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.
Italy, orchestrated by Maria Landers and Brian Dore
SHEREE AND ALTON KELLEY | NOVEMBER 11, 2019
To have a “Once in a Lifetime Experience” on any trip is always a blessing…. to have that life changing experience almost everyday, well that is phenomenal! Each day unfolded with at least one, if not two, incredible culinary adventures. We were able to become a part of the local culture by being invited into home kitchens across Italy. Our guides were instantly befriended and feel like we have known them a lifetime. We learned insider tips, local customs and so much about the everyday life of Italians that no amount of research on our own could accomplish. Five stars.
(P.S. The chocolate factory was not up to snuff. I would drop it.)
Japan, orchestrated by Scott Gilman
LINDA AND JOE ROTHMAN | NOVEMBER 6, 2019
We read the fabulous reviews Scott received and wondered whether we would have the same experience. The short answer is an unequivocal “yes.” We have enjoyed using many (over 15 at last count) of Wendy’s TTEs over the years but this experience has to rate at or close to the top of our “trips of a lifetime.” Thank you Wendy and team.
Scott listened to our interests and the items we wished to downplay or avoid. He quickly outlined a fabulous 4 week itinerary that enabled us to experience many of the highlights in Japan. Expensive? Yes, but worth every cent. Scott booked us into excellent hotels situated in outstanding locations. He secured a wonderful guide (Emiko Sakaoka) who ensured we saw and did everything worth doing. She answered our questions which helped us to learn a great deal about the Japanese culture. While we aren’t fans of sushi we managed to eat very well. Every restaurant recommendation recognized our food interests and the special birthday dinner for Linda was a real treat.
We are grateful to Philip (the firm’s co-founder and located in Japan) for altering our itinerary to avoid the impact of Typhoon Hagibis. As the storm shut down the Tokyo airport and headed north Philip quickly and seamlessly arranged for us to travel south via the train. Alternate accommodations were excellent and the touring continued without skipping a beat.
As for trip highlights there are many. They include the friendly & interesting people we met, the exciting food markets we toured, the beautiful parks &/gardens we walked through, the huge castles we toured, the inspiring temples & shrines we visited, the many and varied museums we saw, the efficient transportation system we used, the peacefulness of a stay in a ryokan or a Buddhist Temple we experienced. Yes, we loved the private dinner with the geishas, the private tour and/discussion with the multi-generational lacquerware owner and the kimono maker, a private origami-making session, the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery Tour, the Mt. Koya cemetery walk/experience and the Sumo practice session. However, our lasting memory will be of the marvelous and unusual Japanese culture and the gracious people we met.
Our thanks to Scott, Philip, Miho, Emiko and the many folks behind the scenes who made our memorable trip possible….Linda & Joe Rothman – Stamford, Ct.
Morocco, orchestrated by Michael Diamond
GEORGE AND SYD SINKER | NOVEMBER 4, 2019
Michael Diamond’s trip planning from the first phone call was meticulous. The itinerary allowed us to experience varied parts of Morocco in the most time efficient ways. The guides were both very knowledgeable and courteous and our driver was extremely timely, professional and pleasant to be with.
We stayed in riads every night except for the last night in Casablanca and this added to the flavour of the experience near the Medinas.
The restaurant choices were spot on and the cooking class and “storytelling” provided some interesting windows into the country. The day with the designer was great as he was able to recommend trusted vendors and avoid confusion. The “tented suite” at Tamadot was unexpected and provided great views of the Atlas Mountains.
Clearly Michael has encyclopedic knowledge of the country and an inside track on the best people to deal with.
We felt comfortable and cared for throughout the trip.
Nepal and Bhutan, orchestrated by Antonia Neubauer
DONNA DESANTIS | NOVEMBER 4, 2019
Our group of six embarked on a custom journey to Nepal and Bhutan, designed by Toni Neubauer. Our days were filled with very special moments only someone with Dr. Neubauer’s experience and familiarity could have arranged. We had tea with a Bhutanese expert on Gross National Happiness, and watched monks create a mandala over many hours who then allowed us the privilege of immediately destroying it to illustrate impermanence. We raised prayer flags on the hike to Tiger’s Nest, saw a cultural show, a cooking demo, and participated in an archery match in a Bhutanese farmhouse. We were personally blessed by the Living Goddess (Patan Kumari) in Nepal, learned about singing bowls, met with an astrologer, visited temples and stupas and dzongs, watched young monks in school and had a Q & A tea with the principal, flew to Mt Everest and saw the Himalayas up close, and visited the READ (Rural Education and Development) library office managing expansion of library community centers across Nepal and Bhutan, which Dr. Neubauer established. It was a wonderful trip, focused on immersion in both countries cultures. We came away educated and fascinated, which is ultimately the intention of adventure travel.
Israel, orchestrated by Jonny Bealby
GERRY AND ANNE O’CONNOR | NOVEMBER 3, 2019
I had used Dan Waters of Jonny’s team quite successfully for two previous trips (Jordan and Oman) so when we were planning for Israel it was a no-brainer to return. Dan did not disappoint. We again spoke on the phone, discussed our interests and what we wanted to do. He put together an itinerary which, after some minor adjustments, we committed to. The itinerary was excellent. We arrived in Tel Aviv, met our driver (Hani) who took us to our first hotel. The next morning, at the agreed upon 8:00 am departure, we met our guide (Medhat Aburemaileh). Both the driver and guide were on top of their game. Having taken 6 previous WOW trips, I know how important it is to have a good relationship with both the driver and the guide. As you spend so much of your day with them, they become almost like family. Hani was an excellent, professionally cautious driver; Medhat was knowledgeable, informative, and provided all appropriate insight when needed. The itinerary was packed full but these two gentleman made it work. When, during the trip we had to make adjustments, Dan Waters was always available – even on weekends – to make recommendations. We had some contact with Dan’s local agent, Dalia; she helped coordinate some of the adjustments we made. The accommodations recommended were all top notch and very much to our liking. The pacing was as depicted but as we are getting older, we find that we will need to build in a little more down time. We covered all the highlights of Israel: from Tel Aviv in the west to the Dead Sea and Masada in the east; from the Sea of Galilee in the north to Jerusalem in the south. All with extensive narration from Medhat which kept us apprised of history, culture and the politics of Israel. An itinerary of any level of complexity has lots of moving parts; it requires many layers of coordination, timing, expertise and an extensive knowledge of all available options. Our journey back in time was extremely well coordinated, meticulously organized, and professionally executed.
Danube River cruise, orchestrated by Tom Baker
ANNETTE STANFORD | NOVEMBER 1, 2019
We decided to plan a river cruise for our 30th anniversary. I read so many great reviews of Wendy and her WOW team, so I decided to reach out for planning help. We were NOT disappointed! Tom Baker and Ian Lazarus did an outstanding job guiding us and planning our cruise on Viking down the Danube. This was our first river cruise, but will definitely not be our last.
The cruise was an amazing experience, but we also decided to spend additional time in Budapest before the cruise, and in Prague after the cruise. Tom encouraged us to do this because these two cities require additional touring time. And he was right! Tom recommended two fabulous hotels in Budapest and Prague. He also set up personal tour guides in each city. Both guides were knowledgeable and a joy to spend time with, exploring their beloved cities.
We have planned trips on our own, but the service Tom and Ian provided far exceeded any planning we could have accomplished. A big thanks, and we look forward to planning more cruises with you.
