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.
Grand Canyon river rafting trip, planned by Mindy Gleason
NANCY DAVIS AND RICHARD D. ASHMORE | OCTOBER 19, 2017
Recently we took a 15 day raft trip on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon arranged by Mindy. Being in the Grand Canyon day and night for two weeks was a magical experience. We were enveloped in beauty and majesty. The crew members, led by Billie Prosser, were all strong, competent, knowledgeable, and dedicated people, who were also extremely nice human beings. They took good care of us. And they take good care of the Grand Canyon. On the coffee cup that each passenger got at the start of the trip was inscribed “Leave no trace.” And our crew made sure that we did not leave a trace. Each night when we arrived to set up camp the site was in pristine condition, and it was just as pristine when we left the next morning. Thus, the crew gave us the gift of experiencing this great natural wonder, and they did everything they could to make sure that the Grand Canyon would remain beautiful, clean, and natural.
Grand Canyon Raft Trip, from Lees Ferry (Mile 0) to Diamond Creek (mile 225)
September 18 to October 2, 2017
Sri Lanka, planned by Miguel Cunat
SHELLEY DEVINNY | OCTOBER 16, 2017
Miguel and his team (specifically our consultant, Shalini) did an amazing job planning our honeymoon to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. We provided them a rough idea of what we were looking for (combination of relaxation, adventure, culture, food, and luxury) and they put together an outstanding trip. Neither of us had used a travel planner before, so we did not know what to expect. We both were extremely pleased with the level of organization and thought that went into planning a perfect trip. Not having to think about the itinerary, timing, schedule, etc is a luxury in itself! We simply were told when to show up and where and then went along for the ride! Miguel and his team were also extremely helpful in arranging our accommodation in the Maldives- even negotiating an upgrade to half-board. I highly recommend working with Miguel and his team! I am not sure if reviewing a country is appropriate here, but I cannot resist! Sri Lanka, for those that are considering, is a special country that blew us away. It is amazing how so much history, culture, and diverse scenery fit into one tiny island. The people and food (food!!) were also a delight. We traveled the end of September through the first week of October which was considered “shoulder season.” We had AMAZING weather that was not too hot/humid and only experienced a spot shower or two. The crowds were light, so we never felt like cattle call through the sites. I cannot recommend visiting this nation enough… especially before more catch on to its charm!
Barcelona, Spain, planned by Virginia Irurita
DOUG HATCHIMONJI | OCTOBER 12, 2017
We wanted to write and send you one thousand thank you’s for the excellent trip Virginia and her team planned for us to Barcelona.
An itinerary is simply words on paper. What makes a great trip is not the plans on paper, it is the people that make-up each event and stop on the itinerary that bring life, color and vibrancy to those plans. The people that Made for Spain matched us with brought color to our experience, like a Gaudi work of art. We wanted to tell you about our experiences with those people, to convey our appreciation, thanks and recommendation. We list them in the order that we met them and not as a ranking.
Javier was our driver from the airport to our Airbnb apartment. All of the drivers for the Excellence company were prompt and friendly, but Javier stands out because of his outstanding service upon our arrival. He was very welcoming and helpful when we met at the airport, but his excellent service shown clear when we got into Barcelona. We arrived on October 3, just after the referendum on Sunday, the First. Demonstrators were marching through the Eixample and many of the streets were blocked, including Carrer Valencia, where our apartment was located. After several attempts to navigate around the blockages and talk our way past the Guardia, Javier was forced to park several blocks away from our destination. Javier then carried my older mother and father’s two very heavy suitcases though the crowds as we made our way on foot to the apartment. All the way, he was kind and patient with my parents, who move slowly because of their age. A very good man!
Jordi Nuno was our guide for two days, through the old city and the glories of Gaudi. We cannot say enough good things about him. He is extremely knowledgable about the history, art and culture of Barcelona, patient with the pace and needs of my mother and father, and made us feel like we were taking a stroll with a good friend who happened to live with in the city. We usually do not have a guide when we visit new places, content to explore and discover on our own. With Jordi, we learned with this can be a mistake. A guide that takes obvious pleasure in showing people his city brings a second and third dimension and perspective to what are otherwise simply sights. By pointing out the remains of the Roman aqueduct protruding from the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia or comparing Picasso’s interpretation of Las Meninas by showing us Velazquez’s version, Jordi showed us things we never would have appreciated on our own. Before he left us each afternoon, he seemed delighted to find us a table at a favorite place, like Bar del Pal, chatting up to staff to ensure we had an enjoyable lunch. Jordi provided us with an intimate view of his city, one that we will not forget.
Anna and her assistant, Inez, at Canela Fina, led us through the Santa Caterina market and conducted our cooking class. This was a day that we will remember forever. Seeing the market through Anna’s experience was eye opening. Telling us about the vendors with with freshest seafood and those with cheaper but perhaps not as fresh fish, or about the vegetable stands operated by farmers directly out the fields and those that obtained their goods from the central market, and watching her talk to with girl at the charcuterie counter, was fun and interesting. But the best part of the day was Canela Fina. The space occupied by the school was stunningly beautiful – showing us that behind the many roll-up doors of the Old City are spaces of style and class. As we worked together to prepare seven or eight different tapas, Anna and Inez brought a combination of knowledge, technique and enthusiasm that taught us very much and imparted their joy of Catalunya’s cuisine. We came away wondering if a three day cooking and Spanish language immersion course could be arranged with them – such is the grandness of the time we had!
