By Jennifer Pund
Kerri Aungst believes rich memories create a rich life and travel is how to make these memories. The Gilpin County-based travel agent and her business Beaches Etc specializes in beach destinations around the world and all-inclusive cruises, which are the perfect cure for cabin fever and Colorado’s winter or the answer for a romantic or family get-away.
Beaches Etc is the culmination of Aungst’s 25 years in the travel industry. When she was younger, she didn’t know what she wanted to do, but travel seemed to come naturally. “I didn’t really know back then what I was going to do. [My husband] Ed said to go back to school, so I looked at the courses offered and said Travel and Tourism looks interesting. That was it. I was hooked for the rest of my life,” she explained. “I love my job and my life and where it has taken me. I’ve seen and experienced what most people would consider a dream to do. When you find your passion in life, it’s not work, you enjoy what you do. I love what I do and have to share it.”
The travel agent is a “Certified Specialist” in many resorts and hotels, cruise lines and tourism boards throughout the Caribbean, Hawaii and Mexico and encourages travelers to use a travel agent to help think through the entire trip to guarantee a relaxing adventure. She agrees that anyone can book their own travel, but the big online travel agencies haven’t been there, and she has.
“I have explored most of all the beach destinations in Mexico including Acapulco, Huatulco, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, Puerto Vallarta, Riviera Nayarit, Mazatlán, and Cabo San Lucas on the Pacific side. I have been many times to Cancun, Riviera Maya, Cozumel and Isla Mujeres on the Caribbean side. I would like to go to Manzanillo… to complete all the beach destinations,” she said.
In The Hawaiian islands, I have been to Oahu, Maui, Lanai, the big Island of Hawaii. Kauai is awesome. We did a helicopter ride over the Napali Coast. That was awe inspiring and amazing. The only island I haven’t been to yet, is Molokai.
The Caribbean Islands are many, but I still have time to explore more. I have been to the Islands of Curacao, Barbados, The Bahamas, Jamaica and Grand Cayman about five times.”
Aungst likes to assist in arranging whole vacations and warns that now is the best time to plan a winter get away. She says to do some basic research and know a few specifics about the chosen destination and then give her a call. “Narrow down where you want to go, where you want to stay, and what you want to do. Do you know how much it’s going to cost? There is so much more travel information on the internet available, with so many things being offered it can be overwhelming. Call me and I can help you book the best vacation for you and your family. With no worries and no stress. I’m here and available,” she says. “Now is the time to get those winter vacations [booked]. If not, you will find that most are sold out when you finally decide to do it.”
Working with reservation systems the public can’t access, she can ensure the best travel deals, vacation discounts or small cruise specials that most can’t access. “Make sure you don’t get scammed on that ‘too good to be true’ travel deal. I book with reputable companies like Exclusive Group Travel, Sandals and Beaches Resorts, Funjet Vacations, Travel Impressions, Pleasant Holidays, United Vacations, Apple, and many others like Southwest Vacations, that can only be booked through a travel agent,” she said. “I compare prices and promotions with them to make sure you do get the best deal. But, when you book it with Beaches Etc, you will get extra security knowing you cannot be bumped from your hotel room or suite or cabin for your cruise.”
She says that booking through a travel agent allows her to do the detailed thinking for you based on her experience and knowledge of your destination.
“I go on many business trips called familiarization trips. It’s where we get to see and experience many different things in the destinations, like hotel site inspections, that show us all the options available to our clients,” she said. “Sometimes adventures and excursions included like whale watching, tequila tasting or zip lining was a blast. We also get to experience the local cuisine in great restaurants in these destinations. So we get to learn and share all these great tips and things to see with our clients so they have the best vacation.”
Not only has she traveled to these destinations, she also attends many trade-shows, dinners and workshops to gain more knowledge for her clients. “I can make sure you have all your documents needed and names and everything is correct. Do you know the company or people you’re giving your credit card and personal information to? Did you make sure you booked everything? Do you need a passport? Visa? Did you book the hotel for the right dates? How about the car in Hawaii for the extra day since your flight leaves at midnight? Are you missing something? Not sure of the hotel or resort you’re staying in? Don’t rely on those reviews you read. Not all are honest. This is what I do for a living, this is my life and my passion,” she explained. “So, relax on your vacation. It’s my job to take care of it all and you get to enjoy and indulge.”
Aungst’s love of life, desire to travel and dedication for helping others see the world and giving them the chance to create rich memories for themselves, has become even stronger in recent years due to a series of health issues.
A diabetic since 22, Aungst has had four stints, and most recently, an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator sugically implanted in her heart to detect any life-threatening rapid heartbeats. “I’ve never had any shocks and I don’t ever want to feel them either. [My doctor] said it will knock me on my ass and hurt like hell,” she explained. “Some would say I have had a hard life and been through a lot of shit, but I don’t see it that way. I feel I still have along life ahead and I’m going to enjoy it,” she said. “I want to travel and see more of this awesome world we live in and experience what it has to offer. I just have to make sure I have all my insulin, syringes, heart meds, blood sugar tester and heart blood pressure cuff and keep track of all this while we’re traveling with diet and exercise.”
Aungst and her husband relocated to Gilpin County for her health, and to escape the chaos of living near the airport. “[There were] planes from DIA always flying over, traffic helicopters morning and night, dogs barking, car alarms going off all the time and [we could hear] the neighbors arguing. We had enough. We were right between I-25 and Boulder turnpike, the air and water quality was terrible as well,” she said.
“Since moving up here, even all my doctors and cardiologists agree that the mountains are good for me, and my health. I have less stress and it shows. We love it up here and Ed feels at home, being from Michigan and the backwoods. Our black lab, Shadow, loves to run in the woods and has a blast up here with space to play. We all love the snow, so it’s exciting each time storms come in.”
Sign up for the Beaches Etc Footprints Newsletter, follower her Beachy Blog or just look for the “fun, beachy car in the woods,” and say hello the next time you see it. “I look forward to meeting new clients and friends in the mountains. Let’s talk travel. Call me with your favorite vacations or tips in travel,” she said.
As the Arctic cold moves in and snow begins to cover the mountains, start thinking about your next beach vacation or cruise, and get in touch with Aungst for an experienced, personal touch from a mountain local.
Originally published in the December 2016 issue of the MMAC Monthly