How An Estero Woman Makes Travel Hassle FreeJan 13, 2023 04:00PM ● By Andrea Stetson
Susan Bunch, founder and owner of Keneca Coastal , works in her Naples office off 5th Avenue. The Estero woman just started this business that features day trips to the east coast and Sarasota. Photo by Andrea Stetson
Susan Bunch had friends and neighbors who rarely ventured out of Southwest Florida — so she started taking them on adventures. She planned day trips to attractions on the east coast and in Sarasota.
“Many of my neighbors don’t like to drive so they did everything within their club,” Bunch began. “I would say ‘Let’s go to Miami for the day’ and we would do that and we had so much fun and I enjoyed showing them around.”
Now she is turning this love of local travel into a business. The Estero resident just created Keneca Coastal, a Naples-based travel agency specializing solely in short trips to places such as Viscaya in Miami, Ringling in Sarasota, Flagler in Palm Beach and Wellington, the horse capital of Florida where Olympic riders train.
Bunch says the day trips are perfect for many types of clients. There are senior citizens who are uncomfortable driving long distances on the highway, people who want to sightsee but don’t want to do all the planning, or clients that want to enjoy the day with a large group of friends.
“We take you to the door,” she described. “You don’t have to worry about parking, driving, GPS or the admission fee and lunch is included. We just do all the planning.”
Bunch says her background is perfect for leading these expeditions. Right after college she worked for Piedmont, U.S. Air and American Airlines. With free travel benefits, she would take off to London, Paris or other faraway locations.
“While I was there I like to go and see as much as I can around me,” she described.
Later she became a school principal in North Carolina, where she gained valuable knowledge in leadership. When she moved to Florida, she immediately began taking day trips to enjoy not only her hometown, but also the towns around her.
“I absolutely loved it,” she said. “This place is paradise, but there are also so many wonderful places around it within a short driving distance. I just love to take day trips. So that’s how I got the idea.”
One of her favorite day trips is to Viscaya Museum and Gardens in Miami, a National Historic Landmark. The 1916 waterfront estate on Biscayne Bay has a mansion visitors can tour and enjoy its distinctive architecture, European art and antiques and its Italian Renaissance formal gardens.
Bunch got the idea for her company’s name by combining her dad Ken’s name with the names of her sons Evan and Cameron.
While her first official trip isn’t until January, she’s led trips with groups from her community.
“I have been on two of her trips so far and I am looking forward to doing another one in January,” said Marie Whitehead of Estero. “She is the epitome of bubbliness and fun and she is just a sweetheart.”
Whitehead said she loves being able to do these trips without all the hassle of planning and driving.
“She is so organized,” Whitehead says. “She always has good ideas. She does all the leg work and all the research and makes a good trip for all of us. I am willing to go wherever she does. Whatever she does is great. It is great to have a tour guide take care of you. It takes away the headache of trying to plan a trip, she does everything and we just give her the money and she plans it all out.”
The trips take 8-10 hours and cost $165-$185 per person. Right now Bunch is only booking groups. Her clients range from Bunco, golf or church groups, to wine clubs and men’s clubs, to friend groups. Minimum for each bus is 13, maximum is 55.
“I think it is a great idea to start a company like this,” Whitehead said. “I don’t think I know anybody who is doing anything like this. There is a lot of potential here to bring a lot of people out for fun trips.”
Andrea Stetson has been writing for magazines and newspapers in Southwest Florida since 1995. She and her family live in North Naples.