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.
SE Asia, orchestrated by Andrea Ross and April Cole
PATTI TEMPLE ROCKS | JUNE 19, 2019
Due to a change in circumstances, I had a last-minute opportunity to join my 22-year old son in SE Asia for a 2-week trip. Although I normally enjoy planning travel, I simply didn’t have the time so I contacted Andrea Ross from the WOW list and could not possibly be more happy that I did. What I now know, is it is about more than having time, it is about having the appropriate knowledge — and insider knowledge at that! Andrea and her team took what would have been a great trip to an EXTRAORDINARY trip. Andrea spent time talking with me ahead of time and knew that I wanted to make it a special graduation trip for my son. And it was. We visited Saigon, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hue (which I never would have discovered on my own) and Hoi An. The staff of tour guides she has put together is truly phenomenal — they were all great and Jake and I consider them friends. They were attentive to our needs and also showed us people and places that were off the beaten path. We made a few adjustments along the way, and they were perfectly accommodating and flexible. The hotels chosen, the experiences recommended and planned were all great.
One other point about the value of working with Andrea and her team — My trip got off to a rough start in that my flight was delayed (I booked that myself) so my arrival was very late and without my luggage. After numerous unsuccessful attempts to resolve it myself, the country director in Vietnam, Mr. Khoa Nguyen literally went to the airport himself to track it down — and he did, resolving what was a major point of stress for me!
Finally, it is clear that “responsible travel” is an important core value of this company — and we were proud to be enlightened by it and participate.
THANK YOU to all our new friends on Andrea’s team – I recommend them without reservation and will also be excited to plan another trip with an expert from the WOW list!
England, orchestrated by Jane and Philip McCrum
JOHN SANDERS | JUNE 17, 2019
Our trip to London, with several day trips, far exceeded our expectations, which are always high when we use one of your advisors. Jane and Dawn planned a number of itineraries, both in and outside the city, which we simply would not, or in some cases could not, have arranged on our own. Highlights included a visit to a castle dating to the 11th century, which is a private home and not open to the public. Jane’s personal connection allowed us to spend several hours as the guests of the owner, with a fascinating tour of the house, grounds and extraordinary collections of art, antiques and memorabilia. We also had a terrific WOW experience – a tour of the Inns of Court with a barrister as a guide, giving us insider access and insights not typically available.
All of our arrangements were excellent, with knowledgeable and personable guides and drivers. The itineraries reflected careful consideration of our interests. There was enough free time in London to allow us to relax and enjoy those unexpected discoveries which are always among the best parts of a trip. Dawn was extremely helpful and responsive and checked in regularly to make sure all of our arrangements went off as planned.
I will recommend Jane and her team without reservation to our friends for their UK travels and we look forward to our own return trip.
Portugal, orchestrated by Gonçalo Correia
ANETTE AND LARRY GOLDSTEIN, HILDA AND JERRY COHEN | JUNE 17, 2019
We recently returned from an incredible two week trip to Portugal and there are simply not enough words to describe our appreciation and admiration for Gonçalo Correia, Joana Silva and their team who planned this amazing, seamless trip. The four of us have travelled all over the world together over the last 16 years, but we all agreed that the attention we were given by Gonçalo’s team was unparalleled…from the welcome messages and delicious treats upon our arrival at our wonderful hotels to the incredible, knowledgeable guides and drivers who were wonderful ambassadors for the Portuguese people. It is obvious that the meticulous care Gonçalo gives to choosing his guides and drivers reflects the amazing attention to detail with which he runs the business.
Gonçalo understood after just a few conversations exactly what we were looking for in terms of accommodations, activities and learning experiences. It felt as if Gonçalo and Joana were beside us throughout the trip…communicating with our guides throughout, taking care of last minute adjustments immediately. When one of our group had a bicycle accident not only did the bicycle guide insist on staying at the hospital, but Gonçalo was on the phone in no time to check in and see how we were and if we needed anything. When my husband wanted to watch the Toronto Raptors basketball games at 2am at the Pousada do Lisbon, the manager and concierge worked to set up a sofa and tv in the ballroom to accommodate him. We are sure that this is the result of the extra respect the hotels have for Gonçalo and consequently his clients.
We so appreciated the special activities that the Team arranged for us…the bicycle tours, the last minute visit to the Jewish community in Belmonte, the after hours private visits to the Stock Exchange Palace in Porto and to Jeronimo’s Monastery in Lisbon, the visit to the market and cooking lesson followed by a wonderful lunch! How we felt about our wonderful, seamlessly planned adventure in Portugal was represented by the tears we almost all shed upon leaving our wonderful driver, Joachim who treated us like family, worrying about us throughout his time with us, hovering over us like an attentive parent. This reflects the incredible team Gonçalo manages to put together, all of whom go well beyond the call of duty. If you are planning a trip to Portugal or soon Spain, it is definitely Goncalo’s Team that you want behind you.
Peru orchestrated by Marisol Mosquera
ILENE SILVER | JUNE 15, 2019
Marisol is exactly the type of travel specialist our family loves to work with… Their guides and staff are thoughtful, generous, intelligent, and caring. They specialized the trip well to a family with teenage girls… Activities were off the beaten track, unique, and fun! We went hiking with a local village woman and her four llamas in the Sacred Valley… We had a picnic at a Vista point overlooking the sacred valley where chefs prepared traditional Peruvian foods. Both were amazing! They were referred to us by the travel specialist we used in Thailand, Daniel Fraser, also on your list… Also fantastic! Thank you…
Italy, orchestrated by Andrea Grisdale
ANDY ROBINSON | JUNE 14, 2019
We just returned from a family trip to Florence, Rome and Positano with our two adult children, 25 and 23. As with our previous two trips, this one was just as spectacular. From the initial planning stages with Andrea Grisdale through the final itinerary we arranged with Creta and Ilenia and with Odri’s support during our trip, our family enjoyed a vacation that had something for everyone and went off without a hitch. When we did run into a minor issue at one of the hotels, Odri stepped in and fixed things quickly and efficiently. All of the guides (Elena- Florence, Piera- Rome, Carmine- Pompeii) and drivers (Vincenzo, Eduardo, Tomasso, Francesco) and hotel staff were attentive, polite and enthusiastic about their country which added some extra personality to the experience. This was especially true with Vincenzo, who took very good care of us for 4 days in Positano. He shared some of his personal story with us and provided an insider’s look into Sorrento, his home town during our Villa Ida experience. Our WOW moment at Podere Le Ripi in Montalcino hit all the notes we were looking for– friendly hosts, beautiful setting, great wine and delicious food. Another memorable experience was our cooking class at Villa Ida in Sorrento. We had great fun in the kitchen with Roberta and in the wine cellar with Charlie, the family patriarch. Eating a whole meal that we prepared under the lemon trees in the Villas garden was fantastic. Charlie is a character and he added a very warm, family vibe to the experience. Anyone into Italian food culture should do this! Our final highlight of the trip was our private yacht charter from Positano to Capri. Our captain, Davide, was the perfect host, providing us with lots of interesting information while also ensuring we experienced the beauty of the coastline. We especially appreciated his flexibility and the opportunity to set anchor and swim off the boat for a while. The whole day was spectacular and was the perfect way to end our 12 day Italian journey.
Japan, orchestrated by Scott Gilman
PATRICIA KATZ | JUNE 13, 2019
What an absolutely sensational time we had on the trip. It was indeed everything we hoped for and more!
Starting with Scott’s representative who met us at the airport and ensured we got the right bus into the city, everything went off without a hitch. (We did have one moment of concern, however, getting from our flat to Tokyo station on our own the day we left for Nasu, but everything otherwise clicked flawlessly together). Our stay the first three nights in Tokyo was wonderful. Wandering thru the Minamiazabu neighborhood that first evening we found a terrific little ramen place and scoped out a coffee shop for the next morning. The coffee shop proved rather providential as when we arrived the next morning, our guide, Sako, was there getting her own breakfast. Everything went tremendously from there!
Sako was such a pleasure. We couldn’t imagine having a better time. From the start of our sightseeing at Tsukji Market, all the way through Senso-ji and the Meji Shrine and the Omotesando Hills the next day, she was knowledgeable of all the sights and remarkably adept at meeting our interests in the places and experiences. We especially appreciated the department store dining spots she led us to for lunches and the extra effort she made to find a bike shop with a Japan-only bike jersey. We count ourselves very fortunate that she was our guide.
For an experience of the countryside and the highlands, we can’t say enough about how much we enjoyed Art Biotop in the Nasu Highlands. The garden, for anyone interested in landscape design, really is a wonder to behold. And the resort itself we throughly enjoyed. Dinner was like a kaiseki meal, one of the highlights of the trip. The staff and the accommodations were likewise wonderful. Bill’s Ride Experience was one of his most satisfying experiences of the whole trip. The ride through the countryside was stunning and the service and equipment they provided was exceptional even compared to some similar services he’s used in the US. We also enjoyed a visit to the Nasu Kohgen brewery where we delighted in a variety of first-rate craft beers, something we know a bit about living in Asheville.
Kanazawa was yet another highlight. Our guide Junko was indefatigable in ensuring we got a wide range of experiences. The Omicho Market was of course another highlight but so was the castle park and Kenroku-en garden. Everywhere Junko took us, she was extremely knowledgeable about the history, culture and other aspects of those locations. The D.J. Suzuki and Noh Theater Museums were extraordinary examples of contemplative spaces. With the crowds being as large as they were given our holiday week timing, we were extremely grateful for Junko knowing that the multi-museum passes she got us at the smaller venues allowed us to skip the huge lines at the larger institutions such as the Contemporary Art museum. Appreciating art as we do, that museum was phenomenal. The range of works and the design of the museum itself was nothing short of tremendous.
The next day in Shirakawa-go was yet another amazing experience. Thanks to our early start on the day, we were able to beat much of the rush even though by the time we got there, we still ended up walking the last half mile or so into the village from where the line of cars in had all but ground to a halt (on the way out of town a few hours later the line was backed up all the much further). Junko was again as knowledgeable and full of insights into the culture and history of the place as we could imagine.
We would also note what a wonderful time we had that evening for diner at Cottage. The proprietors were just delightful and for a singular break from Japanese food, the pizza and lasagna were excellent. Likewise, we enjoyed the hotel. As an interlude from our private accommodations, it was as luxurious as any hotel we’ve experienced and the local and western breakfast options they offered were superb. Of course, for us the Japanese breakfast took the cake!
