Love for travel runs in the family

Odyssey Travel sees booming business.

  • By
  • | 10:20 a.m. September 22, 2019
  • Ormond Beach Observer
  • Business
  • Share

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”

This quote from an anonymous author is displayed in the office of Karen Upchurch, vice-president of Odyssey Travel in Ormond Beach. She’s been helping enrich people with travel since opening the agency in 1985 and was featured in the August issue of Luxury Travel Advisor magazine.

Travel is a passion she shares with her clients.

“I enjoy making dreams come true,” she said recently.

The company’s business has doubled in the last eight years in sales, since the recession, and Upchurch attributes it to the improving economy and retiring baby boomers, but also the addition of her son, John N. Upchurch, who, as president, handles the business end of the operations.

Having her son handle human resources, office management, etc. has freed her to spend all of her time working with clients.

“I only do what I like doing, my customized vacations,” she said. “And I love teaching.”

Upchurch teaches a three-month class for travel advisors, and taught at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University when the school offered a class.

A graduate of the University of Florida, she and her husband, John J. Upchurch, moved to Ormond Beach in 1972, where she taught at Tomoka Elementary School until 1985. After opening the travel agency, they were in Ormond Towne Square for 20 years and are now at 146 S. Atlantic Ave.

Another reason for their growth is that she focuses on adding and training new advisors.

They now have an office in Jacksonville and will soon open one in Viera. They have a staff of 30 in both locations and most are travel advisors who work as independent contractors.

The job of a travel advisor is very detailed, she said. An advisor must be detail oriented and have strong organizational skills, including follow-through.




Karen Upchurch moved from the mass-market type of agency to luxury travel by joining Virtuoso, a global travel network, in 1999 to be able to give her clients special amenities.

The popular trend today is group travel, whether friends, family or a travel club.

“I really enjoy small groups,” Karen Upchurch said. “It adds to the memories, the enjoyment.”

The company creates customized travel plans that are detailed with transfers, dinner and tour reservations, etc.

River cruises are currently booming. People think of Europe for river cruises, but the Upchurches say there are several very good cruises in America.

Karen Upchurch specializes in South America, these days. Travelers don’t have the jet lag issue, and there are outdoor activities, wineries and tremendous scenery.

The fires in the Amazon rain forest are not affecting them.

The Upchurches enjoy travel themselves. Karen Upchurch recently returned from Mongolia and is now planning a trip to Normandy, France. John Upchurch is set to lead a tour in Italy.




Before moving into the present building, the interior was totally remodeled. There are 16 offices, where advisors can have privacy with clients, but with large windows, for an open-office atmosphere.

Many travel agencies have all of the agents together in a large room, but they learned over the years that people want privacy when planning trips, providing credit card information, etc.

“I enjoy making dreams come true.”

KAREN UPCHURCH, vice-president of Odyssey Travel

Many people turn to the Internet to make travel plans these days, but a travel agency provides a service component and knowledge of providers. Their relationship with providers can also result in more amenities.

“We live in a do-it-yourself society,” John Upchurch said. “But you might end up paying more and getting less service.”

To inform the public about what they offer, they do public presentations, sometimes at the office but also at other locations. At 10 a.m. on Jan. 11 at Daytona Beach Shores Community Center, they are planning a presentation with 20 suppliers.

John N. Upchurch is a former attorney who ran for U.S. Congress in 2018. He doesn’t rule out another run, but said he is now busy with the travel agency.

For upcoming presentations and other information, visit

John Upchurch and his mother, Karen, have seen growth for their business, Odyssey Travel. Photo by Wayne Grant
John Upchurch and his mother, Karen, have seen growth for their business, Odyssey Travel. Photo by Wayne Grant















Karen Upchurch, of Odyssey Travel, appeared on the cover of Luxury Travel Advisor. Courtesy photo
Karen Upchurch, of Odyssey Travel, appeared on the cover of Luxury Travel Advisor. Courtesy photo



Latest News


Your free article limit has been reached this month.
Subscribe now for unlimited digital access to our award-winning local news.