The Washington Post

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Leading tourists around Washington keeps this guide busy

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 ( 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 (

“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 ( 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 ( to prepare for her New York licensing exam.

The Guild of Professional Tour Guides of Washington, D.C. ( 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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