Aug. 11, 2021
BY JOSUÉ VEGA, MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS INTERN
It was at a Chattanooga Chamber networking event that Cindy Steele discovered she could turn her passions into a career. There, Steele ran into a colleague who was looking for a travel agent, and was smitten by the intriguing business idea. She loved traveling. She loved planning. She loved helping people. It was a match.
Over the years, Cindy found that her passion for this work is what has kept her in it, even during events as tricky as a pandemic. “My personal interest in travel helps me help others in making their dreams come true. I love helping people,” Steele says.
Those dreams come in all shapes and sizes, and Steele wouldn’t have it any other way. Her wide travel experiences reflect that. Recently returned from Cancun, Mexico, Steele said her favorite location to travel to is the Caribbean, whether it’s on a cruise or at a resort. St. Lucia, in particular, is her favorite. Additionally, Steele blasted past tropical paradises to tour the West with her husband—on motorcycle. They hit up national parks and monuments like Devils Tower National Monument, Mt. Rushmore, and the Crazy Horse memorial. Steele raves about the breadth of adventure available out there. “That’s the awesome thing about traveling—there is something for everyone to enjoy, in whatever season of life you happen to be in,” Steele says.
She also enjoys a lucrative international web of connections. No matter where her clients may be and no matter what needs they may have, Steele reassures that she is available to them 24/7 and can resolve things swiftly. “Think of me as your personal assistant,” Steele says. “With one phone call, I can arrange everything.” Like many travel agents, she provides all these services at no charge.
While being a travel agent seems glamorous, in the last year and a half the industry has been particularly difficult (Thanks, Covid!). At one point, traveling mostly halted altogether. In the last months, however, travel has been slowly opening up again. People are eagerly booking their tickets, itching to see the world again, only to be confronted with another hurdle: daily-changing travel regulations. Luckily, travel agents like Steele are stepping up to the challenge.
Steele considers herself an “educator in travel”. She has continuously attended multiple online sessions to keep herself up-to-date on travel regulations, so she can provide the best services possible to her clients. Steele shared some of her best craft tips for anyone looking to travel during these irregular times:
With Covid variants emerging around the world, even fully vaccinated travelers may want to guard against pandemic-related problems when they travel. One smart way to do that is with travel insurance. Protect yourself by purchasing travel insurance before you leave. Not all travel insurance plans cover Covid problems, so if you're planning overseas travel—even for 2022 travel and beyond—you'll want to look for a plan that covers Covid-related trip cancellations and medical expenses. This will help cover any unexpected costs, like covid tests and quarantine. Talk to your travel advisor to see what plan fits your needs the most.
Before venturing to any destination, make sure to check travel advisories. This is especially important when traveling within the U.S., as state regulations may vary. Most states have a tourism website where you can access updated information about requirements and protocols for the area. Also, make sure to check in with the CDC on any current information before traveling.
For more information:
Before you travel, check any necessary documents to make sure everything is correct. If you are traveling with a US Passport, it must not be expired. If you need to get a passport application, I recommend filing nine months before you travel, as the State Department is dealing with a massive backlog.
For more information:
Understand that this is a new and unpredictable time for everyone—other travelers, businesses, service people, and even law enforcement. Be patient and be prepared to change plans if necessary, due to new restrictions or rules. Travelers should remember everyone is traveling right now and the usual setbacks, like lines at customs and airline cancelations or delays, can often be exacerbated. Keep an open mind and make the best of it, especially during the summer, since it is the busiest time to travel. With the many recent flight cancellations, it would be a great idea to check ahead to see if there have been any changes. Sign up on airline apps to get notifications to get update notifications.
Finally, even though we must take extra precautions while traveling, don’t allow it to take the joy out of your journey. Smile and wave at your fellow travelers from 6 feet away—we are all in this together.
Travelers get a break: REAL ID deadline extended to May 7, 2025
Turks & Caicos Effective May 1, 2022, travelers aged 18 years and older are still required to be fully vaccinated [booster shot not required]. Travelers are no longer be required to submit a negative test, obtain travel insurance or complete the online health questionnaire. Click here for more information.
Safeguard Your Documents! Make two copies of all your travel documents in case of emergency. Leave one copy with a trusted friend or relative at home and carry the other separately from your original documents. To help prevent theft, do not carry your passport in your back pocket, and keep it separate from your money.
A passport is a U.S. citizen’s key to international travel. Due to a surge in passport applications, your clients should apply several months in advance, especially if they need visas for their foreign destinations. Travelers should make sure their passport is valid at least six months after returning home and has two or more blank pages, or some countries may not let them enter. Note that passports for children under 16 are valid five years and adult passports 10 years, so check expiration dates carefully. We recommend all cruise ship passengers have their passport with them in case of emergency, even if not required.
United States Department of State
Travel Smart. Travel Safe. Travel Well.
Before traveling abroad, make sure to:
GET INFORMED about your destination at travel.state.gov/destination, and plan for the unexpected at travel.state.gov/crisis.
GET REQUIRED DOCUMENTS, such as your passport and visas.
GET ENROLLED in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at step.state.gov to receive security and
GET INSURED for medical, evacuation, and other unexpected expenses.