Luba was our host at Can Rafols dels Caus, for wine tasting in the Penedes region. Let me say that we have visited and tasted wine at hundreds of wineries, small and relatively unknown and large and well-regarded. We have never ever had an experience to compare with the afternoon spent at Can Rafols dels Caus. Luba’s passion for this winery was apparent as she toured us about the lovingly restored grounds of the home and winery, with its outstanding views from its hilltop location, and the starkly beautiful underground concrete and bedrock cellar. But the best was the “wine tasting and little snack” Luba made for us in the dining room of the home. Seated around a simple and elegant wooden table, in a room with windows overlooking the surrounding vineyards and olive groves, she brought us four or five snacks – toasted bread upon which to crush the locally grown tomatoes, almonds roasted in the kitchen, salami and sausage and cheese – all to accompany their outstanding wine. This was not simply a wine tasting, it was a vibrant experience that showed the justifiable pride that Luba had for the winery and the region.
We can go on and on about the wonderful experience Virginia provided to our family – like our two day drive on secondary roads through Catalunya’s mountains to the north, or the outstanding first night dinner Olga arranged for us at Petit Comite. But as we’ve said, it’s the people that she connected us with that made a great trip for us and makes us very grateful. Thank you.
Mediterranean cruise, planned by Tom Baker
PAUL SARNELL | OCTOBER 13, 2017
This is the second time we have worked with Tom Baker and it certainly will not be our last! Tom Baker and his staff, especially Ian Lazarus, have always gone above and beyond in helping us plan our cruises and each time has demonstrated true caring of our wants and needs.
Tom is always responsive to our calls and questions and is always timely with getting back to us. Tom knew exactly where we should book a room on the ship to avoid as much movement as possible, and we are happy to say he made a fine choice. The room was spectacular and we did not feel as if we were on a moving boat. In making plans for shore excursions, Tom was able to set up wonderful tours that were so very comfortable, with drivers who were personable and knowledgeable about their countries. The tours he set up made our cruise truly amazing and made our vacation that much more special. Tom also set up hotels for us before and after the cruise. Tom knows the best hotels that will suit his clients’ interests, mobility, and budget. The hotels were amazing and had excellent value.
Before our departure, Tom sent us our itinerary with all our hotels, cruise information and land tours and included suggestions for restaurants in Rome and Venice as well as other points of interest. He also included comprehensive transfer information, which was invaluable to us for our stay in Venice.
Tom is a true professional, with a wealth of knowledge, caring and expertise and we are so happy that we can rely on him to make our vacations truly extraordinary. It is clear to see why he is on Wendy’s WOW list!
Calgary, Canada, planned by Sheri Doyle
PHYLLIS BOSSIN | OCTOBER 11, 2017
Sheri was fabulous to work with. She sent us a wonderfully detailed itinerary with her personal comments and suggestions all along the way and with links to multiple websites (maps, restaurants, things to do). Her notes about things to do and see were incredibly helpful and we used the itinerary constantly. She included her favorite hikes and we did most of those as well. She had suggested downloading the Gypsy guides for parts of our drive, which we did and which we loved. She was reachable and accessible at all times and was a pleasure to work with. She was extremely attentive to detail and there was no stone left unturned.
Sicily, planned by Marcello Baglioni
CATHY STRICK | OCTOBER 10, 2017
Marcello and Matteo were a godsend to us on our first trip to Sicily. Matteo worked tirelessly to locate our luggage which arrived two days after we did. He even arranged to have our driver collect the baggage at the airport and transport it to our hotel. Matteo also helped when our hotel in Ortigia couldn’t locate our car (temporarily) and put us in the wrong room. He arranged free breakfast and a one night hotel credit as compensation for our issues. And he made sure that our rental car was ready and waiting outside our hotel for a very early trip to the airport on our day of departure. Thanks, Matteo.
Things we loved:
-Hotel recommendations were spot on. We loved our Mt. Etna and Ortigia accommodations.
-Our wonderful guide, Guisy, who spent a lovely afternoon with us in Taormina.
-Salvo, our volcanologist/guide on Mt. Etna. So enthusiastic and interesting.
-Winery tour and lunch on Mt. Etna.
-Our private boating excursion with Enrico—awesome!
-Cooking class with Maurizio. A highlight.
-Our days with our archaeologist/guide Italo. Especially visiting the ruins and making chocolate.
-Our final dinner with Dario and his family at their olive farm. A truly wonderful experience.
