How to maximize your experience of a destination? Know the right fixer. What will the right fixer do for you? Read on.
Here is a continually updated sampling of the reviews that your fellow readers have posted after returning from trips that were arranged by Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts and monitored by Wendy. These reviews illustrate how the right fixer transforms a trip from average to extraordinary.
Papua New Guinea, orchestrated by Lynette Wilson
KATIE STINER | SEPTEMBER 16, 2018
If you are headed to Papua New Guinea, you must use Lynette Wilson. When civil unrest in one area of the country forced a significant change to my itinerary, Lynette managed everything and it was hardly disruptive at all. I mention this because other people I met on the trip did not have the same experience with their travel agents and they related to me how utterly stressful the whole process of rebooking had been.
I was also deeply impressed with the operators she used. They were absolute pros and it was the first time I’ve done culture-focused village visits where I didn’t feel for one moment that anyone was trying to sell me something. It was so refreshing to visit places where people were simply keen to teach me about their customs and answer my questions.
Everywhere I went, it felt like Lynette had told people what I was going to ask for. At the dive resort, they had already slotted me into dive times so I wouldn’t lose any precious time as things booked up. It’s things like that that make a travel agent worth every penny.
Lynette also did a great job on my time in the Solomon Islands. I was particularly appreciative about how open she was to adding activities to my itinerary as I came across them in guidebooks and changed my mind about my priorities.
Southeast Asia, orchestrated by Andy Booth
PAM FARMER | SEPTEMBER 12, 2018
From soup to nuts my experience with the Andy Booth and his team was exceptional. During the planning portion of the trip, the staff was responsive with both emails and phone calls. They listened carefully to my interests and requirements and put together precisely the trip to Laos and Cambodia I had envisioned.
The hotels were all excellent (winning the most over the top “Lives of the Rich and Famous” prize was the Nam Kat Yorla Pa resort in Oudomxay). The 5 local guides and the drivers were the “secret sauce” for my experience. They all possessed an encyclopedic of knowledge of the region (Phnom Penh, Battambang, Siem Reap, Pakse and Luang Prabang/Northern Laos) were friendly, flexible and attentive.
I am a very experienced and highly independent traveler who seeks out diving deep into the local culture/history/nature/politics and food with an emphasis on “off the beaten track”. This trip checked all of the boxes and was my first foray into a “supported trip”.
I have a new appreciation for having a driver and guide that not only provide extensive local insight (cold towels and perpetual water too) but also are a friendly face at the airport to pick you up, ensure you are settled into your hotel and the drop off at the airport or next destination is equally seamless.
Highlights of my trip included (not necessarily in rank order):
-meeting one of only 2 living survivors from the Tuol Sleng prison
-seeing the endangered freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins
-biking in Angkor from Srah Srang to Ta Prohm and then Ta Nei (savoring the entire experience pretty much with just myself and my guide)
-spontaneous invitation from locals to party with their extended family during the Luang Prabang boat festival (a very special meal including LOTS of Beer Laos, dried and raw water buffalo and dried crickets)
– spending half a day at a no ride/no wash elephant sanctuary.
In summary, if you are looking for a Southeast Asia travel experience customized to your needs and interests Andy Booth and his team will make it happen.
Ireland, orchestrated by Jonathan Epstein
LINDSAY RICHMAN | SEPTEMBER 10, 2018
Jonathan and Nicole planned an amazing journey to Ireland for my husband, 9-year-old son and me. From our very first conversation on the phone, I was intrigued by the questions Jonathan asked about our travel styles and interests. This led to an itinerary that truly encompassed our interests and kept our son engaged and entertained. The accommodation selections were spot on and I greatly appreciated perspectives on where to save and where to splurge. Our guides and drivers were delightful, knowledgeable and provided great small additions to the itinerary along the way (a small chocolate factory in the Burren was a particular highlight).
We won’t hesitate to use Jonathan and his team again on a future trip to Ireland, Scotland, England or Wales.
Italy, orchestrated by Maria Landers and Brian Dore
JEFFREY BERNFIELD | SEPTEMBER 7, 2018
This is our second vacation using Maria and her team. I did not think she could out-do our last adventure to Northern Italy, but as usual, she and her amazing team planned another incredible and memorable vacation – this time to Rome, Amalfi Coast, and Capri. She is a meticulous planner and she has an outstanding team always responsive and available for any questions. Cristina is always there for us when needed. Maria has great contacts for fun personal experiences – we visited a cheese farm with personal instruction on how to make mozzarella etc…, we visited a family lemon grove in the Amalfi Coast and we had a private pizza making lesson in Naples. Everything we asked for, she made sure that it was taken care of. Our guides were incredible as always. Restaurant recommendations were great.
This is a travel expert that is on top of her game and without hesitation, I would use her services again and give them our highest possible recommendation.
Zambia and Kenya, orchestrated by Cherri Briggs
DELPHI HARRINGTON | SEPTEMBER 6, 2018
I would recommend Cherri and her team to anyone. I went with my family of twelve to Zambia and then took an additional Safari in Kenya. All the camps we stayed in were superb, each in their own way. Our guide, Sam, thought of everything, besides being an adorable company. I was only bitten by a mosquito ONCE! The camps were all unique and beautifully maintained. Transfers were effortless. Can’t say enough about this trip of a lifetime. Flawless!!!
Canada, orchestrated by Sheri Doyle
WILLIAM CHARSCHAN | SEPTEMBER 6, 2018
Great trip. Loved the app Sheri used for our phone which had her itinerary and all the links available to all the restaurants and sights. She also suggested we purchase gypsy guides for these areas which allowed us to have a guided tour as we did the trip our own way. We did book late which gave her some extra work on finding us great accommodations but she still put us in nice properties. She even got us a pass which got us past the roadblock at Lake Moraine. Highly satisfied and would definitely recommend her services.
Tanzania, orchestrated by Nina Wennersten and Dan Saperstein
KAREN SIEGEL | SEPTEMBER 6, 2018
From the minute I contacted Nina and Dan they were incredibly giving of their expertise and time. I had already spoken to several tour operators specializing in Africa and was completely confused about itineraries and accommodations in my target area of Tanzania. They helped me make sense of the choices and ultimately suggested Kenya as the best fit for my needs. It was an incredible trip!! They selected beautiful lodges in 3 different conservancies, each with its own unique animals, topography and cultural exchange opportunities. I believe they have great relationships with the properties they select such that we got what seemed like extra special treatment, great rooms, great guides and a few surprises like special birthday wishes Maasai style! I can’t recommend them highly enough!
Newfoundland, orchestrated by Jill Curran
ALISON GRANT | AUGUST 28, 2018
Jill is a skilled listener who figured out the kind of experiences that we would enjoy and then built our itinerary around personal experiences that would give us a real feel for Newfoundland and its people. All of the guides and activities were excellent. She chose perfect accommodations for us and went so far as to request certain rooms. Jill even arranged for the founder of the Fogo Island Inn to come to meet us. Jill provided us with restaurants, specialty shops, and nighttime music recommendations. She not only checked in with us during our trip, she gave us her personal cell phone number and urged us to call her any time. As our itinerary was so well planned out we had no need to contact her. Jill is an excellent travel agent who goes over and beyond. She obviously loves her homeland and it shows.
Norway, orchestrated by Jan Sortland
AMANDA MANDEL | AUGUST 31, 2018
From start to finish, Jan and his team were highly attentive and responsive, without being overbearing. They really listened to what we wanted from our trip (e.g., lots of outdoor activities, driving instead of time on a cruise, some guided experiences and time to explore on our own). Their hotel, activity, and dining recommendations were uniformly excellent. We loved our trip and felt like we really got to see parts of Norway that are off the beaten path. It was particularly amazing seeing the landscapes in the fjords and ending our days in tiny hotels and towns that are basically only accessible in summer. Our favorite hotel was the Walaker, where we could really get a sense of the multi-generational family ownership of this quirky, unique hotel while enjoying a cozy room and delicious food. We were there during a heat wave, so we swam in the fjord each day and watched children and adults jump off the (very high) dock. Additional favorite activities included glacier hiking, which neither of us had done before and included crampons and ice axes… and kayaking along the super peaceful, serene fjords. The only challenge was that dining choices were a little limited at the small, remote hotels, but the chefs were able to accommodate dietary restrictions and preferences when asked. This was a great trip for couples or families with easygoing, active children. We look forward to returning to Norway in the future.
Cruise orchestrated by Tom Baker
DEB KRAVIK | AUGUST 29, 2018
Tom Baker provided excellent service from start to finish. As a first time cruiser, he took extra time with me to help me understand the entire process of booking and cruising. Not only was I a first-time cruiser, I was planning a trip for our family, a group of 17 people of all ages. He made wonderful recommendations about everything from cabin selections, travel to and from the ports, as well as excursions. He gave us extra credits onboard and was able to get one bed refunded for me as a “tour director”. All of this was overwhelming for me and he never lost patience with me on all my phone calls. I would highly recommend him and will use him for future travels.
Italy, orchestrated by Andrea Grisdale
ALLISON ELIA | AUGUST 29, 2018
Andrea’s team did a great job planning an Amalfi Coast 60th birthday celebration for my dad. They did a great job accommodating one of our group’s flight delays and were very responsive despite the late hour. The highlight was by far the dinner at Don Alfonso’s! My dad can’t stop telling everyone how amazing the meal was and how wonderful the owners were to show us around the property. The hotels they chose were perfect, given our group size and budget, and they really listened to my request to give my dad the best possible views.
Turkey, orchestrated by Karen Fedorko Sefer
MICHAEL HARMS | AUGUST 28, 2018
We’ve fallen in love with Turkey – and we have no doubt that this was exactly Karen’s plan! She meticulously planned our trip balancing the unmissable sights of Istanbul with off-the-beaten-path sights, neighborhoods, and experiences. We loved the opportunity to explore Istanbul like a local while still visiting the must-sees that we had read about. During our time in Cappadocia, we also were able to see so much more than we would ever have been able to on our own and throughout our time in Turkey, we had a knowledgeable guide to ensure that we learned the history and context of everything we visited.
When the only glitch of our trip occurred, a weather-related hot air balloon ride cancellation in Cappadocia, Karen’s team sprung into action – finding us spots on the next day’s sold out balloon flights.
Karen is a true gem in the travel world! We’ve worked with several travel specialists and she is hands-down the most professional, personal, and detail oriented specialist we’ve worked with. When we go back to Turkey (when not if), we’ll surely turn to Karen to put together another flawlessly executed adventure!
Portugal, orchestrated by Gonçalo Correia
SARAH CORSARO MCGRATH | AUGUST 27, 2018
We loved our trip and had a great experience working with Gonçalo. We were in the middle of an international move, job changes, and renovations and he was able to seamlessly take our feedback and interests and create an amazing tour. The hotel recommendations really saved us from spending more money on worse experiences. There are way too many options in the Algarve and he was able to expertly navigate us to the best ones. The final hotel we visited was absolutely magical and so off the beaten path, I do not think we would have been able to find it ourselves. The meal recommendations were also extraordinary. Overall, we had a great, relaxing trip without having to lift a finger!
