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Travelers and the elephant at the Dera Amer sanctuary in India.

February Trip Ideas: Traveler Reviews to Inspire You

If you’re looking to travel in February and wondering where on earth to go, take inspiration from your fellow travelers: Check out their reviews recounting their favorite February trips. Our intrepid travelers have scouted wintry destinations for the northern lights, warm-weather escapes in the southern hemisphere where February is summertime, and close-to-home getaways in Mexico and Costa Rica. These trips were optimized for February by the local fixers on our WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts. 

You’ll find even more ideas in the February installment of our Where to Go When series, and you’ll find more traveler reviews here.

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


Norway for the northern lights (and daytime adventures with reindeer)

Northern lights explosion on snowy mountain range near coastline at Lofoten islands, Norway

Northern lights in the Lofoten Islands, Norway. Photo: Shutterstock

“Seeing the northern lights was on my bucket list, and Jan helped me plan every detail of the trip. The hotels were excellent, and we received many upgrades. Our hotel in Alta was particularly lovely, and our dinners there were incredible. Knowing how much we wanted to see the lights, and being disappointed twice before in Iceland, Jan steered us to Alta, in the northernmost part of Norway. He said it would give us the best shot. How right he was! We saw them three out of three nights!

Much of this is due to the incredible guides Jan arranged. Despite the fact that it was cloudy and snowing the first two nights, our guides looked at all the weather maps and found the area that had the most potential to clear up. It was a real drive, but the clouds disappeared and the lights danced.

Jan also suggested a visit to the area where the Sami live and herd reindeer. It was the best advice! These indigenous people live the same way their ancestors did, and it was a privilege to spend the day with them. Mathis, a Sami elder, met us and drove us over 30 miles on snowmobiles to watch the Sami move a herd of 2,500+ reindeer to higher terrain. After that, we snowmobiled back to his home, where he had prepared a delicious lunch of salmon and Arctic char. He generously and patiently answered all our questions and made us feel like welcomed guests. Our day with this incredible gentleman was truly the highlight of our trip, and it is an experience that will not be forgotten.” —Judy Wimpfheimer

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


Cuba for a Caribbean getaway that’s a cultural deep dive

Cathedral of Santiago de Cuba on a sunny day.

The cathedral in Santiago de Cuba, the island’s second-largest city. Photo: Shutterstock

“The Wendy Perrin team scores again. Needing expert advice on travel to Cuba, I reached out and they connected me with Rob and Ana, who planned a wonderful trip! I am researching a book that involves Santiago de Cuba, the island’s second-largest city, and a less-visited destination than Havana. Ana understood instinctively what I needed, first steering me to an on-the-ground researcher, Alicia Howland, who did much advance work that narrowed my itinerary, and then putting me in the kind and extremely capable hands of Tania Vivar, a peerless guide during my four-day stay. I could not have asked for a better experience, from the first pickup at the Santiago airport to my last poignant goodbye.

Rob and Ana’s team booked me into a lovely private casa in a leafy suburban neighborhood, near the sites I most wanted to see, where the on-site garden provided daily fresh produce in a place where basic foodstuffs are in short supply. My spacious, air-conditioned room with ensuite bath was the perfect refuge at day’s end. Alicia and Tania’s knowledge of the city, and of Cuban history, made my stay so much richer, and Tania’s perfect English made communication a breeze.

Economic conditions in Cuba are grim indeed—especially in the eastern part of the island—but the resilience and fortitude of the Cuban people is inspiring, and so is the country’s rich cultural and social history. I simply could not have asked for more caring or capable shepherds to a destination that can be challenging, especially for a non-Spanish-speaking American. I am everlastingly grateful and cannot recommend Rob and Ana highly enough!” —Todd Purdum

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

Ask Wendy

Venice and Rome for a romantic Valentine’s Day without Italy’s usual crowds

Marsha Friedli and her husband during their gondola ride in Venice on a foggy day.

Marsha Friedli said the fog during her gondola ride made Venice “beautiful and evocative.”

WOW! A foggy gondola ride with guitar player and singer (part of our WOW Moment) was our introduction to Italy, specifically Venice, on Valentine’s Day. Around every turn, under every bridge, were sites to behold and cause wonder. The heavy fog made Venice so beautiful and evocative. We stayed at the Sina Palazzo Sant’Angelo Venice Hotel on the Grand Canal. Our room balcony was a perfect location to watch the water traffic comings and goings of daily life in Venice.

Another part of our WOW Moment was visiting the 1499 textile weaver, Tessitura Bevilacqua! My background is in textile & clothing so I was extremely surprised and pleased to experience this working factory/museum. Seeing the weavers work and delighting in their skill with the looms. Their patience with me and my many questions!

From Venice we went to Rome via the high speed train—fantastic way to travel! Arrived at the Rome train station where our escort and driver were waiting. So glad Jennifer arranged this as we would not have had an easy time with all the construction closures.

Our hotel for the next 6 nights was Martius Private Suites, just steps from the Pantheon. This was the perfect location as we walked to/from most of our touring sites and wonderful restaurants.  A very fun happening was taking a golf-cart tour in Rome! Just a fun way to scoot around and visit some of the sites! We visited the Trevi fountain during its cleaning session. The size is enormous and with it filled with water you don’t really get the scale of the fountain.

