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Our Fabulous Vacation Managers

Deb Howard

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I was raised in Connecticut and chose to go to college in California. I started my career in the tour industry in 1977 shortly after graduation. With a focus on the North American continent I took tours throughout Northern and Southern California, the Southwest, New England, Canadian Maritimes, Canadian Rockies and several 28 day cross country tours primarily sharing our country with Australian and British visitors. In an innocent moment by the hotel ice machine while on tour in Anaheim, CA, I met my Massachusetts born husband, Bill, and shortly thereafter moved back to the east coast to begin a life together.

While raising two kids, Bill and I worked together starting our own business. Product design, development and manufacturing of household and decorative accessories sourced in foreign countries took me to China and all parts of India.

In 2010, I decided to go full circle and return to my first love; tour directing. With great gratitude to AFC for taking a leap of faith with my return to the industry, I have ignited that passion and look forward to additional opportunities. In between tours, I am serving as a local docent at Rough Point, one of the mansion homes of Doris Duke, in Newport, RI 


Chris McCool

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Chris McCool has had the privilege over the past 35 years to lead tours to 105 countries and to all 50 states.  He states, “I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the places I want to visit, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.”  His AFC family of friends continues to grow each year as he shares the excitement and beauty of numerous AFC destinations with you.  Chris leads AFC tours both domestically and abroad, and takes you to places that are off the beaten track, as well as well-known destinations.  Come with Chris on an AFC tour and you’ll experience far more than the brochure promises.  Chris has a BA in History, as well as a Masters in Education.  If you love to learn, laugh and let the child that lives inside of you come out to play, take an AFC tour with Chris.


Chuck Denny

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“Once you experience the world of travel, and especially the privilege of sharing its history, cultures, and beauty with others, it never leaves you.” So says Chuck Denny, a warm, funny, knowledgeable, and energetic Tour Manager at AFC Vacations.
 
Following college graduation in California, Chuck lived in Latin America studying Spanish and teaching English as a second language. There he developed his penchant for travel and learning about other cultures. Following graduation from the International Tour Management Institute in 1978, Chuck began his professional travel career. He brings over 39 years of experience in several areas of the travel industry, from office operations to leading tours, cruises, educational programs, and corporate events in 60 countries on 6 continents and numerous, diverse locations in the USA, and looks forward to exploring new places of interest!
 
“I am often asked about my favorite tour destinations,” Chuck says. “That question usually leads to a discussion about Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, Turkey, Europe, Machu Picchu, Costa Rica, or Western Canada. I am also taken with emerging destinations where I’ve led tours to such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and China. And then there is the exotic wildlife of the Galapagos and on safari in East Africa. It is never a short conversation.”

Chuck is a published travel writer and photographer, enjoys fitness pursuits, and holds a real estate broker license. As for the future, he says: “I have many more miles left on my tires. Early on I decided that I could do a couple of things really well in life, and I chose my career and my family. My daughters recently flew the nest so I will have more personal time, but there are new adventures ahead in the travel industry, and I cannot imagine a time when I am not leading tour & travel programs. I do so out of a passion for sharing the world I’ve come to know, and intend to continue to contribute to the exciting vacation experiences that AFC offers its valued clients, having a lot of fun along the way!”


Mark Jacobson

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Mark loves to travel and credits his parents with establishing his “wanderlust” at a very young age. “I was taught to appreciate scenery, history and culture during our many family vacations, and for that, I’m thankful.”  After receiving a degree in Business Administration, Mark attended travel school in Minneapolis and started working for a local tour company at the age of 23.  Since then, he’s had the good fortune to escort many tours throughout the United States, Canada and abroad during 25+ years in the travel industry. “In addition to tour guiding, I’ve worked in reservations, group sales, office management, and as a travel show presenter for various tour companies. I’m well-rounded in terms of experience in the travel industry, which translates nicely into my tour guiding skills.”  Mark also loves to cook. He was surrounded by home-cooked food and fresh garden vegetables growing up on his family farm in North Dakota. Here he learned about cooking from his mother who owned and managed several successful local restaurants. “I was always in the kitchen with my Mom, and worked side by side with her at various restaurants. I was learning to cook at a very young age, without even realizing it.”  Later in life, Mark rediscovered his passion for food. In 2007 he enrolled in culinary school; “I wanted to combine my love for food with my love for travel.”  After graduating culinary school, Mark continues to work both in the travel industry as a tour guide specializing in food-focused tours, and also as a personal chef. “I work hard to exceed my client’s expectations. People remember the information you give them as a tour guide, but most of all, they remember how you made them feel. I want everyone to end their tour with a big smile on their face!”  Happy travels and bon appetit!


