How this Mother-Daughter Team Turned Franchise Ownership into a Family Business

Cruise Planners, an American Express Representative, allows franchise owners to combine their passion for travel with the power to be their own boss and to work whenever and wherever they want. For some travel franchise owners, opening and operating their Cruise Planners franchise is a family affair, giving these travel agents the opportunity to build relationships with both their clients and each other. Terry McKinney, a franchise owner since 2011 based in Magnolia, Texas shares how running her work from home Cruise Planners franchise with her daughter Andrea Mickan, has allowed them to make a difference in their clients lives – and their own – through travel.

Terry, Andrea Travel Agency

Terry McKinney and Andrea Mickan, Cruise Planners franchise owners based in Magnolia, TX.

How did the idea of entering the travel industry together come about?

I opened my business in September 2011 and knew I wanted to do trade shows to get my business name and face out in public view so I asked my daughter Andrea if she would be able to help me work at the trade shows. I immediately saw that she was a natural fit for the romance travel industry. After my asking her to join me for a couple of years, she finally said yes and made the move from her corporate America position in human resources to becoming a full-time independent contractor with my company. 

What makes your daughter your ideal business partner?

Andrea loves talking to people and making people happy. She knows her products and if she isn’t familiar with a particular destination, resort or cruise ship she’ll research it backwards and forwards until she becomes an expert.  I am so proud to have my daughter working by my side in my company.

What is the best part about being a mother-daughter team in the travel industry?

We work together in tandem, bouncing marketing ideas off one another, always working together to better ourselves and exceed our company goals, always working hard to make sure that we provide the best options to our clients and getting to revel in our successes together. We both love the romance travel industry so it’s a great feeling of joy and pride when our couples get married and go from college sweethearts to parents and then being called ‘Aunties’ by our clients when they start having children. What a wonderful feeling to know that you’ve made a difference in someone’s lives!

How has the Cruise Planners travel agency model allowed you to smoothly run your business together?

Cruise Planners is amazing in their support to their franchise owners on so many different levels.  They truly care about our successes and are always coming up with new initiatives that serve to improve our efficiency, training, technology education and sales strategies. Andrea and I are aligned with our Cruise Planners Home Office in that we know what to expect and who to turn to in the event we need assistance or special guidance. They have our backs and we are never alone.

What’s your favorite travel memory you’ve shared since starting your Cruise Planners franchise?

My personal favorite memory was our Mediterranean cruise to Italy and the Greek Isles. We started with a few days in Paris and toured the city as well as the Champagne Region – such a beautiful country. We traversed down to Rome and spent a few more days sightseeing and going down to the Amalfi Coast. Then we boarded our cruise ship and were rewarded with an unbelievable suite upgrade as a surprise. The entire experience, both on land and on the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, was absolutely amazing. Our travels always seem to make us better people and we love working side-by-side as a team. 

With Mother’s Day coming up, what vacation options would you recommend as a gift for moms and what amenities on this trip would make it special?

Providing a mother with a special trip on Mother’s Day with her children creates beautiful memories that will stay with her the rest of her life. A cruise onboard the Celebrity Reflection staying in a Spa Suite – absolutely perfect; a trip to El Dorado Seaside Suites with a beautiful beach cabana and butler service in one of their gorgeous swim-out infinity pool suites – unbelievable; a European River Cruise onboard the AMASerena floating gently down the Danube River with their included shore excursions and local wines – nothing like it! The idea list for a Mother’s Day family trip with her children is truly endless. But that’s what Andrea and I do…we can create all of those ‘wow’ moments to make every person feel so very special.

Want to Start your Own Travel Agency?

Contact us, by calling 888-582-2150 or register for an upcoming franchise webinar, for more information about starting a travel agency with Cruise Planners.

Our Path to Franchise Ownership – A Military Spouse Perspective

Cruise Planners, An American Express Representative, created the Armed Forces and First Responders Initiative Program with exclusive benefits for retired, active military and spouses of the community. The support, tools and award-winning travel agent training that is offered through this program are the perfect guide to effortlessly merge a military background with a passion for travel and achieve a successful business as a Cruise Planners travel agency franchise owner.

Travel Agency owners, Chris and Shelia Korte are both U.S. Army veterans that brought their military experience to Cruise Planners. Now as travel franchise owners based in Long Island, NY, the Korte’s share their journey and transition from the army to the travel industry in celebration of Military Spouse Day.

A Military Spouse Perspective on Starting a Travel Agency

Shelia and Chris Korte, Cruise Planners franchise owners
based in Long Island, N.Y., on a cruise vacation in Tahiti

A Military Spouse Perspective on Starting a Travel Agency

How many years were you and your spouse in active military service?

