Tag Archives: Alaska

Machu Picchu, Peru

Great Inspiration for Graduation Trips

The gift we can give our graduates—and the gift they’ll give back to us

Graduation trips are among the most popular family trips we see here at WendyPerrin.com, and we agree that an academic achievement deserves to be marked with a fun, memorable (and yes, sometimes even educational) experience. To provide inspiration for your own travels with your favorite grad this year, we’ve looked back at the graduation trips arranged by our WOW List destination experts that have most delighted your fellow travelers. Here’s how to get your own WOW trip.

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African safari: “My two children and I celebrated my son’s college graduation by taking a trip for the ages!”

Lynn Casper

Thomas Casper celebrated his college graduation with a safari. Here, he’s atop Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Traveler Clare Casper

“Just back from South Africa and Botswana! My two children and I celebrated my son’s college graduation by taking a trip for the ages! We worked with Christian from Julian‘s office, who put together an itinerary that included places we had not even considered. Five days in South Africa included the awe-inspiring Grootbos Nature Preserve at the bottom of the continent. We explored ancient caves, went whale watching, hiking and thoroughly enjoyed the unforgettable cuisine at Grootbos! We loved our guide Hosea who gave us such in-depth history and cultural insight on the area. It was a small gesture, but my kids really appreciated Hosea taking them into a local market in Cape Town’s Bo-Kapp neighborhood to enjoy a mid-day snack.

After a day touring and hiking on the magnificent Table Mountain, we set off to Botswana for 6 days at 3 different safari camps. Each camp was in a different ecosystem, which was something we never would have considered and were so appreciative of Christian to plan in that manner. I knew I would see the animals but did not expect to learn so much from the guides at each camp. The magnificent birds were also an unexpected surprise. The delicious food and lovely staff will never be forgotten and really made the trip our favorite so far!

Kudos to Christian for setting up this amazing experience!”—Lynn Casper

Read more reviews of South Africa and Botswana trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

START A TRIP TO SOUTH AFRICA AND BOTSWANA

Paris: “Our January trip to Paris was for our daughter’s college graduation. She was interested in fashion, food, and the Louvre…”

Louvre Museum at night, Paris, France

The Louvre Museum at night, Paris. Photo: EdiNugraha/Pixabay

“Our January trip to Paris was for our daughter’s college graduation. She was interested in fashion, food, and the Louvre. Let’s start by how incredibly smooth our airport arrival was! Upon exiting the aircraft, we were whisked away by Mohammad, who led us through customs, helped us with our luggage, and delivered us to our driver. I bet we saved two hours not having to wait in the line at customs.

Jennifer, our trip planner, did a great job planning our tours and making our dining reservations! We were very impressed with each tour guide: our private half-day tour of the Louvre could not have been better! We loved our croissant-making class and our chef was fabulous. We were pleasantly surprised with our tour of the Dior museum—so unexpected and maybe one of our most favorite things. We had the museum to ourselves and our guide was fantastic! Jennifer secured a fashion expert who took us to neighborhood boutiques featuring up and coming Parisian designers, and this was a real treat! We loved meeting the shop owners, and we felt like locals shopping for the afternoon.

Each and every restaurant reservation that Jennifer procured provided the best table in the restaurant with amazing views of the Eiffel Tower. One of the restaurants surprised us with a sparkler in my daughter’s dessert, which was so fun.” —Kim Brown

Read more reviews of Paris trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Norway: “My husband and I wanted to take our four children on a graduation trip to Norway…”

Barbara Lich's son climbing in Norway's mountaineering capital of Andelsnes.

Barbara Lich’s son climbing in Norway’s mountaineering capital of Andelsnes.

Our trip (planned by Torunn and Karin) exceeded expectations! Wow! My husband and I wanted to take our four children on a graduation trip to Norway. When we first talked with Torunn, she listened to what worked for my family in previous trips, what we were looking for (an active trip to see and experience as much as possible). And she delivered!

Our children are ages 25, 22, 18 and 14. When Torunn heard that our daughter is a competitive figure skater and wanted to see sights near the 1994 Olympic venue in Lillehammer, she arranged that we would stop in Lillehammer and even set up bobsledding (!) at the Olympic Training site! That was an experience to remember.

We next enjoyed a beautiful train ride to Andelsnes! Our historic hotel was so beautiful! We felt like we were sitting in the middle of a postcard. Andelsnes is near the most gorgeous mountains and top destination for mountain climbers. Our oldest son is a climber and has earned some certifications for climbing. Karin arranged the most expert mountaineering guide with international certification and amazing demeanor for my oldest son—it was the highlight of his trip. They climbed for 12 hours and the Alpine Hike was one of the most difficult. It was an experience he will never forget… and the lovely staff at Hotel Aak held his dinner for him to enjoy when he returned at 11 pm at night!

In Bergen my daughter and I had a great morning horseback riding! with the most friendly and kind trainer. That afternoon, my husband and children took a 90-minute helicopter tour over Hardangerfjord. My family loved that helicopter experience. Sadly, it was time to depart the next morning. What a beautiful country and special family time! We really loved every minute and would recommend Torunn to everyone.”—Barbara Lich

Read more reviews of Norway trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

START A TRIP TO NORWAY

The Philippines: “Taking advantage of the time left before my 18-year-old daughter leaves to start college, the two of us jetted off…”

Traveler Andrea Phillips and daughter Rachel underwater, diving off Balicasag Island, Bohol, Philippines.

Andrea Phillips and daughter Rachel diving off Balicasag Island in the Philippines. Photo: Sander

“Taking advantage of the time left before my 18-year-old daughter leaves to start college, the two of us jetted off on a 10-day scuba diving trip to the Philippines. After in-depth planning with Andrea, an expert on unique travel in Asia, we chose the Dauin coast and Panglao Island, off Bohol, for our trip, as this was an excellent time to visit for great weather and diving conditions. Our goals were simple: level up our scuba certifications, immerse ourselves in welcoming cultures, and, finally, cross off swimming with whale sharks from our bucket list!

