Getting to Know … Karen King of Travel Counsellors

Karen King of Travel Counsellors is a personal travel consultant based in the heart of Balmain. She offers holiday, honeymoon and business travel services as well as visa assistance and travel insurance. A passionate traveller and informed travel professional, Karen genuinely cares about her clients’ journeys and strives to book each one the perfect trip.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Karen King. I was born in the Philippines and moved to Australia ten years ago, with my now 15-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter. Ever since I was a child growing up in a rural town in the Philippines, I dreamt of travelling the world. I studied nursing to come to Australia but decided after five years working in aged care to follow my dream and study travel and tourism. Five years later, I now run my own business out of my office in Balmain under the global Travel Counsellors brand, providing holiday, honeymoon and business travel services.
What made you decide to become a Travel Counsellor?
Globally Travel Counsellors is one of the largest travel organisations in world, even though they aren’t as well known in Australia as some of the other retail brands. What appealed to me about them is the fact they have a massive selection of suppliers, which allows me to find the best possible experiences for my clients according to their budget. Whether it’s a no-expense-spared honeymoon or a holiday on a budget, I am always able to ensure the best possible experience for my clients. Unlike other travel organisations, they don’t force you to favour any particular supplier, meaning that I can focus solely on my clients’ needs.
What do you love most about travel? 
Whilst I love travelling to exotic destinations and seeing famous locations, it’s experiencing the day-to-day lives of people around the world and learning more about different cultures and others’ way of life which I enjoy most. Simple things like travelling around a city on public transport, getting away from the typical tourist spots and speaking to the locals. I find it fascinating to see how people around the world live these parallel lives that are completely different to mine, but at the same time so similar. I’m not the type of traveller who focuses on fancy hotels (although they are nice sometimes). I believe that travel is a learning experience above all else that allows you to see the world through other people’s eyes, and for me, often realise how fortunate we are to live in Australia and, in particular, the Inner West of Sydney.
What are some of your favourite travel destinations?
Split, Croatia and Vienna, Austria. In Split, I was so fascinated by the old city and especially the locals. I remember how our taxi driver spoke very little English and dropped us on the wrong side of the old town. We didn’t know where our hotel was, and a local man saw us walking up and down. He then asked where we were going. He grabbed his phone and called the hotel to ask if someone could get us. I thought that was truly amazing. Vienna was wonderful because of the food, the architecture and the fact my husband’s family emigrated from there during the war.
What services do you offer?
I offer holiday, honeymoon and business travel services, as well as visa assistance and travel insurance.
What can customers expect when booking travel with you?
They can expect a travel agent who genuinely cares about her clients’ experiences. An agent who recognises that often the holiday or honeymoon they are booking may be the only chance her clients get to experience the destinations they choose to visit. An agent who will do everything she can to ensure her clients get the most out of every dollar spent.  They can also expect a glass of wine and some cheese if they come to my office. 😊
What do you enjoy most about working as a Travel Counsellor?
There are two things that stand out. One is hearing my clients’ travel stories and how much they enjoyed their trip, and the other is seeing them start to share my passion for travel and realise that of all the things money can buy, travel is amongst the best value for money. I’m a strong believer that money should be used to buy experiences as opposed to material possessions, which is a philosophy I’m very glad to say I have instilled in my children.
What makes a successful family holiday?
The first thing I recommend is that my clients decide whether they are planning a trip to relax and unwind or to experience new cultures and destinations. Often it’s a combination of the two. If you are going to relax and unwind, then choosing accommodation that has onsite activities for the kids is critical. Experiencing new cultures and destinations can sometimes be quite stressful with younger kids. For these kinds of holidays, I always recommend that my clients spend a little extra on accommodation that is closer to key transport hubs and, where possible, pre-book trains, transfers, activities, etc. Often the most stressful part of holidays with young kids is the commuting and trying to work out what to do, especially in non-English speaking countries. In short, if you plan to be out and about, a little extra structure makes a lot of sense.
What do you and your family enjoy doing together?
We love to eat! Our family enjoys trying new restaurants around Sydney. We call it our ‘Food Trip’. If you love dumplings, then you must try this Chinese restaurant in Ashfield called The Old Chinese Dumpling Shop. They make the best Xiao Long Bao we have ever had and it’s great value too! Frangos in Petersham is a regular destination and so is Jasmine’s in Punchbowl.
What are your favourite places in the Inner West?
Aside from restaurants, we spend a fair bit of time at Dawn Fraser Pool in the summer. We also love going to our local coffee shop in Balmain, Café d’Yvoire.  They have a great selection of French breakfasts. One of my favourites is the ratatouille. Highly recommended.
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