Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

Pandemic-Era Travel: The Trip Reviews That Matter Most Right Now

by WendyPerrin.com | April 14, 2021

Your feedback about the trip-planning experts on The WOW List is more important than ever. That’s because the world is restarting in 2021, travel-wise, and what will matter is not the WOW that these experts delivered pre-pandemic but the WOW that they’ll be able to deliver post-pandemic. We can’t fully assess that until we receive your post-pandemic reviews, of course, but in the meantime we can monitor what these Trusted Travel Experts are doing now for those of you traveling during Covid.

So please, for the sake of your fellow readers and travelers, if you use Wendy’s WOW approach for responsible, low-risk travel during the pandemic, send us your trip review as soon as you receive Wendy’s post-trip survey (which should be three days after you get back).  Your reviews will help our community of avid travelers understand what it’s really like to travel now in specific places, and how a destination specialist can impact your trip in ways you didn’t think possible. We’ll continue to add the latest reviews as they come in:

“From our outing to the ATM caves to a very special horseback riding morning and outdoor cooking experience…”

BELIZE, APRIL 2021

aerial shot of Belize ocean with sailboat

Explore Belize on the water or in the jungle. Photo: Belize Sailing Vacations

“We can’t say enough good about our recent trip to Belize. Patricia was amazing to work with and her recommendations of the Lodge at Chaa Creek and Belize Sailing Vacations were the perfect combination for our family of five.

We were scheduled to begin on the water but due to some unforeseen flight changes, Patricia recommended that we start on land and made all arrangements for us.

The experience at Chaa Creek was incredible… from our outing to the ATM caves (one of the most amazing things we’ve ever done) to a very special horseback riding morning and WOW moment overlooking the entire property along with an outdoor cooking experience, we couldn’t have asked for anything more.

From the jungle, we headed back towards town to meet our catamaran and crew. As new “sailors” we cant say enough about this adventure. Our chef Ellen fed us better than we could have imagined all while giving us a taste of local flavor including conch ceviche and conch fritters. Our Capitan made the adventure especially fun for our 11-year-old son by allowing him the chance to help on boat the boat with the anchor, fishing rods, etc…

We are truly appreciative to Patricia and her team for this wonderful introduction to Belize. We can’t imagine a more perfect pandemic getaway.” —Kate Rader

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“Our WOW Moment, a fantastic hike to Pololu Valley and Beach, was delightful…”

HAWAII, APRIL 2021

family posing at Pololu Valley with cliffs and ocean in background Big Island Hawaii

Reader Kathy Woeber Gardner and her family hiking Pololu Valley on Hawaii’s Big Island

“Dani (Hawaii expert) planned a fabulous vacation to the Big Island for our family and kindly included my sister and her family in our plans/reservations at the almost last minute. We really enjoyed the Fairmont Orchid, which Dani highly recommended. It was perfect for our families (parents and teens). She ensured we had lovely rooms with wonderful view and fantastic, attentive service. Dani recommended a snorkeling trip just for the two of our families. Thanks to Wendy, our WOW Moment, a fantastic hike to Pololu Valley and Beach, was delightful. Dani engaged Derek Stuart, of Active Families Hawaii, as a personal guide, including visiting the Waimea Market, a stunning drive to the northeast of the Big Island and the above mentioned hike and picnic on the black sand beach. Dani made excellent recommendations with respect to dining, surfing and golfing: our family could not have been happier. We appreciated her very detailed advice re: Covid testing in advance of the trip. We highly recommend Dani.” —Kathy Woeber Gardner

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“…A trip that allowed us to enjoy the national parks/monuments without COVID limitations…”

View from Angels Landing, Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park. Photo: Shutterstock

AMERICAN SOUTHWEST, MARCH 2021

Melissa and Mindi moved quickly to plan a fabulous Southwest trip within seven days of my first email. Our ten day trip (March 19, 2021 – March 29, 2021) took us to four National Parks (Arches, Capitol Reef, Zion & Grand Canyon), Esclanante (National Monument) and Sedona, AZ.

Guides: Melissa did a great job of securing day trips with guides in all of our stops. We have two kids, ages 16 and 13, and found that going with a guide makes the trip much more efficient and enjoyable for all! We particularly enjoyed the guides in Capitol Reef (Shawn), Escalante (Sage), Zion (Tonya) and Grand Canyon (Donnie). The guides know which trails are less crowded than others, where to spot wildlife, etc.

Accommodations: Melissa was spot-on with the Hoodoo Moab Hilton, Cliffrose Lodge (also Hilton) and El Tovar. Hoodoo and Cliffrose locations could not be beat, as they are located within a 5-8 minute drive to Arches and Zion. In addition, these hotels are within walking distance to restaurants, coffee shops, etc. As for El Tovar, the history and grandeur of this hotel took our breath away. Even though we could only stay for one night, it was well worth the detour from Zion on our way to our final stop, Sedona. In addition, the time spent in the Grand Canyon was short, but undoubtedly some of the best time spent on our trip. (Who would have ever guessed we would not be able to see the canyon due to a blizzard in March!!)

Overall, despite our concerns about anticipated COVID restrictions, Melissa and Mindi organized a trip that allowed us to enjoy the national parks/monuments without COVID limitations.

When we returned home, I noticed a double charge on my credit card for a hotel and immediately reached out to Mindi. Within 30 minutes, she contacted the hotel and the charges were reversed. I was impressed with how quickly I saw the credit appear on my statement!

I would recommend Melissa and Mindi for future Southwestern USA travelers. Thanks again for a wonderful trip.” Doug, Kate, Will and Beth Nury

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“Our children’s eyes were wide open from the moment we landed in Nairobi until the moment we left. “

KENYA, MARCH 2021

zebras in Kenya savanna

Zebras in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya. Photo: Julian Harrison

“What a wonderful trip! Julian utilizes some amazing people and companies for his Kenya bookings! We (family of four with two children, ages 11 & 13) have extensive international travel experience pre-covid and wanted to travel mid-covid as well. We had never used a travel specialist before and had some hesitations. We were hesitant to loose our control over our daily plans and freedom to roam. Our main reason for using a travel specialist was because travel can be unpredictable in todays travel climate. Julian eased our minds with his grounded approach during the very first phone conversation we had with him. Let the planning process begin! In a very short amount of time, Julian had put together a robust and adventurous itinerary for us.

