Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

The WOW List: How To Benefit Most

by Wendy Perrin | September 24, 2016

Most travelers don’t want to just read about an amazing trip, they want to actually have an amazing trip—no crowds, lines, tourist traps, time-wasting logistics, or rip-offs. After 25 years as a travel journalist and advice columnist at Condé Nast Traveler and then TripAdvisor, listening to travelers tell me their frustrations, I’ve created a system designed to zap those problems and deliver the best trip possible. The result: WOW trips like these.  When you use this system—which includes my WOW List of the thoroughly vetted travel specialists whom I would use (and do use) to arrange my own trips—here’s what you get:

1. VIP status
2. Unbeatable value for the money
3. My advice during your trip planning
4. An invitation to review the travel specialist after your trip, to keep The
WOW List up-to-the-minute reliable
5. A surprise WOW Moment, custom-designed for you and complimentary, added to your itinerary on every third qualifying trip

To get these benefits, you must submit your trip request via at the start of your trip-planning process. This means using the black CONTACT buttons on The WOW List each time you contact a travel specialist, even if you’ve worked with them before. When you click on those CONTACT buttons and submit your trip request, it’s the equivalent of my personally introducing you to the travel specialist. That’s how they know that you were sent by Wendy. A copy of that trip request goes to me too, allowing me to provide you with key advice and watch over your trip from start to finish.  After all, I can’t monitor your trip if I don’t know about it.  It’s also how I stay in touch to get your review when you return.

This review system ensures that The WOW List remains stellar and safeguards my reputation by proving I can stand behind my recommendations. That’s what I get out of this. What you get is the best possible trip.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I hire Wendy to plan my trip?
2. Then how can Wendy help me get a better trip?
3. What makes a WOW trip better?
4. When should I NOT use The WOW List?
5. Why is it important to use Wendy’s trip request form?
6. Will using Wendy’s trip request form add to the trip cost?
7. What is Wendy’s Trip Support System and why do I need it?
8. How does Wendy’s Trip Support work?
9. How does Wendy select her Trusted Travel Experts?
10. Where can I read reviews of Trusted Travel Experts?
11. The Trusted Travel Expert I’m considering for a trip has only a few reviews. Why?
12. What if Wendy lists no Trusted Travel Expert in my price range for where I want to travel?
13. How does Wendy test candidates for The WOW List?
14. Is Wendy looking for volunteers to help with this testing?
15. What are Wendy’s WOW Moments?
16. Is The WOW List pay-to-play?
17. So how does Wendy fund this mission on behalf of travelers?
18. I have a question that hasn’t been answered above.

1. Can I hire Wendy to plan my trip?

No.  I’m a busy journalist on deadline. But I can be of help the way I’ve helped all these other people. My unique expertise is that I have spent two decades researching, interviewing, road-testing, and monitoring trip-planning firms, so that I know the absolute best ones out there. And it’s my goal to make sure you don’t waste any more time or money on mediocre travel experiences.  I’m on a mission, on behalf of the traveling public, to hold the entire trip-planning industry to a higher standard than it’s ever been held before.
Return to top.

2. Then how can Wendy help me get a better trip?

Via my WOW trip-planning system. Here’s how it works:

  1. Click to my WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts. These are the savviest, most well-connected, most honest, most credible trip planners out there; they’re the people I entrust my own trips to.
  2. Find the right Trusted Travel Expert and click his/her black CONTACT button.
  3. That pulls up my trip request form (which looks like this but is different for each TTE).  Answer the questions honestly and thoroughly. Hit SUBMIT.

Can’t find the right travel specialist on The WOW List?  Click to Ask Wendy.
Return to top.

3. What makes a WOW trip better?

It maximizes your experience of a destination.

  • It eliminates inefficiencies, crowds, lines, hassles, and other pitfalls.
  • It gets you priority status, insider access, and VIP perks.
  • It sometimes will cost more but is worth it.  If travelers returning from a trip tell me that a TTE did not provide great value for the money, I remove that TTE from The WOW List.

You might think you can get the same trip for less if you find and book each ingredient (hotels, transportation, restaurants, guides, drivers, skip-the-line tours) on your own.  But you won’t get the same experience at all.  That’s because a Trusted Travel Expert is like a great chef.  Even if you shop at the same food markets as the chef and even if you buy the same ingredients, your meal still won’t turn out the same. A TTE creates a one-of-a-kind “meal,” leveraging his connections to spice up each dish and sprinkle in special touches between courses, so that each bite of your trip comes at the right time on the right day. The TTE eliminates unpleasant tastes (lines, traffic jams, tourist traps) and brings out the best flavors (insider experiences, can’t-miss views, hard-to-get photo ops, introductions to noteworthy local people).  Like a chef, a TTE delivers a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

To understand 12 ways WOW trips are better, read this article written by a traveler like you.
Return to top.

