Tag Archives: holiday

William FIsher

Spring Break: Unusual Ideas for an Amazing Family Trip

You may think that traveling over school holidays means you must tolerate crowds and inflated prices—and that’s true, if you head for a predictable destination like Hawaii or Mexico over spring break. But if you expand your horizons to consider the unexpected, spring can be a brilliant time to travel to places that aren’t in peak season. Our own team follows this advice: We’ve taken our families to Morocco, Namibia, and Southeast Asia during our kids’ spring breaks.

Below you’ll find more firsthand reports of family-friendly trips that were educational, active, and thrilling. These travelers all took advantage of a Trusted Travel Expert’s insider intel and careful planning to make the most of their kids’ limited time away from elementary school, high school, or college. Here’s what it means to get a WOW trip.


Keeping school-age kids active in Iceland

Iceland waterfall Skogafoss in Icelandic nature landscape. Famous tourist attractions and landmarks destination in Icelandic nature landscape on South Iceland. Aerial drone view of top waterfall. -

Skogafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland. Photo: Shutterstock

Chris planned an absolutely wonderful Icelandic trip for our family. He listened when I said we wanted to be active and see as much as we could in our eight days but needed to balance some self-guided days, as well downtime. The result was a trip we will never forget. The relationships Chris has with his outfitters made us feel taken care of, and we had the best time with Andres, who guided us to a river that is warmed by a nearby geyser that he dammed up with rocks and moss so we could have our own private hot tub while he made us lunch.

We will never forget our hike in the Katla Ice Caves in the heart of a glacier, our ATV ride on Black Beach, horseback riding to waterfalls, the glacier lagoon and the cool local restaurants Chris suggested. It almost felt like Chris personally planned the rainbows on our waterfall days! The self-guided days went off without a hitch, thanks to the meticulous details Chris provides. We never got lost, knew exactly where to park, and knew what to avoid and when to leave—even at the most touristy areas. We saw everything we wanted and never once felt rushed.” —Gina Melton

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


The Philippines: mother/daughter scuba diving trip

Two travelers on a boat about to do a dive.

Andrea Phillips and her daughter on a boat about to do a dive in the Philippines.

“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.


Meeting a daughter studying in Spain: Andalusia’s countryside, Semana Santa in Seville…

A village with white houses and a church surrounded by mountains.

The White Villages of the Genal Valley in Malaga, Spain. Photo: Shutterstock

“My family had a wonderful 17-day trip to Spain planned by Iván. During the planning phase Iván listened closely to my goals for the trip and provided a number of relevant activities that would suit us. Perhaps the most memorable experience we had was a hike between two mountain villages in the Genal Valley. We walked along a path used by local villagers to tend their vegetable gardens and olive groves and ended at the home of a charismatic local chef where we enjoyed a lunch that might have been the best meal on our trip. It was gorgeous scenery and we didn’t encounter a single other tourist.

Another highlight was viewing Seville’s legendary Semana Santa processions from a private balcony. When rain caused delays we enjoyed drinking wine and practicing our Spanish with our gracious hosts. If you are considering a trip to Spain, and especially to Andalusia, you can’t go wrong with Iván. I hope to have reason to use his services again soon.” —Melissa Pollack

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


Oman with teens: “Varied landscapes, warm/friendly people, interesting culture and very few Americans”

Tracy Reller's daughter with a local little boy during the meal in Oman.

Tracy Reller’s daughter poses with a little boy during dinner in his family’s home.

“Our family (with two 17-year-olds) spent an amazing spring break in Oman! It offers varied landscapes, warm/friendly people, interesting culture and very few Americans. Dan did a great job planning a family trip that included a bit of everything Oman offers. We explored the capital of Muscat, visited mosques/forts/small towns/abandoned towns, snorkeled with turtles, dined with a local family, spent a night at a tent camp in the desert and hiked in wadis and mountains.

Our guide, Fahad, was superb and really added to our trip. We spent a good amount of time driving around the northern part of the country and had many interesting conversations about religion, daily life, challenges of our respective countries, history of Oman and Sultan Qaboos. This is the main reason we use Wendy Perrin and the travel specialists. You get built-in access to locals and closer to the local culture and way of life. Fahad was fine with our eating and drinking in the car despite his fasting during Ramadan and even stopped at grocery stores for us to get mid-day snacks, allowing us to eat despite many restaurants being closed during the day.

Our dinner with a local Omani family gave us a peek into their home life, such as seeing typical sibling interactions, eating on the floor and our teenagers engaging their 4-year-old boy in an amusing game of indoor soccer. We felt very fortunate to be able to share Iftar (fast-breaking evening meal of Muslims during Ramadan) while learning about Ramadan, Omani education, family sizes and new foods.” —Tracy Reller

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


Umbria and Rome: truffle hunting, soccer game, kid-friendly Vatican tour…

The ceiling of Sistine Chapel painted in fresco, Vatican, Rome.

The ceiling of Sistine Chapel in Vatican, Rome. Photo: Shutterstock

“I cannot say enough good things about our recent trip to Italy planned by Maria. I traveled with my husband and 9-year-old son to Umbria and Rome during our school spring break.

When Maria recommended making restaurant reservations in the weeks before our trip, I was too overwhelmed to even begin to choose, so I asked her if she could just book for us. We had wonderful meals every night (not a tourist trap in sight), and not having to stress about where to go was priceless.

Also notable was that a number of our (amazing!) guides mentioned that they typically have their own businesses, etc., and they currently will only do tours for Maria—a true testament to her relationships in the area.

We started off with five days in Umbria based out of Montefalco at the Palazzo Bontadosi. We all fell in love with this intimate hotel right on the piazza. It was quiet (but not too quiet), intimate (but not awkwardly so), and we often felt like the only ones there, while still having attentive service whenever we needed it. This was the perfect jumping-off point for daily excursions to the nearby towns of Perugia, Assisi, Spoleto, Spello and Orvieto.

Standout moments were: (1) A truffle hunt in the hills above Spoleto. We loved getting to hike through the hills of this beautiful farm, trailing behind the truffle dogs. After the hike, we sat down to lunch with the farmers and enjoyed an incredible 6-course meal with food from their farm and local area. (2) A wine tasting and meal at an enoteca in Spello. One of those absolutely perfect evenings (which happened to be my husband’s birthday). We had the place to ourselves, dined outside, a perfect temperature…and a truly incredible menu that paired perfectly with the wine poured for us by a master sommelier and his sommelier son. Unforgettable.

We then moved on to Rome, where we stayed at another lovely hotel, away from the crush of tourists, but just minutes away from the action. We were worried about how our son would handle the Vatican tour, but thank gosh we kept it on the itinerary because the guide was AMAZING. She was so passionate and turned the whole experience into a game to keep him engaged, giving him things to seek out and assigning points when he succeeded. Maria was also able to get us (very hard to come by) soccer tickets for the Rome vs. Lazio derby. We also had an AMAZING walking food tour with the loveliest guide (yet another expert who only does tours for Maria).” —Kathryn Blaze

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


Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman: city, desert and beach with a teen

Traveler Lauren Schor and family ventured into the desert outside Dubai via vintage Land Rovers.

Lauren Schor and family ventured into the desert outside Dubai via vintage Land Rovers.

Justin planned an amazing spring break week for our family of three. We spent four nights in Dubai and three nights at a beach resort in Oman. There are so many areas to stay in Dubai, but he suggested staying downtown (at the Armani Hotel) because he thought our teenage daughter would like being in close proximity to the Dubai Mall, and he was right!

Justin arranged a private yacht cruise around the harbor, which was amazing, as we got to see so much of the city from the water (vs. sitting in traffic to drive around and see everything). The next day we went on a luxury desert excursion. Having been to the Sahara in Morocco, we were skeptical about doing something so similar, and Justin was confident that it would be a completely different experience than we had in Morocco and again, he was correct! We loved it, definitely one of the highlights of our trip!