Both Chris and I were in the Army for 3 years and 2 years respectively. We received an honorable discharge, Chris in 1977, and myself in 1976.

What factors contributed to becoming a Cruise Planners travel agency franchise owners?

We compared Cruise Planners with other travel companies and it came down to the Veterans discount offered at Cruise Planners. Since we joined Cruise Planners in 2010, we know that we made the right decision because we are part of a family. The franchise technology and support offered by Cruise Planners are second to none.

How do you share your experience with Cruise Planners to others with military experience looking to join a franchise?

We really recommend it to other Veterans or enlisted military members who are looking for an entrepreneurial option for the next stage of their lives after departing the military. For us, owning a Cruise Planners franchise has allowed us to have and maintain a work and family life balance. We truly love what we do and are able to make our own schedule and work when and where we want. We have plenty of time for leisure activities and time to spend with our family, friends and grandchildren.

How has your military background helped you succeed in the travel industry?

Our background in the military has given us the discipline to stick with our choice to purchase a franchise. We have been able to grow our business by sharing our story that we are both veterans. People like to support a veteran-owned business and with that seems to come immediate trust. Gaining trust is one of the biggest hurdles in growing your business. In our signature line, website and every PR piece we always include the phrase, “Veteran-Owned Business.” Doing this has helped us build strong relationships with people throughout the country. With the can-do military training and background that we had, we knew that failing or quitting the business was never an option.

Are you a veteran or a member of the armed forces and first responder community interested in turning your passion for travel and entrepreneurship into a successful and rewarding career? Contact call 888-582-2150 or visit for more information about Cruise Planners’ Armed Forces and First Responders Initiative Program.

Continuous Support & Motivation for Cruise Planners Franchisee’s

Franchise Travel Agency Support

Cruise Planners’ Business Development Team acts as the biggest support system for franchise owners. Each team members’ main goal is to motivate and assist our travel agency owners in all aspects of small business ownership. Whether cultivating business plans, creating marketing tools or hosting coaching calls, the Business Development Team strives to ensure the success of every franchisee who becomes a travel agency owner.

The Business Development Team’s hard work does not go unnoticed by the franchise travel agency owners, as many credit the remarkable team for their travel agency’s growth and accomplishments.

“I love the coaching calls,” said Debra Kerper, a Carrollton, TX Cruise Planners franchise owner who specializes in accessible special needs travel. “Whether it’s a good week or a slow one, the Business Development Team always has sage advice on how to kick my business up a notch.”

Accessible Special Needs Travel Agency
Debra Kerper (middle), Cruise Planners franchise owner based in Carrollton TX, who specializes in accessible travel, vacationing with her clients.


The one-on-one experiences offered by Cruise Planners fosters a sense of family by creating strong relationships between team members and travel agents.

“I have found the Business Development Team to be the most helpful people on the planet,” said Carol Furst Matulonis, Cruise Planners travel agency franchise owner, Fort Pierce, Fla. “They have incredible insight and many have been in the travel industry for decades.”

Carol Furst Matulonis, Cruise Planners franchise owner based in Fort Pierce, Fla.
Carol Furst Matulonis, Cruise Planners franchise owner based in Fort Pierce, Fla., vacationing at Sandals South Coast in Jamaica.


Please join us for an upcoming travel franchise opportunity webinar in which you can learn more about the features and benefits of owning your own Cruise Planners franchise.

Cruise Planners Shows Commitment to Franchisee Growth through New Virtual Associate Training Program

Franchise owners can focus on growing their home-based businesses by easily adding associates as members of the franchise’s selling team

Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, is making it easy for franchise owners to grow their businesses by introducing a new virtual associate training program. The newly-launched program helps franchise owners confidently recruit new associates to join their growing franchise businesses by offering travel agent mentorship, flexibility to work from home and a new training platform to onboard associates with ease and professionalism.   

“Our goal is to help our franchise owners grow their business exponentially and we know associates are a great way to extend their sales force,” said Vicky Garcia, COO and Co-Owner of Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative. “The added flexibility with the new virtual associate training program allows for faster onboarding with interactive and engaging e-learning content which is completely mobile-friendly and accessible 24/7.”

New Virtual Associate Training Program

Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, introduces a new virtual associate training program, making it easy for franchise owners to grow their businesses.

As small business owners, Cruise Planners franchisees have the ability to run their business with associates as extensions of their salesforce working alongside, yet independently, as a full-service travel agent. Associates will benefit from virtual training
over the course of 12 days, which includes multiple live check-in sessions to ensure all associates fully understand each topic. This new approach to learning is appealing to both associates and franchise owners since it offers greater flexibility to take the courses anytime, anywhere.

