Tag Archives: Japan

Travelers on a field of lupine during a birdwatching excursion in Chilean Patagonia.

January Trip Ideas: Traveler Reviews to Inspire You

The wide array of places that are great in January may surprise you.  If that’s your time frame for a trip, take inspiration from your fellow travelers’ reviews of their favorite January trips—to locales as varied as Italy (even including Sicily), Scandinavia for the northern lights, Belize for a more affordable Caribbean vacation, Colombia for a sunny getaway for food lovers, Australia (where January is the height of summer), and the list goes on.

These travelers all booked their trips the WOW way: Their trips were optimized for the month of January by the local fixers on our WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts (and those whom we are testing for The WOW List).  You’ll find even more ideas in the January installment of our Where to Go When series, and you’ll find more traveler reviews here.

Unsure where to go in January? Click the black button below for our help.


Italy for art and history in the cultural capitals

Florence, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

To avoid crowds (and take advantage of post-holiday sales) in Florence, go in January. Photo: Shutterstock

“My husband and I had an amazing trip to Italy in January! Jennifer had everything so well planned out it was one of the most stress-free and special trips we have taken. We spent two weeks in Italy, splitting our time in Florence, Milan, and Rome. We specifically chose January because the crowds would be less, and they were. It was the perfect time to go for us. Not hot or crowded.

She gave us ideas of things to see we were not aware of, such as touring the outside of the cathedral in Milan from the top. Touring the Borghese Gallery in Rome. Lunch at the special winery on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius near Pompeii. And touring a private museum in Florence where we saw original drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci and the cartoon by Raphael he did for the School of Athens painting.” —Kim and Kevin Cronin

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


Portugal for beautiful landscapes and seascapes (yes, in January!)

Wanchee Lowe

Sunset at the Pousada de Sagres on Portugal’s Algarve coast in January. Photo: Traveler Benjamin Lowe

“My husband and I went to Portugal for a week in mid-January, spending two nights in Cascais (near Lisbon), then four nights in Sagres in the Algarve, and the last night in Lisbon. Gonçalo gave us good suggestions of where to go. We told him we were interested in photographing land and seascapes, especially during sunrise and sunsets.

Patricia on Goncalo’s team booked pousadas for us because we like the historic nature of the accommodations and our rooms overlooked the ocean and we could see sunsets from our rooms in Cascais and Sagres. Free breakfasts were included in all our lodgings. She arranged a rental car and accommodated our request for a hybrid car. She also booked a full day of palace and castle tours in Sintra with a private driver and guide. In Lisbon we also did a private half-day walking/food tour, which she arranged.” —Wanchee Lowe

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


Costa Rica for a combo of relaxation and outdoor adventure (and cooking lessons!)

Travelers at the cacao workshop at Two Little Monkeys, Costa Rica.

Geralyn, Elise, and Rob Westervelt loved their cacao workshop at Two Little Monkeys.

“My husband and I, both in our 60s, wanted a vacation that combined relaxation with outdoor activities, culture, nature, adventure, and eco-friendly accommodations. We began planning with Irene who asked many questions to customize our trip. Mid-way through planning, we added our 26-year-old daughter to the trip and Irene seamlessly made the adjustments.

We visited three locations during our 8 night stay. This pace allowed just enough time in each location. Our guide, Pablo, and driver, Jenkins, met us at the airport and brought us to our first location, the Arenal Volcano area. Our activities here included a sloth visit, hike up the volcano, and our two favorite experiences, a cooking class with Dona Mara and a cacao workshop at Two Little Monkeys. These are not to be missed!

Irene arranged for transport to our next location, the Senda Monteverde Hotel. We had a night walk and hanging bridges tour. With each activity, we were impressed by the vast knowledge of the guides. My daughter is in her last year of veterinarian school and she had in depth conversations about animals and ecology with many of them. We were also very pleased that every transport was punctual and safe! Our final destination was the beautiful Manuel Antonio area. The plan was to relax here, but we found ourselves hiking, zip lining, and taking a sunset tour of the property!” —Geralyn Westervelt

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


Colombia for “a beautiful climate” and a peaceful vibe that’s “far from the world’s chaos”

You’ll find serenity at Hacienda Bambusa in Colombia’s coffee country. Photo: Ryan Damm

“We traveled to Colombia as two couples who were well-traveled and anxious to learn, visit, and immerse ourselves into a new destination. It was snowing here in New York, and Colombia has a beautiful climate. Boris and his team planned us a wonderful trip. We started in Medellin for three nights, where we saw great street art and learned about cacao and the complicated past of this country. We also visited a magnificent orchid and hydrangea farm. From there we moved on to the coffee area, which is lush and peaceful. Bambusa is a small, quaint hacienda where we felt far from the world’s chaos.

On to coastal Cartagena, and the pace quickened with lively streets and great restaurants. We ended in Bogota, where we could have used another two days. Bogota is cosmopolitan and rich in history, art, and great restaurants. We really saw a huge cross-section of Colombia, and the hotels were all different and well-chosen. We felt very safe and educated during our stay, and I would highly recommend Boris to any traveler with a thirst to explore and learn.” —Bobbi Malzman

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


Paris for having museums (and chefs and fashion designers) to yourself

Louvre Museum at night, Paris, France

The Louvre Museum, Paris. Photo: EdiNugraha/Pixabay

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

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


Antarctica for otherworldly adventure but with all the creature comforts

Travelers celebrated their arrival in Antarctica with champagne.

Barbara and Larry Schoenfeld celebrated their arrival in Antarctica with champagne.

“We told Ashton that we wanted a small ship with top-notch scientific experts on board. I was hyper-focused on the potential for unpleasantness crossing the Drake Passage. Comfortable cabins and good food wouldn’t hurt. And, we were not very flexible with travel dates.

Ashton quickly produced a short list of recommendations, despite the availability constraints due to the surge in demand for travel to Antarctica. We sailed on the Seabourn Pursuit. It is a luxurious new ship and is outfitted with stabilizers, which softened the rocky ride across the Drake. While in Antarctica, there were two excursions via Zodiacs daily—usually involving a hike on land or an island. They included walking among penguins and seals, floating among jaw-droppingly beautiful sculptural icebergs, traversing the rim of a caldera, and seeing ruins of former explorers and whalers.” —Barbara Schoenfeld

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


Belize for a Caribbean vacation that combines jungle, beach, and culture

Our travelers Salena and Allen Kern with WOW Lister Patricia Johnson in Belize.

