Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

The Secret to Extraordinary Travel: Here’s Proof That The WOW List Works

by Wendy Perrin | December 10, 2018

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.


Ethiopia and Zanzibar, orchestrated by Cherri Briggs

ROBIN LOUIS | DECEMBER 6, 2018

We really enjoyed Ethiopia – the culture, history, religious aspects, architecture.

Our guide throughout the trip, Elias Alemayehu, was terrific. We would highly recommend him.

We found the people in Ethiopia to be warm and friendly.

Zanzibar was also good. Elizabeth made an executive decision to have us stay at the Park Hyatt in Stone Town – absolutely the right decision. Mnemba Island Lodge was superb – we had a few very relaxing days.

We were surprised and WOWED by our WOW moment – a Processional – all for us. Could not have been a better choice.

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China walking tour, orchestrated by Paul Bennett

KRISTIE JOCHMANN | DECEMBER 4, 2018

Paul’s team in China planned a 5-6 hour outing in Shanghai for me while I found myself with a day off between business meetings. Mathias was an excellent guide and travel companion. He showed me aspects of the city that I simply could never access or appreciated the significance of alone. For example, he took me into a former single-family home that has been converted into more of a rooming house for multiple families. He also helped me understand the real estate pressures and the constant redevelopment of the city. It was worth the cost and a hands-down highlight of my trip to China.

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China, orchestrated by Mei Zhang

AMY EVERS | DECEMBER 1, 2018

Our trip to China went very smoothly! Mei had a thoughtful discussion with me on the phone, gave me several itinerary options and answered additional questions. Isabel did a wonderful job planning everything, keeping our 7 and 8-year-old children in mind. My husband and I and our kids loved all of our guides- Jerry in Beijing, Ting Ting in Xi’an, and Joe in Shaolin Temple area. They definitely had an extra challenge to keep everyone interested! My kids enjoyed learning history but their attention span for it is limited, especially for my 7-year-old. Generally speaking, active learning suits them better and we did a lot of that (hiking the Great Wall of China and looking for relics for my son, toboggan ride down the wall, cooking lesson, tai chi lesson, playing at the Temple of Heaven, Kung Fu lesson, calligraphy lesson, rickshaw ride in the Hutongs, eating scorpions, Kung Fu show, trying new foods, seeing the Terracotta Warriors, biking the Xi’an city wall, seeing pandas at the zoo)! This truly was truly a memorable family trip!

Mei and Isabel also helped me tack on a 1/2 day tour of Hong Kong on a layover we had on a different but recent trip. Though it was short, I feel like we did get a feel for the place. Anna was our guide and we really enjoyed her as well.

We have nothing but good things to say about Mei and her team. I would, without hesitation, book another trip with them!

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Egypt, orchestrated by Jim Berkeley

MARGARET GILL | NOVEMBER 29, 2018

Jim really listened to what we had in mind for our trip to Egypt. He talked to us twice in the planning stage and had the foresight to say that he thought we were good candidates for a trip down the Nile on a dahabiya and he was certainly right! We loved every second of that 5 day experience. He also booked us in at the most delightful hotels in Luxor and Aswan with gorgeous views and fantastic service. We had flawless pickups, guide services and transfers and always felt we were in good hands. Although Egypt can be hectic, crowded and noisy, our guides knew how to navigate the sites and always found a quiet pocket of calm so we could enjoy our time with the antiquities. All told, this was another great experience with a Wendy Perrin travel specialist. And to top it all off, we were treated to an evening sail in Cairo on a felucca as a WOW moment. Thank you Wendy!

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Jackson Hole, orchestrated by Caroline Wood

GARRETT BANDY | NOVEMBER 28, 2018

Caroline Wood planned a 10 day trip for the 4 of us (6-year-old twins and my wife and I) to Jackson Hole, Wyoming over Thanksgiving. We were searching for a memorable trip in the mountains anywhere in the west that had the best chance of finding snow. Caroline steered towards Jackson Hole after hearing her extremely proficient understanding of every mountain area from BC to Colorado. Caroline found the perfect cabin in the Tetons for Thanksgiving for half of the time and then obtained a truly phenomenal suite for us at the Four Seasons. We booked excursions in the refuge to see bison, hundreds of elk and bighorn sheep. We were directed to great hills to sled on and wonderful hiking areas to see the Tetons. We highly recommend Caroline. She checks all the boxes for a 5-star experience.
Cheers, The Bandy’s

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New Zealand, orchestrated by Donna Thomas

JEFF LONSINGER | NOVEMBER 27, 2018

A friend and I used Donna Thomas and her team to plan our 18 day trip to the South Island. This was our first experience with Wendy’s WOW list and we could not have been happier.

Kori Clark and Nancy McCabe were our travel planners. We had fun working with them and appreciated their thorough knowledge of everything Kiwi. Together we planned an itinerary and added lots of activities like hiking, biking, wine tasting, and star gazing.

One of the nicest “extras” was having a GPS with our itinerary preloaded and sent to our first accommodation. It was waiting for us when we arrived and made traveling through the country a breeze.

We also appreciated knowing that someone was always looking out for us. Six days into our trip heavy rains caused a rock slide which closed the coastal road. We knew that we would miss our first night in Franz Josef and possibly the Heli-hike we had scheduled. One call to Kori and everything was taken care of. She gave us several options before canceling our reservations and proceeding with a new plan. This detour proved to be a lot of fun. We will always remember watching “Bohemian Rhapsody” in an Art Deco theater while it rained torrentially!

The next day we were told that an announcement would be made at 3:00 regarding the road reopening. At 2:15 however, Kori called to say that the road had officially reopened and we could continue our trip south. We loved knowing that even though she was half a world away, Kori was monitoring the road conditions in New Zealand!

The rest of our trip was filled with awesome scenery, lovely weather, and gorgeous accommodations. We agree that it was the perfect trip!

Thanks, Wendy; we are hooked on the WOW list!

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India, orchestrated by Bertie and Victoria Dyer

DEBRA ARONSON AND GEORGE FRASER | NOVEMBER 26, 2018

My husband and I recently planned a trip through Victoria and Bertie Dyer for three weeks to Delhi, Varanasi, Agra, Ranthambore, Anopura, Jaipur, Udaipur and Mumbai. It was a lot of territory to cover and included flights and overland travel. Absolutely everything went off without a hitch!

Our guides, Pulkit, Jay and Umar were all very kind, well informed, punctual and took great care of us. Laxman, our driver, was beyond amazing. We always felt safe and appreciated his dry sense of humor and ready smile. He kept everything running smoothly and any changes we requested were never a bother.

All Victoria’s hard work in organizing our trip really paid off. We couldn’t have been happier with all the things we saw and did, and the logistics pulled together by everyone on the India Beat team to make our holiday an experience of a lifetime.

We hope to go back to India again and will be sure to call Victoria to work her magic a second time!

