Tag Archives: last minute travel

castle on green hill overlooking Douro River in Portugal with text Europe's Latest Reopening Where You can go and what it will be like

Europe’s Latest Reopenings: Where You Can Go and What It Will Be Like

Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, Malta, Germany, the Czech Republic—so many countries in Europe have just opened or are about to. If you’re vaccinated, right now is a uniquely enjoyable and fun moment for experiencing these places without the usual tourist crowds and with a warm welcome from virtually everyone you meet. In this live Q&A, we talked about how to make your Europe trip easy and special.

You can watch the full Q&A above.

These were the over-arching takeaways:

  • Covid-related logistics—such as testing requirements, flight schedule changes, hotel availability, car rental—are much easier to handle than you might imagine. Based on what Wendy’s hearing from travelers, logistics and service levels are much better in Europe than in the U.S. this summer so far. Of course, such logistics are hugely diminished, or eliminated entirely, if you use the right local fixer who has the knowledge and resources on the ground. Just ask your fellow travelers.
  • Countries that are usually packed are experiencing a unique crowd-free moment.
  • There is value to be had if you travel now. In Portugal, for example, prices have dropped for 2021, but not for 2022.

You can read about Billie’s experiences in Greece, France, and Spain this month here:

As journalists, it’s our job to review and road-test trip designers—that’s how we curate The WOW List, and it’s how we make recommendations to you. You can reach out to the right local fixer for your needs by using Wendy’s WOW List of road-tested trip planners around the world. If you contact them this way, they’ll know you’re a VIP sent by Wendy, you’ll get all the benefits that come with that, and you can start your way to earning a WOW Moment from Wendy (a complimentary, exclusive, insider travel experience).

The travel specialists featured in our talk were:

•Portugal – Gonçalo Correia
Read reviews of Goncalo, and contact him through The WOW List to be marked as a VIP

•Switzerland – Nina Müller
Read reviews of Nina, and contact her through The WOW List to be marked as a VIP

•Malta – Damon Camilleri Allan
Read reviews of Damon, and contact him through The WOW List to be marked as a VIP

•Italy – Jennifer Virgilio
Read reviews of Jennifer, and contact her through The WOW List to be marked as a VIP

Covid-era travel intel and articles:

Many of you also had questions about other topics, and you can find answers in the following videos and articles, as well as in our special Covid-19 section of WendyPerrin.​com where all this intel is collected.

Thanks again to all who joined us and to all of you who are watching now. Sign up for our newsletter for info on our next talk, and please share our videos and articles with a friend who loves travel. Together we can figure out how to do it as smartly, safely, and meaningfully as possible. —Wendy, Brook, Billie, and Kristine



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

Pool at Kura Design Villas Cost Rica

These Trips of a Lifetime Are Better if You Book Last Minute

The most extraordinary trips usually require a fair amount of planning. But there are a few destinations where, right now, even a top-of-the-line trip can be planned on the spur of the moment—and should be. Here’s where and why.

Costa Rica

Honeymooners are steering clear of Costa Rica right now—the best resorts, which are typically full, are running at 60 to 70 percent capacity—and the Zika virus could be to blame. If you’re of a reproductive mindset, sure, it’s wise to stay away (Zika is a major concern only for women who are or hope to soon become pregnant). But if not, now is a great time to visit Costa Rica. This summer, top properties such as Finca Rosa Blanca Resort, Hacienda AltaGracia, Kura Design Villas, Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort, and Lapa Rios Eco Lodge are offering discounts to entice travelers, but Michael believes the biggest value is in the extra-special service that you’re sure to receive when a hotel’s staff has fewer guests to care for: A naturalist might take some extra time to find that elusive bird species with you, a restaurant might surprise you with a private dining experience for free, or the front desk clerk might upgrade you to a suite if one would otherwise sit empty. (These things are certainly likely to happen for WendyPerrin.com travelers who use a recommended expert off of Wendy’s WOW List.)

ecuador with snowy mountain, green meadow, and sheep grazing

Ecuador’s mainland is seeing fewer visitors than usual—which means now is the perfect time to visit. Photo: Southwind Adventures


An April earthquake and fears of Zika virus have scared some travelers away from Ecuador. But the major tourist areas of Quito, Cuenca, and the Galapagos have seen little effect from either scourge: The quake’s area of damage was confined to the coast, and as for Zika, mosquitos don’t live in the Andean highlands and are unlikely to carry the virus in the Galapagos (due to the same strict environmental controls that have made the islands malaria-free). Tom Damon, Trusted Travel Expert for Ecuador, tells us that, while you’re unlikely to find space on a last-minute Galapagos cruise (travelers book these far in advance, and few have cancelled), the mainland is seeing fewer visitors than usual—and there’s so much there to see, from highland haciendas to rainforest ecolodges, craft villages to UNESCO World Heritage sites. Ecuador’s economy relies heavily on tourism, and the government will have to do much rebuilding along the coast. This is why Quito’s mayor, Mauricio Rodas, has said: “The best way to help Ecuador is to visit Ecuador.” Go now, and you’ll be greeted by grateful citizens eager to make yours the trip of a lifetime.

Monk and flowers, Nepal.

