2015-08-13 / News

Deb’s Destinations offers excursions, familiar face

By Ben Meiklejohn Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD – A former longtime director of the 50+ Club has been biding her time during retirement putting together affordable group tours across the country and around the world.

Debbie Lizotte was program director for 11 years for the club, which is an outreach program of the city’s recreation department. She was also the program assistant for another year, and said her experience and connections developed during her tenure have helped her to continue hosting recreational outings.

Lizotte retired in April to spend more time with her husband, who has been retired for four and a half years, and her new grandchildren. But she hasn’t lost the travel bug and spending time with the people she has come to know through the club.

“I still enjoy doing the trips,” Lizotte said. “I’ll be doing four or five trips a year.”

Lizotte has formed a new company, Deb’s Destinations, to continue fulfilling her passion to bring people together for a good time.

Jan O’Brien, 67, and her husband, Larry, have gone on about 50 trips with Lizotte over the 12 years they have known her.

“She’s the kind of person who goes out of her way to make sure everybody is having a good time, playing games and interacting,” Jan O’Brien said. “You have such a good time before you even get there that you’re in a great mood before you even step your feet on the ground.”

Lizotte said she has planned so many trips that she now is able to get rates that make travel possible for people who are retired. Although, she added, people of any age can go on the trips.

“There’s a lot of great companies to work with, but I’m not in it to make a million bucks so I don’t charge too much more,” she said.

Lizotte said many retirees have a desire to be active and enjoy their golden years rather than remain settled at home.

“I think the population with the most expendable money is seniors, believe it or not,” she said. “They’re retired, looking for something to do, they want to be active. It’s not 1950s grandmothers. They want to live life to the fullest, right to the bitter end. A lot of them have friends and they see them, they are fine, and then one day, they can’t travel anymore, which makes them want to travel while they can.”

“It keeps them active, keeps them healthy and in a positive frame of mind.”

O’Brien said she and her husband never traveled as much before meeting Lizotte.

“I would tell you that I am definitely traveling much more in retirement, most especially since I met Debbie,” O’Brien said.

The personal touch Lizotte adds to her trips, said O’Brien, is something that makes her outings more unique than paid tours by most other companies. Lizotte said she has attended every trip she has hosted.

“She’s a good problem solver,” O’Brien said. “If anything happens, if a bus breaks down, she comes up with solutions. I know that other people have ended up on trips where there was a terrible snowstorm and she had to get rooms for everybody, and she just does it.

“She has that kind of personality. She cares about people on that bus.”

O’Brien said when she got ill on one of the tours, Lizotte “came through for me. She took me to the hospital and still got up the next day and took everybody else on the tour.”

O’Brien said she and her husband have been to the Mediterranean, Alaska and Hawaii, among other places, because Lizotte’s trips are more affordable than if they tried to go alone.

“She makes sure that you can pay as you go and have it all paid for by the time you go on the trip,” O’Brien said. “For some people, it’s hard to budget in one lump sum.”

Lizotte said she is organizing a trip to Florida in November that will include stops at Amelia Island, Jacksonville and St. Augustine.

“We make lots of fun along the way, make interesting stops on the way,” Lizotte said.

For example, the Florida trip will include a tour of botanical gardens in Richmond, Virginia and a tour of Savannah, Georgia.

The trip costs $725 per person, but includes 14 meals, eight nights of lodging and admission to all scheduled events.

For 2016, Lizotte is already planning a cruise to Australia and New Zealand in February and March; a Washington, D.C., and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania outing in May; a California coast tour, including a final stop in Hollywood, in September; and a Myrtle Beach and Charleston, South Carolina visit in October. Past outings include destinations such as Atlantic City, New Jersey, Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, New Orleans, New York City and Niagara Falls.

O’Brien said Lizotte’s planning has given her and her husband the travel bug, and they try to go on as many of Lizotte’s tours as they can.

“It’s so nice to be able to go out with other people that are of a similar age as you are, and in many ways the same social setting,” O’Brien said. “It’s great to be able to still go places and walk and get different tours. It’s just a great feeling to be able to still do things. It makes it easier for all of us to still be able to go.”

“If I bring them home tired, I’ve done my job,” Lizotte said, adding, “It’s not so rigorous that it’s exhausting for them. I make it adaptable.”

O’Brien said she has seen Lizotte’s enthusiastic and persuasive personality at work, like one time when Lizotte was able to get a Krispy Kreme store to unlock the doors and open up after business hours to serve a bus load of tourists.

“She has a remarkable personality,” O’Brien said. “She’s absolutely wonderful and a very trusted friend at this point.”

For more information about Deb’s Destinations, contact Lizotte at 289-5985 or debsdestinations@maine.rr.com.

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