Brazil, orchestrated by Martin Frankenberg
AMY EVERS | OCTOBER 30, 2019
Our trip to Brazil was fantastic! Martin, Charline & their team did an incredible job putting it all together and making it run smoothly. Miraculously, even all of our flights went on time for the entire trip! Our goal for the trip was wildlife focused with some adventure as well. They came through! We really, really wanted to see jaguars and we didn’t want to be one of many boats watching them on the side of a river! Martin’s suggestion to stay at Caiman Ecological Refuge and spend 3 days with the Oncafari team was spot on! It was everything we’d hoped…jaguars! We actually saw 8 different jaguars and some of them we saw more than once. The wildlife viewing in the Pantanal in general was incredible! We saw way too many birds to count. We saw tapirs, many capybara, lots of caiman, and many other animals. The only thing we didn’t see was an anteater, which our driver to the airport in Campo Grande helped us with the last morning, when we saw several! This amazing experience happened even though there was a massive fire on the Caiman property just a few weeks before. We were moved to a different accommodation but everything was great. Our guide, Joao and driver, Chipa were fun, informative, and excellent at spotting animals! We also visited an under the radar place called Bonito where we enjoyed wildlife with snorkeling in the crystal clear water amongst the many fish and visited the macaw hole where I was on a mission to get the perfect shot. We also had some real adventure by repelling 72 meters into a cave and SCUBA diving to see the giant columns- so much fun! We ate great food and were well cared for by Marcos, who was also a wealth of knowledge. With the help of Marcos, Marc even discovered the local craft beer scene which he loved. Wow… Iguassu Falls! We had so much fun and what surprises! We had a WOW moment from Wendy here, a helicopter ride over the falls! This was fabulous not only because getting a bird’s eye view over Iguassu Falls is incredible, but also because it was our first time in a helicopter! What a treat! Seeing the falls by foot on both the Argentinian and Brazilian side was also beautiful. Who knew one could see something from so many vantage points. We are so glad we stuck with Martin’s suggestion of staying at the Belmond because if we didn’t we wouldn’t have been able to see the Brazilian side before the park opened which allowed us to see it practically alone. This was significant because there are massive numbers of tourists at this site. One of the evenings we had a surprise Cachaca tasting from Martin’s team. I was hesitant because I’m not one who can typically “taste” hard alcohol, but this was really good and so informative. Marc and I each had a different favorite. We loved it and of course we brought some home! Alex was an amazing guide! Yet again, we were so well cared for and he was also a wealth of knowledge! We were also able to get a late check out at the Belmond, which was very convenient! Though we organized our time in Rio on our own, Martin’s staff took care of our transfers and chose our hotel. I was hoping to save some money here so requested down grades in the hotel. The chosen hotel was not on the beach, which we didn’t care about, but instead had a spectacular view of Sugar Loaf from our room! Our stay in the Amazon was very relaxing! We learned a lot about this important ecosystem. We saw quite a lot of pink dolphins as well as a few giant otters! The plane ride back to Manaus was worth it to see the meeting of the waters! In Manaus we had a short time with another excellent guide to see a few sites. Martin’s staff also made dinner reservations at an amazing restaurant here before our departure home. All in all, this was one of the smoothest run trips we’ve ever been on. No doubt some of this was luck, but clearly Martin did his job and did it very well! We would without question, use them again and recommend them to others.
Central Europe, orchestrated by Gwen Kozlowski
PAT HUGGINS | OCTOBER 30, 2019
My husband and I recently traveled to Prague, Austria, and southern Germany for 24 days using the services of Gwen Kozlowski and Exeter International. I reached out to Gwen over a year before we planned to go after winning an auction for a short stay at a Munich hotel. We used that as a starting point. After extensive email interaction we got to know each other well enough to really nail the itinerary and come up with a wonderful experience.
Part of the excitement of any trip I take comes from reading and learning about the places I intend to visit. With a year of potential planning time I came up with quite a dream list. It included renown museums and historic sites, but also alpine trails we wanted to hike and restaurants we wanted to dine at. Gwen had her own list of special activities, led by guides with unique knowledge, to add to the mix. Some sounded very familiar – a Food Tour or Wine Tour. I admit to being reluctant to spend time on these since we have taken dozens of such tours. She assured me they were special, tailored to our particular interests, and encouraged me to give them a try. They turned out to be some of our most memorable activities. We really learned invaluable information that helped navigate restaurant menus and wine lists throughout our trip.
All of the private guides we used were outstanding. Without exception they were knowledgeable, friendly, punctual and flexible, answering all of our questions and providing local insight into the places we visited. I most likely would never have found them without working with Gwen. Her professional relationship with these guides, the transfer/driving companies, and local support people was the significant difference from any trip I planned on my own. The logistics were flawless and the management of our time, having full days but not overwhelming ones, very much was due to her assistance. I also appreciated Exeter’s ability to expedite access to several venues.
You asked to comment on any local support we had while traveling. Because of bad weather we at one point considered changing hotels and reworking the itinerary. The local Exeter representatives helped run the numbers and provide alternatives. In addition, my husband needed a quick trip to a local ear, nose, and throat doctor. Our guide helped negotiate everything and he was able to enjoy the following days. This medical visit would have been much more difficult on our own.
One more general thought – I have used several of your recommended specialists. Gwen was one of the easiest to work with. She gave me choices among hotels including a range of styles and price points. I consider us to be pretty independent when traveling. We have lived both in Europe and Asia. We often chose to use public transportation and eliminate a private car and driver to hold down costs. She was fine with this. I appreciated her flexibility and willingness to accommodate.
Cuba, orchestrated by David Lee
BARBARA AND JOHN MYERS | OCTOBER 28, 2019
We had an absolutely spectacular experience! Our guide was thoroughly knowledgeable and also kind, witty and fun to spend time with. Our driver was a perfect gentleman and thoroughly gracious. The itinerary David Lee provided was excellent and included a very special request we had made. We had asked to attend a concert by early music group Ars Longa and instead had a private concert just for us in the apartment of a Cuban National. Wow! Our guide was incredibly resourceful and creative when changes were needed. Cuba is experiencing a diesel shortage and many attractions were closed, but she found even better ones for us. A perfect trip in every way!
Argentina, orchestrated by Maita Barrenechea
LINDA AND STEVE LANT | OCTOBER 28, 2019
This is our second trip arranged with the help of Maita. We stayed at Arroyo Verde and also at Tipiliuke Lodge. Accommodations were lovely and the food was excellent. Between our two stays at the fishing lodges we spent two nights at the small city of Villa La Angostura. We had a WOW moment for this trip. We were brought to the home of Chef Sebastian Guevara who travels all over the world to create fantastic dinners for movie stars and even Presidents! We were served a delicious dinner that my husband, who loves to cook was able to help prepare. The dinner was accompanied by fine wines, served with fine Argentinian wines. After dinner we were surprised with a private concert by a small string group that played everything from tango music to Led Zeppelin! Truly an amazing trip!
Indonesia, orchestrated by Diane Embree
MARTHA LAZARAKIS | OCTOBER 27, 2019
Diane found us a wonderful guide (Ngoorah) and driver (Agus) to usher us around the island of Bali. Our week included a small village where we visited a family temple and compound, and listened to a musical performance by the village’s traditional Gamelan orchestra. We were even able to play the instruments with the musicians, and try the dancing. It was a unique invitation into their community. We also enjoyed a cooking lesson in a traditional outdoor kitchen, cooking over an open fire, where we prepared a lavish lunch. Our accommodations were at resorts which embraced the Balinese culture and design and included outstanding food, full service spas, and incredible service.
Paris, orchestrated by Jennifer Virgilio
LINDA AND TOM UHLER | OCTOBER 27, 2019
Our flight plan for a trip to South Africa took us through Paris so we decided to stop for a short 36 hours. We wanted to make the most of this time with a focus on culture and food. Jennifer tailored an itinerary that did just that. Both of our guides were excellent. One’s art history background made the Rodin and Orangerie museums come alive. She also introduced us to hidden passages which were fascinating. With our food guide we visited several neighborhoods, tasting the specialties of each. Our hotel, the Grand Hotel du Palais Royal, was charming and perfectly situated. Though our sojourn was brief, we had a wonderful stay in the City of Light thanks to Jennifer and her team.
Spain and Portugal, orchestrated by Virginia Irurita
JOE LYLE | OCTOBER 27, 2019
Virginia’s team organized a great introduction to the Iberian Peninsula for my wife and I. In three weeks we visited Madrid, Toledo, Cordoba, Seville, and Granada in Spain, then Evora, Lisbon, Sintra, Estoril, Obidos and Porto in Portugal. After Porto, we went to La Rioja wine region, then Barcelona and back to Madrid. There was a lot to see and do, but we never felt rushed. With the exception of Estoril, we were able to stay three nights per hotel to limit hotel hopping. All the guides were knowledgable, helpful, concerned and fun people to be with for several hours. The drivers were also excellent and good company. All transfers and in-county travel (by car, train and plane) went smoothly as planned. We liked all the hotels except one, but thanks to Paloma in Customer Care, we were able to quickly change to another, much better, hotel the same day. Also, thanks to Paloma for the last minute difficulties with some of the restaurant reservations (which apparently were caused by the restaurants).
