Tag Archives: summit

Group shot at the WOW Travel Summit.

Takeaways and Photos from our 4th WOW Travel Summit

Our mission is to keep raising the bar on travel experiences, so that WOW trips just keep getting better.  One way we do this is by gathering together every few years with the Trusted Travel Experts on The WOW List for brainstorming, problem solving, and innovating. That’s what our WOW Travel Summits are all about.

Our 4th WOW Travel Summit happened earlier this month, when Wendy, Kristine, Florie, Hannah, and I gathered with our WOW Listers in Oslo, Norway. These experts carved out time in their busy calendars and flew to our chilly but beautiful Summit headquarters, the Scandic Holmenkollen Park hotel, from as far away as Thailand, New Zealand, and Mauritius.

The sunset outside the summit conference room.

During a Summit break, WOW Listers captured the sunset outside the Scandic Holmenkollen Park hotel.

The unique brain trust in our meeting room combined expertise in travel across all seven continents with a collective mission to continue making WOW trips more and more wow—“pushing the limits of extraordinary,” in Wendy’s words.

This year’s Summit was a particularly special one, as our last gathering took place just on the cusp of Covid, in January 2020. The trip planners in the room this time around were the ones who had survived—and thrived—in spite of a worldwide pandemic, the subsequent head-spinning return to travel, and the inflation and conflicts that have since affected many parts of the globe. So there was time for celebration, from our opening-night cocktail party to toasts of aquavit after a festive dinner of reindeer with beets and root vegetables—and even a lucky glimpse of the northern lights, a rarity in Oslo.

Jennifer Virgilio, Wendy Perrin, and Maria Landers at Summit cocktail party.
Wendy with WOW Listers Jennifer Virgilio and Maria Gabriella Landers.
Florie Korani, Brook Wilkinson, and Sarah Farag at Summit cocktail party.
Florie, Brook, and WOW Lister Sarah Farag.
Zach Rabinor, Irene Edwards, and Rachael Wilson before dinner.
WOW Listers Zach Rabinor, Irene Edwards, and Rachael Wilson.
Stuart Rigg, Cherri Briggs, Sarah Farag, and Stefano Sancassani
WOW Listers Stuart Rigg, Cherri Briggs, and Sarah Farag, and WOW List deputy Stefano Sancassani.
Sheri Doyle, Greg Tepper, Gwen Kozlowski, and Melissa Ladvala before dinner.
WOW Listers Sheri Doyle, Greg Tepper, and Gwen Kozlowski, and WOW List candidate Melissa Ladvala.
A table shot at dinner.
Talking travel over dinner at the Scandic Holmenkollen Park hotel.
Reindeer and root vegetables for dinner.
The main course—reindeer with roasted root vegetables.
Wendy is served a Scandinavian specialty, aquavit.
Jennifer Virgilio and her team at dinner.
Jennifer Virgilio and her team of deputies have helped many of you design trips to Italy, France, and England.
Northern Lights glimpsed from outside the hotel.
A rare sighting of the northern lights over Oslo.


During the Summit, the WendyPerrin.com team shared recent trends we’ve discerned from the trip requests we receive every day. A sampling:

  • New Zealand and Australia are the top two countries so far for 2024 trips, followed by Egypt. Morocco also made the top 10, showing that our savvy travelers trust our network of local fixers to keep them safe amid disasters both natural and human-made.
  • October, June, and May are our travelers’ favorite months to travel. They wisely opt for “shoulder-season” periods over the peak pricing and crowds of summer.
  • More and more, our travelers are seeking out active experiences that help them engage directly with locals. They often travel to celebrate a milestone, such as a special birthday or anniversary, or a high-school or college graduation.
Daniel Fraser at the WOW Travel Summit
WOW Lister Dan Fraser.
Hicham Mhammedi Alaoui at the WOW Travel Summit.
WOW Lister Hicham Mhammedi Alaoui.
Irene Edwards, Patricia Johnson, and Allie Almario at the WOW Travel Summit.
WOW Listers Irene Edwards, Patricia Johnson, and Allie Almario.
Goncalo Correia at the WOW Travel Summit
WOW Lister Gonçalo Correia.
Torunn Tronsvang at the WOW Travel Summit.
WOW Lister Torunn Tronsvang.


As a number of Trusted Travel Experts shared how they’ve continued to raise the bar for WOW trips, a theme crystallized: While A.I. and other technology can streamline certain simple tasks, nothing will replace the human touch essential to designing one-of-a-kind, custom-tailored trips:

  • Ecuador and Galapagos specialist Allie Almario talked about how the little details of a traveler’s hobbies and personal taste—a love of yellow roses, say—that she picks up during her first conversation with them spark inspiration when she’s crafting WOW Moments.
  • Morocco specialist Hicham Mhammedi Alaoui described how he empowers local guides to pivot, problem-solve, and enhance travel experiences on the spot.
  • Southeast Asia specialist Daniel Fraser has built connections with remote temples and schools that now host his travelers for memorable, off-the-beaten-path meals beside monks and students.
  • Sri Lanka specialist Miguel Cunat logged many miles on foot as he personally developed a new multi-day walking trail across the country, bringing new opportunities to underserved rural communities.
  • Portugal specialist Gonçalo Correia explained how he’s managed to buck the trend of rising prices in southern Europe by constantly uncovering new, more affordable hotels, unusual local guides, and off-limits-to-the-public experiences that deliver top value.
The explorer Børge Ousland

Polar explorer Børge Ousland described his latest adventure: creating a travel destination in the middle of nowhere.

World-renowned explorer Børge Ousland regaled the group with stories of his impressive exploits: He’s the first person to have completed solo, unsupported journeys across Antarctica and to the North Pole, but his latest achievement is thoughtfully designing and building (sometimes as a one-man construction crew) Manshausen, a remarkable resort on a remote private island in northern Norway, with glass-fronted cabins that let in sweeping views of the sea—and sometimes the northern lights.

Kevin Roberts from Cranky Concierge

Kevin Roberts from Cranky Concierge talked airline trends for 2024.

