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 my Trusted Travel Experts and monitored by me. These reviews illustrate how the right fixer transforms a trip from average to extraordinary.
The Galapagos Islands and Northern Ecuador, planned by Allie Almario
JON SHANSER | JANUARY 10, 2017
We dealt with Allie Almario and her staff of experts for planning our trip to the Galapagos & northern Ecuador.
The hotel they picked in Guayaquil prior to our departure to the Galapagos was excellent and allowed us not only to see Guayaquil prior to our departure for the islands, but also eliminated the necessity of flying from Quito to the Galapagos which would have necessitated a VERY early wake up call that morning to get from Quito city to its airport(a 45-60 min trip). All the transfers were handled excellently (its always nice to see ones name on a placard when one arrives in a foreign city!). Our time in the Galapagos was superb, albeit on a larger ship (the M/V Legend holds around 100 passengers), and the organization of the guides/naturalists getting people on & off the zodiacs was incredible as were most aspects of life aboard the ship (food, service, etc.). The rooms were simple but fine each with private bath. We left the Galapagos and stayed one night in a nice hotel in Quito and had a great guide who toured us thru the Old City prior to our van ride north to Hacienda Zuleta near Otovalo, EC. He stayed with us for three nights and four days there and took us to wonderful towns in the surrounding area as well as on a hike to a Condor Preserve and on a terrific horseback ride through the trails & valleys around the Hacienda. The beautiful Hacienda was fantastic and had plenty to keep us busy for 5 days & nights. The food, the rooms and the place were spectacular and the owners, Margarita & her nephew Fernando were wonderful gracious hosts. We were driven back to Quito on our final evening in a nice van with an English speaking driver after a full final day at the “ranch”.
India, planned by Bertie and Victoria Dyer
JANE DOUGLASS | JANUARY 10, 2017
My husband and I traveled to Rajasthan, India in December 2016 with our two sons ( 22 and 23). Victoria Dyer put together an amazing itinerary which covered Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Udaipur and Ranthambhore National Park. Her hotel recommendations were spot-on, our local guides were extremely knowledgeable and fun to be with, and our driver ( who was with us the entire trip) was amazing. The trip went so smoothly as a result of her planning. Our guides had itineraries for us each day but we had the flexibility to make changes as needed or wanted. Victoria had built in time for us to relax between cities in 2 beautiful tented camps so that we did not feel overwhelmed by each city. We also had time built in to shop which I highly recommend; there are so many beautiful things to bring home from this area, you definitely want to build time into your trip for shopping.
I highly recommend Victoria and would not hesitate to use her again.
Sri Lanka, planned by Miguel Cunat
ELAINE GOLIN | JANUARY 10, 2017
Our 15 day trip to Sri Lanka with Miguel Cunat and his team at Sri Lanka in Style was just extraordinary. Through the back and forth of the planning process, Miguel and his team got to know our interests and tastes, and put together an itinerary that perfectly met our needs (a blend of active/cultural, quirky historical hotels etc etc). But what was really extraordinary was the thoughtfulness and attention while we were in Sri Lanka – every aspect of the itinerary worked like clockwork, there was perfect coordination between our driver/guide, the Sri Lanka in Style customer care folks, local guides, and hotels. This manifested itself in little things like our food preferences (local and spicy!) being known before arrival and our favorite sodas being stocked in our rooms, to bigger things like a “surprise” lunch in a location wed mentioned seeing in a favorite music video, to quite important things, like a last minute change of accommodation (during tight high season no less), when one of us became sick for 24 hours and needed to be moved from our tented safari camp to blander surroundings with a/c and medical access. I want to go to back to Sri Lanka and will definitely book with Miguel and his team at Sri Lanka in Style. Another seamless WOW list experience!
