In 2003, Kelli Carpenter co-founded R Family Vacations with her business partner Gregg Kaminsky. Since then they’ve hosted more than 15,000 guests on their adventures on land and sea. Her family was featured in HBO's "All Aboard" and Kelli was nominated for an Emmy as one of the producers. The documentary was also shown at the Sundance Film Festival and was awarded a GLAAD award. Gregg and Kelli were given the "Lambda Legal Liberty award" and have also been honored by Family Equality Council and the NY Gay Men's Chorus. They have also been selected as members of the "OUT 100". They recently added two new types of travel to their exciting line up including another Broadway Cruise and new adult only adventures.
Bound had the opportunity to interview Kelli between trains, planes, and automobiles.
BM: Kelli, thank you so much for doing this interview. I know you're about to hit your peak travel season, so we really appreciate it. Can you tell us where you and R Family Vacations are headed next?
KC: We just completed an amazing R Family Vacations trip to Club Getaway where we took over this beautiful camp. They had kayaking, water skiing, tubing, mountain biking, hiking, archery, trapeze and so much more. We brought our team and talent to add the R Family flair to the whole thing.
Following that trip, Gregg Kaminsky, my business partner, and I produced our very first Broadway Cruise. We had an amazing line up of talent and it was a huge hit! The most popular part of the program is the Broadway Camps where anyone that wants to can study a broadway number for the week and perform it at the end of the cruise.
BM: That sounds incredible!
KC: I think we fulfilled many people's broadway dreams!
Our next trip is on our new adult only brand, "Kelli & Gregg's Adventures."
We are doing a full riverboat charter from Prague to Budapest. We are excited to have this new extension of our brand and have an exciting lineup for next year. We are doing another full Riverboat charter departing from Paris and a full resort charter in Mexico.
Our 2013 schedule is packed full of exciting trips for each of our brands. We are doing another Broadway Cruise in July. For R Family Vacations, we are doing Club Getaway again in Connecticut and a beautiful ranch in California plus a group at Club Med in Provence.
We are now able to offer the perfect vacation at the right price point for all of our guests.
BM: I’m sure that’s a result of a lot of hard work over the years. You guys are about to celebrate a huge anniversary. Can you talk about how the company has evolved in a decade and how much laws and public perceptions have changed since?
KC: We will be celebrating our 10 year anniversary with a weekend getaway in Las Vegas. We want to celebrate this momentous occasion with those who have supported us along the way.
Our company has evolved in many ways. It is now more the norm for gay and lesbian couples to grow their families with the addition of children. Those that have travelled with us since their children were young are now heading off to college.
It has been amazing to see our community change over the decade. Our growth is also from gays and lesbians without children that want to travel together. That is why we saw the need to create our adult only brand.
BM: Our magazine was founded with the sole purpose to combat isolation within the lesbian community. And, after having the privilege of going on several R Family Vacations, I knew I had to interview you and specifically talk about the incredible sense of community and togetherness one feels when traveling with you guys. Can you describe that feeling and how it continues after the trip is long over?
KC: It's always interesting to try to describe the feeling onboard our trips.
Our best sales tool is word of mouth from people who have actually experienced it. If only we could bottle up the love, acceptance and true joy that we all feel when we’re together!
I like to describe our trips as what I wish the world looked like. There is no typical guest that travels with us. We have men, women, children, grandparents, straight friends and family. The only requirement is that you come with an open heart and ready to have the time of your life.
Our trips usually end with many tears, but lasting friendships
BM: How does one go about finding out more information about upcoming vacations?
BM: Lastly, as an expert traveler, can you offer a secret packing tip for our ladies that travel with four suitcases for a weekend getaway (you know who you are)?
KC: I am an excellent packer and my goal always is to travel only with a carry on! I use vacuum bags and my new favorite easy evening item is these sporty little dresses that I get at Title 9 or Athleta. They take very little packing space!