Travelers Salena and Allen Kern during lunch with their WOW List trip-planning expert Patricia Johnson

“My criteria was a direct flight from Newark, warmth, a place we’d never been to with lots to do if we wished, and a Wendy Perrin advisor. It took about a minute to find Belize and Patricia. And we were off…. Patricia recommended a few places to stay, and two of the resorts (one in the jungle and the other on the beach) were owned by Francis Ford Coppola. Who knew? Not I, for sure. Well, my husband was an extra in Apocalypse Now many years ago and that was that. He was thrilled to be seeing what Coppola had created in Belize. Both resorts were beautiful but Blancaneaux Lodge was one of the nicest places I have stayed in my life.

We climbed ruins, rafted through a cave that should have been a cathedral, and visited an entrepreneurial coffee ‘factory’ amongst other things. Most important to me, however, was that we got to know something about the current economy of this young country and much about its varied cultures.

On our first full day, we were surprised by our WOW Moment. At this most beautiful site, overlooking a series of waterfalls, we were served lunch by a local family (now, Patricia did know that I am a bit of a foodie) who served us a traditional Mayan lunch, nouvelle-style. The family has a catering company called U Janal Masewal, Ancient Recipes for a Modern World. That sort of sums up my worldview too. And Patricia met us there for lunch.

This lunch opened our eyes to what was happening in the local communities. The Mayan culture isn’t stuck in the past or lost, as it is in Chiapas, Mexico, where I visited last year. The Belizeans are creating a wonderful and mixed culture ripe for all sorts of tourism.” —Salena Kern

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


Tahiti and Bora Bora for a boat charter and the ultimate beach resort

Hammock in a beach in Tikehau, Tahiti

French Polynesia is great for snorkeling, diving, birding, or just relaxing in a hammock. Photo: Shutterstock

“Our family of six adult children and a four-year-old grandchild recently returned from a trip to Tahiti (December 29 to January 12) organized by Kleon. Kleon did such a good job getting quotes for various options from chartering a boat to picking out the best resort for our family for the week stay. The Conrad Bora Bora Nui was perfect for this holiday adventure with the entire family. My husband and I added a five-night stay at The Brando, which was an incredible resort, especially for the privacy, the beautiful units, and numerous activities offered there. The most unique travel experience was observing 80 or more baby turtles being released twice during our stay at The Brando.” —Carol Powell

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


Peru for adventures at Machu Picchu and in the Amazon

The view of the Sacred Valley in Peru.

The Sacred Valley in Peru. Photo: Shutterstock

“My granddaughter and I just returned from our third New Year’s adventure organized by Allie. This trip’s primary objective was the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.

Our base in the Sacred Valley was the Sol y Luna Hotel. Could not have asked for better accommodations. We visited many Inca sites. We also had a day of whitewater rafting. The Urubamba market is open twice a week, so we took the opportunity to shop with the locals. Being the new year, the flowers were aplenty, yellow, a color of note to the Peruvians at New Year. The highlight of the trip was Machu Picchu citadel. Pictures do not do it justice. The vastness of the site in the clouds and the river far below. It was beautiful!

On New Year’s Eve we had good intentions on staying up to ring in the new year, but Allie had other plans, gratefully and thankfully. The next morning we returned very early to the citadel. Allie was able to obtain tickets for Huayna Picchu. Tickets are in a limited number. We were very fortunate, as many people are disappointed when they find out tickets are not available. Allie had procured ours well in advance. My granddaughter climbed Huayna Picchu, also known as ‘the stairs of death,’ an experience she will never forget.

We returned to Cusco for a day, then it was off to the Amazon. Our flight was followed by a 45-minute powered canoe ride to the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, an eco lodge and our home for the next three days. We had a riverside cabana on the Madre del Dias River. In the mornings, we could hear howler monkeys and other unknown critters. It was the rainy season, so we had rain and thunderstorms daily. The weather did not hamper our activities, actually the weather was part of the experience. Although we had a twilight boat excursion and jungle canopy walks, our highlight was fishing on Lake Valencia. We went piranha fishing, followed by a shore lunch.” —Jim Stock

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


Dubai for perfect weather for desert safaris

Bernirene Ramos

Bernirene Ramos and friends in Dubai’s Heritage Desert.

“Our group chat was called, ‘Dubai, Here We Are!’ Nick planned my ‘ladies’ trip,’ from accommodation to our daily itinerary. January was the perfect time. It was sunny, low-mid 80s during the day and low 70s in the evening. It was Dubai’s winter season, therefore popular sites were not crowded. We were able to capture great photos without being blocked by others.

We were in Dubai for 7 days and we made every day count. The itinerary was well coordinated to cover all the amazing ‘must-sees’ and still allowed for daily free time. We had to switch our visit to Abu Dhabi to a different day because of a last-minute intel of a private event at the Qasr A Watan. And, we wanted to add a couple of ‘must-sees and photo-ops’ during our trip. Nick was able to rearrange our schedule and coordinate with our tour guides seamlessly. It worked out perfectly. He was accessible 24/7. We were taken care of from the time we disembarked the plane at arrival to the time we departed Dubai. Our drivers were great, tour guides were knowledgeable, friendly and fun to be around. We did the Heritage Safari Desert trip on our last day. It was the perfect ending to an amazing trip! Thank you Nick!” —Bernirene Ramos

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


Norway for the northern lights (plus dogsledding, snowmobiling, and saunas)

View of the Northern Lights in Alta, Norway.

Alta, Norway, is one of the best places for spotting the northern lights in January. Photo: Shutterstock

“Truly a trip of a lifetime. My family of 4 (me, my husband and two adult boys) went to Alta where we went dogsledding, snowmobiling, and saw the northern lights. In Oslo we went on a very interesting architecture tour. The highlight was relaxing in the lodge sauna after a day spent snowmobiling and getting called by the lodge staff to come outside to watch the northern lights!

