Tag Archives: review

Michelin-starred restaurant La Leggenda dei Frati in Florence, Italy

This Traveler Has Used The WOW List to Plan 15 Trips: How and Why

What sort of traveler uses The WOW List?  You might assume it’s travelers who can’t plan their own trips, but you’d be wrong. It’s people who have planned so many trips so well that they have an exhaustive grasp of just how much you miss out on when you don’t utilize the best local expertise and connections—and a deep appreciation of just how much time and effort such meticulous planning takes.

Jeff Bernfield, for instance. He’s a physician from the Chicago area who has used Wendy’s recommended Trusted Travel Experts (TTEs) more than anyone else—a whopping 15 times. With his wife, and sometimes with the rest of his family, he’s been all over the globe on trips arranged by these destination specialists, including Italy, Africa, England, Japan, Costa Rica, the Galapagos Islands, Norway, even Disney World. As you’d expect, he’s got a lot of tips to share when it comes to collaborating with travel specialists. So, in a phone call after a trip to Florence, Italy (where Wendy surprised him with a WOW Moment loyalty reward), we asked Dr. Bernfield to share his advice for how to get the best trip possible.

You’re more than capable of arranging your own travel. Why do you use The WOW List?

I could plan each trip myself—I’m a voracious researcher—but it’s so much easier to let one of these experts plan the whole thing for you and not worry about what could go wrong and what you’d do if something went wrong. I never ever have to worry because, even if something might go wrong, they fix it. They always fix it. It doesn’t happen very often, but it’s like having an insurance policy.

How do you choose which travel specialist to use for each trip?

What I usually do, I email Wendy. Wendy knows me by now, so I tell her where we’re going, and she’ll recommend the right one for me.

Do you read the reviews posted about each travel specialist on WendyPerrin.com?

I read all of the TTE’s reviews on Wendy’s site before contacting that TTE. I want to find out what that travel expert has planned and whether they’ve done something special—like, say, getting a traveler into Downton Abbey. I’ve never been able to get that; my wife is an obsessed Downtown Abbey fan but I couldn’t pull it off. My point is: If I read something in a review, that might tip my hand.

What’s most important to you in a travel planner?

I’m pretty big on communication and being accessible. Some Trusted Travel Experts are just incredible and if you shoot them an email, you get a response in ten minutes.

Do you prefer email or phone?

I definitely like the phone call. I always like to talk to somebody and know who I’m dealing with before I do business with them. And I like to have a back-and-forth discussion. I’m not the kind of person who says give me an itinerary for Southeast Asia and then I just do that itinerary. That’s not my nature. I like to pick people’s brains. I ask them: Why are you recommending this over this? I do a lot of reading, so maybe I’m on somebody’s dartboard somewhere [Laughs], but I like to have discussions about the itinerary.

In that first phone call, what should a traveler tell the Trusted Travel Expert?

I’ll tell them from the start what I’m looking for, and I’ll ask what are some of the things you offer, and then I’ll listen. I also ask about private experiences, since we like to dig into the culture and history. I always tell the TTEs: Let’s do something different, something that other people won’t do, don’t know to do. When we planned our trip to Japan, the Trusted Travel Expert sent us a list of 20 private experiences and told me to pick from them. I picked them all. I’m not saying everyone can or should do that, but I think if you like doing things different, that’s one of the advantages of having these experts plan your itinerary. So you’re not just going to the Louvre, not just doing the things any travelers can do; you’re going to someone’s home, taking a cooking lesson, taking a samurai sword lesson, meeting a priest at a high temple. In Italy we got to go to a dairy farm and see how they make Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. If you like doing different cultural experiences, there are a lot of assets that people on Wendy’s list have that I would try to find out about.

What are some of the questions travelers should ask?

I start with: What do you offer that’s different from the average tourist things? What cultural experiences can you access? Example: My wife is a picky eater. It so happens that she loves pizza, but in northern Italy pizza is not as common as in southern Italy. I told our Italy travel specialist, Maria, that my wife loves pizza, and would it be possible to take a pizza-making lesson?  At first she said, “Huh, I don’t know, pizza’s not that popular in northern Italy.” But she called me back a couple hours later and she said, “I got it!” She had arranged for us to meet a chef who would give us a pizza lesson. I asked the question, I didn’t know what kind of answer I would get, but if you have something specific in mind, ask for it—because even if they don’t normally do it, unless you ask for something impossible, they’re going to try really hard to accommodate your request. That’s important.

What else is important to communicate to your Trusted Travel Expert?

You have to know what you are and what you want. We don’t like beaches. We don’t like to sit around and do nothing. Some travel specialists will schedule you starting at 11am, but we get up at 7am. So you need to know what you want and ask the questions. Then we can figure out if they can handle my needs. It’s like anything else: You talk to somebody. Some are easier to talk to, more communicative, have an easy-going personality—but you figure that out quickly. That’s why a phone call is so important.

Thinking about reaching out to a WOW List travel specialist? Wendy’s got key advice for you too: How To Get The Best Possible Trip.

The Milestone Hotel, London

WOW Moment: A Surprise Pastry Class and Picnic in London

The best trips are packed with unique, memorable experiences that you couldn’t have anticipated or that turned out even better than what they sounded like in your itinerary. That’s the magic we all hope for when we travel, and it’s the magic that Wendy’s recommended travel specialists have up their sleeves—it’s part of the reason she names them to her list of the world’s best trip designers in the first place.