Cuba, planned by David Lee
DAVID ABROMOWITZ | JANUARY 8, 2017
Our family of 5 (3 children in their 20’s with us) had a remarkable time in Cuba almost all the time thanks to the planning of David Lee and his team, including our wonderful guide Alain. We were cared for morning to night. During the planning stage we had a good deal of back and forth about the types of things we would like to see, and the itinerary generally reflected that. We never felt rushed or given a pro forma drive by of some place. Each stop was well chosen and the guide gave plenty of info. We liked the various “off the beaten path” stops, such as with Havana Compas dance troupe. We appreciated being able to get into the Cuban Art Factory by skipping the very, very long New Years Eve line. The hour spent with Cuban architect and planner Miguel Cuyola was fantastic, I wish we could have toured with him. We spent most of our 4 1/2 days in Havana, but the side trips to Las Terrazas and the Hemingway Finca were worth it. In terms of things to improve, we might have made benefited from more of a briefing that would have enabled us to understand the night life culture — budgeting time after dinner for some of the famed Cuban music venues. We were in Cuba December 28, 2016 to January 2, 2017, with a night in Miami at either end.
Rome, planned by Maria Landers and Brian Dore
JENNIFER WEBB | JANUARY 5, 2017
We had an excellent week long visit to Rome (2 adults, elderly mother, 20 and 17 yr old). Maria and her team made all the arrangements for our hotel, transportation, tours and guides while we were there. She took time to speak with us about what we wanted from our trip and recommended a number of options for tours and experiences to choose from. Every expectation was met, the guides were excellent, the drivers were on time and friendly, and the tours we selected were fabulous. We highly recommend the Food Tour with Gina as something different. We would hire Maria and her team again for future travel to Italy.
Morocco, planned by Michael Diamond
HEATHER PATTON | JANUARY 3, 2017
Michael Diamond at Heritage Tours planned our family trip to Morocco (2 adults and 2 boys ages 9 and 12). Michael was fantastic. He created an itinerary that included many of the highlights of Marrakech, and when one of our travelers had a ghastly broken leg six months prior to our trip, Michael reworked our itinerary to better suit our lower activity level. We felt truly at home at the Riad Joya, where we spent four nights. We had two amazing day trips – one to the desert and another to the High Atlas Mountains. But the clear highlight of our entire trip was our guide, Driss. He was patient, intelligent, professional, and great with our boys. We can’t wait to go back to Morocco, and we wouldn’t dream of booking another trip without Michael’s help or Driss as our guide.
Israel, planned by Joe Yudin
ALAN OEHRIG | DECEMBER 12, 2016
Joe Yudin was excellent. He and his team “tailor made” our itinerary going back and forth to meet our specific needs (e.g., dive in Red Sea and side trips to Bethlehem and Petra). The ten days we spent with our primary private guide, Bena, were very interesting. He was extremely knowledgeable in both Old and New Testaments as well as archaeology, having studied the latter in depth. Our guide on the last day, Adam, was also very knowledgeable, and both were very personable too—very important especially if you are spending all that time together. We had a problem with a gift shop in Jordan (overcharged) and although it was not the responsibility of Joe Yudin Tours, they got back about 95% of our money (balance was wire transfer fee and bank charge on our end, which we will look into with the bank). We couldn’t take care of this ourselves because we were flying out the next day and would have had to go back to Jordan, etc. They really went out of their way to return the items and worked hard on our behalf, which we really appreciated. Overall a first-rate travel company.
Date of Israel trip was Nov 8-Nov 24, 2016
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.
China, planned by Mei Zhang
CINDY AND LANCE GELLER | DECEMBER 5, 2016
We hired Mei and her team at Wild China to plan our two-week trip to China in November 2016. Their performance actually exceeded our expectations by a fair margin. They were quite timely and intelligently responsive throughout the planning phase, and bookings were exactly as promised. Their guides and drivers are very knowledgeable and personable; in fact, they are an important part of the fun. Every individual we had contact with from WildChina, without exception, was highly responsive to our needs and desires. China is a fabulous destination on its own, but we have little doubt our trip was greatly enhanced by the detailed, personal service rendered by Mei and her team.
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.
Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, planned by Tom Damon
CINDY REEVES | DECEMBER 1, 2016
When I first contacted Tom, I was considering a trip to Patagonia. We had only a week, (thanksgiving week), and after our conversation he thoughtfully suggested Ecuador and the Galapagos islands. I did not realize just how far Patagonia was, and we would be spending quite a bit of time traveling to and fro with little time just enjoying the country. Patagonia just requires a longer trip… So once I came to that realization, I asked Tom what he would suggest for our family, and he suggested Ecuador. It turned out to be a great suggestion… flights are no longer than Europe, and for us, the time change was 3 hours, which is much better than 9, so no jet lag. We ended up taking the Eclipse on a week long tour of the Galapagos. We had so many pinch me moments from the ship, to the sunsets, and most importantly, the wildlife!! I would definitely recommend Tom for South America trip planning. In fact, we are thinking about Peru for this summer.
Hawaii and California, planned by Jay Johnson
JAMIE MANVILLE | DECEMBER 1, 2016
Dani Johnson went above and beyond in planning and executing a special birthday trip to Hawaii and Pebble Beach. In the planning stage I specifically recall a 45-minute conversation with her on a Sunday afternoon. From that point, I knew we were in the right hands! Her recommendations (flight, hotel, excursion, restaurant) were impeccable. Communication continued throughout and, when there was an unforeseeable issue with one of our room locations, Dani stepped in and resolved beyond our satisfaction. I enthusiastically recommend her for travel to Hawaii and California and will certainly be calling on her for our future travel needs.
Southern Africa, planned by Cherri Briggs
ADNAN RUKIEH | NOVEMBER 23, 2016
Cherri Briggs was fantastic. We have traveled a lot, but this was our first time to Africa–specifically Southern Africa. Cherri and Elizabeth on her team, provided expert guidance as the trip was in the planning stages, answered our naive queries, gave us multiple options and ensured they understood our desires every step of the way. Once were on the ground, everything ran smoothly but most impressive is that everyone we spoke to at our camps/hotels know of Explore and the team and thought highly of them. The accommodations were great, the guides highly knowledgeable and friendly. Our trip was to Zimbabwe and Botswana (safari in both locales) ending with a few days of an urban fix in Cape Town. We would use them again in a heartbeat and highly recommend them to anyone (and we have to our friends) considering such a trip.
Australia, planned by Stuart Rigg
RENDA MOTT | NOVEMBER 12, 2016
We highly recommend Stuart Rigg and his team for an Australia tour. We had a great planning experience prior to being in country for 2 weeks and good contact once we were there. We had requested boutique hotels or 4-5 star city hotels and were very pleased with the selections and treatment. Everything was planned thoroughly and every guide and driver was on time and organized.
Because of illness, we had to dial back a bit on a couple of the scheduled activities. Stuart and his assistant Debbie were great. They arranged to modify one tour to add on what we had missed a prior day. They touched base along the way. Each guide and driver said Stuart and his team were great to work with, very detailed and very thorough from their perspective, too. The private guides were exceptional. We had requested tours that omitted forts and churches and museums, preferring to get a feel for neighborhoods and culture, and aboriginal sites, and were very satisfied. We also used the Stuart’s office in Auckland to organize our week in New Zealand, also with excellent results.
Amelia Island, planned by Lindsey Epperly
JOHN AND ANDREA ARNDT | NOVEMBER 7, 2016
We had to make a major change in our plans. Originally we planned a trip to Puerto Rico, but due to the Zika virus issues on the island, we had to find another destination. First, they had lined up a great trip to Puerto Rico, including arranging our airline. When we had to make the change, Lindsey and her team jumped right on it and worked with us to find an alternate destination. We eventually selected the Ritz on Amelia Island, after multiple options were suggested. We were really very pleased with all the arrangements and planning for this trip and have already booked a spring trip to Bermuda with her.
Western England, planned by Jonathan & Preston Epstein
RINA PERTUSI | NOVEMBER 3, 2016
Jonathan Epstein and his team at Celebrated Experiences are tops in the field. It is almost hard to believe the company is a big as it is because they make you feel you are their only client. They quickly come up to speed and learn exactly who you are and what you want and work to customize your trip around these preferences. There seems to be no part of the United Kingdom that they are not experts in. They keep very current and are very on their game. Jonathan is sharp and witty and smart – and is someone I will work with again. I wished to travel to a remote and obscure forest in Western England in October and Jonathan planned everything around just that, combining luxurious restaurants and inns with woodsy hikes and chauffeured tours. Marvelous and memorable.
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.
