LaDonna Allen of Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Alabama, has been taking groups from her city on daytrips for several years. But in April 2014, she made a decision that changed her program’s travel horizons forever. She attended the Select Traveler Conference in Huntsville, Alabama.
“I decided to go to the conference in Huntsville because Joe Cappuzzello called and invited me,” she said. “I couldn’t believe how educational it was. I learned so much from the other travel planners I met and from the travel community as a whole. So I attended again last February in Nashville.”
It didn’t take Allen long to catch on. She volunteered to serve as a breakout co-moderator in Nashville for alumni travel programs and took one of the post-tours after the conference.
“I’m planning a Civil War trail tour for next year, and I’ll be using some of the sites we visited on that post-tour,” she said. “I have some real Civil War buffs in my crowd.”
In the two years Allen has attended the conference, she has built a network of friends and colleagues she finds invaluable.
“The networking has been priceless,” she said. “To be able to put faces and names with tour operators is definitely one of the biggest advantages of attending.”
Her group took its first major overnight trip to Boston and Cape Cod just a few weeks ago with Premier World Discovery, whose representative she met at the conference.
“I learned so much from taking our group out on a trip like that,” she said. “We had a ball. People are so much fun when they travel together. My group loved just putting their luggage on the coach and never having to touch it again until we were home.
“We flew from Birmingham to Boston and stayed in one hotel for the entire trip, said Allen. “We had 24 in our group, and we traveled with a few small groups from California. We all became best of friends. I’m staying in touch with several of them.”
Allen’s group will travel to Costa Rica with Collette and to the Pacific Northwest with Landmark Tours in 2016.
“Actually, our plan is to go twice with them to Costa Rica,” she said. “We’ll go with one group in late January and another in April. And we’re going to the Pacific Northwest in June.”
Allen said she learned a lot from her trip to Cape Cod.
“Shortcuts, mostly,” she said. “Like how to get everyone’s boarding passes together as a group. And maybe I’ll plan for a little more downtime for the older travelers. I’ll probably start using more optional tours so someone can take a break if they need to.”
Allen will be in Little Rock for the Select Traveler Conference in February if she has no conflicts on her schedule.
“If I do have a conflict, I’ve already decided that I’ll recommend that we send someone else from the college. The connections you make are amazing.”