Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

Christmas and New Year’s Trips Loved By Your Fellow Travelers

by WendyPerrin.com | February 28, 2024

These creative and rewarding holiday-time trips have been some of our readers’ favorites…with a little help from our WOW List of top travel specialists. Read on for inspiration for your next holiday getaway, because we all need a little joy, right?


Sydney and Tasmania: “We boarded Sydney’s newest super yacht, The Jackson, for a night of dinner and music right in Sydney Harbour…”

The Sydney Harbour Bridge and city skyline from Milsons Point.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge and city skyline from Milsons Point. Photo: Tourism Australia

“We chose Stuart and Jacki to plan our Tasmanian adventure, but before heading to Tassie, we had an incredible evening enjoying the excitement of a Sydney New Year’s Eve Celebration that could have only been orchestrated by a true professional like Jacki. Jacki made all the arrangements and everything fell into place without even the slightest hitch. That evening, we boarded Sydney’s newest super yacht, The Jackson, for a night of dinner and music right in Sydney Harbour. I mean, seriously, we were front and center for the show. Dinner was a multi-course extravaganza with an open bar and Veuve Clicquot flowing as a live band played. We first were treated to the 9 pm family fireworks show and then witnessed the grand finale (I should say great beginning of 2024) as the most amazing fireworks we’ve ever seen exploded above us. We fell into bed in the wee hours of 1 January 2024, but were up again before long to catch a flight to Tasmania.

There we picked up our rental vehicle and began our six-day adventure around the island. We are confident that we saw places we would never have known existed without Jacki’s detailed plan. Jacki handled all our dinner reservations, and you can believe me when I say that we had some mighty fine food and wine, as well as super fun wine tastings. We even had a vodka tasting of vodka distilled from sheep whey. Our adventure ended in Hobart, where we had an excellent tour guide. Our fellow travelers had never used a member of Wendy Perrin’s WOW List but they quickly declared Jay, our guide, as the best guide they had ever had on any tour.

There is no way that we could have planned our incredible Australian adventure without the help of an experienced professional. When people tell me that they like to “discover places themselves” and don’t want help planning a trip, I think about how misguided this approach to travel is and how much they are missing, but some people firmly hold onto this idea and can’t be swayed. Too bad for them. We’ve had the most memorable trips with the help of The WOW List.” —Ruth Anne Lawson

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Sri Lanka: “We saw beautiful Buddha temples…hiked mountains with spectacular views, went on a jeep safari…”

Travelers taking a photo with the elephants on a safari in Sri Lanka.

Pam Greenstein and family saw elephants on their Sri Lanka safari.

“We had an incredible vacation to Sri Lanka over the Christmas holidays with our two daughters, ages 21 and 18. We had just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary and wanted to do something special with them. We were there for 2.5 weeks and stayed in 9 different boutique hotels. They were all fantastic! Our guide was absolutely outstanding. He added so much to the trip by getting us into various cultural events, restaurants, markets, and experiences. We never had to wait in line! He was also very caring with our girls when they were tired and needed a break. His passion for the country was instrumental in our learning about the culture and history, and eating incredible food.

We saw beautiful Buddha temples, rode the famous train to see the incredible topography, learned all about tea country, hiked mountains with spectacular views, went on a jeep safari and got up close elephants, leopards and water buffalos; rode bikes through rice paddies, had a wonderful massage and sauna, toured a gem mine to see how they make beautiful jewelry, and swam with the sea turtles. The highlight was our farm-to-table cooking class, picking fresh vegetables at the market and then making Sri Lankan rice and curry dishes with local chefs. It was fun and delicious.

We had various anniversary cards, cakes, and champagne when we arrived at our hotels, such a warm and caring gesture from the staff. This was our third trip working with Wendy and her team, and as usual, they did an outstanding job planning every detail.” —Pam Greenstein

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Peru: “We visited many Inca sites. We also had a day of whitewater rafting. The Urubamba market is open twice a week, so we took the opportunity to shop with the locals.”

The view of the Sacred Valley in Peru.

The Sacred Valley in Peru. Photo: Shutterstock

“My granddaughter and I just returned from our latest adventure, this time in Peru. This was our third New Year’s adventure organized by Allie, our other two experiences being the Galapagos Islands and Santiago/Easter Island, Chile. This trip’s primary objective was the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. We had a great 11 days.

Our base in the Sacred Valley was the Sol y Luna Hotel. Could not have asked for better accommodations. We visited many Inca sites. We also had a day of whitewater rafting. The Urubamba market is open twice a week, so we took the opportunity to shop with the locals. Being the new year, the flowers were aplenty, yellow, a color of note to the Peruvians at New Year. The highlight of the trip was Machu Picchu citadel. Pictures do not do it justice. The vastness of the site in the clouds and the river far below. It was beautiful!

On New Year’s Eve we had good intentions on staying up to ring in the new year, but Allie had other plans, gratefully and thankfully. The next morning we returned very early to the citadel. Allie was able to obtain tickets for Huayna Picchu. Tickets are in a limited number. We were very fortunate, as many people are disappointed when they find out tickets are not available. Allie had procured ours well in advance. My granddaughter climbed Huayna Picchu, also known as ‘the stairs of death,’ an experience she will never forget.

We returned to Cusco for a day, then it was off to the Amazon. Our flight was followed by a 45-minute powered canoe ride to the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, an eco lodge and our home for the next three days. We had a riverside cabana on the Madre del Dias River. In the mornings, we could hear howler monkeys and other unknown critters. It was the rainy season, so we had rain and thunderstorms daily. The weather did not hamper our activities, actually the weather was part of the experience. Although we had a twilight boat excursion and jungle canopy walks, our highlight was fishing on Lake Valencia. We went piranha fishing, followed by a shore lunch.

Unfortunately, our time had run out, we had to get back to the States. I said earlier that this was our third New Year’s adventure organized by Allie, which was my favorite. All were unique, different experiences and introduced us to some great people.” —Jim Stock

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Eastern Europe: “Our final day in Krakow was spent making pierogi with Marta in her home.”

Travelers making pierogi in Krakow.

The Nury family learn how to make pierogi. Photo: Traveler Doug Nury

“The current state of our world is disheartening. Our March 2023 travels (arranged by a Wendy Perrin WOW List agent) took us to Israel as tourists, never imagining that seven months later, Israel would be at war with Gaza. Since October 7, our family regularly discusses the conversations we had with our two tour guides, Daphne (Israel) and Isla (West Bank) about the conflict and how both of them want a peaceful but fair solution. Through our vast international travel experiences, our family has learned to seek as many perspectives as possible, particularly from non-US citizens on domestic and international issues. As a result, we jumped at the opportunity for Gwen to plan an Eastern European trip over Christmas, not only to enjoy the Christmas traditions and markets, but also to hear the views of Europeans very close to the Ukrainian/Russian conflict.

Gwen’s tour guides were the best part of our trip. During our first four days in Budapest, Julia explained to us the devastating history of the Jewish population and how close to 500,000 citizens were murdered during WWII. She also arranged an enjoyable boat tour (the boat had heat!) on the chilly Danube, pointing out architectural landmarks on the Buda and Pest side, while cruising on the river.

In Prague, our guide Christina spent the rainy morning with us inside the Strahov Monastery, an active monastery that houses the largest collection of Bibles in the world, and gave us a VIP tour of its two main halls, the Philosophical and Theological halls. In Poland, we toured Auschwitz privately with Wojtek Smolen, a tour guide with over 30 years of experience who had two family members imprisoned at the concentration camp. His narration and walking tour of Auschwitz and Birkenau was fact-based, with no political slant. The things I saw that day—the massive size and scope of the concentration camp, the vast piles of victims’ strands of hair, abandoned shoes and suitcases on display—will forever be tattooed on my brain.

Following Auschwitz, we drove back to Krakow and met Julie at the Krakow History Museum, which is located at Oscar Schindler’s factory, for a tour of Krakow before, during and after the Nazi occupation. The museum is well done and definitely worth visiting. Our final day in Krakow was spent making pierogi with Marta in her home. While rolling out dough, adding the fillings and pinching the pierogi before dropping it into the boiling water, she told us how she housed eight Ukrainians for two months at the onset of the war and is concerned about the conflict due to the proximity of Poland to Ukraine.

