Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

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

by Wendy Perrin | February 21, 2019

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.

Antarctica, orchestrated by Ashton Palmer


Just back from cruising Antartica-what a fabulous trip! Ashton was able to steer us gently and professionally to Silversea’s Silver Cloud instead of the cruise line we were originally considering on our own. We are so thankful he did! 6 wonderful days of expeditions, culminating in taking the Polar Plunge at the Antarctic Circle. While not every cruise will get the opportunity to do that, our weather permitted it. But it was Ashton, after talking to us and LISTENING, who gave us 3 great choices initially then booked us into a beautiful suite on the Silver Cloud, giving us the trip of a lifetime.

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Disney Orlando, orchestrated by Michelle Allen


We just returned from and wonderful vacation to the Magic Kingdom with our family of 10, which included our children and grandchildren. Michelle and her staff took on the monumental task of coordinating all the attractions, kingdoms, FastPasses, dinner reservations, pirate and princess makeovers, and more. The conference calls were fun and they answered all our questions each time we needed them. The trip far exceeded my expectations and EVERYONE had a blast from my husband (grandpa got to hug Mickey) to the youngest (4 year old who became Tinker Bell and met Peter Pan). During the trip we needed to cancel some activities and reschedule some dinners and Michelle’s team answered our email within 30 minutes and fixed all the reservations immediately! Their recommendations were great and we would recommend them highly for your trip to the Magic Kingdom. They took on all the reservation hassles and FastPass planning, leaving us to just enjoy the time we had together without the bother. It was truly magical!!

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Patagonia, orchestrated by Tom Damon


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.

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Brazil, orchestrated by Martin Frankenberg


Martin Frankenberg’s initial and very valuable contribution to planning our trip was maneuvering where to go when, and in what order. We had presented him with the challenge of building a vacation around a commitment we had near Sao Paulo. He offered a plan to visit the Amazon, which we ultimately scrapped in favor of his suggested Plan B – a trip including Iguazu Falls and Rio. Once we settled on the itinerary, his team was decisive in their advice about hotels and activities. Hotel Fasano in Sao Paulo’s Jardim district is an elegant, safe oasis in a beautiful neighborhood and a great place to locate for the weekend. For Iguazu, they urged us, and we agreed, that it was most advisable and well worth the price, to stay at the Belmond, the only hotel within the park. Hotel guests enjoy a serene experience when the park is closed to visitors, both in the morning before it opens, and for cocktails on the porch overlooking the falls in the evening. After a day of walking the trails, it was magical to sit on the veranda overlooking the falls, drinking a chilled selection from the gin and tonics menu, watching a bird or two hopping around on the cocktail table, bathed in rosy sunset. And in Rio, Martin’s team recommended the Sofitel right on Ipanema Beach. Not top luxury or price, the hotel was nevertheless a perfect choice for its location on the beach and its rooftop pool and bar providing unobstructed coastal and mountain views. Although anyone could select the most expensive hotels in any market, Martin’s contribution was to suggest spending top dollar where the property was completely unique and compelling, and saving where competitive options were available. His group provided top notch English speaking guides. One of our most interesting and rewarding experiences was touring a favela in Sao Paulo — an eye opener to the rich daily lives of inhabitants of the crowded slums.

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Cruise orchestrated by Tom Baker


From our first phone conversation, it was obvious to me that Tom could help us plan a great trip to Southeast Asia.

We had traveled on Uniworld before, so I was interested in a Mekong River cruise with them. Tom was immediately able to tell me all about the cruise and the ship, especially noting ways the trip might differ from other Uniworld trips we’d taken. His comments were very helpful in managing our expectations and making sure we were booked in the right cabin for us.

He guided us every step of the way through the process of getting necessary visas. Since we had not been to this part of the world before, I had many questions. He was always readily available to provide answers and help me with our planning.

Tom helped us book good business class fares that we never could have found on our own. We had a brief period of panic when one of our outbound flights was cancelled 10 days before departure. Even though Tom was out of the country at the time, it was no problem for his able staff. Ian came to the rescue and worked with the vendor to secure good replacement flights and book a necessary airport hotel for our long layover. Tom was overseeing the process from afar and worked to make sure our new seats were together and that all arrangements were satisfactory.

That experience solidified my knowledge that we were working with the right agent. I knew that if we had any problems while on the trip, help was only a phone call away. That’s what I hope for on a trip – especially when it’s to a part of the world that’s unfamiliar.

I have no hesitation to recommend Tom Baker. We’ve already booked another cruise with him for next year.

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Mexico, orchestrated by Zachary Rabinor


Our trip to San Miguel de Allende was perfect. Zach’s team planned an amazing trip for us.

Our guide, Arturo, was so knowledgeable and known to everyone! It was such a pleasure to walk down the street with him and feel like a local, not a tourist. Arturo is a walking encyclopedia of history and culture. We toured the Botanical Gardens, archeological sights, and chapels. I can’t say enough how having Arturo by our side made these places come to life.

Zach’s team also planned a cooking class with a wonderful chef in a beautiful home with a garden.

At Cuna de Tierra Vineyard, Paco and Ricardo were so welcoming and the chef prepared a delicious lunch with wine pairings. Arturo also took us to Guanajuato and Queretero, where he again dazzled us with his knowledge. This is the second time we have used Wendy’s travel experts and have been thoroughly impressed by all the guides and drivers we have met. In fact, we are trusting Wendy to help us plan our trip to Greece in fall!

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Australia, orchestrated by Stuart Rigg


My wife Cathy and I had the great pleasure of travelling from our home in Toronto, Canada to Australia for a three week visit from December 27th through January 17th, 2019.

Knowing that the time would fly by it was extremely important for us to get professional help in putting together our itinerary. Enter Stuart Rigg and his team, most notably Debbie Bollen, In short, they were terrific, not only in terms of suggesting and ultimately securing the various arrangements such as accommodation and tours, but also in dealing with the “changing parts” that occurred as the days unfolded. Plans change, and Debbie was able to keep pace with our litany of requests and keep things in order.

We began by spending five days at the Adina Apartment Hotel in Bondi where we rendezvoused with our daughter Christie who had moved to Sydney this past July. The accommodation proved to be just right for that stage of our visit. Bondi has a vibe to it…lots of people, lots of things happening – by no means peaceful and relaxing – and that was a good thing at this early stage! A highlight was the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk, and another was a half day bicycle tour that proved to be an excellent way to get oriented to Sydney’s downtown and waterfront area.

From there the three of us traveled to Melbourne for a few days. We stayed at the Hotel Lindrum which was conveniently located and very well appointed. A highlight was definitely a foodie tour with the very knowledgeable and passionate guide, Cam Smith. We also traveled to the Mornington Peninsula to visit a sustainable farm and restaurant, Green Olives at Red Hill, which was well worth doing. The following day we went to the Yarra Valley for some wine tasting. Beautiful scenery along the way.

From there we traveled to Tasmania for six days, including a visit to Freycinet National Park where we stayed at Freycinet Lodge in a pavilion. These rooms are beautifully appointed – a lovely combination of rugged nature meshing with all the comforts of modern living that one could possibly imagine – although we did find the operation of the new-age light system to be a bit of a challenge at first! A highlight of this portion of our journey was watching a glorious sunset at Honeymoon Bay. A “low-light” was the park itself. It appeared to be lovely but it was very busy – so much so that we couldn’t fine a parking spot for our car which was a bit disappointing. Peak season was definitely in full bloom!

