MarionMade!: Local women help travelers see the world

·3 min read

Each week, this series shares MarionMade! stories of our many wonderful people, places, products and programs in the greater Marion community. To read more positive stories of Marion, or to share some of your own, visit us at marionmade.org or on social media.

Jill Chitwood is a lifelong Marion resident. She graduated from River Valley in 1980 and graduated from Marion Technical College in 1982 with an associate degree in business administration. She and her husband, Wayne, have been married for 38 years and have two grown children.

Chitwood worked a variety of jobs including operations director for the Marion Mayhem and the Marion Blue Racers professional indoor arena football teams and owner of the Northern Kentucky River Monsters team. Chitwood also worked for the American Red Cross of Crawford County.

Jill and Wayne Chitwood loved visiting Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands, located on the island of St. Thomas. They stayed at Bluebeard’s Castle Resort.
Jill and Wayne Chitwood loved visiting Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands, located on the island of St. Thomas. They stayed at Bluebeard’s Castle Resort.

Chitwood has always loved to travel with her family. After a disappointing experience with a travel agent, Wayne said, “You do a lot of research. You love planning. Why don’t you try becoming a travel agent?”

Chitwood opened Sights Unseen Travel Agency in 2017. She joined Cruise Brothers because of their great reputation.

“Six suppliers will have six different costs for the same trip. We get better deals than anyone else can and throw in extra perks and discounts,” Chitwood said.

There is no cost to the consumer for booking a cruise through Sights Unseen. In addition, Chitwood prides herself on providing exemplary customer service.

“We are there from the beginning to the middle to the end. We are there 24/7. If there’s an issue, call me and I will handle it. If you have a question, call or text me anytime,” Chitwood said. “We’re not only available from 9 to 5 on weekdays. It’s not, ‘Now you booked your trip. Good luck!’”

Chitwood recalls one family booked the trip of a lifetime to Disney resort in Hawaii. Their flight was delayed due to a mechanical issue and they missed a connection.

“We track the flights online. We texted them when we realized the issue and started looking for other options. I called the Disney resort to notify them they will be in one day late, so they didn’t cancel the reservation,” Chitwood said. “We made sure they knew to ask the airline for hotel and food vouchers and the best flight. Before they even touched down, we had it taken care of.”

The goal is to match the best experience to the client and iron out any issues.

“It’s like we’re on the trip with you,” Chitwood said.

Sights Unseen was founded in 2017 by Jill Chitwood and expanded to include Sherry Nelson in 2021.
Sights Unseen was founded in 2017 by Jill Chitwood and expanded to include Sherry Nelson in 2021.

The company was voted “Best Travel Agency” in Marion by NewsForce24/7. In addition, the company has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and a 5-star rating on Google.

Chitwood travels extensively so she can recommend places she has visited. Her favorites are the Grand Cayman Islands and the Hubbard Glacier in Alaska.

Chitwood is the president of the Marion Business Builders Chapter of BNI, which promotes quality local businesses. Chitwood led BNI to raise $33,000 for local police for a new K-9 dog.

She participated in The Forge free business classes to grow her business. With more clients, Chitwood needed more help. Chitwood recruited Sherry Nelson to join her.

Sherry Nelson (left) and Jill Chitwood display their award for Best in Marion for Travel Agency in 2022 from NewsForce24/7. They pride themselves on providing superb customer service.
Sherry Nelson (left) and Jill Chitwood display their award for Best in Marion for Travel Agency in 2022 from NewsForce24/7. They pride themselves on providing superb customer service.

Nelson lives in New Bloomington. She graduated from Harding. She and her husband, Luke, have been married for 34 years. They have six children: three biological kids and three adopted children. They have fostered 83 children. Sherry loves having her big family together and booked several trips with Chitwood before she came on as a travel agent.

“Sherry is a quick learner who loves travel. It’s a good fit,” Chitwood said. “You have to have a passion for travel.”

“I’m a helper by nature,” Nelson said.

Members of the Marion Business Builders Chapter of BNI raised $33,000 in May for a new K-9 dog for Marion Police Dept. The remaining funds will be shared with the Marion Co. Sheriff’s Dept. for their K-9 unit. From left to right in the front row: Scott Ebert, Lisa Bush, Lynda Schrader, Leiha Lamb, Diane Watson, Michelle Albertini, Christy Neff and Jill Chitwood. Back row from left to right: Craig Heilman, Barry Hensley, Carl Wade, Sheriff Matt Bales, Adam Pfeiffer, and Lt. Mark Elliot with the Marion Police Dept.
Members of the Marion Business Builders Chapter of BNI raised $33,000 in May for a new K-9 dog for Marion Police Dept. The remaining funds will be shared with the Marion Co. Sheriff’s Dept. for their K-9 unit. From left to right in the front row: Scott Ebert, Lisa Bush, Lynda Schrader, Leiha Lamb, Diane Watson, Michelle Albertini, Christy Neff and Jill Chitwood. Back row from left to right: Craig Heilman, Barry Hensley, Carl Wade, Sheriff Matt Bales, Adam Pfeiffer, and Lt. Mark Elliot with the Marion Police Dept.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic created challenges, Chitwood wants to help local customers explore the world.

“Now is a great time to book your travel for next year. You get a trip in 2023 at this year’s prices,” Chitwood said. “The availability is better. Plus, you can make payments. That’s easier to fit into a family’s budget than paying for the entire trip at once.”

Chitwood and Nelson can be reached at sightsunseentravel.com, through their Facebook page, or by calling 740-262-6891.

This article originally appeared on Marion Star: MarionMade!: Sights Unseen Travel in Marion led by two women