Our driver dropped us off at a private Art Restoration experience that Jennifer and her team arranged for us. This was a truly wonderful experience for me to actually see and watch a 15th-century artwork being restored. This was a private experience and we were able to ask as many questions as we wanted and get up close to the work being restored and yes, take pictures! This experience helped me to appreciate the art even more during our visit. Without Jennifer and her contacts we would not have had this truly memorable experience.” —Marsha Friedli

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


Brazil for Carnival and Caipirinhas

Sugarloaf Mountain and Botafogo Neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro by Sunset with Full Moon in the Sky

Imagine mixing your own caipirinha at the top of Rio’s iconic Sugarloaf Mountain. Photo: Shutterstock

“We booked a two-week trip to Brazil with Paul, and he came through big time. The best tour guide we’ve ever had, Lais, met us at the airport on arrival and transported us to the beautiful Hotel Fasano right on Ipanema Beach. We were able to spend two full days on the beach, where we really got a feel for the local culture.

My wife had wanted to see the dancers at Carnival, but we didn’t arrive in Rio until it was over. Somehow Lais pulled off a miracle and found a group that was meeting in a public park and recreating their Carnival performance. It was called a Samba Hangover Dance. We were able to hang out with the locals for a few hours and see the performance up close.

Then we went to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, where we were met by a master craftsman who taught us how to make the best Caipirinhas we had on the entire trip. While in Rio we were able to eat at Garota de Ipanema, the cafe where Vinicius de Moraes originally saw the famous ‘girl from Ipanema’ go by before writing the lyrics to the song. On Paul’s advice, we also went to eat at Aprazivel restaurant in the hills above Rio for a delicious meal in a beautiful restaurant with an amazing view of the city below.

Next, we boarded a plane to Iguassu Falls. We stayed at the Hotel das Cataratas in the national park and only 100 yards from the falls. The hotel is the only one in the park and you often had the viewing areas to yourself. Our guide took us on a tour the next day of both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides of these gigantic, 2 ½-mile-wide falls. Seeing them was awe-inspiring, but taking a boat ride under them was exhilarating and an experience not to be missed. At Niagara Falls you get misted when taking the boat ride, but at Iguassu you actually go under the falls. It was safe and great fun.

We ended our trip with a stay in the colonial town of Paraty. We’d seen the big city while in Rio, the jungle in Iguassu, and now a peaceful, historical small town in the center of the country. Our stay at Casa Turquesa was magical. It’s a 9-room inn with a beautiful pool and lovely rooms. We enjoyed navigating the original rocky streets while visiting the shops in town. Paul had arranged a day trip on a schooner where we visited several bays and beaches and had lunch at a place that was only accessible by boat. It was a perfect, relaxing way to end our trip.

A final note about safety. In the United States we’d read traveler warnings and received a notice to beware of dengue fever from our government. Some friends were wary of us going to Brazil. In response I’d like to note that we never felt uncomfortable or unsafe for even a minute during our trip. Are there places in the city of Rio that you shouldn’t visit? Of course, just like in New York City. So don’t go there. Your guides will help you with that. I’ve told friends that Rio is like NYC, but with a better view. Even though we’d taken mosquito repellent to avoid getting dengue fever, we only used it once the whole trip and I never saw a mosquito the whole time.” —Ted Embacher

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


Paris for unusual perspectives on the City of Light, from sidecar tours to macaron classes

View over the River Seine, Paris, France

Sunset over the River Seine, Paris. Photo: Bruno Abatti/Unsplash

“My teen daughter and I had a wonderful trip over her February week-long break. Jennifer was full of ideas to interest both of us. The perfume and macaron classes were big hits. We both enjoyed the sidecar tour and didn’t find it scary. I’m so glad we did it.

Jennifer listened carefully to our interests and suggested multiple properties in different areas. We chose Relais Christine for the historic beauty and lively neighborhood. We were pleased with this beautiful property with very kind and fast service.

I LOVED the VIP greeter service Jennifer recommended upon landing. Such a lifesaver, with efficient and speedy shepherding of us through the airport. Our flight to Paris had been delayed the night before and had a change of outbound airport, so it was a little stressful in the lead-up to departure. Landing with someone to take care of us immediately was a treat.” —Jane Kasey

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


Mexico for its colonial cities that too many beach-resort-goers miss

Tony Ford-Hutchinson and wife Jane at Monte Alban, a pre-Columbian archaeological site in Mexico.

Tony Ford-Hutchinson and wife Jane explored Monte Alban, a pre-Columbian archaeological site.

“As our previous trips to Mexico have all been to resort areas, Jane and I realized we really needed to go to Mexico City to understand what the country is all about, including its complicated history.

Zach organized an outstanding trip. We stayed in the boutique hotel Casa Polanco, right in the Polanco neighborhood with restaurants, etc. all within walking distance. Zach was able to snag reservations at top restaurants, including Pujol, which was a short walk from the hotel and lived up to its reputation of being one of the world’s top restaurants. We visited Teotihuacan, the City’s historical center, and Frida Kahlo’s house. We also had a private after-hours tour around the Museum of Anthropology, a climb through Chapultepec Park to the Castle and its museums, and prime seats at a Lucha Libre (Mexican wrestling) match, followed by drinks and snacks in a Mezcaleria.