From there a three hour drive back to Hobart, the quaint capital city, where we stayed at MACq01, a beautiful, modern-style hotel perfectly located right in the heart of the CBU and waterfront area. We experienced the outdoor market scene – a must do if you’re there on a Saturday. Also, if ever you do find yourself in Hobart be sure to explore the north part to get a sense of the non-touristy area. It’s reachable within a 30 minute walk or a short drive. Of course if you’re a lover of art then the MONA is a must-do – it’s the Museum of Old & New Art, one of the world’s most unique and controversial museums which houses one of the largest private art collections on the globe.

We then returned to Sydney for our final four days, this time staying at Spicers in the eclectic neighborhood of Potts Point. This boutique hotel is a gem – in a great location, we had a spacious and very comfortable room with a lovely terrace that overlooked the bustling street below. They served delicious breakfasts, and the staff were courteous, friendly and very welcoming. Absolutely top-notch.

A final highlight was a day trip to the South Coast through the Royal National Park to the Grand Pacific Drive and over the incredibly scenic Sea Cliff Bridge. It was a long day of travel, but worth it.

All in all we enjoyed this trip immensely and certainly appreciate the positive impact that Stuart and his team brought to our experience. We’d most certainly recommend Stuart and Debbie to those seeking to optimize the value of their travel down unda!

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Brazil, orchestrated by Paul Irvine


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.

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Israel, orchestrated by Joe Yudin and Jonathan Rose


Without a doubt, Joe Yudin and his team made our trip to Israel unforgettable. We had experiences that we never would have discovered or done on our own. Our first day we toured Caesarea which set the tone on our way to the Galilee. One of our most special experiences was cooking with a Druze family and learning about their culture. Unfortunately, our son got ill on our first full day in Israel and ended up admitted to the hospital in Tzfat. Joe and his team, including our organizer Rivka and especially our tour guide Bena made a bad situation as easy as possible on our family. Once out of the hospital and back on track we spent time in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and ended our holiday in the Negev exploring the Ramon Crater.

We traveled to Israel to our son’s Bar Mitzvah and Joe’s team organized every detail. It is a moment our family will never forget.

My suggestion is that you trust Joe and his team. They know about special experiences and have connections to make your trip to Israel better than you can even imagine by reading a few guidebooks our browsing the internet. The one must-do experience that I’d strongly recommend is the chef’s tour and cooking class in the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem.

Id be remiss if I didn’t mention that Bena was by far the best tour guide we’ve ever had. Our family has traveled all over the world and had private guides in many countries and Bena is the best. He was fantastic with three generations, fun, kind, knowledgeable and caring.

I strongly recommend Joe Yudin to anyone who wants a private luxury tour that’s out of the ordinary.

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Belize, orchestrated by Patricia Johnson and Rachael Wilson


Without Patricia’s input, I would never have thought of chartering a boat.

We had a wonderful trip to southern Belize. We very much enjoyed traveling along the reef in the boat and loved the snorkeling. The food was delicious! And being able to fish off the back of the boat was an unexpected bonus. And then we could eat what we caught! Without Patricia’s input, I would never thought of chartering a boat. The southern reef is about an hour’s ride from the mainland and we got to just be there! The skies cleared in time for the lunar eclipse, and the stars were spectacular. We were happy to head south out of Belize, there were very few others, it was magical!

We had some weather issues getting to Belize and my husband’s bag didn’t make it on our flight. We feared we wouldn’t be able to get it for days as we were on a boat along the reef! The second night, on Tobacco Caye, in the dark, a power boat appeared and threw his bag on board! Thanks to the TTE and the captain, it was only a minor inconvenience!

Naia resort also worked out well. The 3 bedroom house was perfect for us, and we loved having a kitchen so we could just all hang out together. The chocolate tour was very interesting.

We canceled the trip to the jaguar reserve, we were not interested in driving that day, and it was fun to cruise around Placencia – I hadn’t realized that there were so many shops and bars along the sidewalk. Patricia made the change in plans easy.

Our WOW moment was really cool. We were in a dinghy on our way to go snorkeling and there was a plastic bottle floating in the water. I asked if we were going to pick it up, and Captain Dan said no, we’re going lobster hunting! Those who wanted to, free dove with a spear and shot lobsters (it took me five tries). Then Kainie made ceviche and served it with all the fixings, and a bottle of Prosecco. It was a really great experience that I’ve been sharing with friends and family.

We are all very happy with our trip, it was a really great family vacation! And doing the boat first, and resort second was just right.

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Vietnam and Cambodia, orchestrated by Sandy Ferguson


We just got back from a 2.5 week trip to Vietnam and Cambodia arranged by Sandy. The short of it is the trip was wonderful and we highly recommend Sandy and his team. To begin with, the hotels and boat Sandy picked were fabulous. Particular favorites were the Metropole in Hanoi, the Antara in Hoi An and the Au Cu cruise. The guides and drivers Sandy arranged for us in each of our destinations were wonderful — knowledgable, helpful and flexible. We learned so much about local culture and religion, current and historical. And the special events Sandy knew about and directed us towards were unforgettable, lunch and meditation in a Zen garden, a visit to an orphanage, a private dinner at a secluded, extraordinary place in Siam Reap, a Vespa tour, sunrise at Angkor Wat, and the list goes on. The trip was not to be missed, and Sandy and his team are the ones to arrange it for you.

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Italy, orchestrated by Maria Landers and Brian Dore


Maria Gabriella Landers planned a spectacular trip to Florence, Bologna, and Rome for my family which included my 15 yo daughter, 18 yo son, and my fiance Jay. Italy can be overwhelming because there is so much to do, see, and eat! We found a good balance. All of our transfers were super professional. We had 7 guides during our trip, and each one was highly knowledgeable and gave us a terrific education. All were equally terrific, and it is unfair to say one was better than the other. Toni was our guide for the Vespa Food Lovers adventure in Rome. We really connected with her because she happened to have kids similar ages to my kids, she was super friendly and funny! Alessandro was our archaeologist who gave us an amazing tour of the Colosseum and Forum. Our tour guide for the Vatican was wonderful – Valentina – this tour was quite long and arduous because there is just so much to see. In the end, The Sistine Chapel was definitely my favorite art part of the trip, and that was a hard decision to make – which was the best part of the trip, because Italy is just loaded with greatness everywhere.

I have a very busy life, busy work life and I really relied heavily on Maria to design the itinerary. She did not disappoint. I felt all of the excursions were unique due to the guides, and the excursions themselves. The second day in Florence, we visited a noble family estate and enjoyed a cooking lesson with the family chef, a tour of the wine cellar, and had lunch with one of the family members. We learned of the family’s wing of art at the Uffizi, which we visited the next day. We made a 5 course meal and learned how to make tortaloni, with Chef Michele who was terrific. My kids loved this lesson and were very into it. The food, of course, was delicious. The estate was beautiful, even on a cool, foggy day. Meeting people who had a direct hand in the life and culture of Italy was special. Our Food Lovers Excursion on the vespas with Toni was a complete standout. My 6’4” son was mortified to ride on the vespa, and got over that fear in 1 minute. We were a team of 5 vespas! Don’t mess with us! Toni took us to her favorite spots including a famous jewish bakery, another bakery with a very old, long and famous oven. It was exciting to ride through Rome with this perspective on a vespa. I am sure there is no way I could’ve arranged such a trip.

