How to maximize your experience of a destination? Know the right fixer. What will the right fixer do for you? Read on.
Here is a sampling of the reviews that your fellow readers have posted after returning from trips that were arranged by Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts and monitored by Wendy. These reviews illustrate how the right fixer transforms a trip from average to extraordinary.
Panama, planned by Eric Sheets
ILEANA & ANDY LANG | APRIL 26, 2017
Eric Sheets and his team planned a wonderful trip for my husband and me to Panama City, April 16-23, 2017. It was a week-long getaway and we wanted to experience the most this destination had to offer. They carefully listened to and tailored a number of activities to our interests, including the Panama Canal, an eco-tour on Gatun Lake and a trip to Soberania National Park to experience the rainforest. The most thrilling highlight was the exclusive VIP tour of the Panama Canal’s Miraflores Locks with a Canal official who took us to an area that is restricted to the public. We were the only people in that area and so close that we could almost touch the boats going through the lock. We were even allowed to stand on the lock gates for a picture – talk about bragging rights! This was a bucket-list moment that we didn’t know we even had. We also experienced a private chocolate tasting of local Panamanian chocolate at a charming store in the Casco Viejo old town, touring through authentic local markets, a lunch at a seafood place where mostly locals eat, spotting monkeys, sloths, bird and butterflies as big as birds, and learning about Panama’s biodiversity from the knowledgeable guides. As per our wishes, there was enough downtime built into the itinerary so as not to feel rushed. I highly recommend Eric Sheets and his team and I’m already working with them on a December trip to Argentina and Uruguay.
Portugal, planned by Mike Korn
ADRIENNE AUERBACH | APRIL 25, 2017
We had a wonderful, worry-free vacation to Portugal courtesy of Mike’s expertise and connections. Every driver and guide was punctual and knowledgeable, our hotels were fantastic and reasonable and our itinerary allowed for lots of learning and exploring. We can’t say enough about Carla, our guide in Lisbon. She was absolutely fantastic. Thanks, Mike!
Botswana and Zimbabwe, planned by Cherri Briggs
MELISSA BRECHER | APRIL 24, 2017
My husband and I took our kids on an African safari in 4/2017. We used Cherri Briggs and her team. I was blown away by the experience from start to finish. Cherri and Katie have deep knowledge of the continent really; they know exactly where to go and when (critical when talking about safaris which can be impacted greatly by seasons) and planned the exact perfect trip based on our unique interests and tastes. They crafted and recrafted the experience, based on multiple conversations gathering input from me and my responses to their (incredible) insights. The final trip was nothing short of extraordinary: a week and a half at two camps in Botswana, a few days at Victoria Falls and a final stay at a camp in Zimbabwe. Magical experience! I’d recommend them again and again!
Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, planned by Sandy Ferguson
JORDAN RUBIN | APRIL 23, 2017
My girlfriend and I just returned from 9 nights across Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia under Sandy’s guidance.Trip of a lifetime. As someone who has a tough time outsourcing anything, it was tough for me/us to put this “big” trip in the hands of someone else – but what Sandy put together was nothing short of great.
Trip of a lifetime. As someone who has a tough time outsourcing anything, it was tough for me/us to put this “big” trip in the hands of someone else – but what Sandy put together was nothing short of great.
The best part about working with an agent like Sandy are the unique activities that you get to experience ONLY because you worked with them. Makes it well worth it. Our guides were also incredible and made the trip that much more cultural and authentic.
Peru, planned by Tom Damon
JOELLEN SHELDEN | APRIL 21, 2017
Tom Damon was a superstar from planning to execution. Tom listened carefully to what was important to use and designed a trip that was perfect for us. Our guide who accompanied us through Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu grew up right outside of Machu Picchu Pueblo and had worked with archaeologists at the site. His knowledge of the history, culture, and location added so much to our overall trip. We had the best drivers, which was important with all the mountain driving. Our hotels were top notch and we even were upgraded at a few sites. He even secured reservations to Astrid and Gaston. Along the way, we had a few hiccups in the plan, and Tom and his team were right there to help us. We would take another trip with Tom and his team in a heartbeat.
Mexico, planned by Zach Rabinor
KATHERINE BARDEN | APRIL 21, 2017
We had a fantastic vacation planned by Zachary Rabinor and his team in April 2017. After spinning my wheels for several weeks searching for the perfect Mexican villa to celebrate a 50th birthday, I called in the experts at Journey Mexico. In very short order, they found us the perfect villa – one which was not listed on the other public sites. It had all the amenities we had asked for and was available during a busy holiday week. As always, the more specific you can be in your requests, the more satisfied you will be with the result!
The planning process went very well. Zach’s staff took care to get all the needs and preferences of all attendees prior to the trip. The villa was stocked with our favorites. Excursions were planned and enjoyed – catamaran snorkel and a multi-stop day tour along in and around Tulum, golf, massages etc… The highlight was a float on the sian kaan biosphere. One note, we use private guides on almost all our trips and they are often a highlight. However, while our guide that day was pleasant she did not really connect very well with the group.
The villa was perfection – location, beauty, and most importantly the incredible staff that took care of us. Also, Journey Mexico always had a local representative available to us for any changes/requests once we departed. They were all exceptionally courteous and helpful.
I would not hesitate to recommend Zach and his team and would use them again for future vacations.
South Africa planned by Julian Harrison
PETER BRICKMAN | APRIL 21, 2017
Julian Harrison and his staff arranged a fantastic trip to South Africa for our family of 12 (ages 6 t0 70). We worked together for almost a year planning activities in and around Cape Town as well as visits to two different safari camps in Kruger National Park all in a 10-day school vacation period. The logistics were smoothly handled both here and on the ground in Africa. Julian made terrific suggestions and was responsive when we suggested changes to his proposals. Unfortunately, part of our family was delayed in New York due to bad weather and airline equipment repositioning issues. Julian and his staff pitched in and coordinated the new arrangements on the fly. All in all, we had an even better time than we possibly could have imagined! It was truly a trip of a lifetime. Everywhere we went, our grandchildren were welcomed and attended to with pleasure. The level of accommodations both in Cape Town and on Safari was top class. Virtually everything was included. All the details were nailed down tight which allowed us to sit back, relax and share our African experiences as a family. Julian has literally written the book on African safaris (Fodor) and will help you plan a spectacular experience!
Peru, planned by Marisol Mosquera
NANCY WOLF | APRIL 19, 2017
Every aspect of our vacation was planned flawlessly. Mark Green, on Marisol’s team, coordinated trains, guides, hotels, restaurant reservations…all so I had a stress-free vacation. We spent a day with Chef Penelope in Lima, visiting the market, drinking Pisco Sours and cooking in her beautiful home overlooking the water. Truly a memorable experience which my entire family loved. We then flew to Cusco and Fernando was our guide for five days of exploring the Sacred Valley, Machu Pichu, and Cusco. I cannot recommend Fernando more highly. He was so knowledgeable, engaging, flexible and personable. He was able to arrange a doctor visit to our hotel at night when one member of my family was sick. Our driver Hugo kept our car spotless and there always was a supply of water and snacks. I’m looking forward to returning to Peru to visit other parts of the country, and I definitely will be using Marisol and Mark again!
Nancy Wolf, Peru, April 2017
Italy, planned by Maria Landers and Brian Dore
NANCY LUNDEBJERG | APRIL 19, 2017
Maria planned a glorious trip for my niece and me in June of 2016 that took us from Venice to Florence to Amalfi, Pompeii (and Vesuvius and Herculaneum) and then to Rome. She arranged some off-the-beaten-track tours of street art in Florence and Rome which were extraordinary. The guides that she teamed us with were superb — touring Rome with an archaeologist with extensive knowledge of Roman history and architecture PLUS where to get the best gelato was priceless. All of the guides were flexible and built our itineraries for our tours based on our preferences which were pretty amazing. Looking back, I am amazed at how much she packed in — basically meeting every request that I had with her meticulously planned itinerary that made good use of every moment and allowed us enough free time to get lost along the way. I am a frequent flyer on Wendy’s list and have never been disappointed by any of her travel experts and Maria was all that I would expect — and then some.
Cabo, planned by Julie Byrd
MICHELLE SULLIVAN | APRIL 19, 2017
You know that expression “the second time’s the charm?” Well, that is certainly true when booking with Julie! My son loved his Cabo trip last year that Julie arranged so much, he wanted to go back again. This second vacation was the Spring Break trip of a lifetime for my son and his friends. At Julie’s suggestion, she put them right in the middle of all the action – they stayed at a beautiful, all-inclusive resort that was safe and fun. Julie booked airport transportation, knew where to put the kids so they’d be in the “best” area, told them about the “new” hot spots, gave them a list of great restaurants and clubs, and everything else they needed to ensure a wonderful trip. Thanks, Julie, you did it again!
Hawaii, planned by Jay and Dani Johnson
CHERIE TESTERMAN | APRIL 19, 2017
I highly recommend Jay and Dani Johnson as your Hawaii travel experts. Dani was very knowledgeable in planning my birthday celebration on four of the islands. She suggested hotels, restaurants, and activities that were fantastic and geared to our specific wants. She made sure wherever we went we were taken care of and treated very special. Her experience, accessibility, and thoughtfulness made our Hawaii experience and my birthday the best ever!
Delhi, Agra, Kanha, Ranthambore, Jaipur and Udaipur cruise, planned by Bertie and Victoria Dyer
LYNNE BARNARD AND JON ERICKSON | APRIL 13, 2017
Our driver, Laxman, was with us for most of the driving portion our trip and was excellent. He advised us early on that to drive in India, you need a “good horn”, “good brakes” and “good luck”! He wasn’t kidding but we felt quite safe with his driving skills and judgment. And, if you have been driven in India, you can understand that feeling secure is paramount.
For us, this trip was all about seeing the magnificent tiger, major cultural sites, cuisine, and shopping…all of which were accomplished!
