Tag Archives: travel talk

Brook Wilkinson in Machu Picchu, Peru.

South America Now: Smart Choices and Good Value

South America contains fascinating diversity—of cultures, landscapes, and activities ranging from wine tasting to wildlife viewing to bucket-list hiking. And while parts of the continent are once again receiving as many travelers as they did pre-Covid, those numbers are still an order of magnitude smaller than the crowds flocking to Europe’s most popular spots. While 2023 saw 35 million tourists visit Rome, for example, just 7 million visited all of Argentina. So often overlooked, and yet so rich in possibilities: You’d be wise to put South America on your 2024 travel calendar.

During our WOW Week 2024 Travel Talk on February 6, WOW List experts for South America joined Wendy and Brook to share what’s new in South America, what might surprise you, and how to ensure your trip there goes smoothly. Watch the full video, and scroll down for the top takeaways:

Top Takeaways

If your heart is set on the Galapagos, book far in advance, advises WOW Lister Allie Almario. Only 70 ships are allowed to cruise around the islands, and most carry just 20 to 48 passengers. So that your choices aren’t limited, start planning 8 to 9 months ahead—especially if you’re a family that needs multiple cabins.

Animal lovers should know about “Blue Patagonia,” says WOW Lister Maita Barrenechea. While this region is best known for mountains and hiking, its coastline is home to an abundance of marine wildlife: penguins, whales, sea lions, elephant seals, orcas, and dolphins. You’ll find the greatest concentrations of animals from October through the first week of December.

Colombia is maturing as a luxury-travel destination, reports WOW Lister Boris Seckovic. The Four Seasons will soon open its third hotel there, which will be in the Caribbean city of Cartagena. Colombia also checks a lot of boxes for families and multigenerational groups, with colonial towns, mountain ranges, rainforest, and beaches all in close proximity.

Bolivia’s Uyuni salt flat is a photographer’s dream, shares WOW Lister Marisol Mosquera. It’s equally beautiful in the rainy season (November to March)—when it turns into a lake with islands dotted by giant cacti—and in the dry season (May to October), when you can drive across the crystalline surface.

Trekking in the Andes isn’t just about the Inca Trail, says WOW Lister Tom Damon. For instance, he can arrange a glamping experience in Peru’s Sacred Valley with tents large enough to stand up in, cots fitted with mattresses and pillows, a staff to cook for you, and animals to carry your gear.

Chile’s wine regions are vastly underrated, according to WOW Lister Jordan Harvey. A few of his favorites within driving distance of Santiago are the Casablanca Valley, for soft reds like pinot noir, and the Colchagua Valley, for more robust varietals like cabernet and carménère.


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.

Unusual Ways To See the World by Water

There are parts of the world that are best seen from the water, and there is a growing array of unusual itineraries and small ships for doing so.  We’re not talking about Caribbean islands or Italian coastlines as viewed from a cruise ship so huge that it can only dock in the big industrial harbors. No, we’re talking about floating along France’s scenic canals by barge, sightseeing by houseboat through the backwaters of Kerala, India, or exploring remotest Antarctica by small expedition ship. Cruise expert Carolyn Spencer Brown joined Wendy and Brook for a WOW Week Travel Talk on new ways to explore the world’s waterways in 2023.  Watch the video and be surprised by everything you’ll learn.

Small-ship experiences you can find around the globe include:

Expedition ships: These small ships typically navigate parts of the world that it would be hard to experience any other way, such as the Arctic, Antarctica, and pristine portions of Alaska’s shoreline. In such pockets of the world, water-based travel is often your only option: You can’t drive from place to place, and it may be cost-prohibitive or too unreliable to get around via private, chartered aircraft. When these expedition ships are between seasons (say, repositioning between the Arctic and the Antarctic during the spring and fall), they may offer delightfully off-the-beaten-path itineraries that nip into tiny islands, landings, and anchorages. Carolyn and her husband sailed through the Swedish and Finnish archipelagos on a 100-passenger expedition ship, and he, a native of Finland, had never been to most of the small places they got to explore.