Then, in Oaxaca, Zach arranged several private artist studio tours. Many artists have made Oaxaca their home. We walked all around the town, ran into a Carnival procession, and met multiple wedding processions, all unexpected. With so many great restaurants and bars in Oaxaca, what is there not to like!

Finally, we flew to Tijuana and walked across the border from the air terminal (very easy) to meet our son in San Diego. Quite surreal.” —Tony Ford-Hutchinson

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


Ecuador for nature’s extravaganza in the rainforest and cloud forest

A frog clinging on the traveler's glasses frame.

A Mashpi glass frog clings to the rim of a pair of glasses. Photo: Traveler Robin Madden

“We just returned from a 10-day trip to Ecuador, with our two adult sons and one of their partners, and unlike most, we did not include the Galapagos in the itinerary. We chose to visit the Amazon and stay at Napo Wildlife Center, and Mashpi Lodge in the Cloud Forest. These two places were chosen due to their commitment to the local communities and preservation of the incredibly biologically diverse ecosystems in which they are each set. Carmen on Jordan’s team put together a seamless experience.

Though remote, the Napo Wildlife Center is both elegant and comfortable. Our experience included a local guide from the indigenous community. The lodge is owned and operated by the local community—a rarity in luxury lodges. Mornings started early, 5:30, but oh, the payoff! We saw multiple species of monkeys, more than 40 different birds, caiman, river otters, and a sloth, as well as various snakes and insects.

At Mashpi, Fernando was our guide, and he is the ‘frog whisperer.’ He is a biologist who did research there prior to becoming a guide and identified a new species, the ‘Mashpi glass frog,’ which he found for us on a night walk. We had the extraordinary luck of witnessing a battle between a wasp and a tarantula. The wasp won, killing the tarantula and depositing her eggs inside to hatch in about 10 days. Fernando videotaped the whole encounter. It was like watching a National Geographic special, but it was right there in front of us.” —Robin Madden

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


Egypt for a luxe desert oasis, a Nile cruise, warm and welcoming people…

Jeannie Mullen

Jeannie Mullen and friends enjoying a private sunset dinner cruise on the Nile.

“Two friends and I just returned from a private three-week trip to Egypt planned by Jim. We started in Cairo on the Giza plateau with a private tour of the Sphinx, then moved on to the pyramids, temples and tombs that we all see in our dreams when we think of Egypt.

An unexpected treat was the tranquility and beauty of an eco-lodge in Siwa, a desert oasis west of Cairo and about 250 miles from the Libyan border. Adrere Almallal is a stunning lodge which offers guests an opportunity to unplug (no electricity and no wifi) and experience the life and pace that the desert affords. The tranquility, the staff, the FOOD, the candlelit rooms with wood-burning fireplaces and the night sky bursting with stars was such a gift. Highlights in Siwa were a trip into town to tour the Temple of the Oracle of Amun and the Spring of Juba (Cleopatra’s pool), a visit to an all-women’s workshop, shopping and sharing tea with the local Siwa merchants, and a 4×4 trip into the desert to ride the dunes, dune surf, hunt for fossils and watch a stunning sunset.

Our WOW Moment came in Aswan, after we disembarked from a Nile cruise and checked into the famous Old Cataract Hotel on the Nile. Wendy arranged for a private sunset dinner cruise that night which was just stunning. The crew members were lovely and the scenery was fabulous! Thank you again, Wendy!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that, among the many, many experiences we had, the thing that stood out to each of us the most was the warm and welcoming spirits of the Egyptian people. Our trip was made all the more special by the lovely Egyptians that we crossed paths with along the way.” —Jeannie Mullen

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


Costa Rica for a combo of cloud-forest adventures and beach relaxation

A waterfall in the Nectandra Cloud Forest, Costa Rica.

A misty waterfall in the Nectandra Cloud Forest. Photo: Traveler Mary Ann Smith

Irene could not have planned a better trip for us. Visiting the Nectandra Cloud Forest was magical with the mist and educational with our expert guide, Arturo. It was great to start there to understand the ecological mindset of Costa Rica.

Our time at Nayara Tented Camp was beyond wonderful. Irene had balloons, a card, and a bottle of champagne in the room to celebrate my 80th birthday when we arrived. We also really enjoyed kayaking on Lake Arenal, doing the zip lines over the trees, and the Hanging Bridges Park. Thanks to your seminar on taking photos with cell phones, we got some wonderful pictures of waterfalls, birds, the yellow pit viper, and the red dart frog.

While on the drive from La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio, it was very interesting to see the countryside with coffee beans growing and all the tropical plants (under netting) that they grow for export. Upon arrival at Arenas del Mar we enjoyed another lovely room with a beautiful view, plus a great restaurant, a private beach, and great service.

Our white water rafting on the Savegre River was one of our best days. Jesus and Juan were great guides and despite the early questions about being able to do it at our age, they kept saying ‘excellente’ as we went through the rapids. We loved it!