Bertie and Victoria have assembled quite a travel team and Victoria personally put together our itinerary. We really liked our guides in each of the locations but felt that Vikram, in Jaipur, was a particular standout as he seemed to know nearly everything about the best places to shop, when to negotiate and when not to…and…everyone knows him! All of our guides were very well spoken, flexible with special requests for schedule changes and the need for extra time in certain locations. They were well versed in the history and quite sensitive to our needs. It was very hot so we decided to abandon a few activities to relax by our private pool at a couple of our hotels!
All of their restaurant recommendations were fantastic when we decided to venture out from the Oberoi Resorts…which wasn’t too often because the luxury and service is so extraordinary at those properties. We can’t wait to go back.
Mediterranean cruise, planned by Tom Baker
TERRI HARTMAN | APRIL 13, 2017
Tom Baker provided excellent service. Although I am a pretty independent traveler, Tom got me a better price than I was able to get on my own. His advice on the cruise line and cabin selection were spot on, and he or someone from his team always responded promptly. I never felt rushed or brushed off whenever we spoke. I intend to use him for all of my future needs.
Australia, planned by Stuart Rigg
JAMES AND APRIL BENSON | APRIL 6, 2017
My wife and I have used Stuart Rigg and his team on two occasions. On both trips, everything proceeded without a hitch—resort and car reservations all equaled or exceeded our expectations, our adventure activities guides were top-notch, and our various transfer drivers always arrived a bit early. But what really distinguished Stuart in our mind was the way he handled the “unexpected emergency” when we found ourselves stranded in Lamington National Park with the only exit road closed because of rock/mud slides and fallen trees caused by Cyclone Debbie that battered Queensland during the first days of March 2017. The resort we were staying at could do nothing more than keep us up-to-date on efforts to reopen the road. Fortunately, one call to Stuart’s cell phone late on a Friday night (i.e. it was after normal office hours) ended with him arranging for a helicopter to pick us up the next day to fly us back to Brisbane. His ability to do this was especially impressive because almost all helicopters in the greater Brisbane area had been diverted to rescue work.
We’ve traveled extensively. Most travel agents are good at doing the easy stuff. But exceptional agents like Stuart Rigg have the contacts and ability to get the traveler out of unforeseen jams.
March 2017 / Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and surrounding areas
Myanmar, Cambodia, Bali, and Java planned by Antonia Neubauer
JUDITH RODWELL | APRIL 5, 2017
In all our years of travel, we’ve never experienced a more transforming and magical journey than the one Toni planned for us. Her meticulous planning ensured that there would be no surprises during our month in Myanmar, Cambodia, Bali, and Java, and what surprises we experienced were the serendipitous ones that happen when you allow yourself to seize the moment when it happens. Our guides, excellent English-speaking people and very knowledgeable, quickly got to know us and would make adjustments that would allow us to experience an unscripted moment with the wonderful people in each country. It was those unexpected moments that left us feeling like we left each country having stood in the shoes of the people for one brief moment. That perspective made us come back to our own country with new eyes and appreciation for what we have and what we don’t have.
The resorts were all remarkable, each unique, staffed by the kindest people, each attending to our needs, some of them so happy to test their English skills with us, leading to remarkable conversations about their lives. Restaurants were chosen to give us an overview of the food in the country, and the food was always delicious. Ancient temples, historic buildings in cities, beautiful rides in the country, food markets, candlelit dinner at a Burmese village home, boat rides on magical Inle Lake in early morning, watching the fisherman at work, floating gardens and villages, harvesting in the rice fields, 4 wheeling on a volcano, being surrounded by students practicing their English on Borobudur, the list goes on and the memories will never end.
But what set this trip apart was that Toni wanted to make sure we truly understood the people. Juxtaposed to the beauty was a trip to the Genocide Museum and Killing Fields in Cambodia, a heart-rending visit that we initially didnt want to make but realized afterwards that we had to make. It opened our hearts to the horror of what these people had endured and the wonder at the hope they all showed in spite of losing so many family members. Growing up in America, we’d read the stories in the newspapers, but it was only in being there that they became real to us. We’ll never forget the hour we spent on a boat with our Cambodian guide, anchored in the middle of Tonle Sap Lake, listening to his story. We felt such a connection to him and were so moved by his hopefulness and his vision of what his country would be for his children. It was this same young man who managed to make us feel like early French explorers discovering the ancient temples of Cambodia for the first time. We felt like we were truly in an Indiana Jones movie on an adventure of a lifetime. Words can’t describe those four days of discovering the temples of Cambodia. It was hard to believe the vision the Cambodian Kings had, the tenacity and ingenuity of the builders and that these temples are still standing, thanks, in part to the restoration of them by so many countries in the world.
Leaving Cambodia was difficult but Bali called to us and we were unprepared for the natural beauty ahead of us. Not only did we enjoy some beach time, but we quickly headed to the Ubud region and were stunned by the arts there, the countryside, and the people. We took a walk through the rice fields on Christmas day but before the walk we met a family in their home. There was a little 4 year old boy, shy, unable talk to us, but being a musician, I decided to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to him. I made it through 6 notes and he ran to his bedroom and returned with a little keyboard and played a perfect Twinkle on it. I was reminded that music is universal and in that moment we “spoke” to each other through music. That was our common language, as it also was in Burma when we sang nursery rhyme songs with children in a village, or took gamelan lessons in Bali. What we also took away from this trip was an understanding of world religions, since we had a Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic guide in three different countries. We listened to their devotion to their beliefs, heard their family stories of faith, witnessed their reverence of their holy temples, heard Islamic prayers 5 times a day, were blessed by Hindu priests, even had a healing ceremony on Christmas Day in Bali with a man who couldn’t speak English. We began to understand what made each nation tick, what kept them believing in a hopeful future when politics intervened in their lives. We witnessed their smiles, saw their tears when we were in the temples being blessed, and were so moved by their faith. So, if you want to experience a trip of a lifetime, go to Toni. You won’t be disappointed.
Israel and Jordan, planned by Joe Yudin
SUSAN GOTTRIDGE | APRIL 4, 2017
We traveled to Israel and Jordan March 17 – April 1. Thanks to Joe Yudin and his team, we had a wonderful time. Jon Cutler—our tireless, knowledgeable, affable guide—was terrific. Jon’s knowledge of history was impressive. He also knew terrific places to eat — from the falafel stand near the King David to a pizza place in the Jewish Quarter as well as all the top restaurants. This all made for a truly enjoyable trip. The van we used was clean, comfortable and stocked with cold water. Our driver was excellent and good company.
I thought our itinerary for a first visit was perfect: 3 nights in Tel Aviv, 2 nights in Akko, the Golan Heights, Sea of Galilee, 4 nights in Jerusalem, Masada and the Dead Sea, 2 nights at the Ramon Crater and then to Petra and Wadi Rum. Our guide made improvements to our itinerary based on geography and variety. We covered a lot of territory and we all thought each site was worth seeing. We enjoyed the Archeological Dig very much — our group found three intact pieces! We also enjoyed the stargazing and the jeep tour.
The Petra and Wadi Rum days were also enjoyable. I knew we were in good hands when I saw the Abercrombie & Kent guides. Petra was impressive — a long walk in and a longer, hotter walk out but worth it. We did the candlelight evening the first night — I liked the walk in and out in while looking at the stars. It was a different experience and glad we did it the first night. We would have been too tired to do it the second night. Wadi Rum was spectacular. The jeep tour was the only way to see it. The two nights in Petra would be the minimum I would suggest to see both sights.
Overall, it was a fabulous vacation and learning experience. We have a deeper appreciation and admiration for Israel and its people. We hope to make it back. We would definitely call Joe Yudin and his team for the planning, bookings and tour, and highly recommend them to others.
Southeast Asia, planned by Andrea Ross
JESSICA ISAACS | MARCH 30, 2017
My wife and I (then fiance), found Andrea Ross after browsing your “Wow List.” We were skeptical about using a travel agent for our honeymoon because I’m a planner and love planning all of the trips we take. But between planning our wedding and wanting a truly elevated level of service where we wouldn’t have to be stressed at all on our honeymoon, we began the research.
We “interviewed” several companies and weren’t impressed. Some even connected us with agents that had never traveled to SE Asia! And then we found Andrea and her colleague April Cole, who is a superstar. From our first prelim conversation, she just “got it”. She asked all the right questions and within 3 days, we had 2 different itineraries that were pretty much right on the money. After some very collaborative tweaking here and there, we had the trip of a lifetime on paper (Thailand and Cambodia for 2 weeks).
Julie and I just got back and can say without a doubt that Andrea and April over-delivered. The hotels, private guides, activities, excursions, meals….everything was over the top and by far culminated in the best trip of our lives. Our goals were to somehow be very active and in that participate in activities that were unique and we hadn’t done before (hike through the jungle, elephant sanctuary, private romantic dinner in Cambodian rice fields, ATV through Cambodian villages) and spend the rest of the time in total veg-out, relaxation mode in a very romantic setting (5 star hotels, incredible service, sunset dinners, etc). Andrea and April checked the boxes on all. Not to mention, they were always available from a communication standpoint with their folks on the ground always a phone call away, and that we were able to give back to the community in small ways through participating in activities via NGO’s.
This is a long testimonial, but I think it’s important for you to know that we a) appreciate your strong recommendation because we wouldn’t have had this experience without your nod of approval, and b) that we strongly suggest you keep recommending them to your travelers in need of a travel specialist that focuses on SE Asia.
Thank you sincerely for your WOW List and for helping to connect us with the best travel specialists we could have asked for.
Spain, planned by Virginia Irurita
ARACELI DE VERA | MARCH 30, 2017
Our family recently returned (March 2017) from a trip to Spain and have to commend Virginia and her team for making it an unforgettable experience. We started with a group of 10 but a few weeks before the trip added 3 more family members. The team at Made for Spain easily accommodated the additions, including one who surprised the family a few days later in Seville. They made all the transportation arrangements and even booked restaurants for our group. They called us several times during the trip to make sure everything was going as planned and to check if we needed assistance. We felt very safe and supported in the country.