All of our accommodations were lovely. Antica Torre di via Tornabuoni had the best view of the Duomo at night, and general view overlooking Florence. The breakfast was delicious. The Grand Hotel Majestic was majestic! Beautiful inside, very sophisticated. Crossing Condotti in Rome had a terrific location.

I felt the communication with Maria and her team in Italy was smooth. This seemed to be due to her long-standing relationships with everyone. There were a few issues – a private driver strike in Rome, and I needed to cancel the last guided tour the night before we left because we just needed a rest and Maria and Cristina, her Italy connection, took care of everything smoothly.

I am glad we visited Bologna and saw a part of Italy that was not the most common stop, and few tourists were present. I am a dental surgeon and really enjoyed visiting the teatro medica at the university of bologna with my kids. This was a site Maria pointed out to me.

I appreciated the travel itinerary books that Maria sent to me prior to the trip with all of the logistics, phone numbers, names of guides, etc.

Maria deserves to stay on the WOW List!!

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India, orchestrated by Bertie and Victoria Dyer


My husband and I just returned from 3 amazing weeks in India and it truly was a trip of a lifetime! We thoroughly enjoyed working with Victoria over many weeks, both by phone and email, to make our plans and itinerary. One portion of the trip was business, so it required more travel, to Bangalore, and that was also a unique and rich experience. We had a wonderful, knowledgeable and “fashionable” guide, Vikram, who along with Diggi, in their Jaipur office, and Victoria, were able to make some quick changes in our itinerary due to some unexpected health issues. They were outstanding in offering new suggestions and made those changes seamlessly and with almost no penalty! How awesome was that? We were beyond grateful. And then to experience the “gift” of 3 days at Amanbagh! Something we will never forget! Thank you all for making our first trip to India a trip of a lifetime.

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Costa Rica, orchestrated by Irene Edwards


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.

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Chile, orchestrated by Maita Barrenechea


Maita planned a flawless trip for us. The Singular Hotel in Santiago was perfect. The Explora lodges in the Atacama Desert and on Easter Island were amazing. These lodges thought of everything. The guides were knowledgeable and the hikes were interesting. At the end of a long day we had a beautiful meal and fine Chilean wines to celebrate. Vik Chile was the perfect place to rest and recharge before our last stop in Iguazu. Maita chose the Awasi and it was stunning. Each villa is assigned a guide that is with you for your entire stay. The excursions were well planned and executed and our guide was fantastic. The staff was very accessible and always ready to help us in any way. Maita could not have done a better job of putting this together. Wendy planned a WOW plus experience in the Atacama Desert. We were picked up at 17:30 by our guide and told to bring a windbreaker and blanket. We traveled on gravel roads for what seemed like an hour. Our guide, Michelangelo, kept us in suspense until the last minute. When we arrived at our destination we could only see the headlights of what turned out to be a truck and a trailer. Michelangelo led us by flashlight to a table set for two. I felt like we were on the set of a Hollywood movie. We were on the Moon Crater in the Atacama Desert having a gourmet dinner under stars. This does not happen in the real world. After a lovely dinner we were treated to an hour of stargazing. The laser point was the only thing that made us fell like we were connected to the 21st century. It was amazing evening and one we will never forget. Thank you Wendy.

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South Pacific, orchestrated by Kleon Howe


Kleon was an excellent resource during the planning, scheduling and actual trip we took during the holidays. We knew we wanted to go to the South Pacific but had no idea where to start. Kleon “interviewed” our wants and budget and put together the perfect package. During our almost 3 week adventure, we enjoyed both the Cook and Tahiti Islands (5 islands total) with virtually NO issues. Our favorites were Aitutaki and of course, Bora Bora. Each resort stay was perfect with extra touches like flowers on the bed and complimentary champagne/wine. My birthday is New Year’s Day, so Kleon arranged for us to stay at the perfect place to celebrate New Year’s Eve on Rangiroa where the buffet and fireworks were AMAZING!!! If you are considering traveling to this area, I HIGHLY recommend Kleon.

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Sri Lanka, orchestrated by Miguel Cunat


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.

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Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, orchestrated by Andrea Ross and April Cole


We traveled to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. We started in Bangkok and it was the day of the funeral of their King. Our local guide did not miss a beat in making alternate arrangements since many of the sites were closed. We asked if we could watch the procession (which pleased her) and it was a sad but a most interesting experience. This was just a small example of the care and detail that the local guides selected by Andrea demonstrated. From the charming woman who played a small concert for us with her son in her home to the incredible chef that taught us how to make pho, it was a truly once-in-a-lifetime trip. One of my favorite days was going by motorbike to have lunch with the nuns at a Buddhist temple. At the last stop outside of Phuket we really wanted to stay at a particular resort. There was nothing available when Andrea and April first tried to book, but their team kept after it and right before our trip advised we had the room we wanted. A wonderful experience – thanks to Andrea and April.

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India, orchestrated by Sanjay Saxena


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.

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Pacific Northwest, orchestrated by Sheri Doyle


Sheri Doyle did an exceptional job planning out a two week Pacific Northwest adventure vacation. We were looking for a road trip to begin in Willamette Valley the land of Pinot, then on to the Columbia River Gorge Valley for some rafting down the White Salmon River, hiking at Lookout Mountain and ultimately relaxing at Timberline Lodge before heading onto Portland, then Olympic National Park, onto the San Juan Islands with the trip culminating in Seattle. While we may have arranged some of this vacation ourselves, we were scheduling the vacation during peak season with little notice. Sheri was able to secure us with terrific hotel options, the perfect pace of trip, balancing outdoor adventure activities and some downtime to recharge ourselves. While the ferries can be a challenge onto/off of the San Juan Islands – Sheri timed them perfectly for us. The area had so many different variables Sheri understood our vision and mapped it out to perfection. We plan on using Sheri for our next adventure from Seattle, Vancouver, the San Juans and touring British Columbia. Sheri was exceptional!!!

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France, orchestrated by Jennifer Virgilio


Jennifer Virgillio and Sylvia Bury (we are Indonesians and she is an Indonesian as well) did excellent job for us. From the planning stage, we talked on the phone to inform them about our trip and preferences, and they listened to us well. We visited Lourdes, Lyon, and Paris in France. They provided us with excellent guides who really worked extra miles. The first guide in Lourdes, Gabrielle, she even brought us to Gavarnie, a beautiful place one hour drive from Lourdes, which was not included in the itinerary. Thumbs up! In Lyon, we did a great food tour with a young gastronomist, and being a foodie, we were happy when she brought us to Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, where she brought us to taste great chocolate from the specialist, charcuterie, cheese and wine. Then Paris was memorable. It’s all about special access, skip the line, went in to the private area where are not accessible by public. Our guide to Versailles, Marie Ange, she’s one of a kind. She knows the history and the palace very well, she made us to get in to the private access, skip the line, and got permission to enter the “not for public” sites in the palace. She is another excellent guide. In Louvre, Jennifer and Sylvia managed to arrange our tour with one of the curator which was amazing. Followed by a secret food adventure (part of our Wow Moment) with a young chef, who is very passionate about food. He brought us to the best specialty shops, from meat shop, seafood, chocolate, jam, puff pastry, and macarons. We managed to taste them all in 2 hours before we go to Eiffel Tower (another skip the line service) Despite the packed itinerary in Paris, we still have a whole shopping day on our last day. One last thing. They arranged meet and greet service at the airport, which was very helpful for us. The greeter told us that our luggage was too heavy so he arranged the luggages, proceed with our VAT refund, check in, immigration, etc, with no hassle at all. We were happy with the service provided by Jennifer. All communication was easy, and they executed it perfectly.