Kevin Roberts, from flight-booking service Cranky Concierge, joined us to share a host of new routes; you’ll find these new nonstops to smaller European cities, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia in Nonstop Flights to Make Your Travels Easier.  He also shared his perspective on when to book flights—the upside in holding out for a lower price is usually smaller than the potential downside of higher fares and fewer seats—and a strategy to fend off the inevitable airline delays and cancellations these days: Get as close to your destination as you can, as quickly as you can. In other words, if you’re flying to Poland and have to connect somewhere, do it in Europe rather than in the U.S.

We are deeply grateful to WOW Lister Torunn Tronsvang, who tirelessly worked her connections in Norway to make this Summit happen. I lost count of the number of WOW List trip-planning experts who told me how energized they were by the knowledge shared at the Summit, and how many new ideas they’d be bringing back to their offices. Here’s to even more extraordinary trips in 2024 and beyond!

The wendyperrin.com team at the Christmas Market in Oslo.

After the Summit, the WendyPerrin.com team unwound at Oslo’s Christmas market.



Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

Phnom Kulen Temple in Angkor Archaeological Park Cambodia

8 Golden Rules of Beating the Crowds Around the World

Overtourism is afflicting destinations worldwide, and the situation is being lamented and wrestled with everywhere: The Louvre staff went on strike, Dubrovnik and Bruges instituted caps on cruise ships, Amsterdam implemented an overnight tax, and Venice added an entry fee.

That said, all of us travelers in the WendyPerrin.com community want to keep going to the places that interest us and have rewarding experiences—rewarding for both us and the local people—despite the crowds. So, at our 2020 WOW Global Travel Summit, we talked with Trusted Travel Experts from Wendy’s WOW List—the ones who specialize in destinations known for being particularly overloaded—to find out their smartest strategies for beating the crowds and avoiding lines.

1. Book museum and monument tickets in advance.

Online ticketing opportunities are now available in places that have been plagued for years with notorious lines. In Israel, for instance, national parks have launched online ticketing, and that includes Masada and Caesarea. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, museums have started offering timed ticket entrances. Keep in mind that, even with timed tickets and skip-the-line tickets, you’ll still need to arrive much earlier than your assigned slot because you’ll have to queue for security.

2. Know what your ticket includes and excludes.

Some sights are not only limiting the number of visitors, they’re also limiting what those visitors can see. For instance, at the Paris Catacombs, several rooms have been closed off in an effort to manage through-crowds better.

3. Phone ahead and ask questions.

Online ticketing and Internet research are a great boon, but we all know you can’t trust everything you read online. If you actually phone the landmark to doublecheck opening hours and rules, you may get different and useful intel. For instance, Israel specialist Joe Yudin recommends calling ahead—and asking the people on the phone when is the best time to avoid the lines. For example, if you were to call the office at Masada or the Dead Sea, they’d tell you not to visit on the weekend: Everyone goes to those sites on a Saturday because that’s when other places in Israel are closed for the Sabbath.

4. Scout out a different entrance.

If everyone else goes in one way, look for another. For example, while the hordes will pile up at the Eiffel Tower elevators, savvy visitors will climb the stairs; you’ll get an exciting new perspective on a familiar landmark and great views the whole way. Similarly, most tourists to the popular temples at Angkor Archaeological Park in Cambodia enter at the same main spots, but smart local guides know where the little-used side gates are. Not only will you have a better chance of avoiding the mob at the entrance this way, but your alternative route around the monuments once you’re inside will also keep you from feeling like you’re on an assembly line with the busloads who took the usual path.

5. Use a savvy private guide.

Hiring a clever local guide will allow you to cut through the crowds. “They are there every day, they know the people, they know the lines,” said Jennifer Virgilio, a WOW List specialist for tourist magnets including Paris, London, and Rome. Experienced guides also build relationships with the gatekeepers, getting to know them and getting to be known by them—which can come in handy when your group of three arrives just as a giant tour bus does and you need a little extra love to get waved in ahead of them.

6. Go early in the morning—or at night.

Get to the sights you want to see before the first tour bus pulls up. When Eastern Europe specialist Gwen Kozlowski arranges for travelers to see Auschwitz, she has them start the day at 7 or 8 a.m. “People will often say, oh my god, what time? But when you explain it, they understand and agree. You’ll circumvent the crowds, and you get to be alone with your thoughts and feelings in this very solemn place.” There’s an exception to this rule, though, and it will require research or the help of a trip designer with solid local knowledge: If the tour buses tend to go to a place at a certain time, buck that trend. “Everyone wants to go to Prague Castle,” Gwen says, “so we’ve modified the itinerary so that we don’t take them there until lunchtime—which is when everyone else is gone.” Finally, check if any sights have early or evening hours, because those can be blissfully uncrowded. Museums often have a late night each week, and sometimes those include special tours or talks.

7. Save your meandering for later each day.

We all know how fun and freeing it is to spend at least a day just strolling aimlessly and letting serendipity guide you. But, increasingly, this can mean getting shut out of the specific museums or landmarks you’ve traveled so far to see. If there are specific sites on your Must See List, go first thing in the day. Then wander afterward.

8. Embrace unusual ways to soak up popular sights.

Even with the possibility of advance reservations in some spots, you still might not be able to score tickets (unless you’re using a Trusted Travel Expert). When visiting a particular sight seems like just too much of an exhausting hassle, look into alternative ways to engage with it. WOW Listers have a lot of ideas for this kind of thing, and their insider access is one of the reasons they made it onto the List in the first place. The right trip designer will suggest experiences such as a special boat ride on the Seine, a private afternoon with the head of an important archaeological dig, or exclusive after-hours entrance to a popular museum. But when you’re not working with such a travel specialist, dream up your own ways to achieve this kind of perspective shift. Something as simple as a market visit followed by a picnic on the Champ de Mars looking onto the Eiffel Tower could leave you much more relaxed, and with better memories, than battling the masses.

Wendy Perrin

Travel News and Trends From Our 2020 Global Travel Summit

Portugal is the country that has shot up the most in popularity over the past three years among WendyPerrin.com travelers. The Galapagos Islands is the most-booked destination in Latin America this year. And Morocco is the #1 foreign country for spring break in 2020—so far. These are just a few of the fun facts we learned about our readers’ trip-taking patterns at our 2020 WOW Global Travel Summit last week.

We gathered together with the Trusted Travel Experts on The WOW List and other knowledgeable travel-world journalists and thought leaders to pinpoint trends for 2020, including where smart travelers are headed, what information should be on their radars, and how to make their trips better.

