaska cruises that I have booked in the last year. I’ve been there myself, and Alaska is phenomenal—and I am the least outdoorsy person you will ever meet. I would go back to Alaska in a heartbeat and it’s not only the Alaskan cruises that people are booking, but they’re adding things on. They’re doing it because they’ve always thought I want to do that. You always think, Well, someday, but the last few years have taught us that someday may never come. People are really wanting to do those things they haven’t done.
Then the other category is people going to Europe. I’m seeing a lot of that because people maybe have been there but want to go again. They want to take their kids. They want to do things, and in Europe there are some incredible things that you can do beyond going to see the Eiffel Tower. You can go biking in Versailles. You can go to Bavaria and Germany and make pretzels. These are the kinds of things that people want, something different, those once in a lifetime opportunities.
Josh: Yeah, and it’s all ages too. Here at Keystone, we get a lot of people who have retired. Maybe they’re in the early retirement years and want to knock out some bucket list items, but also younger families with kids still at home want to be able to do stuff. It’s quite a blessing that people are able to go experience something beyond just their bills. If you’re financially secure, you probably do want to go out and have some adventures.
Cheri: Right, I’m seeing a lot of younger clients come to me, whereas a couple of years ago my client base was a bit older. Now I’m seeing a lot of millennials, 30-year-olds wanting to take their small children on these adventures. They’re saying, “Well, instead of Christmas, this year we’re going to do a trip. We’re going to create memories.”
Josh: Especially people that have older kids or older grandkids get more of the perspective that the time goes fast. It goes a lot faster than you ever think. So we definitely want to be able to help people, not just from a financial planning standpoint to be financially secure, but also to be able to fund their dreams many years down the road. Most of us will look back and be so glad that we did. Now, let’s talk about pricing. What advice would you have for people trying to make plans and thinking outside the box for what they want to do?
Cheri: Supply and demand. There’s not a ton of supply. There’s a lot of demand. It’s going to drive the prices up. People will call and say, for example, “I want to go to the Caribbean.” They want to go someplace warm, and the Caribbean is the first thing that comes to mind. But I am seeing pricing in the Caribbean be sometimes double what it was from last spring break 2022 to spring break 2023. Personally, my family and I were looking at going to the Caribbean and we saw the pricing and I know what it is year over year. I didn’t want to pay that, so we started looking at other options. A bucket list for us was Dubai, so we are going to Dubai. When I started researching it and seeing what was available in Dubai, well, we have paid more for Disney World trips than we are paying for this trip to Dubai, which is crazy to think about.
Josh: Yeah, I’ve heard Dubai is just spectacular.
Cheri: Yes, so that’s the kind of thing I’m seeing. In conversation with clients, we’re talking about the usual: Jamaica, Mexico, the Bahamas and then seeing the price tag. I’m saying, “Well, you could go do this other trip for the same price or maybe even less.” What it really comes down to is cost versus value. So I think a lot of us take for granted that we can vacation every year. And maybe we go to the Caribbean every year but the price is so high now that I’m not sure the value is always there when you’re paying twice what you paid last year. You could take the same amount of money and go somewhere like Dubai or somewhere in Europe that you haven’t been before and want to experience.
Josh: It’s helpful to work with somebody like you when planning a trip, someone that knows the industry and would know some of those nuances. That’s a scarce commodity, which is why I use you to book our trip. Planning travel is fun, but I don’t have time. Plus, you know a lot more than I do. When it comes to cost versus value, it’s not just a matter of price, but what are you getting for that price.
Cheri: Right, and most of my clients are busy professionals who don’t have hours to spend on the Internet researching. You can really fall into a black hole if you don’t know what you’re looking at and don’t know the information that you’re getting. Who is giving it to you and what makes them qualified to write an article or to give information? A lot of times people fall into reading these blogs, which are fine, but travel bloggers may pick a destination and write about it without having the meat behind it. Whereas when you work with a travel advisor, this is what I do all day long. And a lot of times I can tell you the price off the top of my head because I know this is what it costs.
Josh: Yeah, because you’re looking at it for everybody. What are some of the pitfalls you’re seeing and some advice on how to avoid some of that?
Cheri: Over the summer, lost luggage was a big thing. A lot of that has calmed down. There were staffing issues with baggage handlers, and I’m not seeing as many luggage issues now. We’re still seeing many flight delays, and that isn’t anyone’s fault. Sometimes a little hiccup in weather has a domino effect that can take days to fix, so I think that’s probably the biggest challenge that my clients are seeing. There are ways to work around that. If you’re going on a cruise, fly the day before. Do not fly in the day of—that’s a disaster waiting to happen because that cruise ship is not going to wait for you. Look into the cancellation policies. Can you get a voucher for your airline tickets? Should you buy travel insurance? Because you may have every intention of going, but that airline may have a delay and you may be one or two days late and that hotel is not going to be understanding. You are still going to be paying for that hotel, whereas if you have travel insurance, it will reimburse you.