Alaska cruise, planned by Tom Baker
BONNIE FISCHER | OCTOBER 20, 2016
Tom was outstanding in helping us plan our Alaska trip. He responded immediately to our requests and obtained numerous special benefits along the way. We were thrilled with the trip overall and credit Tom with making it so seamless and care free. In fact, we have just booked another cruise for our granddaughters spring break in March and are considering a May cruise to the Baltic sea area. Thank you, Wendy. And Tom!
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…
Spain, planned by Virginia Irurita
CHERYL CROWDIS | OCTOBER 19, 2016
My husband and I traveled the first 2 weeks of October to Spain. We enjoyed Malaga, Arcos de la Frontera, Seville and Granada. We also enjoyed a day/night in Gibraltar. At each of these locations the guides provided to us were informative, fun and provided extra information as to additional activities we might enjoy while there along with dining recommendations. They listened when we needed to take breaks – as these were 3 – 4 hour walking tours. The drivers provided were also quite attentive and extremely prompt and tidy! Our driver at one point even stopped at a rest stop in order to buy cough drops for my nagging cough, then once at our destination found a pharmacy and helped convey my symptoms to obtain the correct medicine. I would absolutely recommend Virginia and have nothing but positive things to say about this wonderful organization..
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.
Africa, planned by Julian Harrison
ALISON OLIVIERA | OCTOBER 2, 2016
Julian Harrison and his team made our African dreams come true in September 2016. In fact, the trip was more than we had hoped for — our first visit to this ancient, majestic and thrilling land. At Julian’s recommendation, we traveled to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana; the advance logistics worked perfectly, eliminating fatigue and stress. Our first lodging, the Welgelen Guest House in Cape Town was a heavenly way to begin. The city tours, including Table Mountain, Cape of Good Hope, wine and chocolate tastings in the Stellenbosch area were all of the highest quality. My husband and I have slightly differing interests as he is an artist and I’m a nature fanatic but Julian understood this so well! He made sure our trip was pefectly balanced between city experiences and wildlife adventures par excellence. After Cape Town we went to the luxurious Tintswalo Lodge in the Manyeleti Game Reserve bordering Kruger National Park. Our guide and tracker were fabulous, funny guys who showed us everything one could hope to see in the African bush and more. Our travels worked flawlessly as we moved on to Johannesburg for the painful and moving history of SA. Again, our city stay at the Peech Hotel was a welcome respite with the additional bonus of a good restaurant. Then on to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe for unforgettable adventures including a sunset cruise and an elephant-backed safari plus the outstanding Safari Lodge with excellent food, a dinner chorus and waterhole viewing. Finally, we went to two tented camps in Botswana where every birder needs to go: the Okavango Delta. Both camps, Kazidora and Machaba, were beautifully sited with amazing staff and delicious food. The game drives were immensely satisfying. Mokoro trips on the Delta waterways brought up feelings of ancient connections to the people and the past. We took Bush Walks and boat rides as basically were as happy as two people could be. For all of this, we have Julian Harrison to thank for giving us the magic of Africa and we hope to return for another trip with him.
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.
Japan, planned by Lorenzo Urra
SHARAN GOLINI | SEPTEMBER 6, 2016
Hi Wendy, Where do I begin? The best travel experience our family has ever had. The care and attention to detail by Lorenzo and his team was extraordinary! Nothing was overlooked. There was daily contact with Lorenzo and his team, and they seamlessly changed and altered our itinerary based on fatigue, interest and weather conditions. Our Boys, 19, 18, and 17, loved the very different activities that were scheduled. Every suggestion from Lorenzo was a winner!
As our Boys leave the nest, these precious family moments take on added value and I can’t thank you enough for your recommendation of Lorenzo, for his kind advice and hard work. Paul and I travel internationally on a monthly basis and we have never dealt with someone of Lorenzo’s caliber.
I am happy to recommend him and hope to have many more adventures planned by him!
Sicily, planned by Marcello Baglioni
LINDA GARRETT | SEPTEMBER 1, 2016
With very little advance notice, Marcello planned four cities in Sicily in August 2016 for us. High-quality experts with incredible credentials guided us from Mount Etna to culinary experiences extraordinary in their scope and detail. Look no further than Marcello Baglioni for the best there is in Sicily.