Cruise Planners top-producing franchise owners who have associates are the most successful in the business model since they are able to increase their overall sales. Based on that data, Cruise Planners recently rolled out this new virtual associate training program with that in mind so more franchisees can bring on new associates through this well-received program.

“As a Franchise Owner, giving my new associates an option to train “virtually” allows them to get a great training right away from the convenience of their own home office so they can start selling,” said JJ Kuykendall, Cruise Planners franchise owner based in Oak Ridge North, Texas. “With the virtual training program, I can track my associates’ progress and see their test results, allowing me to manage my business as efficiently as possible.”

Franchise owners get support in growing their franchisees through the industry’s best technology, strategic marketing, hands-on business development coaching and in-person and virtual training opportunities.

“By introducing the new associate training program, it provides associates the opportunity to quickly onboard within the travel industry to start selling under the mentorship of a franchise owner, which truly is a win-win,” Garcia said. “When associates join Cruise Planners, they have the benefit of being under someone already established in the travel industry and can focus on selling travel instead of running a business.”

One of the biggest hurdles to bringing on associates is the commitment – both time and money – so this new program helps franchise owners easily bring the right people to train on Cruise Planners’ proprietary technology, tools and marketing programs. This is valuable because the training is tailored to the associate – since their needs are different than someone who is investing in full franchise ownership.

Cruise Planners, a leader in franchise training and technology, has invested in industry-leading training technology in the form of a new online/virtual training platform and a team dedicated to building the industry’s most effective and award-winning training programs. The virtual associate training program is online, flexible and optimized for tablet, smart phones and personal computers with dynamic timing elements, so it is self-paced while also holding the associates accountable.

“Everything we do is designed to make it easier and more efficient for our travel agents – whether franchise owners or associates – to be as successful as possible,” Garcia said. “We are confident this new training program, combined with all the other great training tools we offer, will continue to skyrocket our agents to success.”

About Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative

Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, is the nation’s largest home-based travel agent franchise network in the travel industry. Cruise Planners operates a network of more than 1,800 franchise owners who independently book amazing vacation and travel experiences for their clients. The Florida-based Home Office Team positions a nation-wide network of franchise owners for success by providing innovative marketing, booking and technology tools, as well as professional development and hands-on training with the industry’s top executives. The company continues to be lauded and has been named the No.1 travel franchise by Entrepreneur magazine for 14 consecutive years. Cruise Planners was recently featured in Entrepreneur as one of the top 30 franchise innovators in technology, has been consistently named as one of the Top Women-Owned Businesses by the South Florida Business Journal, is on the Inc. 5000 list as one of the fastest-growing private companies in America, has been ranked as the #1 travel franchise by Franchise Business Review for 6 years in a row, and was recognized as one of the Top Workplaces by the Sun Sentinel since it started ranking companies.

Headquartered in Coral Springs, Fla. with more than 22 years of experience, Cruise Planners has achieved top producer status with every major cruise line. Accolades include numerous Magellan Awards from Travel Weekly, American Express Travel Representative Excellence Award for 13 consecutive years (2004-2016), American Express Agency of the Year (2010), Royal Caribbean International Chairman’s Award (2015), Royal Caribbean International President’s Award for Overall Achievement (2012 and 2014), Royal Caribbean International Home-Based Partner of the Year (2007-2013), Norwegian Cruise Line Elite Agency of the Year (2016), Norwegian Cruise Line Franchise Agency of the Year (2011-2015), Celebrity Cruises Home-Based Partner of the Year (2016), Celebrity Cruises Field Sales Account of the Year (2015), Celebrity Cruises Home-Based Account of the Year (2013-2014) and Celebrity Cruises Southeast Region Travel Agent Partner of the Year (2010), Travel Impressions Best of the Best Globe Award (2008-2016),  Sandals Top Host – Worldwide, Globus Family of Brands Premier Agency Partner (2009-2016), Platinum Circle Member with Viking River Cruises (2009-2015), Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection Top Producer (2008-2014) and Regent Seven Seas Cruises Top Producer. Cruise Planners is one of the Top 50 franchises for Veterans according to GI magazine, the Top Franchise Brand for Veterans according to Franchise Business Review, has been named one of the Top 25 franchises for African-Americans by Black Enterprise magazine and is a member of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association. For more information, visit

Stay in Touch: Media can stay up-to-date with Cruise Planners by visiting our media room, following us on Twitter @Cruisitude or on Facebook. For additional information or to make reservations, vacationers should locate a travel advisor near them. For those interested in becoming a franchise owner, please visit the Cruise Planners franchise website.