Andrea and his team planned it perfectly, starting with a special airport welcome that whisked us from the arrival gate and quickly through a chaotic Manila airport. Our first stop was Atmosphere Resort, where my daughter earned her Advanced Open Water Diver certification under the guidance of their skilled dive masters. We explored local dive spots and Apo Island, a beautiful marine reserve. The relaxing resort was wonderful after diving, with its refreshing pools, delicious food, a sanctuary spa, all while being cared for as a VIP guest by the warm and friendly Filipino staff. It all brought back memories of doing my own AOW certification in Asia 25 years ago.

Moving on to Amorita Resort, we spent our days diving at Balicasag & Pamilacan Islands with another great dive team recommended by Andrea and earned our Enriched Air Diver certifications. Andrea also surprised us by sending an underwater photographer along on our first dive to capture a forever moment on our mother-daughter adventure under the sea. Saving one of the best days for last, our Bohol countryside tour was incredible, from swimming with a group of large whale sharks to cruising on a private Lomboc River boat with live music, hanging out with Tarsier and macaque monkeys, admiring the famous Chocolate Hills of Bohol and even enjoying coconut wine at a local’s home. It was a perfect conclusion to our unforgettable journey in the Philippines.

This trip was tailored-made for our needs, combining the best dive resort locations for our goals, avoiding crowded tourist spots for the whale shark encounter, and adding in authentic cultural stops and touches to make each day unforgettable, including celebrating my birthday. Pushing ourselves to try somewhere new, and doing it together, made it even more thrilling.” —Andrea Phillips

Read more reviews of the Philippines trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

START A TRIP TO THE PHILIPPINES

Switzerland: “We booked a trip with our 18- and 21-year-old children to celebrate graduation and be outdoors as much as possible…”

Andy Shafran

Andy Shafran and family spelling out OHIO on top of Switzerland’s Mt. Jungfrau during their graduation trip.

“Switzerland was a beautiful country and our active hiking, kayaking, paragliding trip was exactly what we were looking for. We booked a trip with our 18- and 21-year-old children to celebrate graduation and be outdoors as much as possible. Nina and her staff helped us build an itinerary that maximized the experiences and minimized the hassle and travel time. We spent two days in Zurich/Rhine Falls, three days in Grindelwald, and three days in Lucerne. There is so much to do that we felt we could have stayed an extra week just in these three locations.

Our major interest was hiking, and we had a guided tour up Mt. Grindelwald first, which included a gondola ride up and a Trottibike ride down (highly, highly recommended). Then we took the train to the Jungfrau and even though it was pricey for that part of the trip, well worth it for the views and incredible Alpine experience. Thumbs up: Rhine Falls, Trümmelbach Falls, Aare Gorge hike, Lake Brienz kayak trip, and our full-day peak-to-peak hike on Mt. Rigi where we ate lunch at Berghaus Unterstetten on the side of the mountain with incredible views and good food.

All three hotels we stayed in were unique, terrific locations, and have fun quirks, such as the private funicular car that takes you up from Lake Lucerne to the Art Deco Hotel Montana…” —Andy Shafran

Read more reviews of Switzerland trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

START A TRIP TO SWITZERLAND

Uzbekistan: “My son was graduating from Harvard’s Kennedy School with a degree in public policy, and his interest is Central Asia…”

Poi Kalon Mosque and Minaret in Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Poi Kalon Mosque and Minaret in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Photo: Shutterstock

“My son was graduating from Harvard’s Kennedy School with a degree in public policy, and his interest is Central Asia, so as a graduation present we took him to Uzbekistan. Not only would I recommend Uzbekistan as a travel destination, but I would highly recommend Zulya to anyone planning a trip there. She arranged for a wonderful guide to accompany us throughout the country; our guide stayed with us day and night, shared meals and her culture, and helped us navigate a very foreign language. Zulya even arranged for us to have lunch with her family in Bukhara. It was amazing. Her mother taught my son how to make Plov. The lunch was a true feast, with about 20 family members. After lunch we all got up and danced together. It was an experience my wife, son, daughter-in-law, and I will cherish forever.” —Ron Klausner

Read more reviews of Uzbekistan trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below. 

START A TRIP TO UZBEKISTAN

Portugal: “It was a special trip to celebrate our son’s graduation from college…”

The river Guadiana and the village of Mertola. Alentejo Region. Portugal

The village of Mertola in Portugal’s Alentejo region. Photo: Shutterstock

“This was our first trip using a recommended Wendy Perrin trip planner. We travelled to Portugal March 8th—March 15th, 2024. It was a special trip to celebrate our son’s graduation from college. Our trip was planned by Goncalo and Joanna.  WOW!  What an amazing trip they planned for us. The accommodations that they chose for us were fantastic! Very unique and customer oriented. The destinations and route they planned—from Lisbon to the Alentejo region and the West Region—were perfect. Our driver, Sandru, was amazing and he made sure everything was taken care of when we reached our destinations. (He also knew our itinerary and was always able to answer questions.) Sandru went above and beyond to make our trip very special.

We had a wonderful cooking class and gastronomic tour with Lara in Lisbon and even attended a Benefica Football game. In the Alentejo region we experienced an outstanding lunch with a wine pairing, horseback ride, cork factory and hikes. In the West Region, a full day tour which included Obidos, Nazre, and Alcobaca. The details were taken care of for us, from tours to restaurant reservations, it was the best trip I have ever been on. I can’t wait to plan our next trip with a Wendy Perrin recommended trip planner.” —Lori Bentley

Read more reviews of Portugal trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Scandinavia: “Will is graduating from high school this spring, and so we let him choose the destination for a family vacation…”

Kate Ogg and son Will see the northern lights from the driveway of their lodge in Alta.