The staff at all of the places Torunn and Mari sent us to were exceptional and would go out of their way to provide assistance. We can’t wait to go back sometime in the summer now and see the same location again.” —Neha Vyas

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


Panama for the legendary Canal and an “amazing” private-island resort

Bungalow of a private resport in Panama.

An eco-friendly private-island resort, Isla Palenque is located on Panama’s Pacific coast. Photo: Isla Palenque

Pierre organized a great trip to Panama for us—two 60-plus-year-olds who were looking for some cultural moments as well as some serious relaxation. We started in Panama City and with Pierre’s guidance organized our vacation dates around a fascinating partial transit tour of the Panama Canal, which is only available a few days each week. We also enjoyed our visit to the Embera indigenous village, especially the boat ride to the waterfalls. I was worried that this might be exploitative, but the tours are run by the Embera themselves. Lunch of fish and plantains in a palm leaf was delicious.

Our city tour the next day was hindered by the fact that it was a national holiday, but Pierre’s team came through and organized a hike to the top of Ancon Hill for great views over the city and a visit to the fish market, with lunch. Our hotel, La Compania, in the old city was amazing, and Pierre wisely booked us a courtyard room to avoid the street noise. We loved being in the old city with its restaurants, bars and ambiance.

We then enjoyed the relaxation part of the trip, six nights at the amazing Isla Palenque. This very small resort where everybody knows your name was everything we wanted: peaceful, beautiful, great food and drinks. When we felt the urge to move a bit we went hiking in the rainforest, kayaking and did an island-hopping trip with snorkeling and lunch on a deserted beach that was wonderful.” —Christine Zufelt

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


Australia for Sydney’s famous New Year’s Eve and snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef

The Bengtzen family on a private yacht at Great Barrier Reef, Australia.

The Bengtzen family spent a day snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef from a private yacht.

“New Year’s in Australia had been a dream of mine since I was 14. We began in Sydney, where we stayed at the Shangri-La hotel. It gave us an amazing view for the fireworks, which were absolutely incredible. It was perfect for us and our adult kids to watch and not have to fight the crowds.

From Sydney we went to Hayman Island in the Whitsundays islands. This was a one-of -a-kind experience. From here we were able to have a private snorkeling trip to the Great Barrier Reef—both the inner and outer reefs. Restaurants on the island were fantastic, and the beach is heaven. From Hayman we went to Noosa, where we had an incredible experience kayaking on the ocean. The shopping and food were wonderful and gave us a great end to our trip.

None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t found Wendy Perrin and her referral of Stuart. Stuart and Jacki then took our dates, our family info, and planned a once-in-a-lifetime trip for us. I cannot recommend them enough.” —Keri Bengtzen

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


Sicily for meeting “wonderful people” over archaeology hikes and culinary experiences

Mt. Etna, Sicily.

Mt. Etna stands out from a dusting of snow in winter. Photo: Pixabay

“While January might not be the ideal time to visit Sicily (with the weather less than cooperative!), we saw, learned, engaged, and met wonderful people all along the way—from Palermo and surrounding towns Monreale, Castelbuono, Cefalu to Villa Romana del Casale, Agrigento, Testa dell’Acqua, Noto, Siracusa/Ortigia to Mt Etna. More than anything, getting to know Sicilians—over good conversations, culinary experiences, archaeology hikes, tours, food and wine—was the highlight of the entire trip. Marcello’s selection of guides and hosts was superb.

Perhaps the highlight of many highlights was the final day at Mt. Etna guided by Salvo (a volcanologist) followed by our visit to the Santa Maria La Nave Winery for a tour, wine tasting, and lunch hosted by Vera and Carmello. They epitomized the warmth, welcome and pride of purpose we found every day during this first visit to Sicily. We look forward to returning soon to this stunning, fascinating, history-filled island.” —Barbara Gross

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


Sri Lanka for an exotic (yet affordable) island with welcoming people and delicious cuisine

Travelers surrounded by village kids on their Tea Trail hike in Sri Lanka.

Jan Heininger and husband Jamie Reuter meeting village kids on a Tea Trail hike.

“We had a three-week trip to Sri Lanka planned by Miguel. This very interesting trip covered almost the entire country from the Cultural Triangle with its archaeological ruins, cave temples and Buddhist sacred sites, its historic capitals of Anuradhapura and Kandy, its largest national park (Yala) famed for its leopards, its gorgeous Indian Ocean beaches, its colonial past displayed in the Galle Fort, and its myriad of agricultural products, especially tea and cinnamon.

Miguel ensured that we had a flexible schedule. Our driver, Thissa, could say, ‘Let’s stop and see that bird,’ or we could stop and taste a Golden coconut or visit a local market where we were introduced to many unfamiliar vegetables and fruits that are essential elements of Sri Lankan cuisine.

Miguel had us stay in wonderful places, including two Aman resorts on the south coast. At Amanwella, we took one of the best cooking classes we’ve ever had with the Executive Chef. At Amangalla in Galle Fort, we went for a bike ride in the countryside (beware of heat exhaustion), toured the Fort with a terrific local guide, and had a workshop making and painting traditional Sri Lankan masks. Miguel also booked us into Castlereagh, a five-room, former tea plantation manager’s bungalow. We were told to treat it like our home—just tell them what we wanted to eat and when.

Miguel set up wonderful experiences including the cooking class, a mask carving and painting workshop and visits to a cinnamon plantation and to a tea factory. He had us hike a segment of the Tea Trail where we interacted with women tea pickers and with kids and villagers we encountered along the way. The mask my husband carved from a block of balsa wood and the two we painted are off being framed right now and will always be physical reminders of our time in Sri Lanka.” —Jan Heininger

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


Chile for Patagonia’s unique nature and wildlife

Travelers on a field of lupine during a birdwatching excursion in Chilean Patagonia.

Bill Livingood, Lynn Woodhouse, Sandra Quinn, and Stephen Thomas walk through a field of lupine during a birdwatching excursion in Chilean Patagonia.