Disney Orlando, orchestrated by Michelle Allen
CHRISTINE STOLL | AUGUST 26, 2018
Michelle Allen created travel magic for my family. My husband, two grandsons and I just returned from Disney World where we had a fabulous trip, largely due to Michelle’s planning and support. She began the process with a planning call where she found out all about us, our likes and dislikes, and hopes for this trip. In that conversation, she suggested that we stay at Disneys Beach Club Resort because she said it had the best pool for our grandsons. With its pirate ship, slides and other water park features, she was absolutely right. There wasn’t a day that didn’t include pool time, sometimes late at night. Michelle also worked with me on a detailed itinerary, carefully planning the order of parks we would visit to make best use of open hours and Disney Magic Hours (which we took full advantage of). In later conversations, Michelle suggested and got reservations for a fun sit-down dinner each day giving us a chance to take a breather and eat some interesting and healthy food. Each restaurant was convenient to where we were spending the day; I could see the wisdom of all her choices as we went through the week. One dinner even included VIP seating at Hollywood Studios excellent light show, Fantastic. On the day we qualified to sign up for our Fast Pass choices, Michelle selected the attractions that were most popular and geared to our grandsons age and interests. She also ordered our Disney wristbands that were linked to our hotel room, parks, Photo Pass, and credit card. I didn’t even have to carry a purse when we when out for the day. Any e-mails I sent her with questions were answered promptly, either with a return e-mail or by arranging a phone conversation. Michelle and her staff made it possible for us to focus on memories instead of logistics. That’s a big reason why our grandsons announced to their parents when we returned that it was the most fun trip they had ever been on.
Japan, orchestrated by Scott Gilman
DALE SINDELL | AUGUST 24, 2018
Scott arranged the most memorable private moments for our family. One of our favorite experiences in Japan was attending a sumo wrestler practice, sitting within arms reach of the athletes. The photos are amazing! We also loved creating a new family memory with our kids (18, 21, 25) during a taiko drumming lesson. Since our family loves music, it was a great way to experience local culture and laugh together! Other private experiences that we would never have been able to appreciate without Scott’s expertise included a 5-hour cooking class and dinner in the home of a local Japanese chef. We loved learning about Buddhism and meditating with a monk. All of these were possible thanks to our unbelievable guide, Kiko-san, who also interpreted for us. She was kind, patient, knowledgeable and respectful of our family dynamic.
Australia, orchestrated by Stuart Rigg
YIN HO | AUGUST 23, 2018
Wow! What can I say? I don’t even know where to begin. This was an amazing trip for my family! My two daughters, husband, and I had an awesome time in Australia– many thanks to Stuart for such great planning, execution, and many memorable touches! First, we loved all the activities– from biking in Sydney, the Sydney Harbor Bridge twilight climb, to the magnificent Uluru and Field of Lights dinner/walk, to snorkeling with green turtles on the inspiring Lady Elliots Island! Each accommodation was fantastic– our favorite was the Ovolo Inchcolm in Brisbane! And the Lady Elliots Island eco-resort was magical and the perfect finishing touch to an already incredible and wonderful trip! My daughters loved the sunset over the Harbor Bridge and the chance to embrace a koala. We were celebrating my husbands 50th birthday and he could not have asked for a more memorable holiday. For him, stargazing in the clear night sky was an added delight! We truly recommend Stuart and thank him for the incredible trip! And bonus points for the fruit basket waiting for us on our last night.
French Polynesia, orchestrated by Kleon Howe
ERICA FEISTE | AUGUST 20, 2018
Kleon did an amazing job coordinating my trip to Tikehau, French Polynesia. He considered my strict timeline and added value by coordinating all transfers and choosing the perfect resort. Because he’s a diver himself he knew the right questions to ask to help me pick the right scuba club, and the capstone of my trip was two interactions with a wild dolphin on my second day of diving. I wouldn’t hesitate to book with Kleon again and recommended him highly.
France, orchestrated by Jennifer Virgilio
MARY LARONGE | AUGUST 19, 2018
I used Jennifer to book some hotels and add some special experiences for my recent trip to the Loire Valley in France.
She provided two wonderful hotels where we were given excellent rooms at well-located properties for our touring by rental car. Our special full day tour to Chambord and Chenonceau was a highlight, and when questionable weather canceled our evening balloon ride, she arranged a one-hour private Helicopter tour the following day. She also secured hands down the BEST table at the Jules Verne Restaurant in the Eiffel tower, thanks to her relationship with the management!!
Jennifer really delivered some pinnacle experiences that greatly enhanced our trip, which was booked less than 6 weeks out. She also alerted us to the fact that the French Open was going on in Paris, which would impact crowds at the various sites.
The Caribbean, orchestrated by Lindsey Epperly Sulek
RENEE TILLERY | AUGUST 17, 2018
My friend and I knew we wanted to spend a week on a beach within a 6-hour flight of home with little else to worry about. Because of our work schedules, we were planning on fairly short notice. Without Lindsey’s help, I’m not sure how long it would’ve taken us to make progress narrowing down the many options for all-inclusive resorts. She was able to give us the pros and cons of each place and found exactly what we were looking for, while also helping us manage our expectations for the budget we had available. When we discovered that seaweed was an issue in the Caribbean during the time we were planning to travel, she helped us identify which option was likely to have beaches that were not as affected. She and Becca were extremely communicative and patient, answering all of our e-mails and questions during the planning and booking process. Our time in Jamaica was perfect and we’re already discussing which island we want to visit next year, and plan to usLindsey’sys services again.
Whistler and Vancouver, orchestrated by Marc Telio
NANCY WOLF | AUGUST 10, 2018
When I first contacted Marc Telio, I told him that I wanted to go to British Columbia. We (my husband and I and our 2 teenage daughters) wanted to avoid Banff and other really crowded areas. Marc suggested we spend a few days in Whistler, a few days at the Sonora Resort and end in Vancouver. Although our plane had a late arrival, we were met promptly at the airport by our driver and a representative from Entree Destinations. We felt like VIPs and were given a welcome bag with reusable water bottles, bug spray, Lululemon headbands and more! Our driver accommodated our wishes to stop to see Shannon Falls on the way to Whistler.
At Marc’s suggestion, we stayed at the Fairmont Chateau in Whistler. It was a nice location, walkable to the main village, with a great restaurant for breakfast (which we ate at every day). Marc was very conscientious about keeping me within budget and would let me know when something (such as room choice) was not worth the extra price. We again felt like VIPs when we reached our hotel rooms. My husband and I had a welcome gift of handmade chocolates, cheeses, and fruit, while my daughters had a ski slope made from chocolate and the best macaroons we had ever tasted. (The only negative was that we were put in room 648, which was across from the room where all dining and housekeeping services went through, so it was a little noisy at times. My recommendation to anyone staying at the Fairmont is to ask not to be in a room ending in 48.)
While at Whistler, Marc set us up for various fun activities—RZR cars, white-water rafting, and zip lining. We also did the Peak-to-Peak gondola and some hiking on our own. On our last day in Whistler, we were treated to a WOW Moment: Brad Kasselman, the Managing Director of Coast Mountain Photography, met us at our hotel and gave us a personal tour of several waterfalls, giving us photography tips along the way and taking family photos. He also treated us to a delicious lakeside lunch. Although I am the photography buff in the family, Brad was able to engage the whole family and everyone really enjoyed the experience (thank you, Wendy!).
Brad returned us to our hotel in time to meet our driver to take us to the seaplane we were taking to Sonora Resort. Sonora Resort is not accessible by car, so Marc suggested a seaplane (as opposed to hours of driving and several ferries and taxis). The downside to using a seaplane is a strict luggage restriction. Marc and his associate Sandra were very helpful and patient during my multiple calls and emails about what clothes were necessary so we could make the luggage restriction, but our packing was perfect and we had no issues.
The entire family agreed that Sonora Resort was heavenly. So remote, beautiful scenery and gourmet food. The kids especially loved the snack room, which was filled with various snacks, drinks, and lunch for people to take on their excursions or just because they were hungry. As a perk of being one of Marc’s clients, we received a free 2-hour Eco-Adventure tour, where we were lucky enough to be in the middle of a pod of about 100 dolphins. Marc also planned several other excursions for us — sea kayaking and Blind Channel tour — both of which we loved. The food was so delicious that on the first night at dinner our daughter said: “thank you for bringing me here”. We would never have thought to visit Sonora island had we planned the trip on our own. I definitely hope to return one day.
We were scheduled to travel to Vancouver by helicopter but the hotel’s instructions told us we were leaving by seaplane. I contacted Sandra and the hotel had not told her, but she was able to change our pick up in Vancouver to the new location. (The only thing we wished she also had done was to suggest that the pilot take us to Canada Place instead of the Vancouver Airport. The pilot told us that he would have been able to if he had known ahead of time. We could have walked to our hotel from there as opposed to a 30-minute ride.)
In Vancouver, Marc suggested the Fairmont Pacific Rim, which also was in a fabulous location. Since we are foodies, Marc planned a food tour on Granville Island. My daughters had asked why we needed a tour rather than just walk around on our own. After the tour we realized why: There are so many booths that it was helpful to have an expert direct us and have samples of the items. If we had gone on our own, we would have bought one or two things…the tour allowed us to try more things in small quantities.
After our food tour, Marc had arranged a 4-hour tour of Vancouver. This is the only activity that we should not have done. It involved riding around in a car for most of the time. We would have preferred to explore the city on our own. (Lesson learned for our next trip.) Our tour guide was very good, though, and he was very flexible. My daughter wanted to go to the science museum after we passed it, so he was able to get us there for an hour before it closed. He waited while we were there and then drove us back to our hotel, even though it was past the time of our original tour.
Although I was very involved with the details of the trip, I didn’t have to figure out where to go, how to get there or worry about the logistics during my vacation. Marc and Sandra took care of all that, which made it a true vacation for me.
Alaska, orchestrated by Judith Root
MARSHA FRIEDLI | AUGUST 10, 2018
This was a ‘wow’ trip for us!!! From the beginning of planning this trip thru execution and completion of the process when smoothly and there were, fortunately, no unexpected situations. Judith and her team were there to answer any questions or provide insight on possible excursions and depending on what we wanted to see and do they provided many options. This was our third trip to Alaska and this trip was completely land-based. Judith and her team provided insight and opportunities for excursions and we could select to make this trip a ‘WOW’ trip for us! Also, my husband recently had knee unexpected knee surgery and we were not sure if this trip would happen. Between my husband’s determination to go by doing all the necessary therapy and exercises and also Judith being aware of this recent situation, some of the hikes could be adjusted to how he felt with the terrain and length. The vans used for transportation were very comfortable and accommodating of his knee situation.