Kate and Will Ogg view the northern lights from their lodge in Alta, Norway. Photo: Traveler Ryan Ogg

“My husband, Ryan Ogg and I (Kate Ogg), and our three children, Will (17), Charlotte (15), and Wyatt (12), went to Copenhagen, Denmark, and Oslo and Alta, Norway, from December 28 through January 6. Will is graduating from high school this spring, and so we let him choose the destination for a family vacation this year. He wanted to go someplace cold, snowy and dark, where we could do some fun outdoor adventures, and hopefully see the Northern Lights (which we had tried and failed to do in Iceland a couple of years ago).

It was a fantastic trip. Copenhagen was still pretty magical the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and we found some good restaurants despite a few of the ones we had hoped for being closed. We got to see the Christmas lights in Tivoli Gardens and took a ride on a wild roller coaster, wandered with some hot drinks, shopped and just enjoyed the festive vibe. The next day we started the day with a boat ride through the harbor and some of the bigger canals, which gave us a sense of the city’s geography as well as a lot of the architecture.

Oslo was all closed while we were there because it was both Sunday and New Year’s Eve, but a walk through the sculpture garden, to the Fram museum to see a polar expedition ship, and a chance to see the Nobel buildings and then along the harbor was a nice way to spend the day before a fancy dinner at our hotel (The Thief) and a midnight toast on the roof. On New Year’s morning in a snowstorm, we made it to Oslo airport and up to dark Alta. The Sorrisniva Hotel was fully booked by the time we planned our trip (August), so we stayed in a little fishing lodge in the woods, down the driveway from Tristin and Trine Restaurant and past some sled dogs.

It was absolutely charming, and best of all, the very first night as we walked out of our lodge to dinner, the sky lit up with northern lights that continued to brighten and dance until we gave up and went to bed. I credit our very dark spot in the woods for the fantastic viewing. Our adventures in snowmobiling, reindeer sledding, snowshoeing, and king crab fishing all showed us different parts of the landscape and culture in northern Norway, and it was just…magical. We truly loved it.” —Kate Ogg

Read more reviews of Norway trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

START A TRIP TO SCANDINAVIA

Romania: “Since the trip was last-minute (before my daughter began her new career as a RN), and it was the height of tourist season, we wanted to pick a destination that was less traveled…”

Legendary Bran (Dracula) historical castle of Transylvania, Brasov region, Romania, Eastern Europe

Bran Castle (a.k.a. “Dracula’s Castle”) in Transylvania, Romania. Photo: Shutterstock

“I traveled to Romania on a last-minute graduation trip with my daughter, Amelia, in August 2023. We have done numerous trips with Wendy’s WOW List agents before and knew that finding an agent through Wendy was the only way to go. Even the destination of our trip was inspired by articles written by Wendy.

Since the trip was last-minute (before my daughter began her new career as a RN), and it was the height of tourist season, we wanted to pick a destination that was less traveled. We chose Romania, and Wendy matched us up with Raluca and Ioana. Important to us was connecting with the local people and understanding the country.

Raluca and Ioana set us up with a local guide, Tavi, whose personality matched well with us, which was a good thing since we drove around Romania for 10 days with him. We started in Bucharest, which was great for my daughter to learn what can happen to a country if you vote in a narcissist authoritarian as a leader and to understand what life was like under the latter parts of communist ruling. We had a university history professor give us a tour of an apartment frozen in time from the 1980s under communist rule. We enjoyed wonderful restaurants, an amazing art exhibit, and historical sites in the city.

In Transylvania we enjoyed visiting the Cris Bethlen Castle. It was particularly fun for us since one of our favorite horror movies, The Nun, was shot there. A local man who lives in town jumped in and gave us a detailed tour, including side stories on the actors during the filming. We went on an amazing mountain bike ride (about 20 miles) primarily in the hills and forests with some fun single track as well. The mountain bike guide had helped to build the trails, which will eventually connect a large portion of Transylvania for mountain bike tours.

We saw wonderful fortressed churches and cities throughout our trip, including the beautiful Sighisoara. Always enjoying them without crowds and with a random local who had the keys to let us in the church or describe some interesting tidbit of history through our guide as the interpreter.

We met a local weaver whose family had been doing traditional weaving for generations and who rescued a loom headed for destruction. We enjoyed a visit with a local herbalist whose herb garden was expansive and whose knowledge of remedies was sought out throughout the area. Here we enjoyed a dinner in her home, again understanding her story and her life and sharing ours. We enjoyed seeing the UNESCO site Viscri, supported by King Charles, and enjoyed the views from the fortressed church over the rolling hills.

We moved on to Brasov. Here we had a private tour of Bran Castle and had the opportunity to climb into the highest turret to view the mountain pass that the lookouts would use in centuries past. When we expressed interest in a hike, Tavi took us up a mountainside where he had helped a friend build a cabin. We met one of his friends, a local shepherd, and discussed bears threatening his flock.

Bottom line our visit was filled with unique experiences where we connected with the people of Romania and attempted to understand their stories. Romania is a beautiful, relatively undiscovered country with rich medieval history and more recent history of the rise and fall of communism. It is not as restored as other places in Western Europe, but its beauty, its history, and its people are wonderful to experience. The smaller crowds allow for a much more enjoyable visit than other European countries.”—Theresa Boone

Read more reviews of Romania trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

START A TRIP TO ROMANIA

Japan: “I wanted to take my youngest daughter to Japan to celebrate her high school graduation…”

Kyoto, Japan gardens at Heian Shrine in the spring season. - Image

Heian Shrine in Kyoto, Japan, during cherry blossom season. Photo: Shutterstock

“I wanted to take my youngest daughter to Japan to celebrate her high school graduation. Scott planned a fabulous and varied itinerary, and our guides were fantastic: They were very flexible to accommodate our interests and energy levels and very understanding of how a teenager would like to travel.

