When I think of travel, a big smile comes to my face as memories of wonderful vacations come to my mind. I have been on some pretty great vacations to Cancun Mexico and Daytona Beach, but I would have to say
that my best vacation was to Miami, Florida. I actually won a trip to the Lowes in Miami for being top producer for my company in 2004. This vacation was filled with beautiful white sand beaches, 5 star meals, fabulous shopping and gifts galore. Each night the company surprised me with a gift in my suite. The first night I received a beautiful bath rob and slippers, the next night it was a portable DVD player, then it was a beautiful spa gift set and a framed picture of Miami. The final two gifts included a black and gold coach watch and a coach handbag.
This vacation was the best for two reasons; 1. It was FREE and 2. I am a foodie and was able to really take advantage of some pretty great restaurants. However, the Daytona Beach vacation would be second in line because of the wonderful bargain we got for a 8 day stay in Florida. We spent the first 4 days in Florida and enjoyed Universal Studios and the Mardi Gras and the final days were spent on Daytona Beach. I used a travel agent friend of mine and spent less than $500.00 for the entire trip which included my travel, hotel and Disney tickets.
I was recently introduced to an Independent Travel Contractor that owns her own travel business called Echevarria Travel. I wanted to learn more about the benefits of using a travel agent and today I caught up
with Cheryl and here is what she had to say:
YAHOO: Hi Cheryl! It’s great to speak with you today?
CE: It is wondering speaking to you as well Karen
YAHOO: Cheryl, what got you interested in the travel business?
CE: Well, I have always loved to travel, I remember my first vacation with my family. We went to West Palm Beach, Florida to visit my grandpa, I loved the food (which also I am a foodie I love to cook and eat), I loved the Palm Trees, I loved the memories of me being little and staying with grandpa.
What really got me interested in starting my own business was that is was a necessity. I had become blind in 2001 from Diabetes, I have had diabetes since the age of 16 years old and have had Diabetic Retinopathy since 1992. At the same time in 2001 I had to leave my former job which was being an Administrative Assistant in a Sales Firm here on Long Island and go on disability at the same time as well I also had to go on dialysis since I had lost kidney function and would be on dialysis until August 23, 2005, when my dear friend gave me one of his kidneys.
So after having my life saving transplant, I had to learn how to become independent again. I had to learn how to cook & clean; how to use a white cane and eventually use a guide dog. I am not perfect but I am at the point
where I can travel independently with a little help here and there. In 2007, I also got another man in my life, my guide dog, Maxx. With the help of my husband and my daughter, who is now 21, I got all the support I needed.
I went back to school and became the first blind medical insurance biller here on Long Island, and worked for about a 1 1/2 years due to issues with that company I have left. A long and ugly story. I took a hard look at my life and decided what do I like to do, I was 42 years old at the time. What do I want to do with my life? I love to travel even though I can’t see, but I love to feel things and taste things, and I am able to do the same things as the sighted world.
Being the Treasurer of the Greater Long Island Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, is where I got help being a travel agent. We have a number of divisions and group talk lists, so I posted that I wanted to find out about being a travel agent. I have booked my own travel and travel for my former employees I worked with, how much different could it be. I booked world wide travel for them for work and even their family vacations.
A friend of mine was also a travel agent, and he told me what I had to do and almost a year later here I am talking to you. Wow that is a lot.
YAHOO: Tell our readers a little bit about your company EchevarriaTravel. Where you are located and what services you offer your clients?
CE: Echevarria Travel is owned by me and I am an Independent Contractor which means that I also work for a few host agencies as well. I am located in Brentwood, NY; which is in Suffolk County. But I am not a brick and
mortar company. I am an Internet home based agent.
Some of the things I do to give back to the community that have helped me is I do a lot or am trying to do fundraisers, currently I have 2 going on that can be found on http://www.echevarriatravel.com . One is for the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc. of Smithtown, NY. The school that I got my guide dog from, guide dogs are given free of charge to the blind, and they are a non-profit organization. So being a business owner now I want to give back. And the other one is for the National Kidney Foundation, again because of my medical condition. I want to give back. But if anyone out there reading this would like me to arrange a fundraiser
for any organization I can help with this.
I offer my clients the opportunity to travel anywhere in the world. Currently I hold Specialist Certifications in all of the major cruise lines such as Norwegian, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Holland America. I am also a Certified Specialist in Puerto Rico that is where my darling husband is from as well as the Big Apple. New York.
Karen I am a Graduate of Disney’s College of Knowledge. From Walt Disney World in Florida to Disney in China. As well as their cruise lines. Offering services to everyone especially the blind and disabled. I want to
get people out there enjoying the world around them, they have other senses beside seeing or hearing or whatever other disability they have. Like a dialysis patient who needs to know if there is a center where they are
staying and how long in advance do they have to book to go there. Some dialysis centers there have long waiting list to go to that place you want to go to. I also want people to know I service everyone and not just the blind and
Echevarria Travel also offers a monthly e-newsletter to it clients to keep up to date on the latest travel ideas and specials.
YAHOO: What would you say are the top 3 reasons why people should use a travel agent when planning a vacation?
CE: Let me see.
1. I am a care professional and not an Internet booking engine. I take the time to listen to the client and try to match them with the best location at the best price that they have to work with.
2. I have studied and continue to study what is out there, not just the cruise lines and Disney. Some places you go to, you don’t know what they know are they guessing about a place.
3. I give back to the community. So in a nutshell. I am a caring professional, who take the time and learns
her craft and always learning more, so my clients come back to me again and
YAHOO: What tips can you give people on how to find the right travel agent?
CE: Make sure they are about you and not the bottom line of money. I don’t get paid by my client I get paid by the supplier on a commission. Make sure they are a good listener and they keep within your budget and they know their products
YAHOO: How can people contact you for a quote Cheryl?
CE: two ways one is by phone at 1-866-580-5574 or by e-mail at email@example.com
YAHOO: Are there any words of wisdom you can give people that are thinking of opening their own travel business?
CE: It is a lot of hard work, you will be spending more then you are making for awhile. But I truly love when my clients come home and they tell me. I love where you sent me. It was perfect. And it was all worth it.
YAHOO: Thank you so much for speaking with us today Cheryl. I wish you continued success with your travel business.
CE: Thank you so much