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aerial shot of Belize ocean with sailboat

This Is WOW: Surprise WOW Moments Described by Real Travelers

Have you heard of my WOW Moments project? “Wendy’s WOW Moments” are surprise insider experiences that help make a trip extraordinary.  WOW List travelers earn them by submitting reviews of their trips.  After you take two qualifying trips, we will send you a WOW Moment certificate to redeem on a future qualifying trip. Learn how to get your own surprise in Wendy Wants To Amp Up Your Trip!  Then travel vicariously via the WOW Moment reviews below and give yourself something to look forward to!


India: “We participated in the rituals, learned a lot, and enjoyed the experience of ‘renewing our vows’ in a different culture…”

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. A great souvenir from India, whether or not you lose yours.

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.

We saw sunset and sunrise at the Taj Mahal and were thrilled to tour the inside of this monument and many other historic forts, temples, mosques and palaces. It was a beautiful trip to a most interesting country.” —Lisa Riggs

Read more reviews of India trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO INDIA

Peru: “We went all over the city, sampling different types of ceviche and learning about this rich Peruvian tradition…”

Ceviche at Amaz Restaurant, Lima, Peru

Ceviche at Amaz Restaurant in Lima, Peru. Photo: Amaz

“Just returned from Chile, Peru, and Bolivia! Recently, Wendy has been recommending South America, and I’m so grateful I took advantage of this. Despite the warm temperatures, there were few tourists, which ensured a really authentic experience. Ashton helped me plan an extended trip to all my desired destinations: Torres Del Paine, the Amazon Basin, Lima, Santiago, Valparaiso, the Atacama, and the Altiplano of Bolivia.

It was a long journey, but I felt so supported as a single traveler all along the way. In Patagonia, Ashton recommended Patagonia Camp, a fantastic place owned by the Matetic family, of Chilean wine fame. Outstanding guides, excellent excursions, beautiful lakeside yurts, and the most divine food/wine. The camp helped ensure I met other travelers, so meals were always full of conversations.

For the Amazon, I asked for somewhere that didn’t have a ton of tourists, which took the cruises out of Iquitos off the agenda. Instead, Ashton recommended Posada Amazonas, an indigenous cooperative that sits on the Tambopata River in Peru. Here, I was the only guest for the first two days, so fully enjoyed my hikes, boat rides, and village visits that allowed me to see how life is lived in this region. The rooms are open to the rainforest, which made for magical evenings full of sounds. And it did rain on several days, which sounded one thousand times better than any recorded soundscape!

Then it was time for a few cities—Lima, Santiago, and Valparaiso. In Lima, Ashton and Wendy arranged a WOW Moment, which was right up my street: a ceviche lesson, tasting, and tour with Marisol. We went all over the city, sampling different types of ceviche and learning about this rich Peruvian tradition.

My last stop was my favorite part, four days in San Pedro de Atacama, followed by a four-day “travesia” across the Altiplano to the Uyuni Salt Flats. My Quechuan guide and driver introduced me to so many aspects of the local culture, including participating in the carnival celebrations. We hiked up volcanoes, sat in hot spring pools, rode bikes through slot canyons, and ate all the local dishes. On our final evening in Uyuni, after indulging in a wine/tapas al fresco meal, it started to rain, which meant the salt flats became a mirror of the skies. I spent three days in La Paz on the way home and loved that too. Such fascinating geography and a lively city. Four weeks of amazing journeys in three countries. I could not have asked for more, and was so thrilled with all of Ashton’s recommendations and support.

My favorite aspects of working with one of Wendy’s experts is the ability to customize when/where I’m going, to focus on places that are not overrun with tourists, to meet the local people and see how they live, and to get outside and really feel a part of the stunning landscape. Onwards!” —Milinda Martin

Read more reviews of South America trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO SOUTH AMERICA

Belize: “A local family served us a traditional Mayan lunch, nouvelle-style. And Patricia met us there for lunch…”

Our travelers Salena and Allen Kern with WOW Lister Patricia Johnson in Belize.

WOW Lister Patricia Johnson joined Salena and Allen Kern for lunch one day.