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.
Lake Como, planned by Andrea Grisdale
JOSEPH MCBRINE | AUGUST 22, 2016
Andrea Grisdale and her Lake Como-based team did an amazing job for us. She arranged for our stay at a beautiful, private villa high in the hills above the town of Bellagio. The views of the Lake from up there were stunning. The property was brand new with every modern amenity and even had a swimming pool. There was more than enough room for all of us. It was a short walk to town from there as well. On one of our days there she arranged for a private guided boat tour of the Lake with a visit to the famed Villa Balbianello from Star Wars and James Bond films. Her restaurant recommendations were superb. We appreciated her responsiveness to details and her very timely responses with email communications. We were never left wondering or hanging for information. That to me is a hallmark of a great travel specialist. She and her team fit that bill to a T!
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!
Morocco, planned by Joel Zack
KATHERINE CLERMONT | JULY 22, 2016
Joel Zack did a wonderful job arranging our trip. He called back within a day of my entering a request via Wendy’s WOW trip-request form. He arranged our trip quickly and efficiently, even though we had a slightly lower budget than he was used to dealing with. The guides were knowledgeable, entertaining and accommodating. I was 5 months pregnant at the time of the trip and my mother, who accompanied my husband and me, has arthritis. There was a slight hiccup on our day of arrival. The hotel hadn’t given us our final itinerary and we didn’t know when to meet that night’s tour guide. But they called the room and got the problem fixed and stayed in close contact with us every time we changed cities to be sure there were no other issues. It was a fabulous trip. We stayed at wonderful hotels, had great food and got to see how the locals lived. It was everything I asked for. We will definitely use them again on our next trip to Morocco. Joel even did a follow-up call to see how we liked the trip and what he could do to make it better for his next guests. Such a commitment to quality service!
Hawaii, planned by Meg Austin
VIRGINIA MCKENNA | JULY 21, 2016
Wendy, thank you for recommending we use Meg Austin to put together our 2-week vacation to Hawaii. We used Meg for our trip to Mexico after Christmas, and she did a bang-up job on that. When I contacted you about whom you recommended for Hawaii, you suggested I use Meg again. That was outstanding advice. She put together a trip for us that ran perfectly. She got us a third free breakfast each day for our daughter who was sharing our room at the Fairmont Kea Lani. Each activity she booked for us was well run and professional. The rooms she got for us were superb.
I have used your recommendations for travel specialists worldwide and have to count Meg as one of the best. No one could respond more quickly on email.
Thanks, Wendy, for being such a wonderful resource for travel specialists worldwide. I recommend your site to all of my friends.
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!
Peru, planned by Marisol Mosquera
JON PAUL BUCHMEYER | JULY 17, 2016
Marisol and her Aracari team were terrific from beginning to end. Marisol immediately replied to my inquiry—within hours, if I remember correctly. We then set up a Skype call, which was phenomenally helpful. She asked me tons of questions about my preferences, the group I was traveling with, and gave me incredibly helpful and honest feedback about what was doable—and pushed me to do things I hadn’t considered. For example, this was a special trip for my niece just graduating from high school—about to study marine biology in college—so Marisol steered me toward the right Amazon basin area I hadn’t even considered. Truthfully, I was a little worried about her passing off her notes to a colleague, but it turned out flawless, seamless, and Mark Green was tremendous. He answered all of my questions, made adjustments so quickly as needed, kept me advised the entire way. The materials they delivered were superior—and then waiting for us on arrival.
My husband, niece, and I just returned yesterday from Peru and wanted to send a HUGE GRACIAS to Aracari for making this trip one of a lifetime! Everything ran so smoothly from beginning to end—and there’s no way I ever could have constructed such a wonderful journey. For sure, it was packed, but we came back feeling we’d seen such a diversity in Peru and, truthfully, we look forward to coming back and exploring more. The entire Aracari team deserves our appreciation. They knew just how to counsel us and talk us through what would work for us, given our interests and time constraints. It ended up being a perfect balance of wildlife, culture, adventure and a bit of relaxation. And although the weather was terrible during our one-day Inka Trail hike, with rain & clouds obscuring Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate, we still wouldn’t change a thing. What a true adventure. I can’t thank them enough. And I will of course recommend and tell everyone I know to use them—and to once again trust a Wendy Perrin specialist.
