Tag Archives: UK

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.

A rib ride on the Thames River is a fun way to see waterfront sights such as the London Eye.

Ask a Teenager: Do’s and Don’ts for Your Trip to London

Note from Wendy:  I’m just back from a trip to London with teen and tween boys, and out of 12 days’ worth of family-friendly activities—including a cricket match, the Science Museum, the H.M.S. Belfast, and Kensington Gardens—these are the experiences that my 14-year-old son, Charlie, enjoyed most, as well as those he feels are overrated.  Here, Charlie tells it in his words:

My mom took me to London over the summer and it ended up being an amazing experience. However, there were some times when I just wanted to leave whatever it was that we were doing. So, in this article, I will be sharing do’s and don’ts for London: where to go right away, and what to hold off on.


DO take a rib ride on the Thames.

This ride was both simply thrilling and thrillingly simple, as all it is is a high-speed boat ride. Your kids will love it, and you will probably love it too. It’s basically a tour of London, just much faster. With James Bond music playing, you feel like you’re in a movie. In addition, it isn’t too much of a bumpy ride, and I highly doubt that someone would feel sick after. I recommend getting there early so you can grab one of the front-row seats.

Thames Rib

I recommend sitting in the front row on the London rib ride.


DON’T prioritize the London Eye.

Everyone traveling to London has this on their agenda. But this really wouldn’t be too bad a thing to miss. The views aren’t as great as you’d think, and it’s sometimes hard to see because you’re packed in a cell with 25 others. There is also a very long line to get tickets; however, there is a big playground for the kids right next to it. You should still go here, but don’t overhype it or make it a priority to the other sights you’d like to see. If you have time, go for it.

The views from the London Eye are good, but you get better views from other places in London.

The views from the London Eye are good, but you get better views from other places in London.


DO pay a visit to the Churchill War Rooms.

This place surely exceeded my expectations. It is an exhibit about how Britain was run during the war and Winston Churchill’s life. They had a humongous interactive computer that had a timeline of world history during Churchill’s life. I spent a long time there. They only take groups of 5 or 7 at a time, so try to come when it first opens in the morning.

At the Churchill War Rooms you see the World War 2 bunker that shows how Britain was run during the war.

At the Churchill War Rooms you see the World War 2 bunker that shows how Britain was run during the war.

They have a humongous interactive computer that displays a visual timeline of world history during Churchill’s life.

They have a humongous interactive computer that displays a visual timeline of world history during Churchill’s life.


DON’T randomly visit the inside of Tower Bridge.

You should only go to the exhibition inside Tower Bridge if the drawbridge is scheduled to go up. We got lucky and got there 15 minutes before the drawbridge lift. We watched the bridge draw from the glass bottom floors at the top, when it really might have been better to watch from the wings at bridge level. But I only did one, so I can’t tell you which is best. Besides that, there isn’t really too much to see inside the bridge. It’s a worthy destination, but only if you get to see it in action.

Tower Bridge as seen from the H.M.S. Belfast.

Tower Bridge as seen from the H.M.S. Belfast.

From one of the bridge’s glass-bottomed floors we watched the drawbridge lift.

From one of the bridge’s glass-bottomed floors we watched the drawbridge lift.


DO climb St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The view from the top of St. Paul’s is phenomenal, undoubtedly better than that from the London Eye. But instead of a line to get there, there was a climb. And some climb it was. To get just to the second floor, there is what seems like a never-ending spiral to the top. But when you get to the fourth floor, you get the great payoff of going outside and feeling the breeze on your hair, the entire city of London in front of you. This is why I feel that St. Paul’s does the London Eye’s job better. There are even a lot of seniors making the climb for the top, which I thought was great. If you truly can’t make it, I would recommend just going up to the third floor, as the view isn’t that different and you aren’t forced to keep moving like you are at the top.

The view from the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The view from the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

These are the stairs you climb to get to the top of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.

These are the stairs you climb to get to the top of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.


DO take some time at the British Museum.

The name is misleading because nothing in this museum is British. Kept here are all of the artifacts and spoils of war that the British have won, stolen, or recovered. You will find things in this museum from every country, including mainly ancient Rome, China, Greece, and Egypt, as well as Mesopotamia, Babylonia, and Assyria. You can also find things from the Americas, Japan, and Southeast Asia. Your kids would have very likely learned about some of this stuff in school, so they can tie what they’ve learned to what they’re seeing in person. No one will come out of this museum unsatisfied or unimpressed.

An Egyptian mummy in the British Museum.

An Egyptian mummy in the British Museum.


DO hire a Blue Badge guide for a day or two.