4. When should I NOT use The WOW List?

  • When you’re looking for a low-cost or off-the-shelf product. Here, we define value by how high-quality and personalized your trip is, not how little it costs. There are plenty of websites that can help you find travel deals (though you should beware phony “values”), but this isn’t one of them. Instead, if you’re seeking a custom-tailored, sophisticated, wisely designed, non-touristy, hassle-free, transcendent trip—a WOW trip like these that WOW List travelers have recently returned from—I can help.
  • When you’ve already booked most of your trip. To choreograph a magical journey from start to finish, a travel specialist needs control over your arrangements from start to finish. The more of your trip a Trusted Travel Expert (TTE) on The WOW List designs and books, the more he/she can save you wasted time, money, and pitfalls at your destination and embellish your trip with special treatment.  The more of your trip you have already booked (say, you’ve booked your hotels and need only an English-speaking guide for a couple of days), the less value you will get for your money by using a TTE (e.g., you’ll miss out on the hotel perks you could have gotten through the TTE) and the less the TTE will want to work with you (because he/she may be concerned that what you’ve arranged on your own could negatively impact your entire trip, and because he/she may be concerned about having to bail you out of a mid-trip snafu).
  • When you’ve already decided on a detailed step-by-step itinerary. When you know where you want to go, stay, and eat, and you just want someone to book all those trip components, book them yourself.  WOW List TTEs are not, and do not want to be, mere order takers.  They perform best when given the freedom and control to create an imaginative, outside-the-box itinerary that will surprise and delight you. If you present the TTE with a laundry list of choices you have already made, the TTE may not agree with those choices, and it will be an exercise in frustration on both sides to have too many cooks in the kitchen.
  • When all you need is an airline ticket, a hotel room, and a rental car. Those you can book on your own. The time to splurge on a Trusted Travel Expert is when you also want a brilliant itinerary, special experiences, and the savviest local fixers who will save you time and headaches, deliver insider access, and make your whole trip easy and delightful.  You can’t get that on your own.
  • When you want to use points and miles for your hotel stays.  Travel agents do not earn any revenue for stays booked with miles/points—and the less revenue a travel agent is earning from your trip, the less that travel agent will be able to embellish your trip with special treatment and perks.
  • Return to top.

5. Why is it important to use Wendy’s trip request form?

Because I can’t monitor your trip if I don’t know about it.  Plus:

1. You get VIP treatment. My trip request form serves the same purpose as a personal introduction from me. The specialist will know that I sent you and mark you as a VIP traveler. He/she promises to:

    • Reply to you within 48 business hours.
    • Have an in-depth diagnostic phone conversation with you. That is critical to a WOW trip.
    • Provide the lowest pricing possible. The Trusted Travel Expert has pledged to offer unbeatable value for the money. (See more on pricing below.)
    • Extend VIP courtesies and benefits.

2. The Trip Request Form helps you to articulate your trip goals and needs effectively.

That enables the trip designer to meet them better and sets you up for a more successful collaboration and trip.

  1. The trip request form enrolls you in my Trip Support System. 

I will watch over your trip from start to finish, weighing in with important advice at key phases of the trip-planning process and intervening if issues crop up. I designed this system because, throughout my decades as a consumer journalist, readers keep contacting me about the same recurring issues over and over again, and I can provide insight and answers before those issues arise. I can help prevent the common misunderstandings and mistakes that can occur between travelers and trip planners.

  1. After your trip, you’ll get to review the trip planner.

I monitor my recommended travel specialists in order to ensure they uphold the standards and values that got them onto The WOW List in the first place. When you return from a trip that I’ve monitored, you’re asked to share your review of the travel specialist for the benefit of your fellow travelers who are trying to decide whether or not to hire that specialist. It’s these reviews from you that determine whether or not a Trusted Travel Expert stays on The WOW List.

  1. If you don’t use the form, you won’t get Wendy’s WOW Moments (see #15 below).

NOTE: I can’t monitor a trip properly if I don’t know about it from the start. If you have already reached out to a Trusted Travel Expert not through, I can’t help you.
Return to top.

6. Will using Wendy’s trip request form add to the trip cost?

Absolutely not. You pay the same price or lower than what you would pay if you booked any other way. The travel specialists whom I’ve selected to be Trusted Travel Experts have pledged to give you the best pricing they offer publicly, along with VIP benefits when possible. If you were on my WOW List, would you risk a negative review, or being removed from the List, by delivering trips that are not a good value?
Return to top.