Colombia, planned by Eric Sheets
ALISON BAGLEY | OCTOBER 9, 2017
Ali Bagley here, we traveled to Colombia Sept-Oct 2017
I worked mostly with Nils and Filomena on Eric’s team, for this trip. It was a great Itinerary. They really tried to make the most out of our time in Colombia. It was our 15th-anniversary celebration and they went over and above in every aspect. We were greeted on our first night with flowers and champagne! very nice touch. I got to tell you that they worked hard on this…the whole time we were traveling! We had some hiccups, There was a pilot strike on the airline we had booked 3 out of the 4 interior flights while there. We had to rebook all of them! And even on the new one there were delays to the point of changing our itinerary completely, But Nils was on it!! Thank god he was there to keep the craziness at bay. I would definitely recommend these guys service!
Australia, planned by Stuart Rigg
BILL SCHIERL AND SARENA MELOTTE | OCTOBER 8, 2017
We would use Stuart again – our trip was outstanding and everything went off without a hitch. Great properties, people, and experiences!!
Guides were well suited for the area and wonderful to spend the day with while driving or sightseeing. They accommodated our requests and provided schedule changes as needed. A special recognition to Carly in Sydney…she made our visit extra special with her amazing knowledge and flexibility.
We enjoyed the prepaid meal structure which we had not experienced before…a nice way to do it!
To conclude, we had our first Wendy Perrin WOW Experience which happened to be a seaplane ride over the Sydney Harbor and Opera House. This is something that we would not have thought to do ourselves and would have missed out big time! An amazing and fun experience…we even happen to get to travel up the coast a bit because the seaplane company needed to drop some passengers at a small resort destination. The views were stunning and provided a perspective we would not have had without Wendys WOW. Thank you Wendy for such a magnificent addition to an already outstanding adventure
Greece, planned by Christos Stergiou
CHRIS STOLL | OCTOBER 8, 2017
Our group of three couples just returned from a magical week on the island of Santorini. The magic was largely made possible by Christos Stergiou. He recommended Astra Suites for our stay; a regular topic of conversation among the group was how wonderful our rooms, the service, and the pool were. The resort is perfectly located to enjoy the stunning sunset each night. And the breakfasts on our private terrace gave us that feel-good feeling every morning. Christos suggested and organized fun and interesting activities which included a private guide to show us the best parts of the island and a catamaran sail giving a different perspective of Santorini. Any questions we had were quickly answered by Christos’ team. It was a seamless experience making it possible to experience the best Santorini had to offer.
Arctic cruise, planned by Ashton Palmer
PHILIP GOLDMAN | OCTOBER 2, 2017
Ashton Palmer and his team are first class. We travel widely and I personally have visited over 80 countries for work or pleasure. Ashton’s team helped me and my family to arrange our single most rewarding and enjoyable trip by far — a Lindblad cruise to the Arctic. We have since booked two additional trips with him (Galapagos and Alaska), and are in the process of booking a fourth. Ashton spent a lot of time learning about our family and its preferences. He has access to a wide arrange of options and made sure to tailor them to our needs. Every detail is covered with each booking. Our itineraries were highly organized and provided to us both electronically and in hard copy. Ashton’s team also provided us with extensive information on each trip to help us to prepare and made sure we met every key deadline. Friendly and responsive, Ashton’s team always goes the extra mile, helping us to secure an airline refund for a trip segment that was canceled in Alaska due to weather. If you are considering an expedition trip or cruise, you just can’t do any better.
Ireland and Scotland, planned by Jonathan Epstein
HELEN WILLIAMS | OCTOBER 1, 2017
We were traveling to Dublin to drop off our son at Trinity University. Jonathan and his Celebrated team helped us with a city visit to Dublin and then we were off to Scotland to celebrate our “empty nest”. They spent a lot of time learning about our hobbies, our interests and our budget for this trip. They came back with a comprehensive itinerary for us that included multiple cities and a couple rounds of golf. Perhaps the single best piece of advice they gave us was: Hire a driver. HIGHLY recommend you spend at least a small portion of your trip with a driver – they know the country inside/out and can make last minute detours/changes seamless and stress free. The special perks at the hotels that Celebrated customers garner were also very fun and I looked forward to them all. Several months into the planning our focus for the trip changed and several items had to be eliminated from the itinerary (no golf) – these were done with grace and alternatives put in place with no issues at all. And during our trip, we cancelled an itinerary event two days before we were supposed to go (a whisky trail tour). Driver was contacted and alternatives put in place as if they had always been a part of the itinerary.
The drivers were all great. Because they know the area so well, they are able to direct you to some spots you would be hard pressed to find on your own.
All of Celebrated suggestions were fantastic. Even though this was not a golfing trip, we did get to visit top golf courses and because we were at St. Andrews on a Sunday, we were even allowed to walk the course. He’s still talking about the picture we took on Swilcan Bridge.
In short, our trip was just about perfect, and we couldn’t have done it without Jonathan’s help. In fact, we will definitely be back to Scotland and dream also of an Italian vacation. We will not hesitate to contact you when we are ready to start planning!
Rome, Naples and the Amalfi Coast , planned by Andrea Grisdale
LISA MOSES | SEPTEMBER 27, 2017
This was an amazing trip. Everything was planned perfectly and there were NO issues, not even a hiccup. The tour guides were so knowledgeable, the restaurants were excellent, the drivers were so pleasant and prompt, and the hotels were gorgeous. Everything was amazing. I would highly recommend Il Bellagio to my friends and family.