We also did a day trip to Abu Dhabi from Dubai, which was great! While we could have stayed by the beach here for a few days, Justin instead suggested we take the two-hour drive to the Six Senses resort at Zighy Bay in Oman. Once again, Justin was right! We have traveled a lot all over the world, and this was one of the most special and amazing resorts in the most gorgeous setting that we have ever been to. The resort offers incredible activities such as paragliding, which I would highly recommend—an unforgettable and bucket list experience!

But the biggest thing that Justin helped with was jumping into action when our international flight from the States got canceled at the last minute and we couldn’t get onto another flight for 48 hours. Justin communicated with me over a holiday weekend and at all hours of the night so that we could get everything pushed back by two days on our itinerary, and in the end it was seamless and everything worked out perfectly! A lot of people have asked if we felt safe being in the Middle East and I can say, without hesitation, that we felt 100% safe 100% of the time.” —Lauren Schor

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


Malta with grandparents, children, and grandchildren ages 16 to 10

William Fisher

The Fisher Family enjoying a picnic lunch in Malta during their spring break trip.

“Our family group of nine just returned from a week-long spring break trip to the Maltese Islands, organized by Damon and Denise. The trip included grandparents, children, and grandchildren ages 16 to 10. The trip was exceptionally well organized due to the time Damon spent prior to the trip determining what our interests were and how to maximize time spent making memories with our grandchildren.

The itinerary was heavy on outdoor activities to keep the grandkids engaged. Our activities included quad-biking on Gozo; a multi-course picnic lunch with wine on a secluded bay, followed by bocce ball with local players; touring the ruins of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra temples; and an amazing afternoon with the local falconer, who brought an owl, Harris hawk, and Maltese falcon to share with the entire group. We took a private tour of Underground Valletta and a private Dghajsa boat ride across the Valletta harbor for more exploration. We visited a baker and his wife where we made a local pastry called pastizzi, spent time with a local artisan who made musical instruments, visited a honey farm, and ended the day with a visit to a sheep farm where we sampled some delicious cheeses.

We stayed in a beautiful villa in Gozo that included a heated indoor swimming pool! You can imagine how excited the grandkids were when they walked in the front door and saw an indoor pool. Our lodging in Valletta was equally impressive, but in a different way. It was a castle-like structure built in the late 1500s that had been updated to include all the amenities of the current day. Our driver throughout our adventure was Super Mario. He was absolutely delightful! Always on time, always helpful, and always attentive to everyone’s needs, which were often a challenge. The entire experience was exceptional.” —William Fisher

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


Poland with teens: WWII history, ancestral roots, gingerbread…

Beautiful Krakow market square, Poland, Europe.

Krakow market square in Poland. Photo: Shutterstock

“Our family of four (two boys, 17 and 15) did two weeks from Gdansk to Torun to Warsaw to Krakow. Gwen suggested Torun, a medieval city known for its gingerbread—which we loved and highly recommend. She also encouraged the Museum of the Second World War in Gdansk, and we are so happy she did—it was one of our favorites. In Warsaw a must-see is the museum POLIN (Jews in Poland). It is hands-down one of the best history museums we have ever visited and a can’t-miss in Warsaw. Gwen arranged a gingerbread-making class in Torun and a pierogi-making class in Krakow—these were both incredibly unique and memorable.

The most special part of our trip was Gwen arranging a driver and guide to take us to the small village two hours east of Krakow to the cemetery where my great-great grandparents were buried—and all we had to go on was an old print with a few sentences of my great-grandfather’s handwriting on the back.

Gwen’s guides made all the difference: At the Solidarity Museum in Gdansk, our guide Kasha shared how she remembered the day martial law was imposed because her son had an earache that day and she had to go out and get medicine—you can’t get that from a wall placard! And at the Schindler Museum in Krakow, Marta was able to navigate us through the throngs (like hundreds!) of people at the entrance. Similarly, at Auschwitz, our guide was able to get us quickly through the crowds and confusion.” —Julie Heimark

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


Costa Rica with elementary, high school & college-age kids

White-Headed Capuchin monkey in Manuel Antonio, the rainforest of Costa Rica.

White-Headed Capuchin monkey in Manuel Antonio, the rainforest of Costa Rica. Photo: Shutterstock

“My wife and I, along with our three children (elementary, high school, and college age), worked with Priscilla in the planning of a trip to Costa Rica in March. We were able to mix in plenty of activities with some relaxation.

Our first stay was at The Springs Resort and Spa in the Arenal Volcano area. The hotel offered plenty for the children to do beyond swimming. The waterfall rappelling excursion Priscilla recommended was very fun. At the hotel we spotted sloths and toucans, and the view of the volcano from the hotel room was spectacular.

Our next stop was La Paloma Lodge in Drake Bay, on the Osa Peninsula. The Sunset Rancho offered a fantastic view of the ocean, and the meals were great. Our excursion to Corcovado National Park was a highlight and we were able to see Howler Monkeys and troops of both White Faced Capuchin and Spider Monkeys. We also saw an arboreal anteater, Coatimundis, and a saltwater crocodile. Priscilla set up a wonderful night tour where we were able to see snakes, frogs, spiders, a scorpion, and even a fleeting glimpse of a Kinkajou. Cocolito Beach by the lodge offered some great waves for boogie boarding and never felt crowded. From beginning to end, Priscilla and the team provided a lot of details/organization so we could just enjoy the trip.” —Nelson Mongiovi

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


Belize with 6 people ranging in age from 17 to 60: “an unforgettable experience for the whole family”

Xunantunich Mayan ruins in Belize

Xunantunich Mayan ruins. Photo: Absolute Belize

“We travel a lot but generally to the beaten-track destinations, so Belize was a bit exciting and scary when we were planning! But with Patricia’s help it was an amazing trip that was an unforgettable experience for the whole family—everyone (6 people ranging in age from 17 to 60) loved it (which is rare) and Patricia’s help was just invaluable—so thank you!

In Ambergris Cay we stayed at the Alaia—loved this resort and our villa! Obviously the seaweed situation now is unfortunate, but nothing anyone can do and it affects many Caribbean and Mexican destinations. Loved our snorkeling trip—the reef here is amazing!

Then we moved on to the jungle and Ka-Ana resort—the rooms were very nice and the people were lovely and the special birthday dinner they put together for two members of our party who had a birthday while there was just amazing! This was our favorite part of the trip. All of the activities with Darryl of Unbelizable Adventures were amazing and we all loved Darryl as a guide—just the right balance for us of adventure and caution, of educating us but not droning on or being boring! The Caracol and Xunantunich Mayan ruin tours were amazing (lots of monkeys and wildlife too!), but the pontoon boat trip was an amazing highlight—I don’t think the description in the brochure does it justice! We all had the most amazing day.

Finally we stayed in Placencia at Itzana—loved the resort and the villa and the location. Adored the snorkeling trip to that amazing small island (bird something?); such a fun day in the Caribbean. We enjoyed the spice-farm and chocolate-farm tours as well as a Mayan cooking and drumming demonstration. We also all loved the boat tour of the bioluminescent lagoon and are very glad we added it!

All the flights and arrangements went very smoothly and we had a great trip and loved Belize!”—Regina Olshan

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


Galapagos: small-boat cruise with a kid-friendly crew

photo of Sea turtle swimming underwater in the Galapagos island

Sea turtle swimming underwater in the Galapagos island. Photo: Shutterstock

“My family of four (two parents, 10yr old, 12yr old) took a one-week Galapagos cruise aboard the Elite. Allie planned the trip. EVERY aspect of the journey was incredible, and none of us wanted to leave.

We plan 90% of our travel on our own, but with a trip like this, which we thought would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, we wanted to be 100% sure we got it right. We are so happy Wendy linked us up with Allie. Allie was essential to helping us sort through the blizzard of options (land-based or boat-based? which of a hundred boats? large or small? monohull or cat? four-day or longer? etc.). She helped us make it perfect. So perfect that maybe it won’t be once-in-a-lifetime.

