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Jeanie Johnston: ‘It’s My Mission’

Fast Facts about Jeanie Johnston

Jeanie Johnston is the owner of the tour operator Jeanie’s Journeys in Minneapolis.

Company: Jeanie’s Journeys

Favorite Bible Verse:

“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.”

— Ephesians 3:17-20

Hometown: Richfield, Minnesota

Hobbies: When she’s not busy planning and leading trips around the world, Johnston spends her free time singing and playing drums in various bands around the Twin Cities

Sometimes bad circumstances can lead to good moves.

Minneapolis-based tour operator Jeanie’s Journeys is known for offering small group tours to destinations across North America and abroad, with a focus on high-quality-yet-affordable travel. Jeanie Johnston has more than 30 years of travel industry experience under her belt, but she didn’t start her career in travel. Johnston was a hospital administrator facing burnout when she decided to make a change.

“I was pushing 50 and had been working in the hospital for 20 years,” said Johnston. “I realized, as I’m in the basement with no windows, next to the morgue, that I’m not going to make it to retirement here. So I quit my job and got a job flying with Northwest Airlines as a flight attendant. While I was doing that, I also started working for Marshall Fields Travel Service in their group department. I worked with some companies that taught me how to do bus travel trips and take people on the road. I learned the ins and outs of air travel by being a flight attendant.”

After designing tours for other companies for several years, Johnston realized she could venture out on her own with the industry’s best kept secrets up her sleeve. She wanted to pass her insider knowledge on to travelers in the form of cost savings. She started Cross Point Tours in 2010, later changing the name to Jeanie’s Journeys on the advice of travel expert Rick Steves.

“I didn’t have a checklist — I had to kind of feel my way through this business,” said Johnston. “I’m still feeling my way! I’m totally independent; I don’t have a host agency. I just figured it out. I learned that the convention visitor bureau is one of your best friends — they can help you design tours and find the most affordable and best hotels and itineraries. I design all my tours from scratch myself.”

Simultaneously, Johnston raised a family with her husband, Dave, who was her high school sweetheart. He recently retired from his career as a pastor and has joined Jeanie by offering history lectures and leading group tours himself, especially to destinations that have a historic or religious significance. Jeanie and Dave do travel talks at community centers, churches and retirement homes, which not only offers armchair travel to attendees but also is the way the majority of their clientele join tours.

Jeanie’s Journeys does roughly 12 trips per year, with a combination of trips like tours in Door County, Wisconsin; cruises in Alaska or the Mediterranean; and spiritual pilgrimages to Israel. Group sizes range from under 10 participants to about 100. But regardless of size, Jeanie’s Journeys offers unique itineraries at an affordable price.

“To me a true tour operator is someone where there is no middleman, and that’s what I strive to do — no middleman makes travel affordable,” said Johnston. “I do all the hard work, the leg work, myself. I don’t take anybody to any place I haven’t been before, and I create and build all the trips myself, sell them and then take groups out.”

The Johnstons also include spiritual components on many of their trips. Their groups sometimes attend church services in the city they’re in. Other times, the Johnstons lead a prayer or worship service with the group.

“Our trips have a foodie connection, an entertainment connection, a historical connection. But I always try to include a spiritual connection,” said Johnston. “When I design the tours, we include a beautiful place of worship. I do that because it’s my mission to get people to see the beauty around them that God has created in nature, in architecture, in churches, in art.”

Travel Tips

1. Always contact the CVB or tourism board of the place you want to visit for local insight into what to see and do in an area. They have fantastic ideas!

2. Don’t be afraid to do groups. Instead of designing just one tour for two people, do the same tour for 20 or 30 people. It takes almost the same amount of time.

3. When taking a tour out, we always pray onboard for God’s protection over our tour before the bus moves one inch. We ask everyone’s permission before doing so since everyone is from a different faith background. They all say yes and really appreciate the prayer of protection.