Imagine touring Tuscan vineyards with friends or celebrating the holidays with family at an Italian villa. Judy Litner at Travel Express can turn those dreams into reality.
For over 40 years Litner has been traveling to Italy to find “the best of the best” for her clients. She knows when the olives are pressed, who the owners of the finest vineyards are, and where the best places to shop are located.
“I am so passionate about Italy,” Litner said. “It’s the one country that I will never tire of.”
Aside from her Italian expertise, Litner has also been on safari in Kenya and Tanzania, sailed past the Sydney Opera House, and experienced the beauty of South Africa. As often as she travels, Litner said she still gets a thrill whenever she boards a plane.
“I have always had a love for travel and wanted to be a flight attendant after my first plane trip,” she explained. “Back in the ‘60s, Pan-Am required that their flight attendants have a degree in nursing. I did not want to be a nurse; so I became a travel agent.”
In 1972, Litner opened up shop on 98 Cutter Mill Road in Great Neck, and Travel Express was born. Her colleague Peggy Walsh, whom Litner worked with at another agency, has also remained at the company since its’ beginning. Now, with over 40 more years of experience under her belt, Litner explained the differences in the travel agency from the 1970s compared to now.
“Obviously there were no computers, fax machines, or cell phones,” she said. “Reservations were made by calling each airline and car rental company and writing the hotels that did not have a local representative to contact. We used the Official Airline Guides to look up flight information, which was as big as the Manhattan telephone directory. Oh, and all of the airline tickets were written by hand.”
Litner explained that her business is based on word-of-mouth recommendations from honeymoon clients, families, couples, and celebrities from all over the country. The personal touch that Litner has incorporated in her business for the past 47 years is one of the key reasons why she believes her services surpass that of another company.
“We have so much experience with issuing airline tickets to faraway places and use our knowledge to get the best fares along with creative ticketing options available to us,” she said. “I’m positive that Expedia or Travelocity cannot plan a luxury experience to Italy the way that I can, and I will be there for you during your entire trip. In an age of unprecedented competition, it’s a big plus to be able to say that I know more about Italy than other travel agents.”
However, there’s no reason why an agency can’t continue to sell a wide range of luxury products while honing in on a niché travel audience. Travel Express remains a full-service travel agency by selling luxury cruises, custom itineraries, and coordinating tours.
Litner mentioned that if Travel Express issued a ticket, even if there is a snowstorm and travelers were stranded, she can help out those clients. Her dedication to her clients resulted in her being listed as one of the top 25 leading travel advisors in 2009 by Travel Agent Magazine. She also mentioned how local clientele has driven her business for close to half a century.
“Great Neck has had a very positive impact on my business,” she said. “As a Director of the Great Neck Chamber of Commerce for 20 years; I have met many local dignitaries and many chamber members have been my clients.”
For Litner, Great Neck goes beyond just an area where her business is able to thrive. Out of all the places she has seen and all of the adventures she’s taken, Great Neck has provided her with some of life’s most important treasures.
“My husband Paul owned Dans Beauty; a very successful cosmetics and beauty supply store on Middle Neck Road for many years,” Litner explained. “Paul and I grew up in Great Neck and graduated from Great Neck North as well as all of our children. Great Neck is important to both of us.”