7. What is Wendy’s Trip Support System and why do I need it?

No one makes it onto The WOW List without being excellent at what they do. I started this list nearly two decades ago, and I’m refining it all the time. It’s been said that it’s harder to make it onto my list than to get into Harvard.

Thanks to the exposure I’ve given these travel specialists—exposure not just to travelers like you but to my fellow magazine editors and reporters who also now put them on lists and interview them for articles—many of them have become extremely busy in recent years.  Many now have huge offices, and are frequently on the road, and as a result new clients are often delegated to new, less candid, less savvy employees. It’s become too easy for a non-VIP client to get a less-than-optimal trip. But when I put a specialist on my WOW List, the prestige is great enough that they are happy to sign a pledge, agreeing to treat all referrals as VIPs, to respond within 48 hours, to speak with them personally, and to offer you the lowest public prices available.

That’s one aspect of my Trip Support System, but that all happens behind the scenes. Out front, after you fill out my trip request form, I am with you every step of the way during your trip-planning process, checking in and sending you key advice at every stage. And then, when you return from your trip, I solicit feedback, to make sure each specialist still deserves to be on the List—because your input is invaluable to the success of the WOW List.
Return to top.

8. How does Wendy’s Trip Support work?

I designed this system to prevent the miscommunication and mistakes that commonly occur when a traveler uses a trip planner.  As soon as you submit a trip request, you receive an email from me with critical advice for planning your trip smartly from the get-go. (Here’s an example of that advice: How to Get an Extraordinary Trip That’s a Great Value.)   I continue to send important tips at key moments during the trip-planning process. After your trip, I invite you to contribute a review of the Trusted Travel Expert. Those reviews determine who stays on The WOW List.

If you submit a trip request but end up deciding not to use that travel specialist for your trip, I send a brief survey to find out why not, since I want to make sure the Trusted Travel Expert is performing to the highest standard.

This Trip Support System, which launched in July 2015, is constantly being fine-tuned, based on the feedback I get from the travelers who use it. So please be patient. I’m on a mission, on behalf of the traveling public, to hold the entire trip-planning industry to a higher standard than it’s ever been held before. And this system and technology have never existed before. So your patience is appreciated. To thank you for your patience while I iron out every bug, I am offering the gift of WOW Moments.
Return to top.

9. How does Wendy select her Trusted Travel Experts?

I’m the person who conceived Condé Nast Travelers ground-breaking list of top travel specialists back in the year 2000. It was literally called “Wendy’s Rolodex,” and it was the world’s original list of best destination specialists.  It became so popular that I was asked to compile it annually. Other travel magazines copied it, but my list remained the standard setter—and that’s because I based my decisions on voluminous consumer feedback gathered year-round.  I did that for 14 years—until I left Condé Nast Traveler in 2014, joined TripAdvisor, and launched Today, I have systematized that Trip Support System, and my decisions about who belongs on The WOW List and who does not are dictated by the consumer feedback I receive via that process. I am also constantly testing new people for The WOW List. (For more on that, see #13 and #14 below.)  Nobody can pay to get onto The WOW List. (For more on that, see #16 and #17 below.)
Return to top.

10. Where can I read reviews of Trusted Travel Experts?

On The WOW List, immediately below each expert’s entry, you’ll see a link to his/her reviews page. Here’s a sampling of recent reviews of all TTEs.
Return to top.

11. The Trusted Travel Expert I’m considering for a trip has only a few reviews. Why?  

Two possible reasons:

  1. The expert came onto The WOW List recently.  The travelers who have chosen to book with that expert, and whose trips I am monitoring, have not returned from their trips yet and thus have not posted reviews yet.
  2. Many of the travelers who have returned from trips with that TTE have elected for their reviews to remain private rather than be posted publicly.

Return to top.

12. What if Wendy lists no Trusted Travel Expert in my price range for where I want to travel?

Use the Ask Wendy button; I may be able to recommend someone who is willing to make more affordable arrangements. But remember that some countries (Japan and Norway, for instance) are far more expensive than others—and are also more expensive to operate a travel firm in. Also remember that The WOW List is a list of the best people out there; they provide trips you can’t buy elsewhere, and the price they charge for those trips is considered good value by your fellow travelers who have come back from those trips and posted reviews. Furthermore, nowadays there is no viable business model for inexpensive human-being travel agents. If you want the least expensive trip, book through a travel deals website.
Return to top.

13. How does Wendy test candidates for The WOW List?

I test them behind the scenes. I send travelers to them (frequent WOW List travelers who are eager to help me in my mission of finding the best travel specialists)  and monitor those trips closely, staying in touch with those travelers throughout and asking them to review their trips afterward. If I get enough stellar feedback and no complaints, I add that travel specialist to The WOW List. This testing process takes a year or longer (because it takes that long for enough trips to get planned, booked, taken, and reviewed.)
Return to top.

