man and a woman sit down for a romantic dinner. Midway through the
meal, a stranger walks over to their table and hands the woman a
small package. Is it the maitre d' dropping by with a surprise
No, it's a travel
agent, with a surprise honeymoon package to Tahiti and the
"It was a really
awesome experience," said the agent, Michelle Mangio, who is in her
fifth year of running her home-based agency, Magical Escapes, in
Attleboro, Mass. She and the groom had spent months planning the
surprise honeymoon, including Mangio's presentation at the
Mangio's Web site,
MagicalEscapes.com, bills her business as a
full-service leisure agency, with plenty of talk about Disney and
cruises. But Mangio's passion is the South Pacific, Australia and
New Zealand, specifically for honeymooners.
She gets the
majority of her leads at local bridal shows, where Mangio says she
stands out in the crowd by de-emphasizing Caribbean honeymoons and
persuading newlyweds to fly to Tahiti or New Zealand for their
first romantic getaway as husband and wife.
destinations are about as far away as a honeymoon couple can get
from New England, so Mangio does book some Caribbean and some
Some of the couples
"definitely need a lot of convincing" to fly to a faraway place
like Sydney, which involves 20 hours of travel with at least one
seemed it would be easier to focus on the traditional honeymoon
destinations because a lot of couples that go to the [bridal] shows
are looking for traditional destinations," Mangio said.
But she added, "I
realized that the sheer number of people I'd be booking would be
lower, but the quality of leads I'd get for these exotic
destinations would be higher."
Once she has a
lead, Mangio's approach is to meet with the client if possible,
either at their home or a coffee shop.
Daytime hours are
for research, e-mailing, getting quotes and tending to her small
children; evenings and weekends are when she meets clients and
deals with hotel and tour reps from South Pacific suppliers, many
of which have West Coast offices.
"It's one of the
things my clients appreciate," she said. "People work, are in
school or are busy planning their wedding."
Painting a picture
To paint a picture
of a romantic trip to Australia or Tahiti, Mangio brings an arsenal
of information: brochures, marketing materials from Tourism
Australia, a book of her own that she updates, a laptop and a
portable DVD player for her own videos that she makes during her
trips, such as a quick video of an overwater bungalow.
The other thing
that Mangio brings to the interview is destination education. She
is a Tahiti Tiare and Hawaii specialist, has been to the Disney
College of Knowledge and is a Las Vegas certified agent, among
others. Mangio also is an Aussie Specialist Premier agent, which
requires her to reapply for the designation every year by writing
essays, getting referrals from suppliers and making an annual
Mangio is an
independent agent who belongs to a number of organizations,
including ASTA, the Network of Entrepreneurs Selling Travel, the
Outside Sales Support Network, the Cruise Lines International
Association and the National Association of Commissioned Travel
"I find that some
people don't want to spend on professional organizations," she
said. "But it certainly helps that my clients see [my
affiliations]. The network benefits are substantial."
Her laundry list of
specialist designations and affiliations is somewhat surprising
when you consider Mangio's volume: She does about $300,000 a year
in sales and averages about 40 to 60 clients a year.
Mangio's goal isn't
to build a large business. Her "ideal world" would include a client
base of between 25 to 50 people who travel every year and a
business with an even stronger focus on the South
"I find it very
enjoyable to plan vacations for people who still have the stars in
their eyes," she said.
empathizes with her most stressed clientele: the brides.
"I provide a
sympathetic shoulder," she said. "I tell them, 'If you want to talk
about it, I'm here.' I think it helps when they feel they've got
someone on their side."
Mangio knows about
wedding stress from experience. Her wedding was relocated to Walt
Disney World when the originally planned venue pulled the rug out
from under her six months before the date. She went to Tahiti on
She and her husband
still have a goal to spend a month traveling in Australia. Her
first trip Down Under was much shorter.
"I always try to
push for [clients to take] two weeks," she said. "We did the
whirlwind tour ... I'm glad I did it so I can tell my clients to
never, ever take that kind of trip. I've had clients who have built
that kind of itinerary, and I say, 'Let me paint you a picture.'
contact Rebecca Tobin, managing editor of the print edition of
Travel Weekly, send e-mail to [email protected].
family vacation in Australia
This 18-day holiday
itinerary was created by Michelle Mangio of Magical Escapes
Vacations for a family of four who "want to see the sights of
Australia but at their own pace." The tour, which was built to
include a New Year's celebration in Sydney, won Mangio a 2007 Opal
Award for Best FIT Itinerary from Tourism Australia.
1: Depart the U.S.
2: Cross the International Date Line.
3: Arrive in Sydney and pick up a rental car. Drive to the
Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort & Spa in Katoomba for a
4: Drive to Canberra for a two-night stay at the Hyatt
Hotel Canberra or the Brassey Hotel of Canberra.
5: In Canberra, visit the Parliament House, the National
Gallery of Australia, the Australian War Memorial, the Canberra
Railway Museum and the National Botanic Gardens. For wildlife
enthusiasts, there's the National Aquarium and Australian Wildlife
Sanctuary. Have a love of outer space? Visit the Deep Space
Communication Complex in Tidbinbilla, just outside of Canberra. Or
get a taste of history at the Lanyon Historic Homestead or the
6: Drive to Crackenback in the Snowy Mountains. Stay at
the Novotel Lake Crackenback. Enjoy shopping and scenery in
Jindabyne and Thredbo Valley.
7: Drive to Melbourne along the coastline through
Victoria's High Country. Check in to the Westin Melbourne for a
8: Take a day tour with Sea All Dolphin Swims, departing
from Queenscliff. The operator offers dolphin swims and
sightseeing-only excursions. Participants also have the chance to
see penguins and seals.
9: Spend a day enjoying the city of Melbourne or drive to
the Yarra Valley (about an hour away) to visit wineries.
10: Drive north through the High Country to the Victoria
Beechworth House in Beechworth in wine country. Stay for one
11: Drive north to Orange, a city west of Sydney in the
outback of New South Wales. Stay at Borrodell on the Mount, a
luxury hideaway among vineyards.
12: Explore Orange and the surrounding countryside. Visit
one of 25 boutique wine cellars in the region, go bushwalking in
Lake Canobolas Reserve, enjoy a bit of history at the Gunadoo Gold
Mine (the site of Australia's first payable gold discovery in 1851)
or take a walk along the Orange Heritage Trail.
13: Drive to Sydney. Return the rental car, as it won't be
needed in the city. Stay at the Sheraton on the Park, Sydney for
six nights. Pick up a five-day Sydney Pass, which includes
unlimited travel on the Sydney and Bondi Explorer buses and
AirportLink train transfers. The passes must be purchased prior to
14: Take the Sydney Aquarium's VIP tour.
15: Take a New Year' Eve dinner cruise in Sydney Harbor.
Watch the fireworks.
16: Enjoy a coffee cruise to see the city by harbor. Take
public transportation to Bondi Beach and enjoy the
17: Do the Wild Australia Experience at the Taronga
18: The final night in the city includes a dinner cruise
to the Sydney Opera House for a performance.