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Portugal, orchestrated by Gonçalo Correia


Goncalo and his team overall planned a wonderful trip for us with some very unique experiences. The absolute highlight of our trip was a visit to Foz Côa for a night hike to the an open-air Paleolithic archaeological site to see the ancient wall etchings. We were with one of the original archaeologists who worked at the site. He was amazing and it was fascinating. We spent 2 nights in the most amazing inn located within the walls of a medieval castle. Unfortunately during our trip, Europe, and Portugal was experiencing one of the worst heatwaves to hit the country in year. At that time we were in Evora which was very inland and VERY HOT! Goncalo and their team were able to make some very last minute changes and recommended some of the most beautiful beaches for us to spend a few days when the temperatures elsewhere were unbearable. They were terrific and were able to change around our itinerary and reschedule things – truly wonderful service. They scheduled a truly memorable hike with incredible views. We loved the hike however we were not prepared with hiking shoes, just our regular sneakers. The trails were very challenging and rocky which was great, just not so great in sneakers with no traction. Our guide on the hike was fantastic. Our guide through Lisbon and Sintra was very knowledgeable, but he had sort of a negative cynical way about him. Our walking tour through Lisbon with him was fantastic. However, we felt that some of the other places he took us to outside of Lisbon were extraordinarily touristy like the castle of Belem (there were ATM machines in the castle!!! and the Pena palace, no historical significance, all reproductions – why see reproductions when the real things is so close by!). Overall I would rate Goncalo and his team an 8.5 and would recommend him to anyone planning a trip. He’s a super nice guy, very smart and his team was lovely and accommodating and provided amazing service and a truly unique experience for us!

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New Zealand, orchestrated by Donna Thomas


Donna Thomas and her daughter Kori Clark helped me plan an amazing 60th birthday trip with my husband and two of my adult sons. They tailored the suggestions exactly to the needs and wants that I stated up front. Every guide and accommodation was as described and expected. In many cases the people involved far exceeded our expectations. They all have long term relationships with Donna’s team and they are invested in making us happy! I cannot think of a travel specialist who has ever exceeded my expectations to this degree. One can not plan a trip to New Zealand without at least considering her team. Not only were they there in the planning but they stayed with us for the whole trip through email or their on the ground representatives. AMAZING!

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Turkey, orchestrated by Karen Fedorko Sefer


My family of four (spouse and two daughters 15 and 11) had a great trip to Turkey. We chose to go over the holidays which is something we would not do again as the weather impacted our enjoyment of the trip. With warmer weather we would have enjoyed the trip appreciably more. With that said, the arrangements and itinerary were excellent. We went to Istanbul, Cappadocia, Izmir and back to Istanbul for New Year’s Eve. Due to snow in Cappadocia our flight from Istanbul was canceled. Ugur (part of Karen’s team at Sea Song) rearranged our entire itinerary and even though we arrived in Cappadocia a day later than planned, we were still able to do everything on our original itinerary. This involved moving four flights, changing dates on two hotel reservations and juggling our guides and activities. We went from panicked/depressed to incredibly impressed in two hours. We were given great suggestions for restaurants and offered a variety of hotel options to suit the needs of our family. Every trip we do “3 best things of our trip” and my highlights for my girls were “seeing the underground city” “the library at Ephesus” and “eating a ton of Turkish sweets” My wife and I loved the hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia even thought it was freezing cold (14F at take off) and the private Bosphorus cruise from our hotel. Both are must do’s. We highly recommend Karen and her team, they were great.

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Mongolia, orchestrated by Jalsa Urubshurow


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.

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Cuba, orchestrated by David Lee


From the time we landed until our departure every moment was a wow moment. We felt very safe in Cuba. David Lee put together an itinerary that was fun, informative, and relevant. Our tour guide Aniel was so fabulous and loved by my entire family. Our driver John was also great. We met with several important Cubans who each gave us insight into Cuba’s history, present issues, and their hope for the future. David’s access in Cuba is amazing which enabled us to have such a fascinating trip. The wow moment he planned was exceptional. Two famous photographers Ramses Batista and Alex Castro talked about their work as well as took us on a walk through their neighborhood giving tips on how to shoot photos that tell a story. We also met other famous Cuban artists on another day. Aniel told us the first day that Cuba is a country to be understood not just seen. Well put Aniel and well done David Lee!!! Cuba with David Lee is not to be missed.

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Spain, orchestrated by Virginia Irurita


This is our second time using Virginia and her team. They are the best travel planners we have ever experienced. If you are going to Spain or Portugal, you should use their team!

This trip we went back to Barcelona for 3 days and spent just under a week in San Sebastian. We toured Montserrat with Carles who was AMAZING – highly recommend him for a personalized insider tour! In San Sebastian we had an amazing pintxos tour with Fanny. We had two separate tours and a WOW experience with Gurutze who is AWESOME! It was also our first Wendy Perrin WOW Experience (a spectacular, day trip to Pasajes de San Juan customized to everything we love about travel and Spain) – WOW is all we can say…

Everyone connected with Virginia – every single staff member, every driver, every guide and every hotel they recommended were extremely customer focused, caring, attentive and committed to delivering a world class experience. We will be booking another trip here again soon with Virginia and her wonderful team!

Fortier Family (2 Adults, 2 Children – 10-year-old, 13-year-old)

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Nepal and Bhutan, orchestrated by Antonia Neubauer


We’ve traveled extensively around the world and this was our first time in Nepal and Bhutan. Toni Neubauer and Jen Cinquini who is on her team were a pleasure and total pros. I asked them if they could arrange something special on my wife’s birthday and they really delivered! The entire day was oriented to her birthday and ended with a trip to a monastery where the nuns performed a special chant/blessing after which we shared tea and birthday cake. A day my wife will never forget. From the time we departed LA until we left Kathmandu…they had it handled. Very special shout out to our guide and driver in Bhutan, Chencho, and Ganesh as well as our driver in Nepal, Depak.

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Ethiopia and Zanzibar, orchestrated by Cherri Briggs


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

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

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

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

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

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China walking tour, orchestrated by Paul Bennett


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

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China, orchestrated by Mei Zhang


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

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

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

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Egypt, orchestrated by Jim Berkeley


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

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Jackson Hole, orchestrated by Caroline Wood


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

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Indonesia, orchestrated by Diane Embree


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

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

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

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

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The Caribbean, orchestrated by Lindsey Epperly Sulek


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

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Hawaii, orchestrated by Jay and Dani Johnson


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fiji, orchestrated by Lynette Wilson


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

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Austria and northern Italy, orchestrated by Claudia Schwenger


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

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Morocco, orchestrated by Michael Diamond


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

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Prague and Vienna, orchestrated by Gwen Kozlowski


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Scotland, orchestrated by Jonathan Epstein


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

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

Our favorites were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We look forward to going back to Scotland!