Julian created a travel product that is unmatched (adventure, culture emersion, conservation, a human approach). If you are looking for an unforgettable and meaningful Kenyan experience, Julian is your guy.

Everything was seamless from the airport transfers, hotels/lodges, guides/drivers, domestic flights, Covid testing, meals, freedom to create our days plans to our liking, etc. Julian will listen to what his travelers want, their comfort levels, budget limitations, etc and create an magical African experience. Our children’s eyes were wide open from the moment we landed in Nairobi until the moment we left. We made a lifetime of memories in Kenya.

Perhaps the test of any travel specialist is when things go sideways. During our time in Kenya, the government altered their Covid regulations and locked down the counties surrounding Nairobi. Julian stepped in and handled the whole situation. In the end we had to make some changes to our plans but the end goal remained the same (our goal of an amazing trip that was safe). If we would have had to handle all the changes, within a very dynamic situation, on our own it would have ruined a full day of our trip and would have caused massive stress. Julian handled it all and we were able to continue enjoying the Masai Mara knowing that it was being handled with our safety and interests in mind. We, as a family, said to one another on numerous occasions that it was wonderful that we used Julian and had someone taking care of the tough yet important tasks to sort out these issues that were out of our control.

Our trip may be over but we have memory cards full of pictures, endless stories to relive around the table, mental images of endless African beauty, new perspectives that will guide us through our lives, and new contacts in our phones of friends we met in Kenya.
If Africa is on your list of places to experience, call Julian!” —Jonas Bean

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“The amazing parts were seeing my girls ride horses, hold iguanas, attempt to snorkel for their first time…”

BELIZE, MARCH 2021

sharks swimming underwater in Shark Ray Alley in Belize

Shark Ray Alley. Photo: Absolute Belize

“So many amazing things to mention on our recent trip (March 2021) to Belize! Maybe I will start with empty airplanes so each of us had our own row…. and customs being empty too! I am already trying to book my next trip before things pick up!!! We were near San Ignacio at Chaa Creek and Portofino on San Pedro island and both were amazing!  We had a portable service come to us to do our Covid test prior to leaving the United States and they were so sweet with my 2, 6, and 8 year old! The true amazing parts were seeing my girls ride horses, hold iguanas, attempt to snorkel for their first time, and at the butterfly house at Chaa Creek when hundreds of butterflies landed on them. My husband and I swam with sharks, Eric and Carlos were so sweet with the kids! They let them feed the sharks because they were too afraid to jump in. The glass bottom boat was perfect. Portofino’s food was awesome and I think I gained 5 lbs on this trip. We had a tour cancellation and the concierge at Chaa Creek booked chocolate making instead. Mayan chocolate is amazing! The whole trip was incredibly amazing! I can not say enough good things! We went to the Mayan ruins and we had the whole place to ourselves! It was unreal. Usually it is shoulder to shoulder with tourists! I can’t wait for our next adventure!” —Mary Ko

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“Throughout our stay, we felt like we received VIP service…”

TURKS AND CAICOS MARCH 2021

“Lindsey’s colleague Becca planned a lovely trip for my friend and I for our milestone birthdays. It was our first trip out of the country since the start of the pandemic, and Becca fielded all of our questions and concerns quickly and with ease. In fact, she steered us away from a few of our initial destination options we suggested for our trip based on our safety concerns and went so far as to reach out to the tourism officials in Turks and Caicos to confirm what the local restrictions were likely to be during the time of our visit.

Becca was also able to secure a room upgrade to a two bedroom penthouse. Upon arrival we were greeted with a birthday cake, a bottle of wine and pictures of our loved ones at home. Throughout our stay, we felt like we received VIP service from the hotel, with a butler at our disposal who secured all of our reservations, arranged special treats for us and simply spoiled us throughout the trip.

Becca was available throughout our stay should we need her to intervene – but it was such a seamless trip there was no need for her to do so! We had a lovely time and felt safe at the property she recommended. Thank you again, Becca!” —Katie Hausfeld

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“She made the trip stress-free from a planning perspective, and everyone had a wonderful time…”

HAWAII, MARCH 2021

Makena, Maui beach Hawaii

Makena, Maui. Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

“My family traveled to Maui for spring break 2021, and it was perfect. We decided to make the trip at the last minute, as we really wanted to get away. We reached out to Wendy and her team, they put us in contact with Dani, and we booked an amazing condo with a breathtaking view of the ocean. Dani did say the unit we got was most likely due to a cancellation, but her quick action made it happen. While we are usually a resort family, the condo was perfect during these pandemic times and also because we brought along our teenage daughter’s friend. Dani handled all our dining reservations, recommended personal chefs (we did take advantage of one, and it was fantastic), booked the girls a couple experiences, and provided recommendations for a couple day trips. She made the trip stress-free from a planning perspective, and everyone had a wonderful time. One of the reasons we selected Hawaii was because the state mandates a negative Covid test 72 hours prior to travel if you wanted to bypass a 10-day quarantine. Getting this complete can be a little stressful, but the State of Hawaii has an easy-to-use website where all travelers over 18 need to register their trip; individuals under 18 are logged under one of the adults. We are a United Airlines family, and their website also provides a lot of detail on traveling to Hawaii. We used United’s “trusted partner,” ADL Health, for an at-home, Zoom-conducted Covid test. Order the test online, it is shipped to your home, you set up an appointment to administer the test, send it back UPS overnight. We had the results the next day. Easy and quick. The State of Hawaii also has a list of “trusted” partners. We would recommend travel to Hawaii at this time, and we would definitely recommend Dani. She got this trip done for us in record time, followed up with us during the trip, and made Maui 2021 the best!!!” —Sheila and Rob McClure 

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“She gave us insider tips to help us have the best experience possible.”