The guides we had for the various parts of the trip were exceptional with their in-depth knowledge of the area and history. And a willingness to work with us on things we might want to see and visit. For example, we had visited Fairbanks before but didn’t have time to see the Alaska Pipeline area. Our guide Karen drove us to a very nice stop and provided us with a lot of information that you don’t get from reading a plaque or even a guidebook. Additionally, Karen drove us to the Alaska Bowl Factory, my must stop, as we didn’t have time to stop on a previous trip. Karen took us to ‘Creamery Field’ to see the Sandhill Cranes, such an unexpected delight. And Anne, our driver/guide from Denali area to Talkeetna, was also a gem. She stopped several times for us to take pictures of Denali. And I appreciated her in-depth knowledge of the area. And we did a nice hike around part of Byers Lake. Anne spotted several birds and was able to share insight on the various plants in the area. We had a delightful picnic lunch at Byers Lake.
From the guide in Fairbanks; to the air trip to/from Anaktuvuk; Bus trip to ‘The End of the Road in Denali Nat’l Park and flight back; the weather – beautiful clear days of Denali; salmon fishing in Talkeetna; seeing bears at Brooks Falls; getting a private tour at the Morris Thompson Native Heritage Center – it was arranged and went smoothly. Everything was just a delight! We learned so much and appreciated having some time with our guides and being in nature.
We, my husband, and I, thoroughly enjoyed the trip and all the things we were able to do. And without Judith’s knowledge as to where to stay, what flying companies to work with, what fishing licenses were needed and the many details and connections that were necessary for this trip, I could not have put it together without being frazzled and worried about making sure things worked as intended. This was a delightful stress-free trip. We had several flying trips that required transportation before and after the trip and then even one way to and from the various airports in Denali National Park. My husband and I are still trying to digest this trip. It was just wonderful! Judith and her team even arraigned the weather for us to get a ‘clear’ view of Denali.
A special highlight that Judith arranged for us was lunch with Martin Busher. I think my husband really enjoyed meeting the dogs at Martin Busher’s homestead. The puppies! One about fell asleep in his arms.
We did catch fish – 15-pound salmon. I caught 7 and my husband caught 3. We had never fished before and the guide we had was perfect. And the weather was delightful, clear blue skies not to hot with a light breeze to keep the bugs away.
I would recommend Judith Root and her team for any future Alaska trip!
Sicily, orchestrated by Marcello Baglioni
GISELLE WEISSMAN | AUGUST 9, 2018
Marcello was great from start to finish. He helped me plan an amazing and fun trip for my family incorporating everyone’s needs. His choice of tour guides is exceptional and they all love working with him. I especially liked to fact that he checked in with us and with the guides (behind the scenes) to make sure that everything was going well. Marcello was also great when we got lost trying to find the olive farm. I called his cell not knowing that he was in the US and it was 3 am! He answered and got us directions and an escort from the owner himself. That is full service!
Berlin, Prague and Vienna, orchestrated by Gwen Kozlowski
BERNADETTE FEENEY | AUGUST 8, 2018
Honestly, I don’t know where to begin. Gwen created the most amazing, magical, seamless experience of my life. She is truly brilliant, astute and intuitive. Every single detail she arranged was perfect. I am emotional writing this as I am remembering the pure joy my son and I experienced together on this trip because of Gwen. Our hotels were amazing, we both fell in love with Berlin, Vienna, and Prague through the most exceptional guides we had whom we absolutely adored, each and every one. Everyone treated us with such kindness and dignity. I am beyond grateful to Gwen for literally orchestrating a dream come true.
Costa Rica, orchestrated by Irene Edwards
DON AND TRISH SHEPHERD | AUGUST 5, 2018
Irene Edwards planned a spectacular, unforgettable travel experience for my wife and I. Starting with a telephone interview, Irene listened to our expectations and then came back to us with a written agenda full of information. We changed very little of what Irene suggested. She knows what she is doing. Absolutely everything worked: All transfers were on time in clean, modern tourist vans. The drivers were friendly and helpful. Irene’s knowledge of the accommodations and activities added tremendous value. We simply would not have found these places on our own.
When an airport closed for maintenance prior to departure, she was on it and rearranged the Sansa flight to another strip (and all logistics related to that change). We flew LAX to SJO (1st Class) and upon arrival, we immediately saw the sign with our name. The private transfer was flawless, thanks to a friendly, skilled driver (and Waze!). We spent the first night at the beautiful Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation, arriving around 4 PM. Our suite was fantastic, the service excellent, and we enjoyed a nice dinner in the open dining area with a fantastic view of city lights and mountains. Breakfast was ready early and we enjoyed it.
Our same transfer driver was there exactly when he said he would be, and we were off to the airport to catch a Sansa flight to Palmar Sur, a fun hop to the Osa Peninsula. We were met at the PMZ airport by Cynthia from Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge. Cynthia was truly one of the highlights of the trip… so smart, friendly and in tune with Costa Rica. Here we began our journey to Casa Corcovado, the ultimate combination of luxurious comfort and jungle adventure. Check out their website. We got on a boat at the C.C.J.L. Hacienda and headed down the Sierpe River, out the mouth into the Pacific and down the coast to the Jungle Lodge where we made a wet beach landing! So exciting! Everyone at the lodge was friendly, hardworking and accommodating. They had all of the gear… rubber boots, ponchos, snorkeling gear, wet bags, flashlights, spotting scopes. We stayed three nights in Unit 3… absolutely beautiful! Cynthia, Steven, and Manfred took us on great hikes and snorkeling at Cano Island. We had a blast! What a country!
Before we knew it, it was time to head north to Manuel Antonio and the beautiful Arenas Del Mar Resort for three nights. We had a fantastic ocean view room in a resort with unparalleled beauty. Fantastic hikes with Estoban, our guide, in Manuel Antonio National Park and the Los Campesinos bridge and waterfall. Terrific food in the world-class dining room with top-notch service. A++ service from the welcome area arrival to the checkout experience. Our final private driver transfer back to the airport included a stop for the jungle river crocodile boat cruise at Tarcoles. It was fun and we saw a bunch of crocks and Macaws! This trip could not have been any better. Eight days, seven nights of WOW!
Thanks for recommending Irene. Everything was perfect; everyone was wonderful! We can’t wait to plan the next one!
Brazil, orchestrated by Martin Frankenberg
DONNA DESANTIS | AUGUST 5, 2018
We were a group of 8 in Brazil on a fabulous trip planned by Martin and Tamiris, who designed a comprehensive Brazilian experience based on our interests in nature and adventure. We started at Iguaçu Falls, staying at the Belmond Hotel within the National Park to get before and after-hours access to this most beautiful site. In Bonito, we were challenged and thrilled to repel down into a 72-meter cave called the Anhumas Abyss and then manually ascend under our own power after snorkeling among the stalagmites below the water in the cave. We also did a beautiful Prata river drift/snorkel to watch beautiful native fish. In the Pantanal, we tracked jaguars and observed over 400 species of birds with a wonderful conservation group, the Onçafari Project. At the Boca da Onça Farm, we did an amazing waterfall hike (there had to have been at least 20!) with swimming under most of them! A four-night Amazon cruise on the Rio Negro included rainforest hikes, meeting with indigenous peoples, a school visit, piranha fishing, a pink dolphin encounter, and a spectacular tree-climbing above the rainforest canopy. Finally, after a private sunrise Christ the Redeemer statue breakfast picnic on Corcovado mountain, we toured Rio by foot and by bicycle, ending atop Sugarloaf. We had specialist guides at each region, but throughout the trip, we always had our main guide and host, Gabriel. He was, without a doubt the finest guide we have ever had and we have all traveled extensively. Brazil is a beautiful country, both in natural wonders, and in the easy friendliness and warmth of its people. We thoroughly enjoyed every wonderful day there, and were absolutely thrilled with all of the astounding national treasures shared with us.
Greece, orchestrated by Christos Stergiou
WENDY AND NIK MINOCHA | AUGUST 5, 2018
We knew we wanted to go to Greece, wanted to avoid the summer crowds, and wanted a mix of active and relaxation — but that’s about as far as we were able to get on our own. Christos delivered everything we asked for, with only one month’s notice. While we may have missed the iconic views of Santorini, we experienced quiet islands where we were, at times, the only people on the street. Christos suggested we extend our trip by two days due to the ferry schedule in order to visit one of those islands and it was well worth it! And, the guides arranged for us both on Patmos and in Athens were incredibly knowledgeable and personable and we really enjoyed our time with them, learning more about the sights and culture than we ever imagined. Best of all, our trip ran seamlessly (such a treat!), especially given the number of transfers we needed. We couldn’t have planned this on our own and we wouldn’t have changed a thing.
Indonesia, orchestrated by Diane Embree
GARRETT BANDY | AUGUST 1, 2018
Diane planned a 30-day itinerary for our family (5-year-old twins and my wife and I) throughout Indonesia. Although we travel often, we could have never planned such a seamless vacation. Her working relationship with our guides was evident. We were taken care of, educated, had our hands held and welcomed into homes in villages that we would have never had access to. Diane’s 30+ years of traveling in Indonesia and discovering new hotels, gorgeous/idyllic islands and an obvious expertise in routing our journey was evident.
Diane has relationships with villa owners/managers in areas of Indonesia that would have been nearly impossible to find on our own. These accommodations are not in guide books. We could not have been happier with our trip that Diane planned for us.
Israel, orchestrated by Joe Yudin
JOE AND HEATHER DAVIS | JULY 30, 2018
My wife and I spent two weeks in Israel coinciding with our two boys birthright trip. We spent 8 days with our guide, Ari. Prior to the trip, I learned about Joe Yudin via Wendy Perrin. Joe personally helped us plan the trip it was a flawless, user-friendly experience he was great and connected us with his top guide Ari Ram. From the moment we landed to the moment we came home the trip came off perfect. Ari was an incredible guide and now our good friend. We spend time in the Golan Heights, Tiberias, then off to Jerusalem and ultimately Tel Aviv where we ultimately met up with our boys post birthright. From Joe’s staff to Ari the best guide ever, our trip was incredible and memorable. I would not consider traveling to Israel without expert help and planning, its too complex and there is too much to see and you need professionals to arrange the trip and a guide to make it educational, safe and fun! Thank you, Joe and Ari, for the trip of a lifetime.
Thailand, orchestrated by Daniel Fraser
JOELLEN SHELDEN | JULY 25, 2018
Dan Fraser and his team knocked it out of the park. Last year we had to end our trip early to Thailand due to an injury. We were determined to go back and finish our trip. Throughout the planning stages, I could tell they had processed our likes, dislikes, style and preferences and that had been used to craft our new trip. We added Saigon, Hue, and Hoi An to the beginning of our trip for a 15-day adventure. We stayed at fabulous luxury hotels like the Park Hyatt Saigon where we were upgraded to a suite and the St. Regis Bangkok. We stayed at historic properties like La Residence in Hue and a swanky boutique hotel Rachamanka in Chiang Mai furnished with antiques. All of our private guides and drivers were knowledgeable, personable, and flexible. We seldom waited in line, so all the temples and sights without the crowds. Dan calls their guides hosts and they do just that. Go to the market? You get opportunities to try local drinks and fruits. At the temples, you get to participate in local customs and traditions. We are foodies and we had such amazing lunches at non-tourist places. Dan’s office team also helped us make reservations at two of the top restaurants in the world, Gaggan, and Nahm. And when we had a mini-crisis of food poisoning, our guide was there to make sure I got the treatment I needed and figured out how to reconfigure our next day so that we still got to see the main sights. The transfers between cities were seamless. One of my most favorite moments was at Ayuthayya when I dressed in traditional clothes and wandered amongst the temple ruins. Dan and his team not only gets the big things right but the details that take a trip from great to lifetime memories. Thank you, Wendy, for making this introduction.