Our stay in Kyoto, among so many of the outstanding experiences we had, was possibly the most joyous. For Pat getting to reconnect with her beloved homestay family was the joy of a lifetime, particularly given that 90 year-old Mama-san is still alive and thriving. We enjoyed not only one family dinner with the practically the whole family, but at Mama-san’s insistence the next evening, a second more intimate gathering with just the immediate family. As a still active calligraphy teacher, she also created for us some scrolls which we will frame. With Pat’s homestay sister Yuki leading the way, our three days in Kyoto were delightful. Our visits to Fushimi Inari, Arashiyama and other sites were sensational. Kyoto Bike Tours, though not as entirely well equipped as Ride Experience, did provide Bill with another memorable outing and would also thoroughly recommend their service as well. Another highlight though, among many, was our visit to Takehashi Toku. Our 45 minute tour turned into an almost 2 hour long immersion into this traditional art form and aesthetic.
We can’t say enough about Nashoima and Kurashiki. Visiting the museums and other installations on the island was phenomenal. And experiencing the ryokan was perhaps the most pleasant stay of the entire trip. The kaiseki menu we were provided with each night was practically breathtaking in its presentation and enjoyment.
A final thrill for us was on our Shinkansen back to Tokyo, we were rewarded with a stunning view of Fuji-san. Pat had been fortunate to see it years ago but not nearly as close up as we did from the train.
All in all, this trip was the experience of a lifetime. The service Scott provided enabled us to enjoy it more than we could imagine and we will be recommending him to everyone we know considering a visit to Japan.
Alaska cruise, orchestrated by Ashton Palmer
REAGAN BUTTS | JUNE 12, 2019
We booked our cruise to Southeast Alaska on the National Geographic Venture through Ashton Palmer. Ashton and his team were very organized, professional, helpful, and insightful. Ashton’s team responded to all of our questions on a near-immediate basis, and their responses were very helpful.
I specifically appreciate Ashton’s personal knowledge about the small cruise ship and his personal experiences with family travel on these types of cruises. I have two children with special needs, and we were concerned about whether they would be able to do all of the activities on the cruise. Ashton personally contacted National Geographic / Lindblad Expeditions and received assurance that my children would be able to do everything, and that the National Geographic staff would “make it work.” (Which they did and exceeded our expectations.)
Ashton’s expertise was exceedingly helpful, and I would not have any problem recommending his services to other families considering these types of trips. Ashton is truly an expert in this field of travel, and we look forward to booking our next trip with him and through his company.
France, orchestrated by Jack Dancy and Michael Eloy
CHRISTINA NESTER | JUNE 12, 2019
Our trip of a lifetime to France and to attend the 75th Commemoration of D-Day was a spectacular, mind-blowing experience and one we will never forget. Jack and Michael’s team designed an outstanding travel itinerary that met every request we made for our trip and then went beyond.
First, the places we stayed in Paris and Normandy were exceptional. The hotels in Paris, the Grand Hotel du Palais Royal and the Hotel Relais Christine were beautiful, well located and very welcoming. Our very favorite was a charming find, Les Lilas de Bellefontaine. A charming B&B located in Bayeaux. The owners, Catherine and Serge were so very welcoming, gracious and generous that it was hard to leave because they became family.
The guides arranged for us in Paris, and Normandy were so valuable to showing us around and maximizing our experience with their incredible knowledge and insights that brought every experience more life and color. Caroline is a treasure and felt like family when she saw us off to Honfleur. Damien showed us a wonderful time as we sampled Camembert cheese and Calvedos wines. The true highlight was Vanessa and Geert who toured us the landing beaches, especially Omaha Beach. Gerrt took the time to add his research of my father’s movements on June 6th, 1944 adding color and dimension to the facts.
I want to add that we were not notified until June 5th that we had tickets to attend the 75th Commemoration and I emailed Marcello and a driver was arranged with a pick up time to get us to the shuttle pick up area the very next morning.
Jack, Michael and Marcello, listened to what we wanted from the trip, listened to our feedback as the trip took form and went well beyond our expectations to create a purely magical and moving experience that we will never forget. Gratitude beyond measure to them. And thank you for the flower to welcome us home. Gratitude and respect to each of you for creating a trip of a lifetime.
Russia, orchestrated by Greg Tepper
MARCIA RODNEY | JUNE 10, 2019
The highlight for me was standing on the apron of the Bolshoi stage. I know you can buy private tours of the Bolshoi, I know you can stand in line for group tours. But we spent well over an hour, possibly two hours, I was so in heaven I lost track with the director of public relations. She didn’t just show us the theatre, we sat in a couple of the boxes and swapped stories about performances we’d seen, when we’d both seen Nureyev, experiences wed shared, just at different points on life’s timeline. And then to just relax and hear her stories from her amazing career at both the Bolshoi and the Mariinsky, so special, this is not what happens in a tour available on Viatour. The cherry on top was when we followed her to the stage. No performance that day as they were changing sets, so she led us to the apron. I caught my breath for that one minute.
South Africa, orchestrated by Nina Wennersten and Dan Saperstein
ANN WILKINSON | JUNE 9, 2019
When planning a family trip of a lifetime to Africa (to include my 5 year old grandson, his parents and my travel companion), your first recommendation was to contact Nina Wennersten. True to your advice, Nina proved the perfect travel expert to craft an itinerary with special attention to my grandson. Having made several safaris over the last 40 years, I was unsure about what would be the best choice for this one which included 3 generations.
Nina’s recommendation of Kenya, with its colorful and fascinating cultural aspects in addition to the wealth of wildlife, proved spot on. She thoughtfully listened to my interests as well as always keeping in mind the most appropriate activities for the little one. Finally, our conversations led to a superb itinerary which was exciting for each and every one of us.
Our trip began with Nina and her son/partner, Dan, arranging for a warm welcome as soon as the airplane door opened. We were whisked through customs, setting the stage for a seamless continuum of travel logistics with all plane and ground transfers. The camps Nina recommended were all welcoming and without exception went out of their way to entertain my grandson. At Sirikoi in the Lewa Conservancy, my grandson was as entertained by the camp’s chickens and vegetable garden as the the game drives in search of African wildlife! At our final stop, Mara Bushtops, my grandson joined the Maasai while they performed their ‘adumu’ or jumping dance. I will forever carry the memory of him jumping with the Maasai beside the campfire with the African sunset on the horizon.
Finally, thank you for a very special WOW moment! I’d arranged a drive especially for birding, and was thrilled to suddenly come upon a beautifully set table and full staff on hand to provide us with a fabulous bush breakfast. A wonderful keepsake presented to me was a personalized East African bird book.
Thanks to Nina, Dan, and you, Wendy, the trip exceeded our dreams. Asante sana!
South Pacific, orchestrated by Kleon Howe
PATRICIA ILISIU | JUNE 3, 2019
Hi my name is Patricia Ilisu, on your recommendation I have used the services of Kleon Howe to assist us with the organization of a once in a lifetime trip to French Polynesia. This was very short notice and Kleon was wonderful in lining up a lovely trip in a very short period of time. I told him our style of travel, no crowds, no touristy stuff just experience nature, culture, food and photography. His recommendations were perfect. Had I organized this I would have never picked Huahine as an island to visit and it was beautiful and the hotel, although rustic, had the best food we had on the entire trip. The highlight of the vacation was the catamaran sail from Huahine to Taha, Rangiroa and Bora. A boat picked us up from the hotel dock in Huahine and dropped us at the hotel dock in Bora. The crew was fantastic Tamatoa the skipper took us to amazing snorkeling sites and Virginie our hostess cooked most amazing meals and made sure we had a memorable experience. Bora Bora is a must do the first time around but I would not go back if we decide to go back to French Polynesia, and that is just because it is so darn expensive and touristy. The only thing Keon could not fix was the weather :))), we had an unusual amount of rain for the period.
Zambia, Botswana and Cape Town, orchestrated by Cherri Briggs
DAVID NETHERO | JUNE 1, 2019
Katie on Cherri’s staff did an outstanding job putting together the trip for first-class travel in very short time. She and her team personally oversaw every detail of the travel, even referred us to an airline travel agent to book all the commercial flights, saving us a substantial amount of money but always securing first-class service, which is a big deal in Africa when you’re crossing country borders and customs! Every property that we visited was at the same level of what you experience at the top properties in the world—i.e. Aman properties.
Among the highlights of our trip were room upgrades that were fabulous, wine waiting in our room as a gift from Katie, excellent cultural and nature guides, and surprise in-room lunches. One time, after a morning drive with lions, elephants, zebras, impalas, and giraffes, we returned to our incredible suite and found a surprise WOW brunch complete with a bottle of Franschhoek Rosé. We also loved the hippos serenading us outside our glam tent! And we can’t leave out the “WOW Moment” helicopter trip with private island landing in the delta of Okavango to toast a glass of champagne to our journey of a lifetime. We were over-the-top thrilled with our 21 days of travels. These life-changing experiences of Africa cannot be replicated without expert guidance and incredible support.
Cruise orchestrated by Tom Baker
DAN FRIEDMAN | MAY 31, 2019
Tom Baker is a cruise specialist, but he and Ian also do an excellent job of finding expert guides, transportation and hotels in locations adjacent to the cruise. Our cruise was on the Danube. While we had already decided on using Scenic for the cruise, Tom selected the specific cabins and his choice was great. We wanted extra days in locations before and after, plus private guides and transportation in Prague, Budapest and Vienna. The guides Tom recommended were fabulous: knowledgeable and friendly and communicated in English flawlessly. They developed an itinerary that was exactly what we wanted to see. Absolutely perfect! Tom also arranged transportation for our party of 4 before and after the cruise and that was a huge help. We planned this trip nearly a year in advance and during that time, any questions we had (and there were many) were always answered promptly – usually the same day. We would definitely use Tom again for a future trip.
I’ve planned many trips on my own in the past. In this case, I probably could have reserved the Scenic cruise without help. BUT, I’m not sure that I would have been able to find the hotels in such perfect locations for visiting the sites in Prague, Budapest and Vienna and I doubt that I would have found such great guides in those cities. Our days spent with the private guides were the highlight of the trip and that was due to Tom’s knowledge of and relationship with those experts. They all mentioned that they’ve worked with Tom before and they treated us like royalty. Tom specializes in cruises and the next time we decide on a cruise for a vacation, Tom will be our choice to make the arrangements.
Ireland, orchestrated by Jonathan Epstein
MUKI FAIRCHILD | MAY 31, 2019
We chose Jonathan through the WOW list after deciding that we did not want to plan our trip to Ireland ourselves. We have traveled all over the world and I have planned many of those trips myself. But as we have aged (sadly), and as our bodies, (even more sadly), have aged along with the accumulating years, we have decided to use travel specialists to pave the way as painlessly as possible when we travel to unfamiliar places.
Therefore, we spent 4 days in England on our own with family, and then used Jonathan and Nicole to plan a 15 day trip in Ireland. Our priorities were: no driving! We wanted a car and driver for all but the last 4 days in Dublin; we wanted help in planning an itinerary that included approximately 2 hour hikes each day – so more countryside than cities; and we wanted to be based at hotels for at least 3-4 days from which to make day trips. We eat lightly now, especially in the evening, so we did not want dinner reservations, but were happy to receive restaurant recommendations, some of which we did use. We also wanted excellent guides.
