About Diane Zuccarini
Diane Zuccarini is the Travel Club Coordinator at Prosperity Bank in Houston, Texas.
In 1999, Diane’s Zuccarini’s boss and three of her associates launched their own bank in Houston, calling it First Choice Bank. The bank thrived and in 2008 was sold to Prosperity Bank. The Bank’s Go Club is over 30 years old and has about 380 members.
Born: Hobart, Indiana
Education: B.S. in elementary education and M.Ed. in school administration
Employment: Zuccarini worked in education for 35 years teaching grades kindergarten through fifth grade and serving as an administrator. She began her second career at the bank in 2016.
Family: Zuccarini’s husband is a retired high school teacher and coach. The couple have two married daughters, two grandchildren and another grandchild on the way.
Hobbies: Zuccarini loves to travel, both with the bank group and with her family in their R.V. She also loves to read, bike and kayak.
A Love for Travel
Diane Zuccarini never hid her love of travel. During her career as a teacher, she used her summers off to go on adventurous vacations, which her friends began to notice.
“Everyone knew I loved to travel,” said Zuccarini, travel club coordinator for Prosperity Bank. “One of the ladies from my neighborhood asked if I would put together a girls’ trip to New York. After that trip, I planned a ladies’ trip to another location every summer until I retired.”
Zuccarini organized trips to Canada, Seattle, Boston, California wine country, Chicago and other major destinations with groups of up to 40 people.
After her retirement, word of her travel planning prowess made it to Prosperity Bank, and management asked her to come on board to lead the FLFG Go Club. Zuccarini turned her group travel planning hobby into a year-round undertaking for a bank club with about 380 members.
Zuccarini has gone far beyond girls’ trips to travel around the world with a group ready to follow her on any adventure.
Though Zuccarini came to Prosperity Bank with some prior group travel planning experience, she still experienced a learning curve with the professional travel program.
“I was planning trips, but I didn’t use trip insurance or other travel companies,” said Zuccarini. “It wasn’t the smartest planning. Men were the biggest transition. I did women’s trips for 20 years. Then I’m suddenly taking men on trips.”
She learned to scale back her shopping excursions and added activities she felt might interest more men.
Instead of starting small, Zuccarini launched her new career with a 16-day trans-Atlantic cruise from Florida to Spain.
“That was interesting because I planned on 20 to 25 people coming, and 46 people signed up,” said Zuccarini. “That was my first trip. I did not use a travel agent. I did it myself. It was a lot of work, but it was fun.”
She spent the trip learning how to build relationships among travelers.
“We had nine days when we didn’t see land,” said Zuccarini. “I’d always have us meet for dinner. Every day I would set up a new seating chart so the group could mix. Travelers like to meet new people, but it can be awkward to switch seats on your own. There were so many new friendships formed. Many people from that trip are still friends and play games every week.”
After the trip, Zuccarini tried using a travel company to help organize the tour and couldn’t believe how much easier planning became.
Beyond ‘Sit and Get’
When choosing a new location to explore, Zuccarini looks for authentic experiences unique to that area. Since her travelers live in a big city, she wants to give them experiences they couldn’t find nearby. Instead of a generic cooking class, she will look for a culinary experience that is culturally relevant to the area.
“Luckily, my group is not just a ‘sit and get’ group,” said Zuccarini. “They will participate in different things. We visited some national parks in August. Almost everybody on that trip went on a rafting ride in Jackson, Wyoming. They are really so positive and open-minded.”
Zuccarini also believes it’s important to include some downtime on tours.
“I don’t believe having every minute planned is a vacation,” said Zuccarini. “When you tell travelers that they have to be on a bus at 8 a.m. every day, that is a lot. I try to make them realize they can slow down and immerse themselves in the destination a bit more.”
The Go Club’s trips don’t follow a template. Instead, Zuccarini works to offer a wide variety of travel experiences. Travelers sign up for everything from overnight casino trips to international tours. The program averages one international trip a year, as well as four within North America and three in Texas or Louisiana.
Go Club’s trips previously consisted only of senior citizens. Now, anyone over 21 can attend.
“Our trips don’t always work for people still in the workforce,” said Zuccarini. “I’m trying to address that. I had a trip last spring to Sedona and the Grand Canyon. It was a five-night trip. It marketed itself because of its shorter length. So many people said that it was the perfect amount of time for a tour.”
Not everyone in Go Club has the resources to travel. Zuccarini wanted to include those members in the program in other ways. A monthly potluck luncheon encourages all members to eat, play games and socialize whether or not they sign up for tours.
“We also meet once a month and try a new restaurant,” said Zuccarini. “Some of our members want companionship but can’t travel. The monthly meals are ways everyone can participate.”
The program has a long tradition of hosting a big Christmas party. The bank rents a hotel ballroom to host a sit-down dinner and dance.
“That is a really special event that keeps people in touch,” said Zuccarini. “The hotel told us people aren’t doing these types of events anymore. People appreciate that we still host that party.”
Since Zuccarini travels with the bank group every other month, one might worry that the schedule could become overwhelming. Instead, Zuccarini still loves every second.
“It’s a wonderful way to be retired,” said Zuccarini. “Having retired from 35 years of education, this is such a treat. People like to tell me, ‘You’ve dealt with kids so long. You are still rounding them up; they are just a little older.’ It’s been so much fun.”
• Offer a variety of travel opportunities, from weekend bus excursions to international adventures.
• Look at new ways of travel. The next generation doesn’t want to “sit and get.” They want hands-on experiences.
• Take your time and listen. Listen to new ideas and listen to travelers wants, needs and dreams.