Our Experts

Our senior travel counselors have over 260 years of collective travel industry experience. We provide professional and personalized trip planning with first-hand advice and valuable travel tips that you won’t find in brochures and at online agencies. Visit our offices and let the experts help you plan your next vacation or cruise.

(Please click on the branch location below to find out about our agents.)


karen_kephartKaren Kephart, Manager – 240-387-4160 / karenk@travelplaceinc.com
After graduating from the Boyd Travel School in 1977 Karen began her career in travel industry. Karen has arranged travel for dignitaries, such as Henry Kissinger to the unique personalities like Frank Zappa. She has traveled to several European countries as well as Japan, Thailand, Bermuda, Mexico and the Caribbean. Karen recently completed Royal Caribbean’s University of WOW and a cruise on one of their newest Freedom class ships. Karen’s coworkers laugh because she always says “I want to go there”. In her off time Karen enjoys traveling to new places and spending time with her son, family and friends.

carla_kollerCarla Koller – 240-387-4160 / carlak@travelplaceinc.com
Carla has worked full-time in the travel industry for 25 years as a travel consultant primarily focusing on leisure travel planning and customized tour arrangements. She holds a BS degree from the University of Maryland in dance, and graduated from International Travel Training Courses. As an avid skier, Carla has skied downhill and cross-country in the western and eastern U.S. She has hiked and traveled in national parks across the U.S. and Canada, and enjoyed the art, culture, and beautiful sights in most major cities. Carla has traveled extensively throughout Europe. Her favorite destinations include Italy, France, England, Scotland, and Ireland. She regards Brugge and Prague as two of the most charming European cities. Her travels in China and Israel have given her insight into ancient civilizations. Traveling off the beaten path in these countries took her to areas like the Stone Forest in China near the Vietnam border, and the Hula Nature Reserve in Israel where she observed flocks of storks and other birds migrating through the Middle East.

One of the most interesting projects was arranging several Africa tours for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, including arrangements for Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter, Mr. and Mrs. William Gates, Sr., foundation staff, security and Secret Service personnel, and broadcast and print media people. Carla’s expertise is working with clients to develop personalized itineraries that become unforgettable, rewarding travel experiences.

tammy_siversTammy Sivers – 240-387-4160 / tammys@travelplaceinc.com
Tammy has 28 years of experience planning vacations for clients in the DC area She began back in 1985 with training at International Travel Training Courses in Washington, DC, and has never looked back. Tammy is a Caribbean travel and cruise expert par excellence! She has been on 23 cruises and has visited more than 20 islands, and has also traveled in Britain, Northern Europe, and Central and South America. Her enthusiasm when talking about one of the many destinations she’s been to generates excitement for her clients about their own upcoming travels, and her infinite knowledge and attention to detail ensure that each trip is smooth sailing whether it’s a cruise or land vacation.

Tammy’s favorite activity when she’s not planning trips is ZUMBA. She loves to dance and spends many an evening at her favorite zumba classes. Her other passion is her three beautiful grandchildren and she’s fortunate that she is able to spend time with them often.


Lisa Burton Van Alstine, Manager – 301-656-4060 x22 / lisab@travelplaceinc.com

Lisa has been following her passion for travel as a travel consultant since 1996. The world and its wonderful cultural differences are her life interest. Lisa has been to 60 foreign countries and tries to experience a great adventure in a new destination every year. In 2012, Lisa was awarded the prestigious title of Travel Insider for her expertise in travel to France and Germany. In her own words “nothing sends me like stunning, romantic France.”

Lisa lived in Europe for four years, speaks German and, when time permits, enjoys the arts of cooking and wine tasting. Her motto is “Take the road less traveled!!

elaine_uptonElaine Upton – 301-656-4060 x17 / elaineu@travelplaceinc.com
Elaine joined the travel agency community in 1978 and became a Certified Travel Consultant 1983. She studied French and Spanish in college, and enjoys traveling in Europe where she can attempt to utilize her language skills. As a graduate of the College of Disney Knowledge, she is a “Disney Specialist” which indicates that she has attained a special knowledge of Disney destinations. What it doesn’t indicate is that Elaine LOVES everything Disney! She has traveled to 3 Disney resort areas (Florida, California, France) for a total of over 20 visits and has sailed on 2 Disney cruises. Our multi-talented Elaine also works with some of our corporate travelers and enjoys the challenge of developing international flight itineraries.

Elaine’s favorite places to travel and to help others visit include Walt Disney World (of course!), the National Parks of the U.S., the Caribbean, and Europe (especially France and Great Britain). She’s also a Certified Cruise Counselor and enjoys cruising and planning cruise vacations – anything from 5 days on the St Lawrence River to 110 days around the world.

In her free time, Elaine makes fabulous homemade cookies and is known throughout the Travel Place/Travel-On community and beyond for these delicious sweets, especially during the holidays.

mindy_millironMindy Milliron – 301-656-4060 x25 / mindym@travelplaceinc.com
Mindy has been a professional travel consultant 1996 working in Northern Virginia and on Capitol Hill and specializes in designing personalized vacations, honeymoons, and exotic adventures for many consumers, friends and family. She is a Travel Institute Certified Travel Associate (CTA): a designation conferred by The Travel Institute upon travel professionals who complete a rigorous certification program, demonstrate essential industry knowledge and experience, and maintain high standards of professionalism. In addition she holds certifications in as a Specialist in Honeymoons & Destination Weddings, Luxury Travel, and Adventure Travel (in this last, certified by both the Travel Institute and the Adventure Council), as well as host of travel vendor and tourism certifications. Mindy serves as a Board Member Emeritus for the Greater Washington Chapter of Professional Travel Agents of North American and served on the Board of Directors of the Greater Washington Area Caribbean Tourism Organization. In addition to that volunteer service, she has served as a Visitor Services Volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Mindy lives in an historic home on Capital Hill with her husband Dan and two fabulous tuxedo cats, Spanky and Bongo. They all watch TV. together and every night and Mindy and Spanky share a low-fat, vanilla pudding cup!