DISNEY WORLD, MARCH 2021

Happily Ever After fireworks at Disney World. Photo: Disney

“We, the Nelson family, went to Disney World in March 2021 for spring break. While normally we would have taken an international trip, we decided it would be easier to stay in the U.S. and skip the unknowns with covid and covid testing. The trip Michelle planned for us was very covid-appropriate and fun! Disney does a great job with covid management. They take masks, social distancing and hotel housekeeping very seriously. We never felt at high risk of covid exposure.

Michelle is very knowledgeable about everything Disney and took the time to get to know what we wanted out of our trip. She then recommended a resort and theme park activities that best suited us. She found some deals and then re-looked at prices near the departure date. She gave us insider tips to help us have the best experience possible. Using her tips I was able to get on the Rise of Resistance twice!

I highly recommend using Michelle and her team for a great Disney World trip!” —Beth Nelson

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“The perfect home in the perfect location…”

MEXICO, FEBRURARY 2021

“We rented a private home in Tulum. Honestly, we couldn’t have found the home ourselves. We were fully staffed and had the best price for private chefs to accommodate our food wishes. We weren’t comfortable going elsewhere to get a COVID test to travel. Dani, our agent, was able to easily organize health techs to come to the house to administer the test.

Dani added great value to our trip by not only providing services like in home COVID tests but by working with the home owner to to extend the cancelling policy (which, we fortunately decided not to use). I don’t believe this request would have been successful without Dani’s assistance.

Dani steered us in the right direction for the perfect home in the perfect location. We would not have wanted to be in the busyness of downtown Tulum but rather in the park, closer to the ruins and also have access to staff serving us drinks on the beach from the neighboring hotel. This service alone was worth everything.

I understand the home will be updating its kitchen soon. The pool was ok for the adults and great for the kids. I came to understand that being in the reserve, it’s difficult to update a home with many permits and hoops to jump through. The main draw is the beautiful beach, the service and home. We traveled from 2/12/21-2/22/21.” —Garrett Bandy

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“Safe. Under budget. Kids had an absolute blast.…”

CARIBBEAN; FEBRUARY 2021

“Meg Austin is a magician, miracle worker, and a hero to the people!

I called Meg to try to get us a safe, on budget, and kid friendly trip to the Caribbean for our family of 6 (including kids ages 9, 7, 4, and 1 1/2) – Certainly not the easiest task in the middle of spiking COVID cases here in the US and changes in policy for travelers returning to the US. To be honest, I was about to give up on this trip due to uncertainty regarding evolving COVID issues and other agents’ difficulties coming in at our budget.

I decided to call Meg as a bit of a “Hail Mary.”

That Hail Mary was a winning touchdown pass for our family. Meg nailed it – nailed it – and nailed it:
Safe.
Under budget.
Kids had an absolute blast.

And our itinerary was to us quick as a flash. Did I mention I gave her only about 5 weeks of notice?

She’s a kick to work with, enthusiastic and fun, and put us in just the right spot. She was super fast with responses to questions, concerns, and followed up with us on the days of travel and while we were on our trip to make sure things went smoothly with return COVID testing/airline requirements/and all things pandemic related.

Very highly recommended! Call Meg Austin.” —Matthew D. Gamble, M.D.

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“A great mix of active events and time at leisure to soak in the sun…”

COSTA RICA, JANUARY 2021

Manuel Antonio beach, Costa Rica - tropical pacific coast

Manuel Antonio beach, Costa Rica. Photo: Shutterstock

“We went to two wonderful locations in Costa Rica with the assistance of Pierre‘s team in January of this year. Initially, we were supposed to go to Panama but because of Covid, we had to change our itinerary quickly. They proved the worth of a good travel agent because our flights were delayed repeatedly and they handled adjusting our hotel reservations quickly and efficiently. (Along with transfers, etc.) All of this was done from WhatsApp! The activities that were planned were terrific. A great mix of active events and time at leisure to soak in the sun. In short, when you are going on vacation you don’t want to worry about getting things right. Pierre and his staff got everything right. Questions were encouraged and answered quickly We have already started planning our next trip with them. Thanks again.” —Cindy and Jim Francies

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“It was like our own private Kenya in lots of ways.”

KENYA,  JANUARY–FEBRUARY 2021

aerial view of luxury private tent safari camp Great Plains Ol Donyo in green jungle of Kenya

Photo: Ol Donyo Lodge

“We were in Kenya from January 13 until February 2nd. It was our first trip to Kenya and it was one of my favorite trips to date. Kenya was remarkably safe and very Covid aware (better than the US) and we could not have felt more comfortable. Because Julian picked really incredible lodges with a small amount of rooms, we had two of the lodges all to ourselves. Since is was our first trip there, I don’t have any comparison to non Covid times but I do know it was remarkable to be on the Masai Mara and see no other cars all day. It was like our own private Kenya in lots of ways.

We started in Nairobi at Hemingways for 2 nights to get over jet lag. We then flew bush planes to the other lodges and we usually flew alone but 2 of the flights we had a few others. We relied completely on Julian for our lodges, our itinerary and his experience. We had to have a test before we got on the plane home and Julian had a doctor fly to us in the bush and give us our tests while we had breakfast. Because Kenya put a new form in place while we were there, Julian’s point person in Nairobi spent all day tracking down the specifics and got us the needed TT Code a few hours before our flight so it was seamless for us.

Our lodges were incredible. We had amazing food and wine, the best guides, the most exclusive lodges and such a high level of service—we were completely spoiled. We really put ourselves in Julian’s hands and let him do all the work and we could not be happier with our trip. I was really excited but I had no idea how amazing it would be and how much we loved Kenya. Julian organized all our flights, all our transportation and all our requests had been pre-sent so we just had to show up and have this incredible trip.

