Sonia Frieder is a professional on her way to dominating the concierge side of the travel industry. Her company, Sonar Travel, is made for travelers that could benefit from a personality-matched itinerary instead of general suggestions, which would very likely be all of us. She knows the ins and outs of popular cities across the US and Europe, and continues to add to her personalized atlas for you. Read on to learn more about her life as a business owner and traveler.
Jeta: Explain Sonar Travel and how it differs from travel agencies.
Sonia: Sonar Travel creates personalized, highly detailed itineraries for people that like to travel but don’t have time to plan the specifics of their vacation. It’s like a travel concierge but more affordable. I meet and interview all of my clients then create a daily, step by step itinerary according to their budgets and personalities. Each itinerary tells you which attractions to visit, the best time to go, where to buy your tickets, how to get there, and more. I even know the best entrance to use at The Lourve!
Jeta: Why did you create this concept?
Sonia: I wasn’t feeling fulfilled with my corporate marketing job. I spent eight years climbing the corporate ladder but still wasn’t happy. At the same time, I found myself helping my friends and family with their travels, basically creating Sonar Travel itineraries before there was a Sonar Travel business. When I became frustrated with not having enough time to travel, I realized that this was the field I should be working in. Then, one day I was at the Union Oyster House in Boston, when a couple of strangers asked for recommendations for things to do in the city. I grabbed a pen and paper and wrote out a detailed list and map for them. When they said, “This is great. You should do this for a living,” that was the kick in the butt I needed. That night I went home and bought the domain name for Sonar Travel.
Jeta: What’s been your biggest lesson since going into business for yourself?
Sonia: I once sent a couple to a museum that was closed when I thought it was open. I was devastated but I’ve since devised a system to prevent that and it hasn’t happened again. Other than that, I have to learn to wear every hat. I’ve been learning a lot about harnessing social media power and new advertising tactics. I love what I do but it comes with challenges, especially after being a professional in one field for so long.
Jeta: What is most/least exciting about being a “travel pro”?
Sonia: The most exciting part is having the opportunity to travel for a living, but it also makes me really happy to help people explore new destinations and make the most of their precious vacation time. It’s hard to even think of it as work. The least exciting part would be logistical, keeping the accounting up to date and filing paper work. But even that’s not that bad because I love to organize.
Jeta: Where do you think are top destinations for 2014?
Sonia: Croatia was a popular destination last year so I think, and hope, that other Eastern European locations will become more popular. I always tell my clients that Eastern Europe has the same gorgeous cobblestone streets, castles, and natural beauty of other more popular Western European countries but at a significant discount and with fewer crowds.
Jeta: What would you say is a destination for all types of travelers? Or at least most.
Sonia: Italy has a lot of great options to suit everyone’s tastes. Major cities like Rome are great for people that like to sightsee and Italy also has two amazing coasts where you can go to the beach and relax. It’s the best of both worlds. Also, for people that don’t travel much, it’s very travel-friendly. Everyone’s had Italian food and can say a few Italian phrases. It’s a great European destination.
Jeta: Name one thing that you must do whenever you travel.
Sonia: I always make time to go to a local bar or restaurant to meet people. I don’t like being the super tourist. I try to blend in as much as possible when I’m not doing the touristy things. One of the most fun moments in a recent trip to London was meeting some local soccer players at a pub. They recommended typical drinks and I had a great time with them.
Jeta: What are tips for people in the trip-planning phase?
Sonia: Think about the experiences that were the most fun and memorable from past vacations. Be honest with yourself about what really makes you happy. You’re spending a lot time, money, and energy on your vacation so do what makes you happy, not what the generic travel sites say you should see and do.
In the US I would suggest Los Angeles for the same reasons. You can find a city vibe, visit museums, see the stars, or relax on the beach.
Jeta: What’s next for Sonar Travel?
Sonia: Global domination! My big dream/goal is to become a full-service travel concierge. In the future, I’d like to be the go-to person for the ultimate travel experience, not just booking.
See more on her website, www.sonartravel.com!