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A vacation should be a relaxing escape from everyday life, and Jon and Jo’El Lapp are here to make sure it is just that for their clients.

As travel agents with an independent agency in Cartersville, Ga., the two take pleasure in helping their clients with every aspect of a vacation, from planning and booking to damage control should anything go wrong.

“Your vacation starts the day you hire us,” Jo’El says. “All you have to do is pack and make memories.”

According to Jon and Jo’El, booking a vacation through a travel agent makes everything simpler. They research destinations and things to do in various cities, sifting through hundreds of search results to determine which are legitimate and which are not. Jon loves this part of the job, as it allows him to learn new things for himself and future clients.

“My favorite thing is just learning about the destinations that either I want to go to at some point because they’re on my bucket list or the places I’m sending people to,” Jon says.

Both Jon and Jo’El went through hours of training with multiple providers to become certified travel agents and be able to create vacations for their clients. They enjoy working together and bouncing ideas off of each other in order to make the perfect trips for people.

“Your vacation starts the day you hire us. All you have to do is pack and make memories”

“We have enough experience that we’re able to give our clients suggestions that they may not have thought of,” Jo’El says. “There’s so much more to seeing Italy than just going to the Coliseum or the Vatican. How about experiencing Italy by going into a grandma’s house and learning how to make gnocchi? Those are the experiences that we want to be able to bring to people, not the canned tours of cities that everyone goes to.”

Jo’El sees a travel agent as an advocate for the client and a representative in dealing with providers such as hotels, airlines or cruise lines. As agents, she and Jon are paid commissions by suppliers, meaning that their services are free to clients.

“If you don’t use an agent, you’re still paying the commission to the provider,” Jon says. “Why wouldn’t you use an agent?”

As advocates for their clients, Jon and Jo’El occasionally have to solve problems for travelers when things do not go as planned. If issues arise with a provider or a client gets sick, misses a flight or loses a passport, Jon and Jo’El are available around the clock to take care of things back home. They have the training to find solutions to any travel problems that might arise, allowing their clients peace of mind when traveling.

“A vacation is… a time to disconnect from life, learn about new things, experience new things and come back to life recharged,” Jo’El says. “When you’re stressing about your vacation and stressing about every little detail, there’s details you’re going to miss.”

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But planning vacations is not just a job for the Lapps, and they aren’t always running things from behind the scenes. Last December, the couple and their two daughters, Madie Rose (18) and Macie (13), took a river cruise in Europe, visiting Budapest, Prague and several other cities. These cruises are a favorite vacation for the Lapps to plan for clients, especially those with families.

Jo’El believes that many people often think of river cruises as vacations for older, retired adults, and she wants to encourage families not to heed that stereotype. She suggests thinking outside the box when planning vacations.

“Just because kids are young doesn’t meant they can’t understand or appreciate a trip like that,” she says.

Madie Rose, Macie, Jo'El and Jon in Amsterdam

This was Madie and Macie’s first trip out of the country, and they both had a fantastic time exploring various cities and experiencing different cultures. Madie loved seeing the architecture in Prague and Amsterdam.

“My favorite city was Amsterdam just because of the energy you could feel in the air,” Madie says. “Also, the architecture was amazing. I love architecture in Europe because it is so much older than here and you can see where they developed the architecture. It is like walking around in a fairytale.”

Macie, who was 12 at the time of the trip, found it to be very educational. In Amsterdam, she had the opportunity to tour the Anne Frank house, which fascinated her because she had recently read “The Diary of Anne Frank.” She is interested in World War II history and enjoyed seeing it firsthand on this trip.

“More kids my age should go on trips like this; they would have so much fun,” Macie says. “It’s very educational… getting to see the different ethnicities and languages and architecture.”

Part of the family’s motivation for this trip was visiting Christmas markets, an activity that had something to offer for everyone. Each stall at the markets had a different craft, food or collectible, including leatherworkers, blacksmiths and more. Macie even got to go ice-skating in the town square at a Christmas market in Budapest.

“As I was ice-skating I was in awe of the scenery and how much life was going on around the place,” Macie says. “It was amazing to me.”

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The Lapps hope that their personal experiences will encourage other families to consider a similar river cruise for their next vacation. Jon and Jo’El both saw this trip as an incredible opportunity for their kids to learn new things while enjoying time with family.

“It gave us the ability to expose the kids to things that they would never be able to see in this country, and expose them to history that really isn’t taught in our history classes here in the United States,” Jon says.

According to Jo’El, people are often hesitant to consider a river cruise because it seems expensive. However, she explains, it’s actually a great deal because everything is included. A cruise makes transportation easier, often includes daily excursions, and still allows for ample free time to explore each destination.

“When you go on a river cruise, you get on the cruise, you unpack one time, and you have a five-star resort hotel and restaurant that follow you to the different cities,” Jo’El says.

To learn more about their services or to enlist Jo’El or Jon’s help in planning your next vacation, visit their website, jlapptravels.com, or their Facebook page, Travel by Jon &Jo’El

You can also contact them directly at jlapptravels@gmail.com or call 716-326-2004 (Jon) or 716-863-8205 (Jo’El).