With Allie’s guidance we chose a small boat (the Elite has a 16-person max). Small boats can be rocky, so she steered us toward a catamaran for more stability, to minimize the risk of seasickness. The water was generally smooth, but on one or two nights with bigger waves, we were very happy to have two hulls, especially while watching how tippy the monohulls were. We didn’t really think about it beforehand, but being aboard a catamaran allowed for a wider beam and more spacious rooms on board.

The reason to go to the Galapagos is the geological and natural history, so I’ll start there. We saw blue-footed boobies, courting frigate birds, gulls, Galapagos hawks (hunting and eating marine iguanas!) and more. We encountered a number of Galapagos tortoises in the wild. In the water, on numerous snorkeling activities, we saw more types of reef fish than I could name, from little gobis and half-inch baby puffers up to tuna. Small sharks skimmed the bottom, oblivious of us. Penguins flashed by, within a few feet, as they hunted, and we actually saw them catching fish. We never sought out sea lions because as soon as we hit the water, they found us, swimming within inches of us in circles and loops, trying to get us to play with them. Pods of sea turtles munched on algae as we floated above, swimming so close to us at times that we actually had to struggle to swim away in order not to contact or disturb them. It was simply mind-boggling how many amazing animals we saw up close.

My 12yr old was captivated by being on a boat and got to know Marcello, the captain, and Rey, the first mate. They let him take the wheel a few times. Both were great with the kids aboard. On the zodiac boats that took us from the Elite to the shore, the guys who drove those boats also let our kids take the helm a couple times. The whole crew was super friendly and seemed committed to sharing their beautiful islands and making sure everyone left having had an extraordinary experience. They all had their specific jobs which they took seriously (it was a boat, after all, so it’s all serious at some point), but when they had time, they stepped outside their appointed roles to help guests or to point out interesting things. For example, one of the crew, Francis, snorkeled whenever he could and did a great job enhancing our experience, pointing out hard-to-spot creatures like sea cucumbers or rays camouflaged on the ocean bottom.

One unexpected aspect of the trip was the beauty of the islands. Had we never stepped ashore, the trip would have been memorable just for the gorgeous islands, striking sunsets, impressive vistas, and stunning beaches. I genuinely cannot think of anything that could be improved upon. We badly want to go again, bringing aunts, uncles, and cousins to share this exceptional experience.” —John Strachan

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


Southern Spain with daughters in college: food tours, an equestrian show, a Real Madrid Femeninos soccer match…

Aerial evening view of New Bridge over Guadalevin River in Ronda, Andalusia, Spain.

Aerial evening view of New Bridge over the Guadalevin River in Ronda, Andalusia. Photo: Shutterstock

“For the first of two weeks in Spain arranged by Pablo, my wife and my daughter who is about to graduate from college hit Seville, Cordoba, Jerez de la Frontera, Ronda, and Granada. It would be hard to pick a favorite, but the highlights were the bull ring and views in Ronda, the equestrian show and mini food tour in Jerez, the old town in Seville, and the Alhambra in Granada. The hotels were just what we asked Pablo for: small, boutique hotels with charm to spare.

Our second week saw us dropping our oldest at the airport and meeting our youngest, who is studying in Madrid for the spring. The highlight was being able to work with Pablo’s guide Alfonso, who took us through the Prado and through Toledo, El Escorial, and Segovia. Alfonso set us up with reservations at incredible restaurants for lunch in both Toledo and Segovia.

In Madrid we stayed at the Totem Hotel, which was absolutely fabulous. A sneaky favorite for us in Madrid was an unplanned visit to Alfredo di Stéfano stadium to see the Real Madrid Femeninos play a match. Another was an impromptu visit to an Arab bath in the lower part of a privately owned building in Toledo. This was only possible because of Alfonso’s incredible connections. Pablo and his team were great to work with, extremely accommodating, very well connected, and really delivered on what we asked for and more.” —Neil Theberge

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


London and Oxford with teens: “Our best family vacation by far”

Wynne Wages

Wynne Wages and family at Windsor Castle.

“This was our best family vacation by far. My “royalist” daughter was in literal tears when we walked up to Buckingham Palace…and her enthusiasm didn’t wane throughout the entire trip. Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London…so many places were thrilling for her (and for all of us!). When Tanner wanted to go by the Lindo Wing steps, our London guide, Mark, made the time…and made her day! Trey was enthralled with the behind-the-scenes tour of the Churchill War Rooms. We all were, actually.

In Oxford, our guide Elizabeth had such grace, knowledge, and love for Oxford. Not only do I want to be her best friend, but I want to be in her book club! Stratford-Upon-Avon was great; unfortunately, Anne Hathaway’s cottage was closed, so we missed going there. But we added a stop to Holy Trinity Church and Shakespeare’s grave, so that eased the pain! Both hotels—the Chesterfield Mayfair in London and the Old Bank in Oxford—were lovely, with perfect locations. Jennifer listened to our desires, planned a wonderful trip which checked all of the boxes for our various family members, and was incredibly patient and kind throughout the entire process.” —Wynne Wages

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


Egypt: temples & museums for 8- and 9-year-olds

Part of the Mortuary temple of the Queen Hatshepsut (Dayr el-Bahari or Dayr el-Bahri), Western Bank of the Nile

Hatshepsut temple, Egypt. Photo: Shutterstock

“For spring break this year in early April, my husband and I took our 8- and 9-year old children to Cairo, Aswan, Abu Simbel — and then did a spectacular Nile cruise for a few days on a small dahabiya, ending in Luxor. Thanks to Jim‘s great team (and Arlene’s endless patience!) we were able to have the bucket-list family vacation of my dreams! We were taken care of every step of the way, met by kind guides and cool cars that helped up beat the heat while seeing loads of spectacular sites efficiently.

In Cairo, Max met us at the airport and sped us through security — he was a consummate gentleman. Iman, our guide, was deeply knowledgeable, and her ability to stay one step ahead of the crowds really made the difference when we visited the pyramids and Sphinx — where we had the Sphinx all to ourselves, silent in the morning! When our children faded early on our first day (a combination of much walking and the heat), Iman transitioned smoothly into dropping us off so the kids could rest. It was such a treat to be able to visit the Grand Egyptian Museum before it officially opened to the public — even though all of the spaces weren’t open to viewing, it was a tantalizing peek at a world-class institution.

We were grateful to have Max’s assistance navigating the Cairo airport for our domestic flight to Aswan — and when we arrived in Aswan, to stay at the Old Cataract was mind-blowing. We were in the newer tower of the hotel — it was slightly suboptimal to not have adjoining rooms, but they were on the same floor at least. The Philae temple and the quarry were astonishing. Our day trip down to Abu Simbel was a memory we will all cherish as well — the engineering feat that the Egyptian government & UNESCO accomplished by moving the temples to higher ground was truly an astonishing feat.

Our Nile cruise on a five-cabin dahabiya was beautiful and calm, and a lovely respite. I worried about bugs, but we didn’t have any problems, and the food was delicious — every meal was delicious! Our favorite temple was the Temple of Horus at Edfu; the Egyptologist on the boat was terrific and really picked up on our kids’ favorite gods and made a point of highlighting them when we’d tour sites, which really brought the temples to life for them.

We disembarked at Luxor and went straight to the temple there — the hypostyle hall full of columns is astonishing. From there, we went to the Valley of the Kings, where our guide recommended a set of tombs to visit. It was hottest in Luxor — fortunately the Al Moudira was a luxurious oasis!

After flying back to Cairo, we had an unexpected last day to fill due to an evening flight — so Max’s team stepped in and got us tickets to the mummies at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization and King Tut at the Egyptian Museum.

We were a little trepidatious because it was Ramadan — but we had no problems finding food, nor were we ever in an uncomfortable position eating in front of our guides. We felt safe the whole time, and are eternally grateful for everyone’s kindness!”—Nicole Neily

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


Ireland with teens: “perfect mix of sightseeing, adventure, and downtime”

Killarney National Park with a scenic tour from Killarney Jaunting Cars.

