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Donna Meads-Barlow

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Managing Director & Personal Travel Manager at Donna Barlow Travel
Lindfield, New South Wales, 2070

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“Take only memories, leave only footprints.”

About Donna Meads-Barlow


Passionate about Consulting Travel & Supporting People living with Diabetes!

So who is Donna Barlow? Let’s find out what makes this amazing lady tick, as once you’ve been introduced, you’ll never forget her amazing spirit, big heart and inspiring business acumen.

Can you tell us a little about your career progression? How did you get your start in the travel industry? How long has Donna Barlow Travel been operating now?

Finishing School in 1979 I knew I always wanted to be in Travel.  My family background was in the interior design business which gave me great foundations for Sales and my passion was to Travel.  Fresh out of school, my first job was with the Rural Bank as a trainee, with a promise after completion of probation, I would be transferred the travel department.  That didn’t happen!  A meeting with HR in Martin Place made clear to me that Women join the bank and eventually become ‘part-time tellers’ when they go off to have babies.  I thought to myself, this most certainly was not the career path I had intended – so I resigned from the bank and I confidently walked the streets of Sydney knocking on every single Travel related business door asking to talk with Management and offering my “can-do – give me a try; prepared to do anything” determination.  I began with learning the grass-roots of Travel as a Girl Friday which included cleaning the office and I had a day a week down in the Eastern Suburbs processing visas for clients.  My eagerness soon saw me behind a desk learning the ropes of consulting – my passion – the World.   In 1987 I bought into a Jetset franchise business that I managed at the time and this year the Donna Barlow Travel Group celebrated our 30 years Anniversary and Won Best Travel Management Company at the National Travel Industry Awards.

What would you say is your defining career achievement or the thing you are most proud of?

Peers recognition of our Business as a leader has been one of our greatest achievements. I say “our business” simply because I truly believe that my team’s performance and delivery of a superior service and keeping abreast of the market is critical to the success of any business.  Each year I feel privileged to be amongst the Top travel companies as both a finalist and Winner in the AFTA/NTIA Awards.  Career Highlight is the sweetness of winning – a direct tribute to my team, many of which have been with DBT for more than 20 years.

What have been the biggest challenges to success you’ve encountered professionally?

Being in Travel brings world challenges.  I have seen many young people come into travel over the years with a passion to travel and we are fortunate because travel we do; however, being in travel brings us close encounters with revolving world politics and natural disasters that we have had to learn to navigate our way successfully.  Over the years together with my amazing team DBT has jumped through the hoops of Pilot strikes, Gulf wars, the stock-exchange crash, September 11 and that’s just to name a few.  Globalisation has made our world a much smaller place and the challenge of remaining at the forefront in the industry in evolving technology is paramount.  My biggest challenge came when I lost my 17 year old daughter in late 2011 to diabetes complications.  It was then that I was faced with the decision to back myself and my team and venture into the world of philanthropy and chasing the dream of life-saving technology for people that live with Type 1 Diabetes.  Taking this direction meant my passion of 35 years in travel to some degree I had to hand over to my team to manage so I could pursue my goal of ensuring what happened to Daniella would not happen to another family.

Can you tell us about your Philanthropy efforts?

As well as being a Philanthropist, I am also the Biological mother to 3 children and an adult step-son.  My personal journey as a parent and philanthropist began in 1994 with the birth of our beautiful daughter Daniella.  Daniella (fondly known by her friends as Danii) was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 5 and lived a full and vibrant life travelling the world with her 2 brothers and my husband & I. Danii was a lively strawberry blonde, year 12 student, a leader in the Australian Girls Choir and loved life! DANII had just commenced her HSC and had aspirations of a singing career. Sadly, all her dreams were shattered on November 8th 2011, when her life was suddenly cut short. That spring night, DANII went to bed a happy, beautiful, vibrant 17 year old teenager – and never woke up.  At just 17, she had her whole life before her. Diabetes took that away from her, and it took her away from us.”  On the day Danii left us, we learned from her doctor that there was technology in other parts of the world that could have prevented DANII’s death.  As her parents, we knew what we had to do – through our own family tragedy, as a mother and business woman I embarked on my philanthropy journey with a specific mission to do everything possible to prevent another life being cut short. Through her passing, DANII gave our family a parting gift – the inspiration to create a lasting legacy in her name and the courage to offer today’s T1D’s the care and safety they need to help them manage their diabetes.  To help T1D’s live the normal, long and enjoyable life they deserve. This gift is today known as #daniisgift.  After much lobbying for the DANII Foundation, April 1st 2017 saw the Australian Govt fund life-saving Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGM) for all children under 21.  DANII has since launched the #NOMOREFEAR campaign to continue to lobby Government for funding for all Australian’s aged 21 and over.  Additionally, DANII now runs a Type 1 Diabetes Intense learning education programme called the Jelly Bean Cruise bringing together Medical Experts and T1D families to learn how to better manage their life-long disease.  As a parent, I am extremely focussed on creating a better quality of life for all that live with type 1 diabetes.  I know that my angel is guiding me and is proud of the enormous achievements we have made for this community in her name-sake.

