The Shillelagh Travel Club is back

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Vinny and Brenda Donnelly, members since 2009, enjoy a trip to Europe with their colleagues. Photo courtesy of the Donnellys

Founded in 1964, Shillelagh Travel Club moved through NOVA before settling in Vienna over the past 20 years. The club originally had its own plane which took its members around the world on weekend trips. Over time, scheduled flights became cheaper and many travel clubs went out of business.

Despite this, the Shillelagh Travel Club managed to stay afloat by selling its planes and using scheduled flights.

“In 1986 we sold the last plane and grew into a much smaller organization where we would do a bit of everything,” said travel consultant Trevor Major.

Marilyn Panagopoulos became a member in 1965 and has been traveling with them ever since. What drew her to the club was the sense of familiarity between travelers.

“A friend of mine went and she said, ‘You’re absolutely right. There are no strangers in the Shillelaghs, they just come to welcome you. I don’t think you would find that in a commercial aircraft organization, but we had it,” Panagopoulos said.

“Trevor is wonderful, the whole group there doesn’t feel like it’s a company. They become like your family and take care of you,” said member Dolly Dougherty.

In addition to the atmosphere, members appreciate the club for its convenience. Instead of focusing on the details and managing everything on their own, travelers can relax and focus on their trip.

“Once you leave your house and go to the Shillelagh office, they take over everything. You’re free to have fun from this point on,” Dougherty said.

The decision to start traveling again came with the wave of COVID-19 vaccines, creating a safer environment for travel.

“Our clientele is mostly senior citizens, so they’ve all been vaccinated and they’re calling and saying, ‘We want to start traveling again.’ visit a few Maryland wineries plus lunch.”

Several protocols will be kept in place to protect members, which has helped to allay concerns about safety.

“Anyone traveling with us from the Vienna office must be vaccinated. Also, when moving around the coach and getting on and off, they should wear masks,” Major said.

The Shillelagh Travel Club hopes these early trips will pave the way for bigger overnight trips. Indeed, several international and national trips are planned for the coming years.

“Most of the travel for the rest of this year will be domestic i.e. within the United States. But next year we have a lot of activities planned for international travel,” Major said.

Concerning the trips to come, the members showed anticipation. Some, like Vinny and Brenda Donnelly, have already signed on for next year’s plans.

“Our next is in September – a mystery trip. In January we are going to Florida and have signed up for a few activities for next spring and summer, so we are very happy to have it all started again,” the Donnellys said.

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