We were transported within the cities in up to date and clean vans and minibuses with very professional drivers. We were always offered water bottles onboard during our tours which was very welcome. Virginia had also arranged to have portable wifi devices issued to us for the duration of the trip. These were delivered to the first hotel in Madrid and were picked up after the end of the trip in Barcelona. It was very handy to have these so we could communicate with each other securely and to refer to online maps as we navigated around the cities. They even worked onboard the trains as we travelled to Seville and Barcelona!
We were booked in business class on the high-speed train, which we chose over taking flights between the cities. It was a comfortable way to travel and we were served meals as well. Virginia had an escort meet us at the train stations and even included luggage assistants. For a group consisting of not only adults but young children and grandparents, this service was most convenient. We did not have to worry about getting around the stations and negotiating the many pieces of luggage.
What truly made this trip special was our local tour guides in each city. I had asked Virginia in advance to set us up with guides with humor who would cater to the interests of our multi generational group, and she delivered. My children were made to feel part of the tour in special ways and that was very important and invaluable. My six year old daughter remembers being a “special helper” in the Royal Palace in Madrid. Our guide in Seville made sure to make little detours in our walking tour to accommodate the stroller for my youngest. She also pointed out locations where I could take the kids to run around and play when we had free time the following day. Our fantastic guide in Barcelona took us to a local restaurant that was close to a small playground and allowed us to let the two young ones enjoy. My eldest son was also fascinated by the Caganer figurine which our guide introduced. Because of this, he now has an enjoyable story from Barcelona he is sharing with his friends and cousins.
The history and culture of Segovia, Cordoba and Montserrat also came alive due to the guides’ experience, knowledge and passion. We were able to enjoy Spain in a very special and highly personalized way and can’t wait to come back and visit. Our family only have good things to say about this trip. We have been to other European cities before as part of larger tour groups and on cruises. We have also travelled independently to other parts of the world. Everyone agreed that this way is the best way to travel. The expertise and personal touch of Virginia as well as Clare and Inmaculada who we worked closely with made all the difference. For anyone planning a trip to Spain and Portugal, the best decision you will make is to contact Virginia. Her team works together to make sure correspondence is responded to promptly. They suggest great itineraries and special events but accommodate changes and revisions that cater to their clients requests and needs. Amazing service.
Araceli de Vera and Family
Paris Apartment Rental, Planned by Madelyn Willems
KARYN SALLUS | MARCH 30, 2017
We returned from a family trip to Paris the first week in March. While the weather was anything but cooperative, every other aspect of our trip was flawless. We travelled with our two daughters ages 11 and 12 and developed a perfect itinerary with the help of Madelyn’s team.
We had a lovely apartment, equipped with everything we needed, in a very safe neighborhood with a picture perfect view of the Eiffel Tower out our living room window. We were able to shop for breakfast each morning at the neighborhood bakery and get staples from the many local food shops. We were met at the apartment on check-in and provided a packet with detailed information and tickets, passes, and Metro options for each days’ activities. We worked with them diligently for the two months before arrival and they did a fantastic job organizing an itinerary that was engaging to both our girls and my husband and me. We learned to make perfume, baked baguettes, biked through the gardens of Versailles, had a private guide to take us to the Louvre and Notre Dame, trip up to the top of the Effiel Tower, visit to Arch de Triomphe, explored the many varied neighborhoods of Paris, cruised down the Seine, and the highlight was a birthday carriage ride through the streets of Paris on my 11 yr old’s b’day. She looked like Cinderella in a gorgeous white carriage with people taking pictures of us on every corner.
My family rated the trip a 9.5 out of 10 with the only negative being the weather!! I would tell anyone booking a trip to Paris to contact Madelyn. You cannot ask for a better team to put together a fabulous trip from lodging, restaurant reservations, passes, private tour guides and activities. All well organized and thoughtfully prepared.
Asia cruise, planned by Mary Jean Tully
JOHN COLLINS | MARCH 29, 2017
Mary Jean Tully exemplifies everything luxury—or, shall I say, over the top. The level of service and the experience we had with her company were exceptional. Cruise and land experiences were simply over the top. Note that this firm is not for the couple traveling in coach but, rather, a six-star team that goes over and above to ensure your holiday expectations are exceeded. As an example: She flew into Beijing, met our ship (Crystal Cruises’ Serenity), and invited the 44 guests they’d booked on the Serenity to join her at the #1 restaurant as a thank-you for our business. PLUS, if that wasn’t enough, they created a separate itinerary for those same 44 guests the next day to travel with her privately to the GREAT WALL, to a more secluded and spectacular spot—and, once at the top of the wall, we got a catered lunch complete with white tablecloths and great wines. How does one do that?? Then after two days of ensuring her clients were happy, she flew back to North America. I’ve never seen anything like it before!
Ireland, planned by Jonathan & Preston Epstein
LUCIENNE BABBITT | MARCH 28, 2017
Whatever your expectations are for a glorious trip to Ireland, Jonathan Epstein and Nicole exceed anything you can imagine. Laying the groundwork with numerous conversations about our desires and intentions for this holiday, Jonathan nailed it. Our hotel, dining choices, countryside driving tour, walking tours and itinerary could not have been more perfect. Of all our travels, our Ireland/Dublin vacation is our favorite! We are ready to return with our grown children and contact you again!
Los Cabos, planned by Lindsey Epperly
DAVID NETHERO | MARCH 28, 2017
We give Lindsey Epperly 5 Stars. We contacted her just two weeks in advance of a trip to Los Cabos and within 3 days she had an itinerary that looked great!! After booking the trip she stayed engaged and helped us reserve dinners, airport pick up and sports. Lindsey and her office staff even asked us for some personal information such as: ‘what will you miss the most while away?’ and we said our grandsons. She then asked for a picture of them. When we checked into our hotel we found a nicely framed picture of our grand boys on our bedside table!! We will definitely recommend Lindsey to our friends and work with her on future trips we take. March of 2017
The Galapagos Islands, planned by Allie Almario
SUSAN FELDMAN | MARCH 24, 2017
Allie Almario is one of the best travel agents I have ever worked with. Her attention to detail is phenomenal. I found her thru your WOW List, and I was not disappointed! She helped my daughter and I navigate thru the myriad of choices (boats) for the Galapagos and we were extremely happy with our ultimate choice — The Origin, owned and operated by Ecoventura. She also discussed in detail with me the various options of where to fly into —Quito vs Guayaquil. She was extremely professional and efficient and never tired of my endless questions re what to pack, what to wear etc! She even sent me pictures of people hiking around the islands so I could get a sense what people wore! She called me several times prior to our trip and walked me thru the detailed itinerary, etc. One call was to tell me the experience of another client who went on the Origin a week or two prior to us; the boat is only a year old. She put in place an emergency plan with her cell phone numbers in the event there was an emergency there or back home (my husband was home) and we could not be reached due to lack of cell service or internet while on the cruise.Unfortunately my daughter and I had to delay our departure by a day (we made the decision several days before we were scheduled to leave), due to the fact she had been sick with a very bad cold and was advised not to fly until she felt better We had been planning to take a private tour of Quito etc the day before we were scheduled to fly from Quito to the Galapagos. My only issues are that we were not refunded the monies for the tour we had to forgo even though we gave approximately 3 days’ notice. Also, we did not like the hotel in Quito (extremely deserted and desolate). There was a last-minute change to put us there, and I do understand why Allie chose it. She informed us she had had negative feedback with the original hotel we were scheduled to stay at. It did seem expensive, however. Had I known, we would have preferred at the end of the trip to just stay at the airport lounge during our layover for our flight back to the US. I am hoping to recoup monies forfeited and extra charges incurred due to our last minute change of departure date thru the trip insurance I purchased. Allie has been very helpful in assisting me in providing the appropriate documentation to file the claim.
Unfortunately my daughter and I had to delay our departure by a day (we made the decision several days before we were scheduled to leave), due to the fact she had been sick with a very bad cold and was advised not to fly until she felt better We had been planning to take a private tour of Quito etc the day before we were scheduled to fly from Quito to the Galapagos. My only issues are that we were not refunded the monies for the tour we had to forgo even though we gave approximately 3 days’ notice. Also, we did not like the hotel in Quito (extremely deserted and desolate). There was a last-minute change to put us there, and I do understand why Allie chose it. She informed us she had had negative feedback with the original hotel we were scheduled to stay at. It did seem expensive, however. Had I known, we would have preferred at the end of the trip to just stay at the airport lounge during our layover for our flight back to the US. I am hoping to recoup monies forfeited and extra charges incurred due to our last minute change of departure date thru the trip insurance I purchased. Allie has been very helpful in assisting me in providing the appropriate documentation to file the claim.My daughter and I had a wonderful time in the Galapagos — I would recommend Allie to everyone! I only wish she could help me plan future adventures in other places!
My daughter and I had a wonderful time in the Galapagos — I would recommend Allie to everyone! I only wish she could help me plan future adventures in other places!
Japan, planned by Scott Gilman
PAM MACKEY | MARCH 22, 2017
Everything went very smoothly. I can honestly say that Makiko was the best guide I have ever had. She was friendly, funny, very smart and knowledgeable, and made sure that we saw and did everything on our list. She found the best places for a quick lunch. Our drivers were also wonderful, especially the driver in Kyoto (I think his name was Hiashi san). He was so considerate and went out of his way to show us where to try the best mochi in Kyoto and to see a gorgeous cherry tree that was in early bloom.
Our hotels were also superb. I am glad that I returned to the Park Hyatt. The service and accommodations were top notch. I am also glad that I returned to the Ritz in Kyoto. It is a wonderful hotel and the staff is very attentive. The Ryokan was another excellent experience. Our onsen and the room were lovely, and we especially enjoyed the town of Shuzenji – very charming.
Even the train transfers at Tokyo station went well, in spite of the mob scene there. Our transfer guide expertly navigated us through multiple halls and elevators. I don’t think we could have managed without her.
