A look inside a Universal Fam Trip

I get comments all the time when I go on a “work” trip. “What is it that makes it work?” or “you aren’t really working!”

Fam Trip stands for familiarization trip and is usually hosted by a hotel group, travel company or even tourist board for a country. They are limited to travel agents, spouses, friends, tagalongs are almost never allowed. Usually, you have to share a room with another agent.

I’ve been on fam trips in Ireland, hosted by hotel groups, Germany hosted by the German Tourist Board, Sandals Resorts in Jamaica where we toured almost all their Jamaica properties, see that trip here. A small hotel chain in Mexico last year, Disney, and most recently Universal.

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Contrary to popular believe, fam trips are not free. First off, you have to get there and that cost is never included. Sometimes there is also a fee associated with the actual trip and meals are not always or all included as well as other miscellaneous things. It’s an investment in your business to learn all you can to better help your clients, that’s why we go on these trips. Are they fun? Sure, we have fun, but they are also a lot of work. They do require you to attend all mandatory workshops and site inspections and you can be booted out or charged full price if you don’t.

I just returned from a Universal Orlando Training trip. I arrived in Orlando on Tuesday afternoon, met up with my fellow A Time to Treasure Travel agent/friend/roommate Melissa and we made our way to the host resort, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, and after checking in and having a snack made our way to the official check-in for the fam. A lovely buffet dinner was included and a visit from a minion for pictures! After dinner, we were set free and headed over to Universal Studios for a few rides before closing. After a long travel day, we made our way back and to bed.

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Wednesday we met back at the conference center across the street or a very long walk through our hotel’s conference center which connects to the conference center at Royal Pacific where our workshops were being held. A buffet breakfast awaited and then we were split into groups of about 15 with the Travel Sales Reps and off we went to tour several resorts and Volcano Bay. We boarded a bus that took us across the street to Cabana bay, toured this entire resort, saw 2 rooms in 2 different buildings then walked the path from Cabana Bay to Volcano Bay. We did a quick spin of Volcano Bay. It’s really not fun to walk through a water park fully dressed on a hot day. Then we exited Volcano Bay and walked by Aventura Hotel and got back on the bus. Next up was Royal Pacific where we toured the resort and saw a room. From here we walked back downstairs to the conference center where our late buffet lunch was waiting.

My fitbit registered 17,000 steps at this point. It was about 1pm. Next up after lunch was a workshop so we rested in our chairs for a few hours after walking all morning. Our workshop ended at 5:30pm and we had the evening free. We headed to Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen because neither one of us had been there and wanted to try it. After that we hopped into Islands of Adventure right next door and had a bit of time, did a few rides and saw the Hogwarts Castle light show. We ducked into King Kong on our way out of the park. Stopped back at Toothsomes for a milkshake! Back to the hotel and bed.

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Thursday morning we grabbed a coffee and pastry at the New Dutch Trading CO. and made our way to the conference center at Royal Pacific. No breakfast this morning, but a 1-hour training on the booking system we use to book Universal. Then we had a brief tour of Aventura Hotel across the street including the rooftop lounge, Bar17 with incredible views of all of Orlando. At the end of this tour, at about 11am, we had the rest of the day free. Melissa and I made our way back to our hotel and jumped on the water taxi to Citywalk. We stopped to buy BlueMan group tickets, neither of us had experienced this and wanted to. There was an entrance in Universal Studios right by the box office so we popped in that way and made our way to Diagon Alley and the Leaky Cauldron for lunch. We rode Gringotts and got ice cream then hopped on the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade over at Islands of Adventure. Here, we contemplated the new Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure, but the line was about 120 minutes and rain was threatening to shut it down so we opted for the Hogshead Pub for frozen Butterbeer! Then we made our way out of the park slowly and back to our hotel to enjoy a relaxing hour by the pool before getting ready for our dinner at Cowfish and the BlueMan group show.  After the show, we headed back and went over to Aventura Hotel to check out the night time view from Bar17 and then came back to end the night at Strong Water Tavern in our hotel before calling it a night.

Morning meant the shuttle back to the airport and flights home.

This fam trip actually had a good amount of free time and Thursday morning’s offerings were optional, it could have been a full free day and was for many, but the training that morning was informative and I’m glad I went.

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All in all, yes, fams are fun and we get some time to do our own thing, but they are also a lot of walking and listening. Taking notes and hundreds of pictures.

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We represent our agency on these fams and we share what we learn with everyone else in our agency. We cannot all go on all of them, so we take turns and share our learning.

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