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Thailand, orchestrated by Andrea Ross and April Cole

SUSAN BLAND | NOVEMBER 22, 2018

For our first pleasure trip to Thailand, we selected an agent from the WOW List, Andrea Ross, and April Cole. After a phone interview, an itinerary was offered to us, we tweaked it just a bit, and arrangements were quickly made. We worked with April and she was highly knowledgeable about the area of Chiang Mai and the opportunities for our exploration. The only challenge I presented her was the fact that I am recovering from a badly broken femur, a limiting factor for many adventures.

Even though I would not be able to participate she recommended that I accompany my husband on the elephant adventure and I’m so glad I did. I got great photos of his delight, got to learn about these elephants a bit more, and met some very gregarious young elephants.

April selected what I thought might be a ho-hum activity primarily for me (no walking, educational) which turned into one of our favorites immediately. It’s at the top of my list of favorite things we have ever done. Studio Naenna was by far the most emotionally rewarding, educational and hands-on experience I could have imagined. Aprils’ description of it didn’t really provide us with the full story of what we were about to experience. My husband, a scientist, immediately bonded with Patricia – our instructor – on the chemistry level and we both came away admiring her cause, her passion and the community she serves. Learning about her life’s work was an honor and a joy. She is that rare treasure of a mission-driven woman who has realized her goals. We left wishing we had more time with her. This particular tour was so far off the list of things to do that I had read about we were immensely thrilled to have had the honor of being there. Its what makes using the WOW List agent so worthwhile to have found a gem of an experience like this.

Our local tour guide, Mae, was a delight. Very gracious, well informed, she adjusted some of our itinerary on the spot when my impairment limited what I could do. New arrangements were quickly put in place with our comfort and enjoyment always at the top of her priorities.

We will be taking our third WOW arranged trip next May. But it won’t be our last by far. This is the way to explore the most unique offerings of wherever we might go.

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Indonesia, orchestrated by Diane Embree

JEN GREEN | NOVEMBER 22, 2018

My husband and I were thrilled with the experience in Yogyakarta that Diane arranged for us! In the planning stage, she was super responsive to my emails and gave helpful reminders throughout. I am so glad we didn’t go it alone.

She hand-picked our guide who was extremely knowledgeable and perhaps even more importantly had grown up in the area and was eager to share its history and traditions. Our guide introduced us to local craftspeople and we were able to see firsthand how batik and wayang puppets are made. When I discovered a bar of artisan chocolate made locally in the hotel mini-bar, our guide helped me track down where it is made so I could bring some home as gifts!

Speaking of the hotel, we were on a budget and Diane helped us maximize it for sure. I was shocked that she had managed to find such a lovely place for our price point. Gorgeous pool area for relaxing after tours of stunning temples, as well as a warm and helpful staff. If left to my own devices, we’d have ended up overpaying for something excessively lavish or ended up somewhere affordable but underwhelming.

Truth? I am glad we skipped Bali and opted for this experience instead, which was a far better fit for our interests. That is all because Diane took the time to really listen and give advice that only comes with the years of experience she has in Indonesia.

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The Caribbean, orchestrated by Lindsey Epperly Sulek

CHRIS STIER | NOVEMBER 25, 2018

Lindsey and her team were great throughout our entire vacation at the Kimpton Seafire Resort in Grand Cayman. They were attentive and very responsive before the trip which was greatly appreciated. They even allowed me to still receive points for the hotel since I am a member of their loyalty program. In addition, upon arrival, we had an upgrade from the North Shore View to a Family Suite. There was a bottle of champagne and chocolate dessert waiting for us upon entering the room as well. I am not sure if I received the upgrade because of my loyalty status or because I booked through Lindsey, but I have a feeling it was a combination of the two. Lindsey also arranged a free buffet breakfast for the duration of our stay and a $100 hotel credit. I would recommend Lindsey and her team and will be using her again for more Caribbean trips in the future. Also, the hotel was great and was a solid recommendation. We have not had better service since our honeymoon in the Maldives. We traveled with our one and a half-year-old son and the entire staff treated him like royalty. Great place for families.

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Nepal orchestrated by Antonia Neubauer

JOE AND SUZANNE STUPAK | NOVEMBER 21, 2018

We are a couple in our late sixties. We have traveled extensively and generally prefer independent travel, which we arrange ourselves whenever we feel it is feasible and prudent to do so. When we decided to go to Nepal, we considered the possibility of making our own arrangements but for several reasons, we elected to use the services of an expert, Toni Neubauer. This is the second occasion for which we have used a travel expert vetted by Wendy Perrin. (The other was to Kenya and Tanzania.) We consider both of these trips to have been extraordinary experiences – truly memorable “trips of a lifetime”.

We began our preparations in January 2018 by reading Toni’s Insider Guide for Nepal and filling out a form to provide some basic guidelines about our goals and interests for the trip. Toni called us immediately to discuss trip variables, options, and opportunities. From that discussion, Toni prepared a detailed draft program for a trip that would occur in late October and early November. The draft program offered a combination of specific recommendations based on Toni’s expertise and intimate knowledge of Nepal balanced with options from which to choose, such as for accommodations in some places. Toni answered all our many questions promptly and fully, and by early February we approved a complete trip program.

Toni and her staff provided comprehensive information that was easy to follow and implement regarding visa requirements, medical and immunization issues, and travel insurance. She also provided extensive country information that we used to become more familiar with our destination.

About a month before our departure, Qatar Airways canceled our return flight from Kathmandu and rebooked us onto a later flight. We contacted Toni, had good exchanges with her about how to adapt our program and ended up with changes that actually improved the itinerary.
We were very happy with the program that Toni had designed, but the true measure of a successful trip is the execution of the plan. That implementation was virtually flawless.

Everyone who had been engaged by Toni to support us or provide services in Nepal did so in a manner that exceeded our expectations. All our guides were friendly, knowledgeable, resourceful, and solicitous of all our needs and wants. Rajiv, the representative of the local tour operator who was responsible for coordinating transfers and transportation, was punctual, dependable and gracious at all hours of the day and night. Shiva, our driver throughout our stay in Nepal, not only was professional, calm and steady in horrendous driving conditions but treated us with true caring and kindness. We came to feel that we were seeing Nepal with our companions, our new friends.

Toni’s intimate and current knowledge about facilities and activities in Nepal led us to places that we could not have found, despite doing some research on our own using the must recently published guidebooks. Our stays in the Barahi Jungle Lodge and the Gorkha Gaun Resort; a fun day in Bhaktapur for a private cooking lesson and lunch at Hari’s Home and a walking tour with Hari; and a visit to a local library supported by Read Global, where we were welcomed as if we were state dignitaries; all were highlights of the trip and illustrate the network of resources that Toni draws from to design a custom program that fit us very well.

As a couple, we have different physical abilities and limits. One of us enjoys an occasional hike while that is not possible for the other. Toni’s program accommodated both of us.

We went to Nepal with hopes of seeing mountains and animals. We saw many mountains and animals, and they were spectacular. However, as a result of Toni’s guidance, we also came home with a good sense of the culture of the country.

Our “bucket list” still contains places in Asia that we have yet to visit. In the future, when we visit places for which Toni Neubauer is a trusted travel expert, there is no doubt that we will call on her again to organize our trip.