We also enjoyed the visit to the Ghibli Museum. My daughter was thrilled to see the notebooks and sketches from the movies and to see how the master worked behind the scenes. He is truly a living legend in Japan. The guide had some interesting anecdotes about him- he can be found in the morning sweeping the streets in his neighborhood!
Eating fresh sushi at Tsukiji was a special treat. The Zen meditation session at Taizoin was unique and I am glad we experienced it and saw the temple. The session put my daughter in a Zen mood for visits to other gardens.
Besides the tea ceremony, which was very nice, we had a special and unexpected tea making session with the funny and friendly tea master at Ipppodo, who has his own techniques for making the best tea.
Thank you to Scott and his team for arranging a wonderful trip. Now if you could only figure out how to eliminate jet lag and get more of those cherry trees to bloom early!
Cuba, planned by David Lee
MARC KENNETH | MARCH 12, 2017
David Lee took information from us and then planned a trip based on our personal interests. He booked us in the best hotel in Havana and set us up with a terrific guide and driver. We were only 4 people on a private tour so we were able to alter the itinerary at our whim, and our private guide helped us do exactly what we wanted to do. Our guide Lianette helped us find venues for things that we wanted to do after “tour hours” as well. For example, if we said we wanted to listen to an authentic Cuban band after dinner, she found the venue and walked us to the door. We asked for a red Cadillac convertible to drive us through Havana and she got us a red Cadillac convertible and even followed us and took a video of us riding in the car. Excellent tour.
Brazil, planned by Martin Frankenberg
JOHN HEATON | MARCH 11, 2017
We had four days in Rio de Janeiro before a cruise to Miami and wanted a tour of Rio and Iguazu Falls. It all worked out ideally, from our being greeted at the airport just after customs to being delivered to the cruise ship. There were things I thought our group of six wanted to do, but Martin suggested something better. I am happy to say we were convinced to spend two nights at the Falls and only parts of two days in Rio. After experiencing our four days, it was by far the best way to spend our time. It didn’t make sense to me, after my own research, to spend two days to see one Falls. Well, if you visit both the Argentine and Brazil side (which you need to do) of the Falls with a helicopter tour of the Falls (that was only 15 minutes), that is exactly what you need. The tour guides and drivers were wonderful.
Last July I had a similar experience with a travel specialist Wendy recommended for Cuba. After some research on Cuba, I thought I knew what I wanted. But after detailed discussions with the travel specialist, it was adjusted to something better. In both Cuba and Brazil, it went from a very nice trip to an out-of-this-world experience.
Myanmar, planned by Lorenzo Urra
RON KLAUSNER | MARCH 9, 2017
We originally contacted Lorenzo Urra about a trip to the Philippines. After we spoke, he suggested that I go to Myanmar instead, He planned the entire six week trip to Myanmar January 25-March 6, 2017. With one exception, I would have planned everything exactly the same. The one portion we would not have planned we changed, mid trip, so the end result was perfect! He made the change seamlessly.
My advice for future travelers who use Lorenzo is not to be afraid of his suggestions. Also, let him know as much as possible about your desires.
Lorenzo responded to any and all requests for information from me pre and during the trip most expeditiously. In fact, no matter when I contacted him he would respond, in detail, within one hour. That’s service.
New Zealand, planned by Donna Thomas
HILLARY BARRACK-PALMER | MARCH 9, 2017
All I can say about Donna Thomas and her team is WOW! They created the trip of a lifetime and, when it got derailed half-way through due to illness, they reorganized everything and were always available.
The trip was planned to perfection. We were given everything we needed and more, and can’t wait to go back and finish what we started. And you can bet that Donna and her team will be the people we call to plan the trip.
When it comes to New Zealand, no one knows it better than Donna and her staff. And I’d like to give a special shout-out to Kori, who was amazing at handling everything we needed down to the last detail.
Siem Reap and Hanoi, planned by Andy Booth
JOELLEN SHELDEN | MARCH 1, 2017
We traveled last summer with Andy Booth from AboutAsia to Siem Reap and Hanoi. Our trip was phenomenal. With the exception of Angkor Wat Temple we almost never felt the crowds. We saw and did more than we ever could have imagined. We traveled in August and while it was hot, we had a steady stream of cold towels and cold water. We loved our hotels in both cities with my favorite be the Raffles Hotel in Siem Reap. This hotel was a great location and a quick $3 ride from downtown. The grounds of the hotel were amazing and the staff welcoming. Andy’s team listened to all our concerns, wishes, and requirements and curated a perfect trip. The price was extremely reasonable for what we received. We shopped for art & antiques, crafts, ate amazing local cuisine, learned about the local life and customs and visited more temples that we had planned. I cannot say enough about Andy’s team. We hope to use them again to return to the area.
Sri Lanka, planned by Miguel Cunat
TAFFY AND DAVE LOCK | FEBRUARY 16, 2017
Miguel and Rozanne planned an extraordinary trip for us from beginning to end. The itinerary was a busy one and that is just what we wanted – it is a long way to come from North America and we wanted to experience all we could culturally and get to know this beautiful island paradise. We saw so much beautiful scenery, had wonderful hikes, beach time, ate the most delicious exotic food and travelled from Jaffna in the north- everything in between and down to the south coast.
Sri Lanka offers so much in so many ways but it takes a skilled travel planner to present an itinerary that will take full advantage of this diversity and give an extraordinary experience. We were the lucky recipients. The communication from the start, during and end was of the highest standard – we even met Rozanne at the beginning of the trip when we arrived at Colombo airport and Miguel Cunat arranged to have contact with us at the Gallery Cafe in Columbo at the end of our trip which was impressive given these people are tremendously busy but we greatly appreciated their efforts.
We had National guide Ananda and driver Sampa with us for the entire 29 days and their services were professional at all times – in fact their service to us was nothing short of amazing. There were so many details and logistics that were handled daily by Ananda which kept us travelling in style all the way to the end of our trip. We had many very long days travelling all together and it was always apparent that our pleasure and enjoyment was top of mind for them.
There were many special touches along the way and I know these things don’t just happen – they are crafted by a travel planner who really goes the extra mile and we would not hesitate to recommend Miguel Cunat and his team. We have returned home to Canada with wonderful memories!
Tahiti, planned by Kleon Howe
MARYLOU STEVENS | FEBRUARY 14, 2017
Kleon Howe took our thoughts and ideas about traveling to Tahiti and made it a reality…and he didn’t have much notice considering we wanted to travel over Christmas and New Years! We are a family group of 5 who travel frequently together but rarely use the services and support of a Travel Agent/Planner so the ease we all experienced on this trip made it all that more enjoyable. Kleon listened to what we were looking for, considered our style of travel and budget then worked his magic with the destination, flights, room configurations and availability. We so appreciated his creativity and willingness to rework and revise the details until we were satisfied. We all were especially grateful for the extra effort Kleon took to ensure that my oldest nephew who has autism, would have certain needs met. Rangiroa and Le Sauvage hold some very special memories for all of us. Thank You Kleon!
Florence, planned by Andrea Grisdale
KEVIN HANEY | JANUARY 27, 2017
We spent a fabulous week in Florence right after New Years. This was the second time we used Andrea and and her team and they once again did a great job.
The planning stage with Andrea, Creta and Stefano was fun. We were offered some interesting things to do while on vacation and after some back and forth, we arrived at our itinerary. From that point, they finalized everything and got us set to travel by sending additional information on the food and culture of Italy.
Once in Florence, we met Tanya, our tour guide, Tanya was a great tour guide who we had the pleasure of being with for 4 days. She not only took us to the various sites, but she was extremely knowledgeable about what we were seeing. We loved our time with Tanya as she was able to impart her vast knowledge to us in a conversational manner so that we could ask questions and offer our observations. Tanya also shared some cultural knowledge with us on such things as where to shop and what to look for when searching for restaurants in which to eat. In addition, Tanya was always checking with us to make sure we had everything we needed.
Another highlight of the trip was Andrea’s team arranging for us to take a cooking lesson with Stefania. Stefania was very friendly and took us through a local market to shop for the food with which we were going to cook. Stefania was a gracious host at her house and she made us fell very welcome We learned a lot from Stefania and are looking forward to entertaining our friends with some of the dishes we learned to make that day.
Another great thing that Andrea’s team does is they have Grazia and Nicole on duty to call 24 hours a day if we needed anything plus they checked in at various times during the trip to make sure that everything was going well.
A great service offered by Andrea’s team is their VIP airport experience. They have a person meet you when you arrive and meet you at the airport before you depart. This made everything easy, especially with our luggage and the VAT refund process.
In conclusion, we had a great time and want to thank Andrea and all her staff at IC Bellagio. We appreciated all of their efforts in making sure we had a great vacation. There is no doubt that we will engage Andrea and her team for a third time when we return to Italy.
Sicily, planned by Marcello Baglioni
MARY MUNN LARONGE | JANUARY 25.2017
I used Marcello for a special private journey that I planned for a group of lifelong friends ranging in ages from 34 to 87. Marcello helped me plan a once in a lifetime experience in Sicily for my group of 8 in October, an ideal time to visit Sicily. I had been to Sicily many times over 30 years as a student, and later on cruise ship day trips and pre and post cruise short stays. I knew what to see but I needed help in crafting truly memorable experiences for my group, with someone who had up to the minute connections and furthermore, ideas. Marcello is the man to pull off your dream trip to amazing Sicily!!! Marcello succeeded in getting us through sites with no crowds, into lovely restaurants and the best rooms at the best hotels.
His guides were absolutely top notch in every respect, and some of our highlights were the outdoor food market in Ortigia followed by a cooking class with chef Lele Torrisi. Our olive farm experience luncheon was a highlight, too, as well as the mount Etna Winery. Marcello’s personal contacts add so much to the experiences he crafts for his travelers.
When we had a service issue one night Marcello was right there to fix the issue specially arranging a dinner out in Trapani where tourists rarely go. While in Siracusa he personally checked in on us so our travelers could meet him and thank him for all he had done!!