We flew Emirates to Dubai and then to Nairobi and they could not have been safer or more careful. When we arrived back in Dubai on the way home, they whisked us through another PCR test because we had to stay overnight due to weather in Boston and it was all handled for us. It’s my favorite airline already but to see how they are handling the pandemic and testing with such efficiency is amazing. We never felt nervous for a second—on the flight or the trip.
I would recommend going to Kenya and having Julian plan it for you ASAP because it is truly remarkable to have all the animals, land and incredible Kenyans show off their country right now.
Places stayed: Ol Donyo Lodge, Sasaab, Salas Camp, Mara Nyika, Hemingways.”

—Jennifer Andrews

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“It was the perfect family friendly resort…”

MEXICO, JANUARY 2021

The Fairmont Mayakoba resort worked well for a family with three kids. Photo: Fairmont Mayakoba

“We went to the Fairmont Mayakoba Dec 28-Jan 3rd. We saw Tulum and swam in a cenote and enjoyed the resort. It was the perfect family friendly resort. The service was great. My 2 year old is particularly difficult and she loved seeing the turtles at the grand cenote and my older girls loved swimming and seeing the bats above our heads. In Tulum they loved running around exploring. Franc was so helpful and kind he picked a delicious restaurant for us to eat at for lunch and helped us skip the wait. He totally didn’t mind having kids around. The resort was the perfect way to relax but escaping to see some of the beauty and history of Mexico was great. Traveling with 3 kids is always tricky but we use Wendy Perrin’s list to make it easy.” —Mary Ko

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“Having private SCUBA diving excursions limited our exposure to others and ensured we were typically the only boat at the location…”

BELIZE, DECEMBER 2020

family posing on a private yacht on the ocean in Belize

“The attraction to us was being socially distanced by miles versus feet,” says traveler Shelby Willets

“Choosing to travel internationally as a family during the pandemic was not an easy decision, but after hearing Rachael discuss the health and safety measures they were taking with their sailing vacations during one of Wendy Perrin’s Zoom sessions, we decided to explore the possibility further.

The attraction to us was being socially distanced by miles versus feet. The yacht would serve as our accommodation, dining venue and entertainment for our 10-day vacation. Another reassuring factor is that the country of Belize requires a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours to enter. American Airlines offers PCR Covid testing through a partnership with Let’s Get Checked. Passengers booked on AA flights are “guaranteed” results within 72 hours. We were pleased with the Let’s Get Checked process and liked that they require you to take the sample while on a video chat with a health care professional.

Traveling during the pandemic does take additional planning. There were no last-minute trips to the store to pick up items as we self-quarantined for 2 weeks prior to our trip. In addition to the Let’s Get Checked test, we took several local PCR Covid tests in the weeks prior to our travels. To minimize transportation exposure, we drove ourselves to the airport and parked in the short-term parking lot. My husband parked the car and walked across the street to enter the airport – well worth the additional cost. We choose flight times early in the morning and late in the evening to avoid the crowds at the airport. Wendy’s seat selection recommendations were greatly appreciated. In our opinion, American Airlines did a wonderful job ensuring everyone was wearing their face mask properly.

If for some reason we would have been unable to travel, Rachael gave us the option to reschedule the vacation within a year. A very generous offer that put our minds at ease when booking. Rachael, Cliff and Patricia, were very prompt in replying to our e-mails and providing additional information. They even tracked down poker chips at the last minute to add to our yacht – remember, I couldn’t go to the store.

Joining us in our yacht bubble, were 2 wonderful crew members, Eric, the captain and Andrea 1st mate/chef. Whether it was playing silly reindeer games on a rainy Christmas day, spending extra time fishing for the prize catch or cooking up the prized catch, their dedication and attention really made the trip special. They covertly decorated the yacht for our 25th wedding anniversary while we were out kayaking. Andrea even found time to stealthy make a cake from scratch.

We are a SCUBA diving family and diving in Belize has been on our wish list for a while. Rachael and Patricia worked closely with us to arrange private dives and diving equipment that we could procure at the beginning of the trip and keep for the duration. The Amigos Del Mar dive shop in San Pedro were top notch!! We had 7 wonderful SCUBA dives with Carlos and Alex. Having private SCUBA diving excursions limited our exposure to others and ensured we were typically the only boat at the location. Also, it afforded us the opportunity to feel comfortable taking our 12-year-old son to the Great Blue Hole! An amazing experience and bucket list worthy location that not many young divers can say they have accomplished. The juvenile nurse sharks were quite playful and joined us on several of our dives. They showed us around their swim throughs ensuring we all stayed together. In our many years of SCUBA diving, we have never had the wildlife engage with us so much – I think they were feeling neglected with the lack of tourist.

In addition to SCUBA diving, we enjoyed the yacht activities of paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, fishing, exploring deserted islands, spotting the rare red-footed boobie bird, star gazing and quality family time. My 12-year-old and I had an engaging conversation for 2 hours one evening while we gazed at the galaxies – a moment in time that I will treasure.
We will be talking about this vacation for years to come! Thank you to Rachael and her team for helping us feel safe while traveling during the Covid pandemic and making family memories that we will forever cherish.” Shelby Willets

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“It was the smoothest family trip we have taken…”

person skiing in Park City Mountain Utah

Many resorts, like Park City, are open during the pandemic with safety protocols in place to keep skiiers safe.  Photo: Park City Mountain

SKIING IN THE ROCKIES, DECEMBER 2020

Meg planned a trip for my family of 3 to Canyons/Park City, Utah over the Christmas/New Years holiday. It was perfectly planned. She suggested great restaurants (although due to covid, we mostly got take out in our lovely suite that she found with amazing views of the mountains). When we arrived at our suite, we had a stocked fridge, a bottle of wine, and a decorated Christmas tree all coordinated by Meg! She found ways to minimize risk on the airplane by getting us first class seats (at a good rate) on the first row of the plane. She had the skis delivered to the lobby of our hotel, no waiting in line! Meg suggested we ski at Canyons/Park City because we could use our season passes from our local ski resort in Pennsylvania there. This saved us money. We did not have to wait in long lines for lift tickets because we had our season passes already. We went right outside from our hotel and there was the lift. Our flight was delayed on return and Meg was on it immediately, making sure we could get a late check out at our hotel and rearranging the car service to the airport. It was the smoothest family trip we have taken. My husband, who isn’t a big skier, said it was the best ski trip he’s been on! I appreciated her knowledge and feedback in finding the right ski resort for us!” —Lisa Manning

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“When everyone in my travel group backed out…, Julian sensed how much I wanted to take this tour to Africa, and he planned a solo trip just for me.”