Scott arranged several special experiences based on the relationships he has formed. We had a cooking lesson with an amazing woman in her home, a fascinating dinner at a club with geishas, and a calligraphy lesson with an excellent teacher. We both loved Studio Ghibli and the Monkey Park.

Scott’s choice of hotels was wonderful. We slept so well every night, particularly at our ryokan. The Mandarin Oriental serves a fantastic breakfast buffet. The Ritz-Carlton was very luxurious (and yes—we did see Leonardo Di Caprio there). We were particularly fortunate that the cherry blossoms came out when we got there and we got to experience the beauty of the season. Throughout the trip, I was able to sit back and relax and enjoy everything because of Scott’s careful planning and knowledge of Japan. I would absolutely use him again and recommend him. I have been a fan of Wendy’s since her Condé Nast days. This is now my second special trip with her experts, and I plan on more. The level of professionalism is exceptional.” —Patricia Klein

Read more reviews of Japan trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below. 

START A TRIP TO JAPAN

Austria: “The official occasion for the trip was my son’s graduation from high school and sending him off to music school…”

Mirabell Gardens with the old historic Fortress Hohensalzburg in the background in Salzburg, Austria.

Salzburg, Austria, is Mozart’s birthplace and home to the Salzburg Music Festival. Photo: Shutterstock

“We just returned from a 14-day family trip in Austria planned by Gwen. I can only describe the experience as life-affirming. The official occasion for the trip was my son’s graduation from high school and sending him off to music school in the fall, so we had a heavy musical focus, but there was truly something for everyone in the family. We toured palaces and cathedrals in Vienna, experienced local food, watched the Lipizzaner stallions perform and had a private tour of the stables.

We moved on to the Wachau Valley for wine tasting and breathtaking Danube scenery, then visited the abbeys of Melk and Stift-Admont. In Salzburg, we soaked up the music festival, saw the fortress and countless Sound of Music film locations, attended a Mozart opera, a Vienna Philharmonic concert, and a world-class string quartet. We learned to make apple strudel and Salzburg Nockerl, and visited the charming lake district outside Salzburg. We rounded out our trip with several days in Innsbruck and a final train ride to Munich, where we celebrated my son’s birthday at a beer hall and caught our flight home.

Gwen was helpful and responsive and understood my family’s diverse needs. She steered us away from tourist traps and embraced our interest in some off-the-beaten-path locations. She suggested lovely boutique hotel experiences and guides with extraordinary depth of knowledge of their cities.” —Katherine Stadler

Read more reviews of Austria trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below. 

START A TRIP TO AUSTRIA

Italy: “Our eight-day food tour was requested by our 21-year-old son who was graduating from university…”

Bologna, Italy Food store food market showcase full of food in Bologna city in Italy

Bologna’s markets are a great place to learn about the renowned foods of the region. Photo: Shutterstock

“Our eight-day food tour of Italy was requested by our 21-year-old son, who was graduating from university. Milan was the starting point, next was Bologna to learn about the renowned foods of the region, and then a repeat visit to Florence—and we absolutely loved everything Maria planned. The drivers, guides, food tours, wine tasting, cooking class were all impeccable. In Milan, when our guide found out our son loved fashion, she made a call to a fashion designer, and we were able to meet with the designer. We spent an hour-plus speaking with him, trying on his designs, and buying some of his pieces.

In Bologna our guide took us on a delicious food tasting that culminated in copious amounts of prosciutto, hams, cheeses, bread, balsamic vinegar, wine. Our all-day food tour through Parma and Emilia-Romagna was incredible, as was the private wine tasting where we sat in the cellar with the vineyard owner for more than two hours, tasting food and wine pairings. The vineyard owner then asked our driver to detour us through the medieval village of Fontanellato, to view the castle and moat and to indulge in gelato.” —Deb Lurie

Read more reviews of Italy trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below. 

START A TRIP TO ITALY

Western Canada: “We recently traveled to British Columbia to celebrate our son’s high school graduation…”

Turquoise Wedgemount Lake and wild alpine flowers, Whistler, British Columbia Canada

Whistler, British Columbia, is a mecca for sporty travelers. Photo: Shutterstock

“We recently traveled to British Columbia to celebrate our son’s high school graduation. On Wendy Perrin’s recommendation, we contacted Sheri, who suggested that, given our time constraints, we limit our visit to Whistler and Tofino. That proved to be an excellent recommendation which allowed us to enjoy our vacation without being rushed. Our son wanted to mountain bike on Whistler/Blackcomb and truly enjoyed it.

Sheri suggested other activities which kept the rest of us active while our son spent the day on the mountain. Her recommendation that we stay at the Four Seasons Whistler was great. It’s a beautiful hotel with great staff and a wonderful breakfast. We enjoyed our time in Tofino as well; Sheri’s recommendations for lodging, food, and activities were perfect for us.” —John Masko

Read more reviews of British Columbia trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below. 

START A TRIP TO BRITISH COLUMBIA

Peru: “This was a special trip to Peru for my niece just graduating from high school. She is about to study marine biology in college…”

Aerial view of Amazon Rainforest, near Iquitos in Peru.

The Peruvian Amazon is a great place to learn about river wildlife. Photo: Shutterstock

“This was a special trip to Peru for my niece just graduating from high school. She is about to study marine biology in college, so Marisol steered us toward the right Amazon basin area we hadn’t even considered. My husband, niece, and I just returned yesterday from Peru and wanted to send a HUGE GRACIAS to Marisol and her crew for making this trip one of a lifetime! There’s no way I ever could have constructed such a wonderful journey on my own. For sure, it was packed, but we came back feeling we’d seen such a diversity in Peru.