Monk and Flowers, Nepal. Photo Courtesy Toni Neubauer


“Because of the earthquake in April 2015, tourism is still quite slow in Nepal, so if you have a last-minute desire to see or trek the Himalayas, now is definitely the time to go,” says Antonia Neubauer, Trusted Travel Expert for Nepal. Infrastructure, hotels, and trekking routes are all largely functioning as they were before the quake—and you won’t run into hordes of hikers on the most popular trails, as would have happened in the past. Surprisingly, hotel rates have gone up as concrete, food, and other supplies are having to get shipped in from other countries (many farmers missed the planting season last year). But remember that your tourist dollars are desperately needed: “A good portion of the population is still struggling to rebuild. When you come to Nepal, know that you are giving back to the country just by being there,” says Antonia. While summer is the monsoon season, fall is prime for trekking, biking, and festival-going.


It’s not at all unheard of for China to revoke permits that have already been granted to travelers headed to Tibet. “The Chinese government can close travel to Tibet at any time,” says Sanjay Saxena, Trusted Travel Expert for Tibet, “which means that it’s difficult to plan a trip for next year. However, our ears in the tourism ministry forewarn us a few weeks in advance if a closure is expected, so with a last-minute booking I can with great certainty determine whether or not we will be able to get a permit.” The overland journey from Lhasa to Kathmandu, Nepal, is one of Sanjay’s favorite travel experiences, but after last year’s earthquake, this border crossing was closed and all such trips had to be cancelled. Sanjay has just gotten word that it will be reopened in June, making this iconic journey through two Himalayan kingdoms possible once again.


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.

Lake Burton Georgia

July 4th Weekend Getaway Ideas: Small Towns that Are Big on Charm

Wow, July 4th weekend is already upon us, and we want to know where you’re headed for Independence Day. To help you make a quick getaway, Wendy has already revealed (to her husband’s dismay) her family’s favorite 4th of July small-town escape. Which made us wonder which small towns are calling to you. We asked friends and fans on Facebook (many of whom are in the travel business themselves) to share their picks for great small-town July 4th weekend getaways, and here’s what they had to say. Be sure to share your own picks in the comments below.


Lake Burton, Georgia

Reader Chris McGinnis, who’s also the expert behind TravelSkills, is off to Lake Burton, in Georgia’s lake-dotted Rabun County. “There’s a fun boozy flotilla of boats at sunset, then fireworks!” he says. The sparklers, shot off Billy Goat Island, have been a tradition here for more than 25 years.


Laurel, Montana

Laurel Montana July 4th parade

Laurel puts on a popular July 4th parade and the largest fireworks display in Montana.  Photo: Courtesy Laurel Chamber of Commerce

Facebook fan Lisa Orr says, “I’m headed home to Laurel, MT, where they go all out for the 4th. There is a street dance on the 3rd, a parade, and the best fireworks in the state!” Those fireworks are the largest display in the state, in fact, and according to the city government, 5,000 to 10,000 people travel to Laurel every year to see them. The Independence Day festivities aren’t the only attraction in the area: Billings is just 13 miles away, the Lewis and Clark landmark Pompeys Pillar is 40 miles away (Clark himself was the reason the town was created in the first place), the site of Custer’s last stand is 77 miles away, and four of Yellowstone National Park’s entrances are within a one- to three-hour drive. But Lisa probably knows all of this already—she’s a Montana vacation rental specialist with Mountain Home.


Langhorne Borough, Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania's Langhorne Borough

Pennsylvania’s Langhorne Borough is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Photo: Kari C. Thomas

This tiny historic village is home to just 1,600 people and spans only one square mile, but it packs in more than 300 years of history: George Washington’s soldiers occupied four buildings in town after crossing the Delaware, and many Revolutionary War soldiers were buried in a now-protected site. The borough is on the National Historic Register of Places and makes a fitting destination for Independence Day: “As our town was part of the American war for independence,” says reader Donna Thomas, “it is the perfect place to be.”


South Padre Island, Texas

South Padre Island Texas

South Padre Island is in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Texas.  Photo: Courtesy City of South Padre Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

For beach time, Facebook fan Darlene Fiske hightails it to this barrier island off the southeastern tip of Texas. Fireworks go off every summer weekend, including July 4th, of course, when you’ll also spot a procession of revelers parading down the beach. The rest of the holiday weekend can be spent taking in the island’s usual offerings: surfing, fishing, kiteboarding, sandcastle workshops and contests, swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, or just soaking up the sun.


Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor Maine July 4th Parade

Bagpipers play in the annual July 4th parade in Bar Harbor, Maine.  Photo: Courtesy Mount Desert Islander

Where else but Maine would you celebrate Independence Day with lobster races? As Janet K. Keeler, food and travel editor of The Tampa Bay Times, told us on Facebook, the crustacean competitions are one of her favorite reasons to spend the holiday in this small town on Mount Desert Island. But Bar Harbor’s July 4th activities include much more: a blueberry pancake breakfast, a seafood festival, a concert series, and of course a float-filled parade and fireworks extravaganza. The town’s island location means there is plenty of water and beach fun to keep you busy between events, and a large part of Acadia National Park is right on the island too, so you can escape for some peaceful hiking and biking when you want to be reminded first-hand of America’s natural beauty.


Duck, North Carolina

Duck North Carolina Outer Banks July 4th parade

Even canines show off their patriotism during the July 4th parade in Duck, North Carolina.  Photo: Courtesy Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

Outer Banks fans are closely watching the weather forecast this year to see if Tropical Storm Arthur is going to ruin their 4th of July plans. If it stays dry, this North Carolina stretch of beaches will be packed come the weekend. And while there are many popular destinations in this area, our Facebook friend Vivian Deuschl says the charming small-town beach resort of Duck is where she’ll be spending the holiday. “It has a great old-fashioned mini parade [with] wagons full of kids; dogs in red, white, and blue collars; and a real feel.”

What’s your favorite small town for July 4th, or for any weekend getaway?


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