Europe & Britain | People & Stories

Two generations of Travel Directors: Meet the Creegans

The Creegan’s are all about keeping it in the family. From hosting the original Be My Guest experience to having the youngest Local Specialist in Ireland – and with over 40 years of collective experience as Trafalgar Travel Directors – the Creegan family have plenty of fascinating stories to share. We sat down with the Creegans to find out more about life as a touring family. 

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Who are the Creegan family?

Meet Bernard and Sally, the Irish couple who have been working as Trafalgar Travel Directors for around 22 years and 7 years, respectively. Then meet their two sons, James and Shane, who have also been working as Travel Directors for over six years.

They run all the Trafalgar Ireland trips – including the all-time guest favourites like our 11-day Irish Experience trip and our 10-day Best of Ireland trip – plus they run some of our Ireland and Scotland adventures. 

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Sally and Bernard Creegan

How it all began

Both Bernard and Sally have worked in travel since the 1980s. They worked with a few different companies across Ireland and Europe but ultimately landed with Trafalgar. James and Shane followed a similar path. 

At just 18, James was the youngest person in Ireland to qualify as a Local Specialist. They had both grown up surrounded by life as a Trafalgar Travel Directors and knew their parents loved their work, so when they got the chance to join Trafalgar – they jumped at it.

It’s a true family affair… But we had to know more, so we talked to James Creegan about what’s it like to be part of two generations of Trafalgar Travel Directors. 

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Why Trafalgar?

“We followed my Dad’s footsteps, as he drove coaches originally for other tour companies when he decided to become a guide. Trafalgar was a brand new company in Ireland and he wanted a new start with this exciting new company. Over time, the Tollman family took the reigns of the company and still own and run it to this day. So we really love the fact that it is a family company. 

They are amazing people to work for with family values at the core of what they do. They have a brilliant project, the TreadRight Foundation, which promotes and encourages sustainable tourism and gives back to the local communities we visit. 

We are extremely proud to work with them and feel we are making a difference in how people experience the world. Even though it’s a huge company operating in all corners of the globe, they are still a down-to-earth family at the core.”

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Creegan family photo Trafalgar Travel Directors

What is life like in a family of Trafalgar Travel Directors?

“My mother Sally worked as a Local Specialist while we were growing up as my father Bernard was working away from home. During his days off and the winter season, we spent a lot of time together as a family. 

We travelled in Ireland and abroad whenever we could. We got to know a lot about the history, culture and heritage of Ireland at an early age and developed a great love and pride for our country. A love of travel has always been part of our upbringing and has influenced us greatly. My little niece Caoilainn – Shane’s daughter – who is now 8-years-old is having the same experiences.

Having four family members working with Trafalgar is a lot of fun. Sometimes, we meet on the road and our guests love the fact they become part of extended family while they’re here. We also love to bounce ideas off each other and we’re all there for support.”

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What is the best part of your jobs as Trafalgar Travel Directors?

“The best part of the job is the people. From colleagues, office teams and Trafalgar road crew to our service providers, we work with the best people in the business. 

The guests that travel with us also make it so extremely special. Lifelong bonds have been formed on our trips and people who were once strangers are now best of friends. Meeting new people and new cultures, and giving these people new experiences and stories they will always remember and cherish, is one of the most rewarding parts of our jobs.

Of course, there are a lot of challenges, but I do enjoy that as well, as it keeps your mind occupied, fresh and sharp. We’ve all faced these challenges on the road, but when you’re working with a great company like Trafalgar, there’s always a solution. That’s also what I really love about the job – it’s problem-solving, thinking on your feet, using your intuition as well as your knowledge, and reaching out to colleagues and reaching out to our wonderful Trafalgar office team and our colleagues on the road. 

We are one big family who works as Trafalgar Travel Directors, but the wider family is Trafalgar and The Travel Corporation, so it does feel like one big expanded clan.”

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Creegan family Trafalgar Travel Directors

What are your most memorable on the road moments as Trafalgar Travel Directors?

Jame’s father, Bernard, had a fantastic story to share. 