Horse tour in Killarney National Park. Photo: Shutterstock

“My friend and I took our four teenage sons on a March spring break trip to Ireland arranged by Jonathan. It was a mix of sightseeing, adventure, and downtime that was perfect for all of us. I can’t speak highly enough about our time with our private drive-guide, Frank. Frank got to know the boys and their interests and went out of his way to add to the itinerary with activities such as Gaelic Games and time with a local club soccer team. Our boys loved getting to spend time with other teens from Ireland.

Some favorite activities were our boat ride in Killarney National Park followed by a seven-mile jaunting cart ride. The Galway food walking tour was a hit for all. While the rest of our group did Gaelic games, I did a walking tour of Dublin and had a wonderful time learning about Dublin past and present.

This is my second trip that I have done going through your WOW List. Your trip planners make vacations memorable and special. I will never plan a trip without going through Wendy Perrin—and I freely share this advice with others.” —Jennifer Brown

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


Portugal with teens: unique family-friendly experiences

Lisbon, Portugal skyline with Sao Jorge Castle

Lisbon, Portugal. Photo: Shutterstock

Gonçalo arranged a two-week tour of Portugal for our family of four over spring break 2022. We spent six days in Lisbon, five days exploring the hilltop Templar castelos of Central Portugal, and then three nights in the Azores. Gonçalo and his team were very responsive and provided great support, and his hotel recommendations were spot on. We loved Hotel Bairro Alto in Lisbon—luxurious, great balcony for drinks and dining, fantastic location. And São Lourenço do Barrocal in the Alentejo is now up there with one of my favorites in the world—think a Portuguese Meadowood.  Just an exquisite property, and I’m already dreaming of a return trip there.

Gonçalo planned many unique experiences for us—a graffiti workshop, dinner in a Portuguese home (the best food we ate the entire trip), rail biking outside Mervão (my 16-year-old’s favorite), stargazing in Dark Sky Alqueva (my 14-year-old’s favorite), and guided hiking in the Azores.

For me, the highlight of the trip was a picnic lunch in a nature reserve outside Sintra after braving the hordes at Pena Palace. We spent the most delightful two hours in a sunny, flower-filled meadow sipping vinho verde, enjoying delicious homemade food, and laughing and talking with Lara (the chef and foodie tour guide) and Tiago F. (our walking guide and one of the smartest and most entertaining guys we’ve met), discussing everything from the Oscars to Queirós. I felt like I was experiencing the best of authentic Portugal and its people.” —Julie Heimark

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


Northern Italy with teens: private fashion, food, and Ferrari experiences

Pool view looking over the lake and mountains in Villa Balbiano, Lake Como, Italy.

Villa Balbiano, Lake Como, Italy. Photo: IC Bellagio

“For our trip to northern Italy in late March with our teen daughters (14 and 17), Andrea added value by arranging experiences that we would not have known about. First was a private experience with a couture fashion designer in her studio: We learned all about the couture and ready-to-wear markets, along with a crash course on fabrics, materials, etc….We even got to see seamstresses working on one-of-a-kind dresses.

On Lake Como we had an all-day private boat tour, and en route to Bologna we stopped at the Ferrari Museum for a private VIP tour. It was very interesting….even for non-car people! In Bologna a chef/guide met us at the hotel to walk us through the old food markets of Bologna. He taught us all about the local foods while we shopped for ingredients for our private cooking class that afternoon. The chef was entertaining and informative. Most importantly, we made the most amazing homemade pastas and sauces!

Next came Italy’s Piedmont region, best known for wine and truffles. Andrea’s group had recommended a hotel that opened last year called Casa di Langa, located in the hills outside of Alba. This hotel was amazing, and the views from our room were stunning. The Piedmont region is completely underrated!!!  It has the beauty of Tuscany without the crowds. My husband is an avid wine collector and had requested a tour of the Gaia winery in a local village. Gaia is not open to the public for tours, but Andrea used her connections to set up a private tour and tasting for us that was definitely a highlight for my husband!

On our last day, we were taken to a private home of two brothers who truffle hunt. After a truffle tutorial, we made our way up into the hills with our truffle hunting dog. It was so exciting to actually find truffles in the ground! We proceeded back to the house for an amazing selection of local cheese, salami and olive oil…..with a generous portion of truffles slices on top! Back in Alba, we wandered the narrow streets filled with locals. Northern Italy was a special area that we can’t wait to go back to!!” —Jennifer Mann

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


Egypt, Jordan, Israel: Middle East adventures with teens

Travelers posing in front of one of Giza pyramids

With the right strategy, you too can see the Pyramids without crowds marring your view. Photo: Traveler Beth Nury

“Arlene meticulously planned a 17-day adventure for our family of four that began in Egypt. Egypt continues to be an international tourist hot spot, and since we started planning a bit late, few accommodations were available. However, she was able to use her contacts for stays at the Four Seasons/Cairo, where we took advantage of the strong USD and had two five-star dinners at one of its six restaurants, Riviera. Arlene took a calculated risk and recommended the Sonesta Sun Goddess Nile cruise ship, a recently refurbished ship. Her insight paid off — the ship was great! As we sailed down the Nile over four days, we happened to see that our ship was one of the only that had an outdoor balcony, which my husband and I used regularly. The staff was attentive and friendly and there was a good variety of food. Once back on land in Cairo, we really enjoyed our WOW Moment, a VIP/behind-the-scenes tour of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), not yet open to the public. Very few crowds. We then drove over to Giza, where our guide, Remunda, cleverly started our pyramid/sphinx tour backwards, avoiding long lines. Our photos were incredible! They look like we had a private tour of Giza since there are very few tourists in the background.

One of our favorite memories was the food tour in Cairo. Our tour guide, Amina, did a great job and took us to some authentic neighborhood spots that locals frequent, like a juice bar that used over 10 fruits indigenous to Egypt. Kudos to her for finding restaurants that were open early (prior to 8:00), during Ramadan!

Following Egypt, we moved on to Jordan for three nights. We specifically requested a stop in Amman so our 18-year-old daughter, who lived there in July 2022 while learning Arabic, could show us her neighborhood and school. We capped our Jordan adventure with a two-day visit to Petra. Petra is worth the hype and has definitely earned its Wonder of the World status. The archaeological park is over 2,500 acres and provides plenty of space and freedom to walk and explore the numerous rock-cut architectural masterpieces.

We finished our Middle East adventure by staying four nights in Israel. We toured Old City Jerusalem by entering through the Jaffa Gate and meandering through the four quarters to see the mix of architecture and learn more about how religious groups lived harmoniously despite different beliefs.

We will never forget the tour of the West Bank. Our tour guide, Daphna, drove us to an area very close to the Israeli military checkpoint where we nervously waited for her friend Iesaa. When he arrived, we quickly hopped into his car and drove away. Iessa gave us an inside tour of the West Bank, highlighted by a tour of Bethlehem/Church of the Nativity. While stuck in traffic, he pointed out some Bansky graffiti and drove us through a refugee camp. He explained the politics, his perspective on the ongoing Palestinian/Israeli conflict and his hope for the future.

Other trip highlights that we would recommend for any future Middle East travel include: day trip to Abu Simbel, Valley of the Kings and a caleche ride to see the Temple of Horus at Edfu.”—Beth Nury

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


Dubai & Abu Dhabi: city sights and desert adventures with 6- and 7-year-olds

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is 2,722 feet tall, making it the tallest building in the world—for now. Photo: BS1920/Pixabay

“We had a wonderful time during our trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi that was planned by Justin. The trip was very professionally arranged, from picking us up at the airport to all activities and transportation. We stayed at Jumeirah Beach hotel, which has beautiful views of the ocean and you can see the Burj Al Arab from it as well. Over the next few days we had our personal guide, who gave us a comprehensive tour of Dubai. We learnt about the city’s Bedouin heritage, bold architecture, Emirati culture, politics/sheiks. We got to see all the major attractions, the gold souk, Atlantis, and of course the Burj Khalifa. The guide had our tickets ready for us, which was nice. It took us 60 seconds in the lift to get to the top of the world’s tallest building. The views from there were spectacular. Once you exit the Burj Khalifa you end up in Dubai Mall (one of the world’s largest shopping malls), so we ended up walking around the mall and ate at the food court. Our kids had to try the McArabia from McDonald’s, which they thought was pretty good.