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Italy, orchestrated by Maria Landers and Brian Dore

MARY LARONGE | NOVEMBER 20, 2018

I had Maria plan a special family trip for three family members to spend 11 days in Italy in Oct.
I had some specific requests to see some things I had not seen before, as I have lived and worked in Italy 30 years ago. Maria from the outset understood my needs and she crafted an amazing trip from the start (a private transfer from Malpensa to a lunch at Villa DEste & onto Bellagio on Lake Como) to Finish…High-speed train back to Milan to catch our flight home. Everything was seamless and very special. All of the hotels were perfect for us, and Maria pulled off the virtually impossible: finding a lovely quiet room overlooking a piazza without crazy noise and in the shadow of important Renaissance architecture. She also mentioned the rooftop pool and bar at the Minerva in Florence where we had drinks each night in the soft evening light with gorgeous views of the Duomo. Her private excursions to the Factory floor of Lamborghini, to lunches at small wineries run by families who have been there for centuries… it was all beyond terrific. Our private boat ride on the Arno at night was a huge hit and my niece who is studying there had not ever seen a private boat trip on the river in the evening. This is the edge Maria offers, access and know-how that only a seasoned specialist can uncover for their clients.

I can’t thank Wendy enough for linking me up with Maria, we enjoyed every day of our trip and we will certainly reach out to her again to plan some more special moments in other spots in one of my most favorite countries on earth, that I have visited more than 20 times! Mille Grazie Maria and team!!! Can’t wait to go back to Italy…as soon as possible.

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Portugal, orchestrated by Gonçalo Correia

VIRGINIA MEYER | NOVEMBER 18, 2018

In September, a group of 8 family members ranging in age from 19 to 70 spent 11 days touring Portugal and then doing a partial walk of the Camino into Santiago de Compostela. Goncala Correira did a faultless job of organizing this trip according to our interests. We wanted to see the important sights, but yet have some athletic activities. We had 3 very athletic people on this trip. I told Goncala that having excellent, informative guides was very important to us and he delivered. Tiago, our Portuguese guide, speaks perfect English, has traveled to the US and elsewhere, has inexhaustible energy and an encyclopedic knowledge of Portugal. Teresa Oliveira, our guide for the Spanish hike, was also very knowledgeable, as well as fun and extremely accommodating to the diverse needs of our group. Most notable was the way that Teresa and Tours for You accommodated a last minute schedule change at the end of our trip. Due to Hurricane Florence, 2 of our group moved their return flights up by a day 20 hours before flight time. While driving to our hotel, Teresa et al managed to move up all the next day’s activities, ie guides & private visit into that afternoon so that the early departees wouldn’t miss out on anything. Somehow they got it done and later Goncala refunded people for the hotels/taxis they didn’t use! That afternoons private visit was to Pazo do Faramello. We did a few private visits during this trip, but this was exceptional. Beautiful place, fascinating history, charming host – go if in the vicinity. Without hesitation, I would recommend Goncala and his team to anyone.

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Hawaii, orchestrated by Jay and Dani Johnson

MARSHA FRIEDLI | NOVEMBER 12, 2018

Our 30th Anniversary was fast approaching and we had nothing planned! We visited the Hawaiian Islands on our wedding trip and we thought it would be a good time to revisit the Big Island, which we really enjoy. Naturally, we started with Wendy Perrin’s WOW list of agents and decided to use Jay and Dani for our planning.

This was not a complicated trip, however, time was short and I was concerned about hotels and excursions being unavailable. Dani asked us thoughtful questions regarding our interests and what we wanted to do. We wanted to maximize our site-seeing time and beach time too! Dani understood this and arranged a circle island helicopter tour, a moonlight manta snorkel excursion, and hiking if the weather permitted.

Dani picked the perfect hotel with a fantastic beach: the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. This hotel is not ostentatious but has a very welcoming and friendly feel. From the welcome arrival with a traditional lei greeting and check-in, everything went smoothly and efficiently. And we did use the concierge service for restaurant reservations and maps. The design of the hotel was to maximize the terrain and the enjoyment of the beach and ocean. The beach is a very well-kept 1/3 of a mile gold sand beach good for walking and just enjoying the ocean and sunset. There are plenty of activities at the beach; paddle boarding, swimming, traditional out-rigger boat complete with a shell blower to make the arrival and departure and even the opportunity to snorkel with the mantas from the beach. It’s a lovely walk out into the ocean as the beach is protected a bit, like a cove. And if the beach is too windy for the umbrellas or you want something different there is a great pool with hot tub and lots of very comfortable lounges with umbrellas. We used the pool a day or so as well.

Additionally, they have a great tennis facility! We had decided not to take golf or tennis equipment as this trip was to be about visiting the Big Island and relaxing on the beach. But one day we decided to check out the tennis shop for T-shirts and such, and I could not resist the call to play. The club had racquet rental as well as shoe rental! They were not fussy about the dress code either so my work out shorts were just fine.

At the hotel, there are many classes offered regarding Hawaii life and also hotel tours regarding the artwork displayed. I took the art tour offered and it was very educational. The tour provided insight on the artwork displayed and also the background as to how the hotel came to be and the design/feel of the hotel. And a special part of staying at this hotel was the staff, so accommodating and friendly. Every morning at breakfast buffet we had an ocean side table and the staff was concerned about the exposure to the sun and would bring out the awnings just before the sun became an issue. The staff always seemed to be at least one step ahead and were able to anticipate our needs.

The weather cooperated for all activities except the hiking. The excursions Dani arranged were timed for us to take advantage of the time change, east coast vs Hawaii time. Dani also provided some trip planning software/app so we could communicate and keep track of our excursions and the vendors could notify us if something changed on their end. This app worked very well and made the planning and referencing of trip details very easy and convenient. In addition to a beachfront room we also we received upgraded seats at our Luau, chilled bottle of champagne in our room, additional champagne at dinner at an off-resort restaurant –all of these were very nice surprises! It was a great trip for us, thanks to Dani and her team!

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Fiji, orchestrated by Lynette Wilson

CARI REED | NOVEMBER 10, 2018

Lynette Wilson was lovely to work with in planning our week-long trip to Fiji. We had a lengthy first phone call in which she answered our many questions about traveling there, best places to stay given our interests and desired accommodation type. She lives in Fiji and has traveled extensively in the South Pacific so her insight was terrific when deciding where to go in the region. She was prompt in her follow up emails and getting back to us on questions. We decided to stay at Savasi Island Resort for its beautiful, small and private setting. Our 2 bedroom villa was gorgeous – waterfall and a small pond at entry, private plunge pool on the deck overlooking the gorgeous ocean view. The staff there were attentive and arranged for private excursions snorkeling and to a village for a swim in their waterfall – amazingly it was only the 2 of us and our guide there! They were very knowledgeable and taught us a bit about local plants and critters. They shuttled us back and forth to the airport and had breakfast prepared for us on arrival – pretty great after an overnight long-haul flight. As a special treat, I had a wonderful complimentary foot massage and scrub afterward – heaven. They made an amazing first impression with how they greet all guests. We plan to go back to this boutique resort. Lynette has counterparts in Los Angeles that booked our airfare. They were efficient but weren’t able to help much when we wanted to upgrade our flights to first class. To be fair, we should have noticed sooner we were booked economy, so might be worth ensuring that you specify that up front. All in all, we had on of our most memorable trips. I highly recommend Lynette.