Jonathan and Nicole were exceedingly prompt and responsive to questions and concerns by phone or via emails, even when Jonathan was out of the country. Jonathan made lots of suggestions about activities, etc.. some of which did not interest us, like a food tour, but we researched them and actually agreed to others and were glad we did. My husband is passionate about plants so they arranged a private tour for him on the Burrens, in County Clare, which he found excellent. And both of us loved a private demonstration of sheep herding with border collies.
The hotels were top notch. We especially loved Castles Ballynahinch and Gregans. But most important for us was Will, our driver/guide and the very comfortable car he drove us around in. He was not only an excellent driver, but very knowledgeable and extremely flexible so that our itinerary was revised several times as we thought of additional things we wanted to do. We had beautiful scenery, good food, and edifying conversations about everything under the sun. We had no difficulties on the trip that we needed to discuss with Jonathan – one document was missing from AXUS, which Nicole immediately supplied – but if there had been a difficulty I’m sure it would have been taken care of.
It’s hard to pick out just one or two peak experiences because there are so many possibilities. Driving the SW coastline, which is what we did, is something not to be missed. The history of Ireland, fascinating but confusing at best, is also something we’re still reading about. Our visits to various museums were important. But here are some of the add-ons that we both found special: a ferry ride to Inisheer, one of the smaller, less touristy Aran Islands. This was a fabulous trip on a gorgeous day. We three (Will did everything with us – except shopping!) hiked to our hearts content and then had lunch on picnic tables in front of a woman’s house who was cooking lobsters and crab claws in her kitchen. Or a trip to a donkey sanctuary after I fell in love in with 2 rescue donkeys that the owner of Gregans Castle had from that sanctuary. And in Dublin, an excellent theatre performance at the Gate Theatre that was playing “The Glass Menagerie,” with an Irish cast.
In summary, this was a wonderful trip. We loved Ireland and were grateful that our experience was such a positive one, due, in no small part to Jonathan and his team’s expertise.
The Galapagos, orchestrated by Allie Almario
ESTELA ARAMBULO RABIN | MAY 30, 2019
Is it Ecuador? Is it the people of Galapagos? Is it Allie? Yes, yes and yes. Every single person we encountered, especially the extremely well trained naturalists, were incredibly knowledgable and capable and earnest in their love of the Enchanted Islands. Despite all the sand, and rock, salt air and salt water- all our accommodations and boats on our primarily land-based tour were super clean. The staff at the Angermeyer were very conscientious and communicative, as well as personable.
We were incredibly lucky in terms of visibility and animal sightings, but the guides were so in tune, they knew exactly where, when and how the animals would appear. Cue the sea lions, schools and schools of fish, rays, sharks, penguins, boobies, turtles, tortoises, iguanas and whales! And the food- bring on the langosta, prawns and patacones! Even a quick layover in Guayaquil turned into a surprisingly restful and luxurious moment. Most special was the private boat tour Allie and her team arranged – who wouldn’t feel safe with a former fisherman and his first mate with a trained guide? We arrived at a favorite spot when the tide was just right and the other boats had gone. Our guide made sure we knew how to snorkel, and our equipment was working. Then all the moments we hoped to experience actually happened. You don’t even feel like you are snorkeling- you are just IN the sea, waiting your turn for the sea turtles in front of you to finish snacking and having their shells cleaned by tiny little fish, and you are just one of the creatures resting upside down in the water like your buddies the sea lions.
Any small (very small) logistical hiccups were addressed immediately, and we had 3 contact phone numbers (which everyone personally answered) and an email just in case. Worth it!
Romania, orchestrated by Raluca Spiac
GEORGE STEPHENS | MAY 25, 2019
Wendy, thanks for the WOW moment on this trip. We really enjoyed getting to visit the highest tower at Bran Castle, an area generally off limits to the public. Our very experienced guide had never been there.
Raluca Spiac is an extremely attentive trip planner. I had many conversations with her and the attention to detail shown by Raluca, and Greg Helm, our guide, was best in class. Raluca went to extraordinary lengths to find us the right accommodation. I had requested an apartment in Bucharest and had found some on-line that seemed suitable. Raluca tracked down a private residence where we had a private suite and were treated like personal friends of the family staying for a weekend. Greg made adjustments to the itinerary on the fly to accommodate our requests and suggested activities as he came to know us. For example, Greg arranged a trail ride for our daughter at a horse ranch owned by our hosts in Bucharest. Raluca’s support team was constantly available to Greg.
In a couple of cases, the venues Raluca selected were extraordinary. For example, we had 3 nights in Brasov in a lovely 3 room hotel and 4 nights in Maremures on a 70 Hectare property in our own house. The house was probably 100 years old and had been saved from destruction in the local village, moved to the host’s property, and completely remodeled inside. Raluca arranged for a cook to come to the house and make us breakfast and dinner–truly special.
Sicily, orchestrated by Marcello Baglioni
PEGGY AND FRED CLARK | MAY 22, 2019
Marcello Baglioni is the person you want if you are planning a trip to Sicily. From the moment I talked to him by phone, I knew that he immediately understand what we wanted to see and do.
He provided outstanding guides for visits to archaeological and historical sites, our main interest. With only a week to see Sicily, we narrowed it down to sites in Catania, Siracusa, and Palermo. All of his guides were professional and personable. They well-versed in their subject matter and spoke English very well. In addition, there was no clock-watching with these guides; in fact all of them continued their tours longer than was planned.
Our drivers were outstanding too, always on time, very professional, and eager to help. Carmello (who has an incredible sense of humor too) even drove back to a restaurant to retrieve my jacket while we visited a Roman villa. On our return to Catania from Siracusa, our driver stopped at the airport to drop off our daughter who was flying to Italy that evening.
Marcello surprised us in Ortigia, the old city of Siracusa, by showing up to meet us personally. It was a pleasure to meet him and to work with him on this trip. Everything went extremely well. Our only regret is that we had so little time in Sicily. We shall have to contact Marcello again for the next trip! Grazie, grazie, gracie.
Brazil, orchestrated by Martin Frankenberg
JUDITH RODWELL | MAY 19, 2019
On a trip to celebrate our 46th Wedding Anniversary, we were treated to a surprise picnic and anniversary cake on the beach in Paraty during our Day on the Bay boat trip, piranha fishing on the Rio Negro, night treks in the Amazon, a tour of the Manaus Opera House, and a wonderful WOW! Moment helicopter ride in Iguassu Falls, thanks to Wendy’s generosity.
Our guide Alexandre Bazzi introduced us to Iguassu Falls, and his love of the natural world spilled over into everything we did. When we finally arrived in Rio we thought we couldn’t be surprised any more but indeed we were. We fell in love with Rio, enjoyed bike rides along the beaches, were awed by Sugarloaf Mountain and Corcovado, and Lais even taught us how to samba one night. Our driver, SaSa, would go home every night and cut up fresh fruit for us the next day! We were treated like royalty every step of the way.
Martin and his colleagues had a sixth sense about the best guides for us, as we developed an instant connection with all three of them, and enjoyed philosophical conversations as well as lots of laughter. Each one of them made us feel at home and each would quickly change up our schedule if a unique opportunity arrived. We left feeling like we’d made good friends as well as been given a beautiful perspective on their individual cities.
For our surprise WOW Moment, we were told we’d have lunch at a local restaurant in Paraty. A jeep picked us up and we headed up the mountain on an increasingly bumpy road, wondering out loud what kind of restaurant could be at the end of such a crazy road. Our guide Gabriel just grinned. Upon arrival we headed up this spectacular set of steps through increasingly tropical vegetation and arrived at Le Gite Indaiatiba Restaurante. Greeted by the wife of the Frenchman who envisioned this place, a charming open air restaurant with tables surrounded by hundreds of books, she asked what we’d like for lunch. “Go up the mountain and swim in the pool while we prepare your lunch”, she said. So up the mountain, past the heliport for the rich and famous of Brazil, we arrived at the pool and settled into the crisp cold water and surrounding tropical sounds. We were in paradise. Back down to the restaurant we hiked and sat down to a pre-lunch drink and delightful conversation with the owner, as we were serenaded by Grateful Dead music in the background. We had the whole restaurant to ourselves and what an amazing feast! This is the kind of magic Wendy Perrin’s WOW recommended travel specialists plan for you.
And thank you, Wendy, for our lovely helicopter ride over the Falls. It gave us such great perspective on where we’d been hiking for 3 days and was quite an adrenaline rush.
Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, orchestrated by Andy Booth
AMELIA BROWNE | MAY 13, 2019
Working with Andy’s team, first Holly and then Edward, both of whom were very professional, patient (with the numerous changes) and efficient in responding and exceeding our expectations was a total joy and fun! It was a pleasure to work with them, relying on their professional judgement to plan what turned out to be an extraordinary trip. When Holly left the company, Edward came in and totally rocked! He understood what we were looking to get out of the trip and delivered above and beyond.
It wasn’t just a vacation; it was an incredible journey into the lives of ordinary people while experiencing the culture and traditions of the places we visited. Andy’s team curated a fascinating encounter that summed up “a day in the life of” the people at every destination. Two of our tour guides were former Buddhist monks. They were incredibly insightful, knowledgeable, with great humor to boot. In fact, all of the guides were top notch. We got a different perspective from each guide that made the trip feel truly custom rather than mundane. We saw and experienced each city through the eyes of the individual guides as we learned of the history and people- invaluable knowledge we did not discover during our pre-trip research.
What we encountered was a journey that somehow managed to flow and connect seamlessly between cities. In between tours, we were pampered, wined, and dined in style. It was a tale of Indochina carefully orchestrated that had us harmoniously drifting from city to city. We dined on Tonle Sap Lake with locals in a boathouse; had the best darn gin and tonic cocktail while cruising the moat at Angkor Thom when the sunset was most beautiful; we fed elephants and walked with them through their natural habitat; and early one morning rose to give alms to the monks- a humbling and spiritual experience.
This was one of the most culturally enhancing vacations I’ve taken. What we saw, experienced and learned, will last us a lifetime. Thanks to Edward and the team for a moving, exhilarating and insightful sojourn through Indochina.
Morocco, orchestrated by Michael Diamond
DENNIS KIRKMAN | MAY 9, 2019
Morocco par excellence! Michael Diamond and his team knocked it out of the park for us. When I talked to Michael on the phone I told him that we enjoyed art, history architecture, nature, and being physically active. He crafted the perfect experience for us. What’s not to like about a trip that encompasses 5 World Heritage Sites and 1200 miles across incredibly varied terrain – Casablanca, Rabat, Fes, camping in the Sahara with the Berbers, Skoura Oasis, Marrakech, and back to Casablanca.