“My husband, two friends and I have just returned from our trip to Chilean Patagonia, and once again, we were in the expert hands of Maita and her team. We began with a 3-night stay at the Singular Patagonia, outside of Puerto Natales. What a stunning and unique small hotel in a gorgeous setting overlooking a fjord. One wall of our room was a window onto the fjord and the activity of so many birds. We loved our bird-watching excursion there. With our great guide, we spent literally the entire day hiking through forest, pampa and the wetlands, spotting 41 species of birds. When we got to the end, and were pretty spent, our guide and driver served wine, water, tea, lentil soup and cheese, sausages and crackers. That certainly refreshed us. We enjoyed an afternoon empanada class and an interesting trek to three different caves. The Singular is definitely worth the stay.

From there, we drove to Tierra Patagonia, just outside Torres del Paine National Park. Magnificent view from our huge window in our room!!! We seized the opportunity for multiple excursions, as well as enjoying massages in the spa, taking a swim, and braving the wind for the outdoor hot tub. We saw lots of wildlife, wildflowers, stunning sunsets, and on our last morning, the entire dining room was abuzz when we saw a puma saunter across the property in front of us.

We spent our last night in the Singular Santiago, our second stay there, and it is a lovely hotel in a great location. Before our departure for the US, we had an extraordinary WOW Moment: Maita and team had arranged a cooking class and dinner with Tatan, a chef who hosted us at his home overlooking the city and mountains. He was gracious, interesting, and charming. We began with luscious appetizers on the balcony, and moved to the kitchen where he had organized work stations and assignments for each of us as we made ceviche and pisco sours. In addition to having fun, we learned new cooking skills. Gary, our escort to the airport, had to drag us away as we enjoyed our meal and delicious cheesecake on the balcony. With Tatan and Gary, we learned more about life in Santiago and Chile. By the end of the evening, we had begun questioning whether this trip, our third to Chile, would be our last, as we learned more about other places and things to do.” —Sandra Quinn

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


Finland for the northern lights and other Arctic adventures (ice fishing, dogsledding…)

The cozy and warm Glass House Suite at the Arctic Treehouse Hotel in Finland.

Between outdoor adventures, Michael Ruma warmed up in his Glass House Suite. Photo: Traveler Michael Ruma

“My wife said she’d like to see the aurora borealis and, with Wendy’s help, we were quickly introduced to Leigh, who created a delightful week of fun in Finland.

We hopped an easy flight from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, which lies directly on the latitude of the Arctic Circle. An efficient, private transfer brought us to the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel. Met with warm blueberry juice, we checked into our Glass House suite. Our room had a centrally located living room with an enclosed wood-burning stove along with two bathrooms, one of which had our very own dry sauna.

Advised to download the Aurora app, we learned about the KP index which predicts the probability of witnessing the northern lights. Fortunately, after dinner at the hotel, a notification from the app informed us at 9pm the chance was high! Intent on seeing the natural phenomenon, we bundled up and hiked up a trail to a 50-foot observation tower specifically designed for viewing the lights. Finnish myths say the lights are caused when a fox runs across the Arctic landscape whipping up snow from its tail, sparking the lights in the night sky.

Regardless of the cause, we were blessed by an hour display of a gray hazy line emerging in the distance and evolving into a bright green glow right in front of our eyes. As we watched and photographed the sky, the lights blew around us along our walk back to our room.

Our next two days were filled with other Arctic adventures which included an exciting jaunt by snowmobile to learn how to ice fish on a frozen lake and then dog sledding on a snowy day in the beautiful and vast northern Finnish countryside. We concluded our trip with a train ride from Rovaniemi back to Helsinki. On our last day in Helsinki, we splurged and dined at Restaurant Savoy.

We would happily come back to Finland for a future visit either in the winter to take in the unique night sky, but this time much further north, or during the summer to take in the lively and sunny long days in Helsinki filled with so much to see, taste, and do. Delighted by its vast country, small polite population, and compact capital, its seasonally focused food, and its matter-of-fact and kind people. We had such fun in Finland.” —Michael Ruma

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


Vietnam and Cambodia for blow-your-mind history, street food, and Angkor Wat at sunrise

Angkor Wat

It requires careful planning to have Angkor Wat to yourself like this. Photo: Traveler David Wertheimer

“Our trip to Cambodia and Vietnam from January 21st to February 6th was spectacular. We started in Phnom Penh, and traveled from there to Siem Reap, the Angkor Wat temple complex, Saigon, Cu Chi, Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi and Ha Long Bay. Sopisith prepared our itinerary and arranged for personal guides at each of our stops. The guides were knowledgeable, friendly, and provided both historical information and personal stories that placed the horrors of the eras of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the U.S. military activities in Vietnam within the context of our visit and our understanding of current life in both nations. Our guides also provided us with street food tours that allowed us to sample some of the most unusual dishes we’ve ever eaten. (The sand worm pancakes were delicious!) There were multiple ‘wow,’ bucket-list moments, including Angkor Wat at sunrise (get there early!) and Ha Long Bay, to name just two of them.” —David Wertheimer

This trip was arranged by a WOW List candidate. Here’s what that means.

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couple the bamboo forest Kyoto Japan with umbrella

Dispatch from Japan: What It’s Like to Be There Now

PLEASE NOTE: Our ongoing efforts to check in with travelers who are currently overseas does not mean we advocate travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The U.S. State Department has advised U.S. citizens to reconsider travel abroad.  Public health officials advise older adults and people with underlying health conditions to abstain from travel entirely. They also recommend “social distancing” for everyone, which means keeping about six feet of space between yourself and others, which is hard to do on planes or trains and in airports. That said, Japan is no longer on the CDC’s list of high-risk countries to avoid. The U.S. has now surpassed Japan in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths

Bill Schierl and Sarena Melotte are in Tokyo today. The husband and wife, who live in Wisconsin, had planned the trip to see Sarena’s old college friend and to spend time in Kyoto, Kanazawa, and Tokyo on a week-long journey scheduled to start March 8.  As the date approached and the coronavirus spread, they had a decision to make: Japan’s coronavirus case load seemed to be leveling out, while in contrast, the U.S.’s cases were on track to surpass it. As of today, that’s the reality:  According to Johns Hopkins, the U.S. is suffering with 2,345 known cases (50 deaths) and trending upward, while Japan has 773 (22 deaths) and the curve is flattening.  After a lot of consideration, they decided to go ahead with the trip. We talked to them on March 13 as they arrived in Tokyo, to hear about their experiences and understand their decision-making process.

Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto Japan

Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto. Photo courtesy Bill Schierl

What is it like to travel in Japan during this time of the virus? How does it feel?

Sarena: There is a sense of heightened awareness. We were in China last year, and that’s also a culture that wears face masks all the time anyway, so to see that here isn’t a culture shock for us. But knowing why. Still, I felt pretty comfortable; we are taking all the standard precautions.

Bill: Overall, I think people are a little happy to have tourism. Our guide this morning said 50 percent of her business canceled. That’s very typical—even walking to the bamboo forest and through the shop areas, there’s just no people. You hear about the economics of something like this on the news, but in real life, you see the economics: the person who is running a small little vendor shop and there’s no one walking by anymore.

Sarena: In Kyoto, a man told us that he had not seen foreigners since January. He owns a business and he was very happy that we came in. It’s a sad situation when that’s the reaction you’re getting. We don’t want to be portrayed that we were very flippant about [the decision to come to Japan] or didn’t weigh it heavily. We didn’t want to be seen as the obnoxious Americans who didn’t take into account the greater good, who were just “Yay, there’s nobody here, this is great.” While it was nice that there weren’t a lot of people, we always knew why. Everyone we’ve met has just been lovely. Two older women on the bus this morning were all smiles, and everyone is going the extra mile. The taxi driver literally got out of the car and pointed to where we were going to make sure we got to the right place. Everyone was so helpful.

A garden in Kyoto Japan

A garden in Kyoto, one of many places with very few tourists. Photo courtesy Bill Schierl

How is it affecting what you’re doing and seeing?

Bill: The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art was closed in Kyoto, but you could still enter the building and see some exhibits. TeamLab was closed in Tokyo. Some of the samurai homes were closed yesterday. But in Japan, so much of what you’re going to see anyway is a temple or a garden, or bamboo gardens. We’ve been outdoors 95% of our days. That’s what we’ve felt best about is that we’ve been outside most of the time.

Sarena: Our itinerary hasn’t really changed, but it’s hard to compare apples to apples. When we walked through the samurai district, we could take a photo with no one behind us. Our guide said it was weird; there was a school near us and it was unusual that you wouldn’t hear the sound of children. There was literally no one in it. But on a normal day it would have been extremely busy.

empty outdoor alley in samurai district in Kanazawa Japan

The samurai district of Nagamachi, Kanazawa. Photo courtesy Bill Schierl

Are you seeing fewer crowds everywhere?

Bill: The major train station in Tokyo is still busy. There’s people around; we can only assume that there’s less people around by Tokyo standards.

Sarena: Let’s put it this way: We got out of the train station and jumped right in a taxi, there was no queue.

empty Shinkansen train in Japan with one traveler waving

An empty Shinkansen train. Photo courtesy Bill Schierl

The U.S. now has more cases than Japan. Do you feel safer there than you would here?

Sarena: It helped knowing that the culture that we were stepping into was for-the good-of-the-group minded, that everyone is doing their part. The hotel staff was showing us how to work the TV and it turned on to a sumo match and there wasn’t anyone in the audience. Japan had started these practices two to three weeks ago.  We’re scrolling through social media today, and our community at home is only now feeling the effects: social distancing and our local university ending classes. I really don’t know what we’re going to step into at home.

Bill:  The average person on the street here has remained welcoming and we haven’t felt anyone to be distancing, even riding mass transportation. Based on our own CDC’s recommendations, we’ve chosen not to wear masks because when you put it on you touch your face more and it doesn’t prevent it. But here, there is probably only one percent of the population that we see unmasked. But nobody has moved a seat if we sat down next to them.

What were the pros and cons that you considered as you were deciding whether to take the trip or cancel it?

Sarena: Number one on our list was being socially responsible: all the health reasons, and also we didn’t want to be the two people who leave our small community, travel, and come back sick—so we are going to take precautions and monitor our own health.

Bill:  A con was that there’s not any travel insurance you can get that fully covers cancellation  because of epidemics or pandemics.  A pro was that Japan has a culture of cleanliness and knowing that everyone already wears masks, that they were already at a heightened sense of dealing with the virus and had already taken steps. We felt a little more comfortable that way. And the Delta flight home was still going. And before leaving, at that time Japan did not have an escalating number of cases; the curve had already flattened.

Also, we registered with the STEP program, so the embassy here knew that we were in the country and we’ve received alerts and information. So it was a pro, knowing beforehand that there was a U.S. embassy and that if things came to the worst, we had a place to go and take refuge. What the reality of this is, I don’t know, and I’m glad we haven’t had to know, but it was a sense of comfort knowing before we left. And we packed in preparation, in case we got ill. We had go-bags and all the things from home you would want if you were sick.

coronavirus sign in hired car in Japan

Coronavirus safety signs are posted in trains and cars. Photo courtesy Bill Schierl

How did the President’s speech and new travel restrictions for Europe affect your thinking?

Bill: We haven’t really followed the news in the last week that we’ve been here—it’s as vacation goes. In the last two nights there wasn’t even a television available. We are flying into Minnesota, which is an airport that is not doing any restrictions and health verifications. My question was, should we come home immediately, but this morning we called Delta and found out the flight is still a go—it’s not being rerouted. So we’re feeling comfortable that it will be ok. But just knowing that all of a sudden they banned travel from Europe as a whole—just saying Europe was a broad brush—we were concerned that they could all of a sudden say Asia. That created a little nervousness and desire for verification.

Did any officials in Japan tell you anything about the virus or protection concerns or possible quarantines when you entered the country?

Bill: People talked about the virus openly and there were messages around, but there was no one who spoke to us at customs.