As I mentioned, all the guides were great and knowledgeable, but two experiences really stood out for us. On the first night our guide provided a tapas experience, hopping from tapas bar to tapas bar to taste the best tapas, wine and vermouth that Madrid has to offer. We were made to feel like locals out on a night. The other experience was seeing Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in the late afternoon. Our guide knew exactly when to take us when the light helped to make the Sagrada Familia truly awe-inspiring.
Ireland, orchestrated by Jonathan Epstein
LINDA JOHNSEY | OCTOBER 25, 2019
Wow, did we just experience that? Thank you so much to Jonathan Epstein & Nicole Baratelle for creating an extraordinary birthday trip for my husband. After my trip planning conversation with Jonathan, I realized that he had asked all the RIGHT questions. I felt strongly at that point that I was in good hands planning this trip. It was one wow moment after another on a daily basis while we were on this two-week odyssey.
Thank you for suggesting a driver because he made all the difference in the world. I am so thankful that we had Seamus Hester as our driver because he truly went above and beyond the call of duty. He asked us at the beginning of the trip what we were interested in experiencing. He exceeded our expectations and made sure we experienced Ireland to the fullest. Even after a full day of driving us around, he would take us to Irish pubs after dinner. His lunch recommendations were spot on to our requests for delectable seafood. The highlight was finding the volunteer at St. Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh that shared so much information about the details of the structures interior. That was a very special moment in time.
Sheen Falls Lodge proved to be a very memorable place. Thanks again Jonathan for the room upgrade. What a treat! Falconry at this facility was spectacular. The falconer asked us to place our iPhones on Slo-Mo mode and the videos are incredible. Gin tasting by John was another Wow moment. Can someone really spend more than one hour talking about gin? What an experience, we loved every minute of it! However, being driven to dinner in their 1936 antique car was the highlight.
Ballynahinch Castle is keeping a secret from everyone. I signed Don up for clay pigeon shooting. One question from the instructor, Don responds and the universe opens up. Three test shots & feedback from the instructor and Don is shooting at 100%. The secret is the instructor is Shane Bisgood. He has trained US Olympians. What??!!?? My husband had a lesson with this man and Don enjoyed every second of it. The lessons learned will last a lifetime and be passed on to sons and grandsons.
Lastly, our driver was building up our stay at the last castle of our journey. He kept telling us we were going to experience our very own Downton Abbey moment. Day after day he would make this comment. Wow, we did indeed experience this moment! Incredible! So glad we stayed 2 nights instead of one. I could have stayed there a full week. Opulent is the only adjective to describe the last castle.
There are many more exceptional moments to describe and they were all created by Jonathan. You delivered on my request for any exceptional birthday trip for my husband. It was perfect! Thank you!
Romania, orchestrated by Raluca Spiac
DAVID LUSIGNAN | OCTOBER 24, 2019
Raluca and her team gave us invaluable assistance in the development of our 2 week trip to visit 3 regions of Romania…Bucovina, Maramures and Transylvania. Our objective was to see the beautiful country-side, visit small villages/medieval towns and meet/engage with the local people and their daily life/customs. Raluca was always responsive and worked collaboratively and patiently with us to iterate a final itinerary that met these desires and the trip did not disappoint! Our stay in 3 small village guest houses provided direct interaction with the owner families over home cooked(and delicious) breakfasts and dinners; the boutique hotels recommended in the old towns of Cluj, Sibiu and Brasov provided exemplary service and gave us quick and direct access to the historic centers(and, again, delicious breakfasts!). Our guide/driver for the entire trip(Ilona) was terrific! Ilona was pleasant always and patient as we juggled each day’s travel; and her extensive knowledge of Romanian history coupled with her art history background provided excellent insights to all we did. Ilona had also cultivated personal relationships with many of the people we met throughout our journey which greatly enhanced our experiences These people were genuinely pleased to see her and meet us. We had our WOW moment on this trip as well. An after hours visit with private guide of Bran Castle with access to the tower was superb…..no crowds, no rush, unlimited photo opportunities and personal attention from an excellent guide. Raluca’s team produced 2 other surprises as well. They were able to arrange access for us to William Blacker’s Transylvanian village house which is not open to tourists. William left the UK and spent several years living in this village in the late 1990s with a local family which he chronicled in his book “Along the Enchanted Way”. Since we had read his book before we left, this was a special connection for us. They also arranged a birthday surprise for me while we were in the village of Breb…. our dinner host baked me a cake and, with her niece/nephew dressed in traditional garb, sang me happy birthday. Thoughtful and special. So a 5 out of 5 for Raluca and her team from planning, to delivery, to choice of guide and accommodations!
Italy, orchestrated by Andrea Grisdale
CARRIE HADDEN | OCTOBER 23, 2019
the packet we were so pleased with the itinerary, but we had no idea how perfect the trip would become. Every driver and guide were so professional yet personable and were on time. They all mention Andrea’s team and you could tell the respect that they hold in the area.
We had two standout experiences. The first being an entire day on the sea to cruise the Amalfi coast. We did not know what to expect when we went to the wharf, there were so many tour boats. We were a little confused when a very large beautiful yacht pulled up. I was joking with my husband and told him that would be amazing, my husband said you should have seen your face when they held up a sign with our name on it. Captain Beni and his hand Salvatori gave us an experience we will never forget. We stopped at a restaurant high above sea only accessible by boat and had a delicious meal with great staff. Perfect day!
The second amazing experience was with our driver taking us from Positano to Ravello. We had a 3 hour stopover in the town of Amalfi but it was grey drizzly day and he asked us if we would rather go to his friend’s winery. The owner gave a very personal tour and the joined us for lunch that his wife had prepared. It was so unexpected and right out of a romance movie.
Her staff was right on top of things. We needed to change the dated of our Rome guide (my error) and they worked hard to accommodate us. We loved the hotel in Rome.
They stuck to our budget. That being said we did not like our hotel Villa Marie in Ravello and wish we could of upgraded to nicer hotel but the view was amazing. They also let people know that it was our 40th wedding anniversary and we were greeted with Prosecco at the Palazzo Murat. This was the best and most detailed trip we have taken using your WOW list.
That you very much.
New Zealand, orchestrated by Donna Thomas
ALLI POLIN | OCTOBER 20, 2019
Donna Thomas took our trip to New Zealand well beyond anything we would have been able to do on our own. Only in Christchurch for a few days, we thought we’d hit the big sites you could find on any website. Then we found the hotel we wanted only to find out it was booked. Time strapped and with our trip fast approaching we reached out to Donna to see if she could help with our planning and she absolutely made magic happen.
The hotel we tried to book and was full? She had rooms set aside for her clients and got us the perfect one. This was no run of the mill trip. Donna arranged for a dinner with a local family, a day trip to a farm to meet the farmers, we also took the TranzAlpine which was a dream for the train-buff in our family. Instead of spending 9+ hours sitting on the train roundtrip using up an entire day of our short trip, Donna arranged for a guide to meet us at Arthur’s Pass and hike with us to some of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen.
Not only was Donna responsive and creative, but her team made it so easy for us too. Everything we needed for a smooth trip was sent to us in advance. It all went off without a hitch. We also appreciated Donna’s follow-up after the trip too. We can see why Donna is on the Wow List – she made our short trip one of our best.
If you are going to New Zealand, don’t hesitate to reach out to Donna and her team. She thoughtfully considered the people in our small multi-generational group, listened to our likes and dislikes and worked hard to accommodate our every request and concern. If we booked on our own we would have ended up in a mediocre hotel, wandered around the CBD and maybe gone to an art museum, taken the TranzAlpine all day, and we would have gotten little sense of Christchurch and the people who live there. We’ve traveled extensively around the world and my son came home and said this was one of the best trips of his life and that is largely thanks to Donna.