Our guide, Nouri, was articulate, interesting and knowledgeable and together with our driver Yusin contributed to a bespoke experience. We were treated like VIPs throughout the trip – Michael even expedited our passage through passport control in Casablanca (both ways). Lodging was varied and amazing – riads, casbahs, a tent with a king bed and fine linens, and luxurious city hotels. Scheduling was impeccable, everything happened as expected, yet there was ample allowance for some creativity. We had some long days traveling in the very comfortable van, but it was broken up nicely with interesting (and sometimes necessary) stops. Overall, Michael provided us one of those trips of a lifetime.
Mexico, orchestrated by Zachary Rabinor and Brady Binstadt
AMY EVERS | MAY 9, 2019
I wanted to plan a trip to Mexico City for my mom, my sister and I that we could all enjoy. I wanted us to learn, experience and spend quality time together. I think all of these objectives were met. The planning process was a bit slow initially but then went smoothly. Our transfers and day trips were seamless, everyone always on time. We felt very safe the entire time and this was a big concern of my mom. Our guide was very good at noticing when my mom needed to slow down a bit or take a break and she was very knowledgeable. Our driver, Alfonso, was lovely, looking out for us, showing patience and even concern at times. There were a few miscommunications between my expectations given what was written in our itinerary/discussions and the on the ground team but generally these were worked out. Our hotel was very nice and we enjoyed the location. We even had the “fortune” to experience Labor Day on our departure day. This made things hectic but we were able to figure out another meeting point with our driver, as all the roads were closed and this was not anticipated. Someone from the hotel walked with us to meet him. We learned so much history, ate amazing food, cooked amazing food, and saw incredible architecture and art. My mom even cried when I said good-bye to her at the airport because she was so happy we were able to have this special time together.
Costa Rica, orchestrated by Natalie Ewing
PETER STEVENSON | MAY 7, 2019
Natalie Ewing spoke with us at length in planning our trip. We said we wanted a very active vacation with our kids — horseback riding, river exploring, zip-lining, rafting–and she designed a terrific itinerary with 3 separate destinations within Costa Rica. On the ground, we called upon her when our son was having trouble finding things on the menus that he liked to eat, and she arranged for a delivery of peanut butter and a loaf of bread to one of the tiny airports we used.
Cuba, orchestrated by David Lee
ERIN SMITH | MAY 7, 2019
David’s team could not possibly have done a better job with our trip to Cuba. Every single detail was confirmed in advance and set up exactly as planned – and even when circumstance brought the need for a slight change (as it often does), the replacement option was exceptional.
We were a little nervous about planning a trip to Cuba given the fluctuating state of US/Cuba relations, and needed to book with an organization that would ensure we fulfilled the visa obligations without exception. David and team executed everything perfectly – from airport pickup to drop-off and everything in between with a very diverse and interesting itinerary.
Highlights included the WONDERFUL paladars where we ate really fabulous meals – particularly Ivan / Justo; the lead city planner and chief architect who provided a perfect historical backdrop for us to being to explore Havana; dinner with a Cuban (former) diplomat/official; salsa lessons; a private photographer taking our pictures in Old Havana / on a 50s car ride (and we get to keep the photos – Vanessa is a great photographer!); dance performance; a guided tour of Old Havana; pre-school visit for disadvantaged children; mojito mixology lesson; a private jazz trio performance by some very talented musicians (truly unique) and even a visit to Jose Fusters Fusterlandia, a whimsical tiled extravaganza of a home. Mabel, our guide, was lovely and knowledgable. She went out of her way to ensure we were comfortable. Our hotel was perfectly located (Kempinski Manzana) and we thoroughly enjoyed the lovely rooftop pool area, both for swimming and for the pre-dinner cocktails at sunset.
As someone who frequently travels and plans events, my standards & expectations for a travel organizer are very high. I recommend David without hesitation.
Nepal and Bhutan, orchestrated by Antonia Neubauer
JENN TABB | MAY 5, 2019
I highly, highly recommend Toni. We’ve worked with Wendy’s travel agents for Ecuador, Norway, Columbia and Romania, and with other agents for Egypt and Peru so we feel like we have had ample experience to know a good trip from a great one. From start to finish, Toni was a real pro. We gave her specifics of what we wanted to see and do within a tight time frame, and she delivered a near perfect trip. Her communication was extraordinary. I’d email her a question any day of the week and within hours she’d get back to me with a response. Her pre-trip materials and instructions were the best we’ve ever received. She gave us step by step, turn by turn instructions for the Visas and where to go in the airports, what to pack, where to walk in Kathmandu—she thought of everything we’d need to know in advance.
We had an itinerary change we wanted to make while we were in Nepal and Toni handled it right away with our guide/driver. (I highly recommend taking a helicopter out to Mt. Everest. Expensive but very well worth it!) Our guide in Bhutan was spectacular – Kinley made our trip very special, and the fact that he personally knows Toni made it that much more special. When one of our travelers got sick, Toni arranged for him to be whisked to a clinic right away.
I cannot say enough good things about Toni. She is a fabulous professional and deserves to be part of any trips to this part of the world. She is a WOW travel pro for sure!!
Croatia, orchestrated by Gwen Kozlowski
JOELLEN SHELDON | MAY 5, 2019
We had previously traveled with Gwen’s colleagues to Russia, so when we saw Wendy recommended them for Croatia we were delighted. We were traveling over Easter and wanted to maximize our time and see as much as we could. We needed to fit in the museums we wanted and balance it with the early closings and other sightseeing. We agreed to an itinerary including Split, Dubrovnik, and Zagreb with day trips to Hvar, Cavtat & Konavle. We wanted to get a mix of history, art, culture, Jewish history, and Game of Thrones, and each of our three guides delivered. Our guides and drivers were knowledgeable, connected to their community, friendly, and great hosts. We truly enjoyed our time with each of the guides and saw and learned so much more than we could have seen on our own. Our driver Maro was like having a friend showing you around. Gwen was able to help us secure reservations at the restaurants we wanted, including Michelin-starred Restaurant 360 in Dubrovnik. We also loved her suggestions of Restaurant Dubrovnik and Adriatic Graso in Split — we had amazing meals and service. While in Dubrovnik we were surprised with our WOW Moment. We had a private boat ride from the new harbor to the old harbor just outside the Ancient Walls of Dubrovnik. We were served wine and charcuterie. Despite the rough waters, Captain Chris gave us a wonderful tour and a new perspective of Dubrovnik. It was such a treat. I highly recommend the Judita Palace for its location and manager Andrew, and the Excelsior Hotel for everything (we received a double room upgrade to an executive suite). Croatia is a magical place and Gwen’s team is there to roll out the red carpet for you.
Egypt, Jordan and Israel orchestrated by Jim Berkeley
JEANIE MILLIKEN | MAY 4, 2019
Jim Berkeley and his company planned a month long trip to Egypt, Jordan, and Israel for my husband and me and another couple. Because of health reasons we had to put the trip off twice. I spoke to Jim about safety concerns in all of these countries and he quickly put my fears to rest. Finally after putting him on hold for a year we were able to take the trip. We stayed in varied, interesting hotels, had different guides in all three countries, took several in country flights, crossed from Jordan to Israel all without incident nor fears for our safety. His suggestions were invaluable and his assistant Arlene was always quick answering emails before our trip. Our in-country guides helped us understand their culture, politics, and history in ways we could never have discovered on our own. We rode camels, took river boats, rode in horse drawn buggies, wandered in crowded markets. We always felt safe. All four of us learned so much and enjoyed all the planned activities. In Petra our driver and guide took our companion to the hospital. He was dehydrated and after an IV came to dinner that evening. Their attention, understanding, and care was invaluable. A trip to the Middle East is a must. I couldn’t recommend the agency and their staff more highly.
Paris and Rome, orchestrated by Jennifer Virgilio
CELIA HOWARD | APRIL 28, 2019
First of all, my apologies for the delay in sending this review. Jennifer Virgilio was our contact for a family trip to Paris and Rome. I had many misgivings as we started the planning because of the ages involved. My husband and I, our son and his wife plus four children ranging in age from 12 down to 18 months. How can we make everyone happy and keep the children engaged? Well, Jennifer and her team came through brilliantly. I have been singing her praises to everyone who asks about the trip. The guides were even better than I had expected, e.g., at the Vatican Sylvia kept them enraptured with stories and “assignments”. Who would think Napoleon’s tomb, Invalides, would hold their interest? It did and even I, who live part-time in Paris, hung on every word! Each evening I received a text confirming the next day’s specifics such as time and place which completely eased my logistical worries. There seemed to be many people behind the scenes taking care of us. In all, I would not hesitate for a second to recommend Jennifer’s team and of course, Wendy Perrin.
Belize, orchestrated by Patricia Johnson and Rachael Wilson
JANETTE GILL | APRIL 25, 2019
Since this was our third trip to the beautiful country of Belize, we wanted to do something a little out of the ordinary. This is where Patricia stepped in with her recommendation to charter our own luxury sailboat to visit the islands (Cayes) along the southern coast.
Each of the four remote islands, where our captain suggested that we drop anchor, were unique in their own way…from watching the sunset from a deserted island, visiting a local beach bar on Tobacco Caye, lounging by the pool before dinner on Ray Caye (thanks Patricia for arranging this with the resort), to spending the day beach combing and picnicking on our own deserted island (our favorite). We would have never seen such beauty from a resort along the coast.
Our four days of sailing on Flojo, the newest catamaran in the fleet of their sister company, was spent eating gourmet meals prepared by Karla, snorkeling in remote reefs with abundant sea life, playing board games under the stars, swimming with nurse sharks and stingrays, sunning on the net at the front of the boat, and catching fresh fish off the back to eat later for dinner. Definitely worth every penny!
After reluctantly getting off the sailboat in Placencia, we enjoyed a few nights at the lush jungle resort, Copal Tree Lodge, near Punta Gorda. We toured their extensive organic farm, kayaked down the Rio Grande River, lounged by both beautiful pools, relaxed with a world-class massage, and listened to the howler monkeys while bathing in the outdoor bathtub (yes, they are very loud).
I highly recommend Patricia’s services and her team of safe drivers, knowledgeable boat captain, and friendly first mate/chef. We can’t wait to plan our next trip to Belize with friends.
South Africa and Botswana, orchestrated by Julian Harrison
PAM GRANGE | APRIL 18, 2019
Julian set up the most amazing trip for us! He listened to what I wanted and the amount I wanted to pay and set everything up perfectly. He even gave me the best advice as to when to go. March was perfect!
Botswana, especially, was the place of my dreams. The camps (Tau Pan, Splash, and Lagoon) exceeded all my expectations and there were no hiccups along the way. Everything was perfect.
At Tau Pan, Dimbo (guide) and P.K. (tracker) were unbelievable! We even saw a leopard and a very rare wild cat! We also loved the walking tour the last day where P.K. showed us a small hut and how they built fires at home.