Josh: Yeah, especially for some of these big-ticket things like a major cruise or trip to Alaska or Europe or something like that. That could be a pretty hefty price tag to have to eat along with not being able to experience the trip.
Cheri: That is not a phone call I want to get.
Josh: No, especially these days, right? We’ve experienced COVID and people getting sick so they couldn’t go. Hopefully that business is all behind us, or at least the worst of it. But there are a lot more examples of things that could happen and do happen that could mess up our travel plans. Would you talk about trends a little bit, as far as some adventures outside the box like expedition travel, multi-generational travel. I hear from clients that their bucket list item is being able to take the kids and grandkids and go have these experiences with them. What are some of the things that people have been looking at and trending toward?
Cheri: Multi-generational travel is a huge part of my business and it’s near and dear to my heart. We’ve talked about it before, so as you know, I travel with my in-laws and with my own parents. And as a child I traveled with my grandparents and that was a great experience. If you haven’t traveled with your family, try it once. I know it’s not for everyone, and when I book multi-generational travel, you’re not all staying in the same room. You have different activities. In my opinion that is such a great way to spend your money. My son is so busy with school and sports and activities and this and that, so there isn’t always much time to spend with grandparents. They come to a game and then “Hey, we gotta go home, we gotta do homework.” But to have those 7 or 10 days to spend as a family is time that you won’t get back.
I’m seeing a lot of experiential travel where you’re doing things, having experiences, and then the expedition travel, which is an emerging segment where you go to far off places. Maybe down to Antarctica or the Galapagos Islands. Ten to 15 years ago, that was so out of reach that it wasn’t something the average person could do. Now there are so many expedition travel cruise lines going to these far off places on smaller ships. That is such an experience, one you will never forget.
Josh: I know for our family, we’ve been on several cruises in the past and I find it works out very well for multi-generational travel, because as long as you’ve got your own room—and that’s key, you’ve got to have your own room—people can do what they want to do and spend their time how they want to. People can go on excursions or not and maybe everybody meets for a meal in the evening. So for those of you who haven’t traveled with family and you’re thinking, “Well, we’d all kill each other by the end of the trip,” just know there are ways to do it where there’s some good separation. People can still get their own time and still be able to connect and make memories.
Cheri: Right, and cruising is such a good way to dip your toes into multi-generational travel because like you said, most cruise lines have activities for not only little ones, but middle schoolers, high school age and also adult activities. Even if you go on a Disney Cruise Line, which a lot of people think, “Oh it’s gonna have all these kids.” Well, yeah, there will be kids there, but they also have adult-only areas and activities. They have adult-only restaurants and bars. So if grandparents are coming with parents and grandkids, they can do separate things and come together at dinner to share what a great day they had even though they did all these different things. Or maybe you spend one day with your family and the next day have a rest day.
Josh: Yeah, exactly. Let’s talk more specifically about not just locations, but for people who haven’t had the cruise experience, I mean, some of these things are like floating cities. There really is something for everybody. And now with so much demand, there are new ships and more experiences available. Talk about that a little bit, some of the cool stuff that you’re seeing.
Cheri: The cruise ships that are out within the last year and what we’re going to see come to the market in the next two years are absolutely incredible. I would say all of the major cruise lines are launching new ships and as you said, they’re floating cities. There’s the new Norwegian Primo, which is in the water right now, just launched this past week. They’re also coming out with the Norwegian Viva. They have go-carts on the ships. You can drive your go-carts on the top. Carnival has the first roller coaster at sea. And of course Royal Caribbean; they position themselves as the new family cruise line. They have the Wonder of the Seas, the Odyssey of the Seas, which are two phenomenal ships, and they’ve just announced the new Icon of the Seas, which is geared toward families, with more family suites than ever. They understand that families do want to travel together. They may want to be in the same suite, but they need separate bedrooms. They need more space. And the amount of activities on these ships blows my mind.
Josh: My dad has been on a couple cruises now. Over the years I always said to him, “Well, Dad, you know, someday when you’re retired you get to go on a cruise.” No, he’d say, no interest whatsoever. And then my stepmom finally convinced him to do it and they went with some friends and had a great time. And when they were at sea, he liked to be able to sit there and read a book. For some people, that’s their thing. Other people are into the crazy stuff, and they’re rappelling and such, but there really is something for everybody. Even if you get seasick, there are ways to deal with that too.