KENYA, DECEMBER 2020

two travelers next to jeep in empty Kenya Mara plain

Jeremy Lynch and Julian Harrison, alone in the Masai Mara.

As an avid traveler, I knew that planning an African Safari was beyond my own abilities. After reading Wendy’s article about WOW Lister Julian’s recent trip to Kenya with his son, Dispatch from Kenya: What a Safari Looks Like Now by Billie Cohen, I knew that Julian could plan the right trip for me.

I first made contact with Julian on October 19, 2020. Julian was patient, informative, and knowledgeable. Julian’s patience and planning were immediately tested when everyone in my travel group backed-out of this trip as soon as Julian had it completely planned and ready to go. Instead of complaining about these travelers backing-out, Julian sensed how much I wanted to take this tour to Africa, and he planned a solo trip just for me. As an added bonus, Julian was going to accompany me on this trip. As Wendy would say, WOW!

By November 12, 2020, Julian had modified a multi-person itinerary to a solo itinerary just for me. From December 4-14, in less than four weeks, I would be traveling to Kenya and the Maasai Mara.

I only had a few requests for Julian regarding this trip: 1. I wanted the best opportunity to see as much game and birds as possible (no checklist, just opportunity); 2. I wanted as much of the trip to be inclusive as possible, so that I did not have to incur additional costs during the trip; 3. I wanted private game drives so that my time searching for game would not be determined by others; and 4. I wanted to “go with the flow once in the Mara”–get up early, go to bed at a reasonable time, but see what the day and conditions dictated, rather than having a set time-table and schedule of things to do.

Julian not only delivered on each of these requirements, but he exceeded them. For most of this trip, I felt and believed I was the only person in the Mara. From his selection of camps, Instinct of the Mara and Entim Camp, to knowing what to look for and ask for, Julian’s knowledge was invaluable. Notable, unexpected highlights included:
1. Traditional fire-roasted lamb prepared by Maasai men, accompanied by sundowners high on a hill in the Mara;
2. Persuading Richard and staff at Instinct of the Mara to prepare and serve an impromptu three-course-meal on a sandbar in the middle of the Sand River;
3. Assisting me with adding over 70 new bird species to my bird knowledge and inventory;
4. Innumerable animal encounters; and
5. An unexpected, secluded waterfall and resulting pool in the Mara.

Covid-19 protocols were evident at every step of the trip planning process and the trip itself. Admission to Kenya required a negative PCR test and answers to a Kenyan Government internet health questionnaire, which resulted in a QR code to be submitted upon arrival in Nairobi. The most stressful part of this trip was awaiting the results of my PCR test, which required that the test results be no older than 96 hours upon arrival in Kenya. I received my results at 10:30 PM, the night before my departure flight. (That was too close for comfort for me—outside the “cancel for any reason” window.  In hindsight, when I plan another trip of this magnitude and expense, I am going to have a second, “back-up” Covid-19 test conducted through the mail.) Julian pointed out all of the Covid-19 testing requirements early in the planning process, and he continually followed-up with me to ensure that I had what I needed for arrival in Kenya, including satisfactory trip insurance.

During the trip, every person in Kenya with whom I made contact was wearing a mask. Before entering any Camp or establishment, each time I was required to wash my hands, and hand sanitizer was present at all locations. In addition, all camps conducted temperature screenings prior to entering, and all eating establishments practiced social distancing by keeping patrons and guests separated. I felt each Camp did everything it could to ensure the most safety for its guests.

Even though a negative Covid-19 test was not required for my return trip to Georgia, Julian assisted me and was able to schedule a Covid-19 test prior to leaving Kenya so that I could have a high degree of assurance that I was not infected prior to returning home.

The most people I encountered at one time during my Kenyan Safari was at the major international airports—Atlanta, Amsterdam, and Nairobi. Everyone wore masks, and I kept my distance, finding a seat away from groups. I had never seen Atlanta’s international terminal so empty, but Amsterdam and Nairobi were busy but not crowded. The international airports were the only places where my thoughts returned to Covid.

I look forward to another experience just like this one, and I will ask Julian for his assistance and planning when I do.
Asante sana, Julian.” —Jeremy Lynch

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“We were very impressed with the resort’s adherence to Covid protocols…”

FLORIDA, NOVEMBER 2020

aerial photo of red chairs on beach next to ocean and resort pools at Acqualina Resort in Florida

A couple returned to the Acqualina Resort, where they’d celebrated their 40th anniversary years before. Photo: Acqualina Resort

“We just returned from a fantastic trip to the Acqualina Resort in Sunny Isles (Ft. Lauderdale). Lindsey introduced us to this resort several years ago when we celebrated our 40th anniversary. That trip was over the top itself and set a very high standard for both Lindsey and Acqualina. From the champagne served during registration (which has been discontinued for now due to COVID), to the incredible upgrade and super attentive service like rose petals on our bed and a very nice complimentary cocktail and snack waiting for us in our room. Since then, we have returned to Acqualina several times and Lindsey and her team have assisted us each time. With COVID, we had to reschedule 3 times, and each time they were super helpful making reservations, then rescheduling, working with the resort staff; it just made things so very easy. They made certain we knew what the cancelation timeframes were and helped us stay in touch with the resort so that we wouldn’t lose our deposits each time we had to reschedule. After we made this final reservation, Lindsey quickly put us in touch with the resort management and concierge team. The management reviewed their heightened cleaning and general COVID protocols insuring we were comfortable in advance of our arrival. We were very impressed with the resort’s adherence to these and how well they coordinated servicing our room when we were either dining or at the beach, all very seamless. The concierge team set up our dinner reservations, spa appointments and did the normal things these teams do. But with each email from the resort, Lindsey’s staff was included and insured everything went smoothly and then followed up with us to confirm it was as we desired. Lindsey and her team are just so easy to work with and stay on top of all the details. We couldn’t recommend them more highly to other travelers.” —John Arndt