Without our guide, Sean, there would be many more things I would’ve wanted to skip. Our guide had insight on nearly everything in the city, he made the Tower of London come alive, and in Stonehenge we would have been lost without him. If you asked him a random question about London, his answer would never be “I don’t know.” We only had him for two days in London, but the amount of things we were able to see with him in that span was exceptional. I recommend hiring one, even if just for a day, as you won’t need one for an entire week. Try making it on the first day because your guide will have insight on what to do for the remainder of your stay. [Note from Wendy: We hired an exceptionally kid-friendly guide—one who can’t be hired via the Blue Badge site—through Jonathan Epstein, an England specialist on my WOW List of local fixers.) 

In the Tower of London our guide, Sean Moran, showed us “graffiti” carved by prisoners centuries ago.

In the Tower of London, Sean showed us “graffiti” carved by prisoners centuries ago.


DON’T wait in a crowd to see the changing of the guard.

Some people will get to Buckingham Palace two hours before the changing of the guard starts to get a prime spot. If this is truly something you want to do, I won’t stop you. However, our guide knew where to go and got us a spot just outside the gate to the Wellington Barracks about 10 minutes before the change started. What’s more is that here, the guards walk right by your face, maybe three feet away. You also get to see the band playing before they start. Make sure you snag a spot in time on the sidewalk and hold your ground. Some people will go onto the cobblestones that they force you off of when the guards start and try to stand in front of you. Kindly ask them to move.

Here’s the band marching out of Wellington Barracks toward Buckingham Palace. My mom and brother and I all videotaped it.

Here’s the band marching out of Wellington Barracks toward Buckingham Palace. My mom and brother and I all videotaped it.


DO spend some time at Borough Market.

Borough Market has been in business for more than 1,000 years. Schedule lunch there for one day, whether you have a bite in one of the restaurants or sample the many booths. There is some very interesting food there. The closest stand to where we ate sold ice cream from goats. Saturday is rush hour there, so if you want something less hectic, aim for a weekday.

Our guide Sean taught me the geography of London during Roman times over lunch at Borough Market.

Our guide Sean taught me the geography of London during Roman times over lunch at Borough Market.


DON’T bring your wallet to Harrods.

Harrods was probably one of the most overrated places we visited. There’s not a lot to really see that you can’t see anywhere else. If you can drop in for a visit, go for it, but don’t prioritize it over something else. On top of that, the prices are marked up way too far. There was a toy there that in Hamley’s—which is definitely a place not to miss if you have kids—cost £3 for 2. In Harrods, the same exact toy cost £15 for 1, which is a 900% markup from Hamley’s. As for the food halls, there are 2 places within 10 minutes of our house that have better sushi than what we tried. However, if you buy anything at Harrods, the food is the way to go.

My mom and brother ordering sushi in the food halls at Harrods.

My mom and brother ordering sushi in the food halls at Harrods.

At Hamley’s, testing out the toy that ends up grossly overpriced at Harrods.

At Hamley’s, testing out the toy that ends up grossly overpriced at Harrods.


DO spend an evening at Covent Garden.

Come here with no plans but maybe a dinner reservation, and you’ll leave happy. There are lots of shops and restaurants to spend your time in, but the best part was the performances in the square. I saw this pantomime starting his act while I was waiting for my brother and mom to get out of a shop, and we all ended up watching his show until the end, laughing the whole time. Spend an evening here and it won’t go wrong.

A Charlie Chaplin impersonator at Covent Garden.

A Charlie Chaplin impersonator at Covent Garden.

At the end of the show he gave a hug to his sidekick plucked from the audience.

At the end of the show he gave a hug to his sidekick plucked from the audience.


Photos by Timothy Baker

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.

Evening View, London, England

The Impact of Brexit on Travel to the United Kingdom

It’s too early to tell all the complex ways that Britain’s vote to exit the European Union, a.k.a. Brexit, will affect travelers. But those who were thinking of a trip to the U.K. this summer might be particularly motivated, now that the British pound has dropped significantly in value.  The pound is at $1.32 today, which is a 31-year-low.  “In the very short term, travel to the U.K. will be an incredible bargain,” says Joe Brancatelli, business travel expert and founder of JoeSentMe. “For travelers, the exchange rate translates to an immediate 10 percent discount on hotels, restaurant meals, train tickets, Uber and cab rides, or whatever you pay for in pounds.” He adds that we are likely to see bargains elsewhere in Europe in the short-term as well, since the euro has fallen too.

In case you want to seize the day and head to the U.K. this summer, here are FAQs covering what you should know.

Q: Should I buy my airline ticket now, or wait?