“About 15 years ago, I was doing a winter tour with Trafalgar and it was Christmas Eve. It’s a lot of fun but you’re also away from your own family at Christmas. So I decided to bring the coach load of guests – about 40 people – to my house in Dublin to spend Christmas Eve with my wife Sally and my sons James and Shane. All the neighbours were quite mystified when they saw the Trafalgar coach pull up outside our house and 40-odd people coming inside”. 

James says, “My mother had prepared mulled wine and mince pies and little treats for everybody. It was really memorable as there was a young kid around 5-years-old travelling with his parents. My mother had wrapped a few presents and put them under our Christmas tree for him and he thought Santa Claus had sent the presents over. It was just brilliant and the group thoroughly enjoyed it. We got to see my dad on Christmas Eve and meet his group, and his guests were really appreciative that they got to stop off at their Travel Director’s house and meet his family.

It set the scene for what we have today – the Be My Guest Experiences. We didn’t have those on our trips back then, so that’s my father’s claim to fame – he initiated the first (unofficial) BMG experience.”

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Where does your family love to travel?

“We love family trips away. We went to Spain a few years ago with all my cousins, aunts and uncles and it was great fun. However, most years we like to spend time in Killarney on the west coast of Ireland. We live in Dublin city so we love getting over to the beautiful west coast when we can to relax and enjoy family time during the off season.”

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What have you all learnt about travel over the years as Trafalgar Travel Directors?

“The number one thing I’ve learned is that you’re always learning, especially when you’re travelling. My father always tells me ‘you’re never finished learning’ and after 22 years on the road as a Travel Director, he still learns. I’ve got a lot of inspiration from that and his work ethic over the years. 

I’ve also learned that travel is an essential thing for everybody, to experience different cultures and to learn different stories and opinions. Travel opens your horizons, expands your mind, and makes you more compassionate to other people. As I’ve learned about my own culture while travelling around Ireland, it’s reinstated that sense of pride and culture I have for Ireland and our people.”

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Can you share any insights into how travelling and touring have changed over the generations?

“Things were a lot different when my mother and father started touring back in the 1980s. There were no mobile phones, Google maps, or social media, so everything had to be planned meticulously on a real, physical map. A lot of the infrastructure wasn’t there in Ireland. The roads were a lot bumpier and there were fewer facilities and visitor centres. Since the 1990s, Ireland’s membership in the European Union has helped build our infrastructure and motorways and we can get around the country a lot easier. 

The government has also done a great job in promoting Ireland and achieving UNESCO-listed status for some of our world heritage sites. We’ve now got more museums, visitor centres, and tourist attractions. There’s the Wild Atlantic Way, the longest coastal route in Europe now. There’s also the visitor’s centre at the Giant’s Causeway, which Trafalgar and TTC have donated a huge amount of money to in recent times to help build and maintain. That’s a proud moment for us and Trafalgar, to be able to give back and help the country we love. 

The ease of communication is another big change. It’s so easy nowadays to connect with people and stay in touch with people you meet while travelling.”

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Bernard Creegan

Have any of you ever considered doing anything else as a career?

“Yes, I have. I actually started off in landscaping, as horticulture was a big passion of mine. I also did a bit of construction and different sales roles as well. 

Music is another passion of mine and I produce and record music part-time. Some of my songs have been signed by labels and I’m always learning more about sound engineering and production. Being a Travel Director is a bit like being a travelling musician… You’re on a tour bus and always moving around to different places and meeting new people!

I always wanted to be my own boss and with Trafalgar, I have the freedom to operate my own tour. You can be entrepreneurial in that you can look at new venues, make suggestions and be valued within the Trafalgar family. It’s a very unique role and gives you a lot of freedom.

I do believe that guiding is my passion. It’s a bit cheesy but I really relate to the saying, ‘If you love your job you never work a day in your life’.

We love our careers, what we do, who we work for and with.”

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Want to travel with the Creegans as your Trafalgar Travel Directors? You can meet one (or more!) members of the Creegan family when you travel on Trafalgar’s Ireland trips.

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