Over the years, I have used and vetted many of Wendy’s travel specialists— and, no doubt, Marisol and Aracari are absolutely top of the list.
Cabo, planned by Julie Byrd
MICHELLE SULLIVAN | JULY 6, 2016
If you are going to Cabo, you need Julie! I cannot say enough great things about Julie and her staff, and the quality of the business she runs. They are responsive, intuitive, understanding and great at what they do. They put together an amazing Senior Trip for my son and his friends. As parents, we were very concerned about our children’s transportation to and from the airport, as well as from the hotel to the clubs downtown. Julie secured transportation for the whole trip with the same driver, Cesar, for all 6 days, and the kids loved him! He not only drove them, but kept an eye on them when they were out at night and made sure everyone got home safely. Cesar was accommodating, informative, and supportive. Julie ensured our peace of mind and made the trip a great experience for the kids and the parents.
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.
Japan, planned by Scott Gilman
BETTY CHANG | JUNE 14, 2016
Upon returning from a wonderful Japan trip, I offer a heartfelt, enthusiastic recommendation of Scott Gilman. My goals in planning a family trip were to have memorable experiences with our teenagers highlighting Japanese hyper-modern culture and architecture, classic gardens, daily markets and traditional crafts. We often do all our own trip planning and limit the use of guides. However, as non-Japanese speakers who wanted more than a superficial exposure to Japanese culture, we decided to work with a professional to make the most of our limited time.
Scott provided wise counsel every step of the way. From the initial consultation where he listened so carefully through the subsequent detailed planning of the activities and itinerary, Scott not only addressed our requests, but he offered excellent ideas and gently guided us when we didn’t even know what to ask for or had pre-conceptions.
Not having been to Japan, I started out surprised by the high travel costs. After talking with Scott, understanding what was included in the costs, and getting over the sticker shock, I came to think it was well worth it. This is why I thought the charges were fair and a good value:
1. Japan is not an intuitive place to traverse if you don’t speak Japanese. The street numbering is not orderly. Many signs are not legible to English-only readers. And while the subways and trains are extensive and on-time and immaculately clean, they are not always the fastest way to get around. We could have done the navigating ourselves, but using Scott’s guides and drivers, I estimate we saw 30-50% more each day than we could have managed on our own using public transportation/walking/car rental/taxis (i.e. the less expensive option). This was what created the value for me. We had only a limited time for vacation and had travelled such a long distance and didn’t know if we’d ever be back, so to be able to see and do so much more each day was priceless.
2. Once he knew what we were interested in, Scott suggested activities we would not have thought of or read about or been able to access on our own. We had extraordinary access to special experiences through Scott and his business partner Phil’s relationships – a lacquerware workshop visit, a kimono fabric dye-ing workshop, and a wonderful day with a Japanese pottery expert who took us to a famous pottery village to see kilns, a workshop, and a museum. These would not have been possible through a hotel concierge or trying to go on our own. They were educational in focus and there was zero pressure to buy anything.
3. The restaurant recommendations were excellent and not what you could find easily on Yelp or TripAdvisor. They were places your in-the-know local foodie friend would take you to. Sure beats wandering around and guessing.
4. All of the guides were carefully selected and excellent – well-informed, good English skills, knowing how to read us for pacing and type of information to convey, and not rigid in the least. Every van was late-model, clean, and operated by a very professional driver with basic English skills.
5. Every transfer was handled by an English-speaking guide even on days when we were in transit. When we were early to the train station, the guides were able to exchange tickets and get us on earlier trains to the next destination so we didn’t waste time waiting at the station. The greeter at the other end was flexible enough to be able to come meet us early. There was a fair amount of on-the-ground support that we either saw in person or we knew was there to help. Doing the transfers and logistics on our own would have been possible, but stressful.
6. I received a comparable cost estimate from a reputable independent Japan expert for the desired level of service (separate room with real beds for the kids, 5-star hotels where possible, private guides and drivers, first-class trains).