It was a perfect balance of wildlife, culture, adventure and a bit of relaxation. And although the weather was terrible during our one-day Inca Trail hike, with rain and clouds obscuring Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate, we still wouldn’t change a thing. I will of course recommend and tell everyone I know to use Marisol—and to once again trust a Wendy Perrin specialist. Over the years, I have used and vetted many of Wendy’s travel specialists—and, no doubt, Marisol and her team are top of the list.” —Jon Paul Buchmeyer

Read more reviews of Peru trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below. 

START A TRIP TO PERU

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a couple kayaks through the ice in Alaska

An Alaska Anniversary Trip During Covid

a couple kayaks through the ice in Alaska
Kayaking, a bucket-list activity for Janette
couple fishing off back of boat in Alaska
Fishing at Whale Pass
couple on boat dock in alaska posing with fish from fishing trip
Our catch at Whale Pass
Covid testing tent at Petersburg airport Alaska
Covid testing tent at Petersburg airport
Coronavirus safety signs at Petersburg airport Alaska
Signage at Petersburg airport
traveler couple wearing masks in a float plane in Alaska
Wearing masks in the float plane
aerial view from airplane when Landing at Tutka Bay Lodge Alaska
Landing at Tutka Bay Lodge
a couple poses in the woods by a waterfall in Alaska
A waterfall hike
couuple in masks with luggage at airport
Before (leaving Houston)
couple posing on a boat in front of a glacier in Alaska
After (boating to a glacier)

 


 

This traveler got this trip by starting with this questionnaire.  For a safe, smart, extraordinary trip, go to The WOW List, find the best destination specialist for you, then click his/her CONTACT button to reach Wendy’s questionnaire.


 

What do you do when you planned a 25th anniversary trip for May of 2020, and then a global pandemic hits? You postpone it and, when the remote Alaskan lodges you’ve got your heart set on begin to reopen, and the state starts to admit travelers with proof of a negative Covid test, you finalize the date, call in the experts, get your Covid test, and go. That’s what frequent WOW List travelers Janette and James Gill of Houston did. They made their special milestone trip in July, capitalizing on Alaska’s prime time for weather and wildlife viewing.

You might remember that we spoke to Mrs. Gill back in March, at the start of the pandemic. At that time, she was visiting her daughter, who was studying abroad in Rome. The family was supposed to take a trip through Italy, but as the country’s caseload soared and Lombardy went on lockdown, they had to divert their itinerary. A few months later, the coronavirus forced them to change their plans once again—and yet they still had a great time on their anniversary trip and can’t wait to return to Alaska. We called Mrs. Gill shortly after they got home from their adventure, to find out all about it.

First, a note: While we at WendyPerrin.com do not encourage travel at this time, we believe it is possible to travel responsibly during this pandemic. We have done so ourselves—and we trust our community of global citizens to make smart choices for themselves and the people they’ll encounter. While most travelers want to wait until there is a vaccine for their next trip, some have asked us to help them travel safely and responsibly now—and we are happy to provide the intel and support they seek. We answer their questions every day at Ask Wendy. And we request their post-trip feedback as part of our effort to provide you with a realistic and useful view of the travel landscape right now. Thank you to the Gill family for talking to us about their trip and sharing information we know will be useful to other travelers.

Why did you choose Alaska?

We’d been there before and loved the open spaces, and the wildlife is amazing. The lodges are just so unique. We had stayed in the Winter Lake Lodge and this time we wanted to try its sister property, Tutka Bay Lodge.

Judith reached out to me a month or two into the pandemic to gauge how I was feeling. I said if the plane is flying and the resort is open and we’re not sick, we’re going—just because this is an expensive trip and something we’d been looking forward to all year.

What was the process of getting into Alaska, with the testing requirements?

Judith made sure I understood what was required. She let us know that we had to have a negative Covid test within 72 hours of travel. She sent me information on where I could go in Houston for the Covid test and walked me through the worst-case scenario if we didn’t get our results. This is the exact reason why we use travel specialists from WendyPerrin.com—for situations like this.

It ended up not being a problem because I was able to find someone [in Houston] to give a nasal swab test and results within two days, so we got the results during our Seattle stopover en route to Alaska. We were proceeding as if we were negative—and we were.

The Alaskans are very serious that no one who comes into their state is positive: They had Covid testing at several airports we went to. As long as the flight didn’t come from out of state, we didn’t have to keep showing the test, but we did carry the negative test with us.

You stayed in two lodges. Can you tell us about them?

We flew from Seattle to Ketchikan and took a float plane into the Lodge at Whale Pass, an amazing remote upscale adventure lodge. Mainly the focus there for us was fishing. We wanted to get remote because I love remote Alaska, away from cruise-ship passengers. Judith recommended it for the food too.

Only one other family was there when we were, and for dining we sat spaced out, but we had just gotten our negative test results and the other family obviously had too, so our masks came off the minute we arrived. We fished, went to see the beautiful glacier, and kayaked through the icebergs because that was on my bucket list. The lodge owners’ son was our boat captain, and they were both there. It’s a very cozy, family-run business. We stayed for three nights, and except for meals we were outside the entire time.

What was the second lodge and what activities were you able to do there?

Tutka Bay Lodge in Homer. To get there, we took Alaska Airlines to Anchorage. We had to spend one night in Anchorage, so we had made a reservation for dinner at one of our favorite places we’d been to before. Everyone around town had masks on; of course, we didn’t while we were eating. And then we had an early morning float plane out to Tutka.

We arrived fairly early in the morning. The weather was beautiful, the lodge was everything I imagined it would be, and I can’t wait to go back. They wore masks inside the common area, and there was another family that was leaving as we were arriving, so we were the only family there.