My husband and I hope that this trip punctuated the importance of visiting historical relics and learning from experts at the site about past events instead of watching a YouTube video for our teenagers (ages 19 and 16). It’s also essential to engage with people worldwide to gain insight on their perspective of US leadership and diplomacy.” —Beth Nury

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Galapagos, Andes, Amazon: “Allie even arranged for a private family photo shoot on the most beautiful beach!”

Travelers and a giant tortoise in the Galapagos.

Lauren Schor and family catch up with a giant tortoise in the Galapagos.

Allie did an amazing job planning our 13-day multi-generational family trip to Ecuador for Christmas 2023. We started planning almost a year in advance. Most accommodations are smaller, with about 20 rooms total, and I would definitely suggest planning this trip well in advance, as availability dictated the outline of our trip from the beginning of the planning process. And we LOVED all of the places we stayed!

Allie suggested destinations she thought were right for us, based on our travel style and age range. In the Galapagos Islands we opted for a land-based trip rather than a cruise, and although we didn’t get to see as many islands as we would have if we’d stayed on a boat, we were very happy with our choice. We spent four days in the Galapagos (two on land exploring Santa Cruz Island—so much to see and do) and two at sea exploring multiple islands in the archipelago. Allie even arranged for a private family photo shoot on the most beautiful beach!

Next stop was in the Andes mountains back on the mainland at an amazing hacienda where we really got a feel for the culture of the country. After a couple of days here, it was time for the grand finale, the Amazon rainforest. We all thought the Galapagos would be the main highlight of a trip to Ecuador, but the Amazon was just mind-blowing. Allie sent us to the most amazing eco-lodge in a very remote location where we spent three nights. Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Ecuador was very unique in that we were able to spend time in the Galapagos, the Andes Mountains and the Amazon all in one trip! Just be aware, we had a lot of very early mornings and very little downtime (naps during transit were common). Some of the excursions can be physically challenging if you don’t have great balance or stamina, especially combined with the strong equator sun. And there is a lot of moving around and time spent traveling from one place to another. However, it was all 100% worth it! Allie planned the trip of a lifetime for our family of eight!” —Lauren Schor

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Norway & Copenhagen: “We got to see the Christmas lights in Tivoli Gardens and took a ride on a wild roller coaster, wandered with some hot drinks…”

Kate Ogg and son Will see the northern lights from the driveway of their lodge in Alta.

Kate Ogg and son Will see the northern lights from the driveway of their lodge in Alta, Norway. Photo: Traveler Ryan Ogg

“My husband, Ryan Ogg and I (Kate Ogg), and our three children, Will (17), Charlotte (15), and Wyatt (12), went to Copenhagen, Denmark, and Oslo and Alta, Norway, from December 28 through January 6. Will is graduating from high school this spring, and so we let him choose the destination for a family vacation this year. He wanted to go someplace cold, snowy and dark, where we could do some fun outdoor adventures, and hopefully see the Northern Lights (which we had tried and failed to do in Iceland a couple of years ago).

It was a fantastic trip. Copenhagen was still pretty magical the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and we found some good restaurants despite a few of the ones we had hoped for being closed. We got to see the Christmas lights in Tivoli Gardens and took a ride on a wild roller coaster, wandered with some hot drinks, shopped and just enjoyed the festive vibe. The next day we started the day with a boat ride through the harbor and some of the bigger canals, which gave us a sense of the city’s geography as well as a lot of the architecture.

Oslo was all closed while we were there because it was both Sunday and New Year’s Eve, but a walk through the sculpture garden, to the Fram museum to see a polar expedition ship, and a chance to see the Nobel buildings and then along the harbor was a nice way to spend the day before a fancy dinner at our hotel (The Thief) and a midnight toast on the roof. On New Year’s morning in a snowstorm, we made it to Oslo airport and up to dark Alta. The Sorrisniva Hotel was fully booked by the time we planned our trip (August), so we stayed in a little fishing lodge in the woods, down the driveway from Tristin and Trine Restaurant and past some sled dogs.

It was absolutely charming, and best of all, the very first night as we walked out of our lodge to dinner, the sky lit up with northern lights that continued to brighten and dance until we gave up and went to bed. I credit our very dark spot in the woods for the fantastic viewing. Our adventures in snowmobiling, reindeer sledding, snowshoeing, and king crab fishing all showed us different parts of the landscape and culture in northern Norway, and it was just…magical. We truly loved it.” —Kate Ogg

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Austria & Czech Republic: “The cathedral tour was incredible! We were on the roof walking along the outside perimeter…”

Roof of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna captured from above.

Roof of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna captured from above. Photo: Julius Silver

Gwen planned a wonderful Christmas week in Vienna, Bratislava and Prague. Both hotels—the Sans Souci in Vienna and the Andaz in Prague—were great choices. Both were near the center but in a quieter area. The rooms, staff and breakfasts were lovely.

Our private guided walking tour of Vienna was enjoyable. The cathedral tour was incredible! We were on the roof walking along the outside perimeter and inside the ceiling about the nave. A truly interesting and unique experience. The food tour was fun and enjoyable: We went to five different locations and got to sample different Viennese specialties. We enjoyed the outstanding museums and lovely shopping streets. We loved the tour of the magnificent Schönbrunn Palace. Another day we took a train to Bratislava and were met on the platform by the guide who showed us this interesting city.

The train to Prague was easy. We walked everywhere in Prague—Old Town, Jewish Quarter, Charles Bridge, Wenceslas Square. The Strahov Monastery library and Prague Castle complex were impressive. We were so lucky that the line to the remarkable St. Vitus Cathedral was quick and we got to see it. The Lobkowicz Palace is a treasure—we could have spent hours there.

Gwen suggested terrific restaurants, including two outstanding meals at Michelin-starred restaurants Field and La Degustation in Prague. It was a wonderful vacation—the days spent in each location were just right.” —Susan Sullivan

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Panama: “We stayed in the old part of Panama City—very charming and beautifully decorated for the holidays.”

The old town of Panama City

Casco Viejo of Panama City. Photo: Shutterstock

“My husband, 21-year-old son, and I had a fabulous time in Panama, organized by Pierre and his team. We were late in planning the trip for the week after Christmas but Pierre was able to help us with the right recommendations and accommodations. We stayed in the old part of Panama City—very charming and beautifully decorated for the holidays. Seeing the Panama Canal was the highlight of the trip for us—an absolute must-do for anyone visiting. We could not visit the private exhibit halls because they were unexpectedly closed, due to no fault of Pierre’s, but he was kind enough to treat us to a dinner to make up for it. We also visited monkey island (taking a boat next to big ships in the canal was awesome) and the sloth sanctuary.

We visited Boquete in the mountains for 3 nights and absolutely loved it. It still retains the charm of cloud forests without the commercialization of Costa Rica’s Monteverde. Highlights there included an adventurous 4×4 jeep ride to the top of Baru Volcano for sunrise and seeing both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, a fun cooking experience with the chef of Ngadri restaurant, hanging bridges, and tour of a coffee plantation.

We celebrated New Year’s in Panama City at one of the rooftop restaurants with great music and an excellent multi-course dinner and Champagne. Very memorable. All 3 of us really enjoyed Panama and look forward to going back again.” —Tina Hunt

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Egypt: “On our last night of the cruise, we went sand surfing in Aswan. It was a blast!”

Travelers on a camel ride near the Pyramids of Giza.

Ashley Point and her family on a camel ride near the Pyramids of Giza.

“Wow! What an amazing trip. We just returned from Egypt. Jim, Glenda, and their team did an extraordinary job planning our 2-week trip. Our family of 5, including 3 kids aged 6-11 years old, started in Cairo with the Pyramids of Giza (including camel and ATV rides around the pyramids). Our guide, Eman Shawky Mahmoud, was wonderful. She is pursuing her PhD in archaeology and knows everything about Egypt. Our 11-year-old had just completed ancient history and he asked so many questions and she answered them all. For three days we toured pyramids, museums, etc. We all enjoyed climbing into two pyramids. We also did a Bellies en Route walking food tour. It was wonderful to see and taste the city with the help of a local. We stayed in connecting rooms at the Four Seasons. The food, service and rooms were top-notch.