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Sicily, orchestrated by Marcello Baglioni


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

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Japan, orchestrated by Scott Gilman


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

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

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France, orchestrated by Jack Dancy


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

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

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Peru orchestrated by Marisol Mosquera


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

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Russia, orchestrated by Greg Tepper


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

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

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

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Russia, orchestrated by Greg Tepper


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

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

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

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Paris apartment rental, orchestrated by Madelyn Byrne


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

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South Africa, orchestrated by Nina Wennersten and Dan Saperstein


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

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Canadian Maritimes, orchestrated by Marc Telio


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

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

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

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

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

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England, orchestrated by Jane and Philip McCrum


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

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Italy, orchestrated by Andrea Grisdale


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

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

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

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Caribbean to Mediterranean cruise, orchestrated by Mary Jean Tully


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

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Alaska, orchestrated by Judith Root


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

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Southeast Asia, orchestrated by Andy Booth


From soup to nuts my experience with the Andy Booth and his team was exceptional. During the planning portion of the trip, the staff was responsive with both emails and phone calls. They listened carefully to my interests and requirements and put together precisely the trip to Laos and Cambodia I had envisioned.

The hotels were all excellent (winning the most over the top “Lives of the Rich and Famous” prize was the Nam Kat Yorla Pa resort in Oudomxay). The 5 local guides and the drivers were the “secret sauce” for my experience. They all possessed an encyclopedic of knowledge of the region (Phnom Penh, Battambang, Siem Reap, Pakse and Luang Prabang/Northern Laos) were friendly, flexible and attentive.

I am a very experienced and highly independent traveler who seeks out diving deep into the local culture/history/nature/politics and food with an emphasis on “off the beaten track”. This trip checked all of the boxes and was my first foray into a “supported trip”.

I have a new appreciation for having a driver and guide that not only provide extensive local insight (cold towels and perpetual water too) but also are a friendly face at the airport to pick you up, ensure you are settled into your hotel and the drop off at the airport or next destination is equally seamless.

Highlights of my trip included (not necessarily in rank order):
-meeting one of only 2 living survivors from the Tuol Sleng prison
-seeing the endangered freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins
-biking in Angkor from Srah Srang to Ta Prohm and then Ta Nei (savoring the entire experience pretty much with just myself and my guide)
-spontaneous invitation from locals to party with their extended family during the Luang Prabang boat festival (a very special meal including LOTS of Beer Laos, dried and raw water buffalo and dried crickets)
– spending half a day at a no ride/no wash elephant sanctuary.

In summary, if you are looking for a Southeast Asia travel experience customized to your needs and interests Andy Booth and his team will make it happen.

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Newfoundland, orchestrated by Jill Curran


Jill is a skilled listener who figured out the kind of experiences that we would enjoy and then built our itinerary around personal experiences that would give us a real feel for Newfoundland and its people. All of the guides and activities were excellent. She chose perfect accommodations for us and went so far as to request certain rooms. Jill even arranged for the founder of the Fogo Island Inn to come to meet us. Jill provided us with restaurants, specialty shops, and nighttime music recommendations. She not only checked in with us during our trip, she gave us her personal cell phone number and urged us to call her any time. As our itinerary was so well planned out we had no need to contact her. Jill is an excellent travel agent who goes over and beyond. She obviously loves her homeland and it shows.

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Norway, orchestrated by Jan Sortland


From start to finish, Jan and his team were highly attentive and responsive, without being overbearing. They really listened to what we wanted from our trip (e.g., lots of outdoor activities, driving instead of time on a cruise, some guided experiences and time to explore on our own). Their hotel, activity, and dining recommendations were uniformly excellent. We loved our trip and felt like we really got to see parts of Norway that are off the beaten path. It was particularly amazing seeing the landscapes in the fjords and ending our days in tiny hotels and towns that are basically only accessible in summer. Our favorite hotel was the Walaker, where we could really get a sense of the multi-generational family ownership of this quirky, unique hotel while enjoying a cozy room and delicious food. We were there during a heat wave, so we swam in the fjord each day and watched children and adults jump off the (very high) dock. Additional favorite activities included glacier hiking, which neither of us had done before and included crampons and ice axes… and kayaking along the super peaceful, serene fjords. The only challenge was that dining choices were a little limited at the small, remote hotels, but the chefs were able to accommodate dietary restrictions and preferences when asked. This was a great trip for couples or families with easygoing, active children. We look forward to returning to Norway in the future.

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Thailand, orchestrated by Daniel Fraser


Dan Fraser and his team knocked it out of the park. Last year we had to end our trip early to Thailand due to an injury. We were determined to go back and finish our trip. Throughout the planning stages, I could tell they had processed our likes, dislikes, style and preferences and that had been used to craft our new trip. We added Saigon, Hue, and Hoi An to the beginning of our trip for a 15-day adventure. We stayed at fabulous luxury hotels like the Park Hyatt Saigon where we were upgraded to a suite and the St. Regis Bangkok. We stayed at historic properties like La Residence in Hue and a swanky boutique hotel Rachamanka in Chiang Mai furnished with antiques. All of our private guides and drivers were knowledgeable, personable, and flexible. We seldom waited in line, so all the temples and sights without the crowds. Dan calls their guides hosts and they do just that. Go to the market? You get opportunities to try local drinks and fruits. At the temples, you get to participate in local customs and traditions. We are foodies and we had such amazing lunches at non-tourist places. Dan’s office team also helped us make reservations at two of the top restaurants in the world, Gaggan, and Nahm. And when we had a mini-crisis of food poisoning, our guide was there to make sure I got the treatment I needed and figured out how to reconfigure our next day so that we still got to see the main sights. The transfers between cities were seamless. One of my most favorite moments was at Ayuthayya when I dressed in traditional clothes and wandered amongst the temple ruins. Dan and his team not only gets the big things right but the details that take a trip from great to lifetime memories. Thank you, Wendy, for making this introduction.

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Provence, orchestrated by Philip Haslett


Philip Haslett and Julie on his team designed the perfect trip to the South of France for us. My husband and I travel a lot and like to explore independently. Philip and Julie designed an itinerary that allowed us to drive from one beautiful village to another using a detailed GPS map they provided with magnificent stops and suggestions along the way. Philip knows all the secrets of Provence and the French Riviera because he lives there. Having a WOW moment to use during this trip, Philip surprised us by personally taking us on a driving tour in a classic Citron CV2! It doesn’t get any more French than that! Thanks to Philip and Julie’s relationships we were treated as VIPs at every stop. Can’t recommend Philip highly enough.

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Costa Rica, orchestrated by Natalie Ewing


We took a trip to Costa Rica planned by Natalie Ewing and her team from Feb 26th to March 9th, 2018. We flew into San Jose and spent the first night in a downtown hotel before being picked up by our two fantastic guides, Federico and Minor the following morning. From then on, we had a great time exploring the beauty and wonders of the country. We took our time getting to our first destination – Kura Design Villas in Uvita. Wow, what a beautiful setting and what wonderful accommodations. This place is breathtakingly beautiful and they made sure we had the best room on the property. The sunsets were spectacular every evening! While there we spent a day on the water snorkeling and fishing and another day lounging on a beautiful private beach. Federico and Minor also made sure we found some great local spots to eat – we especially loved the ceviche and all the fresh fruit. At every turn our guides made sure to point out interesting flora and fauna as well as helping us to communicate with our limited Spanish. They were incredibly knowledgeable and quickly learned what we liked and made sure to attend to our every need. When the inevitable small mishaps occurred, they would spring into action and make sure we got right back on track. We left the Dominical region and moved on to visit the native Boruca reservation. After a refreshing break at one of Costa Rica’s many waterfalls, we then headed north to Perez Zeledon and the Hacienda Alta Gracia. Another fantastic property where we spent the next several days exploring, horseback riding and hiking to another spectacular waterfall. They even arranged for a private aircraft to help us get back to San Jose to take care of a medical issue and return without missing a beat. From Alta Gracia we flew over the volcano and landed in Arenal where we were reunited with our guides and stayed at the Nayara Hotel, another beautiful property. We enjoyed a zip line excursion over the rainforest followed by another great hike with plenty of stops to see some amazing birds. After a few fantastic days in Arenal we headed to the Nectranda Cloud Forest garden where we had a private tour and a nice lunch with the proprietors and a few other guests. Our guides and trip planners did a fabulous job every step of the way and took us to a number of places that we would have been hard pressed to find on our own. More importantly, they really listened to what we liked and picked up on our cues so that our every need was promptly attended to. We can’t say enough good things about Federico, Minor, and Natalie who helped us with all the planning and logistics. We heartily recommend her and her team and look forward to having them plan our next visit to see the country.