Sarena: There was nothing in your face, but there were definitely overhead announcements on public transportation. At every single shop they covered the hand driers to decrease the touch points, and every single shop and restaurant has hand sanitizers right at the door. I have never used this much hand sanitizer. And I never realized how much my nose itches.

tourist couple selfie in front of countdown clock to Tokyo Olympics in Japan

Countdown to the Tokyo Olympics, originally scheduled for summer 2020 but which may be postponed. Photo courtesy Bill Schierl

Harajuku, Tokyo

Tokyo Airport Layovers: The Best Way to Spend Them

An airport layover doesn’t have to mean that you’re stuck in the airport. In this series, local experts in the world’s most popular hub cities recommend sightseeing itineraries for every time frame.


Since U.S. citizens don’t need a visa to enter Japan (unless you’re staying longer than 90 days), it’s not hard to do a bit of sightseeing during even a short layover. We talked to the Tokyo team at Context Travel (an in-depth walking tour company on Wendy’s WOW List), to find out where to go, how to get there, and what to do—even if you don’t have enough time to leave the airport.

The Basics

How to get out of the airport: The Narita Express (N’EX) runs from Narita Airport to Tokyo station in an hour, with some trains also running to Shinjuku, which takes about 85 minutes. Trains run from Narita terminals 1 and 2 every 30 minutes from 7:30am to 9:44pm; trains run from Tokyo station back to Narita every 30 minutes from 6:18am to 10:03pm. Tickets from Narita to Tokyo are ¥1,500 (about $13) for foreign passport holders; the return trip is the normal price of ¥3,020 (about $25). If you will  be traveling extensively by train through Japan later, it makes sense to buy a JR (Japan Rail) pass; they’re available for seven, 14, or 21 days starting from ¥29,110 (about $250), and can be used to ride the N’EX.

The Kesei Skyliner runs from Narita Airport to Ueno station in 41 minutes. Trains from both airport terminals to Ueno station every 40–60 minutes from 8:17am to 10:30pm. Trains run from Ueno back to the airport every 20 minutes from 5:58am to 5:45pm. Tickets are ¥2,470 each way. Several trains on the Kesei line stop in Narita; the ride is around 10 minutes and costs less than ¥300. Get yen before you leave the airport or at 7-11 at JR Narita station. In Narita, you can utilize the Narita City Round Bus to get around (it also stops at the airport).

The train stations in Tokyo are very large; when heading back to the airport, leave yourself plenty of time to get to the correct platform.

What to do with your luggage: If you haven’t checked your baggage through to your final destination, stow it at one of the left luggage counters, which are on the first floor in Terminal 1, and the first and third floors in Terminal 2; the cost is ¥520 ($5) for a medium-sized suitcase.

If You Have a 4-Hour Layover

With four hours, you don’t have enough time to see Tokyo, but you can explore the city of Narita a bit. From the Narita train station, stroll down the main street, Omotesando, where you can pick up fruit, rice crackers, and other local snacks, as well as souvenirs like chopsticks and cookware. If you continue down Omotesando, you’ll come to Naritasan Shinshoji, a large Buddhist temple that sits at the top of a hill. The surrounding Naritasan Park is lovely, particularly when the trees are a fiery red-orange or when the cherry blossoms are out. Dotted with ponds, statues, and fountains, it’s a welcoming, shady place to stretch your legs. (If you happen to be there at 3pm, you can watch the Goma ceremony, during which priests take votive sticks left by visitors and burn them as an offering.) There are plenty of places to eat along the main road and the side streets. One of the most common traditional dishes is unagi, broiled eel in a sweet sauce, served over rice. Takoyaki (fried octopus balls) are another popular snack, especially during cherry blossom season, when they’re eaten at picnics under the trees. Most restaurants only have Japanese menus, but also colorful plastic models of each of their set lunches, so you can just point to what you want.

If You Have an 8-Hour Layover

Tsukiji market, Tokyo. Photo: Context Travel

Tsukiji market, Tokyo. Photo: Context Travel

If you have eight hours, you can go into Tokyo, but be sure to allow yourself an hour’s travel time on each end.

Start off with a walk around Tsukiji outer market, a maze-like warren of food and cookware shops. (To get to the market from the airport, take the Skyliner to Keisei-Ueno station, walk the short distance to Ueno station, and take the Hibiya Line, toward Naka-Megura, to Tsukiji station.) Browse the stalls, grazing on tamagoyaki (sweet rolled omelet), assorted pickled vegetables, rice crackers, and other small bites. Grab a plate of super-fresh sashimi, and then move on to a bubbling bowl of ramen—or, if it’s summer, cool soba. For dessert, cleanse your palate with matcha (green tea) soft serve or taiyaki, a fish-shaped cake filled with red bean paste (or sometimes chocolate or vanilla). From Tsukiji train station, take the Hibiya line toward Nakameguro; at Chiyoda, transfer to the Chiyoda line to Yoyogi-Uehara and get off at Meiji-jingumae station. The 20-minute trip will bring you to Harajuku. Ogle the bright, out-there fashions on pedestrian-only Takeshita-dori, then find serenity in lush Yoyogi Park. To get back to the airport, take the Chiyoda line from Meiji-jingumae station to Tokyo station and hop on the Narita Express.

Alternatively, if you are interested in getting a peek into Tokyo subcultures, then a walk through the Akihabara neighborhood is a must. Otaku—enthusiasts of anime (cartoons) and manga (comics)—are the main theme of this tour. (To get here from the airport, hop on the Skyliner to Nippori station, change to the Keihintohoku line toward Isogo, and get off at Akihabara station.) Try your luck in one of the neighborhood’s arcades, wander through the busy streets, and even enter a maid café and see costume play (shorthanded to “cosplay”) in action. From Akihabara station, take the Yamanote line to Ueno station, which will bring you to Ueno Park, home to the beautiful Shinobazu Pond and a number of interesting shrines and museums. To reach the airport, exit the park from the south and jump on the Skyliner from Keisei-Ueno station.

If you don’t want to go it alone, Context Travel offers three-hour scholar-led walking tours in Tokyo and can organize custom walks based on your layover timing.

If You Don’t Have Time to Leave the Airport

There are a slew of nearby hotels that offer reasonable day rates. Nearly all have breakfast included, and several have pools, including the Hotel Nikko. Within the airport itself are fantastic facilities for passing the time: You can visit the dentist, get a haircut, go for a manicure or a massage, breathe deeply at the oxygen bar, take the kids to one of the playrooms, or book some time in a dayroom or shower. The shopping and dining options are excellent; if this is your only stop in Japan, you’d be remiss not to sample some ramen, sushi, and soba.