Southern Africa, planned by Julian Harrison
HOWARD AND JUDY HUGHES | SEPTEMBER 25, 2017
Julian Harrison is definitely the one to go to for an incredible trip to southern Africa. Our August 2017 trip to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe was our trip of a lifetime. We saw so many animals that we can’t list them all, but the close-up encounters with the leopards, lions, and elephants were astounding. Our trip went perfectly and this involved several light plane trips to five different camps. We could not have asked for more.
Normandy, France, planned by Jennifer Virgilio
FLOYD RICHARDS | SEPTEMBER 19, 2017
Jennifer Virgilio and her team, arranged for some great experiences including a private cooking class with a top chef, a cheese (Camembert) and apple (Calvados) tour with a an agronomist who was truly fantastic that included a picnic lunch he had prepared, and a very informative D-Day tour with an English gentleman who was extremely knowledgeable. All the guides were personable and very knowledgeable. In all cases, they had arranged for a lunch and we asked that they join us – talking with them and hearing their stories, for us, is important.
Also, we would highly concur with her recommendation to stay at the Villa Lara in Bayeux (where we were upgraded to a suite) and her restaurant reservations.
We hope to go back and would use her again.
Israel, planned by Joe Yudin
HARRY EISENBERG | SEPTEMBER 15, 2017
This was our first trip to Israel, and at our age, probably our only trip so we wanted it to be special. Also, my wife is handicapped so we needed to use a wheelchair during most of the trip. This would have been impossible with a usual tour and was only made possible by taking this private tour with Joe Yudin and his team. At first, I thought I would push my wife in the chair, but after pushing her up the first hill I realized that was impossible. Our great guide, Lior, pushed her in the chair the entire trip, and was happy to do it. The itinerary planned for us was what we wanted. We stayed at first rate hotels, The Hilton in Tel Aviv, The Waldorf in “Jerusalem, and Scots hotel in Tiberias. All outstanding. They picked restaurants for us to eat every night which were all outstanding. Our guide Lior, was terrific, knowledgeable, kind, friendly, funny, and made the trip a huge success. We only had a few weeks to put this trip together, and they handled everything without a hitch. My advice, don’t hire anybody else.
Alaska, planned by Judith Root
BARBARA AND CHARLES YELVERTON | SEPTEMBER 13, 2017
Judith listened to the type of Alaska experience we wanted to have. She and I had a couple of long conversations about an active holiday and an overview of Alaska. She planned an amazing, unforgettable trip for us. She was always available. I would recommend Judith to friends and anyone wanting an awesome, flawless holiday. Carol Wilson also was a partner to Judith in making our holiday to Alaska absolutely memorable. We already want to plan another adventure to Alaska. We are hooked. It was FABULOUS!!! And due to the professional aspects your company we will be using your professionals for a trip to eastern Canada.
Zambia, planned by Cherri Briggs
CLAUDIA DOWNEY | SEPTEMBER 9, 2017
Cherri and her staff provided us with top notch personal care. They arranged seamless transfers and transportation so that we could focus on the wonders of our journey rather than fretting about the details. I love the fact that Cherri and Richard are so involved in improving the community services for local people. Bravo Cherri! I heartily recommend and endorse!
Adriatic cruise, planned by Leslie Fambrini
VICTORIA GRAMOY AND JOHN THOMPSON | AUGUST 31, 2017
Leslie Fambrini and Wendy Perrin’s The WOW List recently supported my husband and me in planning and executing a three week trip to the Adriatic from June 23 to July 14, 2017. We spent seven nights at the Villa Dubrovnik in Dubrovnik, Croatia. We then embarked on a seven-night cruise up the Dalmatian coast on the Sea Dream. We ended our trip with a six-night stay at the Ca Sagredo in Venice. It was a perfect trip thanks to Leslie.
We initially selected Leslie from The WOW List for her expertise in European luxury cruises. I’ve been an avid reader of all things Wendy Perrin for many years and her selected travel specialist list has always been great fun to read.
Leslie listened to our ideas about what makes a trip special for us and we decided Sea Dream Yacht Club would be perfect for us. We asked her to help us expand our cruise to a three-week vacation and after a lot of discussion with us, she suggested the above hotels.
Sea Dream turned out to be the perfect ship for us. It is a small, beautiful ship with a high-quality staff and Leslie reserved the perfect cabin for us. We felt like we were on a private yacht. Leslie also got us a very nice credit in the ships lovely spa.
The hotels could not have been better for us. They were amazingly beautiful. They were perfectly located and their staffs were outstanding. Our rooms were magnificent with unbelievable views — essential for us. Leslie got us the rooms at a fantastic price with included upgrades. We could not have done this on our own.
Leslie provided us with a very comprehensive travel packet before our trip began. It included precise information on all details of our travel including names and numbers for local contacts. It was invaluable. Leslie took a lot of worry out of our trip by arranging all of our taxies, and boat, transfers between airports, hotels, and our ship. In all cases, it was VIP quality transportation. These arrangements were booked directly to our accommodations so there was no need to procure our own services or negotiate prices in foreign currencies.