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“Rigorous pandemic protocols that made us feel safe as we enjoyed the magical cities we explored…”

TURKEY, OCTOBER 2020

Hagia Sophia is the largest church built by the Eastern Roman Empire in Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia and other sights are open in Istanbul. Photo: Shutterstock

“What a spectacular trip! I was desperate to go anywhere this fall after a long quarantine in New York. Earl was incredibly responsive and after just one phone call, our itinerary was quickly assembled. Our amazing guide Riza and our lovely drivers could not have been more thoughtful and careful given the pandemic, and our itinerary was constantly being tweaked to avoid crowds, maximize time outdoors, while not missing a single sight! All our hotels had rigorous pandemic protocols that made us feel safe as we enjoyed the magical cities we explored. Earl also helped us adapt our itinerary throughout the trip. We booked the Bosphorus cruise while in Turkey after initially opting out and it turned out to be a true highlight. We appreciated all the helpful guidance from Riza, who blended tremendous historical knowledge, with incredible recommendations for restaurants, quick bites, and quality vendors for souvenir purchases. He made sure we missed absolutely nothing while making sure we weren’t exhausted. I don’t know how he did it, but his guidance truly made the trip. It was incredible having him as a constant presence throughout our trip. This was a truly remarkable trip and I strongly encourage anyone who feels comfortable traveling to take the opportunity to visit Turkey without the crowds.

One word of warning, no one in the Cappadocia balloon ride apart from us wore their mask and there was little enforcement although the pilot did try. Most tourists were from Russia and showed an utter lack of regard for the pandemic. Warn any guests that might be sensitive. I don’t want to recommend against the balloon company though because they objectively were excellent pilots and got down into the canyons in a way that other companies did not.” —Katie Stiner

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“We felt safe throughout the trip. Nearly all our excursions were outside…”

THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST, OCTOBER 2020

woman rappelling and rock climbing in Zion national park

“We also had a WOW Moment while canyoneering.” Photo courtesy Amy Evers

“Melissa and her colleague Mindy put together (in just a couple of weeks) an amazing trip for my husband and I! Like many others, we were supposed to be somewhere else (Zimbabwe for us) but were unable to go secondary to covid. Instead we opted to stay in the country and visit the southwest. We were NOT disappointed. We flew into Phoenix and out of Salt Lake City, but rented a car and drove between.

Our trip was filled with incredible, fun, and active ventures. We started things on the relaxing side with golf for my husband (which he did again later in the trip), a massage for me, and a bit of pool time. We then moved on to a lot of very active experiences until the end when we relaxed again. We went mountain biking twice and white water rafting. We went on a hot air balloon flight. We hiked in many gorgeous locales. We did a cooking class (the food was out of this world), a sunset tour in the desert, a UTV tour, a stargazing experience, and jeep tours. We had some time to explore on our own as well. Our two favorite experiences were exploring the very narrow slot canyons in Escalante with a guide that took us off the tourist grid (we didn’t see anyone else!) and a WOW Moment of canyoneering near Zion. No doubt we are slight adrenaline junkies, but this trip really fulfilled our desires!

We had booked a half-day of canyoneering, but the WOW Moment surprise turned it into a full day of elevated canyoneering with a special picnic along the way. And we had a photographer with us to take pictures of us all day! I am elated that we had more time to go further into the canyon and do more repels and obstacles. There was even one small section that got me out of my comfort zone and that is usually what I’m looking for! I know that type of thing is not for everyone, but that’s where it’s up to an intuitive and knowledgeable travel agent to find those things that make the trip really shine. I definitely feel like our travel agent “got us” in planning this trip. Our guides were all amazing too. They were personable, knowledgeable and good at what they do. My husband and I are both fit individuals and our guides were able to tailor our activities to our physical abilities, allowing us to get the most out of each day. I know the guides also had a heads up on expectations even before we met them, thanks to our travel agent! We ended our trip with some much needed, relaxing spa time in a gorgeous mountain resort.

Our hotels were all perfectly chosen for us. We ate like kings and queens. We even had some amazing meals in some very small towns. Melissa & Mindy made us feel very special throughout, leaving treats and champagne at hotels for us, as well as during excursions or sunsets. We truly were blown away by the beauty we have here in our own country! We felt safe throughout the trip. Nearly all our excursions were outside. We also ate outside for the majority of our meals. We wore masks anytime we weren’t outside and distanced and others did too.” —Amy Evers

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“Our trip was full of special experiences, knowledgeable guides, special hikes, tastings and more…”

GREECE, OCTOBER 2020

Oia town on Santorini island, Greece. Traditional and famous houses and churches with blue domes over the Caldera, Aegean sea

Oia town, on Santorini, is famous for its blue-domed churches and white houses overlooking the caldera. Photo: Shutterstock

“So grateful for both Faye and Stella who arranged a fabulous experience to Greece from 10/24/2020 to 11/1/2020 for our family of four on super short notice. Stella was incredibly helpful in arranging a great experience every step of the way and was a joy to work with. She graciously and promptly handled lots of last minute questions and change requests which made all the difference. Our trip was full of special experiences, knowledgeable guides, special hikes, tastings and more – All your partners were great and the activities were well planned and very enjoyable. Thank you for everything!” —Elena Lytkina