After 4 days we flew to Luxor and met with our second guide, Bishoy George. He has two children and knew how to accommodate our needs when the kids were tired. He too is an expert on the history and culture of Egypt. We stayed at the Winter Palace. It was beautiful. The kids woke up Christmas morning to stockings filled with candy and gifts from the hotel!

After two nights, we boarded the M/S Farah and cruised the Nile. This smaller boat (120 passengers) was perfect for our family. The pool was a nice distraction after a long day of touring. They offered to make special meals for the kids, but they weren’t needed because the kids loved all of the dishes served. The staff on the Farah were the best, with their towel creations each night, ice cream every afternoon, and very clean accommodations. George met us at each port and showed us around each city. He answered all of our questions about the history, culture, politics, and people of Egypt. On our last night of the cruise, we went sand surfing in Aswan. It was a blast! The next day we flew to Abu Simbel, then back to Cairo to enjoy two more days with Eman at the GEM and Islamic Cairo.

Jim addressed all of our safety concerns, but we trusted that he knew Egypt best, and he did. We never felt unsafe. The Egyptians were kind and friendly and happy to share their beautiful country with us. We are already booking our next trip with a WOW planner!” —Ashley Point

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Paris: “A trip fit for royalty…”

Versailles palace, Paris.

Versailles Palace, Paris. Photo: Shutterstock

“We had three weeks to plan a Paris trip with our adult children after our Israel trip was canceled. Jennifer, a WOW planner through Wendy Perrin, created a trip fit for royalty. We stayed in a gorgeous, boutique hotel in the Marais district and had private car and tour guides for the Louvre, Versailles, Chateau, Jewish and History Tours. We saw the Eiffel Tower with a private tour, the Dior Exhibit at the Foundation, we had an amazing time.

Our WOW Moment started with a car picking us up at noon, taking us to an unknown destination which was a fabulous restaurant, Shabour. The owner told us that since we couldn’t go to Israel, this was a Jerusalem-Paris dining experience. We sat at the bar to watch the chefs prepare a delicious, fun, memorable lunch. It was awesome.

Jennifer and staff were in touch with us daily. They helped with dinner ideas and anything we needed or asked for. We had a concierge service at the airport on both ends, making it easy to maneuver. I can’t say enough about Jennifer and her staff who gave us a perfect trip in such a short period of time. We have traveled the world with Wendy Perrin’s WOW List. It is the best way and the only way we travel.” —Adrienne, Phil, Lindsey, Billy Goldberg

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Australia: “We were able to have a private snorkeling trip to the Great Barrier Reef—both the inner and outer reefs…”

The Bengtzen family on a private yacht at Great Barrier Reef, Australia.

The Bengtzen family spent a day snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef from a private yacht.

“New Year’s in Australia had been a dream of mine since I was 14. We began in Sydney, where we stayed at the Shangri-La hotel. It gave us an amazing view for the fireworks, which were absolutely incredible. It was perfect for us and our adult kids to watch and not have to fight the crowds.

From Sydney we went to Hayman Island in the Whitsundays islands. This was a one-of -a-kind experience. From here we were able to have a private snorkeling trip to the Great Barrier Reef—both the inner and outer reefs. Restaurants on the island were fantastic, and the beach is heaven. From Hayman we went to Noosa, where we had an incredible experience kayaking on the ocean. The shopping and food were wonderful and gave us a great end to our trip.

None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t found Wendy Perrin and her referral of Stuart. Stuart and Jacki then took our dates, our family info, and planned a once-in-a-lifetime trip for us. I cannot recommend them enough.” —Keri Bengtzen

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Belize: “We were looking for a Christmas-week alternative to our typical beach-resort experience where we stay at the hotel and rarely venture out.”

Turquoise water in the Caribbean Caye Caulker island, Belize.

The Caribbean island of Caye Caulker, Belize. Photo: Shutterstock

“Just back from a wonderful week in Belize with our adult daughters (23 and 25). Patricia, Rachael and their team did a great job. They exemplify why I use your planners—they really listened and planned accordingly, were easy to communicate with, have in-country expertise and contacts (Rachael met us at the airport!), and were able to adjust on the fly.

Everything they planned was just what we asked for. We were looking for a Christmas-week alternative to our typical beach-resort experience where we stay at the hotel and rarely venture out. Instead, we had a 2-bedroom villa in a small hotel right on the lagoon, with day trips tailored to our desires. That first morning when I opened my door and walked 20 steps in my PJs to the completely quiet beach and into the still, clear waters was magical. All alone in paradise.

We snorkeled, zip lined, floated on the river, visited a spice farm and learned all about cacao and chocolate. We also relaxed on the beach, ate lots of ceviche, and discovered a new taste for rum.

Rachael planned a lovely WOW Moment—a private concert with up-and-coming Belizian vocalist Kylon Eiley on our villa patio, complete with margaritas.

The snorkeling guides were really great and considerate, especially to those who were bit anxious. The guide made sure we saw the sharks and turtles. On our second snorkel day, we saw a jeweled damselfish, and that alone was worth the trip. How that can exist in nature is amazing. And the corals were spectacular. Rachael had insisted that we add that second half-day snorkel to our trip, and I was glad she did.

As Belize is an English-speaking country, that made it very easy to communicate with everyone. We also enjoyed learning from our guides and drivers about the different cultures. Everyone we interacted with was kind and keen to make sure we were happy.” —Kathryn Barden

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Colombia: “On our final day, we visited the very vibrant, and exciting, Comuna 13, where urban art and music are thriving.”

Sliding in Medellin's hilly Comuna 13 neighborhood.

Lynn Herrick’s son tries out a slide in Medellin’s hilly Comuna 13 neighborhood. Photo: Traveler Lynn Herrick

“This was a family trip with my three college-aged kids and my husband. So, we wanted a bit of history, a bit of adventure, a bit of culture and a lot of fun. Our trip started in Cartagena with the best tour guide ever, Will. Not only was Will’s dad the mayor of Cartagena, so we got to visit town hall, but he quickly got to know each of us and tailored our tours to our personalities. The kids even scheduled a secret outing with him to surprise me with emerald earrings for my birthday!

In Cartagena we ate street food we would have never tried, learned salsa dancing, took a cooking class with a cantankerous French chef and made the best ceviche ever, went canoeing in the mangroves, learned to drum with a local group, and participated in a rum and cacao tasting. We also fell in love with this hot, romantic, beautiful Caribbean town.

Next on the itinerary was the coffee region. We visited the Wax Palm trees, zip-lined, rafted, and spent a special morning at a coffee plantation. We all loved learning about the coffee industry in Colombia, enjoyed the delicious lunch that was served, and agreed the organic coffee was special.

We spent our last three nights in Medellin. While we learned about Colombia’s violent history throughout the trip, this was our opportunity to visit the countryside and hear from farmers how both the left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries imposed themselves on the farming communities and how many fled to Medellin during this time. The next day in Medellin, we took the cable cars to visit the barrio and see how those who escaped the civil war in the countryside built homes into the hills and created new communities. On our final day, we visited the very vibrant, and exciting, Comuna 13, where urban art and music are thriving. Throughout Colombia we ate the most delicious food, fruits and drinks. We will be craving coconut lemonade for a long time!” —Lynn Herrick

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Australia: “A Christmas Carol Concert at the Opera House…a harbor boat trip with lunch and swimming, the Sydney Bridge Climb…”

A view of The Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia. Photo: Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

Stuart and Jacki prepared an amazing itinerary for our trip to Australia in December. Jacki and the driver met us at the Sydney airport on a Sunday morning at 7am—how amazing to be met by the person who made our arrangements! She suggested the Langham Sydney, and we would be using it as a home base, as we went to Uluru (Longitude 131—an amazing hotel that even prepared a bed outside if you wanted to sleep under the stars), back to Sydney, followed by a trip to the Blue Mountains (Spicers Sangoma Retreat), and then a final 5-night stay in Sydney. Our guide in the Blue Mountains was Tim, and he knew every back road and all the locations for a beautiful view. Our WOW Moment was a sunset boat ride with drinks, and the weather was perfect for it.

