Linda Sizemore started The Travel Center on Piney Forest Road 10 years ago and it has been voted the best travel agency in Danville for the last nine of those years.
On Tuesday, Sizemore will be sharing her appreciation with an anniversary celebration open to the public.
“We’re going to be giving away prizes like a five day/four night vacation. We also have tickets to Merle Haggard and a lot of logo items from cruise lines and Disney. We’re going to have refreshments and games, too.” Sizemore added that Danville Mayor Sherman Saunders may also stop by to help mark the occasion.
Although The Travel Center books all types of travel, Sizemore said she specializes in honeymoon and destination weddings, trips to the Caribbean and Mexico, Europe and Hawaii holidays, and Disney and family vacations and cruises.
Sizemore who had worked in the travel business for 10 years decided to open The Travel Center at a time that the travel industry was facing challenges like never before. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the government was very wary of any company selling airline tickets.
“Starting a travel agency was very difficult to do. You have to take a course and the exam. Only 11 out of 33 students in my class passed to exam in order to sell travel tickets,” said Sizemore.
According to Sizemore, there were even more obstacles to encounter. “They sent a CIA agent to inter-view me and fingerprint me because after 9/11 they couldn’t understand why I would want to open a travel agency when all the smaller companies were shutting down. They even fingerprinted my hus-band and he has nothing to do with my business.”
“After Sept. 11, 2001 the travel agency nose-dived and it was not a good time to open.” Sizemore said, however, she had faith in her new business. “I felt strongly that my clients would follow me to this agency and thankfully they did.”
Since opening the doors on Oct. 1, 2003 with only herself and a secretary, The Travel Center has now grown to employ a staff of six.
Sizemore said there is a big difference between her agency and some smaller home-based agencies or the Internet ticket sites. “There’s so many things that the Internet does not tell you such as when you need a passport or a VISA to go to certain destinations and any other requirements. A lot of times the people that book online aren’t guaranteed their seats. People don’t realize this and they become stranded. Internet tickets are usually the first ones to be bumped.”
“A store-front travel agency has airline and other ticket stock,” said Sizemore. “In addition, we are full-service agency and we don’t just sell you something. After I’ve sold the client the ticket I’m going to give them the directives as to what they need to do to go through customs and immigrations, how to pack, how they’re going to get their transfer to the hotel. I take them step by step through every part of their trip so there’s no anxiety as to how this is going to work.”
Sizemore said she gives travelers her home and cell phone numbers and she is available to assist them if they encounter any problems they may have on their trip. “I don’t normally have any problems with any resorts or cruises that we set up. The most common problem is airlines canceling their flights which make the travelers feel stranded.”
Whether she is finding connecting flights or finding lost luggage, Sizemore said she can provide services that the internet cannot.
“One time I sent clients on an extended trip to Europe and when they reached their destination, their luggage was nowhere to be found,” Sizemore remembered. “I contacted the airlines to find out where it was and they did not know. I started tracking the luggage and found it in Paris. To make things worse, the baggage handlers were on strike. After a couple of days, we were able to get their luggage to them with no thanks to the airlines.”
Sizemore knows very well about the problems travelers encounter. She said she travels extensively in order to investigate the resorts and hotels where she sends her clients. She has met many of the resort owners. She has also personally dealt with airline cancellations, missed flights and other travel problems. In order to serve her customers better, Sizemore said she strives to be the most traveled agent in Danville.
Although many people believe that travel agencies are more expensive than booking travel on the internet, Sizemore said that isn’t the case. “The service is free, the only charges we have is for plane tickets and we are $5 less than the airlines,” said Sizemore who adds that she can usually find less expensive flights than clients can find on their own.
“We can see all of the airlines combinations. We can spend five minutes to find cheap tickets and we are going to educate you on how to travel.”
Sizemore said she is thankful for everyone who has supported her throughout the last decade and she hopes to continue to make dreams come true.
The Travel Center’s celebration will be held from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The Travels Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Walk-ins are welcome. Sizemore also books appointments after hours and on weekends.
The Travel Center is located at 1332-A Piney Forest Road in Danville. They can be reached at 434-836-8728.
More information can be found at travelcenterdanville.com.
Okeefe reports for Work It, SoVa.