R Family Vacations Celebrates 15 Years!
“Our vacations embody how I wish the entire world looked - a place that is open and accepting, no matter who you are,” Kelli Carpenter, co-founder of R Family Vacations.
15 years ago, Kelli Carpenter and Gregg Kaminsky came together with one mission in mind - to create a LGBT travel company that would be welcoming to all types of individuals and families. Combining Gregg’s experience in gay travel and Kelli’s marketing background, they launched their first kid-friendly LGBT cruise in 2004 with over 2,000 aboard the NCL Dawn. In a time when gay families were not as open or present in media, they were unsure how people would react. However, they were pleasantly surprised to have an overwhelmingly positive response and were even approached by HBO to create an Emmy-nominated documentary.
Since the beginning, Gregg and Kelli have taken each reservation personally and heard hundreds of unique stories from around the world. One of the first calls was from Stephanie White, who was raising 7 sons with special needs. This family has traveled with R Family every summer since and their family has literally grown up with R Family.
“Nothing in our lives has been more joyful and fulfilling than traveling with R Family Vacations,” explains Stephanie, “Even as my boys have grown to be men, we all continue to look forward to going on the trips. R Family is truly our family.”
However, not everyone onboard that first trip had children! R Family Vacations presented an option in the gay travel market that embodied many aspects in addition to the LGBT family, and continues to do so today. Broadway, a passion of both Kelli and Gregg, has always been an integral aspect of the brand with theatre camps and performers. The openness and universal appeal that brings together gays, lesbians, and allies remains one of the unique characteristics of R Family that sets it apart from other gay travel companies and experiences. As Gregg Kaminsky explains, “we wanted a place that everyone belonged, but we didn’t know everyone would show up!”
Over the past 15 years, this spirit of openness and community has permeated each of their trips all over the world. From cruises in the Caribbean to resort vacations in Mexico, R Family has offered vacations that appeal to everybody - from the four year old child to the lesbian couple without children to straight grandparents. The entertainment offered on each vacation includes adult comedians, LGBT singers, kids programing, happy hours, workshops, and more. Truly something for everyone.
As they move into the future, they have aligned with other members of the travel market to expand their vacation options and offer new opportunities. In 2016, they began a partnership with Olivia, the leader in lesbian travel, to produce a combined LGBT family and friends resort vacation at Hard Rock Puerto Vallarta. Earlier this year, they announced an exciting partnership with Celebrity Cruises to offer LGBT groups on numerous sailings throughout the world. They have also partnered with Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection to offer luxurious and unique riverboat vacations in Europe.
“We have always wanted a company that reflected our own lives. As we get older, we see those around us changing their travel preferences and looking for new experiences. We are constantly looking for new adventures and directions to offer our family of travelers,” explains Gregg Kaminsky.
To help open doors to new adventures, Gregg and Kelli joined the prestigious Tzell Travel Group, a member of the Signature Travel Network. In addition to finding new opportunities for R Family trips, they have now expanded their business to helping book personal vacations for their network after receiving numerous requests. “Our partnership with Tzell gives us access to a sensational network in addition to providing a ton of perks and benefits to our clients,” explains Kelli Carpenter. With over 100 cruises under their belts and travels to more than 40 countries, Gregg and Kelli are able to bring real world knowledge and experience to their clients.
R Family began as a project of love and desire to bring together everyone in an open and inviting environment now has turned into a worldwide community with adventures around the globe. Gregg and Kelli never could have imagined the impact their company would make from that first sailing 15 years ago. Now, they are delighted to share experiences with friends new and old as they build the community they lovingly refer to as, “our family.”