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French Polynesia, orchestrated by Kleon Howe

PATRICIA MURAIS | NOVEMBER 6, 2018

Kleon helped us plan a superb trip to French Polynesia. He listened carefully to our requests and arranged things seamlessly. He offered suggestions that we hadn’t considered— several days on a catamaran were a highlight.

He added extra touches. Our overwater bungalow in Bora Bora was at the end of a row of several bungalows, looking out at what seemed to be our own private lagoon—we could watch colorful fish pass by right from the deck—and we found several surprise amenities upon check-in (including champagne). He got us a perfect table at Villa Mahana, on the third level of a Mediterranean-style villa—very private, overlooking a reflecting pool and the candlelit tables of the other diners below. And our beach bungalow on Vahine Island (one of only nine bungalows on the island) was ideal—and spacious, with multiple areas to lounge in, including a front and back lanai and several seating areas inside. We wouldn’t have been able to know of these fine points without Kleon’s expertise.

He was supremely accessible both before and during the trip. When our flight was delayed he arranged for updated arrangements such that everything continued to go smoothly, greatly soothing my anxieties. On the return home, we decided to spend an extra night in Papeete in order to guarantee timely travel home – he handled this without a hitch. I would highly recommend Kleon and look forward to traveling again using Wendy’s recommended agents.

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Austria and northern Italy, orchestrated by Claudia Schwenger

SHERRI JOHNSON | NOVEMBER 3, 2018

When I reached out to Claudia and Mirium to help plan a once-in-a-lifetime trip for my Mother, I had high expectations. Not only did they knock it out of the park, but they made this trip to Austria and northern Italy truly a lifetime memory for which we will always be grateful. The hotels were hand-picked and exceptional, the guides were knowledgeable and personable, and the activities were well-timed and exactly what we asked for. We were working with specific cruise dates and were looking for a 10-day pre-cruise trip that would give us mountains, water, beautiful scenery and culture in destinations that were easy to get around. When I contacted them two weeks prior to the departure to let them know that Mom had a medical issue that could limit some of her mobility, they were immediately responsive. They discretely shared this information with the guides such that they were able to route the day trips and tours for routes requiring less walking without sacrificing the original itinerary and plan (and without Mom knowing!). The hotel in Lago d’Iseo was a hidden gem, literally. The apple strudel cooking class in Salzburg was super fun and engaging. The Piglet they provided was a thoroughly detailed day to day guide that covered every potential question. Mom is still smiling from ear to ear and already talking about planning her next adventure. I cannot say enough great things about Claudia and her team and would hire them again. Not only because they are clearly experts in this region, but because they cared about our experience from the minute I sent them the email to initiate the trip to the minute Mom returned home where she found a beautiful floral arrangement thanking her for letting them be part of her trip. 10-star service every step of the way.

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Argentina, orchestrated by Maita Barrenechea

SUSAN CUNNEEN | NOVEMBER 3, 2018

Maita and her team, specifically Santiago, carefully paid attention to my requests and created an itinerary that was absolutely perfect for me. As a solo traveler, I have found that many travel specialists can be less responsive since it is just one person versus a family or group. However, in this case, I felt like a VIP, and, even during my wonderful trip when I had some small but frustrating issues to me at the time, Maita and her team acted as virtual concierges, and were extremely kind. Their arrangements for everything were flawless, and hearing from Maita and Santiago during the trip was very special. I look forward to working with Maita in the future and highly recommend them. Thank you, Wendy, for helping me find Maita!

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Morocco, orchestrated by Michael Diamond

NANCY BERN | NOVEMBER 1, 2018

Michael Diamond did a fantastic job of arranging a trip to Morocco for four couples. We particularly appreciated the guide that he set us up with. Our guide was highly knowledgeable about Morocco, extremely flexible and helpful, and made our trip a real pleasure. Michael also chose one of the best hotels that we have ever stayed in–a lovely riad in Marrakech. Michaels special arrangements were impeccable–from restaurants to the designer that took us to special shops, to the cooking class that we all loved. We all agreed that connecting with Michael was the key to a trip of a lifetime

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Prague and Vienna, orchestrated by Gwen Kozlowski

SHANNON HOWARD | OCTOBER 31, 2018

For our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, we considered booking a Danube river cruise (as we have immensely enjoyed river cruising). After perusing several cruise lines’ itineraries, I wished we could combine elements from each cruise to create the perfect anniversary trip. Following an initial phone conversation with Gwen, I realized it was possible to design a land trip, based out of Prague and Vienna, that could include all our “must haves,” from touring Lobkowicz Palace and the Jewish Quarter in Prague to climbing the 343 stairs to the roof of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, to biking along the Danube in the Wachau Valley, to seeing The Sound of Music highlights in Salzburg. Because we would be “in port” all the time, we could also add evening ballet and symphony performances, plus a romantic anniversary dinner at a top-rated Viennese restaurant.

After corresponding for several months with Gwen and Lori, I felt confident that we had finalized every last detail of our dream itinerary. But what I didn’t fully appreciate was that Gwen could provide the perfect ingredient that no amount of my researching and selecting sites could provide—and that was our private guides.

In Prague, Kamila candidly shared details about her childhood under communist rule. As we walked through New Town, she pointed out where her father stood as he witnessed the Russian tanks that entered their city in 1968. Kamila was expert at keeping us on task (with our ambitious site-seeing itinerary) without ever rushing us. She allowed ample pauses to soak in the architectural beauty, reminding us to “always look up and look behind” when we were admiring the scenery.

Our Viennese guide, Peter, provided in-depth historical context so that we could appreciate that “Austrians are not Germans.” Before beginning our biking adventure along the Danube, Peter took us along charming back streets to view centuries-old buildings in Krems, his childhood home. Our visit inside the church in Durnstein seemed especially intimate when Peter revealed he was married there. Peter provided a local lens to his Austria so that we felt a little less like tourists and more like guests.

After a vigorous Fraulein Maria public bike tour in Salzburg, we were hoping for a lazy afternoon. Our guide, Michaela, streamlined our previously scheduled car tour to achieve a visually stimulating, yet low-key, route through the Lake District. We especially enjoyed gorgeous (and tranquil) views atop “Goat Mountain” and an impromptu stop at a local shop in St. Gilgen, where we conversed with the jovial store owner before purchasing locally made goods (including salt and pumpkin seed oil). Knowing we’d appreciate a view of the church in Mondsee, Michaela squeezed in this final stop—but not before calling the restaurant to push back our dinner reservations.

Our perspectives of the places we visited were authentically enriched by Kamila, Peter, and Michaela. We’re grateful that Gwen and Lori arranged for us to tour with knowledgeable, personable, and genuinely dedicated guides.

