Beyond Booking

A boutique travel agency promises to deliver a tailored, unique vacation experience

Photo: Nicole Spriet, founder of The Curated Suitcase

FOR NICOLE SPRIET, the classic Paris vacation checklist—visit the Louvre, snap a pic on the top of the Eiffel Tower, visit Versailles—isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, those are iconic parts of the city, she says, but travel can be so much more than just tourism. “Stop, go to the park at the bottom [of the Tower], get a crepe and sit by a fountain and people watch,” she says. “Actually sink into it a little bit.”

To say Spriet, a native Londoner, is passionate about travel would be an understatement. Philosophical might be a better word. Earlier this year, she launched The Curated Suitcase, a one- person boutique travel agency that caters to the traveller who wants something more out of their vacation.

“What I really wanted to get back to was travel over tourism, and the ability to help clients have an unforgettable travel experience and to return changed by that experience,” says Spriet. “Hear a new language, try new foods, meet new people—I think it’s so important for our own personal growth.”

“What I really wanted to get back to was travel over tourism, and the ability to help clients have an unforgettable travel experience and to return changed by that experience” —Nicole Spriet

Travel has long been part of Spriet’s life. She lived in the U.K. and Ireland while completing a dance degree, and later taught abroad with her now-­husband in New Zealand. She had eventually settled back in London, working in the non-profit sector, when she read an article about a bespoke cycle tour company.

“That was kind of a spark,” she says. “I wondered if there was a way that I could piece together my personal love of travel, and how I view travel, with my education background and non-profit background, [and] through many iterations and conversations with people in the community, with a lot of women who own their own business, it sort of got to this point.”

Having launched The Curated Suitcase in late January, Spriet is very much in the early stages of building out her business—an experience she describes as a “major learning curve.” Paramount to her approach, she explains, is ­forging client relationships and getting to know their lifestyle choices and history. That kind of attention, she says, allows her to help clients plan a trip that is unique and, above all, personal to their tastes.

Nicole Spriet

Her travel planning begins with meeting her client, ­preferably face to face. “I want to get to know them so that I can help shape their experience,” she says. Spriet also makes sure to check in with clients after their travels, to hear about what works and what doesn’t and, simply, to maintain a ­relationship with them.

That debrief session also has a social component. Spriet sets aside a portion of all fees to put towards charities or non-profits, and she wants to hear from travellers about where they think that money could be best spent. “I really want the clients to be involved with this donation,” she says.

Spriet’s pitch to potential travellers looking for an agent is really that she will save them the time required to find things that might be out of the way, or one of a kind. With her partnerships (The Curated Suitcase is part of Nexion Canada, a travel agency that provides “a backbone support for independents,” as well as access to various partnerships and databases), Spriet can help take the stress out of ­planning the dream vacation.

“I had a client say that I was a relationship saver, because their partner attacks the planning process very differently,” she jokes. “It’s really about giving people back their time.”  Kieran Delamont

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