Below are some of the takeaways we think you’ll find most useful for the coming year. We certainly did. Note: The statistics below are for WendyPerrin.com travelers—meaning, travelers who use our WOW system for their trips.

Aerial view of Cape Town from a helicopter tour

Cape Town has new direct flights from New York, adding to its popularity so far in 2020. Photo: NAC Helicopters

The most-booked foreign countries in 2020 are…

  1. Italy
  2. South Africa
  3. United Kingdom
  4. France
  5. Vietnam

The popularity of Italy, the U.K., and France won’t surprise anyone, but South Africa and Vietnam are exciting up-and-comers. South Africa Trusted Travel Expert Julian Harrison attributes the country’s #2 standing to a favorable exchange rate, United’s new direct flight from New York City (Newark) to Cape Town, and a change in media coverage: Now that public perceptions—and misperceptions—about issues such as drought and Ebola are no longer front-page news, travelers are fulfilling their pent-up demand for South Africa.

Vietnam’s popularity is rising thanks to new flights that make it a regional hub, new island resorts, and new luxury boats in Halong Bay, says Daniel Fraser, a WOW Lister for Southeast Asia. He cites the country’s high-low culinary scene as a big driver too: Talented young chefs are elevating traditional Vietnamese cuisine to cool new heights, and at the same time mom-and-pop street-food eateries are stepping up their game to a tourist audience that’s more willing than ever to dig into new foods.

As for Italy, which is #1 on the list every year, we talked about what the country is doing to protect itself from its own popularity, so that its landmarks and landscapes, so overwhelmed in peak season, are preserved for future generations. Maria Landers, a Trusted Travel Expert for Italy, pointed to a variety of sustainability initiatives in 2020. Trenitalia has reopened 600km of train track to provide a greener way to travel and to get tourists to smaller cities and lesser-known destinations. The city of Florence has launched a “Give a Tree” campaign to enlist visitors in helping the city go green and combat smog and CO2: for 150 euros, you can adopt a tree that will find a new home in local parks, gardens, and along the city streets. And in Parma, the 2020 Italian Capital of Culture, you’ll find an exhibition called “We, Food and our Planet: Feeding a sustainable future.” Its goal is to promote good practices in relation to food, people, and the environment and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals set by the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda.

green fields with mountains in background in Chitwan Nepal

Nepal is back in your travel plans. Photo: Shutterstock

The country that most rapidly regained your attention is…

Three years ago, none of you were going to Nepal. The 2015 earthquake had left the country struggling to rebuild itself. Now, in 2020, many of you are planning those long-put-off trips. And, thanks to Toni Neubauer, Nepal specialist on The WOW List, you’re finding fascinating ways to explore the country and meet the people while also helping the recovery effort: “Two of the villages most affected by the 2015 earthquake in Nepal were Laprak and Barpak,” she says. “The locals have been working hard to rebuild their homes and lives and have used tourism as a method of recovery.” Toni makes sure her travelers contribute to continued recovery efforts by staying with locals in their villages, experiencing the activities they designed themselves, talking with them about their experiences, and ensuring that money is going into the village, rather than only into companies based in Kathmandu.

The top five “emerging destinations”—countries that none of our readers were considering three years ago but that are now garnering a lot of interest—are …

  1. Nepal
  2. Bhutan
  3. Mongolia
  4. Zambia
  5. Uzbekistan

We wonder what off-the-beaten place will be next.

aerial view of cliffside beach Vila Vita Parc Resort beach aerial Algarve Portugal

Portugal is the country that has shot up the most in popularity over the past three years among WendyPerrin.com travelers. Photo: Vila Vita, the Algarve, Portugal

By contrast, the mainstream countries that have seen the greatest increase in trips booked over the past three years are…

  1. Portugal
  2. Mexico
  3. Belize
  4. Canada
  5. Chile

The months you traveled most last year were…

June, May, October

The months you traveled least were…

January, November, February

boats in the town Joe Batt's Arm, Fogo Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Canada is the most popular August destination for WendyPerrin.com travelers.

These were the most-booked foreign destinations last year, by month…

January: Argentina

February: The Caribbean

March: The United Kingdom

April: France

May: Italy

June: Italy

July: Italy

August: Canada

September: France

October: Italy

November: The United Kingdom

December: Mexico

The benefits of shoulder-season travel came up again and again at our Summit, and it’s clear that many WendyPerrin.com travelers are the beneficiaries. Our readers are savvy enough to choose the United Kingdom in the shoulder-season months of March and November, for instance; these travelers realize that they’re going for the culture, not the weather, so why not avoid huge crowds and sticker-shock prices by traveling at off-peak times? We’re also happy to see so many of you skipping European cities in August and instead escaping the heat and crowds in Canadian locations that are optimal in August, among them British Columbia, the Canadian Rockies, the Maritime Provinces, and Newfoundland.

With so many travelers overcrowding Italy in the peak summer season, we were happy to hear from Italy WOW Lister Andrea Grisdale that some areas are combating such overtourism by extending their season. For instance, the hotels, shops, and restaurants on Lake Como used to close at the end of October. Today, they are welcoming visitors for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, with Christmas markets and festive light shows a highlight of wintertime. Additionally, lesser-known parts of Italy that have been heretofore ignored are opening up—for instance, two important pockets of southern Italy’s Basilicata region, Matera (where more than a thousand ancient dwellings are carved into rock) and Maratea (known as “the pearl of the Tyrrhenian”), as well as the Gargano sub-region within Apulia (the “spur” on Italy’s “boot”), with its many charming and untouristed villages.

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

Japan is the #3 spring spot booked by WendyPerrin.com WOW List users. Photo: Shutterstock

The top five spots your fellow readers have booked already for spring break in 2020 are…

  1. United States
  2. Morocco
  3. Japan
  4. Portugal/Caribbean (tied)
  5. Vietnam/Cambodia (tied)

Where will you take your family during school breaks this year? We have many other unexpected ideas for you.