Marcello is a Sicilian gem, use his expertise to craft your amazing journey to one of my favorite islands. I can’t say enough good things about Marcello!
Arctic cruise, planned by Ashton Palmer
JODY KREIMAN | JANUARY 23, 2017
Any travel agent can book hotels and plane tickets. The good ones send you to wonderful places and suggest unique experiences. The really, really great ones come through when something goes seriously wrong and produce a trip that is still perfect. Ashton Palmer is in this last category.
We were already half-way through one of the greatest trips in a life of traveling (Atacama, Patagonia) when our Antarctic cruise was cancelled (mechanical problem) the day before we were to embark. We were stranded in Ushuaia, no hotels, no plans, no plane reservations, between Christmas and New Year’s so everything was booked up. We had no idea what to do or where to go and were having trouble even finding out what was happening. Ashton and his team got to work immediately, reassured us, clarified the situation, found us flights to Buenos Aires, a perfect hotel, new flights home, and negotiated a wonderful settlement from the cruise line. They have handled the refund process for us as well. This was not a small amount of work, and due to the time difference it involved them starting work as early as 5 am.
I have had trips go askew before, and have been stuck in more than one remote place; but I have never had a travel agent step up the way Ashton did. I would recommend him enthusiastically based just on the quality of the trip that was planned and the wonderful arrangements that were made; but I cannot say enough about the flawless service when we really needed it. By far the finest travel professional I have ever worked with.
Hong Kong, planned by Mei Zhang
CORI PACKER | JANUARY 17, 2017
My family and I, travelled with ” Wild China” over the Christmas ( 12/22/16)/ New Years holiday (1/17).
We began in Hong Kong, which is a very fun, festive place to start, they love Christmas! City is decorated beautifully. Our guide David was wonderful, we saw all the sites, including the bird, and goldfish markets which were fun and a tour of the harbor on a sampan. We then travelled to Guilin, and met Helen, who was lots of fun, we had an beautiful ride down the Li River, hike, tour of market, light show, hike. Next, up to Beijing, where Abraham, toured us to Tiananmen Square, Forbidden Palace, local cooking class in a Hutong neighborhood and a hike on the Great Wall, Mutianyu section, truly incredible!!! Much more, but these are a few highlights. All our accommodations were wonderful, dinner rec. perfect. Working through the planning stage, with Alice perfect! Alice also kept tabs on us during our journey. would highly rec. “wild China” wish we had more time!
Buenos Aires, planned by Maita Barrenechea
SANDRA QUINN, STEPHEN THOMAS AND BRIAN QUINN | JANUARY 16, 2017
We have planned trips with multiple WOW list agents and as always, our trip with Maita met our expectations for thoughtful planning, great guides, and an overall wonderful trip. I talked with Maita, Santaigo and other staff early in the process to discuss our interests and then we worked well on email to nail down the specifics. One of the things I appreciated was receiving the pre-trip packet of information on traveling to Buenos Aires; that was very helpful. When we arrived, our driver met us and handed us a full packet of other materials to help us enjoy the city. As professors, we like having a real depth of information and resources to read.
One highlight for us was our evening with Fabrizio at a milonga. He was a thorough teacher in explaining tango and how milongas operate in the city. That was a fascinating look at tango and the culture that surrounds it. He is very well known in the tango world so we met other people who came to greet him and were clearly excited to see him. We decided once we were in the city to have a private tango lesson and Santaigo responded quickly and set it up. We really enjoyed that experience. I had worked with Maita to identify several museums to give us a breadth of experience in the city; we found MALBA very thought-provoking, the Evita museum a must see, and the El Zanjon de Granados colonial houses fascinating for its look into the citys development. Other highlights included excellent restaurants and lovely guides who were knowledgable, engaging and fun to be with. Maria took us to her favorite empanada restaurant so that we could try empanadas as they are made in the region of the country in which she grew up.
Finally, Santiago checked in with us via the phone on several occasions, and on Christmas Eve, there was a staff person on call who responded in a timely way to a question. We felt we were well cared for throughout the trip by Maita and her team. The experience really whetted our appetite for another trip to Argentina at some future date and without question, I would work with Maita again.
London, planned by Jane McCrum
KATHRYN BARDMAN | DECEMBER 6, 2016
Jane McCrum and her team (Julie!) did an excellent job helping my daughter and I plan an extended weekend in London. They were patient with us as we kept changing our itinerary, were very prompt in their email exchanges and gave excellent advice. Their recommendation of the Ham Yard hotel was spot on. It is a fabulous boutique hotel with an amazing design aesthetic and wonderful service. The concierges were incredible kind and resourceful (locating sold-out soccer tickets and arranging an impromptu dinner for our group in the library when everywhere else was booked). Also, the private tour of the Harry Potter studios that Jane and Julie arranged thrilled my 16 year old Potter fan.
I would not hesitate to call on them again.
Nicaragua, planned by Pierre Gédéon
LARRY BALLONOFF | DECEMBER 4, 2016
Pierre listened to our requests and matched it perfectly. We had lots of activity as desired and a chance to see a good sampling of the country very efficiently. The guides were excellent and were flexible to our needs. We traveled to Nicaragua in late Nov. 2016- a great time since end of rainy season and few tourists. This is a country of proud, friendly people still early in development of the tourist trade so it is a chance to see it as it is before the changes take place.
Fiji, planned by Lynette Wilson
JEN GREEN | OCTOBER 25, 2016
Lynette is amazing! There are so many different resorts in Fiji on different islands in different price ranges. I tried finding the right fit for our interests and budget, but it was really daunting. After a quick phone call with Lynette, she suggested the perfect place for us, Savasi Island just outside Savusavu. Our friends and family thought we were crazy for working with a travel agent outside the NYC area, but Lynette actually lives in Fiji and really knows her stuff. She really listened to us and then used her connections in-country to put together the exact experience we were seeking.
Austria, planned by Gwen Kozlowski
LYNNE BARNARD | OCTOBER 20, 2016
We had very specific requests about our trip and one of them included an “insider” visit to the Wachau and Kremstal wine region in Austria. Our guide, Martin was a gem. He was flexible to move around our original tour dates to accommodate visits with specific vintners and winery owners. With a wealth of information about the wine region and his personal friendships with vintners, he was a delight to tour with. Gwen was also able to arrange first rate seats at the ballet in Vienna and all of her hotel and dining recommendations were excellent. Cant wait to go back…
Turkey, planned by Earl Starkey
SUZANNE ILGUN | OCTOBER 18, 2016
This is the 2nd time I have used Earl Starkey and his team to plan our vacation in Turkey with my Turkish husband and in-laws. Earl and his team exceeded our expectations in planning and executing our itinerary. Earl is gracious, quick to respond when contacted, knowledgeable, and well connected. We switched some of the itinerary around at the last minute which Earl and his team handled seamlessly.
The hotel we stayed at was a perfect match for our likes. We had the best room location in the hotel.
The driver, Ali, did small extra touches for us without us asking. The guide, Burju, was excellent. She is well versed in ancient history, modern history, as well as open and willing to talk about any question we asked. She shared with us local cultural highlights. When we went to a restaurant that did not have the menu items we were looking for, Burju and Ali were able to quickly take us to another that was exactly what we were looking for. In addition, I asked Burju to simultaneously translate for me stories being told by a native Turk at one of the sights we were visiting which she did flawlessly. This enabled me to participate in the conversation as if I was a native speaker and part of the group. I felt like a local. This was a priceless experience that can only be done with a top-tier guide.
Traveling in Turkey with native Turks provides an extra challenge for any travel expert as Turks are very discerning clients. As they are native speakers as well as familiar with the country and culture, a travel expert, driver, guide, or hotelier will be quickly spotted if anything less than top-notch service is provided. My Turkish family raved about all facets of our trip. We will be contacting Earl again for our next family vacation in Turkey.
If you want to have a wonderful trip to Turkey, feel well cared for with all your desires met, then without a moments hesitation contact Earl Starkey to plan your trip.
Utah, planned by Caroline Wood
LINDA JOHNSEY |OCTOBER 13, 2016
Wow! We experienced an extraordinary trip to the National Parks and Monuments of Utah thanks to Caroline. It was such an exceptional trip that I made contact with her when we got back to let her know that I would hire her again for other trips that we are planning. I remember the trip packet delivered to the house and wondered why she would include a paper map of Utah since most navigation these days is accomplished with our cell phones. It certainly came in handy in the remote areas of the state where we had no cell service often. Everything was so well detailed and planned out. We experienced moments in time that were transformative: The native Navajo guide that sang to us in his native language while we were sitting within a grotto at Monument Valley. The slot canyon tour that resulted in absolutely amazing photos thanks to another native Navajo guide that helped us with our Nikon camera settings thus maximizing the cameras capacity to capture vivid colors within the stunningly colorful canyons. The sunset at the rim of Bryce Canyon displaying blazing shades of yellow, orange & pink. The drive at the base of the canyons at Capitol Reef that could have so easily been missed had she not pointed this out to us. Lastly, the hot air balloon ride at the Amangiri. I still cannot believe we experienced all that we did. I could not have planned a better trip. All of the accommodations were superlative! All of the restaurant recommendations were a hit! Quesadilla Mobilla, Moab was delectable! Caroline is worth every single penny you pay her to organize your trip. If you truly want to experience a “Wow” moment, hire her. Our two-week vacation in September was a breathtaking adventure!
Barge cruise, planned by Ellen Sack
JERRY HULLER | OCTOBER 7, 2016
My wife and I were quite pleased with our interactions with Ellen Sack and her team. Because we were new to barge cruising (having only done ocean and river cruising before), Ellen helped us narrow down options and select what we consider an ideal barge cruise for us. We selected the Savoir Vivre. It carries 8 passengers. What we especially liked is that we got to dine at a different place, in a new town, each night.