We did not ask Leslie to arrange any special restaurant experiences or local tours during our trip as we usually prefer to roam on our own. Fortunately, we did not need any emergency assistance or other support during our trip. Based on our stateside experience with Leslie, we felt confident we could contact her from overseas if necessary.
We love Leslie. She really listened to us. She knows her business. As a result, we had a fantastic adventure! Thank you, Leslie and The WOW List.
England and Scotland, planned by Jane McCrum
MARK DONOVAN | AUGUST 30, 2017
Jane and Philip and the rest of the team were great at planning this trip. I traveled with twin teenagers around England and Scotland and there wasn’t a day that didn’t create lasting memories. I was especially pleased with their planning in the Peak district and in Scottish Western Highlands. Each day we had a unique adventure, be it hiking in the Peak district, taking part in skiff races in the Highlands or meeting a wonderful musician-hotelier couple in Scotland. Book with this team and you will be in experienced, deeply-caring hands.
Rwanda, planned by Linda Friedman
ALICE PORTER | AUGUST 28, 2017
Linda was simply amazing. From the first contact, she responded quickly and with great advice. I will always be grateful to her for recommending that we go to Rwanda to see the gorillas. I was so impressed with the people of Rwanda (and the gorillas were pretty amazing too!) Everything on our trip flowed perfectly, thanks to her careful planning. We left a camera in Rwanda and she has arranged for another client to bring it home for us. This was a long, complicated trip and it was fabulous thanks to Linda.
Nice, planned by Philip Haslett
WENDY HALPERN | AUGUST 27, 2017
Philip Haslett and his associate Judy were resourceful and creative. My boyfriend and I enjoyed a spectacular cooking class the first day in Nice, which was a smart decision. The chef, Rosa, educated us on the flower/ produce market of Nice, selecting the ingredients for our 5-course meal, and teaching us about the rich culture of Nice. This experience set the tone for the trip. Philip and Judy were instrumental with their other recommendations including the hotel, excursions to Eze, Monaco, St. Paul de Vence, transportation. Philips personal touch, connections, and contacts made a huge difference. We ultimately were a little too booked and needed to relax, so we couldn’t get to every activity we desired; this knowledge of how we like to travel comes with travel experience! I highly, highly recommend Philip.
Bali, planned by Diane Embree
JESSICA MCCOMB | AUGUST 23, 2017
Diane Embree was excellent in all stages of the planning process. She knows Bali inside and out and is a wealth of information. Even with a time difference, she was prompt to respond to my emails, answer questions, and have numerous phone conversations with me. We spoke so many times and she never hesitated in answering any of my questions. She even sent us a packet of helpful information to help prepare us for our trip. It’s obvious that Diane loves Bali and is eager to share her love of Bali with others. She has many contacts in Bali and is an expert at what she does.
I am so happy that I found your website because without Diane Embree there would have been no way that I could have planned a trip to Bali on my own. Thanks, Wendy!
India, planned by Bertie and Victoria Dyer
SUZANNE NASH | AUGUST 20, 2017
We had a wonderful experience in India. We felt like we saw and experienced so much. Our guide Vikram was excellent: He was knowledgeable, entertaining, accommodating and by the end of the trip, he felt like family. I would use Victoria and Bertie again just to have the opportunity to have Vikram as a guide. Our driver was an expert and we were continually amazed at his skill in avoiding incident!
We enjoyed seeing the lunchbox men and festival preparations in Mumbai. We loved our tuk tuk ride and seeing Mehrangarh Fort in Jodphur. One of the trip highlights was getting to witness a ring ceremony at our hotel there. In Jaipur, we enjoyed Jantar Mantar and thought Amber Fort was among the more beautiful things we saw. In general, we tend to prefer doing rather than seeing so particularly enjoyed the elephant ride, having our horoscopes read and cooking at Diggi Palace. Vikram arranged a special brother-sister ceremony for our children on the festival day which was very memorable. We had an interesting experience buying jewelry in Jaipur. I got a special ring to celebrate an upcoming birthday and we were pleased to learn on our return it appraised for 20% more than we paid for it! We appreciate Victoria taking us to a reputable and reliable dealer. In Agra, Vikram advised us to arrive at the Taj Mahal early, and we were the only ones inside the mausoleum. Truly extraordinary!
Hotel highlights were the Umaid Bhagwan Palace and Amanbagh. The service at both locations was just phenomenal! We had wonderful dining throughout our trip and a fabulous last night meal at Indian Accent.
Black Hills, Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Jackson, planned by Mark Campbell
CAROL SCHACKMAN | AUGUST 13, 2017
We had an amazing trip! This was our first experience using a Wendy Perrin WOW list travel agency. It was too logistically challenging to plan on our own. Mark and Mindy did an outstanding job with routing, planning, private guides/experiences that we would not have figured out on our own. It was worth the fees to have experts plan this trip for our family. I highly recommend using them, especially after we had a bad fly-fishing experience. When I emailed them, their response was immediate and included a full refund for the fishing. That alone made using Mark and his team completely worthwhile knowing they stand behind what they book and have a certain level of expectation from their vendors.
