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Leading tourists around Washington keeps this guide busy

January 14, 2013

Deirdre Steinfort-Rivas began her career as a tour guide in Florida. After many years of commuting to Washington, D.C., for work, she relocated here in 2010.

Deirdre Steinfort-Rivas, 41

Salary: $40,000

POSITION: Licensed tour guide

 

WHAT SHE DOES: “I get paid to be a tourist,” says Steinfort-Rivas, who leads groups of sightseers ranging from a handful to hundreds around Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Steinfort-Rivas says her calendar is booked solid with student tours from mid-February through mid-July. During that time, she spends about 26 days a month either A) picking up groups of eighth-graders at the airport and loading them on buses; B) arranging their meals and staying with them at their hotel; C) leading them to monuments and museums in the D.C. area; D) riding a bus to New York City with them and touring the Big Apple; or E) all of the above.

“If I’m lucky, I’ll have one day in between to go home and do laundry,” Steinfort-Rivas says.

After the school-tour season ends, Steinfort-Rivas works with local companies such as Onboard Tours (Onboardtours.com) to lead visitors on shorter trips around the D.C. area. A day could include a few three-hour tours, perhaps ending with a stroll through the monuments by moonlight.

She gets a respite in December and January each year, except, of course, when there is an inauguration.

This month, she will be leading 300 kids on a five-day tour of D.C. that includes the standard attractions, plus a trip to the inauguration and their own inaugural ball, “middle-school style,” with a DJ.

“I am looking forward [to being] a part of the experience,” she says of her first inauguration. “But will I want to do it again?”

 

HOW SHE GOT THE JOB: Steinfort-Rivas’ first foray into the tour business came in 1998 when she was managing a restaurant in South Florida. A co-worker invited her to work part-time for the environmental science tour company Build-A-Field Trip (Buildafieldtrip.com).

“We would take the kids snorkeling in Key Largo, or we’d go canoeing in the Peace River to look for ancient fossils,” she says. “It was awesome.”

Preferring a 9-to-5 schedule, Steinfort-Rivas began working as an administrator for a Montessori school in 2001. When Hurricane Wilma closed the school down in 2005, Steinfort-Rivas decided to return to the tour world. She took a position with Sonshine Tours (Sonshinetours

.net), leading student groups to Washington, D.C., as well as booking air travel, hotels, restaurants and attractions for all of Sonshine’s out-of-state trips.

In 2010, after commuting to D.C. for five years, she decided to make the capital her home base. She continues to do about six tours a year for Sonshine, but, now, as an independent contractor, she also leads tours for 10 to 15 other companies.

 

WHO WOULD WANT THIS JOB: “I have a very gypsy heart, so it’s perfect for me,” says Steinfort-Rivas, who loves working with people, adores traveling and has a very understanding husband.

She also enjoys working with children. “The fact that I like working with kids and families definitely gets me more work,” she says.

 

HOW YOU CAN GET THIS JOB: Visit the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (Dcra.dc.gov) for information on local tour-guide licensing.

Steinfort-Rivas completed a three-month training program at Sonshine to learn about attractions, architecture and important people in D.C. She worked with Metis Licensing (Metislicensing.com) to prepare for her New York licensing exam.

The Guild of Professional Tour Guides of Washington, D.C. (Washingtondctourguides.com) offers continuing-education opportunities, networking events, liability insurance and even an annual job fair, which Steinfort-Rivas did not need to attend this year:

“My spring was already booked up,” she says.

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