About Us

Plain and simple? We’re here for both newbie and veteran travel agents—to educate and connect. We’re passionate about reinvigorating the travel industry and bringing in new blood!!

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Why We’re Here

Hey! I’m Steph, I own the site.

Steph Lee

As a former host agency director, I spoke to thousands of new and experienced travel agents. Many people I worked with were confused about starting their agency or becoming an agent, and found it difficult to find in-depth, reputable information.

They were bombarded with less-than-stellar looking sites, making some big claims about traveling the world and not working. Many of the agents didn’t know how to get started and many struggled with how to tell if a host agency was for realz.

I love the travel industry and I set out to provide a solution to these problems. So I left my job at a $50M agency to do just that. I started writing information about starting and running a travel agency, created a list of host agencies in the US and Canada, and provided a venue for agents to share their experiences with using those host agencies.

And that’s what you’re reading… right now! Yay! *high five*

About Me, Your Hostess

Steph and RigelYou should know that it’s not actually me who runs the shots here. It’s Rigel (Ry-gel), my 90 pound Collie mix. Any spelling errors on this site can (and should) be attributed to the fact he has no opposable thumbs. Same for grammatical errors; English is his second language, after all!

Why should you trust I know what I’m talking about? I grew up in the heart of it, my family had a home based travel agency. I was lucky enough to receive a few industry accolades including ASTA’s Young Professional of the Year award and Travel Agent magazine’s 30 Under 30.  Awards in general are great but it’s an extra bonus when they make you feel young and spry! 😉

I’ve spoken at SMBMSP social media events such as Social Media Breakfast—Minneapolis as well as a fair share of travel industry events such as Travel Weekly’s CruiseWorld; ASTA’s Blue Sky Symposium, The Home Based Travel Agent Forum; and ASTA’s Global Convention. On the media front, I have been a member of Travel Market Report’s Editorial Board and have published columns with industry publications such as Travel Research Online and Travel Market Report. I’ve also served as a Professional Educator at The Travel Institute.

I don’t say all this to brag, but to assure you I do know my stuff. Rest easy my friend, this site is legit.

So, I’m your host, Stephanie Lee. Pleasure to meet your acquaintance. Please introduce yourself and don’t be shy, ask me questions! I know the world of host agencies can be confusing but do not despair. It just so happens I know a little bit about these things called “host agencies” and am here to help you out!

Meet Mary, My Copilot.

IMG_0827Hey there! I’m Mary Stein and I’m the Editor at Host Agency Reviews. When I was twelve, I started saving up babysitting money for more than three years so I could take my first trip over the ocean and I’ve been hooked on travel ever since. Now, I couldn’t be more thrilled to land here among folks who love travel and work hard to turn their passions into their livelihood!

I just joined HAR’s motley crew in 2016, but Stephanie and I have known each other for a loooooooong time and we share aIMG_0412 love for travel (obviously!), dogs, and ice cream—ask us both who won our legendary ice cream eating contest, and you’ll get two vastly different answers. 🙂 But when it comes to love of travel and a deep-rooted desire to help folks build their own business we definitely stand in solidarity!

I’m a writer by trade and when I’m not tooling around on Host Agency Reviews crafting emails and writing newsletters, I write stories and teach creative writing workshops! You can always find me with my nose behind a book and food in mouth.

As much as I love travel, I adore my home, Minnesota, and I am truly Minnesotan to the bone. The MN State Fair is like a holiday to me (read: I love to eat food) and I bicycle commute all year long (yes, even during a Polar Vortex!). I love art shanties, art sled rallies and camper cabins. But as we all know, my the real star of the show is Nova, who is new to the HAR crew and is filling the large paws of her predecessor, Gilbert. (Do not be fooled by how calm she appears in her photo!)

 

And Bridget, Our Designer.

Why, hello there!  I’m Bridget!

Bridget Lee, Host Agency ReviewsI like to consider myself a bit of Jane of all trades both at Host Agency Reviews and in my daily life.  I joined up with HAR back in 2016 as an independent contractor working on design and advertising.  Since then, I’ve become a full fledged employee and have expanded into the areas of data analysis, social media and even writing a few articles here and there 😉

Having grown up in the travel industry I can attest, it’s hard to get travel out of your blood once the travel bug bites you! I’ve been working in the travel industry (and traveling) as long as I can remember and have even received a few kudos along the way including Travel Agent magazine’s 30 Under 30 and a Travvy Rising Star Award in the Consortia/Host Agency category. But my favorite thing? Working with entrepreneurs and digging deep into the data to help others get a clearer picture of our industry.