The children and grandchildren arrived for the last 4 nights, and she had planned a great itinerary for all of us (ages 2 – 70)—a Christmas Carol Concert at the Opera House, drivers for everything (the driver even took a video of us from above taking the Bondi Beach walk—all 9 of us), a harbor boat trip with lunch and swimming, the Sydney Bridge Climb, a private tour of the Rocks, an Aussie Backyard Tour at the zoo, and a lovely day in Hobart, visiting Russell Falls and Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.

Our granddaughter needed a doctor, and Jacki provided a list of doctors (outside of regular hours and during the Christmas holiday!) and Tyler (the Langham’s concierge that day) made repeated calls to get us an appointment. Both Jacki and Stuart followed up with her status. The parents were very impressed with Children’s Hospital in Sydney where she was treated, and we went on with our trip. We will be using Stuart and Jacki again for our next trip to Australia—they just made it so easy!” —Denise Staal

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Malta: “The island itself was gorgeous, with dramatic views, romantic vistas and stunning architecture.”

Ancient walls and streets of Valetta, the capital of Malta. Photo: Shutterstock

Valletta, Malta. Photo: Shutterstock

“My girlfriend and I travelled to Malta for eight days from after Christmas through the New Year. Quite simply the trip was extraordinary, and we cannot recommend Malta, and Damon and his team, more highly. Malta is an extraordinary place, with magnificent history, art, culture, food, scenery and people. To start with, Damon spent a significant amount of time prior to the trip working iteratively with us to plan the itinerary based on various ideas he proposed and what we wanted to do. He really distinguished himself with his ability to figure out from our conversations exactly the kind of experiences and touring we wanted to do. He gave equal time, thought and care to the choice of lodging and restaurants. Our guide executed the plan wonderfully, making it even better as we got to know one another. Her knowledge of the history and culture of Malta gave us a real window into the lives of the Maltese people past and present. We had a number of truly extraordinary experiences, such as making a local delicacy and having lunch at an olive grove, a private tour of St. John’s Cathedral including viewing the stunning Caravaggio by ourselves, meeting a restorer of 18th-century organs and 16th-century art and seeing their work, dinner with some of the current Knights of Malta, touring a private home in the magical walled city of Mdina and an ATV tour followed by a private seaside picnic in Gozo. The highlight of the trip for me was exploring World War II in Malta, including a private visit with a remarkable local collector of World War II artifacts, a private tour of the Lascaris War Rooms and seeing the tunnels and chambers in which the Maltese sheltered during the Axis bombings. Our guide also spent time showing us and providing us with valuable perspective on other Maltese sights such as the Hypogeum and megalithic temples, which are older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids. The island itself was gorgeous, with dramatic views, romantic vistas and stunning architecture. We were particularly glad to be there during the bustling holiday season where many Maltese were celebrating and even saw the local Eurovision winner perform on New Year’s Eve.”—Larry Neubauer

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Australia & New Zealand: “A helicopter tour, kayaking, a day at a 36,000-hectare sheep station (including an elegant lunch with the owners)…”

Wilson Island Great Barrier Reef Australia

Wilson Island, Great Barrier Reef.

“Our family of four, parents and two daughters in their 20s, traveled to Australia and New Zealand for 3+ weeks. Quite frankly, it would have been impossible to put together such a wonderful trip without the guidance, counseling, and bookings of our travel consultants. Everything went without a hitch, which is saying a lot for an almost-four-week itinerary.

We had initially thought we would only visit Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, but Stuart and Jackie persuaded us to tour Queensland and the rain forests, snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef, fly to Uluru to ride camels and experience the deep Outback, and take tours out of the cities to spots we know most tourists miss. The same held true in New Zealand, where Sarah and Sara staged a helicopter tour, kayaking, a day at a 36,000-hectare sheep station (including an elegant lunch with the owners at their home on the station), and a three-night stay at a beautiful two-bedroom cottage on a private estate winery on the North Island. We are most appreciative.” —Nancy Brooks

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Portugal & Spain: “A Christmas to remember forever and ever!”

Sao Pedro do Corval, Portugal

Sao Pedro do Corval, Portugal. Photo: Michelle Bodine

“Our family just returned from the most magical and well-planned trip to Portugal and Spain for Christmas and New Year’s! We were thrilled to have traveled at this time of year, and especially in Europe where the Christmas lights, trees and markets made it even better. We took our four children and their spouses and four grandchildren, so fourteen all together. Wendy lined us up with the perfect people to help us plan and then succeed on a 14-day excursion with 14 people, big and small, in Portugal and Spain. Gonçalo and Patrícia were phenomenal with their hotel accommodations, food and restaurant recommendations, tour guides that fit our needs of grandchildren ages 6, 3, 1 1/2 and 3 months, and activities that enriched our trip. The itinerary was just what we wanted! It truly was perfect in every way. There was even flexibility, so if we needed to cancel a restaurant because we were going on a food tour and would not be hungry, we could. The amount of scheduled activities and free time to explore more was perfect. Gonçalo and Patricia are experts in what they do, and I would trust them again to plan the most satisfying travel experience for my family! They both took the precautions necessary to help us feel safe with Covid and continued to help us along our journey with lost luggage and further restaurant recommendations. We could not have done this trip without our trip planners, Gonçalo and Patricia. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts for planning a Christmas to remember forever and ever!” —Michelle Bodine

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Chile: “We had a private stargazing evening, hosted by French astronomer Alain Maury…”

Alain Maury’s SPACE Observatory, Chile.

Alain Maury’s SPACE Observatory, Chile. Photo: Barbara Schoenfeld

Tom designed a Christmas/New Year’s trip to Chile for our family of six. He rose to the challenge of transporting us down and back up half the length of the continent. He organized visits to both Patagonia and the Atacama Desert, securing rooms at Hotel Las Torres in Patagonia and Explora Atacama. Both were excellent choices for their top-notch adventure staff and boutique experience.

He pretty much had to plan three trips because we originated in San Francisco, New York, and New England, and we had three different time frames. He and his staff handled the transportation logistics smoothly. And I’m not just saying this because I’m writing a review for Wendy’s WOW List, but the best part of the trip was the Wendy WOW Moment. We had a private stargazing evening, hosted by French astronomer Alain Maury, at his observatory called SPACE (San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations). Above is the photo he took of us in front of one of his telescopes. Plus we have a video he recorded on my son’s cell phone where he described what we were seeing on the Sea of Tranquility on the moon—particularly the smudge where the US Apollo 11 landed.” —Barbara Schoenfeld

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London: “Alex was great with the kids and his scavenger hunt in The British Museum was a real blast!”

Big Ben Clock in London, United Kingdom.

Big Ben Clock in London, United Kingdom. Photo: Shutterstock

“We recently returned from a trip to London, with our family of 10, that we had planned with Jonathan. We traveled over the Christmas holidays with our children and four grandchildren, aged 10-13. Jonathan and Katie’s attention to detail was superb! We stayed at the One Aldywich Hotel in Covent Garden. The hotel was amazing in every way! Our kids each had a two-bedroom suite to accommodate their families of four.

We arrived the day after Christmas, and the kids had gifts waiting for them in each room with their names on them. The adults all had Christmas stockings filled with treats. All of the rooms were beautiful, and it was a perfect choice for people traveling with families. Our guide, Alex, was with us for four days. He and Olivia, our driver, exceeded all of our expectations. Alex was great with the kids and his scavenger hunt in The British Museum was a real blast! A highlight of the trip was traveling to Hampton Court to learn all about Henry VIII and his six wives. Later that same evening, we went to the theater to see Six, which is about all of the wives. The kids also loved their visit to the Chelsea Stadium. Everything went like clockwork, from our arrival in London to the time we left for home.” —Ellen and Jeffrey Weiner

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Panama: “We were picked up in a Panama school bus—Diablo Rojo—with all the neon lights flashing and the salsa music playing!”

National Theatre of Panama, Casco Antiguo, Panama City.

National Theatre of Panama, Casco Antiguo, Panama City. Photo: Shutterstock

“Even though our trip was short notice and over the New Year holidays, Pierre put together a really wonderful and memorable trip for us to Panama. We started out in Panama City, where we were given our WOW Moment—and what a Moment it was! We were picked up in a Panama school bus—Diablo Rojo—with all the neon lights flashing and the salsa music playing! It took us from the hotel to the Historic Old City where we had a great typical Panamanian dinner at a local restaurant, then enjoyed the view from a rooftop bar with a glass of wine. Finally, back to the hotel on Diablo Rojo! What a fun outing!!