Transatlantic cruise, orchestrated by Mary Jean Tully
DIANA PUSCH | OCTOBER 16, 2019
1. Preplanning was fabulous. We worked with teleconferences to include other travelers, their (outstanding) land specialist Ralph & cruise specialist Cheri.
2. We did have a tour guide problem which we worked to solve as it was an immediate issue (a substituted tour guide in Germany spoke Spanish, so we used my daughter as translator that day). Ralph was on it when we notified him, and he was proactive in making sure remaining destinations were well coordinated & had no problems.
3. Cheri did an outstanding job with our cruise rooms, meeting the individual needs of each traveler. I brag about her work and have recommended her to my friends looking to create a cruise experience.
4. This team was responsive to each of our questions, desires in the trip, provided outstanding local tour guides who enhanced our knowledge & enjoyment of each city and were a pleasure to work with.
Greece, orchestrated by Jacoline Vinke
JESSICA TOLMACH & BRUCE YANNETT | OCTOBER 13, 2019
We are just back from an extraordinary two weeks in Greece, thanks to Jacoline and all her planning. Without a doubt, we could not have planned this on our own.
To begin with, all 4 of the hotels selected for us were spectacular, unique in their own ways and specific to the locations. Perviolas on Santorini was one of the most exquisite properties we have ever stayed at. The guides that Jacoline found for us in Athens, Crete and Santorini were terrific, each one sharing with us insights and perspectives we otherwise would never have discovered. Biking around ancient ruins in Athens, a walking, back street, food tour also in Athens and a vineyard tour in Crete will each stay with us forever. We also followed several of her recommendations for special experiences, perhaps the highlights of which were the morning and lunch we had with a master bee keeper in the mountains of Crete and the stunning drive through a gorge on Crete to an amazing slow food taverna called Dounias. We also loved our daylong private sail off Chania.
There were a few hiccups worth mentioning. When we checked into the Grande Bretagne in Athens, having been promised a room with a view of the Acropolis, we were disappointed to find that the room was on the third floor with a barely-visable view of the Acropolis. The hotel accomodated our request for a change and put us on a top floor with a true, open view of the Acropolis. When we arrived at the airport in Crete at 8pm, we went to the Herz counter to retrieve our rental car but they didn’t have a reseravation for us. Bruce has elite status with Herz so they were able to find us a car after a 1 hour wait. We later learned from Jacoline’s team that the confirmation they sent us should have been for Enterprise.
But not withstanding the glitches, we would highly recommend Jacoline for anyone traveling to Greece. Our trip was multi-faceted and rich with experiences, we continue to pour over our photographs and tell our stories to any who will listen! We imagine we will be telling them for ever.
Thank you Wendy — we could not have done this without Jacoline, which means we could not have done this without you.
All we have to do now, is plan our next WOW trip.
Australia, orchestrated by Stuart Rigg
ROBIN AND JOSH MADDEN | OCTOBER 13, 2019
Stuart Rigg and Sophie Cafe planned the perfect trip for our 30th wedding anniversary celebration- we spent 3 weeks, taking multiple in country flights and visiting 6 places: Melbourne, Tasmania, Kangaroo Island, Uluru, the Daintree Rainforest and Sydney- We wanted luxury hotels and unique experiences and our expectations were exceeded- each of the places we stayed were amazing- they also arranged transfers and guides where needed, and all were of excellent quality. Each provided something special and extra that was a surprise on that day- and all were amazing experiences. They must have told everyone that we were celebrating and anniversary- because at each location, and from each guide we received not only cards and good wishes, but sometimes small gifts, or cakes or champagne and chocolates! It was above and beyond any expectation-as was the whole trip- In Tasmania at Saffire Freceynet we did a tasted several of the excellent local gins one evening- and commented on how much we liked them-it occurred in a 15 minute conversation with one of the excellent staff there- at the end of our stay the staff remembered and offered to have us stop at the distillery on our way to the airport to pick some up, but we were traveling with carry-ons and didnt want to carry the bottles so we declined. We never mentioned this to Southern Crossings, but they were obviously checking up on us at each location- and Saffire must have told them how much we liked those gins-, as when we reached Sydney there was a gift of 3 gins and a lovely note from Stuart Rigg. This blew us away- not only did Southern Crossings hear we liked the gins, but they went out of their way to get us some and have it waiting in Sydney. This is one of the above and beyond gestures that took this trip from extraordinary to one of the best we have every had (and we are seasoned travelers, taking 1-2 trips a year). We had one issue with a cancelled flight where we reached out to their after hours staff, who was available and willing to help- but unfortunately they had no ability to arrange alternatives for that situation as none were available, but worth noting they were there and easily reached when help was needed- I would recommend them without reservation.
Scandinavia, orchestrated by Leigh Landis
SHERRI JOHNSON | OCTOBER 10, 2019
There were so many options for amazing sites when it came to planning our trip to Scandinavia that we called on Leigh to help us out. We move a bit slower these days and like to mix downtime to explore on our own with scheduled visits and guided tours. Leigh was able to appropriately scale back on the guides where we asked, but left just the right amount in to give us that personal edge. We started in Oslo which became our favorite city immediately. Our guide felt like an old friend and is someone we will reconnect with in the future. I was enthralled by the Circle of Life, a must-see for anyone in Oslo. Leigh’s suggestion of the train and ferry to Balestrand was a great way to see the country. And our private driver to Storfjord was engaging and stopped along the way to show us scenery that we would have otherwise missed. The hotels were absolutely perfect and our trip exceeded all expectations. Leigh has a knack for picking guides and was great at helping us cover lots of ground in our two weeks!
Portugal and Spain, orchestrated by Gonçalo Correia
LEN AND CINDY BOGORAD | OCTOBER 10, 2019
Gonçalo Correia and Joana Silva planned and executed a fabulous trip for us to central and northern Portugal, along with Santiago de Compostela and Salamanca in NW Spain. They listened carefully to what we were interested in, taking account of our previous travels in Portugal and Spain. For example, when Gonçalo heard that we were interested in prehistoric art, he suggested that we visit the Coa Valley, accompanied on a private tour conducted by a fascinating archeologist, which turned out to be a highlight of the trip.
Each of the private guides that Gonçalo and Silva arranged for eight tours (in the Coa Valley, in each of the cities we visited, and on Madeira) was fabulous. This contributed tremendously to the success of the trip. It was great to have the full attention of each of the guides, given all of the questions that we have, and because of health constraints one of us had (walking up stairs or steep slopes was very difficult) it was invaluable to have guides who were totally flexible about adapting the itineraries and pace appropriately.
The hotels Gonçalo and Joana selected for us were excellent, and in particular were interesting in their own ways. Hotel breakfasts were wonderful throughout.
Disney World and Universal Studios, Orlando, orchestrated by Michelle Allen
BARBARA SHERIDAN | OCTOBER 9, 2019
Michelle Allen & her team were wonderful in helping us plan a great 20th Anniversary trip to Disney World and Universal Studios. Disney really can be an overwhelming destination as, in order to maximize your time there, you need to carefully plan out your schedule for each day and manage restaurant reservations, showtimes, and Fast Passes. Michelle’s advice was invaluable in this regard. The team took into consideration that this was an adults only couples vacation, and made great suggestions for us, like experiencing the Magic Kingdom with an after dark ticket, which allowed us to visit a practically empty and childless Park (real Disney Magic!). Their restaurant recommendations were great all around – the 50’s Prime Time Cafe in Hollywood Studios was a really fun lunch choice and probably not one I’d have made on my own. Wine Bar Georges in Disney Springs was amazing, and Cowfish at Universal City Walk was another different and deliciously fun choice that probably would’ve passed under my radar. They also managed to fit in a coveted reservation for Be Our Guest and their recommendations and guidance for the Epcot Food & Wine festival helped us navigate that fun event. Michelle and her team walked us through the anxiety producing Fast Pass Process, and ensured that we were able to snag fast passes for all the rides we wanted. I’ve been joking that while we take fairly involved adventure vacations (safaris, dog sledding expedition, scuba diving, rafting and trekking trips) none have involved the degree of planning as this Disney trip! Michelle’s crew was just exceptional in that regard – I think we spent over 4 hours on the phone with them in addition to exchanging dozens of emails. Their hard work enabled us the have a wonderful anniversary trip (and everyone knew it was our anniversary b/c Michelle told them!). I’m highly recommending them to anyone I know going to any Disney destination or cruise and look forward to using them again in the future.