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Scotland, orchestrated by Jonathan Epstein

JOAN BLANKSTEEN | OCTOBER 30, 2018

Jonathan and Nicole provided excellent guidance in balancing our scotch tasting trip with history and country experience. They booked all our meals and arranged everything so it was a seamless, stressless vacation.

We visited over 13 distilleries on our trip, driving from Glasgow to the Highlands back down to Perth with a very knowledgeable driver/guide (and excellent driver!)

Our favorites were:

* Tomatin – the guide Ken was excellent. As we had heard the distillery process tour many times by the time we came here, Ken did a great job of explaining the process on a different level- very “user-friendly “- found the right words and comparisons so that we all could understand the process. Also, Tomatin allows you to taste some whiskey from the cask that you cannot buy at home- you can then pick which ones you want and they’ll bottle it for you.

* Edradour- my husband just loves the whiskey and the people there were very helpful picking out something he would like to take home.

* Lindores Abbey- this is a relatively new distillery that is just in the “spirits stage”. It was a good place to fully realize the investment made in each distillery from both a monetary and time basis. We mixed our own spirits here- adding herbs etc to their base spirit. It was fun and again informative.

We loved driving through the magnificent countryside where you can go miles and never see another car. We fell in love with the Highland Cattle.

Visiting Culloden was a highlight. I had much less knowledge of Jacobite history than my husband, but we all learned much from our few hours there. We toured the museum and the grounds. It was an emotional experience.

We enjoyed the castles – like Blair Castle and especially enjoyed seeing the walls of armaments.

We loved the bar at Torridon! The bar itself is beautiful and the selection of whiskeys and liquor incredible. We thoroughly looked forward to cocktail hour after a long day of touring!

We enjoyed all the food in Scotland, from the breakfast buffets to tea and scones. Our favorite dinner was at Gleneagles- the Strathearn Restaurant. We loved the ambiance with the piano and bass player, excellent service and fine food. But the evening was very special for us as about 7 years ago, we took our children to Gleneagles for Christmas. We had a tour of the extraordinary wine cellar and met a charming female sommelier who shared with us some of her experiences. Fast forward 7 years and we asked the male sommelier if he knew of the woman we had met on our last visit. He said – yes- she is now our cellar master!!!! While she was busy coordinating a special dinner in the cellar, our sommelier let her know we were there and she came up to spend some time with us and reminisce. She did remember some of our wine stories!

It was our last dinner in Scotland and it could not have been more special.

While my husband and I had never seen Outlander, our friend had and we were very happy to have visited “the stones” and “Castle Leoch”- a fun Scotland experience!

We look forward to going back to Scotland!

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Spain, orchestrated by Virginia Irurita

VIRGINIA MCKENNA | OCTOBER 29, 2018

From our first conversation to prompt email responses to everything running on time and is exactly as planned, Virginia and her team were one of the best travel companies that I have ever worked with. Our guides were some of the best we have had in the world. Every transfer, hike, meal, and tour were exactly as promised. I can’t give a higher rating than what I would give to Virginia and her team.

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Sicily, orchestrated by Marcello Baglioni

DENNIS LAABS | OCTOBER 28, 2018

We worked with Marcello to put together an outstanding tour of Eastern Sicily. The guides and drivers were uniformly excellent. We loved the unique experiences and boutique resorts he selected for us. Our guides were excellent, especially Italo who was extremely knowledgeable on both archaeology and geography of the region. We loved the walk through the market in Ortigia with Chef Mauricio and cooking in his restaurant which was amazing and the forest hike with Sebastian in the woods outside of Siracusa. We enjoyed seeing Mount Etna and the surrounding vineyards. In addition, the ancient sites, as well as the beautiful Palazzos, were extremely interesting and our guide allowed us to begin the long history of this fascinating region of the world. Overall Sicily exceeded our expectations and Marcello put together a great itinerary.

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Cruise orchestrated by Tom Baker

NIKKI DAVIDSON | OCTOBER 26, 2018

I just completed with my husband and another couple a Viking Danube River Cruise—from Budapest to Nuremberg with a Prague extension—that was planned by Tom Baker. I could use all those adjectives that others have/will use to describe him….but I’ll just use one. BEST. And that should say it all.

From the moment I first started talking to Tom about a Viking Tour for my husband …and our two friends that accompanied us…..he was personable, professional, patient, knowledgeable… all that the things that an employer would want their employee to be when representing their company. Quite simply…he’s the whole package. You have a gem there and I hope you know it. Ian was also fantastic about getting us information when we needed it…..so he gets credit for making this trip fabulous too! And when a small but important issue arose with our travel plans…Tom was on top it and reassuring us what to do and how it will be handled.

I will highly recommend him to others…and will…at some time in the future as we consider our next trip, absolutely use Tom for our travel agent. And Wendy, just so YOU know, it was I who called Tom to ask him how/where I should write the review regarding his services because I was THAT pleased by his efforts.

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France, orchestrated by Jennifer Virgilio

JULIE WARMAN | OCTOBER 26, 2018

Jennifer Virgilio and her team were exceptional. From the early planning stages to the very last hour of the trip, each member of the team performed with the highest standards. During the planning phase, Jennifer reached out personally to ask about my goals for the 3-week trip. She suggested events such as the Ryder Cup and then was able to secure tickets to the already sold-out event. They were also able to secure Moulin Rouge tickets on days that were already fully booked and unavailable to the general public. Each driver or driver/guide that I was assigned was friendly, knowledgeable and extremely professional. Perhaps my favorite service was the departing airport greeter. We went through the ticketing line, customs, and security with great ease….in about 10 minutes. In all my travels, I have never encountered service like that. Working with Jennifer and her colleagues truly was a pleasure and helped to create many memories of a lifetime!

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Japan, orchestrated by Scott Gilman

DANIEL SABBAH | OCTOBER 24, 2018

10 wonderful days in Japan. 3 Fabulous hotels including a special experience in a Ryokan/Onsen (Japanese inn with Hot Springs) in the small towns of central Japan. A number of unique experiences including a Japanese cooking class with a chef at her home in Tokyo. A visit with an exclusive Kimono maker in Kyoto. Top-flight restaurants suggested and reserved in all locations with a variety of culinary experiences. Every day was with one of 3 professionals to guide us through all regions. Lots of the usual stuff with Shrines, Gardens, Temples, Museums and tailored shopping to our tastes. All planned and discussed/tailored in advance.

Scott did exactly what we asked him to do and tried to tailor all to our needs and wants. My only slight concern was the length of time in Kyoto which could have been cut back by a day. Too many temples, shrines, and Shogun homes at that point. We were a bit burned out on that. However, the guide was flexible and rearranged the planned agenda to shift to arts, museums, and shopping. His tailored experiences were excellent and unique. Things that we could not have arranged on our own. His restaurant picks with our input were also right on and ones we could have never picked on our own.