After lunch we hiked with a guide around the beautiful property and then went on a boat ride. The captain wore a mask, and we sat in the back in the open air so we didn’t wear any. Then we hiked, and that night we had a fantastic meal outside. The next morning, at about 6 a.m., we headed out on a bear-viewing adventure. We saw seven bears, a mom with her cubs, a red fox, and a couple of eagles in their nests with babies inside. It was just a fantastic day.

But that was the day you got the news about the restaurant you’d dined at in Anchorage, right?

We got back to Homer at about 2:30 in the afternoon and there was somebody waiting for us. They said, There’s some bad news: There’s an issue with the restaurant you dined at Sunday night: It has shut down because an employee has tested positive. They didn’t yet know which employee or whether that employee was even working when we were there. But the lodge made the safety decision that we would not be returning.

Kirsten, the owner of the lodge, got on the phone with us, and since they were unable to find a rental car for us, she very graciously offered to lend us her vehicle for the four-and-a-half-hour drive from Homer back to Anchorage. They packed all our stuff for us, along with lunch and snacks for the car, and brought it over by boat.

How did you feel?

I was very disappointed but, when you travel in a pandemic, you take that risk that things may change. Alaska is very clear about what happens if you get Covid while traveling: You have to quarantine on your own dime. It turned out, though, that the employee who had tested positive was a dishwasher who wasn’t even working on the day that we were there. So, rather than stay in Anchorage, we opted to head on home.

Tutka Bay Lodge very graciously offered to let us come back later for the unused portion of our stay, and Judith credited us back for the unused portion of the chartered flight that we didn’t use on the return to Anchorage.

[Editor’s note: To be clear, Mr. and Mrs. Gill were not exposed to the virus at the restaurant. They returned home more than two weeks ago and did not get sick.]

Despite the restaurant scare, was the trip worth it?

Absolutely, just for being able to be out in the fresh air and do all the activities we had planned. Everything other than sleeping and eating, you’re outdoors—and some of the meals were outside too. I felt a lot more comfortable being outdoors, but also I’m one who is going to live my life. I’m not going to live in fear.

 

We can help you figure out how to safely plan your own trip and direct you to the right travel specialist for your needs. Write to us at Ask Wendy.

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

couple toasts with champagne in zodiac boat Endicott Arm Alaska

WOW Moment: A Fjord of One’s Own

Photo: Seabourn
Photo: Seabourn
Photo: Seabourn
Photo: Seabourn
Photo: Frank Ott
Photo: Frank Ott
Photo: Frank Ott
Photo: Frank Ott
Photo: Frank Ott
Photo: Seabourn

 

Frank Ott is not a cruise person. “I don’t like cruises,” he told us on the phone from his home in Ringwood, New Jersey. “We once had a family reunion on a cruise out of New York. It was my worst nightmare because it was 3,800 people on the boat.”

Yet he and his wife, Angie Sebastiano, had always wanted to sail the Alaskan coastline. So when they started researching which ship would be best for them—one that had luxury and space but not crowds—they turned to Tom Baker, one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for cruises. Tom recommended the Seabourn Sojourn, which hosts just 458 passengers, provides 335 crew, and navigates into nooks and crannies that bigger ships can’t.

Adding to the challenge: Mr. Ott and Ms. Sebastiano were also due for a WOW Moment on this trip. Wendy’s WOW Moments are exclusive insider experiences earned by travelers who request trips through The WOW List. They vary depending on the location, timing, and logistics of a trip and could be anything from a meeting with a noteworthy local to an unusual activity to a special-access tour.

In this case, Wendy, Tom, and the folks at Seabourn collaborated to create a Moment that highlighted the unique beauty of this location and the personal preferences of these travelers: taking the couple on a private excursion to view the waterfalls, glaciers, harbor seals, and remote beauty of Endicott Arm. After they returned, we called Mr. Ott to hear how it played out.

Q: Were you surprised?

A: To be fair, it’s hard to keep a secret when you’re on a small ship. And we were 30 miles into this long fjord, so you really couldn’t surprise us. When all the passengers were getting ready to board the Zodiacs, the Seabourn Ventures team manager, named Chris, said, ‘Why don’t you and your wife wait here for a moment while I take everyone else down.’ So we figured it out. Especially when you step off the ship and get into the Zodiac and there’s a bottle of champagne in a bucket and caviar and a rose—you know it’s not the regular excursion you booked.

Q: Then what happened? Can you describe the WOW Moment for us?

A: So the ship’s Ventures photographer was there and a crew member was there and she was offering us champagne and caviar. (There’s nothing like champagne and caviar at 8:30 in the morning.) The Zodiac driver was an expert in geology—and that was perfect because she could explain the glaciers and how they were formed, why they recede, and what they leave behind. It was beautiful because we’re cruising around and trying to avoid small and medium-size icebergs and it was just the two of us. The location made it special—there’s nowhere more beautiful. We’ve traveled the world, but it was one of the most beautiful places to be in.

Also, just the amount of ice that we were Zodiac-ing between was incredible. We’ve been to Argentina, we’ve been to Punta Arenas, we’ve gone ferrying around glaciers, but this was spectacular because we were in a little boat surrounded by ice with a professional driving it. So we didn’t have any danger but we got up close and personal. And some of the pictures we have of the Seabourn ship just surrounded by ice….it’s a spectacularly beautiful place.

Q: You said you’re not a cruise person. What made this cruise different?

A: The draw was Alaska. And the ship Tom Baker recommended for us was ideal. This ship carries 450 passengers. There was so much space—so many empty places if you wanted to be by yourself, or you could join the crowd. And they had the best staff of anything I’d ever been on. I can’t think of anything that wasn’t good. There were 335 staff to 450 passengers, and the staff had 52 nationalities represented. I asked everyone, and I met 33 nationalities myself. Every single one seemed authentic in enjoying what they were doing, and they all knew your name by Day Two.