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Tbilisi, orchestrated by Zulya Rajabova


Zulya provides something that is rare, among even top travel agents: a true partnership. Through every step of planning my family’s trip to The Republic of Georgia, she made sure that she was meeting our travel needs and goals. Georgia is not flooded with obvious tourist attractions, so we received a well-rounded itinerary that allowed us to experience its natural wonders and connect with the culture. Never did I dream that my kids would be singing karaoke with Georgian children after lunch in their Soviet-era apartment. Some other favorite activities included cooking with local families in their homes, hiking in the Caucasus mountains and visiting Gergeti church via horse. I think the main reason it was so pleasant to work with Zulya is that she truly cares that you have a wonderful experience on your trip. She is an ambassador of the countries she represents, and we look forward to working with her to travel to other Silk Road destinations.

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The Galapagos, orchestrated by Allie Almario


Allie was Fantastic from beginning to end! She listened carefully to what we wanted and helped us plan an amazing trip. She walked us through points of interest in Peru and Ecuador. Introduced us to places we would not have known to visit, recommended excellent, beautiful hotels and ships and even advised me on the best places to shop for local artisan wares. The guides she chose for us were Exceptional! They were able to convey a lot of information and history in a way that made it feel very alive and never dry or boring. They were passionate about their countries and excited to share what they knew. They came well prepared —-one guide had his backpack filled with snacks, extra suntan lotion, a first aid kit, maps, and anything else you might need. The drivers were wonderful. We always felt we were in good hands and never worried about our safety. We have traveled extensively with guides and these were among the best we have had. Allie and her people on the ground in both countries were available when we had a problem with flights from Cusco to Guayaquil. Because of weather – all flights were canceled that morning. She had wisely advised us to allow for an extra day in Guayaquil before our flight to the Galapagos to meet our ship. Instead of arriving at 3:00 we did not get there until 11:00 PM. They had a friendly face waiting for us at the airport to escort us to our hotel and make sure all was well. It was quite reassuring to know people were looking out for us.

That was the only glitch during the entire trip and it was due to weather which none of us can control!

I highly recommend Allie and her team!! They are exceptional.

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Cape Town and Botswana, orchestrated by Julian Harrison


We just returned from a trip to Cape Town and Botswana, May 19 – 31, planned for us by Julian Harrison. It was truly one of the great and most fulfilling experiences of our lives! We had several in-depth phone conversations with Julian in the initial planning stages, and he gave us expert advice on all aspects of a trip for which we had many expectations but extremely little knowledge. We received excellent advice for our specific needs (i.e. my husband has a problematic back and photography was a priority – so locations and camp choices were tailored with this in mind, as well as the critical advice of hiring private game drive vehicles). Our budget was also well-respected throughout the process. We are not sure, but we suspect that having Julian as our travel planner had something to do with the absolutely top-notch guides and accommodation locations we received throughout the trip. We were well taken care of from the moment we landed in Cape Town through our final flight out of Botswana by representatives arranged by Julian, He also took care of arranging all of the inter-country flights to and from Johannesburg, Cape Town and 3 different camp locations within Botswana. It was a very complex trip, and yet everything unfolded quite seamlessly and easily throughout. Also, our trip included a WOW experience from Wendy Perrin: an exciting helicopter ride over Cape Town!! We would not hesitate to contact Julian for any future travel to Africa.

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Italy, orchestrated by Jill Taylor


Our Italy trip to see our daughter studying abroad started by contacting Wendy. After we answered a few of Wendy’s questions, she then directed us to Jill to guide us on our journey. This was the best decision we could have made! Jill was a delight to work with and, having lived in Italy for a while, was so helpful in planning an itinerary with our budget in mind. I would have been overwhelmed and wasted precious time and money trying to figure out where to go and what to do for a 10-day trip. She booked all the hotel accommodations and transfers to the different cities we visited. This took the stress completely out of our trip and probably saved my husband and me from a few arguments! :)

On top of that she created a great itinerary with private tours to see top sites in Venice, Florence, and Rome with her connections. We felt like royalty at times! Jill was available and professional in every aspect. We will definitely use her again for a future trip!

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Cabo, orchestrated by Julie Byrd


Julie Byrd and her team set up a lovely trip to the Los Cabos area for our extended family. Because of the age range involved – five adults and two children, 8 to 70 – it was not necessarily a given that everyone was going to be happy. But the final verdict: everyone was delighted!

Julie asked all the right questions, then listened carefully to what I told her were our wants and needs. She then steered me to the perfect villa. It was a huge hit! Additionally, she gave her suggestions for the best restaurants for our whole gang, and we were all blissfully happy. I kind of hate to admit it, but a couple of times we went off on our own and made random restaurant choices from one of the “review sites” was when we got in trouble and were less than pleased. Our mantra became: we should have listened to Julie!

Julie and her team also guided us to choose the best companies for our expeditions, and everyone agreed that the treks were extraordinary. We wanted memorable adventures, and that is exactly what we got!

A couple of times I had questions about the trip along the way, and she and her team could not have been more responsive. The same can be said for her local contacts: they responded promptly to questions and seemed to truly care that we were happy with everything.

I have set up many trips on my own, and it’s easy to do if you’re simply booking a nice hotel and relying on the concierge to steer you to great restaurants, etc. But for a trip like this, an experienced planner with insider knowledge of the area is the only way to go. I would use Julie again, in a heartbeat!

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New Zealand, orchestrated by Jean-Michel Jefferson


My two-week family trip to New Zealand was excellent. Deirdre on Jean-Michel’s team planned a “best of” type itinerary since this was our first trip to NZ and we wanted to see as much as possible. But she also made sure to include unique cultural experiences that only Jean-MIchel has access to, like a day spent with Tom Laughlin, a Maori elder, on his tribal land where we prepared a “hangi,” the traditional Maori feast. She was also able to accommodate a last minute excursion to Milford Sound, which was one of the highlights of the trip. Everything ran smoothly from start to finish, there was not one single loose end — or if there was, I never saw it. And we had good communication via e-mail and phone as necessary throughout the trip. It was a very pleasant working experience that made for an unforgettable trip.

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Chile and Argentina, orchestrated by Jordan Harvey


My wife and I are back from our first trip to South America, visiting Chile and Argentina. We worked with Jordan to put together a trip that mixed hiking, wine tasting and big city tours. He and his team did a flawless job organizing the somewhat complex itinerary and provided outstanding guides and drivers in every venue (which is always critical on these trips). As expected, the high-end hotels were excellent, but the “boutique” hotels they selected also were great and interesting to visit. For sure, anyone visiting this area should stay at Awasi, even though pricey. The wine tastings that were arranged in Mendoza were well done and our boutique hotel at a vineyard there (Finca Adalgisa) was fun with good wine and a great cooking class. All around a great trip with a good mix of outdoor adventure and luxury touches.