After a few days in Dubai we went to the desert. The highlight of our trip was the desert/Qasr Al Sarab Resort. It was a magical place, absolutely breathtaking. The desert sand is so soft, fine and has multicolored hues of khaki and orange. We all enjoyed rolling around in the sand dunes, and seeing the magical sunsets. Getting from Dubai to Qasr Al Sarab was flawlessly planned. We had our own private driver who was flexible in case we needed to make stops, as we were traveling with two kids (ages 6 & 7). Arriving there felt like arriving at an Arabian palace, the kind you see in Aladdin. They greeted us with some dates and a yogurt drink which was cooling in the hot weather. The breakfast was amazing, a lavish buffet having a mix of local delights. We enjoyed the dates, local jams, omelettes, and fresh juices. All the excursions were prefectly organized. We went on a camel trek, which was a great experience and felt like something out of a movie. In the evenings we got a chance to have some fine Arabic cuisine set in a beautiful ambiance amidst the desert lit up by lanterns, fire pits and the stars above. Certainly a dream. We dined amidst the desert dunes, a Bedouin set-up of plush carpets and cushions serving lamb, cherry rice, variety of dips/hummus, and breads. Another highlight of our trip was dune bashing. My oldest son loved it and said he would do it again, while my youngest said it was terrible. I would say it was exhilarating, however not for everyone. I would recommend not eating an hour before doing it.

Our next stop was Abu Dhabi. It was a quick two-hour drive from the desert. We only spent a day in Abu Dhabi, and then went back to Dubai. Abu Dhabi’s highlight was the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. We were greeted by our tour guide, who was well prepared. She had an extra head scarf for my wife, as the dress code is very strictly enforced. She was a wealth of information and was able to get us into the mosque the most efficient way. The architecture and design of the mosque is something quite special. It has intricate designs of flowers and geometric designs carved on the walls and exquisite carpets and chandeliers inside. After the mosque our guide gave us a tour of Abu Dhabi. We requested to go to some local markets, as we needed to get some souvenirs. She took us to a quaint market where they had camel key chains, local embroidered pillowcases, Aladdin lamps which my kids loved. Overall we really enjoyed our visit to the UAE. The tour guides, hotels, and recommended sightseeing spots were on point and made everything super-easy and stress-free.”—Adi Derasari

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


Colombia: cities, coastline, coffee country…

Cartagena de Indias/Colombia, 06/05/2020: The vintage colonials facades of San Diego neighborhood in the heart of walled city

The San Diego neighborhood is lined with colorful facades. Photo: Shutterstock

Boris and his team were absolutely invaluable in helping us have an unforgettable family trip. We hired them for their pre-trip planning expertise, but what was unexpectedly amazing was being able to truly enjoy our time and not spend part of each day debating what to do, see or eat. This is a huge bonus, especially with a multi-generational family group full of opinionated people. Having a great plan in place allowed us all to actually relax and enjoy our family time pretty much from Day One.

Our tours were amazing, especially the music and art tours in Bogota and Palenque (so beautiful and culturally rich)! Cartagena is incredibly special; we enjoyed soaking it all in. The coffee region was so different—lush, green and peaceful. We adored Casa Medina and Hacienda Bambusa — gorgeous, high-quality, unique hotels with superb staff. If we had it to do over again, we probably shouldn’t have arranged quite so much activity, so that we could have relaxed at our wonderful hotels a bit more.” —Erin Texeira

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


Israel, Jordan, Egypt: 2 weeks with a family of 8

Petra Jordan

Petra, Jordan. Photo: ChiemSeherin/Pixabay

“We recently travelled to Israel, Jordan, and Egypt with extended family on a trip planned by Dan. It was an amazing trip, and he made all our requests happen despite Passover, Ramadan, and Easter all taking place during our travel. With great planning, we were able to see all the major sites and packed many interesting experiences into our two weeks. Having a private guide and driver took the stress out of managing travel during our family vacation and created an experience where we were able to do and see a lot more than a typical tour. Our guides were truly experts in each region and connected us with friendly locals and great restaurants.

With the situation changing in Israel shortly before our trip, Dan was in contact with the local guides right up to our departure, and proposed alternative locations and timing to ensure we did not experience any disruption. Dan and our guides made sure every border crossing was smooth, airport transfers were easy, and had people waiting for us in each location to ensure we never had to worry.

Highlights of our trip included traveling from Tel Aviv to the Sea of Galilee (Cesarea, Akko, Haifa, Tiberias), time exploring Jerusalem, and time in Bethlehem. We visited Amman and Jerash, stayed in Bubble tents in Wadi Rum, and experienced the wonder of Petra. Finally, we travelled to Egypt where we visited the Pyramids of Giza and Saqqara, and visited Islamic and Coptic Cairo. Our guides timed each experience so that we missed the crowds, and used their expertise to bring each site to life. I highly recommend working with Dan and his office.”—Amy Johnston

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


Ireland with three teens in late February, with a magical driver/guide

Slea Head, Drive Dingle, Ireland. Photo courtesy Jonathon Epstein

Slea Head, Drive Dingle, Ireland. Photo: Jonathan Epstein

“With three and a half weeks’ notice, Jonathan planned a fabulous 10-day trip to Ireland for our family of two adults and three teens. We stayed two nights in Dublin, and then our fabulous guide, Brendan, picked us up and spent the next eight days driving us around. We spent three nights in Galway and three in Cork. During the days, we explored the countryside and visited both historic landmarks and out-of-the-way finds. Along the way, Brendan charmed us with his unending knowledge of historical facts, local stories, jokes, and quick wit. As Jonathan had predicted, Brendan is now on our Christmas card list!

Each family member loved learning about the rich history and culture of Ireland. Our kids, aged 20, 18, and 14, were the perfect ages for this trip, as there was so much to learn but also a lot of time in the car to see the far-flung rural sites. We were fortunate to attend a Gaelic football game where Brendan, a former player, could explain all the rules. The kids are very into sports, so this was a definite highlight. In all, the itinerary was a perfect mix for all our interests, and the right amount of moving from one hotel to another.

We were aware how much work Jonathan and Brendan did to make sure we were treated as VIPs everywhere we went. Our schedule frequently changed on the fly, due to weather or our wish to stay longer to learn more about a particular place, and Brendan was able to arrange upcoming situations to fit, every time. He could always call ahead to the perfect restaurant to get us right in, and he knew people everywhere we went to pave our way. We received the royal treatment wherever we went, and problems we faced were quickly arranged away.

Each of us are experienced travelers, but we would not have been able to do the volume of planning required to make this trip happen so well and so quickly, or to sit back, relax, and experience all the joys of Ireland while trying to manage the myriad logistics on our own.” —Jarvis Weld

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


Oman: local interactions & desert adventures with a 7-year-old

Delicious dishes of traditional omani food served on carpet in traditional restaurant, Oman.

Traditional Omani dishes. Photo: Shutterstock

“We can’t say enough good things about the two-week Oman trip Dan and his team planned for us over spring break. Dan was responsive and thoughtful, putting together a trip that balanced immersion in a completely different culture with enough outdoor adventure for us while not daunting our 7-year-old. From bustling Muscat with an incredible home-stay dinner where our kid spent the night playing and laughing with our hosts’ children, to being way off the grid climbing sand dunes for a technicolor sunset in the desert, and walking through ancient villages in the mountains, it was an unforgettable adventure.

Our guides on the ground were flawless: knowledgeable, kind, and adaptable, with real substantive contacts and knowledge. They set up coffee and dates with a Bedouin family, showed our kiddo how to pet and meet camels, and adjusted plans seamlessly when a sandstorm blew up. Our WOW Moment from Wendy was a special surprise: a glorious five-course dinner under the stars looking over an enormous mountainside canyon. It was an amazing trip and wouldn’t have happened without Dan.” —Katherine Sanders

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


Spain: Madrid and Andalusia during a semester abroad

The Cathedral in Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz Province

The Cathedral in Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz Province, Andalusia. Photo: Shutterstock

Virginia planned and executed the perfect family trip to Spain at the end of March to visit my son, who was studying for the semester in Madrid. She balanced the itinerary between spending time with my son in Madrid, to see his life there, and traveling throughout Andalusia.