“My criteria was a direct flight from Newark, warmth, a place we’d never been to with lots to do if we wished, and a Wendy Perrin advisor. It took about a minute to find Belize and Patricia. And we were off…. Patricia recommended a few places to stay, and two of the resorts (one in the jungle and the other on the beach) were owned by Francis Ford Coppola. Who knew? Not I, for sure. Well, my husband was an extra in Apocalypse Now many years ago and that was that. He was thrilled to be seeing what Coppola had created in Belize. Both resorts were beautiful but Blancaneaux Lodge was one of the nicest places I have stayed in my life.

We climbed ruins, rafted through a cave that should have been a cathedral, and visited an entrepreneurial coffee “factory” amongst other things. Most important to me, however, was that we got to know something about the current economy of this young country and much about its varied cultures. On our first full day, we were surprised by our WOW Moment. At this most beautiful site, overlooking a series of waterfalls, we were served lunch by a local family (now, Patricia did know that I am a bit of a foodie) who served us a traditional Mayan lunch, nouvelle-style. The family has a catering company called U Janal Masewal, Ancient Recipes for a Modern World. That sort of sums up my worldview too. We were happy! And Patricia met us there for lunch. Thank you, Patricia and Wendy.

This lunch opened our eyes to what was happening in the local communities. The Mayan culture isn’t stuck in the past or lost, as it is in Chiapas, Mexico, where I visited last year. The Belizeans are creating a wonderful and mixed culture ripe for all sorts of tourism. Our week in Belize was full of surprises. I would recommend it to older people like us, to young families, well, to anyone who likes travel.” —Salena Kern

Read more reviews of Belize trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO BELIZE

Ecuador: “A new species, the ‘Mashpi glass frog,’ which he found for us on a night walk…”

A frog clinging on the traveler's glasses frame.

A Mashpi glass frog clings to a traveler’s glasses frame. Photo: Traveler Robin Madden

“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.

The Napo Wildlife Center 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. Our WOW Moment occurred while being paddled on the lake at sunset, when chilled wine was served along with gifts of handmade jewelry and a gorgeous bowl made by the local women. Then upon arriving back at the dock, there was a sumptuous spread of food and more wine! Enough to share with many others.

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

Read more reviews of Ecuador trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO ECUADOR

Chile: “A cooking class and dinner with a chef who hosted us at his home overlooking the city and mountains…”

Travelers on a field of lupine during a birdwatching excursion in Chilean Patagonia.

Bill Livingood, Lynn Woodhouse, Sandra Quinn, and Stephen Thomas walk through a field of lupine during a birdwatching excursion in Chilean Patagonia.

“My husband, two friends and I have just returned from our trip to Chilean Patagonia, and once again, we were in the expert hands of Maita and her team. We began with a 3-night stay at the Singular Patagonia, outside of Puerto Natales. What a stunning and unique small hotel in a gorgeous setting overlooking a fjord. With our great guide, we spent literally an entire day hiking through forest, pampa and the wetlands, spotting 41 species of birds…. From there, we drove to Tierra Patagonia, just outside Torres del Paine National Park. Magnificent view from our huge window in our room!!!  We saw lots of wildlife, wildflowers, stunning sunsets, and on our last morning, the entire dining room was abuzz when we saw a puma saunter across the property in front of us.

Before our departure for the US, we had an extraordinary WOW Moment: Maita and team had arranged a cooking class and dinner with Tatan, a chef who hosted us at his home overlooking the city and mountains. He was gracious, interesting, and charming. We began with luscious appetizers on the balcony, and moved to the kitchen where he had organized work stations and assignments for each of us as we made ceviche and pisco sours. In addition to having fun, we learned new cooking skills. Gary, our escort to the airport, had to drag us away as we enjoyed our meal and delicious cheesecake on the balcony.” —Sandra Quinn

Read more reviews of Patagonia trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO PATAGONIA

Belize: “A private concert with up-and-coming Belizian vocalist Kylon Eiley on our villa patio…”

Turquoise water in the Caribbean Caye Caulker island, Belize.