A: There are deals right now. “Just today I wrote about sub-$450 round-trips to Europe,” says Gary Leff of View From The Wing. “I’ve been seeing plenty of great deals recently, including frequent business-class sales of $1,500 –$2,000.  Whenever you see a deal like that, jump on it—but only when your plans are firm because those sales are going to be non-refundable and carry hefty change penalties of $300 to $500 per ticket.”

Q: Should I use reward points to pay for airline tickets?

A: Probably not. “Frequent-flier awards are best used when airfares are high,” says Gary, a specialist in points and miles.

Q: Should I pay for accommodations now, or wait?

A: If that’s the way to guarantee you get the hotel, room type, or rental apartment you want, pay now.  If you aren’t required to pay now, you might as well wait. “I’m not usually a fan of prepaying,” Joe points out, “because I don’t think travelers can be short-term forex experts. The pound was at $1.49 before the Brexit vote came in. It is selling at $1.31 today. You’d have to be betting on a global recession to think it’ll decline much further. You’d also have to be a cockeyed optimist to think it’ll run up a lot in the weeks ahead.  So, if we are at or near the floor, I suppose it makes sense to lock in rates in advance. But I think the pound will be historically low for months and months. So I don’t see, for July-August, any need to lock in.”

Q: Should I pay in pounds or in my home currency?

A: “Always pay in pounds,” says Joe, “if for no other reason than if a hotel or an airline bills you in dollars, you get a bad currency exchange rate and, if you use the wrong credit card, you could get hit with forex fees anyway.” As always, use a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees; it will save you about 3% on every overseas purchase.

“If you use a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee,” says Gary.  “then you’re going to be more or less indifferent to the currency you’re buying in, because you’re going to get a favorable rate and you won’t get a surcharge.” (Gary regularly reports on the best credit cards for travelers, along with current sign-up bonuses and offers).

Q: Should I be using hotel points to pay for my hotel?

A: Probably not. “Hotel points are best used when hotel rates are high,” says Gary. When the exchange rate is in your favor, it usually doesn’t make sense to use points. Instead, take advantage of hotel deals and save your points for destinations where rooms are expensive.

As Gary explains further, “Most hotel programs assign their properties to categories and charge a fixed number of points throughout the year (Hilton is an exception, varying the number of points a hotel costs even within its category, and making it difficult to get outsized value from their points).  Hotel rates tend to be seasonal, or to vary by day of week.  Use your points when prices are higher than average, and spend cash when they’re lower than average.”

Q: If I’m in the U.K., and a shop or restaurant gives me the choice of paying in pounds or dollars, which do I choose?

A: “Always pay in the local currency,” says Gary. “If you’re given the option of paying in dollars, the merchant is generally going to convert prices from the local currency to dollars at an exchange rate that’s unfavorable to you. And if your credit card charges a foreign transaction fee, they’re going to charge you the fee anyway—even if the bill is in U.S. dollars—because the transaction originated outside the U.S.”

Q: If I’m in the U.K., and I have a choice of paying by credit card or in cash, which do I use?

A: If the British pound is fluctuating every day, travelers should probably check the exchange rate every day (go to XE.com or use the XE app) because that might affect their daily decisions as to how to pay for things. On a day when the value of the pound is particularly low, it may make sense to pay in cash because credit cards may use an exchange rate that applies a day or two later, when the transaction is billed.

Even before last week’s Brexit vote, London represented a great value this August in particular. Here’s why.

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.

Shakespeare400: One More Reason You Should Be in the U.K. This Spring

When William Shakespeare shuffled off this mortal coil at the age of 52, his body was lowered into the grave without a lot of fanfare. By then he had retired to his home in Stratford-upon-Avon, and his London public, wowed by Richard Burbage’s portrayal of Hamlet, paid little attention to the playwright’s passing—an oversight that puzzles Shakespeare scholars to this day. This year marks the quatercentenary of the great man’s death, and his countrymen are honoring him with a fitting yearlong celebration. The Shakespeare400 festival involves a consortium of leading arts and cultural organizations coordinated by King’s College London, and it will take place all over England, with events concentrated in London and Stratford-upon-Avon. To suss out what’s happening, you need to do some research (always the case with Shakespeare).

Our handy Shakespeare 2016 toolkit, below, will guide you to the treasure (be prepared to make some hard choices!) and help you plan your trip.

What to Do and Where to Find It


This events calendar lists dozens upon dozens of Shakespeare-related performances in London and other parts of England. They range from Forced Entertainment’s “Table Top Shakespeare” (the complete works performed by six actors and a cast of household objects—Pericles is a light bulb, Hamlet a bottle of ink; March 1–6) to the London Philharmonic’s “Shakespeare400 Anniversary Gala Concert” with readings by Simon Callow (April 15).


