For context, I have never used a travel specialist, or any professional I have not met personally and/or with a recommendation from someone, I know. I pride myself on my planning, and I usually like to have all my tickets and copies of confirmation numbers weeks to months ahead of time. Because I didn’t have any familiarity with Japan at all, and could not really understand many of the websites, I did not feel I could figure everything out online. This was the time to try a Wow specialist – Lorenzo Urra. In this instance, I spoke with Lorenzo by phone once in the beginning, and the rest of our communication was by email. I let him know what we are like, what we were looking for, how many days we were staying, what we hoped to see, etc. After you do that, he then sends a beautiful itinerary that weaves all those disconnected thoughts and ideas together. Be clear and direct about what you need so he can make the right recommendations – even and maybe especially, for the days when you choose not to have a guide. You get all your tickets, etc. at the point of contact on the trip. (This review is going to be detailed because I wished I could have read more about this specialist before we left.)
Fingers crossed, breath held we headed to Tokyo.
AMAZING! Every promise, every recommendation, every connection, every reservation, every location was exactly as represented in the itinerary and super custom tailored to our taste – plus something to enhance our experience. A “realist,” I wondered if the promises would all be kept. Not only were the promises kept, but they were kept completely and meticulously. But the real treasure, the real value were the people – the guides and drivers were delightful, and true “insiders.” What I did not fully understand is that the value of the Wow specialist is their ability to get you to the right people.
The second we stepped out of baggage claim in Narita – there was our driver (with water and treats) – a young and personable gentleman. We had a little issue with traveling between the rooms at the hotel as they were on different floors, and the security was quite tight. ONE email to Lorenzo and his Tokyo team had it fixed within MINUTES. The next day was pouring rain, but our calm, informative and lovely guide, Ms. Itsuka Takeda, navigated us through the Japanese gardens, a tea house experience, the Fish Market, Asakusa and more – all via the subway system which was in and of itself quite fun. She was actually even going to wait for us to freshen up and take us to our restaurant by cab, but we let her know we could manage. (BTW, at the restaurant of Lorenzo’s recommendation the amazing Kaiseki 5-1-1, we had the ultimate Kobe beef dinner, complete with bday wishes and GIFT for my son from the restaurant. ) The next morning, Itsuka accompanied us to Hakone and Lake Ashi. She and our driver, Mr. Ishida, brought us deep into the ancient forest – our wish list fulfilled. We finished with a bit of time so she and the driver discussed, then added an activity – the skyway at Mishima. When they brought us to the ryokan with baths, Itsuka helped us get checked in to the super authentic and traditional inn. She oriented us to new ways of sitting, through two tea servings (this was all part of the check-in) and only then – when she was sure we were OK and comfortable, did she leave. We 100% would not have found this ryokan without Lorenzo, and 100% would not have been brave enough to try all the traditional experiences without Itsukas gentle help and reassurance. Although Mount Fuji was “shy” the day before (it is common to be unable to see Mount Fuji, especially in rainy season) when our driver picked us up in the morning, he knew so many vantage points that a miracle happened, and we got a look at Mount Fuji! He did not leave us until he watched us pulling away on the train to Kyoto.
Similarly, in Kyoto, our fun, lively and knowledgeable guide, Ms. Igarashi, and our new driver were true insiders and when we got to the mountain hideaway cafe and found the wait would be quite long – off we went to a locals-only restaurant specializing in grilled conger – sea eel. YES! That is exactly what we were hoping for. The guide and driver were quite flexible and brought us to sites we missed on our independent walk-around the day before, in addition to what they originally were planning to show us. (Charmingly, our driver showed us a leaf he plucked from a nearby bush such that when you write on it the writing turns black over time- the first stationery, and had iced towels for us on this very hot day.) Lorenzo and his team also arranged two “experiences” for us – a Samurai experience and a Ninja experience – including transport and taxi transfers. These were very high quality, incredibly fun and authentic, culturally respectful and informative, and super interactive – including shuriken, ninjato, katana, meditation and more. My sons and I really enjoyed them. On our “independent” day, Lorenzo showed us, practically literally step by step, how to see Arashaiyama leaving from the Samurai experience, in the most practical and enjoyable way.
We visited many beautiful shrines—some famous, many less so—and our guides made it feel personal, spiritual, historical and fun all at once.
One last thing – our airline changed the departure to a much earlier time at the last minute – which meant all our plans for leaving Kyoto and getting to Tokyo had to be amended. One email to Lorenzo – and the Kyoto team was on it! That could really have been a BIG problem, but with all their support – a driver with an earlier pickup, an associate to change the train ticket, accompaniment from alighting from the train in Tokyo to the driver, then the dropoff at Narita – no problem.
Bottom line, WORTH IT! 100% helped me tremendously, and Lorenzo Urra and the people on the team were extremely effective, reliable, and kind.
Thank you, Wendy, for what you do. Time is precious, and the insights from the articles you have written over the years have really helped us make decisions that improved the quality of our time together.