Tahiti and Bora Bora, planned by Kleon Howe
RENEE ROUSSELOT | AUGUST 12, 2017
Kleon Howe planned our trip perfectly. The first part of the trip was a no-brainer. We stayed at the Four Seasons in Bora Bora as this was the one request my 12- year-old daughter made. However, our family is more adventurous than that and the trip only got better from then on. For the next portion of our trip, Kleon persuaded us to charter a catamaran. I was skeptical about this as I was concerned we would not have enough to do or that we would be bored. Kleon assured me otherwise. He advised me that we would experience the culture and geography much differently by doing this. He was right. We loved this portion of our trip. The final part of our stay at a high-end eco resort was extraordinary. Kleon was always informative, collaborative and cheerful in my dealings with him. He knows the area extremely well. He had many suggestions but carefully listened to what each family member wanted from our trip and then came up with an itinerary that suited us well.
Hawaii, planned by Jay and Dani Johnson
SARAH BEIGHTOL | JULY 25, 2017
Maui June 2017. I hadn’t gone on a family trip in several years due to my health. When we decided to go to Maui, the planning process was overwhelming. Dani Johnson took all of the stress out of the planning, and left my family with the fun choices. She booked an incredible ocean view condo, car, a phenomenal private tour guide for the road to Hana. She gave me ideas for restaurants, excursions. She spends several weeks a year in Hawaii and knew the entire area.
My husband, daughters and I loved planning for the months prior to the trip, everyone got to choose their “must do.” We were able to book all our excursions and dinner reservations prior to the trip. Dani gave us personal recommendations for everything (including what luggage she likes!)
The trip itself was amazing. The condo was beautiful, very comfortable, gorgeous views. We had wonderful dinners together watching the sunset. We loved all her restaurant recommendations.
We truly couldn’t have had a better vacation. I cant thank Dani enough.
Big Sky, Montana, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole, planned by Caroline Wood
KATHERINE BARDEN | JULY 18, 2017
We had an amazing adult family trip to Big Sky, Montana, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole and Caroline Wood and her team were everything we were looking for in a travel advisor. Right from the start, Caroline got on the phone with me to ask questions and find out all our wishes. She then laid out some great options on accommodations and activities – all exactly as we had discussed. We did not need to have extensive back and forth – she just got it. In our final conversation before departure she made sure all of my questions were answered.
As for the trip itself, all was seamless. Caroline and her team laid everything out day to day, involving drives, tours, rafting, hiking, fishing and delicious meals (including a private chef at home after a long day of touring). All top notch. We did not have one snag. As the travel planner, she made me look like a hero. The tools they used and all the back-up information on all the locations seemed to anticipate all our questions (lunch, where to hike, etc..) We rented a fabulous home in Big Sky and stayed in a wonderfully, fun inn in Jackson Hole. I would not hesitate to use Caroline again.
Italy villa vacation, planned by Mara Solomon
CAROLINE FENN | JULY 17, 2017
I started working with Mara Solomon, a year prior to our trip. I would work with her again in a heartbeat. Mara and her team are consummate professionals – highly skilled, super knowledgeable, fun and warm. They think of everything and do so with finesse and flair. Mara very quickly figured out our hopes, taste, and interests, beyond what I was articulating, and steered us toward several excellent villa options. In planning our excursions and villa experience, she offered unerringly sage advice and suggestions and listened intelligently to my responses. She also has a great sense of humor, for me a huge plus. It was clear I’d landed with the A-team. As a result, I relaxed and confidently put myself in their hands. Working with Mara was an effortless pleasure and the result was spectacular. We spent a week in Tuscany with a blended extended family of twenty-five and to a person, we had a joyful, exciting and refreshing time together exploring the countryside and savoring the many treasures of the villa, while reconnecting with loved ones and deepening our ties to each other. Mara anticipated potential pitfalls and prepared me for them while planning to prevent them. It worked. She suggested ways to add small joys to our days together. Those also worked. Our trip was for us just the right balance of art and architectural history, nature, exercise and of course, great food and wine along with lounging by the pool, playing cards and sharing stories. Whats remarkable in my view is that the planning itself was such a pleasure. That is entirely owing to Mara and her staff. I want to plan another villa stay in Italy if only to have the opportunity to work with them again.
Peru, planned by Marisol Mosquera
SHARONNE HAYES | JULY 16, 2017
We truly had a wonderful Peru experience. The range of activities, environments, and experiences was remarkable. We spent time in the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, a few days hiking the Andes (starting at 14,000 feet and ascending to almost 17,000), and finishing it off with a perfect Amazon cruise experience on the Delfin. All connections, guides, facilities, and food were great. We are so glad we used an in-country travel agent. The expertise was invaluable in light of the fact we had two families traveling for part of the time together, part of the time apart, and for part of the time, adult children having yet a third itinerary. Pleasing two families with ages 17 – 63 is an art, and we appreciated Marisol’s advice. We didn’t have any issues for her team to “fix” but were pleasantly surprised to have not just a car and driver, but the use of a guide and on-the-fly help with dinner reservations while hanging out in Lima before our overnight flight home.