As DANII often said: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain

With the benefit of wisdom, what advice would you give your 21 y/o self when you were starting out in your career?

Do what you Love, love what you do and always follow your dream!  We have a joke in the office that is called “focus”!  Believing that anything is possible if you “focus”.  Having a mentor or someone that you really admire in their career, in their life-skills and in the path they walk is inspiring and rewarding.  Aim High and believe in yourself.  Be prepared to always learn; take time to really examine your challenges and have a life-plan.  Success in Travel is paramount to adding value, especially today in a world of educated clientele that have google at their fingertips.  You have to become a Master in selling the Travel dream offering expertise and tips that can only be bought from a professional.  Always remember, every single person you come in contact with is an opportunity to make a difference in our world.

How would you describe your business/management style? What sort of things are most important to you professionally?

When you create a business I think it’s important that all your team shares your company vision and culture.  From early days in my career I was encouraged to have a business plan and a clear set of company Policies and procedures unique to our service delivery.  Having buy-in from your team on the vision and goals is critical to the success of your business.  Flexibility, empathy, leadership and ethics are all cultural paths necessary for success.

Who are the people you admire most professionally or in any field/walk of life?

My mother was one of the greatest sales people I have ever known.  Mum taught me well and she has weathered many challenges in her life that I admire and respect.  My daughter Daniella embraced every opportunity, whilst living with the challenges of Type 1 diabetes, Danii loved and lived every day of her life to the fullest.  My mentor in business is one of my first Bosses – Karin Van der pligt who has always been there for me throughout my career.  My mentor in Philanthropy is the great Susan Alberti.  I take inspiration from people that are successful, humble and focussed on leaving the world in a better place.

For you, what’s the best thing about working in the travel industry?

For me the best thing about working in travel is the opportunity for me to learn and teach something new every day.   I have always got the next holiday planned and being in travel affords me the opportunity to keep the dreams alive.

What’s your proudest achievement in the last five years, and why? What did you learn along the way?

Hearing Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt refer to the launch of CGM funding as DANII’s gift and acknowledging my critical role in such a major funding initiative.  Not only did the Government promise funding of $54M in the 2016 Federal Election but the ALP promised $84M. Our work at the DANII Foundation received bi-partisan support and is considered an ongoing policy of the federal opposition.  All of our ‘door knocking’ in federal parliament and arranging visits in electorate offices across the country had paid off. I am so very proud that our tragedy could result in providing thousands of Australians with greater comfort, genuine life-saving safety and quality of life improvements for whole families.  I have had the considerable privilege to play a role in transforming lives and for that I am immensely proud. Whilst the DANII Foundation is just 6 years old the advocacy to achieve CGM funding took less than two years.  I understand from many others that this is a significant achievement.  I had no prior understanding of the political process nor the process for achieving major health funding.

I learnt that there are considerable misconceptions and gaps in knowledge at even the highest levels of decision making. I learnt that the political world is often hard to infiltrate but when you are passionately persistent that large and meaningful change is possible.

I have also learnt that being a large and established organisation does not necessarily guarantee success.  Our organisation was a fledgling with very little in the beginning, but our genuine desire to help make change was seen by thousands of families living with Type 1 diabetes. They have come and supported our work and been central to our success.

My experience shows me the importance of being authentic and courageous and never being fearful to ask for what you need. So many people wished us well but were defeated in suggesting the government ‘would never fund this technology’. While my head acknowledged it would be hard and I was unsure of the political environment; I used my business smarts as a business owner of 30 years and was unafraid to show my heart and demonstrate why our work was so important. I believe it was a combination of head and heart that led to our success.