Cheri: Right. The difference between cruising today and cruising even 20 years ago, is it used to be that the destination was the thing. Now these cruise lines have made it so the ship is the destination. I have so many clients who come to me and don’t care about the itinerary. This is their date and this is the ship they want to go on so it doesn’t matter what cities or countries they’re going to be visiting—it’s that they want the activities onboard that ship. It’s becoming more and more common for people to not get off in particular ports because they maybe have visited once before, or they want to take that opportunity to have more time on the ship.
Josh: And Disney World is always a popular vacation, especially for parents and grandparents trying to connect with kids. We just got back from there and had a great time. It’s always expensive. I don’t think there’s ever been a time where it’s been cheap, right? There are no discounts at Disney World. I guess Disneyland is a different experience, but Disney World is a whole other beast. Any advice for people that are looking along that route and how to plan?
Cheri: I got a call yesterday from someone who wanted to go to Disney World for the week of Christmas. There is nothing available, not one room, so that is not happening. That’s the supply and demand again, and the inventory is challenging. Part of that goes back to the staffing issues, which they are having just like everyone else. But Disney World is definitely something you need to plan in advance. They make it impossible for you to just show up and buy a ticket and get in anymore. You need reservations to get into the park and that is somewhat true at Disneyland too. You know, Disney World is usually a weeklong trip, something that you want to do as a weeklong adventure. And if you’re going to add Universal, that would be a couple more days. Disneyland is a little bit easier to get into and a little easier to manage. But for either place, if you’re planning to go, you need to plan ahead.
Josh: It’s funny, in our industry we talk about how a lot of people spend more time planning their vacations than they do their overall financial plan. We encourage people to be able to do these bucket list items, especially when it comes down to investing in memories, creating memories. Because really at the end of people’s lives, not many are worried about a pile of money that they’ve got at that point. Of course, we don’t want to run out of money. It’s our job is to make sure people don’t run out of money, but we also want to make sure they’re living life along the way and having fun and having some of these experiences. So, we’ve talked about how your business, Wishes and Waves, came to be. What is it that fires you up or gets you up in the morning excited about what you do?
Cheri: In November my company, Wishes and Waves Travel, is celebrating three years. I was a travel agent with another agency prior to that, but we’re coming up on three years and the name really says how I got started. Wishes is like you wish upon a star. And Waves are the cruises, so the bulk of my business has always been Disney World and cruises. Disney was a big part of my business but in the last two months or so, the number of cruises that I’ve booked with other cruise lines is just crazy. That’s what people want. There’s no longer any vaccine requirements to cruise. Just today, Disney Cruise Line is dropping their testing requirements for those who are unvaccinated. So we are full steam ahead to cruise.
Josh: Three years is amazing. Congratulations. Most businesses don’t make it that long. You’re very busy, and it sounds like enjoying it, enjoying life, and enjoying your business.
Cheri: Yes, the best part about my job is when people come home and I see pictures from their trip and they tell me they had the best vacation ever and thank you so much for everything. That is why I continue to do what I do because there are hard days. This job is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes your flight is canceled and there’s not another one until tomorrow. So it’s definitely not always the easiest job, but I do love what I do and my clients . Most of my business is built on referrals which to me is probably the thing I’m most proud of—that my clients like what I’m doing for them and they refer me to other people and it just makes it all worth it to see the happy kids and families and the moments they get to share together.
Josh: Yeah, magic moments. How do people find you and what are the best resources you’ve got to help people start to plan?
Cheri: You can find me at www.wishesandwaves.com . I have a YouTube channel where I share a lot of videos on things, like my tips and tricks on packing. I post articles about different news happening in the world of travel, different ships, different things going on sale, those kinds of things. You can subscribe to my newsletter, which is a monthly e-news with lots of helpful information.
Josh: Thank you for that. And I can say from personal experience that working with a professional like you that really knows what they’re doing will not only give you a better experience, but it also saves an awful lot of time. Sometimes people think money is their scarcest commodity, but the reality is we only have so many hours and so many days. And spinning your wheels on things like this, you could be doing a lot of other things with your time. Thank you for being here again and helping people, including us, make a great memories.
Cheri: Thank you, thank you for having me.
That’s it for this episode. Have a great week, everyone, and God bless.
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The opinions expressed in the Wiser Financial Advisor show with host Josh Nelson are for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine what may be appropriate for you, consult with your attorney, accountant, financial or tax advisor prior to investing. Investment Advisory services offered through Keystone Financial Services, an SEC registered investment advisor.