She coordinated a private lunch at a castle with the owner, to learn about the history of the castle and the family that has owned it for generations. Our planned fishing trip in Marbella was cancelled because of the weather, and she adjusted the itinerary so that we could spend more time in Granada to see the Cathedral and tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella. All of the transportation between cities was seamless and the drivers were all professional.” —Amy Goldberg

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


Belize: beach & jungle with teens

Footbridge over river in tranquil forest in Belize

Footbridge over river in tranquil forest in Belize. Photo: Shutterstock

Patricia crafted a wonderful itinerary for our family of four. She did a great job helping me think through how to spend our week in Belize, and explaining the options for activities and accommodation in various parts of the country. We spent 3 nights in the Cayó district in the west (Mayan sites, caving, canoeing) and 4 nights in Placencia on the beach. Her recommendations were spot-on and the tours/activities she organized were great.

Only regret: I wish we had opted for more activity on some days—there was a lot of sitting during driving, canoeing, small-boat fishing—but it felt important when booking to keep things unstructured. Patricia asked all the right questions along the way. We had a fantastic time!” —Sarah Wigglesworth

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


Mexico: mother/daughter trip in nature

Sea lions swimming and playing, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Sea lions swimming in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Photo: Shutterstock

Zach and his wonderful team planned the most outstanding mother-daughter spring break trip to Baja California, Mexico, for my 20-year-old and me. We were interested in a nature-focused experience, spending all of our time on whale watching, sea lions, whale sharks, etc. Zach was so thoughtful, spending a series of phone calls with me figuring out what kind of travelers we were and what kind of experiences would be right. He then proposed the perfect itinerary, including four days in a remote whale-watching camp alongside time in La Paz on private boat excursions to key wildlife sites.

We weren’t excited about spending time in busy Cabo, and he found us an under-the-radar boutique hotel that checked all our boxes (quiet, beautiful, excellent service).  The trip was flawlessly executed, thanks to his colleague Carolina’s careful detail work and real-time monitoring. She went out of her way to figure out where we could skip logistics steps and bypass lines. It couldn’t have run more smoothly during a very crowded time in Baja.” —Cate Bradley

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


England: London, the Cotswolds, posh hotels, Harry Potter…

England, Cotswolds, Hidcote gardens. Photo: Jonathan Epstein

Hidcote Manor Gardens in the Cotswolds, England. Photo: Jonathan Epstein

“We traveled to London and the Cotswolds in March. Jonathan and his team helped pick the perfect hotels for us: in London, The Goring, and in the Cotswolds, Lucknam Park. Our transfers and all of the details that can be very tedious and annoying were all seamless and we didn’t have any kind of logistical stress during our whole trip.

The tours they chose for us were perfect, and we got guides that were great for our family. We especially loved the Mini Cooper Harry Potter tour, and our tour of Oxford and the Cotswolds. Jonathan helped us organize our days so that each day was special but not overwhelmingly busy. T

he Goring was so charming and English: the bar, breakfast service, and afternoon tea were great, the rooms were beautiful, and the location is great too.  In the Cotswolds, Lucknam Park is a beautiful, expansive property. My daughter loves horses, and my son loves being in nature, so it was a great change of pace from London and a relaxing way to end our trip.

This is our second time using Wendy Perrin and it certainly won’t be our last. Before, we always figured with the internet you really don’t need a travel agent. But we have learned that the value-add makes it well worth it. The headaches are removed, the itinerary is thoughtfully organized, and you have access to special experiences you wouldn’t otherwise have.” —Jessica and Steve Martin

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


Morocco with three kids, ages 3, 7, and 9

Camel trek through the Sahara Desert, Morocco.

Camel trek through the Sahara Desert, Morocco. Photo: Tim Baker

“Just got back from spring break in Morocco with my three kids (ages 3, 7, and 9).  We never could have planned an experience as wonderful as what Hicham and Radia planned for us.  We rode camels, went ATVing along the ocean, and my girls love couscous. We loved our private local guide, chosen for us by Hicham and Radia. He has three kids himself and was empathetic to the occasional chaos.

My snake-loving daughter loved the cobras and snakes she was able to hold. My 7-year-old got a fever and cough and our guide helped us find medicine for her. Honestly, it is always an adventure to travel, but with three kids we have to be able to pivot, and pause. Everyone was so helpful and kind. The Four Seasons was perfect for kids. The beach was beautiful. We feel so lucky to have been on this trip!” —Mary Ko

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


Portugal with teens: culture, cooking classes, Coasteering…

Pessegueiro Island (or Ilha do Pessegueiro) on the Vincentina Coast, Algarve, Portugal

Pessegueiro Island (or Ilha do Pessegueiro) on the Vincentina Coast, Algarve, Portugal. Photo: Goncalo Correia

“We had a fantastic time in Portugal, in spite of rain throughout the 10-day trip and a once-every-20-year sandstorm that blanketed the country for three days.

Our trip began in Porto, where we stayed in a beautiful hotel within walking distance to shops and good food. We had an amazing cooking class at an estate outside the city that had been in the owner’s family for 18 generations. Next we spent time in the Algarve, where Gonçalo booked us at a wonderful resort on the beach and we spent the afternoons exploring nearby towns.

We spent the end of our trip in Lisbon, where our amazing local guide was able to engage our three teenage girls and keep all of us interested in the history and sights. We took a sailing trip and did an amazing Coasteering activity along the coast that the girls loved. It involved cliff jumping, rock climbing and swimming. We were freezing, but adrenaline kept us going, and the wetsuits helped.

Gonçalo arranged a trip exactly as we requested: some history, some culture, and some active adventure. If only he could have controlled the weather, it would have been a perfect trip.” —Karyn Sallus

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


Switzerland with an 8- and 11-year-old

View to Lugano city, Lugano lake and Monte San Salvatore from Monte Bre, Ticino, Switzerland - Image

Monte Bre, Ticino, Switzerland. Photo: Shutterstock

“Our Switzerland trip with Philipp and Nina was incredible.  They planned a trip that made everyone in our family happy. Not an easy task with an 8- and 11-year-old!  We were supposed to take this trip pre-COVID and had to postpone. Philipp worked with us for over a year until we could actually travel. He planned a well-thought-out trip for Spring that really showed us diverse aspects of Switzerland. We could not have asked for a better agent!” —Tara Robertson

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


Israel: adventure thrills + connecting a 12- and 15-year-old with local people with a range of perspectives

paragliding Masada Israel

Paragliding over Masada. Israel.

Joe listened carefully to the type of travelers we are and the experiences we wished to have in Israel and arranged our itinerary accordingly. Highlights for us were lunch with a Druze family, a visit with a Palestinian family in the West Bank, a briefing in the Golan Heights with an IDF reservist, powered paragliding, Krav Maga class, a Jeep tour, an ATV ride, and our guide Itay’s amazing storytelling at Masada.

Our kids (ages 12 and 15) liked that we incorporated adventurous experiences into our itinerary. Itay connected well with our children (a priority for us) and even called on friends to answer our questions when he knew of someone with specialized knowledge in the area about which we were asking. We learned so much on this trip because of the team’s ability to connect us with people who had different points of view. That gave the trip real value for us.” —Jennifer Milano

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


London: private backstage tours, East End neighborhoods not mentioned in any guidebooks…

Evening View, London, England

Evening view of London. Photo: Visit Britain

“My daughter is a huge Harry Potter fan, so we wanted to go to the Warner Brothers Studio outside of London. Admission tickets were sold out when we started our planning, but Wendy’s recommended London specialist was able to secure tickets from a secondary source.

He also got us amazing seats to two requested West End shows and arranged great tours for us that lined up with our interests. We had a private backstage tour of the National Theatre, a place I never would have discovered on my own. I highly recommend this tour to anyone visiting London. We were surprised at how large the Theatre is and how much actually takes place there—the prop building (including their own wood and metal shops), rehearsals, public education spaces, and several stages.