At Splash, Dave (guide) and K.B. (scout) were more than amazing! They followed lion tracks forever and we got to see 10 lions in one day – two males and then two lionesses with six cubs. Also lots of wild dogs!
I can’t even begin to describe how much we learned about the country, the animals. The “tents” and the meals (6 a day!) were fabulous. Best trip EVER!
If I’m ever lucky enough to go back to Botswana, I’d call Julian in a heartbeat. Thank you for giving me the trip of a lifetime!
China, orchestrated by Mei Zhang
KEN KAPLAN | APRIL 17, 2019
This was a superb trip. We are experienced travelers, and were extremely impressed by how well thought out this itinerary was. The thoughtful reading list that Mei Zhang’s team had suggested before the trip helped set the stage for us. We saw the “greatest hits” of China (Beijing, the terra-cotta warriors in Xian, Shanghai) and also spent 6 wonderfully relaxing and intimate days in Yunnan Province. Not only was the itinerary beautifully designed by Fann Fang on Mei’s team, our guides were uniformly wonderful. The guides in Beijing and Shanghai were knowledgeable, enthusiastic, flexible, and people we wanted to spend time with. Fann Fang set up a day with an art expert in Beijing, which gave us yet another view into Chinese modern culture. Our guide in Hangzhou (a day trip from Shanghai) gave us a local perspective and was smart and thoughtful. Our guide in Yunnan was a treasure and so kind. He immersed us in the daily life of Dali and Shaxi. We were welcomed into homes, enjoyed tea and a number of meals with local Bai villagers, and experienced village life (while staying in lovely accommodations). Mei is from this part of Yunnan Province, and we felt as if we had been welcomed into her home town. It was beautifully planned. Hotels were all great, and our rooms in Beijing and Shanghai were out of this world. In Shanghai, Fann Fang arranged for a room on the Bund with an absolutely breathtaking view of the river below and Shanghai’s modern skyline. The team did an admirable job arranging in-country transportation – two plane flights and a couple of bullet train rides. Our drivers were uniformly skilled and the cars were always stocked with water and snacks. The planning, the pacing, the guides, and the thoughtfulness of this trip surpassed any we have taken. Cannot recommend Mei and Fann enough.
Israel, orchestrated by Joe Yudin and Jonathan Rose
JOHN CURBY | APRIL 17, 2019
One more time you hit a bases loaded home run! Joe Yudin and Jonathan Rose did a great job. Jonathan carefully listened to our trip goals and then created an exceptional itinerary that combined our goals with many fun/exciting suggestions.
Many elements came together to create a wonderful visit. Bena, our guide, was exceptional. His English is totally fluent. He is close to receiving his doctorate in archeology so visiting sites throughout the country was very special. He was totally conversant with the Christian and Jewish religions and knew the country like the back of his hand. He listened and observed well. He was very flexible and had an excellent sense of humor.
In addition to normal touristy events, we were offered a number of totally different activities. To name a few, one day we went power para gliding in the the Sea of Galilee area. Very Exciting! On another we spent the morning at a counter terrorist training facility learning how to counter an attack with machine guns and some basic hand to hand combat exercises.
On the Israeli Presidential Election Day we had breakfast with an internationally known Arab Israeli journalist to get a better understanding of Arab life in Israel and his views on the election. One afternoon we participated in digging for objects at an active archeological exploration site. While visiting the Golan Heights we were briefed by a retired Israeli Defense Force (IDF) officer on the border situation.
Our WOW moment with Ian Stern, head archeologist at the Herodium site was exceptional. He really made his work come alive.
The combination of a well thought out itinerary, an exceptional guide, wonderful spring weather, excellent hotels and great restaurants combined to create one of our best ever trips.
India, orchestrated by Bertie and Victoria Dyer
KATHERINE MCCOY | APRIL 17, 2019
We have recently returned from an outstanding two week holiday in Northern India. Our custom itinerary was crafted by Victoria Dyer and included Delhi, Agra, Ranthambore, Jaipur and Udaipur. Victoria was invaluable in planning our trip sharing her first hand personal knowledge of properties and logistics. It was the ultimate in customization and she was always available and responsive to changes, ideas, suggestions even when we requested a last minute change to our planned itinerary. Communication was precise and prompt.
We had a guide and driver who travelled with us the entire journey which further allowed us to make changes to our daily plans depending on the day. Vikram, our guide, eagerly shared his extensive knowledge of Indian history and was an invaluable and enjoyable travel companion. Vikram made every transition and every day seamless and effortless. We look forward to welcoming him at our home when he visits the US.
At the end of our trip, my partner was sick requiring us to return home before our scheduled departure. Victoria’s team on the ground in India (thank you Diggi!) was indispensable and facilitated the necessary changes to our travel plans. In addition they continued to follow up with us every step of our journey home.
When and if we return to India, Victoria will be my first call.
Southeast Asia orchestrated by Sandy Ferguson
SUSAN CUNNEEN | APRIL 11, 2019
I love to travel, and over the past several years have used a number of different specialists to help plan and execute my trips. Thus, I have experienced some trips that were great, and some not as much, sometimes due to the specialist. They simply can make or break your trip for many different reasons; from choosing guides, understanding your wishes, keeping in touch during the trip, and having the ability to be flexible and of assistance. I can say, without the slightest bit of hesitation, that Sandy Ferguson and his team have shown me exactly how to do it perfectly! From the beginning, when I spent time on the phone with Sandy discussing what I was looking for in a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, to suggested itineraries, to confirming details, to excellent hosts (guides), to the continuing reminders that everything was flexible (which was very important to me as I like to be flexible and have encountered guides that do everything in a “cookie-cutter” manner), and, at one point completely changing my final day in Vietnam, Sandy’s team delivered. A special kudos to Christina, the specialist based in the US. She responded professionally and promptly to all of my requests, and was always full of cheer and great information.
My trip took me to Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hue, Hoi An, Siem Reap, and then Saigon. Everything and everyone were magical; the trip was absolutely amazing, all due to Sandy’s group. I have already decided to book another trip, likely back to Cambodia, and then on to Laos, Thailand, and Burma sometime in 2020. Needless to say, I will go through Sandy and his team! I cannot reiterate how excellent this team is, and how wonderful they are to create the perfect trip. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
New Zealand, orchestrated by Donna Thomas
SUZANNE CHRISTENSEN | APRIL 8, 2019
Donna Thomas created an itinerary for my family of 4 traveling to New Zealand for 2 weeks in March. I was hesitant to use a travel planner since I have been managing our trips for years. This trip has changed my mind! I could not have planned such a wonderful trip on my own. Donna and Kori worked with me on trying to fill the different travel wishes on our list. Letting go and taking their advice was the best decision I could have made. We were able to see portions of both islands, had lots of spectacular hiking as well as other activities that gave us a special view of the country. The hotels and lodges were fantastic and ones that I would not have been able to find on my own. Our guides and drivers exceeded our expectations. They were knowledgeable, very personable and a joy to have around. Donna’s knowledge of the area and her personal contacts in New Zealand were so helpful. I received a binder of all our travel documents and plans in advance. My kids knew immediately that I would adopt this binder for future trips because it was so helpful and organized. Donna’s help did not end once we had our plans. Our first flight leaving home had a mechanical problem and we were diverted to another airport. It was late Saturday evening when I knew that we would miss our flight to Auckland and therefore miss our first day tour. I sent an email not expecting to hear back until Monday. Shortly after, I received a call from Donna telling me not to worry. She and her team would alert the hotel that we would be a day late and would reschedule our missed activity. The next morning I had an email with the new schedule. I was able to relax and enjoy the trip. Donna and her team really care about the details which made the trip special for us. I can’t wait to plan the next trip to New Zealand with Donna. She is simply the best!
New Zealand, orchestrated by Jean-Michel Jefferson
FRANK AND CATHY GOLD | APRIL 7, 2019
My wife and I recently returned from 3 weeks in New Zealand on a trip planned by Jean-Michel, Wendy Perrin’s recommended agent based in New Zealand. We’ve traveled a dozen times with Wow List travel agents and Jean-Michel’s team was one of the BEST. After several telephone conversations, they understood exactly the kind of trip we were looking for and gave us everything we wanted and more. They planned a beautiful itinerary, selected amazing accommodations of the type we wanted (boutique hotels and estates not large chain hotels, all perfectly well located). Every detail was planned and executed to perfection. Out trip was a very “out-doorsy” hiking and touring trip in the vast countryside with 5 star quaint lodgings and small boutiques hotels and private homes everywhere. Without exception, they were all superb. All transfers, internal flights, car rentals, restaurant suggestions etc were perfect. When the weather didn’t cooperate and we had to modify our heli-hiking trips and treks, Jean-Michel’s team coordinated all the necessary changes “on the fly” and monitored the weather forcast and dealt with our guides seemlessly.
I could go on and on–I cannot give Jean-Michel, the owner of the company, and our personal agent Monique high enough recommendations.
One week after our our return home, our daughter and her husband were also in New Zealand on their honeymoon. There’s was a different caliber of trip which they had planned themselves. They got caught in record torrential showers for 2-3 days and were trapped in a small town with all bridges washed-out. Monique and Jean-Michel’s company volunteered to help them out if needed–“they were family”. Need I say more?
Thank-you to them and to Wendy Perrin for a gorgeous WOW Moment gift–we really appreciate it.
The United Arab Emirates, orchestrated by Lindsey Wallace
JEFFREY EDWARDS | APRIL 5, 2019
This was a bucket list item for my girlfriend. She’s always wanted to go to Dubai. So for her 50th Birthday I wanted to make it happen. My only thought was that we had to experience the Burj Al Arab as it’s an icon of Dubai.
Justin and Lindsey made sure that this was more than a vacation. This trip was an experience that we will never forget. They provided us a sampling of what both Abu Dhabi and Dubai had to offer. Their first hand expertise was what made us comfortable with their suggestions throughout the process of planning.
They took care of both large details as well as some small items that a regular travel agent would have missed. Small touches such as birthday cards and balloons at each of the destinations for which we stayed, 3 destinations to be exact. The appropriate transportation to the different destinations and tours of the cities to get a chance to experience the culture of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
As always there’s going to be some unplanned situation for that will arise which was handled professionally and without undue stress.
I can’t begin to tell you how much we enjoyed our experience and plan on using their services for any and all vacations that we will take in the future.
Make sure to be open to things you haven’t thought of as part of your experience. I intentionally use the word experience because it’s more than just a vacation. It’s an experience that you won’t forget.
Jordan, orchestrated by Jonny Bealby
GERRY O’CONNOR | APRIL 1, 2019
We were so delighted with our Jordan trip last year, arranged by Dan on Jonny’s team, that we solicited Dan’s assistance again with our February trip to Oman. As usual, we conversed, told Dan what we were looking for, our physical limitations and our desired level of accommodations.