The cruise surpassed our expectations. The ship captain Richard, the hostess Marie, and the guide Laura (“the crew”) were awesome. We felt pampered. We were impressed with Marie fixing a delicious breakfast and lunch for us, while still tidying up our cabins. We wanted to take her home with us. Laura was vivacious and engaging, and made history come alive for us on our tours. Richard was friendly, helpful, and low-key. He served as our driver to and from the train station and the restaurants at night. On our trips off the barge, we drove around in a spacious minivan. Richard and Laura arranged to have the van at the location where the barge docked each night, so that it was close by when needed.
We liked the casual atmosphere of barge cruising. It was more low-key than river cruising. We did one excursion a day for only a few hours. That gave us time to relax on the barge, chat with our new friends, walk along the Burgundy canals, or bike along the canal and into the towns. We also got to help open and close the gates at the numerous locks along the canal. Before or after an excursion, we would hang out in the common area at the front of the ship.
Before the cruise, I worried a little about the bikes. They are fold-up bikes, and I was concerned that they would be uncomfortable. I am 6 feet, 2 inches tall with long legs. My worries were misplaced. I didn’t have a problem. I could comfortably pedal for the several miles we traveled.
We would consider doing another barge cruise in a different area. Barge cruising is a great way to chill out—and make new friends—after doing lots of (hectic) sightseeing in another part of the country. We were a little sad to depart our new little family at the end of the cruise.
Contact Ellen and her staff if you’re interested in trying out a barge cruise. They will help you find something that fits your needs and travel style.
Southern Burgundy, Escommes to Fleurey-sur-Ouche
British Columbia, planned by Marc Telio
JANETTE GILL | OCTOBER 2, 2016
Marc Telio and his friendly/knowledgeable staff planned and executed a very memorable trip to beautiful British Columbia for my family of four this summer. Since we have two very active teenage children, like Marc, he understood our need to balance adventure with a little relaxation. Several of our favorite activities that Marc and his team orchestrated included a family cooking lesson with a pastry chef, a private foodie tour of Granville Island Market with a personal chef, and a very memorable trip to Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort.
Marc recommended for us to experience a private heli-fishing tour during our stay at Nimmo Bay, a very remote luxury resort in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest. We were first a little hesitant due to the cost, but now we can honestly say that this was by far the highlight of our trip to BC! Our heli-adventure with our pilot/guide, Trevor, began with a very scenic ride out to an isolated stream where we fished for pink salmon under the watchful eyes of bald eagles that were nesting in the trees above. The looks on our daughter’s faces were priceless as a mama black bear and her cub ventured to the other side of the stream for a drink. Next we flew past majestic waterfalls to a glacier where we ate a delicious, gourmet picnic lunch followed by a short hike around the fields of flowers and streams. Our adventure continued as the helicopter landed on a very small sandbar on the side of a rushing river to fish for coho salmon followed by another scenic ride back to the resort. Thanks, Marc, for helping to give us memories that will last a lifetime!
It’s these little touches from Marc and his relationships with his service providers that made our vacation to Canada go from good to GREAT…hotel room upgrades, restaurant recommendations and reservations, a personalized foodie tour of Granville Island Market with a personal chef, a candy bar and birthday celebrations for our girls, and a delicious cheese/fruit tray for my husband and I.
In the past, I have typically researched, planned, and executed our own trips, but for the last five vacations we have taken, I have utilized the services of the travel experts recommended by Wendy Perrin’s WOW List (which have included Judith Root, Michael Kaye, Andrea Grisdale, Pierre Gedeon, and most recently Marc). I HIGHLY recommend the personalized services of Marc Telio and these other travel experts to anyone looking for a unique, customized travel experience. I’m looking forward to working with another expert from Wendy’s WOW List to begin planning my daughter’s high school graduation trip along the California coast this summer! Safe travels.
Newfoundland, planned by Jill Curran
TAFFY AND DAVE LOCK | SEPTEMBER 15, 2016
Truly Truly WOW!!
We have just returned from a 3 week driving tour of Newfoundland (August-September 2016) which was arranged by Jill Curran and her team at Maxxim Vacations. Jill was intuitive to our needs right from the start and through phone calls and emails we fine tuned the itinerary to encompass the places we wanted to see and Jill added her magic to create a vacation full of lasting memories and amazing experiences. We were very fortunate to actually meet Jill at Ferryland lighthouse picnics where we enjoyed a stunningly beautiful day while relaxing on a picnic blanket with a gourmet feast. Jill knew and understood how much we valued our accommodation and that it was an integral part to the enjoyment of the trip – she hit the nail on the head here as well! We had a lovely mix of higher end Inns and bed and breakfasts where we got to interact with local Newfoundlanders who went out of their way to provide exceptional hospitality. Our tour took in lots of hiking and 4 different boat trips with each providing something different and added so much value for us – never could have arranged such an awesome trip without Jill. We became so engaged in the history of the province and fell in love with all the outports and harbours and came away feeling we had touched the heart and soul of Newfoundland. I really believe what Wendy says about a TTE making a trip extraordinary and Jill Curran certainly did that for us! It was very special.
Alaska, planned by Judith Root
DEIRDRE MAHLAN | AUGUST 24, 2016
My family of four including my husband and myself and two adult children travelled to Alaska on a trip planned by Judith Root. Judith listened carefully to what we were looking for in an Alaskan vacation and put together an excellent itinerary that exceeded our expectations. All details of the trip were handled by Judith and her team and we had a fantastic vacation that we would rank among the best-ever holidays we have had. I would not hesitate to recommend Judith to plan a memorable and enjoyable Alaskan holiday.
Egypt, planned by Jim Berkeley
LAURA MANTELL | JULY 31, 2016
Jim was a pleasure to work with and he put together an incredible trip. My husband and I often tell others that our trip to Egypt was the trip of a lifetime (we are well traveled). One of the Egyptologists who guided us (he had also worked with the BBC and National Geographic) was encyclopedic about ancient Egypt. Because the ancient Egyptians documented everything, their culture becomes palpable – I remember being read (hieroglyphs) an IOU written on a stone from one neighbor who had borrowed wheat from another promising to pay it back!
I don’t know what it’s like to be in Egypt now, but I trust Jim not only to deliver a unique adventure in one of the world’s most fascinating places but also a safe one.
The Maldives, planned by Lindsey Wallace
LINDA FONTAINE | JULY 26, 2016
We are a family of 4 with 2 pre teen boys that travel out of the USA about 3-4 times a year. Lindsey Wallace was the first agent we have ever worked with that we felt heard what we wanted out of a trip and made it happen. Not a single email felt prewritten or part of a form letter. The accommodations were over the top and the service was stellar. Lindsey arranged for us to charter a private Dhoni which we loved and then we followed up at a resort. The combination of the 2 experiences made for a great trip to fully experience the Maldives. Lindsey’s connections in the area allowed us to stay in accommodations of a better class than what we would have been able to secure ourselves and the staff at the resort could not have been more welcoming knowing we were guests of Lindsey’s. We cannot wait to come back!
Mongolia, planned by Jalsa Urubshurow
SALLY LEE | JULY 25, 2016
I traveled with a friend to Mongolia for 8 days in June 2016 and used Jalsa and his team to help plan my trip. I highly recommend both Mongolia as a destination and Nomadic Expeditions as an excellent travel company. We spent most of our time in the Gobi Desert, although everyone should spend at least a day in the capital, Ulaan Bataar, as well. UB as it’s known, has great museums, the Choijin Lama Temple, the Gandan monastery complex, shopping, as well as some nice restaurants. It can also be used as a base for the nearby national parks. The Gobi Desert is spectacular, with varied landscapes and national parks, and provides an opportunity to learn about the nomadic lifestyle. We also attended the Nadaam Festival in the Gobi and it was a special experience. The trip was WONDERFUL!!! So much fun and it exceeded my expectations.
After deciding to travel to Mongolia and, more specifically, the Gobi Desert, I spoke w/ Jalsa about what to see and do. He had wonderful ideas and suggestions – his enthusiasm is contagious! After learning more about what our interests were, he created an itinerary for us. It was perfect – felt like we saw so many things, each different. Highlights included camping at the foot of the Hongoryn Els, the massive and beautiful sand dune range at the base of the Altai Mountains, the local Nadaam Festival, and stopping in to visit w/ nomadic families we saw along the way. All of the logistics went off flawlessly – we were very well taken care of. Our guide, Amraa, was excellent. I learned a lot from him and appreciated his kindness, thoughtfulness, patience, and even gently pushing us from time to time to make sure we got the most out of each experience.
Our home away from home in the Gobi, the Three Camel Lodge, is – amazing. So beautiful, so unique, so comfortable. The level of service we received was very high – and the staff were so kind and interesting and interested in us as well. The dinner at sunset at the Flaming Cliffs, musical and dance performances by local children, and watching night fall/stargazing while sitting in the swings on the front porch of the lodge in the evenings, all were so appreciated.
The logistics were executed flawlessly. We traveled with a guide and also had a driver in each location. All were excellent. In particular, our guide was very thoughtful, altering our itinerary to add the Fine Arts Museum in UB after noticing how much we enjoyed the historic Choijin Lama Temple (also a museum). Or inviting the on-site biologist in Hustai National Park to join us and help us track the reclusive Takhi horses. The biologist knew where to look for the horses and also taught us much about them and how they differ from other horses. We actually saw multiple herds with both adults and foals grazing or racing across the landscape. At the Nadaam festival, the guests of the Three Camel Lodge had a special tent w/ water reserved for them so one could take a break and escape the sun when needed. One of the Nomadic Expedition guides who was with a family from Houston, made sure that their teenage son had his picture taken with the winning wrestler, quite the photo op! I dont know if he would have done that on his own, and you could tell he was having a great time.
Call Jalsa – go to Mongolia!
France Villa Vacation, planned by Annie Flogaus
SUZANNE PATYK | JULY 20, 2016
Our trip and accommodations were fantastic. I give full credit to Annie and the Just France team for helping us select the perfect location, house and recommended excursions. I am also very grateful to them for working with me on such short notice. Thank you to Wendy as well who responded to my late night frenetic email! Tres bien!