Paris apartment rental, orchestrated by Madelyn Byrne
PATRICIA O’REILLY | OCTOBER 6, 2019
Our apartment in Paris was wonderful. Beautifully appointed in a lovely neighborhood with nearby cheese, butcher, wine, bread and pastry shops and delightful restaurants and cafes. But the best part was the morning, noon and evening views of the Eiffel Tower from every room in the apartment. Couldn’t have asked for anything more. We were very fortunate to have been upgraded to an apartment with unobstructed views of the Eiffel Tower — all because Madelyn values Wendy Perrin’s clients and wants us to have the best possible experience. Thank you Wendy. Thank you Madelyn.
South Africa, orchestrated by Nina Wennersten and Dan Saperstein
ROBIN & JOEL GLOBUS | OCTOBER 2, 2019
We wanted this trip to be special as it was our 70th Birthdays. We wanted it to be “a trip of a lifetime”. Nina and Dan far exceeded our expectations in South Africa.
Nina and Dan planned our trip after discussing what we would like to see and do. We wanted to go to Cape Town and a safari to see Leopards and hopefully the Big Five.
It’s difficult to put into words how fantastic our trip was. We had asked for a special room at The Silo hotel and they made sure we got it! The two Safari camps also exceeded our expectations.
The people at all of the places we went were so fabulous. We were hugged and fussed over and made to feel so at home at all three accommodations. We did see all of the animals and witnessed a lion kill which was extremely rare. The guides and trackers that we spent 6 hours a day with are now friends. They were amazing as well. We will have these wonderful memories for our lifetime and yes, it was “a trip of a lifetime ” thanks to Nina and Dan and Wendy Perrin’s Wow list.
Barge cruise, orchestrated by Ellen Sack
KIMBERLY PRATER | SEPTEMBER 30, 2019
Ellen and Lori helped our group pick the ideal barge for our group- The Gran Cru. This phenomenal barge is only in its second season, has a fantastic staff that works well together and created a very convivial atmosphere- as well as lots of wonderful food and wine. A Gran Cru wine and 3 cheeses were served at every meal and Chef Joe was outstanding. In addition to cooking our meals, he held a couple of cooking classes for us. Boat manager, guide and wine expert Anna- superb! Without the input of Ellen and Lori we likely would have chosen another barge and not had the same experience.
I also appreciated the heads up from Ellen that because of no rain, we would not be on canals but rather on the Saône. In reality it mattered little as our itinerary remained the same and the scenery remained beautiful. This is our second barge trip through Ellen and I will use her again for future trips.
British Columbia, orchestrated by Marc Telio
JIM VAHEY | SEPTEMBER 30, 2019
We wanted a vacation with a focus on the outdoors. We came across a number of interesting options in British Columbia and contacted Marc to help us sort it out. Marc personally gave us much time helping us plan our trip to British Columbia. He provided thoughtful advice on the pros and cons of the various lodges and resorts we were interested in and worked to keep us within our budget. Marc and his staff remained in touch with us before we had left and during our trip: answering questions, making additional reservations and handling glitches as they arose. Marc and his staff’s advice was spot on and we had a fantastic time.
Russia, orchestrated by Greg Tepper
PAT AND ANNE-LISE MORSS | SEPTEMBER 29, 2019
Greg Tepper and Stella Bayley put together a marvelous custom trip to Russia for my wife Anne-Lise and me earlier this month, September 2019. We enjoy being independent, and their skill organizing many components added up to an excellent experience in a new destination with an unfamiliar language. We were impressed with how smoothly everything went. Our first step was to secure frequent flyer tickets as soon as available most of a year in advance. We then worked with Stella to select preferences for guides, interests, transportation, hotels, and restaurants, with plenty of time to fill out our itinerary. The plan was for 3 nights in Moscow (Ararat Park Hyatt), 2 nights in Suzdal, one of the historic towns in the Golden Circle to the east (Pushkarskaya Sloboda Hotel), and 4 nights in St Petersburg (The Lotte Hotel), before heading west to Helsinki and family in Oslo.
We appreciated the knowledge and experience of our guides, Gennady in Moscow and Suzdal, and Luda in St Petersburg, both of whom were great travelling companions with decades of experience with Greg. Luda was particularly adept at maneuvering us through the unexpected hordes of tour groups at some of St Petersburg’s primary attractions. Being independent travelers, and probably due to deserved Russian pride and cultural background, it was difficult for our guides to cut back on “seeing everything.” A recommendation – set up a couple of half days with guide and driver in the morning, and then do your own thing in the afternoon; this allowed Anne-Lise to shop or rest after much walking, and me (an architect) to return to a location or two for more intense photography. All our drivers were excellent, the cars immaculate, and we took advantage of the highspeed bullet trains from Moscow to Vladimir (Suzdal), St Petersburg, and Helsinki.
The hotels/service and restaurants/food were impressive. The one restaurant reservation that did not measure up to expectations was Mam Gochi in Moscow – it was almost empty on Saturday evening, and we ordered from a menu of photographs. Gennady’s suggested lunch at the Vogue Café, a short block from the Ararat Park Hyatt, was elegant and this would have made for a classy dinner. Our favorite dinners were at Dom and Cococo in St Petersburg. Our guides joined us for lunch at excellent local restaurants when we were on the go. Imported premium wines were extremely expensive, as warned, but we were able to find a few southern European and South American wines by the glass or bottle on most any wine list at prices close to those at home. Remember that tipping is expected everywhere like in the US, and cash is preferred to get to the right person. US dollars, Euros and local currency are welcomed, and I filled up a secure wallet with crisp $5, $10 and $20 bills before leaving home.
We came away with a very favorable impression of this part of contemporary Russia. Everyone was extremely helpful, and we never felt unsafe. The reconstruction that has taken place following the Nazi destruction is mind-boggling, and streets and public places are clean and extremely well maintained. Our private visit to the “Amber Room” workshop at Catherine Palace outside St Petersburg and the classical concert for an audience of 50 at Grand Duke Vladimir Palace in the city were special. Challenge Greg and Stella with a special interest request. They arranged for me to meet up again with Father Roman in Moscow at the Danilov Monastery; he was our Russian bell expert who came to Harvard University a decade ago and advise us on the exchange of 18 new bells to replace the originals that were rescued from Moscow during the Stalin era; the originals returned home to Danilov Monastery. Greg’s contact got in touch with Father Roman and we ended up chasing him up the tower where he played the bells in the weekly Sunday ringing; a wonderful reunion.
I am certain Greg and his team will put together a great trip for anyone travelling independently or interested in a small group.
Zambia and Botswana, orchestrated by Cherri Briggs
RICHARD LIPPMAN | SEPTEMBER 29, 2019
Cherri & Company in 5 words:
(Okay, so 6…but there are 60 more just like ’em for our magnificent African adventure she put together.)
Call her and be WOWed too.
Malta, orchestrated by Jason and Damon Camilleri Allan
KATHERINE MONTGOMERY | SEPTEMBER 28, 2019
Jason and Damon made our trip extraordinary!!!! Every tour and recommendation was beyond our expectations… we had a fabulous day cooking with Chef George Borg in Gozo, private palace tours with warm and welcoming royalty, delicious meals and knowledge, personable guides!
Our WOW Moment was a private tour of St Johns Cathedral…… breathtaking decor and up close viewing of the Caravaggios! Every detail was perfect and we were treated like VIPs. I can not recommend them highly enough!! Delightful to deal with!! Can’t wait to return!
Norway, Sweden and Denmark, orchestrated by Jan Sortland
MIKE AND MOLLY HARTMANN | SEPTEMBER 28, 2019
My wife and I just returned from three weeks in Norway Sweden and Denmark. Jan Sortland and his team planned every detail and element of our trip and we were thrilled with their effort. We spoke to Jan several times during the planning process and it was clear from our itinerary he had listened. We like taking private tours during our travels as we feel we learn more. Without exception every guide we had was not only pleasant to be with and they really knew their stuff! I was most impressed with Jan when we checked into The Grand Hotel in Stockholm and had an issue at 10pm on a Saturday evening. I called the in country number they gave us prior to our trip. Jan answered on the second ring and personally helped manage the situation. Outstanding service. We would highly recommend Jan and his team.