“Australia is open for business,” said Stuart Rigg, Wendy’s WOW List expert in Australia. Photo: Tim Baker

Australia should not be stricken from your travel plans…

“97% of Australia is not impacted by fires,” said Stuart Rigg, Wendy’s WOW List expert in Australia. Unfortunately, because of the generalizations and overly frightening images in the news, a lot of people don’t understand that the fires are very far from many of the country’s most beautiful regions, including Australia’s “Red Centre” and the Great Barrier Reef. What’s more, tourism dollars can help support the recovery. We were happy to hear that no WendyPerrin.com travelers have cancelled their Australia trips; Stuart is simply rerouting their itineraries to the many beautiful places that have not been impacted.

Cherri Briggs, a WOW Lister for Africa, discusses climate change on a panel about how travel and the environment interact.

Climate change is affecting Africa in an unexpected way…

Africa’s safari season has grown longer over the past few years, said Cherri Briggs, one of Wendy’s WOW List safari experts. The reason? Climate change, which affects the African landscape and makes it harder to predict the movements of wildlife. “For example the migration will not migrate in its usual predictable pattern from Tanzania to Kenya if it has not rained in Kenya, or vice versa, as the migration follows the new grass,” she explains. And in Botswana, she adds, the rainy seasons are having less rain, which extends the viewing seasons. “It’s more important than ever to continually take the pulse of the weather in these various destinations, as what was the rule in the past may well have changed. Normally we can predict to a good degree what the next season has to hold given rain patterns about 6 months out. These rain patterns make for great value in the ‘low season’, which now may well be the preferred season!”

Keep your eye on Casablanca…

Royal Air Maroc will join the oneworld airline alliance on April 1, 2020. (The alliance already includes American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, and Iberia, among others.) As a result, Brett Snyder of Cranky Concierge expects Casablanca to become an important air travel hub: Not only will there be more flights to Morocco, but it’ll make travel to the rest of Africa much easier and also make it easier to combine Morocco with other African countries in one trip.

A smart way to use points and miles…

Your credit-card points give the best value when used for first- and business-class air travel, said miles expert Gary Leff of View From the Wing. The transfer rate to hotel points programs is not usually great.


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.

Zita Cobb and Wendy Perrin at the World Travel Summit 2016.

This Is How We Make Your Trips Better: Our Global Travel Summit

From Sunday through Tuesday (Jan 26 – 28), Wendy, Brook, Jill, Neil, and I will gather in New York City to host our 3rd Global Travel Summit.  The Trusted Travel Experts on The WOW List are convening from all corners of the globe, and we’re excited about it because it’s one of the most effective opportunities we get to connect with them—face-to-face—and reinforce the gold standard of quality that our readers expect from them.

As you may have seen, earlier this week we announced The 2020 WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts—Wendy’s rigorously vetted collection of the world’s best trip designers. But our oversight doesn’t stop just because the List has been published. In addition to closely monitoring reader reviews, Wendy and Brook are in frequent email and phone communication with our 100-plus WOW Listers throughout the year.  Then we all gather in one place for our Global Travel Summit to hear from the Trusted Travel Experts (TTEs) first-hand about travel trends, news, and any changes at their destinations that might affect you and your trip planning. We review how the TTEs think, how they communicate, and how their systems and processes work, so that we can help you collaborate with them better. We also share with them what we’ve learned from you: the biggest travel-planning challenges you cite, your biggest pet peeves, and the kinds of experiences that mean the most to you. That way,  they can create and deliver the unforgettable travel experiences you dream about.

When WOW List TTEs see a WendyPerrin.com trip request in their inbox, they know that traveler is a VIP, and they want to do their best to exceed your expectations. Brainstorming and sharing ideas at our WOW List Summit is one of the many ways they—and we—ensure they can do that. Here are a few photos from our previous summits, and we look forward to sharing more insight with you next week.

Maria Gabriella Landers and Joe Yudin

From left: Jonathan Epstein, Maita Barrenechea, Natalie Ewing, Zachary Rabinor

Andrea Ross

Allie Almario

Meg Austin and Cranky Flier Brett Snyder



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

Sicily Italy chairs looking at vineyard field

How You Are Changing the Travel Industry. Yes, You.

We can’t thank you enough for so thoughtfully filling out the “Start a Trip” questionnaires on our website, and for providing such detailed post-trip reviews when you return from those trips. There are good reasons why we ask you to share your thoughts with us both before and after your travels. As you know, your reviews help Wendy constantly refine her WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts. But here’s what you might not know: We also rely on your input—anonymized, of course—to help WOW List trip planners understand what sophisticated travelers really want and need right now. When we gather with the 2020 WOW List experts for our Global Travel Summit in New York (Jan 26–28), we’ll make sure they know your preferences. Thus, by sharing with us the sorts of travel experiences you want most, the biggest trip-planning challenges you face, and what you find most valuable and memorable about your travels, you help make everyone’s next trips better. Here’s a glimpse of what you’ve told us you want out of travel in 2020. Are we hearing you right?

What you’re asking for in 2020

  • To get off the beaten tourist track
  • To spend time on the water for at least a day
  • To hike to villages, meeting interesting locals en route
  • One-of-a-kind boutique accommodations with a sense of place
  • A flexible itinerary you can change whenever you like
  • Expeditions to see nature and animals
  • Custom-tailored experiences unique to your interests

Your biggest pet peeves

  • Tourist crowds and lines
  • Follow-the-yellow-flag group tours
  • Guides who recite a history textbook
  • Chain hotels

The biggest challenges you cite

  • Avoiding crowds, lines, tour groups, tourist traps
  • Getting shut out because you waited too late to book (e.g., Christmas in Morocco; spring break in the Galapagos; safaris in July/August)
  • Keeping the kids engaged and enlightening them
  • Combining beach with culture (or otherwise making a trip not feel like all one kind of thing)
  • Pinpointing the best timing for your trip (and the best days to visit sites)
  • Determining where to save vs. where to splurge
  • Finding something you (or your neighbors) haven’t done already

The one-of-a-kind experiences you love most

  • Having a landscape all to yourself (e.g., lunch alone in a vast lavender field)
  • Private boat excursions
  • Cooking classes with local families in their homes
  • Dining in wineries with the winemaker
  • Sleeping in castles
  • Exclusive behind-the-scenes access at museums and landmarks
  • Entry to monuments and museums before they’re open to the public
  • A hotel-room view so spectacular that you could sightsee for hours from your window
  • A savvy local guide who makes spontaneous recommendations that end up being a high point of the trip


pool view at the Grand Velas RIviera Maya resort mexico

Where Was the WendyPerrin.com Team Last Week?

