How I Moved into the Travel Industry: My Journey with Universal Traveller

Maddy Fitzpatrick is a travel consultant at Universal Traveller (formerly Student Flights), but she started off working in digital at London startups! Maddy shares the journey of how she fell in love with travel and all the ups and downs of moving into and working as a travel consultant.

Becoming a consultant at Universal Traveller was the result of multiple threads in my life coming together at once. 

I’d gone overseas to Manchester, England for a six-month exchange in 2009 and somehow ended up staying there for nearly seven years! I worked for £6 an hour in a café in London while studying by correspondence to get my degree in communication, which got me through the door to a digital start-up. I worked there for five years as it grew from having power cables gaffer taped across the floor to a multinational company. I loved – and still love – digital, but most of all, I loved living in a city with five airports to take me wherever I wanted in Europe!

In the end the rain got to me, but for nearly seven years I’d been able to jet to Barcelona for £40 and getting “stuck” in regional Australia was my biggest fear. I left my job in London, road-tripped in the USA and came home to spend the summer bartending and seeing my family.

That’s when I decided I needed a job in travel.

Contiki happened to be hiring for a Trip Manager for tours running in Australia, and the interview process really made me reflect on how much travel experience I had, as well the work/life balance I wanted - to be both at home and able to travel, AND work in travel. The fear of committing again to a full-time role sparked another visit to London - flying out the same day as my final interview! 

Returning to a city I’d lived in for more than half a decade as a tourist rather than resident was really eye-opening. I got to see all the places I’d become super familiar with, in a fresh – almost objective – kind of way, and it made me fall both back in love with London, and deeply nostalgic for how overwhelming and exciting it was when I’d first arrived. While I was away I found out that I’d been unsuccessful… and that Universal Traveller were launching unlimited annual leave for their staff. 

Just three days after getting home, I applied to work for Universal Traveller. I knew I’d have the opportunity to help so many people be brave enough to go on their first trip - to stop ‘waiting for a mate’ - to go further - as the tagline suggests, to ‘go beyond’. 

I was hired into a local Newcastle store, and after a challenging first six months I was in the thick of it, and I wouldn’t change a second of how I got here.

I’ve since been on a Contiki trip in Asia, and I definitely wouldn’t have the patience to be a Trip Manager - that was the right call for sure!

There’s a certain glamour to the idea of working in travel. There’s the idea that it’s an adventure, that it’ll fuel your trips and take you wherever you want in the world – especially since at Universal Traveller we have unlimited annual leave. So for the most part, it’s pretty true! But it’s also a lot of time, patience and effort, and learning to create a trip in a way that fits exactly what the customer needs, whether they know it or not.

A typical challenge is getting tours, flight availability and pricing all to line up within a tight budget/time frame for our customers. Sometimes they are super limited, and it's a lot of work solving that Rubik’s cube! I like to write a to-do list the day before, so I know what’s on my plate right away come the next morning. Sometimes it’s quite a lot – I take breathers by grabbing a coffee, having a gossip with the girls, and sitting outside to drink in the sunshine without a screen.

Despite how busy the work can be, working in travel is never boring. Everything we do is worth it when you see customers light up hearing about the perfect trip you’ve planned just for them. I love the relationship I’ve built with my repeat customers, but the most excited I get is when people go on their FIRST EVER trip. It sounds cheesy, but travel is genuinely life-changing and it’s incredible how confident and excited about the world people are when they come home.

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One of the great things about the job is that I feel like I’m always learning. For example, I didn't realise how complex and cool airfares could be! I thought I was pretty great at using comparison sites and Google flights to get the cheaper fares, but what I’ve learned to scout out on prices since joining Universal Traveller is amazing. We have some absolutely wild prices and itineraries – who knew you could fly to Tokyo, Mexico and Houston on one discounted youth fare?

I don’t know where the future will take me, but I’m happy to sit back and keep learning and growing on the ride. 

If you’re interested in knowing more about careers with Universal Traveller, read more about them or search current Universal Traveller jobs

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