On Christmas Day we toured an agro-organic farm called Hacienda Mamecillo, where the family produces all their food organically, as well as a special coffee. It was so interesting and impressive. The meal they served was, honestly, one of the best meals we have ever had—worthy of any fine dining anywhere.

Our last destination was the Mount Totumas Ecolodge. Jeff, the owner, and his staff could not have been nicer. Panoramic views of the cloud forest from the main lodge deck were amazing and variety of birds spectacular, all at arms reach.The local expert birding guide, Reinaldo, is highly skilled with sharp eyes. During our nature walks, we were rewarded with many sightings added to our “life list.” Each day Alma, the head chef, prepared tasty meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was fine dining in a remote cloud forest retreat.” —Sally Boland

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Paris: “We had a front-row seat to the Eiffel Tower and the fireworks over the Arc de Triomphe.”

Paris, France

The Eiffel Tower overlooking the Seine. Photo by Fernando Grilli

“We had a wonderful trip planned by Jennifer. She and her team planned some really great activities that our kids would enjoy, including the Retro Sidecar tour and the macaron-making class. I loved how her team texted our itinerary with addresses, phone numbers, and any museum/attraction tickets each day, so that we had everything handy. The dinners that were suggested were yummy. And our suite and adjoining room at the Hotel Grand Powers were absolutely perfect for celebrating New Year’s in Paris. We had a front-row seat to the Eiffel Tower and the fireworks over the Arc de Triomphe. It was an incredibly smooth experience in Paris, which is what we needed for such a short trip.” —Elizabeth Golden

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Argentina: “We saw such varied things, from the sun-kissed vineyards of Mendoza to the grand colonial architecture in Salta…”

vineyards with snow-capped mountains in background Mendoza Argentina

Mendoza, Argentina. Photo: Shutterstock

Maita and Florencia gave us a truly memorable week in Argentina that began 4 hours after the World Cup-winning soccer team arrived home at EZE airport! I had many concerns about traveling over the Christmas holiday: the crowds, extra expense and pent-up travel demand from Covid. Despite all these obstacles, we had 4 great internal flights that Florencia booked and checked us in for all along the way, 5 terrific hotels and our guides were superlative. We saw such varied things, from the sun-kissed vineyards of Mendoza to the grand colonial architecture in Salta to the whole area around Purmamarca, a real discovery area for us. Ending at Iguassu falls was just perfect. We had to throw Maita and team some curve balls at the last minute: such as securing my husband and his 80-year-old mother last-minute back-up plane reservations and transfers from Ushuaia to meet me in BA on 12/20. They were able to help them on the run. We just loved our trip and we can’t wait to go back and discover more of remarkable Argentina! Next time: Lake district, glaciers and Patagonia! And maybe even more Purmamarca!

Travelers really should book all the internal air through Maita. The Aerolineas site does not work from the USA. Also, the private driver for crossing over to the Brazil side of Iguassu Falls is a must, the crowds were crazy there and we could not wait to get back to the relative calm of the Argentina side. Our driver Alex did a great job in tough conditions. Staying at the Melia right there is worth the extra money times 10!”—Mary Laronge

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London: “A dinner river cruise on the Thames to ring in the New Year with Big Ben and the London Eye as the backdrop for the most spectacular fireworks display!”

christmas tree by London Tower Bridge

London’s Tower Bridge at Christmas. Photo: London Perfect

“We are just back from a 2-week stay in London over the most magical time of year! Zara helped my family of four (2 adult children) plan an amazingly festive and fun time in London! She assisted with everything from show tickets, tea and dinner reservations. Her team was always prompt in responding to any inquiry I had and was very professional from start to finish. Our “wow moment” was a dinner river cruise on the Thames to ring in the New Year with Big Ben and the London Eye as the backdrop for the most spectacular fireworks display! This is my second time using someone from Wendy’s WOW List and I can’t wait to plan another trip with her recommendations!” —Lillian Chung

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Turkey: “It was chilly but the sun was shining. In addition, there weren’t large crowds even at the most frequently visited sites.”

garden restaurant at Four Seasons Sultanahmet Istanbul Turkey overlooking mosque

The Four Seasons Sultanahmet, Turkey. Photo: Four Seasons

Karen and her team did an excellent job planning our trip to Turkey. Every transfer and tour pick-up was prompt. The drivers and guides were excellent. We loved the hotels—The Four Seasons on the Bosporus was elegant and comfortable and the view spectacular.

Late December/early January turned out to be a great time to travel to Turkey. It was chilly (although luckily for us, it was a few degrees above normal, at least in Istanbul) but the sun was shining. In addition, there weren’t large crowds even at the most frequently visited sites.

We enjoyed the restaurants that Karen recommended, and appreciate that she switched restaurants between two evenings to avoid a traffic jam due to a soccer game being played along the route from our hotel to one restaurant. The tour plan was perfect and we maximized our time sightseeing. I would definitely recommend Karen to anyone going to Turkey.” —Susan Sullivan

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Australia: “On Christmas Day we drove the Great Ocean Road and were completely surprised with a WOW Moment…”

Aerial view of the tip of Mornington Peninsula.

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Photo: Shutterstock

“We just returned from an Australian holiday trip with our two teenage daughters. Stuart and Jacki put together a phenomenal itinerary with something for everyone! We began our trip in Melbourne. On Christmas Day we drove the Great Ocean Road and were completely surprised with a WOW Moment of a helicopter ride over the 12 Apostles. It was breathtaking! The next day we drove through the wine country of the Yarra Valley—with tastings, lots of animal sightings, and delicious food—followed by a two-night stay at the Jackalope Hotel in the Mornington Peninsula area, about an hour-and-a-half from Melbourne. The Mornington Peninsula was also filled with award-winning wine and food, along with charming little beachside towns.

After a few days of the relaxed area and beautiful hotel, we flew up north to Cairns and stayed in the coastal town of Port Douglas. This is an ideal location to anchor a trip to both the Great Barrier Reef and with the Daintree Rainforest. We had a magical first day snorkeling around the reef, followed by a day in the rainforest with our guide, Guy. Both days were incredibly special, where we created memories that will never be forgotten. Our last stop was Sydney and the incredible new Crown Sydney Hotel. The three full days in Sydney were action-packed with sightseeing, a behind-the-scenes private tour of the famous fish market, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, shopping, and a private Opera House tour, along with a show. After our 12-day trip, we are exhausted but definitely feel like this was a trip of a lifetime!” —Jennifer Mann

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Chile: “Our pilot, Benjamin, was great fun and anxious to show us private spots, tucked away in the mountains, that had phenomenal views and absolutely no other foot traffic.”

Traveler Jeannie inside the helicopter.

Traveler Jeannie inside the helicopter. The Lake District, Chile. Photo: Jeannie Mullen

Tom planned a fantastic two-week holiday hiking trip to a part of Chile that I had never been to, the Lake District south of Santiago—an outdoor enthusiast’s playground. Of the many activities offered —hiking, floating, white water rafting, cultural visits, among others—I would say that the heli-hiking in Pucon with my guide, Patricio Garrido, who is also a professional photographer, was a standout. Our pilot, Benjamin, was great fun and anxious to show us private spots, tucked away in the mountains, that had phenomenal views and absolutely no other foot traffic. What a phenomenal experience. It’s like we had the world to ourselves for the day. This was the third time that I have used Tom for trip planning in South America. He chose terrific properties that offered impeccable service and every possible amenity. Vira Vira, an AndBeyond property, was exquisite.” —Jeannie Mullen

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Mexico: “What a gorgeous resort with a beautiful beach just 45 minutes south of the Cancun airport.”

