DALLAS – Deciding to open your own travel agency may sound like a large feat, but when your philosophy is “if you want something done right, you do it yourself,” that isn’t the case. It definitely wasn’t the case when Carolyn Harvey, 49, decided to start Caribella Travel a decade ago.
Carolyn grew up with her eight siblings in the tiny town of Sidney, Nebraska, and traveled all over the world with her family – the family that opened Cabela’s, one of America’s largest hunting-and-fishing stores with more than $3.6 billion in sales. Her family’s passion for vacations so luxurious beyond imagination and, on the other hand, trips of roughing it on African safaris led Harvey to where she is today. She is a dedicated mother, wife and travel advisor who does whatever’s necessary to get families to their destinations and back home again safely, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Her childhood spent seeing the world and senior year of high school spent on an exchange program with a family in London led up to her college years singing Opera throughout Europe, giving Carolyn all the necessary knowledge to open her own travel agency. Her experiences taught her just how difficult it can be to travel to places you’ve never been before. She had dealt with everything from lost luggage to missing hotel reservations.
However, once graduated from Southern Methodist University with degrees in music and communications, Harvey’s career didn’t start in the travel industry. After working in public relations for a production company then getting married and having three kids, she started to travel again. With the era of social media just beginning, Carolyn’s posts of wonderful trips to Europe sparked her friends’ and family’s interest in having Carolyn be the one to plan their vacations, too.
In the beginning, Carolyn simply charged a planning fee to work her side job as a travel advisor for friends and family. She was working with a travel agent named Dina Holland, owner of AZ Travel Club in Arizona, at one point and then realized, “If I’ve done all the work, why don’t I just do this legitimately and professionally?”
Dina talked with Carolyn about her working under Holland’s company credentials, “so that she could easily sell travel and earn an income,” said Holland. “A majority of her clientele was luxury and high-end travel, intriguing me as an opportunity to learn more.” Entrepreneurialism was in Carolyn’s blood after all; thus, Caribella Travel was born.
Dina Holland and Carolyn Harvey have been industry colleagues for the past 10 years, and Dina considers her to be “an excellent travel advisor because of her attention to detail and desire to learn about destinations that best meet her clients’ needs.”
Travel advisors are in the business of “making people’s dreams come true through traveling to new destinations and learning about new cultures,” said Holland. “Once this pandemic is under control and people begin to feel more comfortable traveling, Carolyn will be ready to help create itineraries that will offer her clients the vacation package they have longed for.”
One of Carolyn’s clients, Lisa McReynolds, 53, expressed how she cannot imagine any of her family’s vacations without Carolyn’s assistance. The McReynolds are a very well-traveled family from Colorado Springs who “like to travel to different places – off the beaten path – and do things that your average family probably wouldn’t do.”
Although Carolyn is the perfect travel advisor for families looking to book all-inclusive resorts in Europe and hoping to avoid all the chaos the pandemic is causing to vacations, including flight cancelations and COVID-test requirements, Carolyn is Lisa’s trip advisor of choice specifically due to her family’s first trip to Tanzania, South Africa.
“To this day, I don’t know how she did that for us, and I don’t know anyone else who could’ve,” Lisa said when asked about Carolyn’s booking of the trip.
The McReynolds ventured into the South African jungle to find a tiny village where they were told of the Hadza tribe of northern Tanzania, a nomadic, hunter-gatherer people that moves around with the water. Once found, the McReynolds spent the day with the tribe hunting with homemade bows and arrows to ultimately strike down a pheasant in which they cooked on fires they made.
“When you’re going to places you don’t know about, you have to have someone who can connect you to the things you want to do, especially since problems will always arise,” Lisa said. Her family has worked with Carolyn on their trips for the past several years. Before that, Lisa was turned off by the travel agents she used, having been forced to pay large fees to be simply thrown into mediocre hotels. “She’s willing to do it all. When we were planning to go to Africa, we knew we needed to find someone like Carolyn to help.”
The McReynolds family also insists on participating in some kind of philanthropy whenever traveling. Carolyn helps Lisa to find any kind of philanthropy to do while they’re traveling. “She really plans a trip for your family, matching any family’s needs and wants. She’s also been extra helpful during the pandemic.”
“Booking through travel advisors is even more important now than before the pandemic,” Lisa said. “They know everything you’d miss and have more insight into what you have to do to get in and out of other countries safely.”
Carolyn Harvey has had to find a special kind of faith and resilience since the start of COVID. “I have to have a certain amount of stamina to ride out COVID,” she said. Although Carolyn has been able to sustain the business, she hasn’t been making any money during the pandemic. So many clients have had to cancel trips, “rightfully so” in her opinion. “It can be depressing at times, but I keep working hard for my clients because I believe travel will come back strong” soon enough.
“Carolyn is always thinking through solutions when faced with challenges or needing to troubleshoot a situation that requires immediate attention,” Dina said. “I enjoy learning from her as she continues to pull together all the details for clients’ itineraries to ensure trips come together without issues or disruption.”