Uzbekistan, planned by Zulya Rajabova
RON KLAUSNER | JUNE 29, 2016
Zulya arranged for us to have lunch with her family in Bukhara. It was amazing. Her mother taught my son how to make Palov. The lunch was a true feast with about 20 family members. After lunch we all got up and danced together. It was an experience my wife, son, daughter in law and I will cherish forever.
Zulya also arranged for a wonderful guide to accompany us throughout Uzbekistan. She stayed with us day and night, shared meals and her culture and helped us navigate a very foreign language. Needless to say, Zulya also followed us during our entire stay, keeping in touch with both us and our local guide. Any problems (very minor) were immediately addressed. I would not only highly recommend Zulya to anyone planning a trip to Uzbekistan I would also recommend Uzbekistan as a travel destination.
Italy villa vacation, planned by Mara Solomon
ELAINE GOLIN | JUNE 27, 2016
We had a family villa vacation in the Sorrento Peninsula in June 2016 that was booked through Mara and her fabulous team. One of the rare vacations that exceeds expectations – the property was even nicer than expected, and the completely personalized attention from Mara and her team through every step of the planning process ensured a seamless vacation. Everything – restaurant reservations, transportation, etc. worked exactly as it should, and the villa itself was beautiful comfortable and impeccably maintained. I’ve traveled all over Italy, and lived there for several years, and usually plan my Italy travel independently but using Mara and her team enabled me to put together a relaxing and delightful vacation that met the needs of my extended family (including folks from 7 to 77 (really)). Highly recommended for Italy newbies and aficionados alike.
Seattle and Pacific Northwest, planned by Sheri Doyle
RENEE GAUDET | JUNE 17, 2016
We reached out to Sheri Doyle for help planning a family trip to Canada and Seattle. I’ve planned many trips on my own by researching and planning. I had never considered using a travel planner until this trip. It was a little last minute and I was really busy – I needed the help.
My parents were trying to plan a trip for themselves and my daughter (a college student) with a few different goals: my parents have always wanted to take a long, scenic train trip and my daughter wants to move from Florida to Seattle when she graduates and wanted to check out Seattle in person first. They ran into some snags and had considered giving up the idea. I didn’t have time to do all the research and planning on my own due to a particularly busy work schedule, so I reached out to Sheri.
Sheri planned a wonderful trip! She was meticulous and planned everything from start to finish, which is exactly what we wanted. Over half way through the planning process, I had a change of plans and decided to join my parents and daughter on this vacation. Sheri didn’t skip a beat and managed to make the necessary changes to unexpectedly add a 4th person. This involved buying additional tickets and investigating hotel alternatives to accommodate a larger group. She did it cheerfully and excellently!
Based on my first experience using a travel planner, I will try trip planning this way again. I only hope other specialists will be as knowledgeable and hard-working as Sheri.
One other note: we definitely saved money on our hotels by going through Sheri. I double checked on my own and couldn’t come close to the same rate. There is a planning fee, but the savings made up for it. On top of that, we got the benefit of Sheri’s time and experience, making our trip a top-notch experience.
Russia, planned by Greg Tepper
ELAINE PATTERSON | JUNE 6, 2016
We recently took our 2nd custom trip to Eastern Europe with Greg Tepper – a 2 week trip to St Petersburg, Moscow, and Volgograd Russia. Like our first trip 2 years ago to Poland, everything was handled beautifully, from planning to visas, travel insurance, internal Russia flights, ballet and opera tickets, restaurant recommendations and hotels. But of course, most important, were the guides. And just as we experienced in Poland, our guides in Russia were outstanding. All 3 were terrific matches for us – about the same age (so that we could talk about the same events of our lifetimes), perfect English, energetic, willing to talk openly about any topics, full of recommendations, willing to modify our itinerary for highlights we hadn’t considered, and sensitive to our needs and interests. Everything worked smoothly – every time we were to be met, they were there; everyone was always on time; cars and drivers were polite and helpful. Custom trips with Greg are expensive, but he delivers – we look at them as “travel investments” because we learn so much during these trips and every moment is memorable (with no time wasted and no mistakes that I’d make if I planned them myself). We’re already thinking about our next trip to Eastern Europe with Greg and his team.
France, planned by Jack Dancy
JEFF ELGIN | MAY 21, 2016
Jack Dancy with Trufflepig was great to work with. He had a total knowledge of each market we visited, from Normandy to Loire to Bordeaux and arranged everything to our complete delight. I was especially pleased with the hotels he picked – fantastic roomy rooms so we never felt cramped while traveling. The guides he selected for us at our stops were top notch and spoke excellent English. Overall, this trip was a 10!!!
River Rafting Trips, planned by Mindy Gleason
CLARE BRADSHAW | MAY 11, 2016
We’ve been on four OARS trips now, and Mindy has done an incredible job organizing all of them. When I book an OARS trip, I know that I don’t have to worry about a thing, and that my family (our two girls are now 11 and 13 , city slickers who can pitch tents and deal with groovers with the best of them) will have an amazing, best-in-a lifetime experience. Mindy answers questions about weather, insurance, flight info, hotel accommodation. She is incredibly knowledgeable, patient, never pushy, and always has time for us. We are trying to figure out a Galapagos trip now, and she is showing the patience of a saint. I’d never do a rafting trip with anyone else. She’s the best.
Costa Rica, planned by Irene Edwards
DEANNE CASPERS-MOON | JANUARY 4, 2016
All of the lodging recommendations made by Irene were excellent; food, service, staff, and cleanliness were the best in the area. Transportation was always on time and the guides provided much information about the area. When he discovered I became easily motion-sick, our guide even brought me homemade ginger tea from his garden. When Irene was verifying our itinerary, she went above and beyond by verifying our reservation with a hotel I had booked directly. Thank goodness she did, as they had no record of my reservation! Irene already had a solution in place before bringing this concern to my attention. Without hesitation I would recommend Irene and Greenspot.
Bali, planned by Diane Embree
PETER WARDHANA | SEPTEMBER 20, 2015
Before connecting with Diane I had already previously vacationed in Bali four times. I also speak the Indonesian language fluently. So I already knew a lot about Bali. However, as much as I know, I know that there are others who know much more about Bali than I do. That is why I hired Diane to help me and my wife plan our dream vacation in Bali.
My wife and I are very picky and with all that we had done previously in Bali, it was not a simple task. But Diane was a tremendous resource who helped us put together our best vacation ever.
She recommended and helped us get a suite at Komaneka Bisma. The room was in the exact location in the hotel that I had wanted. It had the wonderful view that I was seeking. She had also highly recommended getting the Pool Villa but we chose the suite instead. Once there, we had a chance to see one of the Pool Villas, and yes, Diane’s recommendation was perfect and we wished we had followed her recommendation (it was much better than any of the photos online). Nevertheless, the suite we got was wonderful. It was the amazing service that the Komaneka staff provided that blew us away. It was the friendliest, warmest and most proactive service that we had ever experienced. We truly felt like VIPs. They catered to our every need and kept asking us what else they could do for us.
The service by everyone, from top to bottom, from the gardener, room service, house cleaning, front desk, restaurant, spa, store, etc. was perfect. They really treated us like an important family member.
The last part of our trip was at Amankila. The most beautiful place that I had ever stayed at. The service here was also truly exceptional. I loved it so much there that I did not want to leave and wished that I had booked more nights there. The price is quite high, but after my experience there, I believe that it is worth it. Thanks to Diane, she was able to get us a complimentary upgrade to a villa with a fabulous ocean view. I did not realize how much I would enjoy having this view from my villa.
Thanks to Diane’s services we were able to have the best vacation ever. Diane not only knows Bali inside and out, but she also provides first-class personalized service, is very prompt to respond to all emails, has great interpersonal skills, and is a true pleasure to work with. She deserves her reputation as one of the Top Bali travel experts in the world. Very well done Diane.
Rome walking tour, planned by Paul Bennett
ISA ENGLEBERG | AUGUST 12, 2015
On our way to Sicily, we did a stopover in Rome to return to the Vatican museum and see several sites we had never visited. We booked several tours with Paul’s team at Context Travel. Two were outstanding, in large part, because the guide was outstanding. We have nothing but praise for the personable, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic Dony.
The Appian Way tour proved more interesting than we thought it would be. After all, the Appian way is just a road. But it’s a real road of great significance, parts of which are in wonderful condition. Dony helped us imagine what it would have been like during the peak of its use. Even more enchanting was the tour of the Baths of Caracalla. We’d read about them, but were amazed by the scope of the complex, its ingenious heating systems and salons, and the preserved mosaics.
The absolute BEST tour was the first-of-its-kind, customized Tosca tour in Rome. We had told Context Travel that we love opera, but nothing was playing during our few days in Rome. They asked Dony to design a tour in which we would visit the actual sites depicted in each act of the opera, Tosca. Dony had done his homework, brought along an iPad filled with music, and began telling the story as we visited the glorious Church of Sant’ Andrea of Act I. Here is where Angelotti hid, where Tosca and Cavaradossi sing their love duets, and where the Te Deum is sung. We then went to the front of the Palazzo Farnese (Act II) where the diabolical Scarpia met his end at Tosca’s hands. Finally, we walked through a maze of fascinating streets to the Act III prison at the Castel Sant’ Angelo where Tosca’s lover Cavaradossi awaited execution. Dony played the final arias as we walked the steps and hallways that led to the top of the castle. The statute of the archangel Michael loomed above us—as itdoes in the final act of the opera. And we could look across Rome as Tosca did when she jumped off the parapet to her doom. Bravo Puccini. Bravo Dony! If you love opera, you’ll love this tour. And you’ll love Dony too. Bravo again.