Provence, orchestrated by Philip Haslett
PAM ANDERSON | JULY 24, 2018
Philip Haslett and Julie on his team designed the perfect trip to the South of France for us. My husband and I travel a lot and like to explore independently. Philip and Julie designed an itinerary that allowed us to drive from one beautiful village to another using a detailed GPS map they provided with magnificent stops and suggestions along the way. Philip knows all the secrets of Provence and the French Riviera because he lives there. Having a WOW moment to use during this trip, Philip surprised us by personally taking us on a driving tour in a classic Citron CV2! It doesn’t get any more French than that! Thanks to Philip and Julie’s relationships we were treated as VIPs at every stop. Can’t recommend Philip highly enough.
Costa Rica, orchestrated by Natalie Ewing
CATHERINE SPEAR | JULY 21, 2018
We took a trip to Costa Rica planned by Natalie Ewing and her team from Feb 26th to March 9th, 2018. We flew into San Jose and spent the first night in a downtown hotel before being picked up by our two fantastic guides, Federico and Minor the following morning. From then on, we had a great time exploring the beauty and wonders of the country. We took our time getting to our first destination – Kura Design Villas in Uvita. Wow, what a beautiful setting and what wonderful accommodations. This place is breathtakingly beautiful and they made sure we had the best room on the property. The sunsets were spectacular every evening! While there we spent a day on the water snorkeling and fishing and another day lounging on a beautiful private beach. Federico and Minor also made sure we found some great local spots to eat – we especially loved the ceviche and all the fresh fruit. At every turn our guides made sure to point out interesting flora and fauna as well as helping us to communicate with our limited Spanish. They were incredibly knowledgeable and quickly learned what we liked and made sure to attend to our every need. When the inevitable small mishaps occurred, they would spring into action and make sure we got right back on track. We left the Dominical region and moved on to visit the native Boruca reservation. After a refreshing break at one of Costa Rica’s many waterfalls, we then headed north to Perez Zeledon and the Hacienda Alta Gracia. Another fantastic property where we spent the next several days exploring, horseback riding and hiking to another spectacular waterfall. They even arranged for a private aircraft to help us get back to San Jose to take care of a medical issue and return without missing a beat. From Alta Gracia we flew over the volcano and landed in Arenal where we were reunited with our guides and stayed at the Nayara Hotel, another beautiful property. We enjoyed a zip line excursion over the rainforest followed by another great hike with plenty of stops to see some amazing birds. After a few fantastic days in Arenal we headed to the Nectranda Cloud Forest garden where we had a private tour and a nice lunch with the proprietors and a few other guests. Our guides and trip planners did a fabulous job every step of the way and took us to a number of places that we would have been hard pressed to find on our own. More importantly, they really listened to what we liked and picked up on our cues so that our every need was promptly attended to. We can’t say enough good things about Federico, Minor, and Natalie who helped us with all the planning and logistics. We heartily recommend her and her team and look forward to having them plan our next visit to see the country.
Mongolia, orchestrated by Jalsa Urubshurow
LOIS MALTAIS | JULY 12, 2018
The trip and all that I experienced was way beyond my expectations. I fell in love with Mongolia, her beauty, and her people. Jalsa Urubshurow and Neil Atkinson on his team put together an incredible itinerary based on where I wanted to go and what I wanted to experience during my time in Mongolia. Two weeks prior to my departure dates, the domestic airline to take me to the second leg of my trip canceled the flight. Neil immediately made alternative plans and contacted me to suggest a new itinerary, which I agreed to. Throughout the entire planning process, Neil kept me informed of the what I would be experiencing during my stay in Mongolia.
When I arrived in Mongolia at the Ulaanbaatar airport I was greeted by my guide Bugina and knew instantly I was going to have a fabulous time. Throughout my entire 3 weeks of my trip, Bugina was an absolute delight. I knew I was in capable hands. I feel so fortunate to have had her for a guide. There was lots of laughter and conversation and I never felt bored or alone. She was an excellent guide and travel companion… I just can’t say enough good words about her and how she took care of my every need.
Tbilisi, orchestrated by Zulya Rajabova
MELISSA POLLACK | JULY 3, 2018
Zulya provides something that is rare, among even top travel agents: a true partnership. Through every step of planning my family’s trip to The Republic of Georgia, she made sure that she was meeting our travel needs and goals. Georgia is not flooded with obvious tourist attractions, so we received a well-rounded itinerary that allowed us to experience its natural wonders and connect with the culture. Never did I dream that my kids would be singing karaoke with Georgian children after lunch in their Soviet-era apartment. Some other favorite activities included cooking with local families in their homes, hiking in the Caucasus mountains and visiting Gergeti church via horse. I think the main reason it was so pleasant to work with Zulya is that she truly cares that you have a wonderful experience on your trip. She is an ambassador of the countries she represents, and we look forward to working with her to travel to other Silk Road destinations.
Hawaii, orchestrated by Jay and Dani Johnson
JOE MCBRINE | JULY 2, 2018
We enlisted the help of Dani Johnson—based out of California—to help us put together a trip to Maui and the big island of Hawaii in June. Overall it was a great trip packed with hiking adventures, a sunrise visit to the top of Mt. Haleakalā and a subsequent bike down, surfing lessons in Lahaina, and a helicopter tour of the big island, including the active volcano. Dani was in constant contact with us throughout our trip, which was greatly appreciated, as we had questions about various things while we were there. We had mentioned this trip was a celebration of our wedding anniversary and at both of our hotels, there was chilled champagne and sweet treats courtesy of Dani. She even managed to snag us an upgrade to a suite at the Four Seasons Hualalai on the big island which was a pleasant surprise. Overall we were very happy with her and the great getaway she helped organize for us.
Japan, orchestrated by Lorenzo Urra
ESTELA RABIN | JULY 2, 2018
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.
Scotland, orchestrated by Jane McCrum
EDWARD AND EILEEN CLAY | JUNE 28, 2018
Trip of a Lifetime.
How different our trip would have been had Wendy not introduced us to Jane McCrum and her team. With only a short conversation Jane planned a trip for us that exceeded my most hopeful expectations and one that would have been impossible without her peerless effort.
A private concert at an equally private estate in the highlands, a guided fly-fishing expedition through pristine waters, a tour of the castle built by our ancestors, and some of the very finest dining experiences we’ve had anywhere in the world. Our accommodations were exceptional, inviting, and unique, the perfect combination of five-star luxury and rural comfort.
Our guides Nicky and Les were beyond compare, we couldn’t imagine having taken the trip without them. They both know the historical and modern-day Scotland in greater detail than I know my own neighborhood. They are tremendous storytellers and warm friends, effortlessly bypassing road closings, navigating the rainy weather, and juggling our schedules such that we never missed a thing. These two are likely magic in some way.
We are already planning our return trip with our family, having left our hearts in Scotland. Our sincerest thanks to Wendy and Jane, without whom we’d never have been able to forge these lifelong memories. Cheers!
Peru and the Amazon, orchestrated by Ashton Palmer
JODY KREIMAN | JUNE 27, 2018
Planning this trip involved a series of detailed emails with Ashton Palmer and his staff, with the result that everything about the trip (to Peru) was perfectly tuned to our interests and abilities. In the Sacred Valley, we were paired with a guide who knew every stone at every site, and every corner of every town. We were able to visit a tiny village where textiles are created starting with shearing the alpaca and ending with weaving the finished product and saw how the different dyes are created, how the looms work, and how people live above 13,000 feet. We met our guides mother, who lives in an original Inca house and cooked us a snack. Talking to other travelers, it was clear how much more we saw of how people live than do most other tourists, and how much richer our experience was as a result.
From the Sacred Valley, we went to the Amazon to visit the Pacaya-Samiria reserve, something I’ve wanted to do my entire life. There are a lot of ways to see the Amazon, but Ashton pointed us to the one that gave us the immersive experience we wanted, and my unreasonable expectations were more than met. We ended in Lima, where the highlight was a tasting market tour with a chef followed by a 7-course lunch with the kind of commentary every home cook dreams of (“if only I had someone here to tell me how to make this delicious dish…” and there she was!).
Ashton Palmer is the person to work with if you want a chance to get closer to the place you’re visiting. We saw all the sights; but we did so much more than that, in exactly the way that suited us best. I can’t imagine how we would have put something together on our own. Most highly recommended!
American Southwest, orchestrated by Marty Behr
ARTHUR HERMANN | JUNE 24, 2018
We recently returned from our trip of the Southwest national parks (Arches, CanyonLands,Zion, Bryce etc). Our trip was planned by Blair on Marty’s team. This is the second time I have used one of Wendy’s WOW planners and she did not disappoint. First, the reason I used a planner at all for a trip in the US (my own backyard), was that I had no idea how much time to allocate for each of the parks and how to navigate the loop so that it all would work well. On top of that, there never seems to be a huge number of choices re: lodging near national parks and I wanted help with booking comfortable, but not over-the-top, lodging. I told Blair that if there was a place to stay that became an important part of the visit, then by all means we wanted to do that. She nailed it with our stay at the Red Cliffs Lodge! Our backyard was the Colorado River and some amazing red cliffs!! All in all, Blair did a great job of setting up the logistics, planning excellent activities with a combination of shared tours and private guides… I definitely wouldn’t have been able to plan as well by myself (not to mention the time saved by NOT having to do so!). I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Marty and Blair if any of our friends wanted to tour US national parks.
Spain, orchestrated by Virginia Irurita
SONJA HAGGERT | JUNE 21, 2018
What a fabulous Dali day. My husband and I are big fans of the artist’s work and were anxious to see the Dali house, Cadaques where he vacationed and the Dali Museum. Jordi, our guide and our driver (whose name we can unfortunately not recall) were terrific. Our driver handled hairpin curves with aplomb (there were many) and both were a joy to be with during the day. Jordi was informative without being overbearing and took care of a lot of little details. He found us a wonderful place for lunch and even gave us his mother’s recipe for Paella. Can’t wait to try it!
Zion, the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, and Sedona, orchestrated by Caroline Wood
MATT HENGEHOLD | JUNE 20, 2018
We had an amazing adult family trip to Big Sky, Montana, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole and Caroline Wood and her team were everything we were looking for in a travel advisor. Right from the start, Caroline got on the phone with me to ask questions and find out all our wishes. She then laid out some great options on accommodations and activities – all exactly as we had discussed. We did not need to have extensive back and forth – she just got it. In our final conversation before departure, she made sure all of my questions were answered.
