There is no good reason Susan Kelly Costello and Carol Wolniakowski weren’t always friends. Costello owns Kelly Cruises & Tours in Oak Brook, and Wolniakowski owns Cuvee Wine Travel nearby. Both women live in Clarendon Hills, both are mothers to twin boys, and both have a passion for travel and creating unique travel experience for clients.
Even based on their separate spheres, they were two people who seemed destined to know each other—a fact they realized while sharing charity work for the local chapter of the Infant Welfare Society (IWS) of Chicago.
A 25-year travel expert, Costello is the owner of the travel-experience company her mother founded 30 years ago. Wolniakowski is a former attorney who took time off to raise her twin sons and cultivated an interest and expertise in culinary travel.
“I took a break from corporate law to care for my premature twin boys. During that time, I began to study wine, a great passion of mine since traveling to France in my 20s,” says Wolniakowski, who is now certified by the International Sommelier Guild, Society of Wine Educators, and the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. “I had a lightbulb moment when reading an email from the Clarendon Hills Moms Group. Someone was looking for a vacation planner. It was in that moment I realized I could be a vacation planner—for wine country. I met so many people in wine country and the wine industry over the years and could connect wine lovers to amazing experiences that the average traveler does not have access to.”
Costello’s expertise had always excelled in shaping high-end travel so she had her own lightbulb moment when she met Wolniakowski. “We first met at an IWS meeting, and yes, we felt an instant bond when we learned we both have twin boys in elementary school.”
She immediately recognized this as the perfect opportunity to leverage Wolniakowski’s food and wine at Kelly Cruises & Tours. “My company is the leading luxury cruise and land tour company in our area and adding Carol to our list of experts makes perfect sense for everyone.”
The synergistic effect was immediate.
“First, travelers are demanding customized travel,” says Costello. “Not everyone wants the standard group tours. They want behind the scenes, insider experiences. That is why we are seeing a resurgence in the popularity of professional travel consultants with the connections to make that happen. When people travel to another city or country, they want to fully experience the culture. Food and wine are a large part of that.”
“Our role is to craft the ultimate getaway for your personal tastes and desires. Going behind the scenes creates a rich travel experience that is truly unforgettable,” adds Wolniakowski, reflecting on one of her own favorite travel moments from a trip to the French wine country earlier this year. “I stayed in the Gonet family chateau on Avenue d’Champagne, walked through the vineyard with a fourth-generation owner in Bordeaux learning how the particular soils impact the wines, and had a private tour of wine caves dating back to the 14th century. These are the kinds of opportunities we are able to extend to our clients.”
Aren’t we glad they met?
For more information about Kelly Cruises & Tours, visit kellycruises.com.