Disney, planned by Susan Kelly
JEFFREY BERNFIELD | JULY 17, 2015
We have used Travel Magic for two separate vacations and they are currently planning a third trip for us now. As a family, we have been to Disney over 25 times over the years but decided to use Susan and Travel Magic for the last three trips. No one knows Disney as well as Travel Magic. Everything is seamless from the planning to check-in and checkout. They spend hours finding out your personal tastes and preferences and they schedule your FastPasses, dining reservations and activities. They seem to have access to dining times that we could not get ourselves. Travel Magic is relentless in making sure that your experience is “magical” in every way. As seasoned Disney travelers, our experiences have only been enhanced by using Travel Magic and we will continue to do so. We have used many, many of Wendy’s travel experts and Susan and her other experts at Travel Magic rank near the top of all the different agencies we have used over the years.
Costa Rica, planned by Michael Kaye & Natalie Ewing
GERI KRAUSS | JUNE 20, 2015
WOW truly sums up our experience with Michael Kaye and Natalie Ewing of Costa Rica Expeditions in planning and enjoying our recent two-week trip to Costa Rica. They not only met the very high standards required to get a spot on Wendy’s list (and we know how high those standards are having planned wonderful trips with several of her experts)—they managed to exceed them. (As they may well attest, I am not an easy client, so this is really very high praise!) At the planning stage, Natalie did a masterful job in putting together an itinerary in which my husband and I were able to see the vast variety of wildlife and nature Costa Rica offers and experience the very special lodges she suggested—all specifically tailored to our interests and requests. Two things were particularly noteworthy about the planning process. First, I asked about an accommodation I had read about that CRE had not used before. Before booking us into it, Natalie travelled there herself to check it out and make sure it was a place that CRE could stand behind. I have never had a travel agent do that before! Second, Natalie took the time to have detailed discussions with me and was able to communicate to me exactly what the nature of the accommodations and the activities were in each place so I could make knowledgeable choices. All expectations were perfectly managed.
Once we arrived, the trip was flawless. CRE’s special touches and relationships were apparent everywhere we went—from insuring that we were assigned to rooms with wonderful views, to surprising us with meals planned especially for us in beautiful locations, to stocking our room with food and wine. In fact, every lodge knew our food preferences before we even arrived! The guides and drivers CRE provided were superb and truly taught us to see and appreciate nature and wildlife in new ways. One thing that was very special was the opportunity to participate in a program sponsored by CRE in a local village assisting the children there with English language skills. The kids were incredible! From the beginning to the end, CRE was instantly available to answer any questions, provide for any needs, or just check in to make sure everything was OK. By the end of the trip, we viewed Michael and Natalie as friends and we have continued to keep in touch. We recommend them highly.
India, planned by Sanjay Saxena
TAFFY & DAVE LOCK | APRIL 2, 2015
We were on a magic carpet ride! We have just returned from a 5-week trip to India, professionally executed in flawless detail by Sanjay Saxena and his team at Destination Himalaya. Our experience using their services was nothing short of amazing—from the pre-departure document to the final bulletin, everything was laid out and quality advice given so we could get the most out of our trip. We had the best guides and the best drivers—all orchestrated behind the scenes to share their passion for incredible India and give us wonderful spontaneous experiences which can be one of the greatest joys of travel. The accommodations were outstanding and became our oasis at the end of very busy days. If you want a meaningful, unique and memorable travel experience contact Sanjay at Destination Himalaya for his expert planning and in-depth knowledge of India.
St. Barts, planned by Peg Walsh
JEANNE GIBBONS | MARCH 4, 2015
I have rented from Peg many times and have never been disappointed. Our last trip was this past year during the Christmas/New Year holidays. Her staff, both in the U.S. and in Gustavia, answered all of my questions and were very helpful. I especially like that St. Barts is the only island where they rent villas. They know the owners and all of the areas of the island. They constantly update their helpful hints. I have recommended St Barth Properties to friends with no qualms. I will continue to rent a villa from them in the future.
Kenya, planned by Linda Friedman
CHARLES RUSSELL | JANUARY 9, 2015
We toured Kenya this summer on a tour arranged by Linda Friedman of Custom Safaris. I have to say that Linda is one of the most patient people I’ve worked with, as I kept changing the criteria and she rolled with the punches very well.
We didn’t know exactly what we wanted to do, other than to see animals in Africa in a particular timeframe. Linda gave us suggestions, we gave her feedback, she fine tuned things and made suggestions.
I have to say that our trip was THE BEST EVER, far exceeding our expectations. Linda’s company has staff in Nairobi that were tremendous, helping us navigate the craziness of the airport and city. Fantastic people.
Her company provided private guides for our visits to Amboseli and Samburu. My wife and I have science backgrounds and are very interested in the details of the animals and plants that we saw, our guides were perfect matches for us.
The third camp was Rekero, which Linda recommended highly. We used the guides from the camp. This was one of the most wonderful experiences we have ever had.
We had thought that this was going to be our one trip to Africa, probably not to return, as there are other places we want to visit. After this trip, we are thinking that in another year or so we want to go back. New places to see – but we will include Rekero (Masai Mara) on the repeat trip as it was so fantastic. And we absolutely will work with Linda and the Custom Safaris crew. The best customer service, both before the trip and during, that I’ve ever experienced.
East Africa, planned by Nina Wennersten and Dan Saperstein
JANICE RYAN | DECEMBER 27, 2014
I contacted Hippo Creek Safaris based on Wendy’s recommendation. Nina called me back within an hour of my email and from our first phone call, she felt like an old friend.
I had not done any research prior to calling and simply knew that I wanted to go on safari to Kenya and Tanzania. Nina gave me all kinds of great ideas based on my interests and immediately put together a few possible itineraries, complete with beautiful pictures. She is infinitely patient and will talk through all of your decisions. Any time I called, she picked up the phone and always had time for me. Such personal service!
The trip was beyond my wildest dreams. Nina and Dan took care of everything, from a detailed list of everything we needed to bring, to instructions and form letters to submit to the embassies to get our visas. Once we arrived in Africa, our every need was met by people on the ground with Nina and Dan’s partner agencies in Kenya and Tanzania. We even had people meet us in the airport to give us lunch boxes, find our luggage, get us checked in to the local flights to get from camp to camp. The lodges they use are intimate and mostly on private conservancies which allow you to go off road in Kenya. Our safari vehicles never had more than two couples (in Tanzania, we had our own driver and vehicle for five days) and our guides were the warmest, most knowledgeable people I have ever met.
Everything I read about a safari planned by Nina and Dan was true—absolutely stress-free (even for novices) yet filled with surprises such as private dinner on the porch of our tent cabin in Kenya or a suite in a hotel upon arrival in Nairobi complete with wine, cheese and fruit after a long flight. I thought that our trip to Africa would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, but after working with Nina and having such a fabulous trip, we immediately began thinking about when we could go again. Look no further than Hippo Creek Safaris—they are the best.
New Zealand, planned by Jean-Michel Jefferson
C & S, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA | DECEMBER 10, 2014
We are fully back to reality and our daily lives, but our trip to New Zealand was truly an incredible and memorable experience. We couldn’t have asked for more… except another week or two or three!
I’m a big proponent of honest feedback in order to help improve businesses and services. It is rare that I don’t have something to provide in the way of constructive criticism. In this case, I honestly can’t think of anything that I could complain about or even suggest for improvement. All aspects of our experience with Ahipara were top-notch and all the providers of lodging, guides, and activities that Ahipara partners with were outstanding. I usually can point to pricing or cost as some sort of issue, but I truly felt all prices and costs were reasonable and now after our vacation I feel we truly got our money’s worth and more!
When we were first considering a vacation to New Zealand and being practically on the other side of the globe, I knew we’d need local help. However, we’ve never been the type of people that go with average and never go with generic or crowded “tourist” tours. Finding Ahipara was a stroke of luck and research and gut feeling.
The entire cycle of vacation and trip planning to execution and logistics to providing unique experiences with professional and personal touches was fantastic and high caliber.
I know Ahipara is a team effort and I want to thank Jean-Michel for the initial vacation ideas and overall owning and operating a great firm. Much more though I want to thank Zuzana for all her help and hand-holding, outstanding planning and service, and great personal touches, sense of humor, and attention to detail.
All the activities we jointly planned were awesome, and we loved (yes.. Loved!) The Dairy and Paul and Matt, and Silverpine (Mike and Sue were great, but Roy the dog stole the show!). We didn’t miss a beat in the planning of the trip and a close to last minute adjustments of the itinerary turned out even better than original plans (the Middle Earth helo-hike with Mark and Alpine helo was unbelievable!). Once we landed and began our vacation, it was really nice to be checked in on and when weather impacted you were well ahead of things and coordinated adjustments without missing a beat. Ahipara’s “partnership” and skills and welcoming personality really made our vacation unforgettable and the experiences and memories we now have are priceless.
We hope to someday return to New Zealand and hope to stay for a bit longer! I have no qualms in recommending Ahipara highly and enthusiastically.
China, planned by David Allardice
JOHN WOLDRICH | OCTOBER 16, 2014
We were in China from Sept. 9-30, 2014 and covered a lot of ground in three weeks. We (a group of 4) saw all of the major tourist sights. But we also got out of the cities and walked the Wild Wall with William Lindsey, went to little towns and villages like Pingyao (small old walled city), Tongli (water town), Pi’An village (“Dragon’s Backbone” rice patties), and the Li River cruise. We had just a fabulous time.
The trip’s success was due in no small part to David’s team of professional guides and central staff in Hong Kong. Along the way a landslide and several flight delays caused our itinerary to change. This was done almost seamlessly, so that we continued on without really noticing that there was a problem, although the Hong Kong staff kept us informed of these changes.
As an example, a three-hour flight delay and a landslide threatened to thwart our plan to see the Dragon’s Backbone area, which we wanted to hike. Eastern Journeys anticipated our situation and gave us some options when we arrived in Guilin. We chose to hike for an hour and a half into Pi’An village in the dark with flashlights (!) to get around the landslide. The guide was really flexible and got us the necessary flashlights, called ahead so that the single restaurant would remain open, and even helped out in the kitchen because they were short staffed at that late hour. This was certainly going the extra mile for us. Our decision was rewarded with seeing the rice paddies at sunrise the next morning—one of the highlights of our trip. In short, I would recommend David Allardice and his team without reservation.