At home, I love working on  projects – seriously.  From redoing my kitchen to landscaping a pollinator friendly yard, from woodturning to knitting, I can’t stay idle for long.  I actually listen to audio books while knitting else I feel like I’m not being productive – crazy?  A little bit.

I also have a 9 year old Australian Shepherd/Lab mix (I think having a dog might be a requirement of working at HAR) named Tanner who I love to [insert any activity here] with.  We are a registered therapy dog team which means we visit places like hospitals and schools for therapy and animal assisted activities.  It is as cool and rewarding as you think it is so if you have a pet, I highly encourage you look into becoming a therapy animal team!  When he isn’t visiting schools and hospitals, Tanner is the Assistant Branch Manager at HAR.  Quite the overachiever...

Let’s Stay in Touch, Shall We?

You can find Steph on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest,InstagramSlideshare, and Google+. Drop me a line anytime. We’ve also got the good ol’ contact us form.

Reviews

This is an independent site that contains the ever-sensitive matter of reviews. We try to be as transparent as possible while making sure our site contains relevant and helpful reviews. As a general rule, we don’t mess with reviews unless they violate our rules.

In keeping with the transparency theme, you may want to read our disclosure. Normally disclosures aren’t exciting but… we spiced ours up with a picture of Ryan Gosling! Yummy! I daresay, our disclosure is the best looking one around.

Warm Fuzzies. We Like to Support our Local Community!

I love that Google suggested you stop in for a visit! But, I’m a little embarrassed … I left some ads out. I apologize, I didn’t have a chance to clean them up before you swung by!

I know, ads are ugly. Beyond the fact that they help spoil Rigel and feed my insatiable sweet tooth, there is another reason to feel good about them. A portion of our net profits from our site are donated to charity. We typically donate between 3-10% of our profits. 

2017 RECIPIENTS

Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center American Indian Women’s Resource Center ($3,750)

We chose to donate to the American Indian Women’s Resource Center (AIWRC) because we love the work they’re doing! Native women experience greater risk factors for being trafficked than other groups and the AIWRC provides counseling and support for women who have experienced sexual violence or trafficking.

That’s not all folks — AIWRC provideshousing, mental health and chemical dependency counseling, cultural programs, outreach to professionals and community members about the American Indian reality.

>> Read the glowing reviews about this outstanding non-profit 

 

As Minnesotans, the HAR team <3s the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW)! I cannot explain how magical and rejuvenating it is. It’s an American natural treasure that I hope more people get to experience. But it’s in danger of mining companies want to move in. Which makes us so sad.

What makes it so special? Logging, mining, and most motorized access to this 1,000,000+ acre area in northern Minnesota is restricted. There are more than 1500 miles of canoe routes and 2000+ camp sites. It will be one of the most tranquil and peaceful experiences you’ll ever have, I promise!

>> Check out a photo album from one of my BWCAW trips

2016 RECIPIENT

Green River GreeningGreat River Greening ($7,500)

As a former environmental educator that worked with at-risk kids and now loves to garden — I love me as many bees and butterflies around me as possible! — I wanted to support the conservation and restorative work of Green River Greening promotes (GRG). 

What especially attracted me to their organization was their work to expose at-risk teens to natural areas and  environmental science careers. Says the lady that graduated with a degree in environmental science, which you can see I’m totally using now! 😉 

2012-2015 RECIPIENTS

Don’t hate me, but 2012 was when I started the site, I had left my job and was without an income. Trying to make the site successful was my numero uno priority. Donating was not even on my radar during my bootstrap days!

Going forward, yours truly forgot who in the world she donated to in 2013 because it was ages ago (although I have a sneaking suspicion the 2013 recipient was the MS Society). And for 2014-2015, I was on an extended medical leave as my body tried to kill me—seriously. But we’re back in the swing of things with the amazing help of Mary and Bridget!