Our goal at Magical Mystery Tours is to make vacations as enjoyable and care-free as possible. With our unique combination of mystery tours and traditional travel services, we take away the stress that many clients experience when dealing with vacation details. By letting us handle the arrangements, clients can be confident that consumer reviews are checked, options are carefully researched, and they are provided with all the information needed to select options for their ideal getaway.
We’ve been planning mystery vacations since 2009 and have been featured in O, the Oprah Magazine, the Washington Post travel section, USA Today, and View from the Wing, as well as being interviewed on SiriusXM.
Magical Mystery Tours’ co-founders Stephanie and Denise met in 2000 as next door neighbors on their freshman hall at Bucknell University. Both were psychology majors, and didn’t have all that much traveling experience at that point, with the possible exception of some trips to Disneyworld and a trip to China on Stephanie’s part. Since their time at Bucknell, they’ve collectively been to five continents, 45 states, and 22 countries.
Magical Mystery Tours began when Denise was chatting with a friend who was lamenting about how busy he was. She insisted he needed a vacation, but was met with the response that he didn’t have the time or energy to plan a trip.
Always enthusiastic about traveling and faced with a potential traveler who had a proper sense of adventure, Denise convinced him to let her plan a trip. As a bonus, they decided that he wouldn’t find out the details until he showed up at the airport. He gave her travel dates, a budget, his credit card info, and after a few months of delightful anticipation (and consulting with Stephanie to get the best travel deals), the first Magical Mystery Tour was born!
The trip was fun to plan and those who heard about it showed a healthy combination of curiosity and interest in getting set up to go on their own trips. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to provide others with similarly surprising and exciting adventures.
Who We Are
Denise Chaykun – President
Denise grew up outside of Philadelphia and likes to think that she has a proper appreciation for cheesesteaks and soft pretzels, but no Philadelphia attitude. She went to Bucknell University where she majored in psychology and history, yet she’s spent most of her career working with political nonprofits. In addition to loving travel, she also is enthusiastic about photography, baking cupcakes, and Hello Kitty. Currently, her dream destinations are Australia, Russia, and just about everywhere else she hasn’t been yet. And yes, she also likes the Beatles and fun surprises.
Stephanie Whitesel – Executive Director & Travel Consultant
Stephanie got bit by the travel bug after her semester abroad during college. As a result, her journeys have brought her to five continents and every time zone in the world. Preoccupied with saving money on her travels, her e-mail got clogged with discount travel alerts and she joined Twitter for its exclusive travel deals. Stephanie grew up in Massachusetts, yet has no trace of a Boston accent. She has degrees in Psychology and Child Development from Bucknell and Tufts. Her other interests include cheering on the Red Sox, cooking, encouraging her husband to consider vacations other than Disneyworld, and mentoring teenagers. Currently, her dream trips include Australia, the Azores, and a Mediterranean cruise.
Alicia Barrett – Travel Consultant
Alicia is originally from the Buffalo, New York area but now enjoys living in Washington, DC. Travel became a true passion after studying in London for 6 months during college, as she obtained a degree in government & politics. Between extensively traveling western Europe during this time and recently marrying a travel-loving husband, Alicia sees the world as an opportunity to immerse oneself in different cultures, languages and experiences that one will remember forever. In addition to travel, her other interests include playing soccer and attending all sporting events, cooking, and interior design. Her current world-favorite city is Istanbul, while she is looking forward to upcoming trips including New Zealand, St. Petersburg and Cape Town.
Katie Truesdell – Travel Consultant
Katie’s first Mystery Trip was in 1997, when her dad planned a Christmas getaway in which the destination and all activities were a surprise. It was such a hit that it became an annual tradition, leading to many of Katie’s favorite memories. The trips were manageable road trips from Michigan (favorite destinations included Nashville, Louisville, and Charleston) rather than far-flung locales, but the excitement about hitting the road in mystery was all the same. Katie has also enjoyed traveling around the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, and British Isles, and she dreams of more travel—including to Italy, Austria, and Brazil—almost constantly. Her other interests include baking, reading, defending the serial comma, and enjoying her adopted city of Chicago.