Shakespeare’s Globe, a major participant in Shakespeare400, has mounted an ambitious yearlong program of special events called 1616: A Momentous Year. The theater is marking the playwright’s birthday weekend with the return of its around-the-world Hamlet, now entering the final weeks of a two-year, 180,000-mile, 196-country tour, and The Complete Walk, a 2.5-mile outdoor pop-up cinema along the Thames. The 37 screens, one for each play, will show scenes from Hamlet filmed in Denmark, Antony and Cleopatra in Egypt, Romeo and Juliet in Verona, and so on (April 23–24).

Royal Shakespeare Company

The website of the Royal Shakespeare Company describes a dazzling yearlong program of performances, lectures, and behind-the-scenes tours of its Stratford-upon-Avon complex. Start by viewing the season trailer.

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

This nonprofit org cares for the five homes and gardens directly linked to Shakespeare and his family. Its website lists upcoming events, gives online access to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare-related material accessible to the public, and hosts a video tour of the five homes. Birthday events in Stratford-upon-Avon include a jazz procession staged by the New Orleans Shakespeare festival and a hip-hop performance of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets by New York rap artist Devon Glover (April 24).

Shakespeare’s England

What to see and do in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick, Kenilworth, Royal Leamington Spa, and the surrounding areas.


Where to Stay

For hotels in Stratford-upon-Avon, Jonathan Epstein, one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for England, recommends The Arden, which is right across the street from the RSC; for a more countryside experience, he recommends staying in the Northern Cotswolds at a property such as Buckland Manor, Dormy House, or Cotswold House. In London, where Jonathan has special relationships with an array of four- and five-star hotels, he particularly recommends the historic Carriage Rooms at The Stafford for Shakespeare fans. Breakfast at many hotels is included when you book through Jonathan, as well as complimentary cream tea at The Arden, a guaranteed upgrade at Dormy House, and other perks.

If you’d prefer to spread out in an apartment, consider family-friendly South Kensington, especially if you’re traveling with children. The neighborhood is close to Kensington Gardens, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum. Kensington is also well connected on the Tube and buses so that you can easily reach all the Shakespeare400 spots quickly and easily. (Go to Ask Wendy for a recommendation for a London apartment specialist.)


For Special Access

Jane McCrum, another of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for England, can arrange a complete itinerary that includes unadvertised V.I.P. activities such as visits to private libraries to view original folios of Shakespeare’s works.


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.

Barcelona - Park Guell, Spain

European Cities that are Surprisingly Kid-Friendly

You’d be amazed how many of our frequent-traveling families prefer European capitals of culture to the beach.  So we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite European cities for vacations that are exceptionally kid-friendly yet also sophisticated enough for culture-vulture parents:


The fantastic public transportation network is what puts Berlin over the top as a family-friendly destination. “Every place of note in the city is well served by public transportation,” says Gwen Kozlowski, who is one of the Eastern Europe travel specialists on Wendy’s WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts and who frequently takes her young son on European scouting trips.  “Getting around as a family is easy and a good value. The Berlin Welcome card provides from 48 hours to 6 days of unlimited transportation on the metro, S-Bahn (elevated train), and city buses, and each card covers one adult and three kids 6 to 14 years old; children under 6 are free.”  For families Gwen recommends the Adina Hackescher Markt hotel, where a two-bedroom suite costs less than a standard room in many of the city’s five-stars. Expose your kids to history at the Checkpoint Charlie House—but only later in the day, she advises, after all the tour buses have left.

For the best possible family-friendly trip to Berlin and to be marked as a VIP, contact Gwen through Wendy’s questionnaire. Read reviews of Gwen’s trips here.  


child playing with toy boats in the Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris France

Paris is filled with parks and playgrounds. That’s Wendy’s son Doug in the Jardin du Luxembourg when he was eight.

When you’re traveling with kids, you want engaging activities, easy transportation, and great spaces for downtime, and the City of Light ticks all of these boxes. Paris also has an increasing number of pedestrian zones and neighborhoods closed to traffic on certain days, and strollers, scooters, and various bike set-ups can easily be rented to get around. Many Paris museums have kid-friendly spaces and self-guided tours; make sure to download the children’s activity book before tackling the Eiffel Tower. If you’re seeking special private experiences, nobody is more plugged in than Jennifer Virgilio, one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for France, who can arrange hands-on activities such as an éclair-making class or an out-of-the-box tour that focuses on the city’s street art.  Renting an apartment in the right arrondissement can be a smart move for families too. Finally, when all you need is to burn off some energy, head to one of the many neighborhood parks and playgrounds, all well maintained and fenced in for safety.