As for the trip itself, all was seamless. Caroline and her team laid everything out day to day, involving drives, tours, rafting, hiking, fishing and delicious meals (including a private chef at home after a long day of touring). All top notch. We did not have one snag. As the travel planner, she made me look like a hero. The tools they used and all the back-up information on all the locations seemed to anticipate all our questions (lunch, where to hike, etc..) We rented a fabulous home in Big Sky and stayed in a wonderfully, fun inn in Jackson Hole. I would not hesitate to use Caroline again.
Morocco, orchestrated by Michael Diamond
SHARON FERRARA | JUNE 12, 2018
Michael was instrumental in planning our two week trip to Marrakech and Fez. We concentrated on architecture and design as I attend design school. He listened carefully and created an itinerary that covered not only major points of interest but quirky places off the beaten path.
We spent many fun and interesting days with our loyal guide, Hassime. We began our time together in Marrakech and were delighted when he informed us that he would be joining us in Fez. It was emotional when everything came to an end, as he had become a son to us.
Sometimes, a local designer would join us to expertly explain and expose us to different aspects of the industry; I helped weave a huge, black and white Berber rug, on the loom at the medina showroom. In a lighting factory in the industrial area, I observed metal being intricately cut and filed to create breathtakingly beautiful sconces and pendants of huge proportions. I created and fired my own 8-inch square, black and white tile, in a factory outside the city. We watched men hand carve cedar with intricate, geometric, design, forming screens, doors and decorative woodwork. We visited the tannery and to watch leather being dyed.
In a tiny shop, through a cave in the medina, we observed silk, of agave, woven into fabric on the loom. Moroccan colors are the most vibrant I’ve seen. Everybody was smiley and happy to allow me to watch them work. They gave me hand-carved spindles and tassels and samples of glittering passementerie and braid. One gentleman carved a shoehorn, out of real horn for my husband. Hassime asked him to please make a small hole in the handle, and I attached a tassel.
The last factory we visited was my favorite. It is a porcelain factory where all kinds of tiles and pottery and vases and dinnerware are created and hand painted. The mosaic designs on wrought iron table tops are out of the ordinary. I am planning on ordering two.
In addition to ALL of this, Michael ensured that we saw every museum, garden, palace, spice market, and minaret. He helped me with restaurant reservations when my hotel was letting things slide. He arranged all transportation, and there was a lot. Always with a clean, shiny Mercedes SUV, that was on time, even at 2 am.
He arranged a day trip to the Agafay for lunch in a private tent (wonderful) and camel rides (hilarious ). Our young host, Hamead, was so humored by my fascination with his elaborate (really) turban, that he promptly unraveled all 20 meters of it and recreated his
“Lawrence of Arabia” vibe so I could see how it’s done.
Honestly, I could go on, but I am sure you get the gist.
I asked Michael if he did any other countries, say India? and his response?
“No Sandra, I don’t. I’m a Moroccan kind of guy”.
What more could you possibly want?
The Galapagos, orchestrated by Allie Almario
DAVI HARRINGTON | JUNE 5, 2018
Allie was Fantastic from beginning to end! She listened carefully to what we wanted and helped us plan an amazing trip. She walked us through points of interest in Peru and Ecuador. Introduced us to places we would not have known to visit, recommended excellent, beautiful hotels and ships and even advised me on the best places to shop for local artisan wares. The guides she chose for us were Exceptional! They were able to convey a lot of information and history in a way that made it feel very alive and never dry or boring. They were passionate about their countries and excited to share what they knew. They came well prepared —-one guide had his backpack filled with snacks, extra suntan lotion, a first aid kit, maps, and anything else you might need. The drivers were wonderful. We always felt we were in good hands and never worried about our safety. We have traveled extensively with guides and these were among the best we have had. Allie and her people on the ground in both countries were available when we had a problem with flights from Cusco to Guayaquil. Because of weather – all flights were canceled that morning. She had wisely advised us to allow for an extra day in Guayaquil before our flight to the Galapagos to meet our ship. Instead of arriving at 3:00 we did not get there until 11:00 PM. They had a friendly face waiting for us at the airport to escort us to our hotel and make sure all was well. It was quite reassuring to know people were looking out for us.
That was the only glitch during the entire trip and it was due to weather which none of us can control!
I highly recommend Allie and her team!! They are exceptional.
Rome walking tour, orchestrated by Paul Bennett
SONJA HAGGERT| JUNE 4, 2018
Livia Galante on Paul Bennett’s team did our tour of the Vatican. We truly skipped the lines and she took us to parts of the museum that are not standard tour stops. She was knowledgeable, efficient and so nice! If you are visiting the Vatican, it is the only way to go.
Cape Town and Botswana, orchestrated by Julian Harrison
SUSAN FORCELLA | JUNE 4, 2018
We just returned from a trip to Cape Town and Botswana, May 19 – 31, planned for us by Julian Harrison. It was truly one of the great and most fulfilling experiences of our lives! We had several in-depth phone conversations with Julian in the initial planning stages, and he gave us expert advice on all aspects of a trip for which we had many expectations but extremely little knowledge. We received excellent advice for our specific needs (i.e. my husband has a problematic back and photography was a priority – so locations and camp choices were tailored with this in mind, as well as the critical advice of hiring private game drive vehicles). Our budget was also well-respected throughout the process. We are not sure, but we suspect that having Julian as our travel planner had something to do with the absolutely top-notch guides and accommodation locations we received throughout the trip. We were well taken care of from the moment we landed in Cape Town through our final flight out of Botswana by representatives arranged by Julian, He also took care of arranging all of the inter-country flights to and from Johannesburg, Cape Town and 3 different camp locations within Botswana. It was a very complex trip, and yet everything unfolded quite seamlessly and easily throughout. Also, our trip included a WOW experience from Wendy Perrin: an exciting helicopter ride over Cape Town!! We would not hesitate to contact Julian for any future travel to Africa.
Peru orchestrated by Marisol Mosquera
KATHERINE MONTGOMERY | MAY 26, 2018
We had an amazing, outstanding trip from start to finish! We did Lima, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Cusco, Hiram Bingham Luxury train, Lake Titicaca, Colca Valley and Arequipa.
All of our questions were answered and all of our requests organized promptly. The suggestions, organized tours and hotels were the best! Our guides were terrific and enjoyable to spend time with.
EVERYTHING ran smoothly and nothing was overlooked….no small feat for a 16 day tour for 4 people!
New Zealand, orchestrated by Donna Thomas
JANE DELLSY | MAY 12, 2018
Our trip to New Zealand exceeded our expectations. Although we usually plan trips on our own, this one was more than we could handle. During our first conversation with Donna, my husband and I agreed, “she gets us”. The initial itinerary that was created included so many opportunities to exploit our interests and accommodations that were perfect, many of which I doubt we would have found on our own. Despite Donnas assurance to the contrary, we feared the itinerary was too ambitious; but Donna was absolutely correct. We were not over-scheduled, but our days were full.
We were amazed when we received our package of travel documents. It was organized and every detail was covered. We also rented a GPS through New Zealand Travel, which they preprogrammed and it proved to be invaluable. Between these items, we never had any difficulties along the way, and potential stress was eliminated.
Italy, orchestrated by Jill Taylor
JENNIFER AND TERRY JARVIS | MAY 7, 2018
Our Italy trip to see our daughter studying abroad started by contacting Wendy. After we answered a few of Wendy’s questions, she then directed us to Jill to guide us on our journey. This was the best decision we could have made! Jill was a delight to work with and, having lived in Italy for a while, was so helpful in planning an itinerary with our budget in mind. I would have been overwhelmed and wasted precious time and money trying to figure out where to go and what to do for a 10-day trip. She booked all the hotel accommodations and transfers to the different cities we visited. This took the stress completely out of our trip and probably saved my husband and me from a few arguments! :)
On top of that she created a great itinerary with private tours to see top sites in Venice, Florence, and Rome with her connections. We felt like royalty at times! Jill was available and professional in every aspect. We will definitely use her again for a future trip!
Jerusalem, Petra and Egypt, orchestrated by Jim Berkeley
MARY STUARD | MAY 2, 2018
Our trip to Jerusalem, Petra and Egypt was one of the best trips in a lifetime of travel. Jim Berkeley zeroed in on our interests, addressed our security concerns and worked with his extensive local contacts to organize an amazing 18-day itinerary. Thanks to Jim, the three of us had the freedom to avoid the crowds and travel comfortably with a series of personal guides who were knowledgeable, friendly and confident talking about their countries from ancient to current times. We especially enjoyed exploring The Valley of the Nobles and Deir el-Medina outside Luxor. These tombs were in excellent condition, incredibly beautiful AND there was virtually no one else there! Secondly, while all the hotels were excellent, the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan is an experience in itself!
Vietnam, orchestrated by Sandy Ferguson
CHERYL PASQUAROSA | APRIL 20, 2018
Sandy Ferguson organized our first ever trip to Vietnam (3 weeks) in March 2018. Wow!! It was simply fabulous! Every detail was flawlessly arranged. Our hotels, guides, drivers, locations we visited just superb. Having Sandys guides at each location made all the difference. They were local, took us to interesting places, were fun to be with and had incredible knowledge to share. Because of our guides, we were able to have two very interesting interactions with local families who invited us into their homes. Without interpreters, it simply would not have been possible. It was one of the MANY highlights of our trip. I cant recommend Sandy highly enough. We would use him again in a heartbeat!
Cabo, orchestrated by Julie Byrd
PATRICIA CAMPBELL | APRIL 19, 2018
Julie Byrd and her team set up a lovely trip to the Los Cabos area for our extended family. Because of the age range involved – five adults and two children, 8 to 70 – it was not necessarily a given that everyone was going to be happy. But the final verdict: everyone was delighted!
Julie asked all the right questions, then listened carefully to what I told her were our wants and needs. She then steered me to the perfect villa. It was a huge hit! Additionally, she gave her suggestions for the best restaurants for our whole gang, and we were all blissfully happy. I kind of hate to admit it, but a couple of times we went off on our own and made random restaurant choices from one of the “review sites” was when we got in trouble and were less than pleased. Our mantra became: we should have listened to Julie!
Julie and her team also guided us to choose the best companies for our expeditions, and everyone agreed that the treks were extraordinary. We wanted memorable adventures, and that is exactly what we got!
A couple of times I had questions about the trip along the way, and she and her team could not have been more responsive. The same can be said for her local contacts: they responded promptly to questions and seemed to truly care that we were happy with everything.
I have set up many trips on my own, and it’s easy to do if you’re simply booking a nice hotel and relying on the concierge to steer you to great restaurants, etc. But for a trip like this, an experienced planner with insider knowledge of the area is the only way to go. I would use Julie again, in a heartbeat!
Morocco, orchestrated by Mike Korn
SUSAN GOTTRIDGE | APRIL 8, 2018
I am very happy I worked with Mike Korn and his team to plan our family trip to Morocco. Mike prepared a detailed itinerary that matched our wishes and stayed within our budget. The hotels were great choices. We spent the right amount of time in each destination. We had a terrific, knowledgeable guide and an excellent driver. Mike booked all our restaurant reservations and was able to add 4 friends a few days before to one reservation at what turned out to be a fully booked restaurant. For me, it makes sense to book a trip to Morocco with Mike. He saved me time, recommended hotels based on our likes, knows the guides and drivers, knows the sights and restaurants. I would definitely recommend Mike to anyone planning to go to Morocco and would use him again for Morocco or Spain.
