Cruise Planners of Cedartown - Sheri and Mike Hunter

Sheri and Mike Hunter are the owners and operators of Cruise Planners in Cedartown, a franchise travel business. (Kevin Myrick/SJ)

When it comes time to decide where to take a trip, there are plenty of places to choose from both close to home and afar. Making it all the more complicated when planning is the plethora of options for travel, accommodations, food, experiences and much more.

The costs can pile up, and suddenly the burden of the financial baggage of a vacation becomes more than what the family plans to carry along in their luggage.

A husband and wife in Cedartown want to break local residents of their fears of sticker shock when it comes to taking a trip by letting them do all the hard work of finding good deals through a business they’ve begun as franchisees of Cruise Planners.

Mike and Sheri Hunter of Cedartown were looking for a new adventure in their lives and a way to make a living off something they’ve loved doing for themselves for years.

Whenever we had extended family trips, I used to do all the planning,” Mike Hunter said. “I organized all the excursions and even typed up an itineraries… I had a little book full of information. You’re going to this country, and the currency is this and all that kind of stuff. I really enjoyed doing it.”

Especially as his family kept telling him “hey, you ought to do this.” They turned that love of vacation planning into a business opportunity with the help of Cruise Planners.

“We went to Hawaii one time and he was sad, and I asked ‘why are you so sad?’ and he replied that ‘it’s because all the planning is over,’” Sheri Hunter said.

It wasn’t long before they were taking a trip of their own to learn what they could do with the new business opportunity. In previous months, they took a week-long course in Fort Lauderdale to learn the ins-and-outs of travel booking, and being their own bosses all through a home office.

For decades, the travel industry was an established brick-and-mortar trade, with offices around the country for people to utilize in trip planning. Needed to get a plane ticket on the fly? People called a travel agent. Want to book a trip to see the sights in Europe? A travel agent handled that.

When the internet changed the travel industry by allowing consumers via websites to either directly book with hotels, airlines, and much more, the industry surrounding travel agents took a big hit. Now that idea of previously visiting an office and discussing options is no longer the prevailing model for the industry.

But the problem is sorting through the hundreds of websites offering various prices for vacation options.

“Most people this is what they detest. The planning, and working out the details of going here and there,” Mike Hunter said. “That’s fun for me. What greater satisfaction is there in life than having fun in planning other people’s fun?”

Instead, Cedartown’s newest Cruise Planners franchise — which is partnered on a national level with American Express — is run by the Hunters does all the hard work of finding vacation packages and deals for consumers without having to do all the digging online for deals.

First and foremost, they aren’t making money directly from consumers when they undertake their business of planning a vacation for someone looking to find a deal for their destination. Instead, they make commissions off the vacation packages they offer up to consumers via Cruise Planners, who work with a variety of cruise lines, resorts, airlines and even those businesses providing special packages to take part in excursions.

So when a business charges the consumer for plane tickets or hotel stays, the Hunters make their money off of the business instead.

“We get the same pricing that you would if you go online, but the difference is that we’re on there every day, so we know where to look for the best options,” Mike Hunter said. “We’re experienced travelers. We’ve been there and done this before… for the average person, it is overwhelming. It is a pretty good investment for people. You want someone you know and you trust.”

Since their business is located in Cedartown, a focus of their business is finding consumers the best deals on cruise packages. Ports of call around the southeast range from New Orleans and Mobile on the Gulf Coast, Charleston, Fort Lauderdale and Miami on the Atlantic seaboard and many more.

“The biggest and the best ships go out of Fort Lauderdale and Miami,” he said. “You can go there and there are nice cruises at any one of those ports.”