Read Jennifer’s Insider’s Guide to Paris with Perks and, for the best possible family-friendly trip to Paris and to be marked as a VIP, contact Jennifer through Wendy’s questionnaire. Read reviews of Jennifer’s trips here.


Burgundy might be best known for its wine, but there’s plenty else to keep the underage set happy in the region’s capital. Dijon, you see, was the capital of the Valois Dukes—who were once more powerful than the king—so the old center is full of well-preserved medieval architecture. At the farmer’s market, France Trusted Travel Expert Michael Eloy arranges for kids to help an organic farmer run his stall. He also sends families to the Parc de la Colombière, where young and old can tackle a treetop ropes course, and to the Place de la Libération, where parents sit and enjoy a respite at a café while the kids play in the fountains.

Read Michael’s Insider’s Guide to Burgundy, and for the best possible family-friendly trip to Burgundy and to be marked as a VIP, contact Michael through Wendy’s questionnaire. Read reviews of Michael’s trips here


Florence, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

Florence, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

“At first glance, Florence is intimidating for families because many of the famous attractions are museums and monuments that seem grandiose and overwhelming, even to adults,” says Maria Landers, Trusted Travel Expert for Italy. “But with a little research and planning, Florence—and by extension, Italy’s Renaissance history—can be made vibrant and interesting for younger visitors. Several of the city’s museums, including the Palazzo Vecchio and the Museo Galileo, offer guided itineraries for children, and the Bardini and Boboli gardens are perfect outdoor spots for romping and picnicking. Don’t forget to reward yourselves with healthy doses of gelato as you go!”

Read Maria’s Insider’s Guide to Florence, and for the best possible family-friendly trip to Florence and to be marked as a VIP, contact Maria through Wendy’s questionnaire. Read reviews of Maria’s trips here


Galata Tower and the street in the Old Town of Istanbul, Turkey

Galata Tower and the street in the Old Town of Istanbul, Turkey. Photo: Shutterstock

Many of the city’s sites naturally appeal to youngsters: “The Rahmi M Koç Industrial Museum’s interactive displays are great for kids, who also love going underground to the Byzantine Cistern and spying fish in the water,” says Earl Starkey, Trusted Travel Expert for Turkey. Earl uses art as a kid-friendly window into Turkish culture, arranging private classes on pottery and ebru (the Ottoman technique of paper marbling), as well as cooking. Even the pickiest palates will be satisfied with pide—best described as Turkish pizza—and Istanbul’s ubiquitous fresh-squeezed juices. To escape the city’s hustle and bustle, take a ferry to the car-free island of Buyukada, where you can rent bikes or hire a horse-drawn carriage.

Read Earl’s Insider’s Guide to Istanbul, and contact him through Wendy’s “Start a Trip” questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best trip possible.


National Gallery in Trafalgar Square London England

Many museums in London are free, including the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. Photo: Michael Heffernan/London and Partners

Free museums make London a great choice for families.  The Science Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum, the Tate Modern, the National Portrait Gallery,  the National Maritime Museum, the National Gallery, and the Museum of London are only the start.  “Anywhere else, visiting even half of these would ring up costs of at least $100 per person,” notes Jonathan Epstein, Trusted Travel Expert for the British Isles. He adds that traveling to London removes the language barrier that can trip up some kids—especially on their first adventure abroad. Epstein’s young son is a devotee of the pirate-ship climbing structure at the Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground. And then, of course, there’s Harry Potter: Families can visit sites featured in the books, or even tour the studios where the movies were filmed. Don’t miss this London advice from Wendy’s 14-year-old son: Dos and Don’ts For Your Trip to London.

Contact Jonathan through Wendy’s “Start a Trip” questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best trip possible.


Sagrada Familia Barcelona Spain

Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia looks to some like a child’s masterpiece in sand. Photo: Pixabay

The Mediterranean climate makes it almost always pleasant to be outdoors (who wants to be cooped up inside with kids?), and there’s a fantastic beach area where can spend your afternoons after mornings spent exploring the city. Gaudi’s famous Sagrada Familia looks to some like a child’s masterpiece in sand—maybe that’s why kids are so drawn to his buildings and to the other Catalan Modernist structures sprinkled throughout the city. You could spend an entire day exploring how nature and architecture are woven together at Parc Guell.  And did you know that chocolate was introduced to Europe by the Spanish?  There’s a chocolate factory in Barcelona that will have your kids begging for a second trip.

Contact Spain expert Pablo Calvo through Wendy’s “Start a Trip” questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best trip possible.

What European cities would you add to this list?

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.