After providing expert guidance and personalized travel service to the Livermore community for 40 years, Travel Bug Owner Debbie Peck has decided to retire.
But Travel Bug will remain a mainstay of Livermore’s downtown.
Peck’s successors, Alden and Ivy Faught, owners of Simply Fondue, took over on Nov. 1. Ivy Faught has worked at Travel Bug for the past eight years and the couple are looking forward to continuing to grow the business.
When Peck took over the Travel Bug, at 2277 Third St., she was a young single mother who had relocated to Livermore from Arizona to be closer to her parents. She spent two years working for her father’s swimming pool business, then her parents bought The Travel Bug to give her a potentially lucrative opportunity to provide for her children — and it satiated her parents’ desire to travel the world.
Being new to the business, Peck had trepidations about taking on such a tremendous responsibility. Aside from knowing nothing about the travel industry, she was concerned about the time it would take away from her two very young daughters. But she also saw the Travel Bug as a promising opportunity.
After the business changed hands, one of the agents stayed on for a year to help acclimate Peck to her new role as travel agency owner. She had to learn everything from the ground up. This meant learning to manage operating expenses, conduct market research and set pricing, develop and maintain alliances with air and cruise lines. She also had to familiarize herself with the various requirements for domestic and international travel. She took over the agency on Nov. 1, 1979.
Since then, Peck says, the travel industry has undergone a complete transformation. When she began her career, there were no computers, so airline tickets had to be hand-written. For finding flights, Agents had to rely solely on a hard copy version of the OAG, the Official Airline Guide, which was as thick as an old telephone directory. There were only three prices for airline flights - daytime, nighttime, and 21-day advance purchase flights, known as Apex fares.
The travel industry changed significantly in the immediate aftermath of 911. For example, cruise lines were compelled to change their destinations because travelers became more hesitant to venture outside of the United States.
Many travel agencies, unable to adapt, were forced to permanently close their doors. The Travel Bug was able to weather the storm by redirecting its focus and suggesting more destinations within the United States, such as New Orleans.
At one time Livermore was home to seven travel agencies. The Travel Bug is the last one standing. Peck attributes her success to knowledgeable staff, “good service, good prices, the agency’s ability to change with the times.” Having a wide range of clients has also been a key factor in keeping the Travel Bug on the map.
Peck finds that many of today’s clients are well-traveled. They request more exotic destinations. Trips to Bangladesh, Tibet, Mt. Everest, Nepal and Iceland have become commonplace.
As a travel agent, she’s enjoyed work trips to China, Fiji, Tahiti, many places in Europe, and multiple cruises in both the US and Canada. Peck's most memorable travel experience was her trip to Africa. It was “the most humbling and wonderful experience,’ she said, “because we have so much… we’re spoiled and they’re not, and they’re happy.” She says it was a real eye opener to see how other people live, and she marveled at the cycle of plant and animal life.
“This has been a wonderful ride for me for 40 years…it’s been wonderful for me and for my kids because we’ve all been able to do some traveling," she said.
Peck is looking forward to spending time with her family and eventually doing more traveling, and she has her eye on Iceland or Latin America as her next trip. In the meantime, she is exploring the possibility of doing volunteer work and taking Spanish classes.
She offered couple of parting travel tips: Travel information on the internet can be confusing and outdated, making it difficult to successfully plan your trip on your own. Travel agencies can make planning easier. They maintain close relationships with travel-related companies, which help keep costs down, and pass those savings on to clients.
And whenever you’re traveling, send a private email to yourself with credit card, passport, and any other pertinent information, along with the phone numbers of people to contact in case of an emergency.