Empty beach at Caribbean sea in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Mexico. Photo: Shutterstock

“We have just returned from a trip to Playa del Carmen and enjoyed a fabulous week at the Palmaia, House of Aia. What a gorgeous resort with a beautiful beach just 45 minutes to an hour south of the Cancun airport. Our trip was planned by Zach’s team. They arranged private transportation to/from the airport and our hotel accommodations. We had two beautiful rooms for our family of five and enjoyed the ocean views from the 3rd and 4th floors. This was a trip for just relaxing, so we didn’t plan any excursions. We enjoyed the beach and pools—a perfect vacation. The staff all wore masks and we spent most of our time outside, which made it feel more comfortable. The hotel is an all-inclusive serving top-shelf drinks, and the food was mostly vegan (though you could get seafood and meat at a few restaurants). The most delicious food we have eaten on vacation. We plan to return!” —Michele and Ken Krisko

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Belize: “Our family of five, with our three active teenagers, spent four nights in the jungle, then seven nights at the beach.”

Xunantunich Mayan ruins in Belize

Xunantunich Mayan ruins. Photo: Absolute Belize

“We almost never return to the same country. As we confronted the possibility of trying to travel between Christmas and New Year’s, we decided to make an exception to our ordinary rule and return to Belize. The wisdom of that choice was completely validated by our experience the second time around. First, Patricia planned an excellent itinerary, matched by superior management of all logistics. Our family of five, with our three active teenagers, spent four nights in the jungle, then seven nights at the beach. While based in the jungle, we kept our three teenagers busy with horseback riding, cave tubing and visiting the Mayan ruins at Xunantunich. We enjoyed fantastic gourmet meals and even squeezed in some time at the spa and the pool. Then, at the beach, we enjoyed leisurely days at the pool and also snorkeling, fishing, and barbequing on the beach.

The highlight of the itinerary was the unexpected WOW Moment. Knowing that we have a strong interest in learning about local culture, Patricia arranged with the Black&White Garifuna Restaurant to come to our hotel for a private, immersive evening focused on the Garifuna Afro-Caribbean culture. We were treated to a magical singing and dancing performance, and then got dancing lessons and drumming lessons. We also received short, digestible lessons on Garifuna history, language, holidays, and cuisine. After we wore ourselves out dancing, we were guided to a beautifully laid table on the beach and served an extraordinary 6-course private dinner prepared by O Restaurant at Las Terrazas resort. While we dined, the singing and dancing continued. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

All in all, the trip was an A+. We had quality time as a family, and interesting, memorable experiences in a beautiful, diverse country. Thanks to Patricia for making it all so easy. We are very grateful.” —Robyn Smyers

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Mexico: “We were upgraded to their Tower Suite, which not only came with an enormous amount of space on two levels, but its own private elevator…”

Colorful buildings in San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato, Mexico

Colorful buildings in San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato, Mexico. Photo: Shutterstock

“When we decided on a family vacation in Mexico for three generations, plus a pre-vacation vacation for my husband and me, we wanted to make sure we navigated all the ins and outs while feeling safe and still having fun. Zach and his colleagues came through on both counts.

The first stop for my husband and me was San Miguel de Allende. While we had initially hesitated to stay at the Rosewood because it was not in the center of town, Zach convinced us this hotel would be excellent, and he was correct. Thanks to him we were upgraded to their Tower Suite, which not only came with an enormous amount of space on two levels, but its own private elevator, three outdoor patios, and two butlers! Everything about this hotel was magical, and we cannot wait to return. The tours Zach arranged in San Miguel were excellent and included a market tour and cooking class with a chef, and an in-depth tour of San Miguel and Guanajuato. (Zach had difficulty convincing us to spend the time on the day tour of Guanajuato, but we are so glad he did; it is a lovely, interesting city, and we were sorry we had not allocated an extra day or two to explore there.)

The remainder of our trip was spent in Puerto Vallarta with the entire family. We had mentioned to Zach that we wanted a private villa. We also had very specific requirements for the villa: directly on the water, large enough so we would all have our own space, fully staffed (and the staff vaccinated), close to activities, and located an easy distance from the center of Puerto Vallarta. Our villa, Casa Demae II, is in a gated complex, and was exquisite and outstanding in every way: spacious bedrooms (all ensuite, and most with balconies) with views of the pool and Banderas Bay, incredible common areas, infinity pool with a swim-up bar, jacuzzi, outdoor dining areas (from where we saw whales most days), streaming services—you name it, it was there! The staff were excellent and always helpful; what a treat to always have, without asking, coffee ready in the morning and (for the adults), margaritas ready in the evening! Our chef was fantastic—we actually cancelled two dinner reservations because the food at the villa was so wonderful. Another very nice touch was simply putting the dirty clothes in the closet basket, and having clean ones reappear that afternoon. This was like having our own private hotel…but better.

As in San Miguel, the activities planned were second to none. Everyone is still talking about the whale watching tour and the day on the private catamaran around Banderas Bay with complete crew and a chef. Also, because we had the benefit of entry to the Beach Club, the staff arranged for us to jet ski, paddleboard, and snorkel only a short distance away. There is no way we could have put together this trip on our own. From the moment my husband and I landed in Guanajuato until the entire family boarded our flight home, absolutely everything was handled efficiently and worked smoothly.” —Vanessa Hulme

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Costa Rica: “The highlights for us were rappelling down multiple waterfalls, a wave runner/snorkeling experience, and a zipline…”

Rio Celeste Waterfall photographed in Costa Rica

Costa Rica. Photo: Shutterstock

“We had been to Costa Rica before but with Covid we decided it would be better to have the assistance of a travel specialist, even though we were knowledgeable about the country. Having a resource that was up-to-date on all of the Covid requirements, and that helped us with testing and ensured we had a safe and fun trip, was invaluable. Pierre was extremely mindful of our concerns and confirmed that all of our arrangements met with our requirements. Our flights completely changed as a result of Covid, and Pierre and his team immediately set to work changing literally all of our hotels and activities. The trip was with our two college-age children, and the highlights for us were rappelling down multiple waterfalls, a wave runner/snorkeling experience, and a zipline tour next to the Arenal volcano. All of the hotels we stayed at had amazing staff that not only were very focused on Covid protocols but were so kind and engaging, it just added to the trip. Pierre coordinated all of our transportation, which alleviated any potential stress with getting to our various locations. Thank you for making our trip spectacular!” —Julie Kelly

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Florence and Rome: “The highlight of our tour was a truffle hunt, followed by lunch (made with our truffles) and wine tasting at a Tuscan vineyard…”

An autumn landscape in the Chianti region of Tuscany hills in the surroundings of Radda in Chianti.

Chianti region vineyard, Tuscany, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

“We had a great experience with Jennifer and her staff. We planned a trip to Italy over Christmas and New Year’s. We were afraid Christmas and New Year’s day would be ‘dead days’ with nothing open and nothing to do, but Jennifer was able to find us really interesting activities. On Christmas day we had a cooking class with a local chef and then sat down to Christmas lunch with her family, just outside of Florence. On New Year’s Day, we had a golf cart tour of Rome. She booked us walking tours in both Florence and Siena and our guides were outstanding. Finally, the highlight of our tour was a truffle hunt, followed by lunch (made with our truffles) and wine tasting at a Tuscan vineyard. We had one tour that went awry, but within minutes of contacting Jennifer’s staff, they had gotten us a full refund. Overall, great experience.” —Jennifer Rosenberg

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Galapagos: “When you added the almost unbelievable geology and wildlife of the Galapagos to the outstanding ship and crew, it was magic…”

Horseback riding at Hacienda Cusin, Ecuador

Horseback riding at Hacienda Cusin, Ecuador. Photo: Myths and Mountains

“What are the can’t-miss parts of our trip?

1) The Galapagos cruise with Ecoventura (we were on the Theory)! Indescribable experience. Small ship—only 14 people on a 20-person ship. Our crew struck the perfect tone between high-level service and a more casual, friendly attitude, to match the young people on the boat. This was worth the price tag!! Trust me!! Our naturalists were top-notch. As a bunch of science nerds, we were impressed! Really! Perhaps most notable was that absolutely everyone, from Captain Peter on down to our panga drivers, was equally excited by the wildlife sightings. You could see the excitement on the staff’s faces as they ran to grab cameras and Go-Pros when a pod of pilot whales followed us or when penguins were sighted diving in front of us while snorkeling. Our captain took the ship two hours out of its way so that we could get a good view of the volcano that started erupting on Isabella, necessitating a longer nighttime navigation for him and his first mate. When you added the almost unbelievable geology and wildlife of the Galapagos Islands to the outstanding ship and crew, it was magic!