Ecuador, orchestrated by Tom Damon
RANDALL RUSSELL | APRIL 4, 2018
Our trip was excellent. Tom Damon was very knowledgeable: He had recently been to the Galapagos and traveled aboard the same vessel he recommended for me and my two family members who were also on this trip. The Santa Cruz II is the sister ship to the National Geographic Explorer which I had already checked out. We got better rooms on the Santa Cruz II and it cost less than the alternative. Some of the naturalists are freelancers, so we got a naturalist we might otherwise have had on an alternative ship.
In Quito we were treated to what might be called a Wendy Perrin Special Moment. We (just the three of us plus our guide) were taken to the roof of Santo Domingo Church for a tour and heavy appetizers after dark. Two lovely local ladies hosted us (one was the caterer and the other was dressed in local garb). It was very special and exclusive. I don’t know if it was Tom Damon or the local tour guide who made it happen, but it was very memorable. Thanks. We had a wonderful time in Quito and in the Galapagos. Blessed by great weather and very friendly fellow travelers aboard the ship.
New Zealand, orchestrated by Jean-Michel Jefferson
MEG STAKNIS | APRIL 4, 2018
My two-week family trip to New Zealand was excellent. Deirdre on Jean-Michel’s team planned a “best of” type itinerary since this was our first trip to NZ and we wanted to see as much as possible. But she also made sure to include unique cultural experiences that only Jean-MIchel has access to, like a day spent with Tom Laughlin, a Maori elder, on his tribal land where we prepared a “hangi,” the traditional Maori feast. She was also able to accommodate a last minute excursion to Milford Sound, which was one of the highlights of the trip. Everything ran smoothly from start to finish, there was not one single loose end — or if there was, I never saw it. And we had good communication via e-mail and phone as necessary throughout the trip. It was a very pleasant working experience that made for an unforgettable trip.
Chile and Argentina, orchestrated by Jordan Harvey
DENNIS LAABS | MARCH 26, 2018
My wife and I are back from our first trip to South America, visiting Chile and Argentina. We worked with Jordan to put together a trip that mixed hiking, wine tasting and big city tours. He and his team did a flawless job organizing the somewhat complex itinerary and provided outstanding guides and drivers in every venue (which is always critical on these trips). As expected, the high-end hotels were excellent, but the “boutique” hotels they selected also were great and interesting to visit. For sure, anyone visiting this area should stay at Awasi, even though pricey. The wine tastings that were arranged in Mendoza were well done and our boutique hotel at a vineyard there (Finca Adalgisa) was fun with good wine and a great cooking class. All around a great trip with a good mix of outdoor adventure and luxury touches.
Portugal, orchestrated by Mike Korn
DANA PERRY | MARCH 26, 2018
We had a wonderful trip to Portugal planned by Mike Korn. Basically it boils down to deep knowledge of the places, hotels, guides,etc. On every score, Mike was excellent. The guides and drivers were all seasoned and friendly professionals and gave us a lot of insight into the culture and sights we were seeing. The itinerary was well planned. Having MIke and his team organize everything let us truly enjoy our vacation. We’d definitely recommend using them again and plan to do so.
India, orchestrated by Bertie and Victoria Dyer
JENNIFER BLACK | MARCH 19, 2018
Victoria rocked it. This was, without exaggeration, the best trip ever. Full stop.
In the planning stage, she responded promptly to my many emails. As I do plenty of my own research I had many ideas/questions/requests for reservations that she gladly accommodated. I never had to wait for a response from her, which I appreciated.
She assigned one of her top guides to us, Vikram. From start to end Vikram was superb and stylistically well suited to my husband and me.
At each hotel, we received either the best room in category (best views, quietest, biggest rooms) or an upgrade. Our balcony room at Amarvilas was dead center with the best view of the Taj Mahal, our room at Raas had an unobstructed view of Mehrangarh Fort. At Udaivilas and Rambagh Palace we were upgraded. Clearly Bertie and Victoria have a deep and good relationship with these properties.
When our guide had a family emergency halfway through our trip, they seamlessly replaced him with an equally delightful guide.
I continued my trip in Mumbai without the benefit of India Beat’s guidance. While I booked and got nice rooms at the Taj, the level of guiding that I hired on a daily basis couldn’t hold a candle to Victoria’s team.
Great experience. Can’t wait to go back!
Thanks to Wendy!! She provides an invaluable service to the traveling community.
India, orchestrated by Sanjay Saxena
KATHERINE HOYT | MARCH 7, 2018
Sanjay Saxena made my trip to India the trip of a lifetime! I went from February 6 to March 3, 2018. As part of his planning, Sanjay had us end the trip in Jodhpur where there was a very special celebration of a Hindu festival on March 2. He made it possible for our trip to include a few off-the-beaten-path places in which I was interested and where few organized trips go. He also suggested places and activities which were marvelous. All the hotels he picked were perfect and we often got upgrades because of his contacts. On the ground, our arrangements were handled by an excellent local company and we were completely taken care of, even pampered, from beginning to end. It was clear that Sanjay stayed on top of them throughout and he contacted us regularly as well. This amazing trip would not have been possible without Sanjay!
Mexico, orchestrated by Zach Rabinor
SARINA VETTERLI | FEBRUARY 26, 2018
From start to finish, Zach Rabinor and his team was absolutely fantastic. They listened to all our ideas and concerns for our family vacation, and then tailored an incredible itinerary that satisfied all five of us (parents and three boys ages 16, 13, and 8). In fact, it was perhaps a little too incredible. So I was really impressed when they were able to suggest ways to bring the trip within our budget and still have some great experiences. Once we decided on the itinerary and moved into the planning details, our travel specialist was always accessible, timely with her communication, and clear on what was needed to finalize the trip. On the trip, everything went according to plan. But we wanted some last minute changes, like making dinner reservations at certain restaurants we had just heard about, or–much more complex–taking a day trip to a couple of towns a few hours away. Our travel specialist was able to work quickly to set things up and accommodate us. Here are the things we did on the Yucatán Penninsula (Mexico): hiked and swam through a cave with an underground river, visited two important Mayan ruin sites, floated down a beautifully clear Mayan canal, took a short jungle walk through a nature preserve, stayed in a family-friendly resort with beach access & a range of activities for the kids & GREAT food, spent a day exploring two beautiful colonial towns where we hunted for traditional textiles and folk art. We did all of this in just a week. There is no way we would have been able to do all that without Zach and his team’s help. They arranged transportation and a guide (when appropriate), knew just how to time our activities to avoid traffic and lines, and picked things that would suit all of us. I would highly recommend them to anyone traveling to Mexico, and I plan on using them in the future.
Argentina and Uruguay, orchestrated by Maita Barrenechea
KIMBERLEY PRATER | JANUARY 22, 2018
Maita Barrenechea and her team made our trip to Argentina and Uruguay outstanding! Superb guides and recommendations in Buenos Aires hit the mark on all counts. We had wanted to go to the Salta region but given weather/time of year, the suggestion that we go to Uruguay was made and our stay at Finca Narbon was one of the highlights of our trip! A private cooking class for our daughter and I at Malman’s restaurant at The Vines was a fantastic experience. Each step of the way Maita and her team were in touch with any changes or available to immediately deal with a few small glitches. Over the years, 7 trips taken and two more are currently planned with WOW experts. Always easily planned by staff who listen well to our goals.
African safari, orchestrated by Linda Friedman
RON KLAUSNER | JANUARY 19, 2018
Linda Friedman is perfection. She planned a 10 day trip for my wife and I with nothing left to chance. Her people on the ground were excellent including David, our guide in Amboseli, and Wilson, our guide in Kichwa Tembo. Lodging was perfect. Time in each camp was perfect. Interim arrangements in Karen and the Boma in Nairobi were perfect! In fact, both my wife and I had the best massages ever at the Bomas spa when we had a few hours to kill. Linda even thought to give us a free cell phone to use. I told her we would never need it but we had an issue at home and it sure came in handy. I would have zero reservation recommending Linda to plan a safari to Kenya.
Cuba, orchestrated by David Lee
JILL MONTI | JANUARY 16, 2018
I did a lot a research on Cuba travel specialists before selecting David Lee through Wendy Perrin. I never thought that in my lifetime I would have the opportunity to travel to Cuba and with the relatively new opportunity to do so, I wanted to be very careful in my choice. This was a trip that I wanted planned vs just winging it on my own. I felt I had made a wise choice before we left for our trip and it was absolutely confirmed after. Every day was planned to encompass a variety of Cuba cultural, food and entertainment. We would not have seen or done half of what we did if we had “winged” it. We would have missed so much. A side benefit was how close we became to our guide and driver who were married. We became family. Since we were on a private tour with just my daughter and myself, the four of us got to know each very well. We truly got to experience the Cuba culture with intimate conversations and experiences. I know this could not have been experienced if we had been with a large or larger group. With David Lee’s tours, they are a maximum of 14. This allows you to have access to the paladares which are private, smaller restaurants. With large groups, you would be eating at government-run restaurants. David took the time to call me on two occasions prior to booking. I was able to ask as many questions as I had and he was a wealth of information to set my mind at ease to book with his company. David Lee’s Cuba tour was the best decision I made for our trip. Outstanding communication, follow-up, accommodations, guides, tour experiences and restaurant choices. If you are thinking about a trip to Cuba, you will be in good hands with David and his team.
The United Arab Emirates and Oman, orchestrated by Lindsey Wallace
FRANK AND CATHY GOLD | JANUARY 14, 2018
This has been the 10th trip my wife and I have been on, using Wendy Perrin recommended experts, and it was SUPERB. We went to the United Arab Emirates and Oman in early-mid Dec 2017. It was a relatively last-minute decision and Lindsey Wallace did a masterful job quickly putting together a perfect itinerary. Hotels, transfers, guides, restaurants etc were all pre-planned by him. We questioned a few suggestions but we allowed him to make the final choices and we were not disappointed with anything. He alternated stays at magnificent resorts (beach, desert, and mountaintop) with city touring (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat). Each person we interacted with and every hotel and resort was superb. We have nothing but the highest praise for him and recommend him and his services without reservation!
Southeast Asia, orchestrated by Andrea Ross
ARTHUR HERMANN | JANUARY 5, 2018
It was wonderful working with Andrea to plan this trip! She was amazingly responsive and truly understood my needs and desires as we planned the trip. She was completely flexible in reworking the itinerary when some obstacles forced a change in plans. As for the trip itself – it was excellent!!! Our guides were the most important “make or break” part of the trip, and they were superb. As we flew to different locations we had new guides, but all of them were full of knowledge, kind, warm, open and their insights and warmth provided for a stellar trip. We felt like we were leaving friends as we moved on through the country. Every guide took great care of us ensuring we were checked into our flights and making sure that we were carefully handed from one location to another. I couldn’t have asked for more and we wouldn’t hesitate to work with Andrea and her team again.
Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, orchestrated by Pierre Gédéon
JON SHANSER | JANUARY 5, 2018
Pierre was totally instrumental in helping us plan our 15-day Holiday trip which began in Nicaragua, then a few days in Costa Rica and finally a few days in Panama. We Skyped with him early in the planning stage and he listened carefully and then expertly matched the activities to our interests. He is a true professional and even met us in Nicaragua after several days into our trip to check on how the trip was progressing. In Nicaragua we took the ferry to Ometepe and stayed at a nice eco-lodge there; our guide Eric there was fantastic, spoke English well and showed us “his island”. Back in Granada, our guide Gustavo and his driver Roberto were both excellent and a highlight of the trip was a day we spent on a private island near Granada in Lake Nicaragua. In Costa Rica, we first went to Villa Blanca (a hotel that was the former home of the president) in the Los Angeles cloud forest where we stayed in a lovely private casita; after that, we traveled further north to La Fortuna and stayed at the fantastic thermal spring & spa resort, Tabacón. We had a 2-bedroom suite that we shared with our son and his new wife and that was incredible…huge with a canopy bed for the newlyweds, jacuzzi, etc. The pools and food there were excellent as was our day rafting the Rio Balsa with our private guide Jonathan Morales(he really made the trip special for us) of the Desafio company there. After a few days at Tabacón, we flew to Panama City and our guide introduced us to the Panama Canal…another highlight. We did not do a boat trip thru the canal at Pierre’s recommendation (so as not to inappropriately waste time in a boat) and that was definitely a great idea. For the final few days (including New Years Eve & Day) we were at Boquete in the mountains in the west of Panama; a beautiful town with nice hiking, cooler days, and a wonderful hotel, Panamonte. All in all a GREAT trip with terrific guides and superb planning; we would consider going back to Nicaragua using Pierre to plan a trip further north to the cigar tobacco region (Estelí) as well as Leon and Volcan Momotombo. Prices are very reasonable in Nicaragua, and the people, while poor, are very nice and accommodating, and there is plenty to see and do.
South Pacific cruise, orchestrated by Meg Austin
BONNIE RASKIN | JANUARY 2, 2018
I have worked with travel agents and travel specialists throughout my adult life on trips spanning several continents and complicated itineraries. In short, Meg Austin is THE best in every aspect of planning a trip from start to finish. I’m not sure if I’d be classified as “high maintenance”—you’d have to ask Meg that—but I ask a lot of questions and require a lot of information and guidance in every step of planning a BIG trip like the one my husband, daughter and myself planned through Meg. It was our first cruise and Meg guided me through every aspect patiently and expertly. Meg knew exactly which cabins to book for us, which flights to put us on, when and how to reserve our excursions and dining options so there would be no FOMO. Meg is incredibly well connected with insiders, so she was able to pull strings to get us everything SHE wanted us to have in our tour package—items I didn’t even know to ask for, but thank goodness Meg did. She handled me with humor, grace, zip-quick responses, and was always one step ahead of me.
It will take a long time to fully process and digest the breathtaking beauty of Tahiti, the graciousness of its people—including every crew member on the Paul Gauguin—and how perfectly Meg took care of my family through every step. This was a trip of a lifetime, and it’s going to take a lot to top this week.
No hitches or hiccups at all, anytime, period. Once onboard the ship, I followed Meg’s guidelines to a tee and booked our dinner, diving, and excursion reservations—which were all about timing, as the ship was fully booked. No problem for us—we had Meg Austin as our travel guru.
Meg could not have picked out a better cabin for us and our daughter. It was everything she said it would be—fantastic location for viewing breathtaking scenery, and the cabin amenities were wonderful. Cabin service twice daily! Fresh towels and stocked refrigerator throughout the day!
The food throughout the cruise was only exceeded by the professionalism and warmth of the Paul Gauguin staff. We made fast friends with the ship’s captain, so we were treated to tours of the bridge and engine room, and of the galley with the executive chef. The only way I didn’t roll home was due to all of the activities and excursions I went on that were so well organized and staffed. The snorkeling was excellent, as were the guides. My husband and daughter enjoyed terrific dives—four divers to a divemaster, unheard of on a non-liveaboard diving trip. Nothing was lacking. Everything exceeded all of our expectations. We met lovely guests from around the world. Yes, the ship was fully booked, and there were a lot of kids and family reunions, but we did our thing and they did theirs. Maybe next cruise I’d opt for adults only, but that’s just me. Even my previously Cruise-Averse Husband was completely won over by this Paul Gauguin cruise experience. You’d have to be insane not to have felt this way. It was luxurious beyond words.
We are Meg Austin lifers—if she’ll continue to have us. I actually helped some of the guests with information that Meg gave me that they didn’t know! I guess that makes me a Meg Austin protegee!
I tell everyone about the Wendy Perrin website and WOW List… and I suppose I also have to now share Meg Austin as well. I have not had one iota of disappointment with either.
The Galapagos Islands, orchestrated by Eric Sheets
CATHERINE LIPPMAN | DECEMBER 26, 2017
Our family trip to the Galapagos Islands was fantastic. We decided to take this trip with little time to plan. Eric and his colleague Nils did a nice job of planning a diverse trip for our family of 5 (teenage boys ages 18, 16, and 13). The naturalists that were on our daily trips with us were fantastic. We loved the Galapagos Safari Camp on Santa Cruz. The food was unbelievable and staff very helpful. The Iguana Crossing on Isabella was a nice change of pace to be right on the beach. We enjoyed time to walk on the beach as well as into town. It is hard to pick our favorite day-trip. We were surprised with a last-minute surf lesson, which was such a treat! I highly recommend this trip.
France, orchestrated by Jack Dancy
PATRICIA CAMPBELL | DECEMBER 11, 2017
Jack’s colleague Simon put together a fabulous French trip for my husband’s 70th birthday. We wanted to attend the annual Christie’s wine auction benefiting Hospices de Beaune, and knew we would need expert help as we’d tried, with no success, to get in on our own. Simon took care of everything for us.
We were in a beautiful hotel (his pick), he got us lunch/dinner reservations in the most fabulous restaurants, and best of all he got us tickets to the wine auction and tickets to the incredible Dinner of the Dukes at Drouhin Cellars. And if that wasn’t enough, Simon set us up with a private guide to go to the Montrachet villages and have private tastings. Sublime!
We ended our trip in Paris, and although we had told Simon the hotel and restaurants we wanted to visit, he set everything up and made sure the hotel knew it was a birthday trip. Everything was fabulous.
We had great drivers picking us up and transporting us from airport to train station to hotel, and back. We had phone numbers at our fingertips in case anything was not right. All in all, we were taken care of beautifully and loved every minute of the trip.
Thank you, Wendy Perrin, for introducing us to Jack and Simon.
France villa vacation, orchestrated by Annie Flogaus
ANNE LLOYD | OCTOBER 31, 2017
St. Remy de Provence.
We’d highly recommend renting your pied a terre in Provence through Annie Flogaus. She has access to so many wonderful properties and was extremely helpful in finding the exact right fit. She knew every facet of each property we were looking at and answered every query we had in detail. When our first villa canceled our reservation 5 months ahead of time because the owner decided to sell, she quickly rebooked us into an even more fabulous home and secured compensation from the initial owner to more than cover the difference in cost. We will definitely use her services again!
South Pacific cruise, orchestrated by Leslie Fambrini
ALISON FIELDS | OCTOBER 29, 2017
Leslie Fambrini is fantastic. We are very experienced travelers – over 130 countries visited — and seldom use travel agents, usually arranging our own trips or traveling with affinity groups. But since we were doing an expedition cruise that wasn’t sponsored by an affinity group, we decided that to deal with Silversea we should use an agent. For this Micronesia-Melanesia Silversea trip, Leslie got us a discount on the great cabin she recommended, found out the group pre-cruise hotel early enough to avoid the high Silversea price with an internet price, and got all our information to us early since we were leaving 13 days before the cruise. Silverseas transfer prices are ridiculously high but in expedition ports, there are often no taxis available. Leslie went out of her way to find a transfer agent in Port Vila, Vanuatu, (not a place she would normally deal with) and arranged our ship to hotel transfer for “free”. Two issues arose on our trip. One: I had to supply a copy of our flight ticket leaving Vanuatu to the ships financial officer for the Vanuatu visa. Somehow in transferring all my documentation from my home computer to my traveling laptop, the flight out of Port Vila did not transfer. An e-mail to Leslie got a copy of the flight info in less than an hour. Not a big thing unless it is the night before the immigration officers are due on board. Secondly, we were traveling without our i-phones. We discovered the morning we were to disembark that our ship was not arriving at the usually port but at an out of the way one and we had no way to contact the transfer agent (the ships reception people being busy with other duties). We e-mailed Leslie again and she contacted the transfer agent. They were there waiting for us when we arrived. Perhaps they had already checked without her input but it was so reassuring that we would not be standing in the pouring rain with no taxis available wondering what to do. These may be minor things but as people who usually seldom use travel agents, not having a moments worry (well the 20-30 minutes between e-mails) is worth a great deal to us (I might add that on a previous trip that we booked through Leslie, much went wrong due to the expedition staff. I complained to Leslie and received a generous credit from Silversea due to efforts.)
Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia, orchestrated by Greg Tepper
JOHN, JULIE, AND MATTHEW SCHAIBLE | OCTOBER 23, 2017
Before we contacted Greg and Natasha, we did research on sites, restaurants, and experiences we did and didn’t want. Our son is very knowledged in WWII history, tanks, and aircraft, so we wanted extensive coverage of these topics. Besides the tank museum at Kublinka the largest in the world and aircraft museum at Monino, Greg and Natasha suggested other sites— Stalin’s bunker, the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, and a Cold War nuclear bunker in which we turned the keys to launch ICBMs. Our guide, Tatianna, met us daily and took us and translated for our private guides at each site. One of our favorites was a night at the circus. We had reserved restaurants beforehand so our stay in Moscow was wonderful. We took the Sandan bullet train to St. Petersburg which was the only disappointment as we thought we were booked in 1st and instead were in a cramped car without foot room and roaming children. Ted, our guide in St. Petersburg, was like Tatianna, a gem. Like in Moscow we dispensed with the churches and visited Peterhof, Catherines Palace where the famous Amber Room is with a special appointment in the amber workshop, the Cruiser Aurora, the Naval Museum, and the Artillery Museum, where my son took apart an AK-74 and put it back together. Ted and I wandered the Hermitage and the annex for Impressionist paintings. All of our needs were carefully thought out with Greg and Natasha before our plane left the ground, and now I wouldn’t do it any other way. Impressive!
Moscow and St. Petersburg
Grand Canyon river rafting trip, orchestrated by Mindy Gleason
NANCY DAVIS AND RICHARD D. ASHMORE | OCTOBER 19, 2017
Recently we took a 15 day raft trip on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon arranged by Mindy. Being in the Grand Canyon day and night for two weeks was a magical experience. We were enveloped in beauty and majesty. The crew members, led by Billie Prosser, were all strong, competent, knowledgeable, and dedicated people, who were also extremely nice human beings. They took good care of us. And they take good care of the Grand Canyon. On the coffee cup that each passenger got at the start of the trip was inscribed “Leave no trace.” And our crew made sure that we did not leave a trace. Each night when we arrived to set up camp the site was in pristine condition, and it was just as pristine when we left the next morning. Thus, the crew gave us the gift of experiencing this great natural wonder, and they did everything they could to make sure that the Grand Canyon would remain beautiful, clean, and natural.