If we had wanted to economize, Scott was willing to work with us on options. Scott’s business partner, Phil Rosenfeld, lives in Tokyo and runs operations in Japan. There was always someone to get back to us immediately whether we were in NYC in Eastern Standard Time or in Japan on Japanese time.
A crucial thing I really appreciated was that my contact was Scott, and he stayed my contact. He never handed me off to a junior person (which is what usually happens). So every question answered, every recommendation came from Scott and that made all the difference in our experiences. Scott and his team were a pleasure to work with and flawless in their execution. We were able to relax, enjoy, and make many happy memories.
Panama, planned by Eric Sheets
VICKY PENDELL | JUNE 11, 2016
I lived in the Canal Zone in Panama when I was a teenager and grew up in that area. I wanted to return to the country and re-visit my old home/schools and more, and share it all with my husband. After using one of Wendy Perrin’s WOW consultants for our Spain trip last year, I knew that I would call upon Wendy’s WOW list again to get the most out of our trip, and we were not disappointed. Wendy’s Panama contact Eric Sheets immediately referred me to the group in Panama City who arranged our trip; they were nothing but high quality experts who helped us plan the activities we wanted to enjoy while visiting Panama. We will only go through WendyPerrin.com when we plan future trips —her experts are highly knowledgeable, experienced, and responsive. Well worth the extra you pay vs. fighting the public crowds!!
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.
Bhutan, planned by Antonia Neubauer
CHRISTINE ZUFELT | MAY 8, 2016
Our trip to Bhutan, organized by Toni and her team, was wonderful. The pre-trip planning was thorough, and they were able to expedite our visas. Our Bhutanese guide, a long-time Myths and Mountains guide, was extremely knowledgeable and professional, and jumped on the opportunity to take in a spontaneous festival, which we appreciated. The itinerary was comprehensive, and the hotels excellent (Toni even upgraded us for 2 nights). I would recommend Toni with Myths and Mountains to anyone planning a trip to Bhutan.
Argentina, planned by Maita Barrenechea
PATRICK DOHERTY | MARCH 25, 2016
I cannot speak highly enough of the superlative trip to Argentina from which I just returned. I researched trips to Argentina extensively, and had several itineraries planned for me from named high-end travel firms. Then Wendy Perrin’s WOW List for 2016 came out, and I spent some time and effort duplicating my efforts with Maita Barrenechea. Maita and her firm are everything Wendy says of them. They are attentive to the client, and carefully crafted a trip based on our needs and desires. They understand the nuances of travel in Argentina. Transfers were seamless. The itinerary and choices of tour guides and hotels were impeccable. Someone from the firm, often Maita herself, responded to every one of my emails quickly and thoroughly. Maita reviewed the itinerary with me by phone a week prior to the trip, to confirm all details and recommendations. The firm emailed nearly every day during the trip (without being at all intrusive) to ensure that the hotels and tours were to my satisfaction. The trip was not inexpensive, but it was priceless and worth every peso.
Southeast Asia, planned by Andrea Ross
DEBORAH WU | MARCH 4, 2016
I read your WOW List as I was researching my first trip to SE Asia. I had previously already contacted a couple tour companies I had googled but neither one had gotten back to me in a timely manner and I was starting to get worried. Thanks to your website, I read about Andrea Ross of Journeys Within and I contacted the company on a whim. Andrea promptly replied! She turned out to be an absolute pleasure to work with in customizing our trip. She was so accommodating to my group’s endless changes (in # of ppl going, who was going, etc). And we had an absolutely amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience of a trip. We started in Bangkok at a work mtg and then started our tour from there. The highlights of the trip Andrea arranged for us were:
1. The elephant reserve in Chiang Mai. That was a day of wonder that we will never forget! Feeding/bathing/riding these gentle giants and playing with a 3 month old baby was absolutely amazing.
2. Angkor Wat – we felt honored to spend several days touring the complex with our guide Hoeum Vanith, who was impressive in knowledge/photography skills/humor/patience. We loved our time there.
3. Halong Bay – We did the Dragon legend indochina junk cruise and the views just left us speechless! The rooms on this boat were very luxurious and service on this boat was outstanding – great staff, great food/drinks, great activities.