What’s next on the agenda for the DANII Foundation?

DANII’s Army is heading to Canberra to hold a National Type 1 Diabetes advocacy day on Wednesday October 24.  DANII Foundation Friends will share their personal stories with MP’s including the Health Minister and be part of the groundswell to demand support for #CGM funding for over 21’s.

There is always lots on the agenda for DANII supporting Australians Living with Type 1!  We also have our Annual Golf Day coming up at St Michaels in Sydney on Friday October 19th and World Diabetes Day Celebration on November 14th, our Annual Jelly Bean Fundraising Ball at the Hyatt Regency Sydney on 2nd June and our Next Jelly Bean Educational Cruise departs Brisbane on 5th December 2019.

What do you do to unwind when you aren’t working? What is most important to you outside the office?

Of cause I love to Travel!  Experiencing exotic horizons and new cultures has always been my passion.  My husband and I have a fabulous boat that we escape and rejuvenate at every opportunity.  Being close to the water makes me feel at peace.

What one thing gets you through a stressful day (is it a strong cup of coffee, half an hour in the gym etc) What does the trick?

Knowing that we have our boat just 30 minutes away is a great escape from the office and daily stresses.  I love to grab a book, sit in the sunshine and breathe in the beauty of nature.  I can do all this with my husband and our boys and know that our next family holiday is not too far away.

Donna is also 2018 International Women’s Day Winner, Telstra Business Women’s finalist and nominated for Australian of the Year.

    Company Details

  • Year I became a Travel Agent
  • 1979
  • Hours of Operation
  • Open to a call to help you plan that fabulous well earned holiday ANYTIME!
  • Accepted Forms of Payments
  • EFT & Credit Card + American Express Membership Rewards travel with points
  • Credentials
  • Attention to Detail & Experience Counts!
    For more than 35 years, Donna Barlow Travel has assembled the finest Personal Travel Advisors from across the country. With decades of experience and global networking capabilities, we will perfectly orchestrate your custom Holiday, luxury Cruise, destination wedding, family reunion, or any other adventure you can imagine.

    Your Personal Travel Advisor will develop a clear, easy to follow itinerary. Taking every detail into consideration; times and reservations, tours, dining, entertainment, and much more.

    From allowing sufficient time between flight connections and arranging transfers, to making sure the hotel has a welcome gift waiting, we painstakingly review every aspect of your trip before you even depart. It’s our job to think of all the details you’d never imagine, allowing you to skip the worry and simply enjoy your trip.
  • Honours & Awards
  • AFTA Award Winning Travel Agency. Telstra Business Women's Awardee. Australian of the Year Nomination. Honoured to be Co-Founder and Volunteer CEO of DANII Foundation supporting Australian's living with Diabetes
  • Travel Types I Specialise in:
  • Cruise Holidays, Expedition Cruising, Luxury Travel
    • Contact Information

    • Company Name
    • Donna Barlow Travel
    • ATAS Accredited
    • Yes
    • Online Social Profiles
    • Phone Number
    • Show Phone Number
    • Location
    • 6 Moore Ave
      Level 1
      Lindfield, New South Wales, 2070
      Australia
    • _

    Donna Meads-Barlow Reviews


    Submitted by Rachael Anne on Wednesday, Jan 19, 2022

    Highly recommend Donna Barlow Travel for all you travel needs

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    After many years of believing I was saving money by doing my own travel bookings & arrangements, I was introduced to Donna Barlow Travel.  Boy was I wrong. And I‘ve used Donna Barlow Travel ever since. Their knowledge and expertise is amazing. They worked within my budget, securing superior quality hotels, preferred seating on the plane and even secured all the assistance we needed by the travel suppliers for my children with disability and chronic health care needs.Both an air/land trip to Hawaii and an air/sea trip to PNG went like clockwork. Forget spending hours doing planning/web searches/document management.  DBT secured travel insurance to match our complex needs at a competitive (and further discounted) price.  The advice for day excursions was spot on, saving me $$$.  All without fuss, with impeccable communication and consultation. I can highly recommend Donna Barlow Travel for all you travel needs.

    Submitted by Deb Richardson on Wednesday, Jan 19, 2022

    Thanks so much to the Team at DBT!