Lorenzo was fantastic—one of the best travel partners I’ve ever worked with (and, as I’m sure some of the other travel planners I have worked with will tell you, I am not the easiest person they have worked with, as I have very definite ideas about what I want out of a trip :). However, Lorenzo and I got along famously. He arranged my family’s trip to Japan (Osaka and Kyoto) in late December 2017, for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Service levels were unbelievable—right from the planning phase up through the trip itself, there was no request that was too trivial or inconsequential. Completely professional and efficient but personalized and very high touch. Even travel questions I had which had nothing to do with the Japan trip were responded to and dealt with very promptly and with careful attention to detail. He is also very straightforward and honest views about options and, for the most part, he was pretty spot on about his recommendations. I’ve worked with a number of folks on The WOW List and my two favourites thus far are Lorenzo and Marc Telio. The way both professionals worked with me (and I imagine their other clients) takes customer service to a completely different level so totally worth the (rather hefty) price tag they charge. Thank you a million for recommending them!!!!
We contacted Lorenzo Urra from your WOW list to get his ideas for a side trip before joining a 13 night tour discovering Japan from Tokyo to Okinawa in early October, 2017. After reviewing our itinerary, he suggested we travel to Kanazawa and Noto to experience a rural/scenic and more traditional/authentic Japan removed from the bustling larger cities. He was extremely responsive by email and even a phone conversation during the planning process. He does not hesitate to share his opinion directly which was very helpful!
Every detail for our 3 day trip was impeccably planned and delivered. Our first driver met us at the airport in Tokyo and assisted us onto the platform at the Tokyo Station to make sure we got on the right train (wonderful service). In fact, we had extra time so Anna gave us a tour of Tokyo on our way from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station.
Our tour guide, Yuki Nozaki, and driver were excellent. They were our private guide and driver for 3 days. Yuki was very knowledgeable and made appropriate adjustments when we encountered rain at the Kanazawa Castle or the Sojiji Temple under such extensive renovation from a 2007 earthquake that touring was difficult. Instead, she added some unplanned stops like the Wajima Kiriko Museum with gigantic festival lanterns. It was very easy to ask her any question about the area, people, food, etc.
We spent 2 nights at the Lamp-no-Yado, a ryokan with private bath, on the tip of Noto peninsula. The service and food were excellent. However, since we arrived so close to dinner, we did not receive an introduction to the facilities but were settled into our room immediately.
We never had to figure out anything ourselves during the trip because all transportation, hotel, guide, etc. details were executed on time and with total assistance.
Lorenzo arranged an excellent side trip for us which was a wonderful way to begin our visit to Japan.
We originally contacted Lorenzo Urra about a trip to the Philippines. After we spoke, he suggested that I go to Myanmar instead, He planned the entire six week trip to Myanmar January 25-March 6, 2017. With one exception, I would have planned everything exactly the same. The one portion we would not have planned we changed, mid trip, so the end result was perfect! He made the change seamlessly.
My advice for future travelers who use Lorenzo is not to be afraid of his suggestions. Also, let him know as much as possible about your desires.
Lorenzo responded to any and all requests for information from me pre and during the trip most expeditiously. In fact, no matter when I contacted him he would respond, in detail, within one hour. That’s service.
Lorenzo Urra and his staff provided us with a near-perfect vacation to the Philippine Islands!! At first I was somewhat skeptical about the itinerary since we are not usually “beach” people. But I am so glad we relied on his expertise in planning this trip. We loved everything about it and the VIP service that we received. The hotels selected were top notch!
We had a slight hitch in our trip when we were on the island of Bohol—a cyclone warning! As a result, we learned that we could not fly back to Manila on time to catch our flight home. However, within a few hours, Lorenzo and company rerouted us by ferry boat to another island-Cebu- and got us to Manila in time to visit a private island beach resort in Palawan. We missed our first night there, but because of their connections, we were given a generous credit for the night we missed toward food, drinks, the spa and even the boutique!!
We also made an unusual request which they came through on. There were four of us traveling and we ran out of vodka—we always have a drink in the room before dinner–this was in Bohol. Within a few hours, our driver stopped at a store and out came the vodka!!!
I would definitely recommend Lorenzo and his staff to anyone visiting the Philippines. We visited the Philippine Islands including Manila, Bohol and Palawan.
Hi Wendy, Where do I begin? Our Japan trip was the best travel experience our family has ever had. The care and attention to detail by Lorenzo and his team was extraordinary! Nothing was overlooked. There was daily contact with Lorenzo and his team, and they seamlessly changed and altered our itinerary based on fatigue, interest and weather conditions. Our Boys, 19, 18, and 17, loved the very different activities that were scheduled. Every suggestion from Lorenzo was a winner!
As our Boys leave the nest, these precious family moments take on added value and I can’t thank you enough for your recommendation of Lorenzo, for his kind advice and hard work. Paul and I travel internationally on a monthly basis and we have never dealt with someone of Lorenzo’s caliber.
I am happy to recommend him and hope to have many more adventures planned by him!