The best trips are packed with unique, memorable experiences that you couldn’t have anticipated or that turned out even better than what they sounded like in your itinerary. That’s the magic we all hope for when we travel, and it’s the magic that Wendy’s recommended travel specialists have up their sleeves—it’s part of the reason she names them to her list of the world’s best trip designers in the first place.
To thank all of you loyal users of Wendy’s WOW trip-planning system, we launched a reward program a while back: Wendy’s WOW Moments. Readers who’ve used our trip-request forms to contact one of our Trusted Travel Experts, and who have contributed reviews of those trips afterward, receive a complimentary gift from Wendy herself on their third trip. And we’re not talking fruit baskets or late checkouts. We’re talking about a personalized insider-access experience, hand-picked to suit your itinerary and arranged by the Trusted Travel Expert. Read eligibility requirements and program details here.
This loyalty program is now in full swing, and the first WendyPerrin.com traveler to earn a WOW Moment got to experience it on a trip to London. We wanted to find out from the traveler how this first-ever WOW Moment went, so we spoke to her by telephone to get the scoop.
Paula da Rosa, her husband John, and her three children live in Vancouver, and as Paula told us over the phone, they are not big travelers. “We keep things pretty tight between Vancouver and Whistler. We ski,” she said. But this summer, her husband had a sabbatical and the family wanted to plan a special trip for their eight weeks off. They started with time in Hawaii (planned by Jay Johnson), followed by a villa rental in France (planned by Annie Flogaus) and then London, where they used to live. The London portion is where we provided their WOW Moment, working with Jonathan Epstein, one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for England.
The WOW Moment:
For the WOW Moment, Jonathan arranged a special afternoon at London’s Milestone Hotel, where the grown-ups would try their hands at the art of Sabrage and sip Champagne, and the kids would dive into the art of pastry decoration. The family of five was then whisked away to a luxurious picnic in Hyde Park, with the Champagne they had sabered, the macarons and cupcakes they had adorned, and a cornucopia of other treats.
The traveler’s review:
“Did the experience meet my expectations? It was expertly executed, it was super smooth,” Paula reported back to us over the phone. “It was definitely more than I thought it was going to be. I guess I was hoping it wasn’t going to be super cheesy, you know what I mean? We just don’t do cheesy. We’re not the family in Disneyland with the ears—that’s just not us.”
“When we arrived and there was a whole line of staff to greet us—the hotel manager through the pastry chef through the young woman who led it all, and she was quite exceptional—I did have what I like to call a ‘Canadian moment’, where I thought, ‘Really? All this fuss just for us?’ We sort of looked at each other thinking we should be sharing some of this bounty.’ [Paula laughs] It was very, very memorable, that’s for sure.”
“We go into a conservatory within the hotel and they were giving us history about the hotel and location, which was interesting, and they had John sabre a bottle of Champagne. That was pretty funny. [Laughs] He put on this cape and hat, and we both looked at each other and thought we were stepping into cheesy, but it was for the fun of it.”
Afterward, Paula and John enjoyed some of the Champagne they’d opened while the kids were taken to the Oratory dining room to decorate macarons and cupcakes. “That was very nice, because the five of us had been traveling together for weeks at that point, so it was lovely for mom and dad to have a minute to be husband and wife,” she says. “And it was nice for the kids to meet the pastry chef, and have the lady who was organizing it snap pictures.”
When tea was announced a short while later, Paula says she expected to be walked right into the next room. “But they said, ‘Oh no, we’ll do it outside.’” Packing up baskets of tea treats plus the kids’ macarons and John’s Champagne, the staff led the family across the street to Hyde Park, where they’d already set up a picnic site. “We sat back and enjoyed the afternoon,” Paula recalls. “When we finished, we called over, and they came over and packed it all up, and then as parting gifts they gave us gift bags of teddy bears and things from the hotel and had made a framed photo of our family, and then we were driven back to our hotel.”
“This was nowhere near what we were expecting. But I had been thinking in the back of my mind, Wouldn’t it be neat to have a picnic? So this wasn’t that far off from something we would do—but it felt very posh.” Then she adds with a laugh, “But I think I might start doing that.”
The traveler’s review of the WOW trip-planning system:
Paula had heard about Wendy Perrin through a friend and checked out our website. “I thought it looked straightforward and easy to deal with,” she says. “And the people I chatted with—it all seemed pretty tight. And someone else does the planning.” That appealed to her greatly, she says: “I don’t have that expertise, and I don’t want to spend the time building that expertise. I’d rather just hand it over to someone else who does know—and that worked well because it’s not just booking a flight, it’s booking different places.” Thinking back to before she found WendyPerrin.com, Paula laughs and says, “We were trying to plan what to do with eight weeks, and almost needed a divorce lawyer, because we had to work though a lot of stuff, prioritizing people’s wants and needs, and working through a lot of logistics, with three children.”
“People asked me why didn’t you just use VRBO. I don’t want to land and be surprised, and if there is a surprise, I want someone else to deal with it. This wasn’t meant to be cost-effective. We don’t get sabbaticals often, so I didn’t want to get into a situation of I took a less expensive route and then I’m paying for it on my holiday.”