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France, orchestrated by Jack Dancy

MIKE AND MOLLY HARTMANN | OCTOBER 21, 2018

We just returned from a two week trip to France. In planning the trip with Jack Dancy and his team we explained we wanted to focus on wine, history, and culture. Jack put together a fantastic itinerary including stops in Paris, Champagne, Alsace, Burgundy, and the Loire River Valley. I cannot imagine a better, well-planned trip than what we experienced. Every detail of the trip from hotels, to drivers, to tour guides and meals was well thought out and exactly what we were looking for. Jack’s particular knowledge and experience with the wine guides in each region was especially helpful as they were the best we have ever used. With any trip, things came up along the way and the Trufflepig team immediately responded to every situation as it arose. We cannot recommend Jack and his team highly enough and wouldn’t think about making another trip to France without including them.

Jack is one of your best travel experts we have ever used. He was great to work with pre-trip, recommended great guides, and was extremely responsive throughout the trip as we canceled dinner plans at the last minute several times. Before the trip, they sent our train tickets, their extremely detailed itinerary “Piglet” book, and two books on wine and wine history…no one has ever sent us books pre-trip! He and his team are one of your best and the reason we use your travel professionals whenever we travel. Thanks for a great recommendation.

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Brazil, orchestrated by Paul Irvine

GERRY O’CONNOR | OCTOBER 20, 2018

Paul Irvine and his agency were on top of everything. From the planning, organizing the itinerary, laying out suggestions to following up on the day-to-day activities, Paul and his agency were thoroughly involved. I know he contacted our hotels, guides and drivers to make sure they knew our limitations, e.g. Anne is allergic to shellfish. He monitored each and every activity to make sure all was going according to plan.

Throughout the journey, I had some minor questions and he had a response to me often within hours regardless of the day of the week.

For this blue-collar kid from Brooklyn, such luxury, care, and professionalism were beyond compare. It was like having someone remotely looking over your shoulder to make sure all was kosher.

We loved everything about the trip and what Paul was able to organize for us.

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Peru orchestrated by Marisol Mosquera

LIZ LAGEDROST | OCTOBER 20, 2018

This was the first trip for which we used a travel agency, and our experience could not have been better. Marisol and her team helped us with our 14 day trip through Peru, and everything from the places we saw to the hotels we stayed in, our expert guides, and all the travel logistics far exceeded any of our expectations. The trip was absolutely amazing! We would recommend Aracari to anyone looking for a phenomenal trip to Peru.

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Russia, orchestrated by Greg Tepper

DEAN NANCE | OCTOBER 17, 2018

I worked with Greg Tepper and his right hand, Gwen Kozlowski, in planning our September 2018 trip to Moscow and Budapest. In Moscow, the Metro stations, the churches with golden domes, and the Kremlin were all great. But our favorite experiences were (1) the Museum of Tolerance, where the complete honesty and openness of the museum’s required private guide demonstrated how Russia has changed, and the State Museum of Contemporary Russia, where the note in one exhibit that the “reunification of the Crimea with Russia…was the result of universal free expression of the will of the Crimean people” demonstrated how Russia has not changed; (2) two performances of the Bolshoi Ballet, with tickets secured for us by Exeter; and (3) the GUM store near the Kremlin. By the way, in Moscow, we had no problems with personal safety and were treated very well by everyone we came into contact with.

In Budapest, highlights were (1) morning shopping with the chef of Gundel restaurant and a specially prepared lunch by the chef in a private room, with Gundel’s sommelier overseeing the very good wines we were offered, including a 5 Puttonyos Tokaji Aszu; (2) a new, special exhibit at the Dohany Street Synagogue on the Hungarian ghettos late in WWII after Hitler invaded Hungary; and (3) music events at Liszt Academy and Béla Bartók National Concert Hall, with tickets secured for us by Exeter. Of course, we enjoyed Buda with its views of the Danube and other sights. The Club Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton was great and so valuable for us because it gave us flexibility in eating breakfast (I could easily get carry-out coffee and a roll while my wife was still in bed, and return later with her for more breakfast), plus on the two nights when we went to 7:30 pm music concerts, my wife and I could have a light, quick dinner in the lounge before we went to the concert hall.

Only my initial conversation was with Greg. Most of my contact was with Gwen, who was simply wonderful to work with, both technically and personally. I could not have been more satisfied.

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Russia, orchestrated by Greg Tepper

DEAN NANCE | OCTOBER 17, 2018

I worked with Greg Tepper and his right hand, Gwen Kozlowski, in planning our September 2018 trip to Moscow and Budapest. In Moscow, the Metro stations, the churches with golden domes, and the Kremlin were all great. But our favorite experiences were (1) the Museum of Tolerance, where the complete honesty and openness of the museum’s required private guide demonstrated how Russia has changed, and the State Museum of Contemporary Russia, where the note in one exhibit that the “reunification of the Crimea with Russia…was the result of universal free expression of the will of the Crimean people” demonstrated how Russia has not changed; (2) two performances of the Bolshoi Ballet, with tickets secured for us by Exeter; and (3) the GUM store near the Kremlin. By the way, in Moscow, we had no problems with personal safety and were treated very well by everyone we came into contact with.

In Budapest, highlights were (1) morning shopping with the chef of Gundel restaurant and a specially prepared lunch by the chef in a private room, with Gundel’s sommelier overseeing the very good wines we were offered, including a 5 Puttonyos Tokaji Aszu; (2) a new, special exhibit at the Dohany Street Synagogue on the Hungarian ghettos late in WWII after Hitler invaded Hungary; and (3) music events at Liszt Academy and Béla Bartók National Concert Hall, with tickets secured for us by Exeter. Of course, we enjoyed Buda with its views of the Danube and other sights. The Club Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton was great and so valuable for us because it gave us flexibility in eating breakfast (I could easily get carry-out coffee and a roll while my wife was still in bed, and return later with her for more breakfast), plus on the two nights when we went to 7:30 pm music concerts, my wife and I could have a light, quick dinner in the lounge before we went to the concert hall.

Only my initial conversation was with Greg. Most of my contact was with Gwen, who was simply wonderful to work with, both technically and personally. I could not have been more satisfied.

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Paris apartment rental, orchestrated by Madelyn Byrne

GEORGE AND SYD SINKER | OCTOBER 14, 2018

Madelyne helped us pick a beautiful, well-located apartment with all the amenities available. We utilized her recommendations in many areas and especially appreciated Victor’s taxi to take us wherever we needed to be; they were pleasant and always on time. Madelyne’s staff made restaurant reservations and recommendations and everything was bang on. We lucked out and had beautiful weather all week. Even though this was our first time in Paris we felt right at home and stress-free. Thanks to Madelyne and her team for making “Paris Perfect.”