He assembled a varied list of things to see and do subject to our approval. Over several detailed collaborations we solidified an itinerary that both met our financial pocketbook as well as offering a cultural diversity we needed having seen many of Oman’s highlights on a previous trip.
The itinerary was well paced, efficient and varied; it met all our expectations. The local guide, Adil, the accommodations and transportation were all just right.
Dan was always available and responsive in order to resolve any bumps in the road, offer alternative suggestions where appropriate and answer any pressing questions we had. Truly a pleasurable and enriching experience.
Cabo, orchestrated by Julie Byrd
MARY FRANCES | MARCH 24, 2019
n planning my 50th birthday celebration, I contacted Julie Byrd on your recommendation to help locate the perfect house in Cabo to rent for 11 ladies. Julie responded immediately after my first email with her. She listened to my criteria and sent me a list of 5 homes to look at. I instantly choose on her recommendation – Villa Tranquilidad.
After booking this Villa, I began working with Kimberly Zamora from Julie’s team. She was helpful, read each and every email I sent with questions, booked dinner reservations and when the time finally arrived for our trip .. eight of us were stuck in Nashville trying to get to Cabo. I immediately reached out to her as 2 members of the trip would be arriving right on time. She arranged separate transportation for them at the last minute and had our large bus waiting for us when we finally arrived at midnight. Kimberly even helped my group of friends plan a special catered dinner to surprise me for my birthday.
From Julie to Kimberly to our local concierge, everyone was a joy to work with and went above and beyond to make sure it all went seamlessly. I would love to work with Julie and her group again.
And now for the Villa she recommended – Villa Tranquilidad was the most outstanding house I have ever rented. There was plenty of space for everyone. The staff at the Villa run by Rosenburg and his wife were a pleasure to see each and every day. They made sure anything we needed was taken care of. They prepared delicious food and the best fresh margaritas!! If any problem arose Rosenburg immediately handled it quickly and efficiently.
My sister loved the house so much she plans to go back and stay there again. I have recommended that she get in touch with Wendy so she (who is a world traveler as well) can become part of Wendy’s clients and eventually get a Wow moment herself.
The only thing I wish that Julie’s group could do would be to give a better idea on tipping the entire villa Staff. They advised on tipping for room cleaning but for the rest of the staff they just recommended that I give what I thought was fair. I had just been to Jamaica in January and at that villa there was an exact breakdown of how to pay each of the staff members. This would be very helpful I think for future renters.
Thank you for getting my connected with Julie Byrd and her amazing team!!
Australia, orchestrated by Stuart Rigg
SANDRA SOUTHWICK | MARCH 24, 2019
Sophie and Stuart put together a wonderful month long visit to Australia for my husband and me. We had a variety of activities: cities, national forests, sailing trip, self driving on the Great Ocean Road. I wanted lots of walking/hiking built into the trip. We had wonderful, knowledgeable guides for our hikes. We also had ample time to walk and hike on our own in the national parks and the cities. There was a great balance of programmed activity and free time. The biggest hurdle we had was that once the itinerary was set I had to postpone the trip by a few weeks. They didn’t skip a beat – all was done with no worries. I wholeheartedly recommend them. I also want to thank Wendy for our WOW Moment in Melbourne. The boat ride on the Yarra River gave us an amazing perspective of the city. It was a very enjoyable addition to our 53rd anniversary day. Thank you!
Norway, orchestrated by Jan Sortland
KELLY MCCLAY | MARCH 24, 2019
From the very beginning, Jan and his team were responsive and helpful. They tailored our visit to Norway to our specific desires and needs every step of the way. What I like to say is (after nailing down the itinerary unique to us) that we just “showed up” and were taken care of. Since we only had about a week to experience Oslo, Lofoten and Alta, on point logistics were key. Our drivers and guides were always waiting for us upon arrival with a smile and great knowledge of the area. Flight updates (considering the grounding of the Max 8 and potential Norwegian Airlines financial worries) came to us daily. They checked in for us for all flights and boarding passes were waiting in our room the night before our departures. The highlight for us was the day spent dogsledding with our guide Elaine at the Trasti and Trini Lodge with the thrill of meeting the owners’ daughter who had just that day won a major dog sledding event at the young age of 19! And of course, fabulous viewings of the Northern Lights in both Lofoten and Alta. Both of which were bucket list items for years!
I highly recommend Jan and his team. Well worth the expense. It was a memorable trip to a stunningly beautiful country.
Southern California, orchestrated by Sheri Doyle
JANETTE GILL | MARCH 20, 2019
Last-Minute Family Trip to Sunny Southern California
Our family of four (teenagers, ages 19 and 16) spent a memorable week in Southern California thanks to some great last-minute planning from trusted travel expert, Sheri Doyle. Sheri was very helpful in recommending and organizing hotel stays at both the new hipster Pendry Hotel in San Diego and the luxurious Pelican Hill Resort outside of Newport Beach.
We initially had a little misunderstanding with the resort regarding our room location at Pelican Hill, but after a short conversation with Sheri, we were quickly upgraded to a room with a much better view (thanks Sheri). THIS type of personalized service is the reason we plan most of our trips using Wendy Perrin’s trusted travel experts.
Since I only had a few ideas of fun activities and restaurants we wanted to visit, I appreciated the list of suggestions that Sheri provided during the planning process (she also has the option for her to plan your entire itinerary if you so choose).
Our girls are still talking about how much fun it was to para-glide over the beaches/golf course at Torrey Pines. We wrapped up our family trip with a memorable beach bbq at Crystal Cove State Park while watching the sunset with our toes in the sand.
Since this was our third qualifying trip with a Wendy Perrin travel specialist, she surprised us with a complimentary WOW moment which included a day of adventure on charming Coronado Island. Our guide for the day picked us up at our hotel for a short ferry ride over to the historical island. We spent the day riding electric bikes around the quaint residential areas of the island and then kayaked out into the bay with very knowledge local guides. Thanks Wendy for a very memorable day for all of us!
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the services of both Sheri Doyle and Wendy’s list of travel specialists to “amp up” your next trip! We certainly will!
The Gill Family
The Caribbean, orchestrated by Lindsey Epperly Sulek
BONNIE POLAKOFF | MARCH 15, 2019
Lindsey and her team made our 2-week trip to Barbados magical. She listened carefully to what we were looking for in a hotel and taking our budget into account, she delivered in spades. My husband and I are world travelers and good service is our middle name. Lindsey’s recommendation of The Sandpiper was nothing short of genius. It checked every single one of our boxes; the service was probably the best we’ve ever experienced, bar none. The staff and our fellow guests were elegant, warm, and friendly — we couldn’t have asked for a nicer experience. The hotel restaurant and the beach bar were extraordinarily good — unusually good, in fact. Again, the service was exemplary, from housekeeping to the tennis pro to the water sports staff and to every waitperson in the restaurant. We came home relaxed and happy. Everything ran like clockwork, Barbados is stunning, we got to swim with turtles — what more can I say? It was perfect — 2-weeks of total bliss.
Chile, orchestrated by Jordan Harvey
EVA STRASBURGER | MARCH 13, 2019
I contacted Jordan in mid- November 2018 to organize a surprise birthday trip for my husband to Chile with a focus on Easter Island and stop overs at a Casablanca Valley vineyard and a night in Valparaiso. Since it was rather last minute with the birthday in early December, I was concerned that what I was asking for would not be possible because of availability. However, Krista, my point person, was brilliant: she gave me lots of great options, took me through all of them in detail and ensured that this was an incredibly easy and stress-free trip to organize. She was professional, fun to work with and very responsive and I always got off the phone with her with a smile on my face and confident that I was in good hands. The trip was hugely successful and my husband was both surprised and delighted. Highlights of the trip were meeting the people who looked after us – all very warm, friendly and knowledgeable, the unexpected surprise experiences along the way, like the graffiti lesson in Valparaiso and Wendy’s fabulous WOW moment on our trip to Easter Island. It began with a private guided walk through fields, caves and coastline and ended with music, pisco sours, delicious bites, a presentation of a book on Rapa Nui, birthday cake and a sunset overlooking the moais and the ocean. It could not have been more perfect! Thank you for this unforgettable moment and we were wowed.
The Dolomites and Venice, orchestrated by Jill Taylor
JERRY SMYTH | FEBRUARY 27, 2019
My adult son and I contacted Jill thinking we wanted to ski in France for a week. She offered to help us, but suggested that we consider a Dolomite Mountains tour as well. She described the Refugio experience, the varied mountain terrains, the unique aspects of moving across broad sections of the mountains and northern Italian cuisine, and sold us on Italy instead.
Jill coordinated every aspect of our trip. We were met in Venice by a driver who transported us to our first mountain hotel, La Perla, in Corvara. There we enjoyed an exceptional dinner in a Michelin-starred restaurant. We met our guides the next morning, arranged our ski rentals, and headed to the slopes. We worked our way across the Dolomites, spending the next two nights at two unique Refugios high in the mountains, where we enjoyed wine tasting in their cellars, more outstanding food, and wonderfully comfortable accommodations. We ended our tour with two days skiing the Cortina area and staying at the Hotel Cristallo there. We were picked up Saturday morning and transported to our water taxi in Venice for delivery to the Hotel Danieli. We enjoyed exploring quiet residential areas of Venice until we met our guide for a later afternoon tour of the Venetian highlights. A water taxi was waiting for us the following morning at 4:30 to transport us to the airport for our return trip to the United States.
It is difficult for me to imagine how any aspect of our trip could have been improved. Every minor detail was thoughtfully vetted, every transfer was seamless, all lodging was impeccable, the wine tasting was special, the food outstanding, and the guides first class. Our mountain guides are expert skiers who offered improvement tips and engaged us in interesting discussions on a very wide range of topics over many days of skiing and evenings at dinner. Our guide in Venice was also outstanding, with an encyclopedic knowledge and refreshing wit.
Nothing was missed: great communication before, during and after the trip, a dedicated website with every trip detail, perfect logistics, jaw-dropping beautiful mountains with world-class guides, unique lodging with memorable meals…
If Dolomite skiing is on your bucket list, contact Jill, sit back while she arranges everything, and then enjoy a flawless ski experience!
Nicaragua, orchestrated by Pierre Gédéon
KIRTI SHAH | FEBRUARY 26, 2019
We wanted to see the non touristy Nicaragua so we’d have a better perspective on how Nicaraguans live. We also wanted activities that highlighted the Nicaraguan landscape. Pierre planned the itinerary based on our goals. He added physical activities like kayaking, hiking in the could forest, biking in Grenada and horse riding. He also showed us beautiful landscapes of Nicaragua – from colonial cities to tropical islands, eco lodges, natural reserves, lakes and rivers. The local guide, Giovanni in Grenada was excellent in his depth of knowledge and information not readily available on the web. The execution of the tour from start to finish was seamless and if minor issues arose, they were handled promptly. The choice of accommodations was great and we appreciated that Pierre encouraged us to go to Jicaro lodge. The trip was well planned and well executed.