This year’s Wendy Perrin Global Travel Summit was held at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya resort, a beachfront all-inclusive in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The large complex consists of three sections (Zen, Ambassador, and the adults-only Grand Class), and we got to experience all of them, along with the resort’s eight restaurants and its spa. Lest you think we were slacking off amid all these palm trees and decadent meals, rest assured that we didn’t spend more than a few minutes at the beach. Contrary to the vacation vibe of the photos below we actually spent all our time working with the Trusted Travel Experts of the newly announced 2017 WOW List to make your next trips even better. But thanks to invigorating panel discussions with our extended team, and the hospitality of the Grand Velas staff, this busy weekend was still a lot of fun.

Here’s a tour of what Wendy, Brook, Jill, and I saw, did, and ate while we were there.

A room in the Zen building of Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico

A room in the Zen building of Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Photo: Billie Cohen

The first night, we all stayed in the Zen building, which has no beach access and is set amid the mangroves. Even though Zen has the smallest rooms of the resort, they are still quite large, have big bathrooms, and boast outdoor patios overlooking plenty of greenery. Tip for families: There are more connecting rooms in this building, and the kids’ club is here (a teen club is located in the Ambassador section).

Grand Velas Riviera Maya hat and basket Mexico

A big floppy sunhat and a pretty woven beach basket. Now if only I had time to lay out on the beach. Photo: Billie Cohen

The resort has plenty of the usuals when it comes to amenities: L’Occitane soaps and shampoos, loofahs, and a free mini bar (this is an all-inclusive after all). But the perks I was most surprised by were the beautiful woven sun hats and beach bags. Handmade nearby in Leon, Mexico, out of 100% cotton coated with resins and enamels, the glam hat has a super wide and wavy brim—very helpful for keeping the sun out of your eyes and any paparazzi at bay. The hats are complimentary for VIP guests and those staying in Presidential Suites; the bags are in every room and are free to use during your stay. Both are available for purchase at the resort’s boutiques.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya cenote Mexico

A real cenote was incorporated into the hotel’s grounds. It’s now fed by an irrigation system and swimming is not allowed. Photo: Billie Cohen

The rooms are accessed via a raised, covered wooden walkway that makes you feel like you’re deep in the quiet jungle. There’s even a restored ancient cenote (though you can’t swim in it).

The Zen pool at Grand Velas Riviera Maya Mexico

The Zen pool at Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Photo: Billie Cohen

You’re not too remote from the resort’s amenities, of course—a few minutes’ walk takes you to a very pretty multi-level pool, the casual restaurant Chaká, or the spa. A shuttle van zooms guests over to the beach (maybe four minutes away), and it was our experience that we never had to wait more than a minute or two for a ride.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya herb garden in Mexico

Mint, verbana, and other herbs for the resort’s restaurants are grown right here. Photo: Billie Cohen

The hotel grows its own herbs for use in its various restaurants. Stroll along a path that winds past the Zen pool and you’ll find a miniature-golf course and a greenhouse.

Trusted Travel Experts share their best practices for helping guests have extraordinary trips.

Trusted Travel Experts share their best practices for helping guests have extraordinary trips. Photo: Tim Baker

Zen is also where the conference center is located and where we spent most of our time. The resort hosts many weddings too.

grand class suite at the grand velas riviera maya mexico

Wendy’s Grand Class suite. Photo: Wendy Perrin

A Grand Class suite terrace at the Grand Velas RIviera Maya resort

A Grand Class suite terrace at the Grand Velas RIviera Maya resort. Photo: Wendy Perrin

pool view at the Grand Velas RIviera Maya resort mexico

The view beyond Wendy’s laptop, at the Grand Velas RIviera Maya resort. Photo: Wendy Perrin

Ambassador and Grand Class are the resort’s two beachfront buildings; the main difference is that Grand Class is adults-only and the rooms are slightly bigger and have private plunge pools. But the Ambassador pool is the largest pool; it has many chaise longues, some in the sun and some comfortably under palapas. White-shirted servers wander around making sure you have drinks and snacks, and the Azul restaurant (which hosts a huge breakfast buffet) is on the left in the above photo.

colored rice in shape of WendyPerrin.com logo at grand velas riviera maya hotel Mexico

I came back to my room one night to find our website’s logo, made out of rice! Photo: Billie Cohen

Knowing who we were and why were there, the resort staff went out of their way to make us happy, with surprises like this one: our logo made out of colored rice that showed up on the beds one evening, and our logo on the telephone screens. But even random staffers I passed in random hallways stopped what they were doing to say “buenos dias” or help me figure out where I was going.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya Bistro food, Mexico

Even a simple vegetarian sandwich with fries was delivered to our table like a work of art. Photo: Billie Cohen

Guests can eat at any of the eight restaurants on site, ranging from the casual buffet of Azul to the AAA four-diamond, French-influenced menu of Piaf. Tip: Wine and cocktails are included in your room rate (though some wines and liquors cost extra), and so is room service…which tastes even better when eaten on your beachfront terrace.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya Frida restaurant Mexico

Named after the artist Frida Kahlo, the Mexican-themed restaurant Frida does pretty well in the art department itself. Photo: Billie Cohen

All of the restaurants have two things in common. First, as soon as you sit down, a server will ask about any food allergies so that the chefs can customize your meal (and they did a good job of this; I am vegetarian with several food sensitivities, and I ate pretty well). Second, all of the food presentation is just beautiful. The chefs here take the “eat with your eyes first” mantra very seriously, and plates were artfully composed and then decorated with swoops, drizzles, and dots. Not that any of that beauty kept us from eating. The food was sometimes fussy (and the multi-course, molecular-gastronomy tasting menu of Cocina de Autor was hit or miss) but, for the most part, the food was very good.

taco and tequila tasting on the beach at Grand Velas Riviera Maya Mexico

Right around sunset, the hotel arranged a tequila and taco tasting on the beach. It was a nice way to end our summit. Photo: Billie Cohen

Over the course of the weekend, we had the chance to experience a few special activities that the resort can arrange for guests or groups. One was what they call “Picnic in Paradise,” a gourmet lunch on the beach—but it rained the day ours was scheduled, so all the charcuterie, sandwiches, and cakes were moved to a presidential suite. We did get to experience a taco-and-tequila tasting on the beach, however: a sprawling buffet of savory Mexican treats, including grasshoppers, and a table each of tequilas and mezcals. This was a hit.

spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya Mexico

The spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya is designed to look like a cenote. Photo: Brook Wilkinson

Brook tested out the spa. She reported back that the private men’s and women’s sections of the spa were designed to look like a cenote, the water-filled sinkholes that this part of Mexico is known for.

spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico

The spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico. Photo: Brook Wilkinson Photo: Brook Wilkinson

She took the spa’s signature “water journey.” Recommended as a complimentary service before any spa treatment, starts with a circuit of showers, saunas, and steam rooms.