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African safari, orchestrated by Linda Friedman


Linda Friedman is perfection. She planned a 10 day trip for my wife and I with nothing left to chance. Her people on the ground were excellent including David, our guide in Amboseli, and Wilson, our guide in Kichwa Tembo. Lodging was perfect. Time in each camp was perfect. Interim arrangements in Karen and the Boma in Nairobi were perfect! In fact, both my wife and I had the best massages ever at the Bomas spa when we had a few hours to kill. Linda even thought to give us a free cell phone to use. I told her we would never need it but we had an issue at home and it sure came in handy. I would have zero reservation recommending Linda to plan a safari to Kenya.

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The United Arab Emirates and Oman, orchestrated by Lindsey Wallace


This has been the 10th trip my wife and I have been on, using Wendy Perrin recommended experts, and it was SUPERB. We went to the United Arab Emirates and Oman in early-mid Dec 2017. It was a relatively last-minute decision and Lindsey Wallace did a masterful job quickly putting together a perfect itinerary. Hotels, transfers, guides, restaurants etc were all pre-planned by him. We questioned a few suggestions but we allowed him to make the final choices and we were not disappointed with anything. He alternated stays at magnificent resorts (beach, desert, and mountaintop) with city touring (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat). Each person we interacted with and every hotel and resort was superb. We have nothing but the highest praise for him and recommend him and his services without reservation!

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Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, orchestrated by Pierre Gédéon


Pierre was totally instrumental in helping us plan our 15-day Holiday trip which began in Nicaragua, then a few days in Costa Rica and finally a few days in Panama. We Skyped with him early in the planning stage and he listened carefully and then expertly matched the activities to our interests. He is a true professional and even met us in Nicaragua after several days into our trip to check on how the trip was progressing. In Nicaragua we took the ferry to Ometepe and stayed at a nice eco-lodge there; our guide Eric there was fantastic, spoke English well and showed us “his island”. Back in Granada, our guide Gustavo and his driver Roberto were both excellent and a highlight of the trip was a day we spent on a private island near Granada in Lake Nicaragua. In Costa Rica, we first went to Villa Blanca (a hotel that was the former home of the president) in the Los Angeles cloud forest where we stayed in a lovely private casita; after that, we traveled further north to La Fortuna and stayed at the fantastic thermal spring & spa resort, Tabacón. We had a 2-bedroom suite that we shared with our son and his new wife and that was incredible…huge with a canopy bed for the newlyweds, jacuzzi, etc. The pools and food there were excellent as was our day rafting the Rio Balsa with our private guide Jonathan Morales(he really made the trip special for us) of the Desafio company there. After a few days at Tabacón, we flew to Panama City and our guide introduced us to the Panama Canal…another highlight. We did not do a boat trip thru the canal at Pierre’s recommendation (so as not to inappropriately waste time in a boat) and that was definitely a great idea. For the final few days (including New Years Eve & Day) we were at Boquete in the mountains in the west of Panama; a beautiful town with nice hiking, cooler days, and a wonderful hotel, Panamonte. All in all a GREAT trip with terrific guides and superb planning; we would consider going back to Nicaragua using Pierre to plan a trip further north to the cigar tobacco region (Estelí) as well as Leon and Volcan Momotombo. Prices are very reasonable in Nicaragua, and the people, while poor, are very nice and accommodating, and there is plenty to see and do.

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South Pacific cruise, orchestrated by Meg Austin


I have worked with travel agents and travel specialists throughout my adult life on trips spanning several continents and complicated itineraries. In short, Meg Austin is THE best in every aspect of planning a trip from start to finish. I’m not sure if I’d be classified as “high maintenance”—you’d have to ask Meg that—but I ask a lot of questions and require a lot of information and guidance in every step of planning a BIG trip like the one my husband, daughter and myself planned through Meg. It was our first cruise and Meg guided me through every aspect patiently and expertly. Meg knew exactly which cabins to book for us, which flights to put us on, when and how to reserve our excursions and dining options so there would be no FOMO. Meg is incredibly well connected with insiders, so she was able to pull strings to get us everything SHE wanted us to have in our tour package—items I didn’t even know to ask for, but thank goodness Meg did. She handled me with humor, grace, zip-quick responses, and was always one step ahead of me.

It will take a long time to fully process and digest the breathtaking beauty of Tahiti, the graciousness of its people—including every crew member on the Paul Gauguin—and how perfectly Meg took care of my family through every step. This was a trip of a lifetime, and it’s going to take a lot to top this week.

No hitches or hiccups at all, anytime, period. Once onboard the ship, I followed Meg’s guidelines to a tee and booked our dinner, diving, and excursion reservations—which were all about timing, as the ship was fully booked. No problem for us—we had Meg Austin as our travel guru.

Meg could not have picked out a better cabin for us and our daughter. It was everything she said it would be—fantastic location for viewing breathtaking scenery, and the cabin amenities were wonderful. Cabin service twice daily! Fresh towels and stocked refrigerator throughout the day!

The food throughout the cruise was only exceeded by the professionalism and warmth of the Paul Gauguin staff. We made fast friends with the ship’s captain, so we were treated to tours of the bridge and engine room, and of the galley with the executive chef. The only way I didn’t roll home was due to all of the activities and excursions I went on that were so well organized and staffed. The snorkeling was excellent, as were the guides. My husband and daughter enjoyed terrific dives—four divers to a divemaster, unheard of on a non-liveaboard diving trip. Nothing was lacking. Everything exceeded all of our expectations. We met lovely guests from around the world. Yes, the ship was fully booked, and there were a lot of kids and family reunions, but we did our thing and they did theirs. Maybe next cruise I’d opt for adults only, but that’s just me. Even my previously Cruise-Averse Husband was completely won over by this Paul Gauguin cruise experience. You’d have to be insane not to have felt this way. It was luxurious beyond words.

We are Meg Austin lifers—if she’ll continue to have us. I actually helped some of the guests with information that Meg gave me that they didn’t know! I guess that makes me a Meg Austin protegee!

I tell everyone about the Wendy Perrin website and WOW List… and I suppose I also have to now share Meg Austin as well. I have not had one iota of disappointment with either.

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The Galapagos Islands, orchestrated by Eric Sheets


Our family trip to the Galapagos Islands was fantastic. We decided to take this trip with little time to plan. Eric and his colleague Nils did a nice job of planning a diverse trip for our family of 5 (teenage boys ages 18, 16, and 13). The naturalists that were on our daily trips with us were fantastic. We loved the Galapagos Safari Camp on Santa Cruz. The food was unbelievable and staff very helpful. The Iguana Crossing on Isabella was a nice change of pace to be right on the beach. We enjoyed time to walk on the beach as well as into town. It is hard to pick our favorite day-trip. We were surprised with a last-minute surf lesson, which was such a treat! I highly recommend this trip.

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France villa vacation, orchestrated by Annie Flogaus


St. Remy de Provence.

We’d highly recommend renting your pied a terre in Provence through Annie Flogaus. She has access to so many wonderful properties and was extremely helpful in finding the exact right fit. She knew every facet of each property we were looking at and answered every query we had in detail. When our first villa canceled our reservation 5 months ahead of time because the owner decided to sell, she quickly rebooked us into an even more fabulous home and secured compensation from the initial owner to more than cover the difference in cost. We will definitely use her services again!