Panama, orchestrated by Eric Sheets
ROBERT KOENIG | FEBRUARY 25, 2019
We hired Eric’s team to plan a custom two week trip to Panama. Nils listened to us and drafted an itinerary that met our expectations exactly. We are a senior couple so we tailored the trip to be a relaxing visit and according the activities at a moderate pace. All the local providers performed well. The trip was 6 nights in Panama City, 4 nights in Boquete, and 3 nights in El Otro Lado Portobelo.
Some very positives – we had the same guide for all our 6 days of activities in Panama City and it worked because of the familiarity, since our activities were different it did not overlap and the familiarity made it more relaxing for us, more like traveling with a friend. The average time for driver arrival during the trip was 10-15 min early, the latest (one time) exactly on time.
Every one we dealt with — guides drivers hotel personnel — were engaging. Panama likes tourists and the way our trip was planned we never felt we were crowded or rushed.
We did have a specific in-Panama contact number but had no need to call because the trip executed exactly as planned. That’s what you expect from a travel planner, everything planned perfectly in advance so that on the trip it just executes flawlessly. We did send back some pictures during the trip and always got a quick response from Nils and Filomena. You could tell they care that their clients enjoy their trip. Also they worked with us to help with our budget given Paquita is a native Spanish speaker.
In Panama certain activities are best on certain days of the week and Eric’s team knew that and the planning worked. Also they steered us clear of the Pope’s visit (our timing was flexible) and that was great because we would not have enjoyed being in Panama during that time.
We saw the canal 4 different ways… Viewed from our walk to the top of Alcon Hill. Half day transit thru the Miraflores locks on a “ferry” not overcrowded and you could almost touch the side of the wall. On a private nature boat in Gatun Lake in the middle of the canal — we were right next to wildlife looking at the cruise ships in the center of the lake. And the Agua Clara locks on the Caribbean side where we watched a supertanker pass thru the new locks.
This trip was so much more up close and personal than sitting on the deck of a cruise ship and I’d totally recommend seeing Panama at ground level. We really did have a great time.
Nils and Filomena (his detail planner) were in tune with what we wanted and we would use them again in a region they specialize in. All our expectations were met we were completely satisfied with their performance.
Buenos Aires, orchestrated by Maita Barrenechea
JOHN OWEN | FEBRUARY 23, 2019
We relied on Maita to bookend a cruise to Antarctica out of Buenos Aires. Before the cruise we wanted to experience Buenos Aires, and the two tours Maita arranged were both great. Do not visit Buenos Aires without visiting Recoleta Cemetery, La Boca and the Colon Theater. Following the cruise, we also squeezed in a trip to Iguazu. Thanks to Maita’s magic, it all fit into about 36 hours. Her guides were excellent, personable and professional, and all arrangements worked like clockwork.
I have nothing but praise and gratitude for the work done by Maita and her assistant Mariana. Mariana even called us in Iguazu on Sunday to make sure all was going well. I cannot thank them enough for helping turn a routine time into a “WOW” experience. They fully deserve to be on your WOW list.
Disney Orlando, orchestrated by Michelle Allen
ROBIN AND WARREN LEVY | FEBRUARY 19, 2019
We just returned from and wonderful vacation to the Magic Kingdom with our family of 10, which included our children and grandchildren. Michelle and her staff took on the monumental task of coordinating all the attractions, kingdoms, FastPasses, dinner reservations, pirate and princess makeovers, and more. The conference calls were fun and they answered all our questions each time we needed them. The trip far exceeded my expectations and EVERYONE had a blast from my husband (grandpa got to hug Mickey) to the youngest (4 year old who became Tinker Bell and met Peter Pan). During the trip we needed to cancel some activities and reschedule some dinners and Michelle’s team answered our email within 30 minutes and fixed all the reservations immediately! Their recommendations were great and we would recommend them highly for your trip to the Magic Kingdom. They took on all the reservation hassles and FastPass planning, leaving us to just enjoy the time we had together without the bother. It was truly magical!!
Patagonia, orchestrated by Tom Damon
TONY FORD-HUTCHINSON | FEBRUARY 18, 2019
Tom listened to our needs and organized a flawlessly executed trip for us to Patagonia. We started by flying to Buenos Aires where an efficient transfer was organized to get us to the domestic airport for our flight to Ushuaia where we were met by our guide, Gascon, for the next 3 days. We were interested in bird watching and Gascon is an expert birding guide and found us many of the endemic species of the area. A highlight of the area was a visit to Martillo Island and Haberton ranch where we saw three species of penguins and on the way back had close encounters with two humpback whales. We then boarded the Stella Australis which was to be our home for the next 4 nights as we sailed towards Punta Arenas along the Beagle Channel. We had outstandingly good weather (not so good for the melting glaciers!) with visits to Cape Horn, multiple glaciers and a giant penguin colony. The water was dead calm for much of the trip with one day having a high of 73, no wind and no clouds in the sky (very unusual). After our arrival in Punta Arenas we were efficiently transferred to the Explora Lodge in Torres del Paine National Park. This was our third visit to an Explora Lodge and it did not disappoint with outstanding hikes and gourmet food to come home to, as well as more good, albeit windy, weather. Our final leg of the trip involved two nights in Santiago at the excellent Singulair Lasterria Hotel with a great day out exploring the city with Katia, followed by a night flight home to the snow in New York. All in all a great way to see Patagonia.
Brazil, orchestrated by Paul Irvine
PAM AND JERRY SMYTH | FEBRUARY 9, 2019
Paul is outstanding from first contact to final post-trip communication. Rarely have we had less need to revise what an agent proposed for our travel. Paul listened carefully to what my wife and I enjoy in travel, and planned the perfect blend of big city (BA), including two outstanding guides, wine country with two guided private bodega experiences, private terrace dinners in the shadows of the Andes mountains, then complete relaxation in eastern Uruguay with its endless beaches, world-class gastronomy, private winery tour with the head sommelier, dinners at the top locations… Paul updated our itinerary for some dinner enhancements, communicated every step of our trip, answered various questions en route (tipping protocol, e.g.), and really made our entire experience exceptional. NOTHING was missed. Paul is the consummate pro. We will return to South America many more times, but only if and where Paul can provide his comprehensive service.
Italy, orchestrated by Maria Landers and Brian Dore
WENDY HALPERN | JANUARY 31, 2019
Maria Gabriella Landers planned a spectacular trip to Florence, Bologna, and Rome for my family which included my 15 yo daughter, 18 yo son, and my fiance Jay. Italy can be overwhelming because there is so much to do, see, and eat! We found a good balance. All of our transfers were super professional. We had 7 guides during our trip, and each one was highly knowledgeable and gave us a terrific education. All were equally terrific, and it is unfair to say one was better than the other. Toni was our guide for the Vespa Food Lovers adventure in Rome. We really connected with her because she happened to have kids similar ages to my kids, she was super friendly and funny! Alessandro was our archaeologist who gave us an amazing tour of the Colosseum and Forum. Our tour guide for the Vatican was wonderful – Valentina – this tour was quite long and arduous because there is just so much to see. In the end, The Sistine Chapel was definitely my favorite art part of the trip, and that was a hard decision to make – which was the best part of the trip, because Italy is just loaded with greatness everywhere.
I have a very busy life, busy work life and I really relied heavily on Maria to design the itinerary. She did not disappoint. I felt all of the excursions were unique due to the guides, and the excursions themselves. The second day in Florence, we visited a noble family estate and enjoyed a cooking lesson with the family chef, a tour of the wine cellar, and had lunch with one of the family members. We learned of the family’s wing of art at the Uffizi, which we visited the next day. We made a 5 course meal and learned how to make tortaloni, with Chef Michele who was terrific. My kids loved this lesson and were very into it. The food, of course, was delicious. The estate was beautiful, even on a cool, foggy day. Meeting people who had a direct hand in the life and culture of Italy was special. Our Food Lovers Excursion on the vespas with Toni was a complete standout. My 6’4” son was mortified to ride on the vespa, and got over that fear in 1 minute. We were a team of 5 vespas! Don’t mess with us! Toni took us to her favorite spots including a famous jewish bakery, another bakery with a very old, long and famous oven. It was exciting to ride through Rome with this perspective on a vespa. I am sure there is no way I could’ve arranged such a trip.
All of our accommodations were lovely. Antica Torre di via Tornabuoni had the best view of the Duomo at night, and general view overlooking Florence. The breakfast was delicious. The Grand Hotel Majestic was majestic! Beautiful inside, very sophisticated. Crossing Condotti in Rome had a terrific location.
I felt the communication with Maria and her team in Italy was smooth. This seemed to be due to her long-standing relationships with everyone. There were a few issues – a private driver strike in Rome, and I needed to cancel the last guided tour the night before we left because we just needed a rest and Maria and Cristina, her Italy connection, took care of everything smoothly.
I am glad we visited Bologna and saw a part of Italy that was not the most common stop, and few tourists were present. I am a dental surgeon and really enjoyed visiting the teatro medica at the university of bologna with my kids. This was a site Maria pointed out to me.
I appreciated the travel itinerary books that Maria sent to me prior to the trip with all of the logistics, phone numbers, names of guides, etc.
Maria deserves to stay on the WOW List!!
Costa Rica, orchestrated by Irene Edwards
PHYLLIS BOSSIN | JANUARY 27, 2019
Irene Edwards and her team were fantastic. First of all, the itinerary was perfect. We loved all three places we stayed and we had the right amount of time in each. I am certain that we would never have found the Kura Villas on our own. This might be the most beautiful place I have ever been, rivaling the Il San Pietro in Positano. Just gorgeous. In terms of during the trip, the people on the ground were wonderful. All of the guides and drivers were friendly, really nice and very knowledgeable. Everybody was perfectly on time and extremely accommodating. Most important, we realized that we had left our camera battery charger and spare batteries at home and the battery in the camera was dead. Before we realized that we could charge it on a mini SB port, we contacted Selena Solis and she was incredible about contacting camera shops to find a replacement charger and battery and was going to deliver it to us at the airport and, if we didn’t connect there, to send it on the next flight to Osa. We were very relieved to realize that we didn’t have to put her to all of that trouble but she was completely on top of it and was going to make it happen. We were very impressed. I would definitely use Irene and her team for our next trip to Costa Rica.
Sri Lanka, orchestrated by Miguel Cunat
ELIZABETH ROLPH | JANUARY 21, 2019
Our travel group was family and consisted of 9 people/3 generations. So, there were challenges in accommodating a range of activity levels and individual interests. We chose a 13 day driving trip, spending 2-3 nights in several places, which also added complexity to the trip.