Thanks to Journeys Within, despite the whirlwind schedule I had custom planned for us, every stop went like clockwork… Our guides were well versed and all had a great sense of humor, which we appreciated. We had wonderful accommodations, and the transport to/from each location made our trip a smooth dream come true. So, I wanted to say thank you for the suggestion. We would recommend Journeys Within to anyone traveling to SE Asia in a heartbeat! Thanks to them we have memories that will last us a lifetime.
Southeast Asia, planned by Sandy Ferguson
LLYCE TAMKIN | JANUARY 18, 2016
From the beginning, Sandy Ferguson really listened to what we said we wanted for our multi-generational trip – and made terrific suggestions to complement our must-dos.
Here’s one of the things I liked best: When you’re traveling with 12 people, age 10 to 78, and are extremely jet-lagged (13-hour time difference for most of our trip), it’s helpful to have someone who has listened what what is truly important, and has designed plans that accommodate everything from allergies to injuries to complete exhaustion.
Here’s the other thing I loved: The planning was flawless. There were no problems with internal flights, errant guides or drivers, hotel reservations that somehow disappeared. All of the arrangements worked like clockwork, which (having had a very different experience on other trips) was deeply appreciated.
The guides were, for the most part, excellent. While I wasn’t wild about our guide for the Cambodia part of the trip (he was okay, but not great), our guides in Thailand and Laos were memorable and added immeasurably to the overall experience.
Sandy and his team know their stuff. If you’re planning a trip to Southeast Asia, you couldn’t ask for anyone better!
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.
Arctic cruise, planned by Ashton Palmer
PHILIP GOLDMAN | AUGUST 26, 2015
Ashton and his team are second to none. They identified a range of incredible Arctic options for our family, and also provided a well-organized and systematic comparison of each trip (ship, itinerary, price, wraparound travel options, etc.). Emails and phone calls were responded to right away, and we received a comprehensive package of materials and trip guidelines that made it easy for us to make our way to a rather remote initial destination in Greenland. Ashton is clearly passionate about this work, listens to his clients, and is extremely service oriented. We could not recommend him highly enough.
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.
New Zealand, planned by Donna Thomas
DENNIS CASEY | MAY 7, 2015
Donna Thomas and her staff are truly amazing! My wife and I were completely delighted and impressed with their understanding of our wishes, flexibility, thoroughness and attention to detail. Donna visits NZ often and has met face-to-face with her recommended tour agents and accommodations’ staffs. She KNOWS New Zealand. She provides maps, offers suggestions to enhance traveling from place to place, makes travel, event and restaurant reservations and has an insider expertise that’s invaluable. Just one example: on our multiple trips on NZ rail service, she knew and reserved for us (on each leg) the best seats on the best side of the carriage in the best row for sightseeing, noise reduction, and carry-on storage. That’s knowing your product.
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.
Mexico, planned by Zach Rabinor
SANDRA AND ART COLLINS | DECEMBER 30, 2014
We just got back from a fabulous week in Puerto Vallarta that was arranged by Journey Mexico. Zach had upgraded our room at the Garza Blanca and it is a stunning property. The list of to do’s and restaurants off the property were fantastic ! We did not realize that PV is a foodie’s destination. If we go back to PV we will take Zach’s first recommendation on the property of Hacienda San Angel. The boutique hotel was quiet, beautiful, in the heart of PV overlooking the city and the food is gourmet. Next time we will listen to Zach when he suggests where to stay, rather than thinking we know better! We are planning our next winter getaway on the east coast of Mexico on the Caribbean and we cannot wait to see what hideaways they will find for us!
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.
Cruises, planned by Mary Jean Tully
ANNABEL PREFONTAINE | SEPTEMBER 15, 2014
Even though we live in Brisbane, Australia, we only ever use Mary Jean and her team to book our cruises. Lore makes it so easy to do everything by email and I always get a timely response to questions, regardless of time differences! They certainly do an excellent job of pricing and getting the best deal and are always happy to offer suggestions for individual port exploring. We wouldn’t use anyone else! Thanks Mary Jean, Lore, Salpy and the rest of the experienced and informed team. :-)