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South Pacific cruise, orchestrated by Leslie Fambrini


Leslie Fambrini is fantastic. We are very experienced travelers – over 130 countries visited — and seldom use travel agents, usually arranging our own trips or traveling with affinity groups. But since we were doing an expedition cruise that wasn’t sponsored by an affinity group, we decided that to deal with Silversea we should use an agent. For this Micronesia-Melanesia Silversea trip, Leslie got us a discount on the great cabin she recommended, found out the group pre-cruise hotel early enough to avoid the high Silversea price with an internet price, and got all our information to us early since we were leaving 13 days before the cruise. Silverseas transfer prices are ridiculously high but in expedition ports, there are often no taxis available. Leslie went out of her way to find a transfer agent in Port Vila, Vanuatu, (not a place she would normally deal with) and arranged our ship to hotel transfer for “free”. Two issues arose on our trip. One: I had to supply a copy of our flight ticket leaving Vanuatu to the ships financial officer for the Vanuatu visa. Somehow in transferring all my documentation from my home computer to my traveling laptop, the flight out of Port Vila did not transfer. An e-mail to Leslie got a copy of the flight info in less than an hour. Not a big thing unless it is the night before the immigration officers are due on board. Secondly, we were traveling without our i-phones. We discovered the morning we were to disembark that our ship was not arriving at the usually port but at an out of the way one and we had no way to contact the transfer agent (the ships reception people being busy with other duties). We e-mailed Leslie again and she contacted the transfer agent. They were there waiting for us when we arrived. Perhaps they had already checked without her input but it was so reassuring that we would not be standing in the pouring rain with no taxis available wondering what to do. These may be minor things but as people who usually seldom use travel agents, not having a moments worry (well the 20-30 minutes between e-mails) is worth a great deal to us (I might add that on a previous trip that we booked through Leslie, much went wrong due to the expedition staff. I complained to Leslie and received a generous credit from Silversea due to efforts.)

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Italy villa vacation, orchestrated by Mara Solomon


I started working with Mara Solomon, a year prior to our trip. I would work with her again in a heartbeat. Mara and her team are consummate professionals – highly skilled, super knowledgeable, fun and warm. They think of everything and do so with finesse and flair. Mara very quickly figured out our hopes, taste, and interests, beyond what I was articulating, and steered us toward several excellent villa options. In planning our excursions and villa experience, she offered unerringly sage advice and suggestions and listened intelligently to my responses. She also has a great sense of humor, for me a huge plus. It was clear I’d landed with the A-team. As a result, I relaxed and confidently put myself in their hands. Working with Mara was an effortless pleasure and the result was spectacular. We spent a week in Tuscany with a blended extended family of twenty-five and to a person, we had a joyful, exciting and refreshing time together exploring the countryside and savoring the many treasures of the villa, while reconnecting with loved ones and deepening our ties to each other. Mara anticipated potential pitfalls and prepared me for them while planning to prevent them. It worked. She suggested ways to add small joys to our days together. Those also worked. Our trip was for us just the right balance of art and architectural history, nature, exercise and of course, great food and wine along with lounging by the pool, playing cards and sharing stories. Whats remarkable in my view is that the planning itself was such a pleasure. That is entirely owing to Mara and her staff. I want to plan another villa stay in Italy if only to have the opportunity to work with them again.

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Turkey, orchestrated by Earl Starkey


This is the 2nd time I have used Earl Starkey and his team to plan our vacation in Turkey with my Turkish husband and in-laws. Earl and his team exceeded our expectations in planning and executing our itinerary. Earl is gracious, quick to respond when contacted, knowledgeable, and well connected. We switched some of the itinerary around at the last minute which Earl and his team handled seamlessly.

The hotel we stayed at was a perfect match for our likes. We had the best room location in the hotel.

The driver, Ali, did small extra touches for us without us asking. The guide, Burju, was excellent. She is well versed in ancient history, modern history, as well as open and willing to talk about any question we asked. She shared with us local cultural highlights. When we went to a restaurant that did not have the menu items we were looking for, Burju and Ali were able to quickly take us to another that was exactly what we were looking for. In addition, I asked Burju to simultaneously translate for me stories being told by a native Turk at one of the sights we were visiting which she did flawlessly. This enabled me to participate in the conversation as if I was a native speaker and part of the group. I felt like a local. This was a priceless experience that can only be done with a top-tier guide.

Traveling in Turkey with native Turks provides an extra challenge for any travel expert as Turks are very discerning clients. As they are native speakers as well as familiar with the country and culture, a travel expert, driver, guide, or hotelier will be quickly spotted if anything less than top-notch service is provided. My Turkish family raved about all facets of our trip. We will be contacting Earl again for our next family vacation in Turkey.

If you want to have a wonderful trip to Turkey, feel well cared for with all your desires met, then without a moments hesitation contact Earl Starkey to plan your trip.

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Barge cruise, orchestrated by Ellen Sack


My wife and I were quite pleased with our interactions with Ellen Sack and her team. Because we were new to barge cruising (having only done ocean and river cruising before), Ellen helped us narrow down options and select what we consider an ideal barge cruise for us. We selected the Savoir Vivre. It carries 8 passengers. What we especially liked is that we got to dine at a different place, in a new town, each night.

The cruise surpassed our expectations. The ship captain Richard, the hostess Marie, and the guide Laura (“the crew”) were awesome. We felt pampered. We were impressed with Marie fixing a delicious breakfast and lunch for us, while still tidying up our cabins. We wanted to take her home with us. Laura was vivacious and engaging, and made history come alive for us on our tours. Richard was friendly, helpful, and low-key. He served as our driver to and from the train station and the restaurants at night. On our trips off the barge, we drove around in a spacious minivan. Richard and Laura arranged to have the van at the location where the barge docked each night, so that it was close by when needed.

We liked the casual atmosphere of barge cruising. It was more low-key than river cruising. We did one excursion a day for only a few hours. That gave us time to relax on the barge, chat with our new friends, walk along the Burgundy canals, or bike along the canal and into the towns. We also got to help open and close the gates at the numerous locks along the canal. Before or after an excursion, we would hang out in the common area at the front of the ship.

Before the cruise, I worried a little about the bikes. They are fold-up bikes, and I was concerned that they would be uncomfortable. I am 6 feet, 2 inches tall with long legs. My worries were misplaced. I didn’t have a problem. I could comfortably pedal for the several miles we traveled.
We would consider doing another barge cruise in a different area. Barge cruising is a great way to chill out—and make new friends—after doing lots of (hectic) sightseeing in another part of the country. We were a little sad to depart our new little family at the end of the cruise.

Contact Ellen and her staff if you’re interested in trying out a barge cruise. They will help you find something that fits your needs and travel style.

Southern Burgundy, Escommes to Fleurey-sur-Ouche

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St. Barts, orchestrated by Peg Walsh


I have rented from Peg many times and have never been disappointed. Our last trip was this past year during the Christmas/New Year holidays. Her staff, both in the U.S. and in Gustavia, answered all of my questions and were very helpful. I especially like that St. Barts is the only island where they rent villas. They know the owners and all of the areas of the island. They constantly update their helpful hints. I have recommended St Barth Properties to friends with no qualms. I will continue to rent a villa from them in the future.

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1 Comment

  1. George Anifantis and Jill Gapper

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

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