Irene had arranged for us to fly back to San Jose from Quepos rather than driving which was a wonderful way to end the trip with views of the mountain range and 30 minutes of flying versus several hours of driving. It was more than we could have imagined!” —Mary Ann Smith

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


Morocco for a sunny, exotic getaway just across the Atlantic

Travelers Craig and Stephanie Smith with their driver and guide having dinner on the rooftop terrace of Essaouira's Salut Maroc, Morocco.

Craig and Stephanie Smith enjoyed a farewell dinner with new friends: private guide Jamal and driver Majid.

“We just returned from an amazing two weeks in Morocco. We told Radia that what was most important to us was to have a stellar guide. We also told her that we have a strong interest in music and would like to incorporate learning about Gnawa music in some way. And we told her that our hotel preference was to stay in riads instead of international chain hotels.

From the moment we were met at the Casablanca airport by our private guide Jamal and private driver Majid, we knew that we were in for an incredible trip. They were both so hospitable! Jamal was incredibly knowledgeable about the culture and history of his country. He was very attentive to all of our needs, and he made us laugh a lot. He made sure that we saw everything on the itinerary and then some.

Majid drove us many miles in a huge loop, from Casablanca to Volubilis, to Fes, to Ifrane, to Merzouga, to Todra Valley, to Dades Gorge, to Skoura, to Marrakech, to Imlil, to Essaouira, and back to Marrakech. We always felt very safe with him behind the wheel, and he had a great sense of humor.

We stayed in beautiful riads with a very personal touch and enjoyed all kinds of delicious food. In addition to seeing many historic sites (mosques, synagogues, palaces, medinas, souks, tanneries), we also had adventures. We went for a camel ride and rode ATVs in the desert. We went for a hot air balloon ride outside of Marrakech. We went for a hike in the High Atlas Mountains from Imlil to Armed. One of our favorite activities was the sunset motorcycle sidecar tour of Marrakech, suggested by Radia. We felt like we were in a movie, riding through the Palmerie and the medina in comfortable, roomy, sidecars. A definite must-do!

Another highlight was an impromptu visit to the Todra Valley for lunch at Jamal’s family’s home. We were so honored and humbled to be invited into their home for lively conversation and a delicious lunch. And, to satisfy our musical interest, Radia organized a thoroughly enjoyable private Gnawa music workshop with master musician Najib Soudani in Essaouira.

With Jamal and Majid at our sides, it felt like we were traveling with friends we had known for a lifetime. The itinerary was wonderful, but they made the trip into an experience that we will cherish forever.” —Stephanie and Craig Smith

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


India for Rajasthan’s wedding season, lavish palace hotels, ethical elephant sanctuaries…

Travelers and the elephant at the Dera Amer sanctuary in India.

Michael and Lisa Riggs with new friend Rangmala at the Dera Amer sanctuary.

“As with every WOW List specialist we have worked with over the past five years, we found that Victoria had everything planned and arranged to perfection. Any glitches were handled and fixed immediately. Most notable, after I left a packing cube with my husband’s polo shirts in the Delhi hotel, Victoria’s team managed to retrieve them and get them to us, via a variety of drivers and tour guides, at a later destination. Meanwhile, our guide Vanch suggested we get some shirts made, which was fun, inexpensive, and quick.

The hotels were 5-star, gorgeous, and even historic. At The Imperial in New Delhi, the site of many historic meetings, we enjoyed sitting at the same table Gandhi did!

In Agra, we were surprised by our WOW Moment: an authentic Hindu marriage ceremony for us! We participated in the rituals, learned a lot, and enjoyed the experience of ‘renewing our vows’ in a different culture. Now we will be together for 7 lifetimes, the priest told us. Luckily, we’re good with that.

Our WOW celebration continued with an excellent dinner of Mughal tandoor cuisine, with a traditional Santoor musician, at the highly rated Esphahan restaurant in our hotel, the Oberoi.

It was wedding season in Rajasthan, and it was fun to see things even more ornately decorated than usual, including horses, elephants, vehicles in the streets and our hotel, The Taj Rambagh Palace (a former Jaipur Maharaja’s palace). The elaborate Mughal gardens were the site of a large and lavish wedding reception, all day and into the night. It was fun and interesting to witness. Even the staff was impressed.

One of our favorite stops was the Dera Amer camp, an animal sanctuary and home of elephant rescues. We fed and took a walk with Rangmala and her mahout, and she allowed us to pet her and pose for photos.” —Lisa Riggs

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


New Zealand for unusual summertime experiences far above the crowds…

Travelers Joe Tobin and Mary Lou Voytko on a glacier in Whitcombe Valley, New Zealand.

Joe Tobin and Mary Lou Voytko got to perch on the edge of a glacier in the Whitcombe Valley.

“We just completed an absolutely fabulous month-long trip to New Zealand. With his extensive relationships, especially with the Maori, Jean-Michel crafted a truly unique trip that we would never have been able to create on our own. Besides cruising Milford Sound, we had three major interests for our trip: interacting with Maori to learn about their culture, going to the MacKenzie-designated Dark Sky region to stargaze, and being on a glacier.