We also enjoyed a three-hour guided tour of the food, street art, and culture of the East End. Our guide showed us parts of the East End that were not mentioned in any guidebooks that I had reviewed. My friend who lives outside of London and joined us on the tour, and who had been on several of these East End tours, said she saw so many new things.” —Nancy Wolf

To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Vienna & Prague: trip for a piano-loving teen

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - mathematical hall of the Strahov convent library

The mathematical hall of the Strahov Convent Library, Prague, The Czech Republic. Photo: Shutterstock

“I told Gwen that our 17-year-old son is passionate about playing piano, particularly the music of Classical- and Romantic-era composers. She asked questions to understand how we like to travel, especially when it came to what would interest our son, and then planned and executed an absolutely amazing trip to Vienna and Prague for us.

Our itinerary included visits to Mozart’s and Beethoven’s apartments in Vienna; the cemetery where Beethoven, Schubert, Strauss, and Schönberg are buried; and an exhibit that included one of Mozart’s original manuscripts. In Prague she arranged visits to a collection that included the original score to Beethoven’s third symphony, as well as access to the Strahov Library, which travelers typically only get to view from a distance but where we got to wander among the stacks!” —Adam Amsterdam

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


Costa Rica with four kids, ages 8 to 15

Hot springs in Costa Rica

Hot springs in Costa Rica. Photo: Shutterstock

“Traveling as a family of six is not easy! We have four children between the ages of 8 and 15, each more adventurous than the next. We needed a spring break that would keep them entertained but also allow us the leisure time we really needed. Priscilla put together a perfectly balanced vacation for us in Costa Rica. Everyone was happy! She suggested we spend our week in two areas—Arenal (volcano and rainforest) and Manuel Antonio (beach). In Arenal, we swam in thermal hot springs, zip-lined through the rainforest, walked the hanging bridges of the rainforest canopy, and went white-water rafting. In Manuel Antonio, we spent quality time at the beach, surfing, boogie boarding, and relaxing. Priscilla and her team arranged all of our travel details (flights, hotels, activities, transfers to and from), and they really went out of their way to make sure our vacation was memorable. All we had to do was sit back and enjoy!”—Kara Lawler

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


Croatia: a mix of history, art, culture, and Game of Thrones

Aerial view at famous european travel destination in Croatia, Dubrovnik old town.

The old town of Dubrovnik, Croatia. Photo: Shutterstock

“We were traveling over Easter and wanted to maximize our time in Croatia. We wanted a mix of history, art, culture, Jewish history, and Game of Thrones—and each of our three guides delivered. We saw and learned so much more than we could have seen on our own. Gwen was able to help us secure reservations at the restaurants we wanted, including Michelin-starred Restaurant 360 in Dubrovnik. We also loved her suggestions of Restaurant Dubrovnik and Adriatic Graso in Split—we had amazing meals and service.

While in Dubrovnik we were surprised with our WOW Moment. We had a private boat ride from the new harbor to the old harbor just outside the Ancient Walls of Dubrovnik. We were served wine and charcuterie. Despite the rough waters, Captain Chris gave us a wonderful tour and a new perspective of Dubrovnik. It was such a treat. Croatia is a magical place, and Gwen and her team are there to roll out the red carpet for you.” —Joellen Shelden

Read more reviews of Croatia trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.



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kayak on turquoise water Koh Lipe island Thailand

Holiday Travel Ideas from Sophisticated Travelers

Idyllic tropical beach with white sand, turquoise ocean water and blue sky at Antigua island in Caribbean
Antigua island in the Caribbean
colorful buildings Puerto Vallarta Mexico
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
vineyards with snow-capped mountains in background Mendoza Argentina
Mendoza, Argentina
Great Barrier Reef aerial view
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Rio Celeste Waterfall photographed in Costa Rica
Costa Rica
kayak on turquoise water Koh Lipe island Thailand
Koh Lipe, Thailand
the red sand of Chile's Atacama desert with tall mountains in the distance
Atacama Desert, Chile
camel trek through the Sahara Desert, Morocco.
Sahara Desert, Morocco
Blue-footed booby, Galapagos Islands.
Galapagos Islands
Leafy town square with fountain in a picturesque village in Provence, France
Saignon, Provence, France
paragliding Masada Israel
Masada, Israel
Udaivilas Oberoi hotel Udaipur india lake view
Udaipur, India


A lot of travelers write to us seeking suggestions for unusual Christmas-New Year’s destinations. They want to go where everybody else isn’t going. Depending on what sort of experience they’re after, Wendy might suggest anything from Malta to Abu Dhabi.

As for the holiday travel plans that WendyPerrin.com travelers have already made, among the most popular locales are Argentina, New Zealand, and Thailand.  Travelers who want to explore the world closer to home are bound for Mexico, Costa Rica, the Caribbean Islands, and Belize.

If you haven’t planned your holiday trip yet, now is the time, as many flights and resorts fill up months in advance. For inspiration, browse the lists below that show where your fellow travelers are headed. We’ve also got helpful monthly articles on Where to Go When. If you have other ideas or plans for your winter travels, let us know in the comments where you’re headed!

Top 10 Countries Booked by WOW List Travelers for Christmas/New Year’s Trips

Costa Rica
New Zealand*
Caribbean Islands

* = tied with the country listed above it

Top 16 Countries Already Booked By WOW List Travelers for Winter Trips
(November through February)

New Zealand
United States*
Caribbean Islands
Costa Rica*
The Galapagos Islands*

* = tied with the country listed above it

Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

overwater bungalows at St Regis Bora Bora

Holiday Vacations You Can Still Book

Now is the time to book your Christmas and New Year’s vacations if you haven’t already. Many of the most popular destinations have filled up, but the Trusted Travel Experts on our WOW List know about last-minute availability and have other ideas for off-the-beaten-path escapes. Browse our list of holiday getaways and get planning asap.

(For Wendy’s personal picks, see Unexpected Holiday Travel Ideas. Also consider making a holiday gift to the locales you love that were affected by this fall’s onslaught of natural disasters. Here’s where you can donate to hurricane and earthquake relief.)

New Years Eve fireworks Reveillon Copacabana beach, Rio, Brazil

New Year’s Eve in Rio

Rio de Janeiro is one of the most exciting cities for ringing in the new year, rivaling New York, Sydney, and London. “It’s not just the size of the Réveillon celebration that makes Rio stand out,” says Paul Irvine, Trusted Travel Expert for Brazil, of the fireworks display and festivities on Copacabana beach. “Everyone dresses up in white and throws flowers into the sea as offerings to Yemanja goddess for prosperity during the new year, which makes a spectacular sight.” There is still availability at The Emiliano, a design hotel that opened last year on Copacabana beach and that hosts its own New Year’s party with fabulous views of the fireworks.

Read Paul’s Insider’s Guide to Rio de Janeiro, and reach out to him through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Photo: New Years Eve Réveillon on Copacabana beach, Rio, Brazil. Courtesy: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo/Flickr

overwater bungalows at St Regis Bora Bora

Island Getaway in French Polynesia

A few overwater bungalows are still available, as well as some catamaran yacht charters, says Tahiti travel specialist Kleon Howe, and no matter where you decide to spend the festive week, he can score you a table for a romantic dinner at La Villa Mahana (maximum seven tables per evening with Chef Damien) with almost 360-degree views of the Bora Bora lagoon. Of course he can also arrange private snorkeling trips to see the manta rays and leopard rays off Bora Bora.