Grand Canyon Raft Trip, from Lees Ferry (Mile 0) to Diamond Creek (mile 225)
September 18 to October 2, 2017
Sri Lanka, orchestrated by Miguel Cunat
SHELLEY DEVINNY | OCTOBER 16, 2017
Miguel and his team (specifically our consultant, Shalini) did an amazing job planning our honeymoon to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. We provided them a rough idea of what we were looking for (combination of relaxation, adventure, culture, food, and luxury) and they put together an outstanding trip. Neither of us had used a travel planner before, so we did not know what to expect. We both were extremely pleased with the level of organization and thought that went into planning a perfect trip. Not having to think about the itinerary, timing, schedule, etc is a luxury in itself! We simply were told when to show up and where and then went along for the ride! Miguel and his team were also extremely helpful in arranging our accommodation in the Maldives- even negotiating an upgrade to half-board. I highly recommend working with Miguel and his team! I am not sure if reviewing a country is appropriate here, but I cannot resist! Sri Lanka, for those that are considering, is a special country that blew us away. It is amazing how so much history, culture, and diverse scenery fit into one tiny island. The people and food (food!!) were also a delight. We traveled the end of September through the first week of October which was considered “shoulder season.” We had AMAZING weather that was not too hot/humid and only experienced a spot shower or two. The crowds were light, so we never felt like cattle call through the sites. I cannot recommend visiting this nation enough… especially before more catch on to its charm!
Italy villa vacation, orchestrated by Mara Solomon
CAROL FENTON | JULY 17, 2017
I started working with Mara Solomon, a year prior to our trip. I would work with her again in a heartbeat. Mara and her team are consummate professionals – highly skilled, super knowledgeable, fun and warm. They think of everything and do so with finesse and flair. Mara very quickly figured out our hopes, taste, and interests, beyond what I was articulating, and steered us toward several excellent villa options. In planning our excursions and villa experience, she offered unerringly sage advice and suggestions and listened intelligently to my responses. She also has a great sense of humor, for me a huge plus. It was clear I’d landed with the A-team. As a result, I relaxed and confidently put myself in their hands. Working with Mara was an effortless pleasure and the result was spectacular. We spent a week in Tuscany with a blended extended family of twenty-five and to a person, we had a joyful, exciting and refreshing time together exploring the countryside and savoring the many treasures of the villa, while reconnecting with loved ones and deepening our ties to each other. Mara anticipated potential pitfalls and prepared me for them while planning to prevent them. It worked. She suggested ways to add small joys to our days together. Those also worked. Our trip was for us just the right balance of art and architectural history, nature, exercise and of course, great food and wine along with lounging by the pool, playing cards and sharing stories. Whats remarkable in my view is that the planning itself was such a pleasure. That is entirely owing to Mara and her staff. I want to plan another villa stay in Italy if only to have the opportunity to work with them again.
Paris apartment rental, orchestrated by Madelyn Willems
SUSAN HENDRICKSON | JULY 10, 2017
Madelyn and her team made everything so easy! All of their apartments looked fabulous and the one we chose—the Clairette—certainly was. I thought it would be nice to have a view of the Eiffel Tower, as suggested by an article by Wendy that I read, and in reality, it was so delightful to wake up and see each morning and say goodnight to each evening. Our apartment also had a really nice, spacious shower, A/C, and a washer and dryer, all of which made the 98 degree heat wave we experienced in Paris much more bearable. The location couldn’t be beat—within two blocks were at least two each of boucheries, patisseries, boulangeries, and chocolatiers—and thanks to Maddy’s neighborhood guide we had suggestions in where to hit for what. We could walk to the Metro, the Eiffel Tower, and the Seine.
We also highly recommend making your life easy and clicking through her menu of choices. With four of us it made sense to have a wifi hotspot and why hunt it down at the airport when for a discounted price your greeter can hand it to you at your apartment when you arrive. Same with your museum pass, Seine boat ride tickets, and Metro cards. We also booked a Versailles bike tour through Maddy — for the same price as Viator and others — and she set us up with a company walking distance from the apt on the day of the special food markets in Versailles and we got the veteran guide Frazor who was the best tour guide we’ve ever had. My family is still doing Frazor impressions. We also booked a photo shoot through Maddy’s staff and now have gorgeous photos of all four of us and our girls at ages 13 and 16 for the same price as a photographer in SF. That package promised a little tour guiding Ali G with the photos, but our photographer wasn’t super at history or Paris facts.
All in all I can’t recommend Maddy’s staff highly enough. We never waited more than an hour for a response while planning. They make Paris EASY and delightful. Their apts were comparable in price to Airbnb but I think much better, as they are set up for vacationers – even full of Paris DVDs and 20+ Paris and France guidebooks. Plus you’ve got a staff in Paris you can call about anything – free landline calls to them and to the US. Maddy and her staff gave thought of everything you need to be perfectly set up just to enjoy your vacation!
Southeast Asia orchestrated by Antonia Neubauer
RICHARD MORGENTHAL | MAY 7, 2017
Response time was immediate.
There was an ease and smoothness of every connection during a 5 week trip through three countries in Southeast Asia.
Always going above and beyond.
Finding us unique situations and people to meet.
Having a true understanding and care for the local people.
China, orchestrated by Mei Zhang
LISA DETTMER | APRIL 10, 2017
Mei and Jenny on her team far exceeded expectations (which were already pretty high). They had terrific advice during the planning phase of the trip, had creative and novel travel ideas, and we felt like they were following our daily progress throughout the trip. The hotels, guides, and activities were at the highest level and were great fits for our tastes, style, etc. And they surprised us with a WOW Moment that definitely met the “WOW” standard. In short, we were extremely pleased, and we’d recommend them highly.
Asia cruise, orchestrated by Mary Jean Tully
JOHN COLLINS | MARCH 29, 2017
Mary Jean Tully exemplifies everything luxury—or, shall I say, over the top. The level of service and the experience we had with her company were exceptional. Cruise and land experiences were simply over the top. Note that this firm is not for the couple traveling in coach but, rather, a six-star team that goes over and above to ensure your holiday expectations are exceeded. As an example: She flew into Beijing, met our ship (Crystal Cruises’ Serenity), and invited the 44 guests they’d booked on the Serenity to join her at the #1 restaurant as a thank-you for our business. PLUS, if that wasn’t enough, they created a separate itinerary for those same 44 guests the next day to travel with her privately to the GREAT WALL, to a more secluded and spectacular spot—and, once at the top of the wall, we got a catered lunch complete with white tablecloths and great wines. How does one do that?? Then after two days of ensuring her clients were happy, she flew back to North America. I’ve never seen anything like it before!
Turkey, orchestrated by Earl Starkey
SUZANNE ILGUN | OCTOBER 18, 2016
This is the 2nd time I have used Earl Starkey and his team to plan our vacation in Turkey with my Turkish husband and in-laws. Earl and his team exceeded our expectations in planning and executing our itinerary. Earl is gracious, quick to respond when contacted, knowledgeable, and well connected. We switched some of the itinerary around at the last minute which Earl and his team handled seamlessly.
The hotel we stayed at was a perfect match for our likes. We had the best room location in the hotel.
The driver, Ali, did small extra touches for us without us asking. The guide, Burju, was excellent. She is well versed in ancient history, modern history, as well as open and willing to talk about any question we asked. She shared with us local cultural highlights. When we went to a restaurant that did not have the menu items we were looking for, Burju and Ali were able to quickly take us to another that was exactly what we were looking for. In addition, I asked Burju to simultaneously translate for me stories being told by a native Turk at one of the sights we were visiting which she did flawlessly. This enabled me to participate in the conversation as if I was a native speaker and part of the group. I felt like a local. This was a priceless experience that can only be done with a top-tier guide.
Traveling in Turkey with native Turks provides an extra challenge for any travel expert as Turks are very discerning clients. As they are native speakers as well as familiar with the country and culture, a travel expert, driver, guide, or hotelier will be quickly spotted if anything less than top-notch service is provided. My Turkish family raved about all facets of our trip. We will be contacting Earl again for our next family vacation in Turkey.
If you want to have a wonderful trip to Turkey, feel well cared for with all your desires met, then without a moments hesitation contact Earl Starkey to plan your trip.
Barge cruise, orchestrated by Ellen Sack
JERRY HULLER | OCTOBER 7, 2016
My wife and I were quite pleased with our interactions with Ellen Sack and her team. Because we were new to barge cruising (having only done ocean and river cruising before), Ellen helped us narrow down options and select what we consider an ideal barge cruise for us. We selected the Savoir Vivre. It carries 8 passengers. What we especially liked is that we got to dine at a different place, in a new town, each night.
The cruise surpassed our expectations. The ship captain Richard, the hostess Marie, and the guide Laura (“the crew”) were awesome. We felt pampered. We were impressed with Marie fixing a delicious breakfast and lunch for us, while still tidying up our cabins. We wanted to take her home with us. Laura was vivacious and engaging, and made history come alive for us on our tours. Richard was friendly, helpful, and low-key. He served as our driver to and from the train station and the restaurants at night. On our trips off the barge, we drove around in a spacious minivan. Richard and Laura arranged to have the van at the location where the barge docked each night, so that it was close by when needed.
We liked the casual atmosphere of barge cruising. It was more low-key than river cruising. We did one excursion a day for only a few hours. That gave us time to relax on the barge, chat with our new friends, walk along the Burgundy canals, or bike along the canal and into the towns. We also got to help open and close the gates at the numerous locks along the canal. Before or after an excursion, we would hang out in the common area at the front of the ship.
Before the cruise, I worried a little about the bikes. They are fold-up bikes, and I was concerned that they would be uncomfortable. I am 6 feet, 2 inches tall with long legs. My worries were misplaced. I didn’t have a problem. I could comfortably pedal for the several miles we traveled.
We would consider doing another barge cruise in a different area. Barge cruising is a great way to chill out—and make new friends—after doing lots of (hectic) sightseeing in another part of the country. We were a little sad to depart our new little family at the end of the cruise.
Contact Ellen and her staff if you’re interested in trying out a barge cruise. They will help you find something that fits your needs and travel style.
Southern Burgundy, Escommes to Fleurey-sur-Ouche
St. Barts, orchestrated by Peg Walsh
JEANNE GIBBONS | MARCH 4, 2015
I have rented from Peg many times and have never been disappointed. Our last trip was this past year during the Christmas/New Year holidays. Her staff, both in the U.S. and in Gustavia, answered all of my questions and were very helpful. I especially like that St. Barts is the only island where they rent villas. They know the owners and all of the areas of the island. They constantly update their helpful hints. I have recommended St Barth Properties to friends with no qualms. I will continue to rent a villa from them in the future.