More Layover Solutions:

Amsterdam Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Beijing Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Barcelona Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Great Paris Hotels for an Airport Layover at Charles de Gaulle

London Heathrow Layover: Great Hotels for a Stopover at LHR

Madrid Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

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

Tokyo, Japan

A Trip to Japan:
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The Great Wall of China

Rookie Travel Mistakes to Avoid in Asia

Rookie travel mistakes happen more often than you think. In the excitement of preparing for a long-dreamed about escape or a last-minute getaway, even the savviest of globetrotters can forget the basics. A common one is not thinking about the best time of year (or time of week) to experience a destination; another is failing to allot enough time to visit each point on your itinerary. To be sure you don’t fall into any traps (tourist or otherwise) during your own adventures, we asked our Trusted Travel Experts to weigh in on the most important things to know—and the most common rookie mistakes to avoid—when traveling to China, Japan, Vietnam, and other parts of Asia.

What would you add? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.


Expecting idyllic white-sand beaches. Bali’s beaches are mostly too rough for swimming (but good for surfing), and the quieter ones have little or no sand. I listen carefully to what every client is looking for in a beach—and tell them if they’re better off in the Caribbean. —Diane Embree, Trusted Travel Expert for Bali

Read Diane’s Insider’s Guide to Bali


Paro, Bhutan

Paro, Bhutan. Photo courtesy Antonia Neubauer.

Not knowing that there is only one east-west road in the entire country, meaning that every tourist (and there are many, despite what anyone else says) who is not trekking is driving back and forth along that same road. —Antonia Neubauer, Trusted Travel Expert for Bhutan and Nepal

Read Antonia’s Insider’s Guide to Bhutan


Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Photo courtesy Molly Fergu

One big rookie mistake that travelers make is assuming you’ll ride through the jungle on an elephant and “discover” Angkor Wat! It’s best to be realistic that this is a major international destination and plan accordingly. You can avoid the crowds and have a more special experience if you get an early start and begin at the back entrance to Angkor Wat, or visit lesser-known temples. If you head in unprepared, you’ll be in the middle of packs of tourists and you won’t really get to see anything. —Andrea Ross, Trusted Travel Expert for Southeast Asia

Read Andrea’s Insider’s Guides to Angkor Wat and Cambodia


Dragonback Rice Terraces, Guangxi, China

Dragonback rice terraces, Guangxi Province. Photo courtesy Lian Lodge.

Seeing only the famous sites, such as the Great Wall and the Terra-cotta Warriors. China has so much to offer, and major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi’an are only a slice of the entire country—and an overdeveloped, crowded, and sprawling one at that. I urge you to spend from five days to a week focusing on a lesser-known province, such as Yunnan, Sichuan, Guizhou, or Guangxi. Visit some smaller villages, enjoy the beauty of terraced rice fields, and get away from the most popular places and the wonderful diversity of the culture will come to life. —Mei Zhang, Trusted Travel Expert for China

Read Mei’s Insider’s Guides to China’s Big Cities and Small Villages, Yunnan Province, and Beijing

Cruising in Asia

Sunset over Bagan, Myanmar.

Sunset over Bagan, Myanmar. Photo courtesy the Cruise Professionals.

A rookie mistake is planning to board the ship the same day you fly into port. You’ve probably booked an Asia cruise because you want to pack a lot of destinations into a single trip—so why waste your time and money spending the first few days of your itinerary jet-lagged? Even if the ship spends the first night in its departure port, arrive a few days early so that you can properly acclimate (and not risk missing the ship due to airline or weather delays; Hong Kong in particular can get fogged in). —Mary Jean Tully, Trusted Travel Expert for Cruises

Read Mary Jean’s Insider’s Guide to Asia Cruises

India: Agra

Taj Mahal Reflection, Agra, India

Taj Mahal Reflection, Agra, India. Courtesy Sanjay Saxena

A rookie mistake is forgetting to buy tickets to the Taj Mahal in advance. Tickets are not sold at the entrance: The ticket office is actually located in the East Gate parking lot about a mile from the monument entrance. Tickets to the Taj may also be purchased at any of the other monuments in Agra—but be sure that the date stamp is for the day that you will be visiting or is an open-ended ticket. —Sanjay Saxena, Trusted Travel Expert for India

Read Sanjay’s Insider’s Guides to Delhi and Agra and the Taj Mahal

India: Rajasthan

Amanbagh, India

Amanbagh, India. Photo courtesy Amanbagh

Travelers to India—and especially to Rajasthan—love to shop for fine jewelry because the prices are so good, but you need to go somewhere reputable, otherwise you may be sold glass instead of diamonds. (One of our favorite shops is the Gem Palace in Jaipur.) —Bertie and Victoria Dyer, Trusted Travel Experts for India

Read Bertie and Victoria’s Insider’s Guide to Rajasthan


Monk and flowers, Nepal.

Monk and Flowers, Nepal. Photo Courtesy Toni Neubauer

Not paying attention to altitude gain when trekking! People like to believe they are immortal and want to rush up mountains, but they need to study the rules for altitude acclimatization and follow them carefully. Altitude sickness is no joke. —Antonia Neubauer, Trusted Travel Expert for Nepal and Bhutan

Read Antonia’s Insider’s Guide to Nepal

Sri Lanka

Sunset in Tangalle

Sunset on a beach in Tangalle.

Sri Lanka looks small on a map, but it can take hours to get from place to place, and there are definite no-nos. For instance, don’t try to travel from Kandy to Yala National Park in one day, or from the Cultural Triangle to the beaches of Tangalle, or from Jaffna to Colombo. On the map (and on Google Maps), distances and approximate travel times are misleading. Sri Lanka offers great diversity and looks like you can tick all the boxes in one week—you can’t. If you want to speed things up a little, try flying on certain segments. Two local operators offer scheduled flights around the country: Cinnamon Air and Helitours. —Miguel Cunat, Trusted Travel Expert for Sri Lanka

Read Miguel’s Insider’s Guide to Sri Lanka


Grand Palace, Bangkok. Photo by C Kennerly.