Instead of going to touristy places to see the Maori, Jean-Michel set us up with several unbelievable one-on-one days with individual Maori, including Tom Loughlin, who cooked us a fabulous traditional Hangi meal in the ground at his 5,000-acre wilderness cabin; Delani Brown, a famous master carver who creates enormous masterpieces of complexly intricate carved wood scenes of Maori culture; and Bevan Climo, a master pounamu (New Zealand greenstone or jade) carver, who took us to his tribe’s portion of the Arahura River, where I found a lovely piece of greenstone!

For our Dark Sky experience, Jean-Michel arranged for a privately guided astral viewing at the Matuka Lodge in Twizel where we were staying. The stargazing was fabulous, and to not to have to do the 3-hour roundtrip to the St. John’s Observatory was priceless.

As for the glacier, Jean-Michel again came up with an amazing intimate experience in the Whitcombe Valley, instead of the over-touristy Franz Josef Glacier. Matt, our helicopter pilot, came with over 30 years of flying experience and was even the pilot for Tom Cruise when he was filming in the region! Matt created a once-in-a-lifetime experience, with views of numerous glaciers and glacier lakes, highlighted by a landing at a glacier that we walked up to and sat on! Talk about being at the top of the world and having your dream come true!” —Mary Lou Voytko

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


Thailand and Vietnam for optimal weather and local delicacies…

Vietnamese soup- pho ga in bowl with chicken and rice noodles, mint and cilantro, red onion, chili, bean sprouts and lime on grey background.

Traditional Vietnamese pho makes a hearty breakfast. Photo: Shutterstock

“We just returned from an amazing 12 days in the Far East, visiting both Thailand and Vietnam and including five cities total (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hanoi, Hoi An and Saigon). From the moment we landed to the moment we departed, our trip was flawless. Dan and his team listened to and responded to all of our concerns and suggestions and came up with an itinerary that was right on spot.

The food everywhere was terrific, with a bit more spice in Thailand than Vietnam. We especially enjoyed ‘pho’ for breakfast! All of our local hosts were fluent in English, extremely knowledgeable and overly concerned with making sure we had everything we needed. It was so helpful to have them as we navigated each city, and they showed us all the local favorites, from the markets to stores to food and to the delicious egg and salt coffee that Vietnam is known for.

The highlight of our trip was a visit to the elephant rescue in Chiang Mai. Wow! The project was so well managed and allowed us to spend five hours with the four elephants that have been rescued, including a 6-year-old baby boy elephant. It was a surreal feeling to walk alongside an elephant while feeding them bananas out of our bag and ultimately joining them in a swim in their watering hole. Must do!” —Laura McDermott

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


Sri Lanka for tropical landscapes, an exotic culture, and very few other tourists (which makes the local people especially welcoming!)

Sri Lanka's Cinnamon Country

Sri Lanka’s beautiful—and uncrowded—Cinnamon Country. Photo: Sri Lanka In Style

“There were many highlights of our trip. One of them was a general lack of other tourists, which is bad for the country but was excellent for us. We would highly recommend Sri Lanka as a destination and would encourage others to visit without hesitation. While there was some political unrest there in 2022, we felt perfectly safe at all times.

Our two nights that Miguel and Donovan arranged for us in the high tea country were a definite highlight, as was a fabulous private farewell dinner, arranged even though the venue has a seven-to-eight-month waiting list for reservations.” —John Schroeder

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


Dubai and Abu Dhabi for sunny beaches but with skyscrapers, camel treks, dune bashing…

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai

The Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, is a can’t-miss for visitors to Dubai. Photo: BS1920/Pixabay

“We had a wonderful time during our trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi that was planned by Justin. The trip was very professionally arranged, from picking us up at the airport to all activities and transportation. We stayed at Jumeirah Beach hotel, which has beautiful views of the ocean and you can see the Burj Al Arab from it as well. Over the next few days we had our personal guide, who gave us a comprehensive tour of Dubai. We learnt about the city’s Bedouin heritage, bold architecture, Emirati culture, politics/sheiks. We got to see all the major attractions, the gold souk, Atlantis, and of course the Burj Khalifa. The guide had our tickets ready for us, which was nice. It took us 60 seconds in the lift to get to the top of the world’s tallest building. The views from there were spectacular. Once you exit the Burj Khalifa you end up in Dubai Mall (one of the world’s largest shopping malls), so we ended up walking around the mall and ate at the food court. Our kids had to try the McArabia from McDonald’s, which they thought was pretty good.

After a few days in Dubai we went to the desert. The highlight of our trip was the desert/Qasr Al Sarab Resort. It was a magical place, absolutely breathtaking. The desert sand is so soft, fine and has multicolored hues of khaki and orange. We all enjoyed rolling around in the sand dunes, and seeing the magical sunsets. Getting from Dubai to Qasr Al Sarab was flawlessly planned. We had our own private driver who was flexible in case we needed to make stops, as we were traveling with two kids (ages 6 & 7). Arriving there felt like arriving at a Arabian palace, the kind you see in Aladdin. They greeted us with some dates and a yogurt drink which was cooling in the hot weather. The breakfast was amazing, a lavish buffet having a mix of local delights. We enjoyed the dates, local jams, omelettes, and fresh juices. All the excursions were perfectly organized. We went on a camel trek, which was a great experience and felt like something out of a movie. In the evenings we got a chance to have some fine Arabic cuisine set in a beautiful ambiance amidst the desert lit up by lanterns, fire pits and the stars above. Certainly a dream. We dined amidst the desert dunes, a Bedouin set-up of plush carpets and cushions serving lamb, cherry rice, variety of dips/hummus, and breads. Another highlight of our trip was dune bashing. My oldest son loved it and said he would do it again, while my youngest said it was terrible. I would say it was exhilarating, however not for everyone. I would recommend not eating an hour before doing it.

