When Anne-Marie Kirke found out she had won a place on Travel Weekly’s Cover Stars trip to California last November, her biggest challenge was telling her husband and daughter.

“We had been planning to go to California as a family this summer so it didn’t go down too well when I said I would be going on this trip,” admits Anne-Marie, who heads up a team specialising in Canada at Barrhead’s Glasgow superstore.

“But I told them I would bring back lots of things and we would go at a later date! I sold it to my daughter by saying I was going to try it out first before we went as a family.”

The trip started on a high. “When we checked in I was amazed to find out I had been upgraded to upper-class with Virgin Atlantic. I never expected that.”

Anne-Marie admits she was bowled over by what California had to offer. “It’s such an amazing place, and there’s a lot more to it than just Hollywood.”

But her moment of fame – her photo shoot on Santa Monica’s famous pier – left her more than a little anxious.

“People are watching you and you are trying to be relaxed and smile, but I was so nervous,” she recalls.

Help was at hand when a man walked past with his dog who was keen to join in the photo shoot. “The dog didn’t mind posing!” laughs Anne-Marie.

Luckily Anne-Marie also managed to bring back plenty of clothes and gifts to keep the family happy thanks to a trip to the Desert Hills Premium Outlets shopping mall, a Simon Shopping Destination, near Palm Springs.

“It’s a shopper’s paradise and so cheap. I would never have thought about the malls when selling California because as an agent you tend to think of the other attractions, but they are really worth a trip,” she says.

In fact, Anne-Marie loved it so much she’s already planning a family trip there this winter. She adds: “It was the trip of a lifetime. The hotels are all first-class, Huntington Beach has crystal blue water and is safe and clean and Santa Monica is so quirky.

“It’s great to have the chance to go on these sorts of trips and then book the same experience for other people. Travel is the best job in the world – I don’t know why everyone doesn’t want to do it!”