Paris apartment rental, planned by Madelyn Willems
SUSAN HENDRICKSON | JULY 10, 2017
Madelyn and her team made everything so easy! All of their apartments looked fabulous and the one we chose—the Clairette—certainly was. I thought it would be nice to have a view of the Eiffel Tower, as suggested by an article by Wendy that I read, and in reality, it was so delightful to wake up and see each morning and say goodnight to each evening. Our apartment also had a really nice, spacious shower, A/C, and a washer and dryer, all of which made the 98 degree heat wave we experienced in Paris much more bearable. The location couldn’t be beat—within two blocks were at least two each of boucheries, patisseries, boulangeries, and chocolatiers—and thanks to Maddy’s neighborhood guide we had suggestions in where to hit for what. We could walk to the Metro, the Eiffel Tower, and the Seine.
We also highly recommend making your life easy and clicking through her menu of choices. With four of us it made sense to have a wifi hotspot and why hunt it down at the airport when for a discounted price your greeter can hand it to you at your apartment when you arrive. Same with your museum pass, Seine boat ride tickets, and Metro cards. We also booked a Versailles bike tour through Maddy — for the same price as Viator and others — and she set us up with a company walking distance from the apt on the day of the special food markets in Versailles and we got the veteran guide Frazor who was the best tour guide we’ve ever had. My family is still doing Frazor impressions. We also booked a photo shoot through Maddy’s staff and now have gorgeous photos of all four of us and our girls at ages 13 and 16 for the same price as a photographer in SF. That package promised a little tour guiding Ali G with the photos, but our photographer wasn’t super at history or Paris facts.
All in all I can’t recommend Maddy’s staff highly enough. We never waited more than an hour for a response while planning. They make Paris EASY and delightful. Their apts were comparable in price to Airbnb but I think much better, as they are set up for vacationers – even full of Paris DVDs and 20+ Paris and France guidebooks. Plus you’ve got a staff in Paris you can call about anything – free landline calls to them and to the US. Maddy and her staff gave thought of everything you need to be perfectly set up just to enjoy your vacation!
Lake Como, Florence, Venice and Milan, planned by Maria Landers and Brian Dore
JEFFREY BERNFIELD | JULY 2, 2017
Just returned from a trip planned by Maria and her team. This was one of the finest and best-planned trips we have ever taken. From the first phone call, Maria listens and tailors the vacation to your interests and even culinary needs. We traveled to Lake Como, Florence, Venice, and Milan. There were absolutely no glitches in service. All of our transfers and rides occurred without incident or delay. Maria has access to incredible guides – some of the best we have ever had on vacation anywhere. She also has access to some incredible experiences: i.e we had private visits to a parmigiana-reggiana dairy farm, a prosciutto di parma factory, a balsamic vinegar farm and exclusive small vineyards with some incredible local wine. She even arranged a pizza-making lesson at a restaurant in Florence. While we were in Lake Como she arranged for a private lunch on a local island and a visit to Lugano Switzerland.
This is a high service, first class, professional group of people, that will accommodate everything! Maria and her team are at the top of their game. We would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone and we look forward to using them again for another Italy adventure soon.
Peru, planned by Tom Damon
BRIAN MCCAFFREY | JULY 1, 2017
Brian McCaffrey – May 2017 – Peru including Puerto Maldonato, Cusco/ Sacred Valley/ Machu Picchu, and Lake Titicaca. Travel was a two-person trip with an accent on active experiences such as hiking and sea kayaking. Tom worked with us to construct a tailored itinerary for a two-week adventure-filled trip. The in-country experiences were extraordinary in all aspects – we stayed at beautiful properties, the guides and drivers were knowledgeable and friendly, and the individual unique experiences we planned were incredible including a cooking class in Cusco, a stay in a tree house one night in the rain forest, and a 2.5 hour sea kayaking excursion on Lake Titicaca. Due to a late schedule change, Tom needed to advance the entire trip itinerary 2 weeks. He successfully rescheduled everything and still got us into his preferred properties. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Peru and would use Tom again to plan our next adventure to South America.
Costa Rica, planned by Irene Edwards
ADAM SKILKEN | JUNE 28, 2017
Irene and her team at Green Spot did an absolutely amazing job at all stages. We had flight delays, and they handled re-bookings completely gracefully. Our trip was wonderful, and our guides were top-notch. Perfect on all fronts!
Newfoundland, planned by Jill Curran
LORI RYERSON | JUNE 7, 2017
Jill Curran helped me plan a marvelous trip to Newfoundland in mid-May 2017. I’m a fine art photographer, traveling with my adult cinematographer son, who gave me only 11 days of his time to accomplish a bucket list trip for both of us. I knew I couldn’t do it alone. Jill made extensive notes of our wants, likes and dislikes at the get-go, and every step of the trip was planned with those criteria as the filters. She managed to pull a few rabbits out of hats and made some arrangements for us that we simply couldn’t have accomplished without her broad on-the-ground network in Newfoundland. She also monitored us all along the way, including changing our travel plans over a national holiday weekend while she was away with her family when our transportation was canceled due to high winds. She contacted the places we were to be, rearranged the bookings, and continued to stay in touch with us right up to the end of our trip. Since Jill lives there, she is more acclimatized to the weather quirks of Newfoundland, and won’t notice the cold as much as those from away. We would suggest that even as late as May, winter coats should go in the luggage (we wore ours every day of the trip, and we ARE Canadian, but it is still cold at that time of year!) The kindness and generosity of Newfoundlanders are legendary, and Jill is definitely a standard-bearer for Newfoundlands reputation.