Our next stop was Abu Dhabi. It was a quick two-hour drive from the desert. We only spent a day in Abu Dhabi, and then went back to Dubai. Abu Dhabi’s highlight was the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. We were greeted by our tour guide, who was well prepared. She had an extra head scarf for my wife, as the dress code is very strictly enforced. She was a wealth of information and was able to get us into the mosque the most efficient way. The architecture and design of the mosque is something quite special. It has intricate designs of flowers and geometric designs carved on the walls and exquisite carpets and chandeliers inside. After the mosque our guide gave us a tour of Abu Dhabi. We requested to go to some local markets, as we needed to get some souvenirs. She took us to a quaint market where they had camel key chains, local embroidered pillowcases, Aladdin lamps which my kids loved.” —Adi Derasari

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


Bhutan and India for Buddhist enlightenment (plus the Taj Mahal)

Herbal bath with a view at Gangtey Lodge, Bhutan.

An herbal bath with a view at Bhutan’s Gangtey Lodge. Photo: Traveler Wendy Tucker

“My husband and I just returned from a fantastic two-week-plus trip to India and Bhutan. We have been lucky enough to travel to many places, but we both declared at our return that this was our favorite destination. Sanjay planned a perfect trip and we are so grateful to him and his local agencies for their knowledge, punctuality, kindness and seamless handling of everything. When I initially contacted Sanjay, our plan only included Bhutan. There are no flights to Bhutan from the US or Europe—you need to go through India or Thailand. We had never been to India, so Sanjay suggested that we fly into Delhi (one of the cities you can access Bhutan from) and spend a few days to see the Taj Mahal. We were so glad we took his advice.

Overall, we found Bhutan to be peaceful, calm, clean, welcoming, safe and fascinating, with people full of warmth, interest and kindness. We stayed at four incredible properties, each with their own flavor, beauty and charm. My favorite was Gangtey Lodge. Gangtey Lodge was the furthest east we traveled and is high above a beautiful valley. It snowed when we were there, so we enjoyed herbal baths gazing from the tub out over the valley.

We filled our days with visits to fortresses, nunneries, temples and monasteries—we loved them all, although our favorite was Gangtey Goenpa Monastery. We spent almost three hours there participating in a tea ceremony with the monks and discussing Buddhism and life in a monastery with a senior monk.” —Wendy Tucker

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


African safari for shoulder-season value and animals galore

An elephant in Tarangire Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

An elephant in Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park. Photo: Carole Henderson from Pixabay

“We had a great trip arranged by Cherri and Katie, to Rwanda for mountain gorilla trekking and then to the Serengeti in Tanzania for more wildlife viewing. The experience of being able to get so close to and observe elephants, giraffes, lions, gazelle, zebras, cheetah, wildebeest, Cape buffalo, leopard, hippos, golden and vervet monkeys, not to mention gorillas, in their natural habitat, is incomparable. Also incredible were the gorgeous birds, including storks and flamingos. We were also lucky to see black rhinos both in the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro crater.

The Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge was outstanding. The cottages were lovely. A wood-burning fire was lit every evening in our room, and sometimes on very cold mornings as well, by Felicien, our butler, who also brought coffee to the room. He helped us gear up for the gorilla treks, and assisted with hiking boot and leg gaiter removal when we were done. The treks themselves were physically demanding at high altitude but well worth it, and we were completely pampered when we got back to the lodge.

The lodge is community owned, and many staff members are from the nearby village. Felicien gave us a great tour and we were delighted to meet many of the people, including the beekeeper, the doctor/herbalist, and some charming women who showed me how to grind flour from sorghum. Easier than it looks!

We stayed at two different camps in Tanzania and our guides were outstanding. The game drives were amazing and the guides well informed. Our favorite was the Namiri Plains Camp, where you could look out your deck and watch elephants stroll by.” —Lisa Riggs

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Two travelers at Darling Harbour Pyrmont Bridge in Sydney, Australia

Make the Most of Your Kid Studying Abroad

With more and more students spending a semester studying abroad, we’re seeing more and more families travel to visit them. I’m just back from visiting my son Charlie in Australia, and many of you are arranging ever cooler trips to meet up with your own favorite undergrad, everywhere from Copenhagen to Botswana. So I thought I’d share some hard-earned wisdom:

  • When you reunite with your child in their foreign homebase, they won’t have jet lag, but you will. For our Australia trip, we knew Charlie would run us ragged playing tour guide. That meant we needed to get over jet lag before joining him in Sydney. So we opted to start our trip by recovering from jet lag first, at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef. As it turned out, half of the people we met on Lizard Island were parents from the U.S. who had just been in Sydney visiting their student!  (And many wished they’d eased in at Lizard Island first.)
Wendy's son and other people studying at State Library in New South Wales.