The spa hot tubs at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico

The spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico. Photo: Brook Wilkinson

“The water journey ends with plunges in the side-by-side hot and cold jetted tubs,” Brook reported back. “The better to get your muscles primed for that massage.”

ocean view from a suite at the grand velas riviera maya mexico

View from Wendy’s balcony. Photo: Wendy Perrin

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

Wendy opens the second annual Global Travel Summit

What We Learned from our Global Travel Summit

The WendyPerrin.com team is just back from our second annual Global Travel Summit, where we spent the weekend picking the brains of the Trusted Travel Experts on Wendy’s WOW List and, equally important, letting them swap information about how best to serve you.

We know that WendyPerrin.com travelers are not just any travelers: You’re sophisticated, smart, and thoughtful about the way you see the world, you’ve likely already seen a large part of it, and you define value differently than most people—as true, authentic, eye-opening experiences, not just as dollars and run-of-the-mill tourist photo ops. With all that in mind, we mined our collected group of trip designers and journalists for travel trends, travel business trends, and news about various destinations around the world. Here’s a short list of what we learned this past weekend, with much more to come over the next few months as we dig deeper into the most useful information you’ll need to make 2017 a year of extraordinary travel.

  • There’s a new trend in cruising, and small-ship company Windstar Cruises is leading the way on it: small-group, highly customized shore excursions. New president John Delaney, who came over to the company earlier this year from Seabourn, tells us that his personal main focus in 2017 will be to create bespoke shore excursions not seen elsewhere in the cruise industry. Stay tuned to learn more about what that means.
  • If you want to see Turkey this year, Trusted Travel Expert Karen Fedorko Sefer says gulets are the way do it. These traditional two-masted wooden sailboats allow exclusive touring of the Aegean Coast’s most beautiful spots. “Imagine sailing into beautiful, empty coves,” she says. “It’s a private, exclusive, and peaceful experience.”
  • New low-cost airlines are going to make nonstop travel over the Atlantic cheaper and easier this year, says Brett Snyder, president and self-titled Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge, an airline assistance company that provides booking, flight monitoring, award-travel help, and emergency assistance if your flight gets canceled or rerouted.
Joe Yudin standing at the Wendy Perrin Global Travel Summit

Joe Yudin shares ideas based on his own experience running Touring Israel. Photo: Tim Baker

  • Our Trusted Travel Experts have been busy creating new experiences for travelers. We’ll be covering more of these throughout the year, but here are a few as an appetizer:
    • Joe Yudin recently launched a program that lets adventurous types test their mental and physical strength during a survival-training challenge in the desert, led by former Israeli military types. “It’s like a Bear Grylls experience,” Joe says with a laugh. “It’s not easy, but people are loving it.”
    • Julie Byrd is turning travelers on to Baja California’s less-frequented spots, such as La Paz, where she now offers Zodiac tours to nearby small islands for private snorkeling, diving, and overnight camping.
    • Some TTEs start immersing you in another culture even before you leave home—for example, Jill Curran creates playlists for her clients so they can get to know Newfoundland before they step foot on the plane.
  • Apart from their ability to deliver extraordinary experiences, our TTEs earn a spot on The WOW List only when they’ve proven their customer-service skills (based on reviews from real travelers). So we enjoyed hearing from them about new methods they’re using to stay personally connected to their travelers:
    • Maita Barrenechea visits guests in their hotel before they leave, to say a friendly good-bye.
    • Andrea Ross calls every client after their trip to get feedback first-hand.
    • Cherri Briggs is making sure her travelers have (and know how to use) a variety of digital tools, such as WhatsApp, so that they can stay in touch more easily if they need anything while they are on the road.
  • Andrea Ross helped launch a campaign to eliminate the millions of plastic water bottles that wind up in Siem Reap landfills each year. Instead, her coalition’s goal is to provide travelers with reusable aluminum bottles that can be refilled at clean-water stations (hotels, restaurants, cafes, and other spots) across the city, all of which are helpfully listed right on the bottles. She estimates these efforts will remove one million bottles from landfills in Cambodia this year.
andrea ross speaks at wendy perrin global travel summit

Andrea Ross, a WOW List travel specialist for Cambodia, talks about her organization’s work on reducing plastic bottle waste.

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

convertible cable car up Mt. Stanserhorn Switzerland

5 Cool Experiences You Didn’t Know You Could Have in Switzerland

Think you already know Switzerland, with its snowy peaks, perfectly timed trains, and delicious cheese? Think again. We’re not saying that these famous attributes aren’t indispensable parts of the Swiss experience—but we have uncovered new ways to see a place that so many of us already know and love. Read on for our five favorite twists on quintessential Switzerland. And if you want an extraordinary trip to Switzerland, Wendy knows the right people to help plan it—ask her.

1. Fondue in a Rickshaw

Fondükscha fondue tour in Switzerland

In the small town of Thun, Switzerland, you can hire a “Fondükscha” to give you a tour of the town while you eat fondue. Photo: My Switzerland

Of course you’ll want to try some cheese fondue when in Switzerland—it is the national dish, after all. But how about dipping your bread while being driven around in a rickshaw? In the small town of Thun, located between Interlaken and Bern, you can hire a “Fondükscha” to take you past the main sights of this beautifully intact medieval village while enjoying fondue, wine, cherry brandy, and tea. Swiss rickshaws are designed for the elements, with a closed-cab structure, sheepskin seat covers, and warm blankets to keep you cozy throughout the excursion.