Turks and Caicos, planned by Lindsey Epperly
ANDY ROBINSON | MAY 25, 2017
Lindsey and her right hand, Kelsey, were able to match our preferences regarding an appropriate May 2017 beach destination (Turks) and resort (Gansevoort). They are very experienced, knowledgeable, approachable and most importantly, are good listeners. Our week in Turks was that much better as a result. When we had questions, they were very responsive. Will be using them again for sure. Our experience went so smoothly that we have recommended them to friends and family and are in the middle of planning a Danube River Cruise with another of your Trusted Travel Experts.
Berlin, planned by Gwen Kozlowski
MARSHA FRIEDLI | MAY 25, 2017
We used the recommendation of Wendy Perrin and used Gwen Kozlowski and Silva on her team for our three days stay in Berlin this past April/May. They were able to get us to the sites we wanted to see all the while working around our tight schedule and a major European holiday, May Day. Additionally, a surprise to us was that most stores and such are closed on Sunday as well. It was unfortunate that we could not change our travel dates so be aware of holidays in other countries before you book anything. However, they were able to help us plan and maximize our time with seeing the sites we wanted to see. Gwen and Silvia were able to provide us with hotel recommendations that were able to make use of our time in that the hotels were in the hub of ‘tourist/historic’ area. Easy walk to the Brandenburg Gate at sunset. Easy walk to the Island Museums, which were open on Sunday and the holiday!
Also, the guide that was arraigned for us was excellent. I cannot say enough positive things about Daniel. His excellent command of English, his in-depth knowledge of history and culture of Berlin and Germany were a highlight of our trip. He helped us navigate the subway, trains and other transportation as well. Some of the little-known facts about Potsdam and St. Catherine’s Palace, Daniel could relate them and provide insight that you just can’t get from a book. And for me, Daniel was able to fit in a stop at the wonderful department store KaDaWe. Fabulous!
I would definitely use Gwen and Silvia again. Silvia is a foodie like me so do schedule enough time to enjoy the food at KaDeWe. And Silvia was also able to get a reservation for us at the top of the Reichstag for lunch at the restaurant and enjoy the view on a beautiful spring day.
Serengeti Safari, planned by Nina Wennersten and Dan Saperstein
LEAH JACOBS | MAY 25, 2017
Wendy, thank you for creating and maintaining The WOW List. We have used your recommended experts four times now, and I’m sure we never would have enjoyed the wonderful experiences that we have without these amazing professionals. Our latest trip, a safari in the Serengeti, was a bucket list trip for both myself and my husband. Now that it’s over, I’m not sure there will be one better — until, of course, we visit Africa again.
Dan Saperstein quickly reached out to discuss all aspects of our safari, guiding us, if you will, to the best possible itinerary. As my husband abhors small planes, Dan recommended a driving safari throughout different sections of the Serengeti region. Furthermore, based on our preliminary conversations, he also thought we’d really enjoy the tented camp experience. He was absolutely right on both counts.
Our driver/guide was nothing short of amazing. In addition to sharing his seemingly boundless knowledge of all things safari, we appreciated hearing him talk about what everyday life is like in Tanzania.
All in all, I wholeheartedly recommend Dan & his team.
Again, thank you—many of our travels have no doubt been elevated from good to extraordinary because of The WOW List. I know when we are ready to go on our next adventure we will turn to a WOW expert.
Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, planned by Sandy Ferguson
GRETA BRENDLEY | MAY 17, 2017
My daughter and I traveled to Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia in May, 2017. Sandy Ferguson and his team did a fantastic job to make our trip memorable. They know all the best spots for dining and sightseeing so you don’t waste your time waiting in lines or viewing something that was not worthwhile. They also provided great experiences which went beyond traditional sightseeing to include visits with monks, Buddhist blessing ceremonies and a family dinner which included helping in the kitchen. We will never forget this amazing vacation thanks to Sandy.
Southeast Asia planned by Antonia Neubauer
RICHARD MORGENTHAL | MAY 7, 2017
Response time was immediate.
There was an ease and smoothness of every connection during a 5 week trip through three countries in Southeast Asia.
Always going above and beyond.
Finding us unique situations and people to meet.
Having a true understanding and care for the local people.
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!
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.
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!
China, planned by Mei Zhang
LISA DETTMER | APRIL 10, 2017
Mei and Jenny on her team far exceeded expectations (which were already pretty high). They had terrific advice during the planning phase of the trip, had creative and novel travel ideas, and we felt like they were following our daily progress throughout the trip. The hotels, guides, and activities were at the highest level and were great fits for our tastes, style, etc. And they surprised us with a WOW Moment that definitely met the “WOW” standard. In short, we were extremely pleased, and we’d recommend them highly.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!
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.
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.