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South Africa, orchestrated by Nina Wennersten and Dan Saperstein

DAVE LUSIGNAN | OCTOBER 13, 2018

Nina and Dan assisted my wife and me in organizing an almost 3 week trip to South Africa in September. The trip was terrific and Ninas and Dan’s guidance spot on and invaluable. The hotels in Capetown, Hermanus and Franschhoek were exactly to our liking…..smallish boutique well-appointed properties, well located for easy walking to town/sights, with exceptional service by the respective staffs. We could not have identified these perfect fit accommodations without Ninas and Dan’s knowledge and help. Their experience was also invaluable in choosing our 2 safari camp locations. Nina and Dan fit put us into 2 camps that fit our budget yet were luxurious and provided us with 2 different experiences in Timbavati and Sabi Sabi. Again, we would never have been able to make such an excellent choice by ourselves. Our in-country logistics were flawless and Ninas and Dan’s recommendation for a South Cape tour was perfect…it cost a bit more than the standard offering, but the guide was excellent and the experience superb. The guide had even arranged for us to have a penguin expert from the local association to accompany us on our visit to the penguins which added tremendous value to that segment of the trip. Lastly, we were concerned over baggage restrictions when flying out of safari back to Joburg on Federal Air. This concern was quickly dispelled by switching that flight to SAAirkink which had no such restrictions. This required a short transfer from our camp to a local airport but was well worth the small inconvenience so that we could pack what we desired for a 3-week multi-faceted trip. I would certainly recommend Nina and Dan to anyone wanting to plan a trip to South Africa.

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Canadian Maritimes, orchestrated by Marc Telio

JEANNE LEE | OCTOBER 9, 2018

I went to Wendy’s List a few years ago looking for someone to help me with a trip to the Canadian Maritimes. No one was listed for Eastern Canada, but Marc Telio was there to help with Western Canada. I contacted Marc, who told me that he has a friend who specialized in Eastern Canada and he felt that she would do a great job. Most travel agents would have jumped at the chance to book a trip. Marc wanted us to have the best possible experience, so he gave the booking to Jill Curran. Jill, who is now on Wendy’s WOW List as the top travel specialist for the Maritimes, planned a wonderful trip for us.

We came back the following year to have Marc put together a trip to Vancouver Island. Every day of that Vancouver trip was a WOW experience. I still dream about the places we stayed and the little stops along the way.

This year, Marc suggested Nimmo Bay. He and his team attended to every detail. The transfers were handled beautifully, even with airline delays. His hotel suggestion put us in the heart of the city, with easy access to everything. We had a wonderful city tour of Vancouver. The guide was extremely knowledgeable and a great storyteller. We hated to have the day end. Marc had built in a half day to wander the city on our own before we took off for Nimmo Bay. We wanted a tour of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. One call to Kate on Marc’s team made it happen.

Wendy had given us a WOW Moment that we would be receiving on this trip. We could not imagine what Wendy would come up with. Our only instruction was to be in the hotel lobby at 7 pm for our WOW Moment. That’s when Marc showed up — and not only did we finally get to meet him in person, but he took us for dinner at his favorite restaurant in Vancouver. The food was wonderful, and the conversation was lively. It was such a pleasure to get to know the man behind the ideas. There were many phone calls and email exchanges planning our trips, but getting to spend an evening with this remarkable man was the best.

I have used Wendy’s list of travel experts for decades. I can say without any hesitation that Marc is the best of the best.

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Israel, orchestrated by Joe Yudin

EVA STRASBURGER | OCTOBER 5, 2018

I have nothing but praise for the excellent trip that Joe Yudin arranged for my husband and me in August 2018. Joe has been doing this for a while so he can create the perfectly tailored itinerary for any client. Therefore, our last minute trip turned out to be a really easy one to set up as after only two conversations with me Joe knew what to recommend. Israel is a small country but it was still great to speak with an expert who knew the distances and the best routes to take so that we could fit it all in.

Hotels: The hotels were a highlight of the visit. The American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem was our favorite hotel and the beautiful plant-covered outdoor staircase from our upgraded suite was unforgettable. We were impressed with all the hotels -especially the Setai in Jaffa/Tel Aviv and the Effendi in Akko for their stylish designs. The Beresheet was also spectacular and when saw the Crater View Room with a pool we canceled plans for that day to enjoy the hotel and the view. Considering we booked late we appreciated the efforts of Joes competent and efficient team (Rivka and Michal) to move the itinerary around to make sure that we stayed at the best places and for the upgrades and extras, they managed to get for us.

Our guide Zvi was brilliant and the perfect fit for us; he was very patient and did not take offense to our intrusive questioning about Israeli life and politics but gently explained the situation as he saw it and all the different debates. With a background in education, he knew the history of the area in great detail and delighted in teaching it. Over the course of our days with him, he became a friend and colleague, not just a guide, and it was a pleasure spending time with him. He also introduced us to his impressive family who gave us a good insight into parts of Israeli life that would not have been apparent on just a tour. (Sharon, Zvi’s wife, cooked us a delicious meal for Rosh Hashanah). Zvi did a great job too of adjusting the schedule when we ran late or we made changes to our day so that we could still fit in everything we wanted to see. He also never rushed us (we are notoriously slow) and did not make us feel bad when the days ran long. Furthermore, when we made requests like wanting a sunset drink during the desert jeep tour he showed up with a cold beer. Altogether, Zvi was excellent and when we think of Israel we think of him and how much he taught us about a fascinating country.

Our other guide, Ari, stepped in with only a few hours notices on our first half day and did a great job. He introduced me to the only Fashion House in Israel, Maskit, where I found the perfect dress and showed us some of his favorite spots in Tel Aviv.

Out of all our recent trips, Joe did the best job as far as putting together some unique and really interesting experiences –such as the breakfast meetings with journalists, the Desert Embroidery exchange, the Kuchinate non-profit visit, the Stargazing lesson, and the Druze home hospitality. These experiences made the trip an exceptional one; it is what I expect from someone on the Wendy Perrin List – and Joe did not disappoint. I highly recommend him.

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Turkey, orchestrated by Karen Fedorko Sefer

EVA STRASBURGER | OCTOBER 5, 2018

My multi-generational family had a fabulous trip with Karen Fedorko (Sea Song) in July 2018. After finding her on the Wendy Perrin WOW list I gave her a call and was very impressed with her knowledge of Turkey and how quickly she understood my vision of the trip and quickly sketched out an initial itinerary. I was immediately confident in her ability to create the perfect experience for us and I was not disappointed.

Our guide for the Izmir area and Istanbul was Tulay and she was wonderful! Tulay was always professional, caring, attentive, keen to make sure we had everything we needed and willing to put in very long days. In particular, she was the perfect guide for my 83-year-old mother because of her patience and warmth. Tulay loves Turkey and is passionate about guiding and her enthusiasm was infectious. Also, her perfect command of the English language and teaching background made complicated histories easy to understand. When we think of this trip we think of Tulay with her happy laughter and the many good times we had with her.

Andy, in Cappadocia, was very good too: he organized a home hospitality meal for us through our driver, Selim, which turned out to be a highlight of the trip. He also managed to find a wheelchair for my mother and was helpful in pushing it and finding areas for her to rest when she was tired.

The drivers were excellent as well and were all very likable, helpful and charming. In addition, the large twelve-seater vans for a family of five were a pleasant surprise and very welcome as we had so much space and comfort. Finally, Karen did a great job in selecting our hotels which were to a high standard and contributed to the success of the trip – we especially loved the unique Museum Hotel in Cappadocia.

Altogether we had a great time and I do not hesitate in recommending Karen to anyone considering a trip to Turkey.