2. Ride in an Open-Top Cable Car

convertible cable car up Mt. Stanserhorn Switzerland

To reach the summit of Mt. Stanserhorn, ride the world’s only convertible cable car. Photo: My Switzerland

You don’t have to be a world-class athlete to scale many of Switzerland’s majestic peaks; cable cars and funiculars will do the hard work for you. To reach the summit of Mt. Stanserhorn, in fact, you can hop aboard the world’s only convertible cable car, which runs throughout the summer. From the open-air top deck, enjoy 360-degree views reaching into France and Germany—and no cables to impede your sightlines. At the summit you’ll find a network of hiking trails and a revolving restaurant.


3. Take a Train from Glaciers to Palm Trees

Bernina Express train through Switzerland

The beautiful Bernina Express train through Switzerland has the UNESCO World Heritage status. Photo: My Switzerland

The UNESCO World Heritage stamp usually brings to mind ancient ruins or historic monuments. But in the case of the Bernina Express, it’s a train route that has earned this honor. Board the Bernina in St. Moritz, and three hours later you’ll have journeyed past glaciers, over the highest Alpine pass crossed by a train without a tunnel, and down into Tirano, Italy, where the snow-capped peaks outside your panoramic windows are replaced by Mediterranean palms.


4. Listen to Traditional Folk Music

Appenzel region of Switzerland

Just an hour from Zurich, the Appenzel region is quintessential Switzerland. Photo: My Switzerland

It’s a wonder that American visitors haven’t yet discovered Appenzell; though just an hour from Zurich, the region is quintessential Switzerland, loaded with gorgeous alpine vistas and a rich cultural heritage. You’d hardly be surprised to see Heidi herself come bounding across the rolling hills, dressed—as many locals today still are—in traditional attire. Come in August and you’ll get to enjoy Ländlerfest, one of Switzerland’s premier folk music gatherings, with performances by both well-established groups and talented young musicians.


5. Drive a Snow Groomer

snow grooming pisten bully machine in switzerland

In the resort region of Sattel, you can co-pilot a snow grooming machine. Photo: My Switzerland

Wishing to add some horsepower to your ski vacation? In the resort region of Sattel, you can co-pilot a snow grooming machine, with nothing but the enormous machine’s headlights to guide your way through the darkness of night as you prepare the slopes for the next day’s skiers. Finish your task by midnight and you’ll be rewarded with dinner at a mountainside restaurant.

What unexpected Switzerland experiences are we missing? Tell us in the comments below! And if you want to start planning your own Swiss getaway right now, ask Wendy for a travel specialist recommendation.


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.

Wendy Perrin Global Travel Summit

Behind the First Wendy Perrin Global Travel Summit

Last week was a big week for me and WendyPerrin.com—and I didn’t even travel beyond New York City. Instead, I sat in a light-filled conference room at Dream Downtown with the best itinerary designers in the world—the Trusted Travel Experts on my WOW List. They had flown in from all corners of the globe so we could spend two full days discussing the topics closest to my heart as a consumer advocate: solutions to your travel problems, and best practices for crafting your trips.

As you know, my goal is to make sure all my readers have extraordinary travels. I do that by providing honest, experienced advice and solutions, and by staying in close contact with readers throughout their trip-planning process—and even afterward when they return—to ensure that their experience, the travel specialist’s performance, and my recommendations all pan out to their satisfaction.

In doing so, I’ve learned a lot about the challenges that stand in the way of extraordinary trips. For example, the five biggest trip-planning challenges that I hear about from travelers are:

1. Choosing the right locations within the country/region they’ve picked
2. Avoiding touristy places, crowds, lines
3. Solving logistical and timing/pacing problems
4. Getting better value for their dollar
5. Finding the right accommodations

And the five biggest trip-planning challenges that I hear about from families are:

1. Choosing the right locations within the destination they’ve picked
2. Choosing the right destination
3. Pacing: Finding the right balance between activities and downtime
4. Finding the right rental villa/apartment
5. Finding the right hotel rooms

The good news is that my trip-planning system can get travelers past these roadblocks. If you reach out to a travel specialist I recommend to you (either via Ask Wendy or via The WOW List), I monitor your trip from start to finish.  (Important note: I can’t monitor your trip if I don’t know about it. If you don’t use the black Contact buttons on the The WOW List or on our Insider’s Guides, I can’t step in and help if necessary, nor can you expect preferred treatment from the TTE. You won’t get Wendy’s WOW Moments either.)

This is what I love to do and it’s why I held the first Wendy Perrin Global Travel Summit last week: My team and I met face-to-face with the private trip designers I recommend, many of whom I’ve known—and monitored voluminous consumer feedback about—for well more than a decade.  We spoke about the latest trends, most popular destinations, and solutions to the biggest travel challenges.

Here’s a quick recap of the Summit highlights. Stay tuned for news about the next summit—and email me via the Ask Wendy form (it comes directly to me!) if you have additional questions or challenges you’d like to see us tackle on WendyPerrin.com.

We kicked off the two-day exchange of ideas by welcoming nearly 80 of the world’s best trip designers to the Dream Downtown hotel in NYC’s Meatpacking District; to get a feel for its design- and art-heavy scene, check out this hotel tour and this video of my suite.


  On Day 1, since we had all those great travel minds in one room, we went around the room, and each Trusted Travel Expert shared an innovation they’ve implemented recently to ensure their travelers have first-rate experiences.

Next we moved on to 2016 travel trends.

We kicked off Day 2 with a press conference. To a room full of influential travel journalists—including George Hobica of Airfarewatchdog and Lissa Poirot of Family Vacation Critic, I revealed the most popular destinations for 2016—an exclusive sneak peek at the places our readers are traveling to this year.


To get a 360-degree view of travelers’ experience, I passed the microphone to a few Trusted Travel Experts, so they could reveal the trends they’re seeing and their predictions for 2016. 

Even our event sponsors—MedjetAssist and Switzerland Tourism—and our special guest—Zita Cobb, the visionary founder of the much-buzzed-about Fogo Island Inn in remotest Newfoundland—were chosen because I knew they’d provide unique and useful information for improving travelers’ experiences. That’s always my end goal.