India, orchestrated by Bertie and Victoria Dyer
LORI SIEGEL | SEPTEMBER 27, 2019
I highly recommend Victoria and Bertie for your travels to India. Victoria was very responsive during the planning stages. We talked a lot about what I wanted. Once we arrived in India the real magic began. We were two couples in our 60s traveling together and from the moment we met our guide, Vikram, our every need and desire was taken care of. He had so many great ideas and made changes to our itinerary when it made sense. He was also so informative. Not only could he give you a lot of information; but, he also could answer any question you threw at him. He took such good care of us that we felt totally spoiled. None of us had a single negative experience on this trip. Do not hesitate to engage Victoria and Bertie for your travel to India!
Australia, orchestrated by Kleon Howe
JODY KREIMAN | SEPTEMBER 23, 2019
When recently planning a long trip to Australia, we contacted Kleon Howe when it became clear that we did not have a good way of sorting out and coordinating the many, many possible destinations, activities, hotel choices, and options so that they would fit into the allotted time, flow reasonably from one to the next, allow enough time (but not too much) at each destination so that we could really get to know it without getting bored, and satisfy our desire for detailed, flexibly-paced encounters with nature and culture and our wish to avoid groups and crowds. The trip Kleon put together for us was practically perfect in every way. He found us great hotels, wonderful guides who seemingly knew everything (including the names of the koalas and who had a new joey), and created a pace that suited us exactly. We were not overscheduled or rushed, we were never bored, and we saw and learned so much more than we expected! As an example, it would never have occurred to us to book three days with a guide at Uluru—as far as we could tell, it was a big rock, right? Instead of a superficial glance, we had long excursions over terrain that varied culturally as well as geologically, and learned about the many factors that have shaped this region. We saw vistas and differences in the texture of the rock from place to place, and we learned how the land is managed. By the end, we saw the outback with completely different eyes than we had coming in. The same thing happened everywhere we went—thanks to Kleon, we spent our time with guides who had deep knowledge of and affection for the places they showed us. Our WOW moment in Cairns was a wonderful gift—dinner under ancient trees, with stories and lessons on didgeridoo technique from our indigenous hosts. This kind of trip planning takes time and team work, but the end in our case was OUR trip, and not anyone else’s. We had a wonderful, wonderful time.
Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, orchestrated by Jill Curran
SONJA & BRIAN HAGGERT | SEPTEMBER 20, 2019
I’m not sure I even know where to start telling you about Jill Curran. She planned a fabulous trip, taking our likes into consideration and even including some daring adventures that we absolutely loved. We were in the Canadian Maritimes during Hurricane Dorian, which landed on their shores. She called us on a Friday night to check on us and had made arrangements for us to stay in our hotel if we didn’t want to risk heading out to our next destination, This was indicative of the entire trip. She was always there, checking up on us and our itinerary without being overbearing. We knew we were well taken care of right from the start.
There are so many great parts of the trip to point out-Wofville and eating at Le Caveau. You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten Brant Beef. Staying at a Distillery (Glenmore) and meeting Jill’s other travelers, having dinner overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at Panorama at the Cabot Links Golf Course. Of course the piece-de-resistance was our WOW Moment. Jill recommended The Inn at Bay Fortune as a dining EXPERIENCE and it truly was. A farmer who regaled us with their farm and some of what we would be eating, a feast of oysters (my husband LOVES oysters and a meal that lasted the entire evening. Everything was cooked over an open flame and it was terrific! Wendy was kind enough to make this unbelievable meal our WOW Moment. Little did she know there would be another WOW Moment the next morning when we met the Chef, Michael Smith, carving up a 322 pound tuna in the kitchen.
You will not find a more caring, lovely person to deal with on a trip. We are looking forward to having her plan another trip, probably to her home province of Newfoundland so we can meet.
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, orchestrated by Zulya Rajabova
SHARON NATHAN | SEPTEMBER 9, 2019
Zulya was with me every step of the way in planning my trip and her sister Dilia in Bukhara was there with me once I arrived in the Stans. I consider guides the most important part of any trip because I am even more interested in life in the places I visit than I am in the sights, and Zulya found me great ones in both Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Not only did they speak excellent English and know all about the monuments we visited; they were also open about their own experiences. Certainly the highlight of the trip was attending a family wedding in Bukhara; the openness and generosity of Zulya’s family was above and beyond.
England, orchestrated by Jane and Philip McCrum
AMY KALES | AUGUST 31, 2019
Philip is a good listener. The itinerary he planned for my husband, Arthur, and me who are opera lovers and history buffs in Edinburgh, the Highlands and London filled our hearts’ delight.
The centerpiece of our trip was a performance of Rusalka at the Glyndebourne Opera festival. Philip was able to procure the best seats, train tickets to Lewes and a dinner reservation, which despite the rain, made the evening easy and memorable. He also reserved excellent seats at plays and concerts of our choice at the Edinburgh International Festival as well as the Royal Tattoo. We could not have enjoyed ourselves more.
Philip also planned a sightseeing itinerary which focused on Churchill and World War II. All of our guides , who were Blue Badge guides, were knowledgeable and personable. We spent two memorable days with Mark King discovering the Churchill and the Imperial War Museums. A highlight was the privately guided tour of the Churchill War Rooms before opening hours arranged by Philip. In addition, Mark took us on a tour of the historic East End where he the shared experiences of Jewish and other immigrants to the area as well as his parents during World War II. We could not have asked for a more in depth program.
Arthur and I can recommend Phillip to anyone visiting the U.K. The hotels he chose, the guides he selected and the itinerary, which took our interests into account, was excellent. We plan to use another travel specialist on Wendy’s WOW list for our next trip
Sicily, orchestrated by Marcello Baglioni
CAMERON KENNEDY | AUGUST 26, 2019
Marcello was a fantastic trip specialist for Sicily. My husband and I could not have been happier with both his trip design and his support while we were there. Marcello suggested an itinerary that focused on food, wine, and culture, and every part of the itinerary was great. The guides he arranged were top-notch. These included a vulcanologist to help us understand the history and geology of Mount Etna, an archeologist who showed us really interesting ancient sites and took us on some beautiful hikes, and a chef who took us on a market tour and then cooked a Sicilian lunch with us. Marcello also assisted us with hotels and restaurants, and every place he recommended was terrific.
I also appreciated that Marcello kept us from making some errors in our trip planning. Originally, we wanted to tour both the eastern side of Sicily and Palermo, but Marcello gently steered us away from that idea since we were going to be there for only 4.5 days. He was completely right that there was more than enough to see on the eastern side of Sicily, and we otherwise would have spent a lot of unhappy hours sitting in traffic.
When we were in Sicily, Marcello checked in regularly with our guides, drivers, and us to make sure that every aspect of the trip was going smoothly. We really appreciated his attentiveness and detail-orientation in making sure we didn’t have to waste any time worrying about our logistics.
I would also recommend Marcello because he was very nice and easy to work with. We can’t wait to go back to Sicily and have him develop yet another itinerary for us!
Marcello kept us from making some errors in our trip planning.
Alaska cruise, orchestrated by Ashton Palmer
ALEC DOLAN | AUGUST 25, 2019
Ashton Palmer and his staff were extremely helpful in every way!
Planning a trip to Alaska felt overwhelming until we started working with Ashton Palmer. His personal knowledge and experience made selecting the National Geographic Quest to Southeast Alaska an easy choice. His recommendations were spot-on for our first ever cruise.
We wanted to experience Alaska’s history, glaciers, and wildlife. With Ashton’s assistance we began our adventure in Juneau with a Pilot’s Choice Helicopter flight over several glaciers and had the opportunity to land on two of them. Our seven day cruise gave us what we were looking for: glacier calving, white thunder, zodiac boating, kayaking, hiking, bushwhacking, whales, sea lions, seals, bears, and mountain goats. We completed our cruise with a two day stay in Sitka. It was a perfect way to enjoy the history and culture of this beautiful former Russian port.