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    I have had the privilege to have experienced as a customer prospective for all of my travel arrangements on many occasions & on each one of my bookings I have received 100% excellent service from start to finish of my travel arrangements.  The reason I choose to book through DBT is because of their knowledge, qualified recommendations for all aspects from air, cruising, accommodation and transfers making the whole journey enjoyable. They are & always have been there throughout any situation if I needed assistance which is one of my top priorities when choosing an agency to assist me particularly with the uncertain global situations as they are as they are forthcoming with immediate solutions.  I would never hesitate in recommending DBT as the whole team from Owners Management and Consultants all completely put their heart and soul into ensuring my travel arrangements make my life so much easier.  Thanks so much to the Team at DBT looking forward to my next trip and gaining your help. 

    Submitted by Taryn Gaskin on Wednesday, Jan 19, 2022

    I will definitely continue to use Donna and her team at DBT for all my travel needs

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    I have been able to use Donna Barlow Travel for my last 3 cruisesFrom the cruise fares, travel insurance, cruise transfers and the flights I can't thank them enough for all that they have done to assist me in the arrangements for my travel needsI will definitely continue to use Donna and her team at DBT for all my travel needs

    Submitted by Jessica Amy on Wednesday, Jan 19, 2022

    Outstanding! Is the word I would use to describe the service and care I received from DBT!

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    Outstanding! Is the word I would use to describe the service and care I received from Donna and her team at Donna Barlow Travel. I have cruising holidays  to the pacific island and PNG which both included flights, cruises and transfers. Both holidays were stress free due to the fact Donna and the team have planned and thought of every detail so all I had to do was enjoy.  They even organised my travel insurance all at such a fabulous price.  The staff were super helpful, extremely knowledgeable and were able to tailored the experience just for me. I can’t wait to book with them again. Highly recommend Donna Barlow Travel for all you travel needs 

    Submitted by Terri Unwin on Wednesday, Jan 19, 2022

    DBT gave us access to experiences & adventures not available to those who book directly or through the internet

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    Booking through DBT gave us access to experiences and adventures not available to those who book directly or through the internet.Our trip to Alaska became even more memorable with the addition of a pre-cruise land content that was exclusive and something we would not have had access to booking any other way.  It is Donna Meads-Barlow and her wealth of knowledge and experience gained over many years that allows you an insight into the "must-dos".  Although I love researching holidays my days of booking directly through the Internet are at an end - these recent times have proven that if something goes wrong you need someone like Donna in your corner to ensure any issues can be resolved. Bring on 2022 and more holidays to be organised by Donna & her team!

    Submitted by Tracey Binnie on Wednesday, Jan 19, 2022

    I would highly recommend Donna Barlow Travel for all your travel needs.

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    I would highly recommend Donna Barlow Travel for all your travel needs. We have travelled through Europe with Donna Barlow Travel 3 times. All of our needs were met down to a perfect tee. they looked after all air flights, Transfers,  accommodation etc. even organising a hotel to look after our bags for a few hours while we explored Venice, anyone who has been to Venice would understand how tiring it is to drag suitcases around the cobbled pathways with the crowds.   Their expertise & knowledge of the world is second to none.We are looking forward to booking our next adventure as soon as the world is ready.

    Submitted by Joanne Cameron on Wednesday, Jan 19, 2022

    highly recommended AAA+++

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    I have used Donna Barlow Travel many times and would definately use again for all my travel requirements. The attention to detail, experience and friendly service are terrific and I highly recommended AAA+++ 

    Submitted by Noel Sadler I Skip Film Productions And MyCruise TV on Wednesday, Jan 19, 2022

    Thank you Donna to you and your team for the great work you guys do for our travel needs!

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    I have used Donna Barlow Travel services not only for my family holidays but also for my business and corporate travel needs.I have always found Donna and her team of travel experts able to complete the travel bookings as requested on time and at a very competitive price; their dedication to creating outstanding travel experiences for my family holidays and when I am away working overseas looking after all the travel and accommodation for the film crew this has allowed us to focus on what we need to do and leave all the travel arrangements to Donna and her team.Thank you Donna to you and your team for the great work you guys do for our travel needs.Noel Sadler I Skip Film Productions and MyCruise TV

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    Donna Meads-Barlow Travel Blogs


    Posted 21/01/2022 by Donna Meads-Barlow
    EUROPEAN RIVER-CRUISING ~ Best time to go ~ My delightful Experience

    Best Time to Take a European River Cruise - Rhine, Danube & Main Rivers September is perhaps the best... View More


    Rated 5/5 (8 Reviews)

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