To thank all of you loyal users of Wendy’s WOW trip-planning system, we launched a reward program a while back: Wendy’s WOW Moments. Readers who’ve used our trip-request forms to contact one of our Trusted Travel Experts, and who have contributed reviews of those trips afterward, receive a complimentary gift from Wendy herself on their third trip. And we’re not talking fruit baskets or late checkouts. We’re talking about a personalized insider-access experience, hand-picked to suit your itinerary and arranged by the Trusted Travel Expert. Read eligibility requirements and program details here.

This loyalty program is now in full swing, and the first WendyPerrin.com traveler to earn a WOW Moment got to experience it on a trip to London. We wanted to find out from the traveler how this first-ever WOW Moment went, so we spoke to her by telephone to get the scoop.

family picnic in Hyde Park London

Paula da Rosa and her family enjoyed a picnic in Hyde Park. Photo: Celebrated Experiences

The travelers:

Paula da Rosa, her husband John, and her three children live in Vancouver, and as Paula told us over the phone, they are not big travelers. “We keep things pretty tight between Vancouver and Whistler. We ski,” she said. But this summer, her husband had a sabbatical and the family wanted to plan a special trip for their eight weeks off. They started with time in Hawaii (planned by Jay Johnson), followed by a villa rental in France (planned by Annie Flogaus) and then London, where they used to live. The London portion is where we provided their WOW Moment, working with Jonathan Epstein, one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for England.

The WOW Moment:

For the WOW Moment, Jonathan arranged a special afternoon at London’s Milestone Hotel, where the grown-ups would try their hands at the art of Sabrage and sip Champagne, and the kids would dive into the art of pastry decoration. The family of five was then whisked away to a luxurious picnic in Hyde Park, with the Champagne they had sabered, the macarons and cupcakes they had adorned, and a cornucopia of other treats.

kids pastry class London

The kids got to decorate pastries while the grown-ups got to sip Champagne. Photo: Celebrated Experiences

The traveler’s review:

“Did the experience meet my expectations? It was expertly executed, it was super smooth,” Paula reported back to us over the phone. “It was definitely more than I thought it was going to be. I guess I was hoping it wasn’t going to be super cheesy, you know what I mean? We just don’t do cheesy. We’re not the family in Disneyland with the ears—that’s just not us.”

“When we arrived and there was a whole line of staff to greet us—the hotel manager through the pastry chef through the young woman who led it all, and she was quite exceptional—I did have what I like to call a ‘Canadian moment’, where I thought, ‘Really? All this fuss just for us?’ We sort of looked at each other thinking we should be sharing some of this bounty.’ [Paula laughs] It was very, very memorable, that’s for sure.”

“We go into a conservatory within the hotel and they were giving us history about the hotel and location, which was interesting, and they had John sabre a bottle of Champagne. That was pretty funny. [Laughs] He put on this cape and hat, and we both looked at each other and thought we were stepping into cheesy, but it was for the fun of it.”

The Conservatory restaurant at the Milestone Hotel, London

The Conservatory restaurant at the Milestone Hotel, London

Afterward, Paula and John enjoyed some of the Champagne they’d opened while the kids were taken to the Oratory dining room to decorate macarons and cupcakes. “That was very nice, because the five of us had been traveling together for weeks at that point, so it was lovely for mom and dad to have a minute to be husband and wife,” she says. “And it was nice for the kids to meet the pastry chef, and have the lady who was organizing it snap pictures.”

When tea was announced a short while later, Paula says she expected to be walked right into the next room. “But they said, ‘Oh no, we’ll do it outside.’” Packing up baskets of tea treats plus the kids’ macarons and John’s Champagne, the staff led the family across the street to Hyde Park, where they’d already set up a picnic site. “We sat back and enjoyed the afternoon,” Paula recalls. “When we finished, we called over, and they came over and packed it all up, and then as parting gifts they gave us gift bags of teddy bears and things from the hotel and had made a framed photo of our family, and then we were driven back to our hotel.”

“This was nowhere near what we were expecting. But I had been thinking in the back of my mind, Wouldn’t it be neat to have a picnic? So this wasn’t that far off from something we would do—but it felt very posh.” Then she adds with a laugh, “But I think I might start doing that.”

The traveler’s review of the WOW trip-planning system:

Paula had heard about Wendy Perrin through a friend and checked out our website. “I thought it looked straightforward and easy to deal with,” she says. “And the people I chatted with—it all seemed pretty tight. And someone else does the planning.” That appealed to her greatly, she says: “I don’t have that expertise, and I don’t want to spend the time building that expertise. I’d rather just hand it over to someone else who does know—and that worked well because it’s not just booking a flight, it’s booking different places.” Thinking back to before she found WendyPerrin.com, Paula laughs and says, “We were trying to plan what to do with eight weeks, and almost needed a divorce lawyer, because we had to work though a lot of stuff, prioritizing people’s wants and needs, and working through a lot of logistics, with three children.”

“People asked me why didn’t you just use VRBO. I don’t want to land and be surprised, and if there is a surprise, I want someone else to deal with it. This wasn’t meant to be cost-effective. We don’t get sabbaticals often, so I didn’t want to get into a situation of I took a less expensive route and then I’m paying for it on my holiday.”


Wendy Wants To Amp Up Your Trip!

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