Yacht charters: Yachts and sailboats in the British Virgin Islands, Greece, Croatia, the Mediterranean, and many other parts of the world enable you to go where you want to go, drop anchor when you like, and choose who you want to vacation with (meaning, you’re not on a ship with strangers). You can even charter a private boat in India: In Kerala, traditional wood and thatched houseboats called kettuvallam ply the serene, rural backwaters, rivers and canals. You can charter a private boat or book a cabin on an 8-person “cruise” kettuvallam. Read about Wendy’s gulet charter on the Turquoise Coast and Brook’s catamaran charter in the Caribbean.

River boats: You may be familiar with the relatively large (160- to 190-passenger) cruise ships in Europe that ply the Rhine, Danube, Rhone and Seine, but there are many other rivers around the world where smaller vessels go to more exotic places, such as the Amazon in Peru, the Mekong for exploring Vietnam and Cambodia, and the Chobe River for the wildlife of Africa. On the Nile, instead of a Westernized river ship, you can opt for a wind-powered dahabiya. Dahabiyas are local boats that hold up to 12 people and can take you to places beyond the reach of traditional conventional vessels. Read about Billie’s experience sailing the Nile on a dahabiya.

European barge charters: Barges, often holding from 8 to 24 travelers, primarily ply the canals of France and are one of the best ways to explore the countryside, at a snail’s pace. Work barges have been repurposed as small passenger vessels—some quite luxurious, others cozy and comfortable. You’re provided with a captain and a cook, and you travel so slowly that you can easily grab a bike from your barge and meet it in the next village—with time to sip a glass of vino at an outdoor cafe. Read about Wendy’s barge trip through the French countryside.  

For help finding and planning the right private-boat or cruise experience for you, use the black button below.



Read more

A Private Gulet on Turkey’s Aegean Coast: Wendy’s Family Trip

Sailing the Caribbean Sea in a Private Yacht. This Could Be You.

The Best Way to See Egypt. Especially If You Don’t Like Boats.

How to Know if a Barge Cruise in France is Right for You.

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.

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.

plain open ocean looking out to the horizon

Cruises: When Can We Sail Again? How Will It Be Different?

This summer ships will be sailing again—in the Caribbean, in the Greek Islands, on European rivers, on Alaska’s coast—and maybe out of other U.S. ports too. In this live Q&A, cruise specialists on The WOW List and cruise journalist Carolyn Spencer Brown told us how cruise lines, both large and small, are wooing travelers back onboard, putting new safety standards in place, and changing both onboard and shoreside experiences.

Our conversation touched on so many interesting aspects of what travelers can expect from the cruise experience, including:

•How cruise lines are wooing travelers back

•New safety measures on large and small ships and river cruises

•How limited capacity and fewer ships will affect availability

•How the onboard experience is changing on large and small ships

•What shore excursions will be like going forward

•Covid logistics for multi-country cruises

•Onboard testing

•Cruise lines’ vaccination and documentation requirements

•Mask requirements onboard and on shore excursions

•When to cruise

•Where to cruise

•Christmas market cruises

•Alaska cruises and whether they can make stops in Canada

•Small expedition cruises

•The cruises that are already operating in the U.S.

•How the pandemic has created opportunities for the cruise industry as a whole to improve

The panelists:

Carolyn Spencer Brown, former editor-in-chief of CruiseCritic.com who’s now at Carolynspencerbrown.com

Tom Baker, WOW List Trusted Travel Expert for Cruises, including Large Ships, Luxury Ships, and River Cruises. (Read reviews of Tom here.)

Ashton Palmer, WOW List Trusted Travel Expert for Small-Ship Expedition Cruises, Antarctica, and the Arctic. (Read reviews of Ashton here.)

More Q&A videos:

You’ll find the Zoom recordings of our previous travel Q&As in our new Travel Talk Videos section, including Q&As on last-minute trips, what vaccinated travelers do and don’t need to worry about, and understanding travel insurance in this new era. And, if you’d like to travel this summer while minimizing your risk and maximizing your experience, you’ll find wise solutions via Ask Wendy. We know which places are safest and smartest, and which local fixers can ensure an easy and extraordinary trip. Check out these recent international trip reviews to understand the huge difference that this makes

We’re Here to Help

Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers who are vaccinated. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes. And if you’re looking for a similarly carefree travel experience, contact us at Ask Wendy.