Read Kleon’s Insider’s Guide to Bora Bora, Tahiti, and French Polynesia, and reach out to him through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Photo: St Regis Bora Bora

Playa Grande Eagle’s Nest, Cabo San Lucas. Photo: CaboVillas.com

A Villa Vacation in Cabo

This area was not affected by this fall’s hurricanes, so pack up the family—or a group of friends—and relocate to a sunny Cabo villa rental for the holidays. The weather is perfect, the water is beautiful, and when you rent a house, you can enjoy the festive season almost as if you were at home, but with more perks: ocean views, panoramic terraces, gourmet kitchens, private chefs, private pools. Wendy's Cabo travel specialist Julie Byrd still has several available properties over Christmas and New Year’s, including: Villa Bellissima (8 bedrooms, 2 pools, a gym, and oceanfront views), Villa Grande (6 bedrooms, oceanfront views ideal for whale watching), Villa Bahia de los Frailes (off the beaten path close to Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, a great home for divers), Villas del Mar (beachfront in Palmilla), Villa Real (located on a golf course). These villas have a seven-night minimum, and Julie has a ton of others with only a five-night requirement. “Remember that we can have the villa completely decorated for any holiday and we can provide in-villa chef services—even better than some restaurants.” Of course, if you prefer to hit the town and sample Cabo’s foodie scene, Julie can steer your crew to the best restaurants for holiday feasts.

Read Julie’s Insider’s Guides to Los Cabos Villa Vacations and Beach Vacations, and reach out to Julie through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Photo: Playa Grande Eagle’s Nest, Cabo San Lucas. Courtesy: CaboVillas.com

pool at the Azerai hotel in Luang Prabang, Laos

Exotic Affordable Luxury in Laos

“Laos is the one country I have to convince travelers to visit…and the one I get the best feedback about on their return,” says April Cole, one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for Southeast Asia. There’s still availability in lush, exotic Laos this holiday season, thanks partly to the new Azerai hotel in Luang Prabang. It’s right across the street from LP’s famous night market and a close walk to restaurants, the National Museum, and Mt. Phousi. Combine a stay at the Azerai with visits to colorful villages, traditional Baci ceremonies, a float down the Mekong river (while enjoying a foot massage, no less), day trips to Kuang Si waterfalls, and a homestyle cooking class.

 Ask Wendy to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Photo: Azerai hotel, Luang Prabang, Laos

Lisbon, Portugal. Photo: Pixabay

Authenticity in Portugal

Mike Korn, one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for Portugal, knows of availability in Lisbon, in the Alentejo, and in Madeira. “Lisbon has a mild winter climate, and in the cooler months you can really feel the history,” says Korn. “It is less crowded, and all the buildings have that distinctive type of low-sun shadow that only older European cities have (a photographer’s dream).” He recommends Pousada de Lisboa, describing it as an underrated luxury boutique hotel with an authentic Portuguese feel (it was formerly the home of the Ministry of Internal Affairs). In the Alentejo, he recommends the off-the-beaten-path Torre de Palma Wine Hotel for its many activities, outstanding food, and a 360-degree view from the estate’s main tower. Korn can arrange a visit to the nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site Évora; a private cooking lesson in a local home with an expert chef; and a traditional Christmas Eve in a small village with a local family. “The villagers gather in the town square to light an enormous bonfire (Madeiros in Portuguese), while singing (and drinking) the night away.” In Madeira, an archipelago about a 1-hour-45-minute flight from Lisbon), he says, “The weather is mild and offers city life, great hiking through the famous levadas, island hopping to places like Porto Santo which has beautiful beaches.” What’s more, he adds that New Year’s Eve in Funchal, Madeira’s largest city, is known for having one of the best fireworks displays in the world.

 Ask Wendy to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Photo: Lisbon, Portugal. Courtesy: cristinamacia/Pixabay

landscape of coffee region in Colombia

Best of Both Worlds in Colombia

Colombia offers an easy way to have two vacations in one: a vibrant party-filled scene in Cartagena, paired with a quieter escape in the green hills of coffee country. Eric Sheets, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Colombia, describes the city at this time of year: “It’s a festive scene where café tables are pulled into the roads for celebratory dinners, lights are hung from brightly hued colonial houses, and music is emanating from all directions,” he says. “And the New Year’s party at the Sofitel Santa Clara [which still has availability] is not to be missed.” In the countryside, he still has access to rooms at Hacienda Bambusa, where you can visit coffee estates to learn how the beans are produced, and he still has space at a private three-bedroom farmhouse in coffee country, ideal for families or groups of friends.

Read Eric’s Insider’s Guide to Cartagena, Colombia,  and reach out to him through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Photo: Colombia's coffee region. Courtesy: Latin Excursions

Christmas in London

Affordable Festivities in the U.K.

The UK and Ireland remain good value destinations for festive season as the dollar is still relatively strong. “Our hotels in key cities such as London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Bath, and Belfast still have great space, and the value is good. Many of our hotels are offering great specials such as four nights for the price of three on key dates, and others are offering other great specials such as discounting second rooms for families,” says Jonathan Epstein, one of our Trusted Travel Experts for England, Ireland and Scotland. Christmas and New Year’s packages at castles, country houses, manors and resorts can also still be found, and, he adds, “We also have some really great guided experiences such as touring London Christmas lights by mini cooper and even a Charles Dickens Christmas tour around London.” However, he notes that space is going faster than normal as those who had Caribbean vacations are now moving their plans farther north in the wake of a terrible hurricane season.

Read Jonathan’s Insider’s Guides to Scotland and the Cotswolds, and reach out to him through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Photo: Christmas in London. Courtesy: visitlondon.com

The Vatican and St. Peter's Square at Christmas, Rome, Italy

Christmas Traditions in Rome

Rome is a natural pick for celebrating Christmas. “You not only get Rome’s festivities, but also Vatican City’s celebrations,” says Andrea Grisdale, Trusted Travel Expert for Italy. “At the Vatican, the Pope delivers a Christmas Eve midnight mass, and tickets for this sell out well in advance, so if you want to guarantee your position in St. Peter’s, book now.” Andrea can help travelers find spots in coveted accommodations such as J.K. Place Roma, Villa Spalletti Trivelli, and Portrait Roma (though she notes these rooms are selling like hot cakes already, so act fast). She can direct you to iconic Christmas activities and can suggest plenty of family activities to keep everyone feeling young at heart, such as the oldest known nativity scene (a 13th-century marble scene now housed in the museum of Santa Maria Maggiore), the annual Christmas concert in the Nervi Aula in the Vatican, and the huge Christmas market in Piazza Navona.

Read Andrea’s Insider’s Guides to the Amalfi Coast and Italy’s Lakes Region, and reach out to her through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Photo: The Vatican and St. Peter's Square at Christmas. Courtesy: Patricia Feaster/Flickr

Gustavia harbor, St. Barts

Sunshine in St. Barts

"St. Barth is on the road to recovery and officially reopens for tourism on October 30,” says Peg Walsh, our Trusted Travel Expert for the Caribbean island of St. Barts, which was hit by Hurricane Irma. “It is amazing that some villas had very little damage, other than loss of foliage. A few are ready for rental right now; others November 15 and still others December 15.” She notes that still others were hit harder, so they are postponing their openings until 2018, although many restaurants and hotels are ready for visitors already, so contact her for first-hand input on what’s available and where.

Read Peg’s Insider’s Guide to St. Barts Villa Vacations and St. Barts Beach Vacations, and reach out to her through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Photo: Gustavia harbor, St. Barts. Courtesy: St. Barth Properties

Rosewood Puebla hotel exterior Puebla Mexico CR Rosewood

Beyond the Beach in Mexico

While the recent earthquakes caused heavy damage in some areas of Mexico (including Oaxaca state), other parts are fine and will be welcoming visitors as usual this holiday season—when tourism dollars will be appreciated even more than in past years. Zach Rabinor, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Mexico, reports that there is still good availability in Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, Queretaro, Mexico City (“we are hopeful and confident it will be fully recovered in time for the festive season,” he says) and Puebla (“it’s miraculously true that the Rosewood Puebla was undamaged”). The Pacific Coast of the country also has openings, he points out, especially in less popular destinations such as Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo, Costalegre, Costa Careyes—and he’s even still seeing some availability in Puerto Vallarta and Punta Mita too.

Read Zach’s Insider’s Guides to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City, and the Riviera Maya, and reach out to him through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Photo: Rosewood Puebla


Be a smarter traveler: Follow Wendy Perrin on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.