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“When we had to pivot to plan B, we were able to get deposits refunded…”

ARIZONA, OCTOBER 2020

cactus-Scottsdale Arizona

The area around Scottsdale, Arizona, is full of hiking trails. Photo: Christophe Schindler from Pixabay

“Once again Dani did such a fantastic job for us in her role as travel specialist! During the pandemic, we have found that it helps to have two sets of plans. Dani helped us set these plans up and made sure that when we had to pivot to plan B, we were able to get deposits refunded. Dani helped us with dinner reservations, even getting us outdoor seating where available. With the perks that her travel agency provides, we also have a credit and breakfast every day. She also help us with upgrades and late checkout if needed or available. We loved all the hiking in Scottsdale AZ. We spent hours hiking the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Dani knows that we like to have a suite with a separate area and an outdoor space as well and she knows how to pick a great room for us. Thanks again!!!” —Mary Hoak

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“She was on top of all Covid issues and gave us options on how to best handle them…”

CROATIA, OCTOBER 2020

Hvar Croatia

Croatia’s island of Hvar is usually crowded with travelers. Photo: Wendy Perrin

“Our trip to Croatia could not have been better planned by Ala. She thought of absolutely everything and made it so easy for us. Every single aspect was planned out perfectly- our fast track services, our drivers, our experiences, the restaurants— every detail was thought of. From the moment I talked to her she was on top of all Covid issues and gave us options on how to best handle them. She came up with experiences for us that were even better than they sounded on our itinerary and she clearly spent a lot of time and thought bc everyone mentioned they had read our itinerary – which was nice bc we didn’t have to tell each person where we had been or what we had done- they already knew so there was no repeating all the time.

This was my first trip through Wendy Perrin. I chose it bc of the emails I got that sounded so well versed in Covid issues. I will never try to plan alone or use anyone else for now on bc of how detail oriented our trip was. I said it before but Ala thought of everything. We never worried about Covid bc we were well prepared and did everything private. She was really good about giving her opinion rather than just planning what I thought we wanted to do and we would have had a far less experience had she not planned our trip. She really listened to our preferences and then ran with them. We got to spend a day with a vintner in Hvar and then have a really special meal and wine tasting at the end of the day that was such a highlight for us. The websites for the hotels made it a bit hard to gauge but she knew the hotels personally and was able to address any questions. It was so nice to be traveling and Ala made sure we felt safe and comfortable – and aware of what we needed to do and she had a backup plan had things gone south.

If anyone is thinking of going to Croatia, it felt so safe. They have not been hit hard at all yet they are following all the guidelines and safety measures. We are going to go back in April (if covid allows). It was not crowded at all but it also did not feel deserted so it was perfect. Had it not been for Covid, we would have just booked some hotels and drivers on our own and I cannot fathom how much we would have missed by doing that. Ala didn’t plan too much (we didn’t want every minute planned) but she planned our activities perfectly and they were not things I could have found online and booked myself so we are so grateful for her amazing planning- and she has great taste in restaurants so that was a plus too!” —Jennifer Andrews

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“I don’t think we could have found testing, if it were not for Kleon.”

TAHITI AND FRENCH POLYNESIA, SEPTEMBER 2020

Brando-Resort-Tahiti-OneTahi-motu.

The Brando resort, Tahiti. Photo: The Brando

“There were three areas where Kleon provided super value.

First, I would have passed on The Brando if it wasn’t for Kleon, and that would have been a mistake. Why? The price—it’s expensive. But it was well worth it. … It’s the finest resort we’ve ever stayed at anywhere in the world, in terms of service, privacy, and attention to detail.

Second, I don’t think we could have found testing, if it were not for Kleon.

And third, not huge, but we made a decision while at The Brando that we wanted to visit a pearl market, and he made those arrangements for us on the fly and organized the transportation for us.

Without Kleon, the trip would have been a much less enjoyable experience—or we might not have been able to go at all. That’s because French Polynesia’s entry requirements changed while we were going through the planning process. Just having Kleon hold our hand through it and make sure we did it correctly was very reassuring.” —Jeff Goble

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“She had the answers about socially distancing, about the ferries, about where to stay…”

PACIFIC NORTHWEST, AUGUST 2020

hiker on boardwalk trail surrounded by green rainforest Olympic National Park Washington state

The Gardner family spent a few days hiking Olympic National Park in Washington State. Photo: Shutterstock

Sheri is the consummate professional: she gave us excellent guidance on planning our trip to the Olympic Peninsula and San Juan Islands and superb and detailed advice as to where to stay and what to do; she truly tailored the trip to our interests and was “with us” throughout the trip (even assisting when we made a silly mistake with a ferry (notwithstanding her detailed written instructions to the contrary). We would work with her again in a heartbeat.

Renting our own places was a criterion for us and, interestingly, hard to do. Houses were very booked up. So Sheri was hugely helpful in piecing together our places to stay.

We rented a house close to Olympic National Park, but not in it. It was on the water, super pretty and an easy drive into the park. Then we spent three days on San Juan Island in another rental home, and a week on Lopez Island in another.… We loved it. We had really beautiful weather, and it was easy to be completely by ourselves.

Sheri knows that anyone who wants to travel right now needs to be careful, so she has great ideas. Before we could even ask our questions, she gave us great advice about how to navigate the process… she had the answers about socially distancing, about the ferries, about where to stay. Sheri could not have been better.” —Kathy Woeber Gardner

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“This is the exact reason why we use travel specialists from WendyPerrin.com…”

ALASKA, JULY 2020

a couple kayaks through the ice in Alaska

Kayaking in Alaska was a bucket-list activity for Janette Gill

Judith made sure I understood what was required. She let us know that we had to have a negative Covid test within 72 hours of travel. She sent me information on where I could go in Houston for the Covid test and walked me through the worst-case scenario if we didn’t get our results. This is the exact reason why we use travel specialists from WendyPerrin.com—for situations like this.…

The Lodge at Whale Pass is an amazing remote upscale adventure lodge. Mainly the focus there for us was fishing. We wanted to get remote because I love remote Alaska, away from cruise-ship passengers. Judith recommended it for the food too. Only one other family was there when we were, and for dining we sat spaced out, but we had just gotten our negative test results and the other family obviously had too, so our masks came off the minute we arrived.