Miguel’s team did a fabulous job of listening to what we said we wanted, persuading us to reconsider some of our initial less workable thoughts, for setting us up with superb guides/drivers, and for selecting very interesting and appropriate “experiences”. Some were unusual and special and some were even arranged as we travelled. As I said–wonderful guiding. And I should also call out the driving team that dealt with car sick children, made sure water was available, navigated difficult and late driving cheerfully, and were excellent in all regards.
India, orchestrated by Sanjay Saxena
MILINDA MARTIN | JANUARY 12, 2019
This is my third WOW trip specialist — Egypt and Turkey before, and this time India. Sanjay Saxena did an excellent job of listening to what we wanted in a trip, and customized our itinerary for our specific needs, including some out-of-the-box ideas like going zip-lining around the Red Fort in Jodhpur, getting henna tattoos, and going to a Bollywood movie. Everything was well-run once we were in India, and we felt 100% supported. India isn’t the easiest country to visit, but Sanjay ensured we saw the highlights; everything was beautifully arranged and the trip was magical. The guides were outstanding.
Turkey, orchestrated by Karen Fedorko Sefer
RAJESH GOVINDAIAH | JANUARY 9, 2019
My family of four (spouse and two daughters 15 and 11) had a great trip to Turkey. We chose to go over the holidays which is something we would not do again as the weather impacted our enjoyment of the trip. With warmer weather we would have enjoyed the trip appreciably more. With that said, the arrangements and itinerary were excellent. We went to Istanbul, Cappadocia, Izmir and back to Istanbul for New Year’s Eve. Due to snow in Cappadocia our flight from Istanbul was canceled. Ugur (part of Karen’s team at Sea Song) rearranged our entire itinerary and even though we arrived in Cappadocia a day later than planned, we were still able to do everything on our original itinerary. This involved moving four flights, changing dates on two hotel reservations and juggling our guides and activities. We went from panicked/depressed to incredibly impressed in two hours. We were given great suggestions for restaurants and offered a variety of hotel options to suit the needs of our family. Every trip we do “3 best things of our trip” and my highlights for my girls were “seeing the underground city” “the library at Ephesus” and “eating a ton of Turkish sweets” My wife and I loved the hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia even thought it was freezing cold (14F at take off) and the private Bosphorus cruise from our hotel. Both are must do’s. We highly recommend Karen and her team, they were great.
Mongolia, orchestrated by Jalsa Urubshurow
DEVAN ULLMAN | JANUARY 6, 2019
I can’t imagine using anyone else to plan such an amazing trip to Mongolia. We booked our trip so last minute and in no way did Nikhita make us feel bad for all the extra work we probably made them do. It was if they planned the most perfect trip at the snap of a finger. If you are looking to plan a trip extremely last minute without any type of headache and all the help you could ever want/need then Jalsa’s team is your go to. It was one for the books. The Gobi desert was by far the most memorable and I have no idea how we would’ve gotten from point A to B without our amazing driver. Another amazing memory that they surprised us with was the dinner at the Flaming Cliffs. Our guide, Undrakh, told us we were going to hike a little further and to our surprise as we turned the corner there was the most beautiful dinner set up to watch the sunset on the Flaming Cliffs. The weather is extreme and unpredictable so it was so nice to have an experienced and knowledgable guide switch our itinerary around if necessary. Even with snow one day and t-shirt weather the next, everything went flawlessly and it was the most relaxing vacation. We would do the trip all over again with our entire family because we can’t think of a more ideal vacation than our trip to Mongolia.
Spain, orchestrated by Virginia Irurita
MELANIE FORTIER | JANUARY 1, 2019
This is our second time using Virginia and her team. They are the best travel planners we have ever experienced. If you are going to Spain or Portugal, you should use their team!
This trip we went back to Barcelona for 3 days and spent just under a week in San Sebastian. We toured Montserrat with Carles who was AMAZING – highly recommend him for a personalized insider tour! In San Sebastian we had an amazing pintxos tour with Fanny. We had two separate tours and a WOW experience with Gurutze who is AWESOME! It was also our first Wendy Perrin WOW Experience (a spectacular, day trip to Pasajes de San Juan customized to everything we love about travel and Spain) – WOW is all we can say…
Everyone connected with Virginia – every single staff member, every driver, every guide and every hotel they recommended were extremely customer focused, caring, attentive and committed to delivering a world class experience. We will be booking another trip here again soon with Virginia and her wonderful team!
Fortier Family (2 Adults, 2 Children – 10-year-old, 13-year-old)
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thailand, orchestrated by Daniel Fraser
JOELLEN SHELDEN | JULY 25, 2018
Dan Fraser and his team knocked it out of the park. Last year we had to end our trip early to Thailand due to an injury. We were determined to go back and finish our trip. Throughout the planning stages, I could tell they had processed our likes, dislikes, style and preferences and that had been used to craft our new trip. We added Saigon, Hue, and Hoi An to the beginning of our trip for a 15-day adventure. We stayed at fabulous luxury hotels like the Park Hyatt Saigon where we were upgraded to a suite and the St. Regis Bangkok. We stayed at historic properties like La Residence in Hue and a swanky boutique hotel Rachamanka in Chiang Mai furnished with antiques. All of our private guides and drivers were knowledgeable, personable, and flexible. We seldom waited in line, so all the temples and sights without the crowds. Dan calls their guides hosts and they do just that. Go to the market? You get opportunities to try local drinks and fruits. At the temples, you get to participate in local customs and traditions. We are foodies and we had such amazing lunches at non-tourist places. Dan’s office team also helped us make reservations at two of the top restaurants in the world, Gaggan, and Nahm. And when we had a mini-crisis of food poisoning, our guide was there to make sure I got the treatment I needed and figured out how to reconfigure our next day so that we still got to see the main sights. The transfers between cities were seamless. One of my most favorite moments was at Ayuthayya when I dressed in traditional clothes and wandered amongst the temple ruins. Dan and his team not only gets the big things right but the details that take a trip from great to lifetime memories. Thank you, Wendy, for making this introduction.
Provence, orchestrated by Philip Haslett
PAM ANDERSON | JULY 24, 2018
Philip Haslett and Julie on his team designed the perfect trip to the South of France for us. My husband and I travel a lot and like to explore independently. Philip and Julie designed an itinerary that allowed us to drive from one beautiful village to another using a detailed GPS map they provided with magnificent stops and suggestions along the way. Philip knows all the secrets of Provence and the French Riviera because he lives there. Having a WOW moment to use during this trip, Philip surprised us by personally taking us on a driving tour in a classic Citron CV2! It doesn’t get any more French than that! Thanks to Philip and Julie’s relationships we were treated as VIPs at every stop. Can’t recommend Philip highly enough.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
Turkey, orchestrated by Earl Starkey
SUZANNE ILGUN | OCTOBER 18, 2016
This is the 2nd time I have used Earl Starkey and his team to plan our vacation in Turkey with my Turkish husband and in-laws. Earl and his team exceeded our expectations in planning and executing our itinerary. Earl is gracious, quick to respond when contacted, knowledgeable, and well connected. We switched some of the itinerary around at the last minute which Earl and his team handled seamlessly.
The hotel we stayed at was a perfect match for our likes. We had the best room location in the hotel.
The driver, Ali, did small extra touches for us without us asking. The guide, Burju, was excellent. She is well versed in ancient history, modern history, as well as open and willing to talk about any question we asked. She shared with us local cultural highlights. When we went to a restaurant that did not have the menu items we were looking for, Burju and Ali were able to quickly take us to another that was exactly what we were looking for. In addition, I asked Burju to simultaneously translate for me stories being told by a native Turk at one of the sights we were visiting which she did flawlessly. This enabled me to participate in the conversation as if I was a native speaker and part of the group. I felt like a local. This was a priceless experience that can only be done with a top-tier guide.
Traveling in Turkey with native Turks provides an extra challenge for any travel expert as Turks are very discerning clients. As they are native speakers as well as familiar with the country and culture, a travel expert, driver, guide, or hotelier will be quickly spotted if anything less than top-notch service is provided. My Turkish family raved about all facets of our trip. We will be contacting Earl again for our next family vacation in Turkey.
If you want to have a wonderful trip to Turkey, feel well cared for with all your desires met, then without a moments hesitation contact Earl Starkey to plan your trip.
Barge cruise, orchestrated by Ellen Sack
JERRY HULLER | OCTOBER 7, 2016
My wife and I were quite pleased with our interactions with Ellen Sack and her team. Because we were new to barge cruising (having only done ocean and river cruising before), Ellen helped us narrow down options and select what we consider an ideal barge cruise for us. We selected the Savoir Vivre. It carries 8 passengers. What we especially liked is that we got to dine at a different place, in a new town, each night.
The cruise surpassed our expectations. The ship captain Richard, the hostess Marie, and the guide Laura (“the crew”) were awesome. We felt pampered. We were impressed with Marie fixing a delicious breakfast and lunch for us, while still tidying up our cabins. We wanted to take her home with us. Laura was vivacious and engaging, and made history come alive for us on our tours. Richard was friendly, helpful, and low-key. He served as our driver to and from the train station and the restaurants at night. On our trips off the barge, we drove around in a spacious minivan. Richard and Laura arranged to have the van at the location where the barge docked each night, so that it was close by when needed.
We liked the casual atmosphere of barge cruising. It was more low-key than river cruising. We did one excursion a day for only a few hours. That gave us time to relax on the barge, chat with our new friends, walk along the Burgundy canals, or bike along the canal and into the towns. We also got to help open and close the gates at the numerous locks along the canal. Before or after an excursion, we would hang out in the common area at the front of the ship.
Before the cruise, I worried a little about the bikes. They are fold-up bikes, and I was concerned that they would be uncomfortable. I am 6 feet, 2 inches tall with long legs. My worries were misplaced. I didn’t have a problem. I could comfortably pedal for the several miles we traveled.
We would consider doing another barge cruise in a different area. Barge cruising is a great way to chill out—and make new friends—after doing lots of (hectic) sightseeing in another part of the country. We were a little sad to depart our new little family at the end of the cruise.
Contact Ellen and her staff if you’re interested in trying out a barge cruise. They will help you find something that fits your needs and travel style.
Southern Burgundy, Escommes to Fleurey-sur-Ouche
St. Barts, orchestrated by Peg Walsh
JEANNE GIBBONS | MARCH 4, 2015
I have rented from Peg many times and have never been disappointed. Our last trip was this past year during the Christmas/New Year holidays. Her staff, both in the U.S. and in Gustavia, answered all of my questions and were very helpful. I especially like that St. Barts is the only island where they rent villas. They know the owners and all of the areas of the island. They constantly update their helpful hints. I have recommended St Barth Properties to friends with no qualms. I will continue to rent a villa from them in the future.