Pat Conway

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Pat was born and raised in Michigan. He has been a tour manager for over 15 years. 
He has been living in San Diego since 1998. He also lived in Tokyo for 8 years.
Pat has travelled to 49 states and over 30 countries. He specializes in national parks, especially those in the western U.S.
 


Denise Wright

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After a 4 year sabbatical, my journeys have taken me near and far.  A new perspective on my 35 years in the travel industry was the renewal of interest and spirit that I needed.  

A 1983 graduate of the International Tour Manager Institute, my long time experience has touched all facets of this trade, enhancing my ability to coordinate and deliver the best tour. I have conducted tours in all but 5 states and have 5 filing cabinets to prove it!  After graduating I focused on senior motorcoach tours and these adventures have always been the heart of my profession.

Corporate travel has enhanced my career as well. It has introduced me to around the world cultures. Between covering the Olympics (4 times) numerous Super Bowls & the Monte Carlo Grand Prix, I feel truly blessed to have made travel my career & life. 

In a letter of support Randy once said, "one of our top tour managers for over 30 years, Denise possesses all the skills & personality necessary to be the successful tour manager she is."

So hope to see you ................"on the road again."
 


Conrad Tausend

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There is just no better experience in this lifetime than travel!!  Just the idea of waking up in an unknown town starts the adventure. Mom and Dad took us traveling when we were young and to sum it up, the more I get, the more I want --- all these years later. Born and raised in Milwaukee, WI, I found my way home there about 21 years ago after transfers with Fed Ex for 15 years.
 
Whether it's the texture and sights of a National Park, the deck of a Holland America ship or anywhere in between, I'm ready to go! Will you please come along??
 
The thrill today is being able to share my accumulation of knowledge and information with others. With 40 years in the customer service and hospitality business, I can apply all that experience, and will do it on the move. My next visit to Yellowstone National Park will be #68. I'm happy to say that applied to the right itinerary, I have developed narratives about Lewis & Clark and Butch Cassidy that will hold your attention and interest, and allow you to say, "I didn't know that !"
 
Any AFC tour on which we meet will be a pleaser to the last detail ---- even the weather; because there's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing!
 
And with this much fun to start any tour.... in my life ---- Every day is Saturday!


Carol Walker

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Travel and an interest in the world has always been a passion of mine, starting out with family car trips when I was young, progressing on to ocean and river cruises, to adventure travel, to coach tours, to travelling on my own in Europe for weeks at a time. I have been lucky enough to visit over 45 countries and 6 continents.  When an opportunity presented itself to be able to share this passion with others as a Tour Manager, I couldn’t wait to get started!
Since 2000, I have led tours to Canada’s Maritimes, Eastern Canada, Alaska and the Yukon, California, Oregon and Washington as well as the Canadian and American Rockies. I like working as a Tour Manager for AFC for lots of different reasons: to have fun, to see places I have always dreamed of, to meet new and interesting people, to learn and to have my preconceived notions challenged. Sharing these ideas has helped me appreciate that others are also keen to share their ideas and their dreams as well.
In addition, I work part time as a costumed Interpreter/Tour Guide at Heritage Park Historical Village in my home town of Calgary, Alberta, where I help visitors understand our Canadian history and to appreciate that the past has not “passed” and that it affects our daily life, culture, and values.
 As a born and raised Canadian, I look forward to presenting our country to our visitors and ensuring that they have a wonderful time “north of the border, eh?”


Karen Hill
Karen Hill has been touring the highways and cruising the rivers and oceans of the world for the past 34 years. She has led tours to six of the seven continents. There is not a major cruise line she has not sailed on, and for the past 10 years has made cruising her specialty.
 
While leading tours to the Canadian Rockies and Alaska, Karen fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and left her childhood home in Southern California for Bellingham, Washington.  When it was time for her husband to retire, they settled in St. George Utah, where they live today.
 
“Travel is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you will discover just around the bend.”
 


Steve Nakamoto
I was born and raised in Lynwood, CA. When I was 11, my family moved to Palos Verdes where I became an all-league high school basketball player. I went to college at San Diego State where I played on the basketball team and graduated with a degree in finance.

After college, I moved to Whittier in order to expand my family’s retail flower business. After selling the family business in 1990, I become a Dale Carnegie Instructor where I taught human relations and effective public speaking.

After becoming a certified tour director, I did my first tour with AFC to Branson in 1994. Over the past 16 years I’ve especially enjoyed my trips to New England, Savannah-Charleston, Chicago, Washington, New York, and the Canadian Rockies.

When I’m not touring, I surf, play beach volleyball, and promote the 3 award-winning books that I’ve written about relationships. I live in Huntington Beach - single with no children.

My success as a tour director can be traced to my 90 year-old Dad who always told me, “treat everyone well.”

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