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Disney Orlando, orchestrated by Michelle Allen

JEFF AND GWEN BERNFIELD | OCTOBER 5, 2018

Disney Orlando, September 2018

Just returned from another fantastic vacation planned by Michelle and her team. Although we consider ourselves seasoned Disney travelers, we prefer to leave all the planning to the Michelle and her team. They plan everything – fast passes, dining reservations, park tickets, special excursions – with no hassle. Everyone on their team is friendly, knowledgeable, responsive and a pleasure to work with. They can get you into hard to secure attractions and restaurants.

They are incredible listeners and will customize every detail to your wishes. Regardless of whether you are a first-timer or a repeat Disney customer, it is well worth it to have Michelle plan your Disney excursion.

We have used many WOW list experts over the years and Michelle and her team are at the top of the list – special people with a level of caring for their travelers, which is second to none. We give them our highest possible recommendation and would never consider a Disney adventure without using their services.

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England, orchestrated by Jane and Philip McCrum

JOE LYLE | OCTOBER 3, 2018

When my wife learned she had to go to London for business at the end of July, we contacted Philip McCrum to help us plan a 5-day extension to explore the English countryside. Philip put together a wonderful itinerary for us that included Oxford, Blenheim Palace, Cotswolds villages, Bath, Stonehenge and Windsor Castle — all with very knowledgeable and personable local guides. He also helped procure tickets to Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club while we were in London. My wife especially enjoyed our fantastic WOW Moment at the Thermae Bath Spa, where we had exclusive use of The Cross Bath, an open-air thermal bath.

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Italy, orchestrated by Andrea Grisdale

WILL WILLIS | OCTOBER 2, 2018

We worked with Andrea and her team to organize our honeymoon on relatively short notice — about a month before our trip, scheduled for the end of August which is typically very busy in Italy. The team listened to our ideas and desires for the trip and quickly prepared an itinerary that took us to Lake Como, Lake Garda, Tuscany and Ravello on the Amalfi Coast, with accommodations and activities to match what we were looking for. The team was great about adjusting the itinerary to squeeze as much in as we wanted or to manage the budget. Our trip included a private boat tour of Lake Como, wine tasting in the Valpolicella region, day trips to small towns scattered around Tuscany, and a private tour of the ruins of Pompei, among other things.

We could not be more happy with our trip. The accommodations were spectacular, particularly Casta Diva on Lake Como and the two Belmond properties in Tuscany and Ravello. The tour of Lake Como was one of the top experiences of our trip thanks in large part to our wonderful guide, Rita. She was a delight and we’d recommend her to anyone. Our guide for Pompei (Carmine, if we’re remembering his name correctly), was also incredible and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him. All of the drivers were also very good in their own right, very charming and personable, and managed transfers seamlessly.

Regarding Andrea and her team’s service, everything was wonderful. It was an enjoyable and clear process from start to finish, everyone is incredibly kind and professional, and we wouldn’t hesitate to use Andrea again in the future.

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Mongolia, orchestrated by Jalsa Urubshurow

ANN WILKINSON | SEPTEMBER 30, 2018

Having traveled over 60 countries, I am accustomed to doing a great deal of research on how to accomplish my goals. Thankfully, through Wendy Perrin’s WOW list, I found Jalsa. I was grateful for his prompt response, and by kismet, was able to meet with Jalsa personally to discuss my goals for the trip. The main goal was a trip to see the eagle hunters in far western Mongolia. Jalsa and his team made flawless arrangements to the region where I was able to spend the better part of a day with an eagle hunter and his family. It was a breathtaking experience to spend the day in such a remote valley, the hunter’s winter camps, surrounded by the magnificent snow-capped Altai Mountains. I could never have done this on my own, but with our terrific guide, Narra, our driver, and my travel companion, I was able to fulfill my dream of meeting a hunter with his magnificent eagle and experience the centuries-old tradition of the Kazakh nomad. Our magical journey continued across the Gobi Desert, ending with 3 nights at the magnificent Three Camel Lodge. Fortunately, Jalsa was on hand and surprised us with an exquisite outdoor candlelight dinner at the foot of the Flaming Cliffs. It was a breathtaking finale to a glorious 14-day trip. I highly recommend using Jalsa when visiting Mongolia!!

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Caribbean to Mediterranean cruise, orchestrated by Mary Jean Tully

BONNIE THOMPSON | SEPTEMBER 19, 2018

I have wanted to do a “re-positioning” cruise for many years, and we finally had the opportunity to do that on the Viking Sea, as it moved from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean. We booked our voyage with Mary Jean and her team, and our primary contacts were Halina Melerowicz and Rebecca Lampert. They did a wonderful job advising us on our cabin selection and helped us keep track of deadlines as the date for our sailing approached. They were especially helpful in arranging shore excursions in places where we wanted something just a little different. For example, in Cadiz, we had a wonderful and informative tour of the Museo Archeologico, before driving on to Jerez for a private soak in the Hammam Andalusi Baths. In Valencia, we joined a fabulous cooking class to learn the art of making classic paella, and then had a private tour of the city on bikes. They also arranged our post-cruise tours in Barcelona and booked our reservations at The Majestic Hotel (which included a lovely room upgrade!) They were very attentive and responsive as we worked to put everything together.

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Alaska, orchestrated by Judith Root

PHIL AND DEBORAH EVANS | SEPTEMBER 16, 2018

We contacted Judith Root, one of Wendy’s trusted travel specialists, to help us plan our trip to Alaska. We knew that we wanted to experience Alaska from land rather than a cruise, but were overwhelmed by the difficulty of finding the sort of vacation that we wanted. Judith really listened to our wish list and organized a trip of a lifetime to a couple of wilderness lodges. The lodges themselves were isolated although you would not know that from the quality of the food, and we enjoyed incredible adventures. These included a glacier hike with a guide where we were the only people there, up close brown bear viewing and kayaking to see sea otters. Everyone at the lodges was friendly and happy to help make our time everything that we wanted. Most of the arrangements were very smooth but we were unavoidably delayed by weather (a hazard in Alaska). Judith’s team were readily available on a Sunday to book a hotel and dinner reservation and make sure that we were looked after. Overall this was a vacation that we will never forget and we would not hesitate to recommend Judith to plan a trip to Alaska.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.)

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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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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1 Comment

  1. George Anifantis and Jill Gapper

    We really didn’t know what to expect when we booked a safari this year. Our must haves were game viewing, Victoria Falls, visit Cape Town, and enjoy good food and service. Dan planned our trip for us and he more than met whatever our expectations were. Leopard Hills accommodation and service were remarkable. When we left, it felt as if we were leaving family, even after 3 days. The guides were knowledgeable and made sure that we saw as much as we possibly could in our time there. It truly was one of our favorite trips and we travel quite a bit. Dan did a fine job with all our accommodations and activities; coordinating and planning with very little back and forth. The service everywhere, from housekeeping, to guides, transit buddies, to hotels was noteworthy. We took plenty of pictures of our villa on the Zambezi as it was indescribably gorgeous and our deck was right on the river. For 2 weeks, we had an experience that will be forever in our hearts and memories. We felt like we had the best of the best thanks to Dan’s efforts.

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