Charlie studying in the grand State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Photo: Wendy Perrin

    • Consider Thanksgiving or spring break. Of course you’ll want to visit when your college student has free time and doesn’t have exams. But if you’re bringing other children who are on a U.S. school schedule, your best timing during the fall semester is likely to be Thanksgiving, and your best timing during the spring semester is likely to be spring break. Such timing works well in many popular Study Abroad cities, such as Barcelona and Florence: Prices are lower and tourist crowds fewer than in peak season (Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Europe).
    • Make advance reservations. Many college students today have a last-minute lifestyle, which might not work well if you’ve got a group of people. Let your student show you their adopted city through their eyes, but if they’re not accustomed to planning activities and meals for a group, consider using the right local itinerary-planning expert who can cater to the special interests of each family member, optimize your itinerary for the month and days of the week that you’re visiting, and reserve hard-to-get-into restaurants or activities (such as a twilight Sydney Harbour Bridge climb, which Tim and Charlie did, below).
Two travelers climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb.

Charlie and Tim atop Sydney Harbour Bridge.

    • Don’t forget about other nearby countries. The study-abroad kids I know are exploring a different city within their new country almost every weekend. So think about other countries nearby where your student might not travel on their own. I’ve seen parents take a Spain-based student to Morocco, for example, or an Italy-based student to Malta.

There is a vast array of study-abroad programs now, not just for a semester but for January term, “Maymester,” summer, and more. Read on to get ideas for experiences that might resonate with your own family. We’re happy to help you with more ideas if you click the black “Get a Personalized Trip Recommendation” button below.


Spain: “My youngest daughter, who loves art, did a private art workshop with a local artist in Barcelona…”

Barcelona - Park Guell, Spain

Gaudi’s Park Guell in Barcelona. Photo: Shutterstock

“It was the easiest, least stressful, most enjoyable trip our family has ever taken. Much of the credit for this goes to Iván. This trip came about because our oldest is spending a semester abroad at the University of Granada. My mom told us about Wendy’s WOW List, and we soon connected with Iván. My wife and I had a one-hour Zoom call with Iván where he asked about our family, what we like to do, where we wanted to go in Spain, and our ‘must-see/do’ list. Within 48 hours, he sent us a detailed itinerary that blew us away. It checked all the boxes we were looking for and then some.

The main cities we visited were Madrid, Granada and Barcelona. Since college, my wife has been fascinated by Gaudi and has always dreamed of seeing his work, so in Barcelona, Iván planned a ‘Gaudi Day,’ so she could get her fill. The day included visits to Park Güell, La Pedrera, Casa Batlló, and La Sagrada Familia.

Some of our favorite activities during the trip were under-the-radar experiences that Iván set up for us. My youngest daughter, who loves art, did a private art workshop with a local artist in Barcelona where she created a tile mosaic of an octopus in the style of Gaudi.

My favorite was the photography workshop we did in Granada. It was run by a couple with a studio and darkroom in one of the cave houses in the Sacromonte neighborhood of Granada. The workshop focused on wet plate photography, one of the oldest types of photography. They took a photo of our daughters to show us how the process works and then let the kids take and develop a few photos, which are now proudly displayed in our dining room. They were such a lovely couple, and we could have spent many more hours with them. It was truly a special trip.” —Alex Kovac

Read more reviews of Spain trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


New Zealand: “We saw a lot of the South Island by helicopter, we hiked, we kayaked, went to a mountaintop whisky bar and hot tub…”

The Hancock family on top of a glacier in New Zealand's South Island.

The Hancock family explored New Zealand’s South Island by helicopter, flying past waterfalls, high alpine lakes, river valleys, and sharp mountain peaks before landing on a glacier.

“Our 21-year-old son was studying in Australia. He was going to wrap up his trip in New Zealand. The idea came to us to make it a family holiday and meet him over there. The stars aligned and all schedules allowed it to happen. First off, Jean-Michel responded to our email inquiry immediately, and we were chatting with him 10 minutes later. We tossed ideas around and he assured us we could cover a lot of ground in the 8 days we had.

We saw a lot of the South Island by helicopter, we hiked, we kayaked, went to a mountaintop whisky bar and hot tub, went off-roading, drank lots of wonderful NZ wine and cheese. Our accommodations were fantastic. We have traveled the world, and Jean-Michel and his team are probably the best trip planners we have used to date.” —Susan and Blake Hancock

Read more reviews of New Zealand trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Italy: “Our private boat ride on the Arno was a huge hit; my niece who is studying there had not ever seen a private boat trip on the river…”

Beautiful cityscape skyline of Firenze (Florence), Italy, with the bridges over the river Arno

View over the Arno river in Florence. Photo: Shutterstock

“I had Maria plan a special family trip for three family members to spend 11 days in Italy in Oct. I had some specific requests to see some things I had not seen before, as I have lived and worked in Italy 30 years ago. Maria from the outset understood my needs and she crafted an amazing trip from the start (a private transfer from Malpensa to lunch at Villa D Este & on to Bellagio on Lake Como) to finish…High-speed train back to Milan to catch our flight home. Everything was seamless and very special.

