As efforts to administer the coronavirus vaccine continue throughout the state, many are hopeful for the return of what was once considered “normal.”
For Peoria resident Taunya Altamirano, that means the ability to travel once again.
Prior to the pandemic outbreak in 2020, the former paralegal found herself booking vacations for her friends and family so often that she decided to turn the hobby into a career. In January 2020, she took the leap of faith and purchased her own travel company, Live Love Drink Travel LLC.
“I left a very lucrative job to go into travel, and I absolutely love it. I don’t regret it at all. It’s been the best decision I have ever made in my life,” Altamirano said.
Enter the pandemic and her travel business took a major hit in its first few months.
“Everything slowed way down,” she said. “I took that opportunity as time for me to really dig deep. I took a bunch of training, about 200 hours in the month of February and March. I thought of it as just a bump in the road for me. You just put your big girl pants on and keep going.”
Determined to find success in her business, despite COVID-19 making many people weary about traveling, Altamirano focused on her clients who were willing to travel and began booking trips as far out as 2022.
“Having just started the business, and with the pandemic, I’ve actually met my first annual goal three months early,” Altamirano said.
In a time when life seems to be so focused around coronavirus, Altamirano said, she is determined to help her customers escape their daily stress by planning their dream vacations at the best price.
“The biggest motivator for traveling is people wanting to get out of the day to day stress of having to deal with everything related to COVID. People want to find a way to escape, and sitting in the sun on the beach with a cocktail is the best way to do that,” she said.
With the abundance of health precautions being taken by airports, hotels and transportation services, Altamirano is convinced traveling is safe and said she has every intention to do so.
Altamirano’s most recent trip was in December for a week-long trip to Aruba. Since June, she has visited St. Thomas and vacationed three times in Mexico.
“I never felt safer than when I was in Aruba. There were wash stations when you went in and out of every single store, restaurant, hotel, everything. Hand sanitizing all day and masks were a must,” she said.
To keep her clients safe, Altamirano ensures that all hotels, airlines and locations she books for her customers are up to the highest standards of cleanliness and safety protocols for COVID-19.
For instance, Altamirano will only book her clients in hotels that are accepting a limited capacity of 40% to 50%. All hotels booked through her agency also go 72 hours between guests to ensure a deep, thorough clean.
For those looking to travel, the vacation specialist recommends doing the proper research, having a clear understanding of the desired trip, setting a budget and getting travel insurance.
“It takes hours and hours. I remember even before I became a travel agent, I thought this takes so much time, but I love it. You have that moment when you get off the plane and you look around and see a completely different country. It’s a very rewarding thing to give to my clients,” she said.
Entering 2021, Altamirano said she is filled with hope and ambition.
“I’m looking forward to a successful year. There have definitely been little bumps in the road, but I have learned a lot as a travel agency and being in the travel industry. I have learned how to engage differently with my customers, vendors and others,” she said.
For more information about Live Love Drink Travel, visit taltamirano.dreamvacations.com.
—Staff writer Lauren Serrato can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org