2) Otavalo and the Hacienda Cusín outside of Quito. The Hacienda is such a special place. Highlights include the buildings dating back to 1605, the horseback riding, and the private cooking class that they designed for us on their expansive back lawn. The surrounding area is beautiful, with San Pablo Lake and the Parque Condor, which houses injured birds of prey including the condor! We visited traditional indigenous weavers and Andean instrument musicians and craftsmen, as well as the lively and well-known Otavalo market. The experiences were unforgettable.” —Kristen MacLeod

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Istanbul: “A perfect multigenerational trip…”

rainbow umbrellas hover over a street of shops and restaurants in Istanbul turkey

Istanbul, Turkey. Photo: Tim Baker

“In January Karen and her team planned a perfect multigenerational trip to Istanbul for our family! We were met off the plane and moved swiftly through the airport with VIP service, then transferred to our vehicle. We were greeted with a welcome bag that included perfectly curated mini-guidebooks with information you would not be able to find on your own, Covid-related items like extra masks and sanitizers, and little gifts which were so appreciated, especially by our ten-year-old. All of our activities were private and felt safe—from a cooking class to a river cruise on the Bosphorus (which I definitely recommend, to get an overview of the city when you arrive). We had the same driver each day in an immaculate vehicle equipped with wifi and always bottles of water. Our guide, Cenk, was fabulous, so knowledgeable and he knew all the hidden gems to take us to—even diverting from our planned itinerary once he got to know us and had a better idea of things we would enjoy. In our short trip we were able to hit most of the highlights of the city without feeling rushed, thanks to Cenk. A couple of months before the trip we weren’t sure if we felt safe traveling to Istanbul at this stage in the pandemic, so I reached out to Wendy. Wendy suggested I speak with Karen, and I’m so glad I did!” —Lauren Schor

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Norway: “We saw the Northern Lights three of the four nights, and the experience was illuminating!”

Northern Lights, Norway

Northern Lights, Grøtfjord, Kvaløya, Norway. Photo: Gaute Bruvik – visitnorway.com

“We contacted Jan almost too late to put a trip together that would include the Northern Lights over the Christmas / New Year’s holiday, but he put it all together seamlessly! Everything was like clockwork. All flowed together to visit three locations — Oslo, Alta in the Arctic Circle, and Stockholm. All hotels, restaurants, guides and drivers in the cities were spot on. Our experience in Alta was way beyond what we expected. Jan told us that in 30 years if his clients stayed in the Arctic Circle four nights, 100% of them saw the Lights. We saw the Lights 3 f the 4 nights, and the experience was illuminating! But we also had wonderful experiences during the day. Dog mushing was a highlight, as was snowshoeing and ice fishing and snowmobiling. Every person we dealt with was kind, warm, and made us feel relaxed and refreshed as we experienced these new to us activities. They all knew Jan and praised him highly. Jan is terrific.” —Lois Chess

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Colombia: “A big highlight was our last day, when we took a private boat trip out to the Rosario Islands…”

Islas de Rosario, Colombia

Islas de Rosario, Colombia. Photo: Shutterstock

“My family of two adults and three teens, ages 12 to 18, traveled to Colombia over New Year’s, spending seven days in Bogotá, Quindío (the coffee region), and Cartagena. Boris made great choices about which regions we should visit and for how long, what activities we should do, and where we should stay. He even got us into a wonderful boutique hacienda in the coffee region at a very busy time of year. All our tours and activities were fabulous. Juliana, an artist in Bogotá, shared her perspective on museums and the graffiti district. Camilo, a biologist and ornithologist, took us on a hike in the countryside and helped my husband with his birdwatching. Tavo is a musician who gave us a great perspective on Cartagena. A big highlight was our last day, when we took a private boat trip out to the Rosario Islands and spent time at a beach club. The kids got so much out of every day of the trip and continue to rave about it to everyone—a real accomplishment with teens. Thank you for suggesting Colombia as a destination in the first place and for setting us up with Boris. We all plan to return to Colombia and are evangelizing it as a destination for other Americans.” —Jarvis Weld

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Mexico: “We were always learning, exploring, and connecting with knowledgeable and fascinating local people.”

Palacio de Bellas Artes or Palace of Fine Arts, a famous theater,museum and music venue in Mexico City

The Palacio de Bellas Artes is one of the city’s most impressive buildings. Photo: Shutterstock

“There was no shortage of challenges to planning a last-minute Christmas trip to Mexico for me, my husband, and our 18-year-old daughter and 16-year-old twin boys. The beaches were expensive and jam-packed. So Zach’s team suggested an itinerary to Mexico City and two truly magical colonial cities—Puebla and San Miguel de Allende—and the result was fantastic! They handled all the logistical details, so we didn’t have to worry about a thing. We are a very active family and always want to be doing and learning. They understood this and designed a wonderful itinerary that opened our eyes to this complex, beautiful, sophisticated, culturally rich country. From our private cooking class with a renowned chef in Puebla to our historical and cultural bike tour down Mexico City’s Paseo de la Reforma and through the Bosque de Chapultepec to our private tour through the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City—they opened the Museum just for us!—we were always learning, exploring, and connecting with knowledgeable and fascinating local people. The result was a trip that left us with great respect and affection for our southern neighbor and helped us see the history of our continent from a completely different perspective. This is truly the best of travel. We will be WOW Listers for life!” —Kristen MacLeod

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Portugal: “It was very important to us to be able to experience Portugal’s wine regions, as it’s our favorite wine to drink at home…”

Vineyards in the Valley of the River Douro, Portugal

Vineyards in Portugal’s Douro Valley. Photo: Shutterstock

Gonçalo and his team crafted the trip of a lifetime for my new husband and I. We worked with Gonçalo while deep in wedding planning, and he was extremely patient and responsive with us throughout the entire process, making our 19-day December 26–January 13 Portugal honeymoon the light at the end of the tunnel. Goncalo was super kind and honest, letting us know what would be closed or perhaps unsafe to reach during the winter, but providing comparable options in other regions. We received the most well thought out and organized itinerary from him. It was the perfect balance of must-sees, off-the-beaten-path suggestions, and open days to relax and explore.

Over the course of the trip, we stayed at four properties, three of which were booked through Gonçalo (one was through my job as I work at a hotel company), and boy were we treated like royalty. The properties were not only extremely gorgeous and in prime locations, but we were upgraded to suites at each of them because they knew it was our honeymoon. We were also left various treats in our room on multiple occasions at each of the properties. To this day, we’re still talking about it!

It was very important to us to be able to experience Portugal’s wine regions as it’s our favorite wine to drink at home. Gonçalo arranged for three private tastings and tours for us, including a very special morning at Taylors in Porto. We slept in that morning and had 5 glasses of Port wine for breakfast. Can’t complain! :) To explore Lisbon and Porto, Gonçalo arranged for private tour guides to show us around in style. Ana and Tiago were quite possibly two of the nicest people we’ve met and they knew their stuff. By the end of our tours we felt like old friends. We experienced a sampling of the country, from Vidago all the way in the north, to most of the Algarve region in the south and Lisbon, Porto, Fatima, Sintra, and Coimbra in between. We will absolutely be consulting Gonçalo and his team again for years to come. —Danielle Berman

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London: “There was even a small Christmas tree in our room…”

Christmas in London

Christmas in London. Photo: visitlondon.com

“It has become our practice to consult Wendy Perrin’s WOW List whenever we plan a trip. This time our goal was to spend Christmas in London. Although we had been to London several times, we know that the holidays can be a challenge due to closures on the holiday. We spoke with Jonathan about our previous visits to London and our desire to see and do something new.  We had a hotel in mind that we had stayed in before, but Jonathan strongly advised us to select another hotel, The Stafford, and we are so happy we took his advice. It is a much smaller hotel than the one we were thinking of, and that proved to be a big factor in feeling like we were ‘going home’ at the end of each day of touring London. The hotel staff treated us royally, and the hotel was decorated beautifully for the holidays; there was even a small Christmas tree in our room. As we had already seen most of the highlights of London on previous visits, Jonathan suggested other tours we would not have thought of. One was a Charles Dickens walking tour; our guide was extremely knowledgeable and entertaining, and we now understand how London during Dickens’ time influenced his writing.  Another highlight was a private “Behind the Glass” after-hours tour of the Churchill War Rooms. We had seen the War Rooms before, but nothing can compare with going there in the evening when it’s closed and actually going into the rooms that are not accessible to the public. These are experiences we would not have discovered on our own. Jonathan also executed a surprise ‘Wendy WOW Moment for us during our stay. It was a private tour and tasting in The Stafford’s amazing wine cellar, which was built in the 17th century and used as an air raid shelter during WWII!  The master sommelier, Gino, gave us the tour and made the experience very special!  Jonathan certainly added value to our holiday, and, given the short time frame of the trip, planned the perfect amount of activity while also allowing us plenty of time to explore London on our own and walk about enjoying the beauty of the lights and the amazing window displays and decorations everywhere.” —Susan Ketchum Philbrick

