Monica Gould and her husband, Robert Cassel, knew they wanted to relax on their vacation.
The two are business owners — of Strategic Consulting Partners and Accu-Fast Appraisals, respectively — and they were coming off a busy 12 months that included a house move. They wanted a wonderful trip but didn't have the time to do all the planning themselves.
Instead, the Mechanicsburg-area couple worked with travel planner Jason Holland, who operates Travel Simplicity with his wife, Sandy, in Fairview Township, York County.
The Hollands bill themselves as personal travel advisers. They work closely with clients to determine their interests and goals for a trip, then build a customized itinerary with all the details taken care of.
The model is unusual in the travel industry, Jason Holland said. Most travel agents can customize vacations to some extent, but they start with a standard package that they tweak, and they're still commission based.
Tour operators offer custom trips but usually focus on a particular destination, he said.
By contrast, "We really specialize in the person," he said. "It's a new genre in the industry."
Joel Cliff, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he was not aware of any other custom travel advisers in the region.
Holland "really gets a feel for who you are," Gould said. She and her husband filled out questionnaires and talked with Holland about what their ideal vacation would be. He then came back to them with three proposals.
The couple chose the Dominican Republic as their destination. Holland arranged everything: air and ground transportation, accommodation and so on. He added several special touches, including a dinner on the beach to celebrate Cassel's birthday.
"It was very romantic," Gould said.
One in six Americans plans to travel abroad this summer, according to a May survey by American Express. Most Americans make their own bookings, either online or directly with providers, with just 8 percent using a travel agent, the survey found.
The most popular overseas destinations are the Cayman Islands, Italy, the United Kingdom and Bermuda, the survey said.
Holland and his wife love traveling but came to dislike the "cookie-cutter" way they felt most travel agents operated, he said.
On the other hand, they realized that planning successful, unique trips requires a large investment of time and wide background knowledge.
"It takes so much time and there's so much stress involved," he said. "There's got to be a better option for people."
Holland began designing custom vacations eight years ago and founded Travel Simplicity in January 2009. Clients have come from as far away as Alaska and Georgia, though most are from the midstate or just outside it, he said.
The company frequently arranges honeymoons and is seeing growing demand for destination weddings, Holland said. Destination weddings can be arranged in the U.S. or overseas and need not be expensive — they can be cheaper than traditional weddings, Holland said.
Travel Simplicity makes money by charging a percentage of the cost of the trips it arranges. The fees are on a sliding scale based on the time expended, Holland said.
Gould said Holland was available by phone during the couple's vacation to troubleshoot any problems they encountered, and he followed up with them afterward. She praised his focus on service, which she said made the vacation stress free.
"He's very, very passionate about making sure your vacation is great," she said.