Tutka Bay Lodge in Homer was everything I imagined it would be…and we were the only family there. At about 6 a.m., we headed out on a bear-viewing adventure. We saw seven bears, a mom with her cubs, a red fox, and a couple of eagles in their nests with babies inside. It was just a fantastic day.

We got back to Homer at about 2:30 in the afternoon and there was somebody waiting for us. They said, There’s some bad news: There’s an issue with the restaurant you dined at Sunday night [in Anchorage]: It has shut down because an employee has tested positive. They didn’t yet know which employee or whether that employee was even working when we were there. But the lodge made the safety decision that we would not be returning.

I was very disappointed but, when you travel in a pandemic, you take that risk that things may change. It turned out that the employee who had tested positive wasn’t even working on the day that we were there Tutka Bay Lodge very graciously offered to let us come back later for the unused portion of our stay, and Judith credited us back for the unused portion of the chartered flight that we didn’t use on the return to Anchorage.” —Janette Gill

ASK ABOUT A TRIP TO ALASKA

 

“Most of all, we enjoyed the change of scene and indulgence of staying at a luxury resort after 3.5 months on lockdown at home!”

RHODE ISLAND, JULY 2020

“Becca Clark and her associate, Olivia, both did a great job with our very last-minute planning process for a summer trip amid COVID-19. We knew nothing about Rhode Island’s beautiful beaches and had never even heard of the Ocean House before they recommended it! It suited our needs for this trip perfectly—close by, on a gorgeous beach, and with a high level of service, despite COVID restrictions. We enjoyed the croquet clinics, the beautiful views from our porch, and, of course, the beautiful beach. Most of all, we enjoyed the change of scene and indulgence of staying at a luxury resort after 3.5 months on lockdown at home! We approached Becca with some overall parameters to find something on water with some available services within a few hours’ drive. She returned with multiple options. We quickly narrowed in on Ocean House as our top choice for type of room, dates, short drive from our home in New York, and safety of the state in terms of low transmission rates. We enjoyed our trip! Thank you!” —Jane Kasey

 

“We were able to see and experience an incredible part of our country during a very difficult time and feel safe while doing it!”

WYOMING AND SOUTH DAKOTA, JULY 2020

Grand Prismatic Spring view at Yellowstone National Park

Grand Prismatic Spring view at Yellowstone National Park. Photo: Shutterstock

“We had such an amazing trip! Melissa was wonderful to work with during the planning stages. She really listened to what I was hoping to get from this trip and did all she could to accommodate that. We made several changes in the initial planning. I wanted to see wildlife in the Lamar Valley so we switched the location of our accommodation the night before entering Yellowstone so we would enter through the northeast entrance which is the closest to the Lamar Valley. And we lucked out! We saw several wolves, foxes, bison, and a bear! We wanted to go paragliding, which Melissa did not book for us, but she adjusted the schedule so we had a morning available to do it. We down graded a few nights of accommodation to save a bit of money as well. Then, just as I was about to book the trip (which was somewhat last minute given the covid-19 situation), my sister and her 2 girls decided to join us on the trip. This required some more manipulation of accommodation and switching a few activities around. Melissa took this all in stride with grace and had the new itinerary to us in no time! I was very impressed!

On to the execution of the trip… very well done indeed! We had a nice mix of independent time and guided activities. On arrival in South Dakota, it was arranged for our guide to meet us at an unusual location to make it more convenient for us given where we had just driven from. We had one hiccup on checking into the hotel in Rapid City but Melissa was available via phone and took care of it immediately.

Our time in Yellowstone, Tetons, and Jackson Hole went very smoothly. We did so many activities (learning about the geothermal features, wild life viewing, white water rafting, horse back riding, rock climbing, fly fishing, paragliding, etc.)! We brought our bikes with us and were able to tootle around at Under Canvas in Yellowstone as well as on all the pathways out of Teton Village. We loved our stay at Under Canvas, especially the kids, and really loved being all in one suite in Teton Village.

We are so grateful that we were able to see and experience an incredible part of our country during a very difficult time and feel safe while doing it! Thank you Melissa!” —Amy Evers

ASK ABOUT A TRIP TO NATIONAL PARKS

 

“Zach’s staff were on top of every detail and stayed in contact via SMS…”

MEXICO, JULY 2020

outdoor porch dining area of a vacation villa at Chable resort in Mexico with green trees around

The Chablé Yucatan has private villas that allow for social distancing. Photo: Chablé Hotels

“My family enjoyed a wonderful trip to Mexico during this very challenging moment. Zach was extremely helpful in recommending and securing the perfect accommodation and experiences for my family.

My concerns were: Will my family be safe? Are we taking unnecessary risks by traveling? Will we be in certain situations that will be beyond our control? In terms of meeting those concerns, the recommendations that the travel specialists made helped—especially the first resort, Chablé, because it’s such a large property and the accommodations were stand-alone villas. It felt 100% safe. The safety protocols at both resorts and both airports, and even with the car rental, made me feel like they were taking it very seriously.

During the trip, Zach’s staff were on-top of every detail and stayed in contact via SMS, which was just the right level of touch. They even sent someone to assist at the airport on our outbound journey, which was above and beyond. We were thrilled with the level of care and attention they gave us.” —Charlie Myers

ASK ABOUT A TRIP TO MEXICO

 

We’re Here to Help

If you’d like to travel safely when the time is right, write to Ask Wendy. We know which trip-planning specialists have up-to-the-minute intel for your destination and can make your entire trip safe, smart, and extraordinary. Check out Real Trips Right Now to see the difference that this makes. For future (post-Covid) trips, use The WOW List to find the best destination specialist for your needs.

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