Gayle Bridgman-Santucci – 301-656-4060 x27 / gayleb@travelplaceinc.com

As a travel consultant and expert in the luxury travel market, Gayle has had the opportunity to plan extremely specialized and detailed itineraries throughout the world. Gayle created meaningful and trusting relationships with her clients and is committed to the highest level of customer satisfaction. Gayle enjoys working with clients who are looking for everything from that special, behind-the-scene tour or private tented safari to the ultimate honeymoon anywhere in the world. Through her Italian resources, which she has cultivated over the past ten years, Gayle has become an expert in travel to Italy.

Judy Kessler – 301-656-4060 x19 / judyk@travelplaceinc.com

Judy has earned the CTC (Certified Travel Consultant) and ACC (Accredited Cruise Counselor) certifications, and after 33 years as a travel counselor, she still enjoys making people’s vacation dreams come true. Judy loves to travel and explore new places. Some of her favorite experiences have included Argentina, South Africa, The Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu in Peru, and Vietnam. As a wife, mother, and now grandmother of 5, Judy looks forward to arranging vacations for the next generation. When she is not on the job Judy is an avid tennis player and loves to hike, swim, and bike as well as doing some volunteer work. She enjoys suggesting interesting options that would fit the individual client’s taste and travel style. This includes cruises, tours and family reunions and groups.

tony_abellTony Abell – 301-656-4060 x21 / tonya@travelplaceinc.com
With 19 years of experience in the travel business, Tony’s focus is on giving each client exceptional value and service. Tony is certified as a country specialist by the Irish and Bermuda Tourist Boards. Tony’s specialty is custom golf packages for groups of 2 to 20. He’s been playing golf since he was 12, and has visited many of the top courses, resorts, and hotels near golfing destinations in the US, Ireland, and Scotland. Tony tries to visit at least two new golf destinations each year, and sends a quarterly newsletter to his clients. Tony is also an expert in group travel and custom vacations to France and Italy.

Zelda Goldberg – 301-656-4060 x28 – zeldag@travelplaceinc.com

With 15 years in the travel industry, needless to say, Zelda has traveled extensively and specialize in travel to Europe. Over the years Zelda has also been able to visit China, New Zealand, the Galapagos Islands which were incredibly unique, and Kenya which was the most interesting. Zelda especially enjoys creating special trips for young families. Most fulfilling for her is when she gets to vacation with her own family which consists of myriad generations. Zelda personally loves beaches, the Caribbean Islands, walking, theater and life in general.


sarah_kellySarah Kelly – 703-368-8757 – sarahk@travelplaceinc.com
Sarah Kelly is our lead agent in Manassas. She became a travel consultant in 1987, after a few years in the food industry, and has enjoyed helping people plan their dream vacations, working in several agencies around the Northern Virginia area before joining the Travel Place group two years ago. Sarah loves planning vacations to warm weather destinations, especially the Caribbean, and gets special joy in helping honeymooners plan that perfect trip of a life time. Although her personal favorites are St. Lucia and Jamaica, she knows the ins and outs of most islands, as well as the many cruise ships sailing in that area and throughout the world. When Sarah’s not working, you just might find her on the tennis court; but her real passion is landscaping. She enjoys working in her own garden, and is especially proud of the work she has done in her family’s 2 ½ acre grounds.

deb_izenDeborah Izenberg – 703-368-8757 – deborahi@travelplaceinc.com
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With over 27 years in the travel industry, Deborah has planned many exciting trips worldwide. The most challenging trip she has planned included 37 countries! Her specialty (and her favorite!) is the Pacific, Australia (Aussie Specialist), New Zealand, Fiji, Cook Islands and Tahiti (having been there 7 times, she is a Tahiti Tiare Specialist). Travels have also taken her across the USA, Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, Central/South America, Mexico, Caribbean and many cruises over the years. She and her family lived in Japan while her husband was on active duty in the US Navy for 3 years. Gardening, spending time with her family and helping other families with autism diagnosis and advocacy are her leisure time pursuits.


Betty Chow – 240-387-4633 – bettyc@travelplaceinc.com

Betty has been in the travel industry since 1998 specializing in Asia/Europe tickets and leisure. Betty’s specialty includes organizing bus tours from east coast to west coast for Chinese student groups, arranging trips to Japan for University student groups in the US. Betty speaks fluent English and Mandarin.

Sales and Marketing

Niki Yianilos, Manager, Sales & Marketing
niki_yianilosNiki has spent her entire career in the travel industry, as a corporate reservationist, leisure travel consultant, manager and owner of two travel agencies before coming to Travel Place in 2009. Currently she is Manager of Sales and Marketing, and in that capacity, works closely with staff and suppliers to develop and implement marketing ideas for Travel Place. Although she misses planning vacations for clients, she enjoys working with an incredibly professional group of agents who also know how to have fun. In her free time Niki likes to walk, hike, read, spend time with friends, and ski with her family. What she enjoys most about traveling is experiencing new cultures and viewing the natural beauty wherever she goes. The most interesting places Niki has visited are China, Turkey, Vietnam and South Africa. Her favorite ways to relax are reading on a beach or skiing in the Rockies.

Phone: 301-656-4060 x11
Email: nikiy@travelplaceinc.com

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