Read more reviews of England trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

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Antarctica: “It was the best trip we ever had…”

Gentoo penguins in Antarctica

Gentoo penguins in Antarctica. Photo: Jennifer Santoyo

Ashton planned the trip of a lifetime to Antarctica for us! It was my last continent, and I cried when I arrived and cried when it was over. I had thought I wanted to fly over the Drake Passage because I was terrified of getting seasick, but I’m really happy I listened to Ashton. He said that flying over the Drake can mean delays on either side because of weather, and unless you have flexibility in your schedule, it’s not advisable. He highly recommended a ship that has the best stabilizers to handle the Drake, has excellent naturalist guides, and would work for my 17-year-old. Also, my husband wasn’t as excited about Antarctica as I was and preferred more luxurious accommodations than the fly trips offer. So we kind of had to agree on the trade-off to make the trip happen: my bucket list vs. Marty’s desire to be more comfortable on a nicer boat. Ashton was perfect in assessing what everyone wanted. Marty now agrees it was the best trip we ever had, and we all want to come back on the longer trip, which would include South Georgia Island, where the king penguins are. I will also use Ashton again for the North Pole, hopefully soon.” —Tina Sarafa

Read more reviews of Antarctica trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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African safari: “We learned so much about nature and the wild from all our guides…”

Cheetah in Botswana's Okavango Delta

A cheetah in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Photo: Wilderness Safaris/Dana Allen.

“We did an absolutely incredible three-week trip to South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana from late December through mid-January. Julian listened to what we wanted and curated a wonderful itinerary with beautiful lodges, stunning game drives, very knowledgeable guides, impeccable service, and delicious food and drinks. And of course the stars of the trip were all the amazing animals.

We started in South Africa at Makweti Lodge, which is stunning and has just five suites. The staff couldn’t have been more warm and welcoming, always making sure we were having a great time. We also spent a few days in Cape Town and the neighboring wine region—gorgeous, with so much history and beauty! Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe was so majestic even at a fraction of its full flow. We visited three camps in Botswana, each unique and amazing. Seeing elephants, hippos and all kinds of antelope right next to the lodges was super cool. The Okavango Delta is not to be missed, even during the rainy season. Camp Shinde was another one of our favorite camps, with top-notch service and gem viewing. The Desert and Delta Safari went above and beyond, flying us from one camp to another via helicopter twice because the bush planes couldn’t reach some locations because of the heavy rains. It was an unexpected and very special treat—twice!” —Tina Hunt

Read more reviews of African Safari trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Italy: “In Florence we visited a noble family estate and cooked a five-course meal…”

Florence, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

Florence, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

“Italy can be overwhelming because there is so much to do, see, and eat, but Maria planned a spectacular trip to Florence, Bologna, and Rome for me, my teenagers, and my fiancé over the Christmas/New Year’s holiday. In Florence we visited a noble family estate and cooked a five-course meal (and learned how to make tortelloni) with the family chef, had a tour of the wine cellar, and joined one of the family members for lunch. We learned of the family’s wing of art at the Uffizi, which we visited the next day. Meeting people who have a direct hand in the life and culture of Italy was special. In Rome, our food lovers’ adventure on Vespas with Toni was a complete standout. My 6′ 4″ son was mortified to ride on the Vespa—and got over that fear in one minute. We were a team of five Vespas! Don’t mess with us! As for Bologna, I am a dental surgeon and am really glad Maria recommended visiting the Teatro Medica at the University of Bologna with my kids. I am sure there is no way I could’ve arranged such a trip.” —Wendy Halpern

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The Galapagos Islands: “If you like to snorkel, this trip will top anything you have done…”

photo of Sea turtle swimming underwater in the Galapagos island

A sea turtle swimming in the Galapagos. Photo: Shutterstock

Ashton did an incredible job helping us plan our vacation of a lifetime to the Galapagos to celebrate our Dad’s 75th Birthday (and my 50th!). We can’t believe that all fifteen of us made it and were so grateful to Ashton for setting up all of our Covid testing (the rules of which changed 23 days before our departure!). We spent eight days aboard a sturdy and very comfortable catamaran that sleeps 16 passengers across eight passenger cabins. The ship has a crew of ten that provided amazing service. It was incredible to have the entire boat to ourselves. With no internet onboard, we spent real quality time relaxing together. My dad claims he spent more time with his grandkids on this trip than over the past 15 years combined!

We walked on young lava around volcanoes, hiked up mountains, kayaked in caves, saw tons and tons and tons of all sorts of iguanas, swam on deserted white-sand beaches, watched octopus in tide pools, walked next to giant land tortoises, and saw lots and lots of blue-footed boobies. Several of us are certified SCUBA divers and were a little upset before we got there that we wouldn’t be diving on this trip but, I have to say, the snorkels we did on this trip were more spectacular that any dives I have ever done, anywhere. We had penguins nibbling our fins, watched sea turtles noshing underwater and sea lions performing acrobatics in front of us—every single day. We saw rays and whales and sharks and eels and tons of colorful fish and starfish the size of hubcaps. If you like to snorkel, this trip will top anything you have done, I guarantee it!” —Colleen Grazioso

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Mexico:  “Three nights in Oaxaca for its colonial and prehistoric attractions, then three nights at the beach in Huatulco…”

Scenic old city street and colorful colonial buildings in Oaxaca City, Mexico.

Colorful buildings in Oaxaca City, Mexico. Photo: Shutterstock

“Just before giving up my Mexico trip planning as impossible, I turned to Zachary to see if he could help with the logistics. Our family of four wanted to spend three nights in Oaxaca at Christmas for its colonial and prehistoric attractions, then three nights at the beach in Huatulco. Minimum-stay requirements of five or seven nights during the holidays presented obstacles. Plus, traveling from Oaxaca to Huatulco by mountain road would be long and treacherous. We could fly, but we would have to go through Mexico City, wasting a day. Zach drew on his relationships, avoided minimum stays, and secured well-located rooms for us in outstanding hotels: Quinta Real Oaxaca, an exquisite former convent, and Camino Real Huatulco, a beautifully designed seaside resort. To make it all work, he identified non-stop flights that were not readily accessible to us online. Best of all, he provided Gabriel, an outstanding guide in Oaxaca who is the alpha educator of choice for universities and Smithsonian visitors. We benefited from the depth of Gabriel’s knowledge of history, nature, art and architecture. Zach’s resources and persistence made it possible for our family to enjoy a wonderful holiday trip.” —Barbara Schoenfeld

Read more reviews of Mexico trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Argentina: “It wasn’t something you can plan on your own—which is what made it so special.”

Iguazu Falls Argentina

Iguazu Falls Argentina. Photo: Shutterstock

“Our family of five had an amazing trip to Argentina organized by Maita. We hiked on a glacier, got soaked on a boat that we rode into one of the Iguassu waterfalls, went bird watching in Iguassu with an ornithologist and nature photographer, and had a wonderful private boat experience on a quiet arm of one of the lakes in Bariloche. Maita’s team suggested great hotels and was able to obtain rates at some that were lower than those available online. They also booked a fantastic New Year’s Eve Party in Buenos Aires that we will long remember. And we had a fantastic surprise WOW Moment. I prefer not to specify what we did for our WOW Moment, since I wouldn’t want to spoil a possible future WOW Moment for someone else, but suffice it to say it was our favorite meal in Argentina. It wasn’t something you can plan on your own—which is what made it so special.” —Rita Solomon

Read more reviews of Argentina trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

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