14. Is Wendy looking for volunteers to help with this testing?

Yes.  Hundreds of travel specialists are clamoring to be on The WOW List, and dozens of readers are asking me for specialists for destinations or types of trips that are not yet on The WOW List. I want to fill these gaps, so I’m constantly seeking and testing potential new Trusted Travel Experts. If there is someone who has arranged a trip for you and whom you highly recommend for The WOW List, let me know. If you have used at least three of my Trusted Travel Experts and thus have a clear first-hand understanding of the standard they represent and level of service they deliver, and you would like to be one of my “testers,” let me know.
Return to top.

15. What are Wendy’s WOW Moments?

On every third qualifying trip you take, you’ll get a gift of a WOW Experience. This is my way of thanking you for helping me test and fine-tune this new WOW trip-planning system. You’ll find examples of WOW Moments and all the program details here: Wendy Wants to Amp Up Your Trip!
Return to top.

16. Is The WOW List pay-to-play?

Of course not.  I’m a journalist and would never jeopardize my reputation, and all the years I’ve spent building up the trust and credibility that my readers and sources depend on, by publicly recommending a weak travel planner, no matter how much they wanted to pay me. My name, and the standard of travel I stand for, are worth a lot more than that.

Besides, if The WOW List were pay-to-play, there would be 5,000 travel agents on it.

Inclusion on The WOW List is determined not by money but by traveler feedback—a continual incoming stream of reviews from travelers who have just returned from trips arranged by WOW List travel specialists.  You can read these reviews—hundreds of them are published on this site—and they are not anonymous; they are from real, named, verified people who have recently used the List.  If I receive negative reviews of a Trusted Travel Expert, that person gets removed from the List. I’ve had to do that a number of times. The WOW List is based on merit—and not last year’s merit but this month’s merit.

The WOW List is not static. It changes frequently because I am also constantly testing a new crop of travel specialists:  I send travelers to them and collect their reviews (which are also published), to determine whether or not these new people warrant inclusion on The WOW List. Whether they make the grade depends entirely on reader feedback. This review system ensures that only the best people earn a spot on The WOW List, that only the best people stay on it, and that people who don’t deliver WOW trips get removed.
Return to top.

17. So how does Wendy fund this mission on behalf of travelers?

I want to help the thousands of travelers who email me for advice, but I can’t spend the necessary hours every day doing this for free. Someday I will likely start charging people for my help, but so far I have tried to avoid that; after all, I am a journalist who has spent decades informing and advising as many travelers as possible, regardless of the size of their wallet, and that is what I believe in.

So I have worked very hard to create a site that can sustain itself, that puts the traveler’s bottom line first, and that preserves my trusted reputation.  This site has sponsors and advertisers, and I also earn money by giving speeches and via writing and consulting assignments, but I do not take into account who is advertising or paying for speeches when I advise travelers. I have developed revenue streams so that the service that travelers ask me for can be self-sustaining and so that I can always put what’s best for travelers first and foremost.  None of these revenue streams are pay-to-play (as I said before, nobody can pay to get onto The WOW List), and none of them affect the honest, unbiased advice I give to the travelers who reach out to me. And if you have any doubt about that, read the reviews.

To protect the traveler’s bottom line, I require that every Trusted Travel Expert on my WOW List sign a pledge ensuring that travelers will not pay one cent more when using and the Trip Support System that I oversee.  And the value that travelers receive shows through in their trip reviews. If I receive complaints that a TTE is not delivering value for the money, I remove that person from The WOW List.
Return to top.

18. I have a question that hasn’t been answered above.

Ask it here so I can answer and add it to these FAQs.
Return to top.

Start planning your next extraordinary trip now — check out Wendy’s WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts.


WOW Moment: Vintage Car Tour of Provence’s Hidden Charms

by Billie Cohen | October 1, 2018

Travel Tips

The Best Credit Cards for Travelers

by Gary Leff | January 4, 2018

Travel Tips

Unexpected Ways to Use Your Frequent Flier Miles

by Billie Cohen | September 25, 2014

Airline Travel

An Interview with Frequent-Flier Legend Randy Petersen

by Wendy Perrin | April 23, 2014

Airline Travel

How to Find the Best Flight for Your Money

by Wendy Perrin | August 12, 2014


Wendy Shares Hotel Upgrade Tips with Giada De Laurentiis

by Wendy Perrin | July 2, 2014

Sites and Apps

How to Find the Best Seat on the Plane

by Wendy Perrin | August 25, 2014