Q: How did the WOW Moment affect, or change, your experience of Alaska?

A: I expected Alaska to be beautiful, and it met that expectation; the WOW Moment made me understand the beauty better. Because of the Zodiac driver and her knowledge, I got to learn, more in-depth, the history and nature of Alaska. I wouldn’t have gotten that in a general Zodiac tour. I got to understand how the beauty came to be what it is today.

 


 

Wendy would like to thank Brian Badura, Seabourn’s Director of Global Public Relations and Strategic Initiatives, as well as the Seabourn Shore Excursions and Ventures teams, for creating such a magical WOW Moment for Mr. Ott and Ms. Sebastiano.

Wendy Wants To Amp Up Your Trip!

On every third qualifying trip, Wendy will add to your itinerary a surprise WOW Moment. A WOW Moment is an exclusive insider experience that helps make a trip extraordinary. Each WOW Moment is totally different. They vary depending on a huge range of factors, including the country you’re headed to, the timing of your trip, logistics, availability, and more. You can read a sampling of the more over-the-top WOW Moments (those most conducive to editorial coverage) here. Learn which trips qualify, and how the process works, here: Wendy Wants To Amp Up Your Trip!

Fly fishing at Winterlake Lodge, near Denali, Alaska.

Alaska: Plan Your Trip!

Alaska's Tracy Arm from the water, with mountains and water
Glacier trekking, Alaska
Glacier trekking, Alaska. Photograph by Jeff Schultz
A Kodiak brown bear, Alaska
A Kodiak brown bear, in Alaska
Alaskan brown bear sow and its cub at Brooks Falls in katmai National Park, Alaska
Kayaking through sculpted icebergs in Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness, Tongass National Forest, Southeast Alaska
Cascade Creek Trail, Thomas Bay, Tongass National Forest, Southeast Alaska
An adult humpback whale breaching

Your Alaska Trip Begins Here

Alaska occupies a unique place in the American imagination as our last frontier, the top of the world, a land of majestic glaciers, rugged men and women, and rivers lined with gold. Connected to the Lower 48 by a 1,400-mile highway, it is home to our tallest peak and our largest national park, almost four times the size of Yellowstone. Alaska is the Iditarod, the Kodiak bear, the northern lights, and the midnight sun.

But Alaska’s magnificence comes with a price. Getting from point A to point B can be expensive and time-consuming, and with most visitors traveling a single highway, a so-called five-hour drive can take all day in midsummer, the season of road construction and, yes, traffic jams. Visitors are often shocked at the price of lodging, meals, and transportation this far north, and disappointed when the bears, a prime tourist draw, don’t turn up at Brooks Falls for their photo op because, well, the salmon are somewhere else.

Factor in unpredictable weather and a mind-boggling wealth of attractions and it’s easy to see why you need help to make an Alaskan vacation the trip of your dreams. The solution is a travel planner with the specialized expertise necessary to navigate Alaska’s distinct challenges—someone who knows the absolute best things to see and do, and how to customize them into an itinerary that works for you.

Here at WendyPerrin.com, that’s my job—to connect you with the human-being travel planner who can make your next trip extraordinary. Fill out your wish list below, and I’ll point you toward the right person to plan your trip to Alaska.

When you submit the form, you’ll be marked as a WendyPerrin.com V.I.P. traveler, and when you’re ready to start planning your trip with one of the Trusted Travel Experts on my WOW List, you’ll get special benefits and my trip-monitoring service too! All information you provide is private; it will be seen only by me and the Trusted Travel Expert I recommend for you.

 

Start Your Alaska Trip Here

Beer sampler at Cerveceria de Valle Peru

It’s National Beer Day. Where In the World Is Your Favorite Beer?

We love food holidays: National Beer Day, which falls today, is at the top of the list (along with World Nutella Day on February 5, and National Ice Cream Day on July 19). What better way to celebrate your hard-working self on this gloomy Tuesday than with a cold pint at the end of the day…or at lunch, if you can get away with it. Actually, there is a better way: Use today as an inspiration to start planning a trip to a great beer destination. Our Trusted Travel Experts weighed in with some of their favorite spots around the world to take advantage of well-stocked pubs, restaurants with notable beer selections, and picnic spots where nothing beats fresh market food and a local bottle of brew.

Alaska

Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge

Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge, Alaska

Moose’s Tooth brewpub in Anchorage. Maybe it’s the convivial atmosphere or the inspired pizza toppings (smoked salmon? apricot sauce?)—or perhaps it’s simply the strong beer on tap, but for whatever reason, it’s a favorite local haunt. —Judith Root, Trusted Travel Expert for Alaska

Read Judith’s Insider’s Guide to Alaska

Barcelona

Plaza España, Barcelona

Plaza España, Barcelona Photograph by Jaime Gros

Friends while away entire afternoons at Vaso de Oro, a tapas restaurant in the seaside district of La Barceloneta. The place hasn’t changed in 50 years, and the food is consistently superb. Try the homemade foie gras and the house-brewed beer. —Virginia Irurita, Trusted Travel Expert for Spain

Read Virginia’s Insider’s Guide to Barcelona

Cape Town

Chapmans Peak, South Africa

View from Chapmans Peak. Photo courtesy South Africa Tourism.