At #WPTravelSummit, sat next to the owner of this amazing property. Should I inquire about the rates? A photo posted by Mei Zhang (@wildchinamei) on



As I told that room full of Trusted Travel Experts (and a few new faces that I’m testing behind the scenes, to see if they’re good enough for The WOW List), my M.O. in everything is to make your travels better.

Don’t forget: Contact me via my Ask Wendy page if there are questions or trip-planning challenges I can help you solve.

Historic center of Cartagena, Colombia with the Caribbean Sea visible on two sides

The Future of Travel: Predictions for 2016

The best human travel planners are a bit like old friends: They just “get” you. A big part of their jobs—aside from building the local connections that lead to the best travel experiences—is to be able to quickly understand what travelers want and find creative ways to provide it. That’s why we think this list of trends is interesting. What follows are the observations of some of our Trusted Travel Experts—longtime vets of the travel-planning world who book hundreds, if not thousands, of trips each year. This is what they’re seeing travelers ask for most…as well as their predictions for the experiences travelers will be asking for in the coming year.

What other services or types of trips would you like to see travel planners provide in 2016? Tell us in the comments below.

A Blend of the High and the Low
“When it comes to culinary experiences, travelers want to mix haute cuisine with street food. The same goes for culture—they’re mixing high-brow culture with real interaction with locals. The trend is echoed with glamping: Travelers want real remote nature and adventure combined with luxury.” —Zach Rabinor, Trusted Travel Expert for Mexico

Once-in-a-Lifetime Experiences
“People don’t want to die with a lot of cash. They would rather spend it on helicopters over the Cliffs of Moher, or a once-in-a-lifetime experience with a master Scotch whiskey distiller at their favorite distillery, or paying what it takes to beat the crowds.” —Jonathan Epstein, Trusted Travel Expert for England, Ireland, and Scotland

Solo Travel
“I’m seeing many more solo travelers! Thankfully, Ireland is perfect for this. You never have to feel alone.” —Jonathan Epstein, Trusted Travel Expert for England, Ireland, and Scotland

Travel Influenced by Pop Culture
“We see people chasing scenes from movies and books. In the U.K. and Ireland alone, you can see sites related to Outlander, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Downton Abbey, MacBeth, Sherlock Holmes, Doc Martin, Dr. Who, and James Bond.” —Jonathan Epstein, Trusted Travel Expert for England, Ireland, and Scotland

Travel Influenced by Food Photography
“Also, we’re getting a lot of requests for photo tours, so we’re doing a new tour where travelers learn how to take photos of food. We all love taking photos of food when eating new things! Travelers also want to go home with new recipes so they can cook what they have eaten in the destination.” —Virginia Irurita, Trusted Travel Expert for Spain

Millennials and Mobile
“Our demographics have shifted wildly towards millennials, who are booking our tours for the intellectually curious at a higher rate than any other demographic. They are also repeating more and staying longer. So, in other words, they’re a more engaged demographic than Gen X or Boomers. We’re also seeing a decided shift toward mobile bookings and last-minute bookings.”—Paul Bennett, Trusted Travel Expert for Cultural City Experiences

Increased Interest in Turkish Art
“There is an increased interest in exploring the contemporary art scene in Istanbul. [My company] has arranged exclusive tours of art galleries with local art experts and the opportunity to meet gallery owners and interact with learning experiences and the history of the artists.” —Karen Fedorko Sefer, Trusted Travel Expert for Turkey

The Rise of Colombia as a Family Getaway
“More and more families are coming to Colombia: Many Americans, particularly from the Eastern corridor, are opting for quick escapes to Cartagena, due to direct flights from NYC , Miami, and Fort Lauderdale. We see a trend of families visiting the coffee country, which is not really on many Colombia itineraries but offers a plethora of outdoor and cultural activities that have wowed our family travelers. The town and region of Barichara in the province of Santander has one of the most charming, well preserved colonial villages in all Colombia. Coupled with this region being an active adventure capital of Colombia, it will surely be more and more visited in 2016. [My company] rents ranches and country homes in this region for families.” —Eric Sheets, Trusted Travel Expert for Colombia


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.

Art in the lobby bar of the Dream Downtown hotel

Where’s Wendy? The Dream Downtown Hotel in NYC, Take a Look!

Greetings from the Dream Downtown hotel in NYC. Wendy and the rest of us on the team are gathered here today for our first Wendy Perrin Global Travel Summit!

At this two-day conference, we’re getting together with the Trusted Travel Experts from Wendy’s WOW List to share information on what today’s sophisticated travelers want (that’s you) and how best to meet their needs. This summit is one of the ways Wendy ensures that every TTE on her WOW List is living up to your standards—and hers.

Check out the photos below for an insider’s tour of the hotel, and to see were we’ll be spending the next two days.

Lobby bar of the Dream Downtown. Photo: Billie Cohen

Lobby bar of the Dream Downtown. Photo: Billie Cohen

Art in the lobby bar of the Dream Downtown hotel

Art in the lobby bar of the Dream Downtown. Photo: Billie Cohen

Close up of the beer cans used to make the flag. Photo: Billie Cohen

Close up of the beer cans used to make the flag. Photo: Billie Cohen

dream hotel scene

Just outside the lobby bar is a bright wintery window scene. Stairs from here lead up to the pool area. Photo: Billie Cohen

A view through a circular window onto the fake outdoor winter scene, Dream Downtown. Photo: Billie Cohen

A view through a circular window onto the fake outdoor winter scene, Dream Downtown. Photo: Billie Cohen

Dream downtown hotel suite

The living room half of a suite, Dream Downtown. Photo: Billie Cohen

dream downtown hotel suite

The bedrom room half of a suite, Dream Downtown. Photo: Billie Cohen

dream hotel mini bar

The mini bar has some nuts and candies repackaged in cute Dream canisters. Photo: Billie Cohen

"Variety Pack" by WhIsBe, in the Dream Downtown Gallery. Photo: Billie Cohen

Just off the lobby, the hotel has a small gallery. This is “Variety Pack” by WhIsBe.

"Miter" by Subodh Gupta, in the Dream Downtown gallery. Photo: Billie Cohen

“Miter” by Subodh Gupta in the gallery.

The rooftop pool area at the Dream Downtown. Photo: Billie Cohen

The rooftop pool area at the Dream Downtown. Photo: Billie Cohen