A logical move: Northland Travel has a new home

Popular agency is now at Friendship Haven

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Northland Travel travel manager Rhonda Strutzenberg, at left, along with President Kellie Guderian, pose in their new office in the Friendship Haven Campus where they are in the process of relocating to from their former office in the Crossroads Mall.

The place that makes dreams come true has a new home.

Northland Travel has moved from Crossroads Mall to the Friendship Haven campus, 420 Kenyon Road. The travel agency previously had a part-time satellite office at Friendship Haven. Now its headquarters is housed there.

Rhonda Strutzenberg, who manages Northland Travel, said the multifaceted travel services the agency has offered in the past are all continuing. She said the decision to relocate occurred because the business relationship between the Friendship Haven community and Northland is expanding.

“We handle booking all their group tours and things,” Strutzenberg said. “Our partnership has grown over the three years that we’ve had a satellite office there. They are doing more trips and longer trips. It’s a lot easier to be out there to work with their group leader. We do a lot of travel for their residents and staff besides the group departures that Friendship Haven does. So, we were just thinking that it would be ideal on a full-time basis.”

Patrons can reach the Northland Travel by entering Friendship Haven’s main entrance. There is ample visitor parking.

“When you come in the main entrance where it says welcome center, you go left down that hallway and we’re the first office on the right,” Strutzenberg said.

The work Northland Travel undertakes for the Friendship Haven Travel Club and its residents is extensive.

“When we first started they did mainly a lot of coach tours and day trips to close destinations,” Strutzenberg said. “But we’ve broadened that and now they are doing multiday trips. They still do day trips as well. They used to do one cruise per year. Now they’ve expanded and are doing a lot more with that. For the fall of this year they are flying a group out to Boston in October and experiencing train travel with the fall colors. That’s a really big trip they’ve got going, it’s a nine-day trip. We’re planning well into 2019 for their group departures. Next year they are already looking at a Viking River Cruise in Europe in April. In July, we’re booking an Iceland cruise.”

The tours Northland books for Friendship Haven’s Travel Club aren’t limited to Friendship Haven residents.

“Other people can sign up too,” Strutzenberg said. “The Travel Club consists of both residents and outside people. There are no fees for joining the Travel Club.”

Broad range of services

Northland Travel handles the full range of leisure travel planning needs. Whatever the destination a client has in mind, the agency is ready to provide expert help and advice.

“We do both domestic and international travel,” Strutzenberg said. “It’s a mix.”

Individual travel is a big part of the agenda but the company has long offered an array of group tours. Motor coach travel to an assortment of destinations around the nation is a major focus.

“We’ve got four planners and guides that work out of their homes,” Strutzenberg said. “They mainly work on all the group things. The majority of them are motor coach tours in the United States. We do have an international guide who will be taking flights internationally as well.”

Whatever the destination a client has in mind, Northland Travel is ready to provide expert help and advice.

The availability of travel booking options on the Internet makes it possible for people to plan vacations themselves. Strutzenberg emphasized, however, that deciding instead to work with a travel agent has many advantages.

“Our knowledge of the travel industry and the connections that we have can help customers get the best deals,” she said. “We are there for them in the preplanning, saving them time. Trying to book your own travel, sometimes takes quite a bit of time to get all the details together and make sure that you get every component of the trip booked.”

And if problems emerge before or during a vacation, the team at Northland is ready to lend a hand.

“A travel agent’s job is not only the preplanning to get people there, it’s also being there for them while they are traveling if anything were to come up,” Strutzenberg said.

She gave as an example a freak snowstorm in April that had stranded some of her clients in the Caribbean due to flights into Minneapolis that were canceled. They called her cellphone after normal business hours and she was able to develop a travel workaround that got them home with a minimum of delay and inconvenience.

“We’re there for people if anything were to happen,” Strutzenberg said. “I think that means a lot to people.”

The help a travel agent can provide isn’t limited to emergencies. Strutzenberg said it also involves making certain that no important planning details are overlooked.

“There’s a lot of details that go into a trip, no matter if it’s domestic or international,” she said. “There are a couple things that stick out that people maybe don’t think about doing. You have your air ticket and hotel stay but some people have come to me and said ‘Oh I totally forgot about transfers from the airport to the hotel.’ Then there is sightseeing and things like that. We’ve got a lot of connections both domestic and international where we can put all that together for whatever their needs are.”

Additionally, Northland Travel is affiliated as an independent agency with one of the travel industry’s giants – Signature Travel Network.

“It is one of the large consortiums that travel agencies can belong to get benefits for their clients,” Strutzenberg said. “They have preferred vendors that we can work with and get volume type discounts and deals that we can pass on to our clients.”

She said that through the Signature relationship members of her team can gain information about just about any travel option a customer might need.

Meet the manager

Strutzenberg has been in the travel world most of her adult life.

She graduated from Fort Dodge Senior High in 1984 and continued her education at Iowa Central Community College. Subsequently, she spent 21 years with AAA and has been at Northland since AAA’s Fort Dodge office closed.

“I’ve been in the field 30 years,” she said. “I think it’s in my blood. The most rewarding part for me is being able to hear the customers and the travelers come back and tell me what a great time they had on their vacation that I helped them plan.”