All of the hotels were perfect for us, and Maria pulled off the virtually impossible: finding a lovely quiet room overlooking a piazza without crazy noise and in the shadow of important Renaissance architecture. She also mentioned the rooftop pool and bar at the Minerva in Florence, where we had drinks each night in the soft evening light, with gorgeous views of the Duomo.  Her private excursions to the Factory floor of Lamborghini, to lunches at small wineries run by families who have been there for centuries… it was all beyond terrific. Our private boat ride on the Arno at night was a huge hit; my niece who is studying there had not ever seen a private boat trip on the river in the evening. This is the edge Maria offers, access and know-how that only a seasoned specialist can uncover for their clients.

I can’t thank Wendy enough for linking me up with Maria, we enjoyed every day of our trip and we will certainly reach out to her again to plan some more special moments in other spots in one of my most favorite countries on earth, that I have visited more than 20 times!  Mille Grazie Maria and team!!!  —Mary Munn

Read more reviews of Italy trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Australia: “A private sunset cruise of the Harbour (one of our favorite moments!)”

Karri Schildmeyer and her family during their private sunset cruise of Sydney Harbour, Australia.

The Schildmeyer family on their private sunset cruise of Sydney Harbour.

“We cannot imagine our trip to Australia going any better than it did, simply because we learned about Wendy Perrin’s company from a dear friend, and their connection to Stuart and Jacki. We spent two weeks visiting our daughter, who was studying abroad in Sydney. Our trip began in Sydney, where we spent the first five days learning about the city, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, hugely enjoying a private tour of the Sydney Opera House and our e-bike tour of Manly Beach. Then we ventured outside Brisbane to Lockyer Valley and the quiet, peaceful Spicers Hidden Vale. How fun to chat with the kangaroos outside our cabins! This retreat was perfectly quaint, with incredible views, meals and service.

After three days in the Valley, we flew to Cairns to spend three days at the Niramaya Villas & Spa. This leg of our trip was the most tropical, as we experienced an amazing day on the water snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef and an afternoon at Four Mile Beach. Port Douglas was an incredible seaside town with fantastic restaurants and a must-see sunset at the Marina.

We flew back to Sydney for a private sunset cruise of the Harbour (one of our favorite moments!) and headed stateside after our two-week adventures in beautiful, friendly Australia. This vacation exceeded every expectation and will undoubtedly be remembered in our family as a trip-of-a-lifetime.” —Karri Schildmeyer

Read more reviews of Australia trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Copenhagen: “We had a truly special evening at the home of a local couple. They prepared a Danish Easter dinner for us…”

Cari Bender and her family with the dinner's local hosts in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Cari Bender and her family with their local hosts in Copenhagen.

“We just returned from a wonderful trip to Copenhagen to visit our daughter who is studying abroad there. Mads helped us plan a lovely vacation where we got to explore all over the area. We learned about Danish food on a food tour and loved seeing the city from a private boat excursion along the canal.

Our favorite day was the Danish design day! We love Danish design, and Mads arranged for us to have a private tour of a furniture manufacturer and meet some current local artists in their own studio. It was a special and memorable day. My son and I probably took 1,000 photographs, and we all loved learning about the history of prominent furniture design. We had a terrific hotel right in Nyhavn, the famous canal with the colored buildings that was centrally located and super charming.

The other incredibly memorable adventure was Dine with Danes, where we had a truly special evening at the home of a local couple. They prepared a Danish Easter dinner for us—they must have cooked for two days! We simply adored them and we had a wonderful evening together. It was very special.” —Cari Bender

Read more reviews of Denmark trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


African safari: “We had so many up-close encounters with all sorts of wildlife…and have a shared album of over 1,000 pictures…”

lion sitting in savannah grass in botswana africa

A lion in Botswana. Photo: Shutterstock

“Thanks to Julian for arranging an absolutely fabulous trip to the Okavango Delta, Victoria Falls and Cape Town during March 2024. We had travelers on different itineraries from the USA and needed to connect with my daughter in Gaborone, which complicated our agenda, and they all met up as planned. I appreciated the extra help with arranging an additional tour in Maun while we waited for our last friend. After the tour, we were the first guests at the Great Plains lounge, which just opened that day, while we waited until our departing flight to the Delta. We were met and escorted exactly as expected and did not encounter any snags along the way—relatively amazing, given we were on a total of 14 flights in the two weeks.

We thoroughly enjoyed each of the three camps in the Okavango Delta. The accommodations, service, food and animal experiences were so beyond our expectations at all three that we couldn’t pick out our favorite and wished we had another night at least to spend at all of them. We had so many up-close encounters with all sorts of wildlife—lions, elephants wild dogs and more—and have a shared album of over 1000 pictures :) In Zimbabwe, the Old Drift Lodge was also very nice, and Victoria Falls is spectacular. We had animals close to our tents in each of the camps, which was amazing—elephants, baboons, hippos and others. Each of the camps had great views of wildlife from the tents and common areas.

Our guide in Cape Town, Malcolm, was a wealth of information and really helped to show us the city and surrounding areas with a minimum of delay and made sure we had a good amount of time at each stop. We made full use of the Table Bay Hotel’s amenities, surrounding area and attached mall.” —Lori Kirk

Read more reviews of African safari trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.



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.