With the careful and thoughtful planning by Ashton and members of his staff, Brandye and Marybeth, we had a spectacular time. We will definitely look to him for another small cruise experience.
African safari, orchestrated by Linda Friedman
KATHERINE BARDMAN | AUGUST 23, 2019
We traveled with our family and others to Rwanda and Kenya on a two week trip in July 2019. Linda did a phenomenal job executing several different itineraries and we had a very memorable vacation.
There were 13 of us in Rwanda and Linda was able to pull off Gorilla trekking passes and a stay in a wonderful lodge for all of us on the same day/night. It was one of the highlights of our trip. She also found our guide Lynn who accompanied us on all aspects of our stay in Rwanda and she was truly a gem. When we were on the ground she was very flexible with all the moving parts of 13 different wants and needs! We toured, ate and traveled around with very little worry, lots of learning and warm hospitality.
In Kenya Linda picked a perfect spot for our family. I really appreciate that Linda insisted we go with Angama Mara. The rooms were incredible, food delicious and the staff and guides first rate. We had the time of our lives driving around the Masai Mara creating lasting family memories.
My advice is to trust Linda. She can come off as a little intense when you first speak with her and she did hold our feet to the fire to get our reservations in and paid for so that we didn’t lose our space, but her heart is there and I appreciated her honest and fast answers when we had any questions. She had us well prepared for our trip.
The biggest improvement would be communication about the inter-country flight. We did not book this and so did not have access to the reservation until we were already in Kenya. That created some stress for us as we ended up not seated together, Also, even though Linda gave us detailed info about tipping, we still ended up somewhat confused on how much and for whom. We relied on our in-country guides for assistance so it all worked out. A final note, even though Linda told us we would only be able to fit 4 people in a helicopter due to weight constraints, when we pulled up the pilot did not seem at all concerned about putting 6 people in and we were thrilled.
Thank you Linda for a fabulous trip.
Israel, orchestrated by Joe Yudin and Jonathan Rose
OLIVER WILLIAMS | AUGUST 23, 2019
We were thrilled with our WOW specialist. Our group was comprised of 7 people: 4 had been to Israel a few times and 3 had never been before. Our specialist put together an itinerary that accommodated all of us. For seven days, we toured various sites in Israel. Some are well known; others were off the beaten path (which is quite hard to do). For example, on our second full day we toured and spent the night in a beautiful boutique hotel in Acco, and saw some remote sites. On the following day, we spent time in a Druize village, at the house of Druize family that made us lunch and spoke to us about their religion and the challenges they face.
Our trip included a driver and tour guide for the entire time in Israel. Our tour guide, Alon Gat, was phenomenal. Indeed, both families (who have done many tours together and apart) felt that he was the best tour guide we’d ever had. His knowledge of Israel and the various sites, histories, and perspectives was quite deep.
Our trip in Israel included, among other things, visiting Old Jaffa and Tel Aviv, Caesarea, the Bahai Gardens in Haifa, the grottos in Rosh HaNikra, a boat tour, Acco, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Massada, and the Dead Sea. In Jerusalem we saw plenty of sites including a few tours of the Old City, a view underneath the Western Wall, a tour on top of the Temple Mount, and a private tour of Yad Vashem,
We then went to Jordan. There were some problems with the transport, and Joe and Jonathan’s team was always available and responsive. They altered the accommodations to deal with those issues immediately.
The time in Jordan was spectacular. We had a desert tour in Wadi Rum, and saw Petra as well. The tour guide and driver in Petra were also spectacular.
Hawaii, orchestrated by Jay and Dani Johnson
NANCY STONE | AUGUST 20, 2019
We used Dani Johnson to plan our family (4 adults) vacation to Hawaii this August. From start to finish the vacation was fantastic, and Dani was outstanding in orchestrating it for us. She promptly reached out and during our first phone call asked many questions about what we expected and how we wanted to spend our time. This was great because we were unsure about which islands we wanted to visit. She is so well informed that we decided on the Four Seasons resorts in Wailea and Lanai, which turned out to be perfect choices. Dani arranged all of our activities, surf and paddle board lessons, skeet shooting and archery. For the surf/paddleboard lessons in Lahaina the company Dani set us up with (Maui Surf Clinics) treated us so well I doubt we could have had a better time elsewhere. We had dinner reservations ready and were able to just enjoy the days. A highlight was our WOW moment, biking down Haleakala through sun and clouds. Just a pleasure! Dani also maximized our time by advising us to take the ferry to Lanai, but to fly from Lanai to Maui airport instead of using the ferry again. Great advice! It was smooth and efficient. I would unhesitatingly use Dani again, she is fantastic.
Pacific Northwest, orchestrated by Sheri Doyle
SHARON STENSON | AUGUST 12, 2019
Sheri did a great job helping us plan our recent trip to The San Juan Islands! She gave us some great options on places to stay and had a lot of “insider knowledge” on things like the ferry schedules and a local annual chamber music production that happened to be going on while we were on Orcas that were very helpful. She had great recommendations for all the things we told her we wanted to do: which included hiking, kayaking, e-bike riding on Lopez and whale watching. The outfit she recommended on San Juan Island for whale watching was fabulous! We were on a boat with only 15 people, two really good naturalists and they took us out on a beautiful early evening to see lots of birds and track an orca pod as the sun went down in a spectacular setting out among the islands! She even helped me find a local photographer to take some pictures when our son got engaged during the trip! I would highly recommend Sheri if you’re planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest.
Switzerland, orchestrated by Nina Müller
MATT JOHNSON | AUGUST 10, 2019
I was looking for the perfect destination for a father-son week with my 15 year old. After deciding to explore the Swiss Alps, we reached out to Nina for help. With only a couple of weeks to work with, she planned a week that we will never forget. We started in Zürich and enjoyed being in the old town. We originally planned to make our way to Chamonix, but Nina recommended we head east instead and she was right! Ladina and Villa Flor were just the special touch you expect from a knowledgeable agent and just the right spot for us, as opposed to being in St Moritz itself. In particular, our stay at Couer des Alpes in Zermatt was ideal and the staff were all extremely nice and helpful. The location is great and the view, perfect. All of the activities (helicopter to top of Matterhorn, mountain biking down, tuk tuk tour of Zurich and more) really held my 15 year old’s interest, which was critical! But the real clincher was Nina arranging for us to drive an Aston Martin through the Alps for three days. Needless to say, the car was a particular highlight! Happy Birthday to me!!!
Provence, orchestrated by Philip Haslett
PEGGY SCHUEMANN | JULY 27, 2019
Philip Haslett was amazing. He totally listened to what we wanted for a three generation trip to Provence and the Riviera. We enjoyed a wonderful cooking class in Aix en Provence and an outstanding glassblowing experience in Antibes. Our boat ride to the Lerins Islands that left from Cannes exceeded expectations. We had two guides, one for the Provence area and one for the Riviera. Each was fabulous. While we never meet most of the guides that we use through Wendy’s WOW list, Philip made an effort and met us at our hotel outside of Provence, walking us in to Aix for our cooking class. I highly recommend Philip.
Spain, orchestrated by Pablo Calvo
AMANDA MANDEL | JULY 24, 2019
Pablo was very responsive and flexible during the process of planning our trip. He listened well to what we wanted (an adult trip with lots of time to wander on our own), and booked us a lovely small hotel in Barcelona (The Mercer) and at the amazing Torrent del Mas in Costa Brava. All logistics went very smoothly, and Pablo was quick to answer the few questions we had during our trip. They gave us good restaurant choices in Barcelona (Bar Canete is a must go) and in Costa Brava (Pais del Mas). We can’t say enough positive things about Costa Brava – gorgeous beaches and farmland, amazing meals everywhere, not overly touristy…and Torrent del Mas was one of the most beautiful hotels we have been to. It was a bit challenging to leave each day to go sightseeing! We would go back to these parts of Spain in a heartbeat, and would definitely recommend Pablo as a travel planner.