Woodstock’s Old Biscuit Mill on Saturdays. Over 100 farmers, bakers, grocers, fishmongers, butchers, craft-beer-brewers and chefs set up at this market each week. —Julian Harrison, Trusted Travel Expert for Africa

Read Julian’s Insider’s Guide to Cape Town and the Winelands

County Kerry, Ireland

Ring of Kerry, Killarney. Courtesy Jonathon Epstein

Ring of Kerry, Killarney. Courtesy Jonathon Epstein

Helen Sullivan’s pub and restaurant in Kilmackalogue, on the Beara Peninsula, is a place so charming that you won’t believe it’s for real. It’s smack on the sea, and the fish and famous mussels she serves are all freshly caught. Experiences don’t come any more authentic than at Sullivan’s. —Jonthan Epstein, Trusted Travel Expert for England, Ireland, and Scotland

Read Jonathan’s Insider’s Guide to Killarney and County Kerry, Ireland

Florence

Pick up picnic provisions upstairs at the Mercato Centrale, where you’ll find tasting stands with ready-to-eat wares and specialty shops selling everything from Tuscan cheeses to artisanal beer. Once you’ve stocked up, hail a taxi to take you about seven miles from Florence’s center to Pratolino, where the Park of Villa Demidoff awaits. This estate, originally built by the Medicis in the mid-1500s, had been abandoned for centuries before Prince Paolo Demidoff restored it in 1872. Now a public park, the grounds are dotted with the remains of the original artificial caves and fountains, a number of statues, a small lake, and miles of walking paths. —Maria Gabriella Landers and Brian Dore, Trusted Travel Experts for Italy

Read Maria and Brian’s Insider’s Guide to Florence

Juigalpa, Nicaragua

Restaurant la Embajada. It’s in the town of Juigalpa, on the way from Managua to San Carlos, and it’s impossible to find on your own. There’s no sign, no nothing. They serve only meat—great quality meat! (Juigalpa is one of the most important cattle areas of Nicaragua.) Wash it down with a local Toña beer, then go a block away to buy some fresh cheese. — Pierre Gédéon, Trusted Travel Expert for Nicaragua

Read Pierre’s Insider’s Guide to Nicaragua

Peru

The Cerveceria del Valle brewery in the Sacred Valley on the way to Machu Picchu. Inaugurated in October 2014, Cerveceria produces delicious IPAs, porters, pale ales, and other brews found in bars in the valley and in Cusco; we can organize a guided tour with the owner. Peru’s craft-beer scene has exploded over the past few years; a 2014 festival in Lima showcased 60 types of craft beer from 16 different breweries. —Marisol Mosquera, Trusted Travel Expert for Peru

Read Marisol’s Insider’s Guide to Peru for Food Lovers

Prague

Charles Bridge. Photo by Dan Weisberg Photography.

Charles Bridge. Photo by Dan Weisberg Photography.

For a splurge, spend an evening at La Degustation Boheme Bourgeoisie in Prague. It’s an event to eat at this small Michelin-starred restaurant in Old Town, where the six- and eleven-course tasting menus imaginatively update traditional Czech fare: think garlicky pastry-crusted beef tartare and a meringue-like tomato dish filled with honey and balsamic vinegar. Courses are paired with complementary wines, beers, and fruit juices.

For a cheaper thrill, hit the pubs, which are everywhere in Prague, and Czech beers are good and affordable. You can drink the most famous brand, Pilsner Urquell, virtually anywhere. —Gwen Kozlowski, Trusted Travel Expert for Eastern Europe

Read Gwen’s Insider’s Guide to the Czech Republic

Trancoso, Brazil

Don’t miss Caraiva. After a two-hour drive down dirt tracks and a ferry ride over the river, you come to the tiny village of Caraiva, as cut off from the outside world as it’s humanly possible to be these days. Pull up a stump in the shade of the almond tree at the Boteco do Pará; order a portion of skate-wing pasteis, the catch-of-the-day baked in a banana leaf, and an ice-cold beer; and spend a lazy afternoon watching the colorful fishing boats come and go. —Paul Irvine, Trusted Travel Expert for Brazil

Read Paul’s Insider’s Guide to Trancoso

 

Where’s your favorite beer destination? Tell us in the comments!

Wendy in Arctic Alaska with a satellite phone

Why You Need a Satellite Phone

Question:

Hi Wendy,

My husband travels to Canada and Alaska often and I would like to get him a satellite phone for safety.  Have you ever reviewed them?

Thanks,

—Sharon

Answer:

A satellite phone or messaging device can be a lifesaver in remote regions where there are no cellular networks. They can also be a lifesaver in emergency or disaster situations where cellular networks crash or become overloaded.

Sharon, while I’ve carried a satellite phone with me to remote corners of the globe—including Arctic Alaska—mercifully I’ve been spared any emergencies and thus am hardly an expert on which device is best. So I’ve reached out to just such an expert for you.  Dan Richards is the CEO and founder of Global Rescue, which provides worldwide emergency-evacuation and medical-assistance services.  In fact, last week his team rescued John All, the American climber who fell into the Himalayan crevasse in Nepal. All was carrying a DeLorme inReach satellite messenger device, which allows two-way text messaging by satellite anywhere in the world, and that’s how Global Rescue coached him on how to survive until the rescue helicopter arrived.

Here’s Richards’ advice for you:

“An Iridium satellite phone is a great choice. It offers voice capabilities and, with a reliably clear signal, nothing is left to interpretation. The Iridium has an emergency button so you can input emergency phone and email contacts. The Iridium also offers SMS text and email capabilities. The Iridium Extreme is the top of the line and offers GPS and tracking services. You can expect to spend in the range of $500-$1,500 on a satellite phone.  Many vendors also rent satellite phones for about $75 per week plus airtime.

A less expensive alternative to consider is a satellite messaging device. There is no voice option, but you get 160-character two-way text messaging anywhere in the world.

Since satellite phones rely on line-of-sight with their satellites to establish a connection, they work best in open areas with a clear view of the sky.  Using them indoors, in vehicles, and even in a city surrounded by tall building and wires may hinder your signal.”

Richards adds that satellite phone use is restricted or even illegal in certain countries—including India, Myanmar, Cuba, Iran, Poland, and Hungary—so it’s wise to confirm coverage with your provider before purchasing or renting a phone and to research possible restrictions imposed by the countries you’ll be visiting.