Grand Palace, Bangkok. Photo by C Kennerly.

Visiting Bangkok first. This sprawling metropolis of some 18 million people can be overwhelming, so I don’t recommend it for your first encounter with Thailand. It’s much more enjoyable to recover from jet lag someplace relaxing and traditionally Thai, such as Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, or Sukhothai. By traveling upcountry (or to the beach) first, you’ll experience traditional Thai culture, have time to acclimate to the time zone, and appreciate Bangkok much more when you visit it at the end of your trip. —Sandy Ferguson, Trusted Travel Expert for Southeast Asia

Read Sandy’s Insider’s Guides to Bangkok, Southeast Asia, and Thailand

Uzbekistan and The Silk Road

Tilla Kori Medreseh, Samarkand

Tilla Kori Medreseh in Samarkand. Photo courtesy Zulya Rajabova.

Some travelers opt to fly from one Silk Road city to another, and there is a high-speed train from Tashkent to Samarkand, but travel by car is most rewarding. There are many cultural, architectural, and archaeological treasures to find outside the main cities, as well as rural villages to visit, the ancient towns of Jizzakh Province, local bazaars, and amazing photo opportunities. —Zulya Rajabova, Trusted Travel Expert for Uzbekistan and the Silk Road

Read Zulya’s Insider’s Guide to Uzbekistan


Do you have tips on avoiding rookie mistakes? Share your advice in the comments.

Private Villa, Transcoso, Brazil

Five Expensive Destinations That Will Be Cheaper in 2015

The dollar is once again king: Since the Great Recession, the Unites States’ economy has recovered better than any other major country’s: At the start of 2015, our currency was at an eleven-year high compared to those of other major countries, while the euro was at a nine-year low. Local currencies are down at least 10% against the January 2014 dollar in many popular travel destinations, including Mexico, Argentina, the euro zone, Sweden, Norway, and much of Africa. Parts of the world that not long ago were unaffordable for many are now within closer reach. Here are five places where the strong dollar will carry you surprisingly far in 2015:


Temple monks in Wakayama, Japan

Temple monks in Wakayama, Japan. Courtesy Paco

Since 2012, the yen has decreased in value by a whopping 43%. Hotels have raised their rates a bit, says Duff Trimble, our Trusted Travel Expert for Japan, but not nearly enough to keep up. This makes the country a bargain compared to what it cost to travel there a few years ago. You’ll find the best deals outside the peak periods for cherry blossoms (early April) and fall foliage (late November). Game for a last-minute getaway? Why not try skiing in Japan this winter.

To get the best possible trip, Ask Wendy.


Sossusvlei Dunes, Namibia

Sossusvlei Dunes, Namibia. Courtesy Cherri Briggs

South Africa & Namibia
A weakening rand and strong U.S. dollar mean that these two African nations are a steal for American travelers right now (the Namibian dollar is tied to the South African rand). Two years ago, $1 bought you about 8 rand; today, the rate is above 11.50. Over the course of a five-night safari, that difference could save a couple more than $3,500 at Royal Malewane, a luxury lodge situated on a private game reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park.

Read Insider’s Guides from some of our Trusted Travel Experts for Africa: Nina Wennersten and Dan Saperstein’s Insider’s Guide to South Africa Safaris, and Cherri Briggs’s Insider’s Guide to Namibia

To get the best possible trip, use Wendy’s trip-request forms to contact Nina and Dan, or Cherri.


Evening View, London, England

The view from Victoria Tower of the Houses of Parliament, the River Thames, Westminster and Westminster Bridge, towards the East as dusk is falling. Courtesy Visit Britain

Yes, the dollar buys more British pounds than it has in over a year. But that’s not the only reason that there’s value to be found in this perennially expensive city, says our Trusted Travel Expert for the United Kingdom, Jonathan Epstein. Several new five-star hotels have opened recently, and the competition has driven prices down: At the Milestone Hotel overlooking Kensington Palace, for instance, your fourth night is free (in a suite, the third night comes at no charge); at the Athenaeum Hotel in Mayfair, Epstein’s clients get 50% off a second room during certain times of year.

Read Jonathan’s Insider advice for London Heathrow overnight layovers.

To get the best possible trip, use Wendy’s trip-request form to contact Jonathan.


Gardens of Peter, St. Petersburg, Russia

Gardens of Peter, St. Petersburg, Russia. Courtesy Greg Tepper

With “diminished crowds and dramatically lower prices,” reports our Trusted Travel Expert for Russia, Greg Tepper, “now is the best time to visit Russia in many, many years.” Despite the current political climate, urban Russians are generally pro-Western, and personal safety is no more a concern than in Rome or Paris. If you want the best value, advises Tepper, start booking now: Hotels are at a huge discount, but many have already warned Tepper that they may soon start quoting rates in dollars or euros. Dance lovers would be wise to plan a trip during the Mariinsky International Ballet Festival in mid-March, when acclaimed dancers from around the world perform together in St. Petersburg. Tepper’s three-night programs to Moscow and St. Petersburg are the perfect introductions to these legendary cities; for WendyPerrin.com readers, the packages (including luxury hotel accommodations with breakfast, airport transfers, and one day’s private guided touring) start at $1,675 per person in Moscow and $1,200 per person in St. Petersburg—about 25% off what the same would have cost last year.

Read Greg’s Insider’s Guides to Moscow and to St. Petersburg.

To get the best possible trip, use Wendy’s trip-request form to contact Greg.


Even in the quiet year shoehorned between hosting duties for the World Cup and the Olympics, Brazil is a hot destination—but also a more affordable one for Americans, thanks to the most favorable exchange rate in almost a decade. From the megalopolis of Rio de Janeiro to the jungles of the Amazon, prices are about 20% lower than even last year, and the Brazilian real isn’t predicted to strengthen until 2016.

Read our Trusted Travel Expert Paul Irvine’s Insider’s Guides to Rio de Janeiro and to Trancoso, Brazil.

To get the best possible trip, use Wendy’s trip-request form to contact Paul.


Where are you headed this year?