China, orchestrated by Mei Zhang
RITA SOLOMON | JULY 20, 2019
Mei did a great job planning a short trip to Yangzhou province in China for myself and my 13 year old daughter. Her team (we communicated with Mei and Fann) was very responsive both before and during the trip. Our guide Michael (his Anglicized name) was fantastic. We spent five days with him (and a driver) and learned a great deal about life in China. Using a WOW planner means getting the best guides, which is worth it. Michael’s English was excellent and he is very personable.
We enjoyed the activities planned for us, such as a bamboo raft trip through the karst mountain landscape, learning fan painting from a talented artist, and hiking through the beautiful rice terraces in Longsheng. We also enjoyed the long-haired Yao women show — touristy, but enjoyable and interesting nonetheless.
Egypt, Jordan, and Israel, orchestrated by Jim Berkeley
PAM ANDERSON | JULY 14, 2019
Jim Berkeley and Arlene Santos put together a wonderful highlights of Cairo trip for my husband and me. We were well taken care every step of the way of from our Greeter who escorted us to and from the airport to our driver who’s driving skill was as epic as the Pyramids in the chaotic Cairo Traffic. But our local guide/ Egyptologist “ Riko” was the one who made our experience exceptional. She was knowledgeable, patient, kind and passionate about her city, country’s history and culture. Hands down the best guide in all our world travels. She avoided the crowds not only at the Pyramids and major sites but literally unlocked and gave us private access to tombs not available to the public. What an experience to stand alone in an Egyptian tomb 4 thousand years old ! The accommodations Jim and Arlene selected at the Four Seasons was a luxury oasis from the desert heat while still giving us a beautiful sunset view of the Nile and a call to prayer from our balcony each evening. Thanks for fantastic trip and a bucket list item checked !
Siem Reap, orchestrated by Andy Booth
GRACE LEONE | JUNE 26, 2019
I usually do extensive research and plan our trips. Using Josh from Andy’s team was such a great decision! Not only were they extremely accommodating at the planning stage, but the hotels he recommended ended up being our absolute favorite (Phum Baiting in Siem Reap). In addition, he went over and above in helping us when we had some issues with one of our visas for Vietnam on the day of the trip. He had his local people work with the visa office to get us an expedited visa – otherwise, we would not have been able to get on the plane to Saigon from Hong Kong. In addition, my husband only had 1 Visa page left when we were leaving for Siem Reap from Saigon. The airline at Saigon said by law, he couldn’t go to Cambodia because you need 2 free pages for the Visa. Again, Josh came through, then contacted the airline, we boarded, then were met at the airport by immigration officer to help us. This proved to us that it definitely helps to have a company who are based close to where we’re traveling.
The tour guides were amazing and we hope to keep in touch with especially Mr. Thai and the organizations he helps in Cambodia. Despite the oppressive heat, the driver always had icy cold towels for us and cold drinks, and we rarely mingled with other tourists at even the most crowded sites! My 3 kids (22, 20 and 17) were all so impressed with how informative and interesting Mr. Thai and our tour guide in Saigon were with not only the sites we visited but also local life, politics, etc.
This trip was very special and so well planned and smooth- we have already recommended Andy and his associates to our friends! We got to meet Josh for a drink at their private villa where our family had a special dinner. Great night and great trip!
Turkey, orchestrated by Karen Fedorko Sefer
LEE SAMUELS | JUNE 25, 2019
Beginning with the Istanbul-based tour managers, Ugur, Merve, Ekin and, of course, Karen Fedeorko Sefer, and extending to our professional guide, Esin, our excellent driver, and our evening “chaperone,” Mary, Karen’s group provided a carefully planned and flexible custom itinerary. I found the staff was prompt in returning emails and I received exemplary advice. Their arranged services were fairly priced and included a centrally located boutique hotel (House Hotel Karakoy) and cutting edge restaurants (must go-to: Mikla Restaurant). Representatives readily made themselves available during the initial travel planning phase, our arrival into Istanbul International Airport, tour throughout Istanbul and our departure from Turkey. Arrival and departure customs, passport and luggage handling were expedited at the new Istanbul International Airport via the company’s arranged transfer service.
For us, the face of Karen’s team was our professional guide, driver and other assigned attendants. At no time did we ever feel endangered (although Istanbul drivers and pedestrians should be “commended” for synchronized on-road gymnastics/ choreography). Esin is a gem: an incredible asset/representative for both Karen and Turkey. At once, a valuable resource and fount of insider information and worldly anecdotes, she always maintained a vital, kind, warm and very human (sincere and humanistic) side that she freely exhibited. Esin is so very passionate about Istanbul and its citizens, the attractions visited, its present, past and future. As a world traveler, I felt as though I experienced cosmopolitan Istanbul on an intimate human scale coming away with an appreciation for its history, culture, and, most of all, its people. As a former high school art instructor, I was beyond thrilled when Esin arranged a most special one-on-one meeting with internationally renowned Turkish artist, Ms. Gulay Semercioglu whose artworks have been acquired by the Museum of Modern Art (NYC) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC). This would not have been possible without Esin as our guide. I am eternally grateful.
Thank you for creating a journey of a lifetime.
Italy and Greece, orchestrated by Jill Taylor
PAUL MYERS | JUNE 24, 2019
My wife, my 13-year-old daughter and I just returned from 16 days in Italy and Greece. We had a wonderful trip. Jill, our travel specialist, picked the perfect hotels for us, lined up the best local tour guides and coordinated a good mix of sightseeing and down time. We were blown away that she thought of every detail. We were greeted at every transfer location by a nicely dressed, English-speaking professional who helped us with baggage, navigating customs and transfer to our next destination. Jill was patient with all my questions, which were many, and she knew each destination because she had personally visited each location. She, and her colleague, Peter, made sure we were able to relax and enjoy. (They even gave me a great tip on the best shoes to wear while touring Rome – Allbirds. So helpful!)
If we could have done anything different, I would have taken Jill’s advice and only visited one country this trip. She warned me that the additional travel to go from one country to another would take time away from relaxing. She was more than right! I will heed that advice going forward!
All-in-all, it was a wonderful trip in large measure because of Jill and Peter’s careful planning and thoughtful itinerary design!
Thank you, Jill and thank you, Peter!
Alaska, orchestrated by Judith Root
HENRY SOSINSKI | JUNE 19, 2019
We were put in contact with Judith Root via Wendy Perrin. We travel quite a bit and with a few exceptions have always did our own itinerary planning. We know that there are travel agents and then there are travel experts. Judith is a travel expert specifically for Alaska. You can buy a nice package deal off of a travel agent, get a cruise, take some side tours and perhaps and extension to Anchorage, Katmai, Talkeetna, Denali or Fairbanks. You will see a lot of great places, but you will be part of a crowd. We wanted to see what a travel expert would do to customize a trip to meet our desires. Our main objective was to see one of the wildest areas of North America, the back country of Denali National Park and Preserve. There are very few travel agent packages that take you this deep.
A travel expert like Judith (and her associate, Andrea Clarke) will book you in place that is off the grid, 92 miles inside Denali in the only back country lodge permitted to conduct guided hikes within the Park and Preserve. Despite the location, this lodge is a first class operation. They will connect you with a knowledgeable local guide in Fairbanks and a behind the scenes tour with a native Alaskan. They will note your love of birding and will set up a first rate guide in Talkeetna for a relaxing day in nature at your own pace.
We usually do our own driving, but Judith convinced us to try the Alaska Railroad Goldstar Service between Fairbanks, Denali Park, Talkeetna and Anchorage. Good move, with wonderful travel on each leg of the trip. The views from the train were spectacular and meeting other train travelers was a fascinating experience.
Judith’s itinerary was very detailed, covering all accommodations transfers, transportation, included meals, guides, projected gratuity costs, packing lists and reading lists. It was readable and thorough. We had one potentially major problem at a critical point on our trip. Judith and her team were just a phone call away and were very responsive to meeting our needs. It was nice to have them there for support.
Warning: Alaska is expensive. Judith will provide a first class experience of a life time. Only about 30% of the people visiting Denali get to see “The Great One”. Judith, Andrea and the rest of the team gave us an excellent shot of seeing the highest mountain in North America. We succeeded and now are part of the lucky 30%.
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!
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…
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.
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!
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.
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!
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 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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.