The Caribbean island of Caye Caulker, Belize. Photo: Shutterstock

“Just back from a wonderful week in Belize with our adult daughters (23 and 25). Patricia, Rachael and their team did a great job. They exemplify why I use your planners—they really listened and planned accordingly, were easy to communicate with, have in-country expertise and contacts (Rachael met us at the airport!), and were able to adjust on the fly.  We were looking for a Christmas-week alternative to our typical beach-resort experience where we stay at the hotel and rarely venture out. Instead, we had a 2-bedroom villa in a small hotel right on the lagoon, with day trips tailored to our desires. That first morning when I opened my door and walked 20 steps in my PJs to the completely quiet beach and into the still, clear waters was magical.  All alone in paradise.  We snorkeled, zip lined, floated on the river, visited a spice farm and learned all about cacao and chocolate. We also relaxed on the beach, ate lots of ceviche, and discovered a new taste for rum.

Rachael planned a lovely WOW Moment—a private concert with up-and-coming Belizian vocalist Kylon Eiley on our villa patio, complete with margaritas….” —Kathryn Barden

Read more reviews of Belize trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO BELIZE

Paris: “Since we couldn’t go to Israel, this was a Jerusalem-Paris dining experience…”

Versailles palace, Paris.

Versailles Palace, Paris. Photo: Shutterstock

“We had three weeks to plan a Paris trip with our adult children after our Israel trip was canceled. Jennifer, a WOW planner through Wendy Perrin, created a trip fit for royalty. We stayed in a gorgeous, boutique hotel in the Marais district and had private car and tour guides for the Louvre, Versailles, Chateau, Jewish and History Tours. We saw the Eiffel Tower with a private tour, the Dior Exhibit at the Foundation, we had an amazing time.

Our WOW Moment started with a car picking us up at noon, taking us to an unknown destination which was a fabulous restaurant, Shabour. The owner told us that since we couldn’t go to Israel, this was a Jerusalem-Paris dining experience. We sat at the bar to watch the chefs prepare a delicious, fun, memorable lunch. It was awesome.  We have traveled the world with Wendy Perrin’s WOW List. It is the best way and the only way we travel.” —Adrienne, Phil, Lindsey, Billy Goldberg

Read more reviews of Paris trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO PARIS

New Zealand: “A studio visit with Delani Brown, a Maori/Irish wood artist in Taupo…”

The guide taking a photo of Barbara and Larry Schoenfeld birdwatching at the Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari ecological park, New Zealand.

Barbara and Larry Schoenfeld birdwatching at the Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari ecological park.

Jean-Michel’s colleague Clare organized five days of interesting, off-the-beaten path experiences in New Zealand. One of the highlights was a private guided tour of Maungatautari, a Sanctuary Mountain. It’s an incredible conservation area where they constructed one of the world’s largest pest-proof fences and succeeded in rejuvenating tree and bird species, especially New Zealand’s endangered kiwis.  She also arranged for my husband and me to accompany a Maori leader on a spiritual ceremony greeting the dawn, followed by a visit and discussion about Orakei Marae, his tribal community in the hills near Auckland.

The next day, we spent a fascinating few hours with Mamakan, a botanical artist who led us through her forest restoration project in Parau and then served us an elegant foraged lunch. A highlight of our trip was the Wendy WOW Moment, a studio visit with Delani Brown, a Maori/Irish wood artist in Taupo who produces giant columns and edifices for buildings and public spaces worldwide.” —Barbara Schoenfeld

Read more reviews of New Zealand trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO NEW ZEALAND

Sicily: “A private dinner at the home of chef Gabriella Garajo…”

The view of Sicily's western coastline and Monte Cofano seen from Erice.

Sicily’s western coastline and Monte Cofano, as seen from Erice. Photo: Traveler Nancy Footer

“I took the advice found in many reviews by previous clients and gave Marcello and Matteo free rein to design the itinerary, and I am so glad I did. I spent my first day in Palermo—such a bustling and exquisite city—seeing all the key historic sites, the waterfront, and the Capo Mercato with Giorgio, a thoroughly charming and expert guide….We traveled next into the hills near Camporeale for a private tour, lunch and tasting at Porta del Vento winery. Marco, the owner, was a generous and engaging host, and I appreciated learning about his wines and his journey to becoming a vintner. It was a treat to see the harvest, learn about the winemaking process and then taste his award-winning wines.

And then, when I thought the day couldn’t get any better, I was surprised with a WOW Moment—a private dinner at the home of chef Gabriella Garajo. The meal was remarkable—contemporary versions of Sicilian classics made with local ingredients served at Gabriella’s dining table set with her family china and silver. It was a perfect finish to a most memorable day.” —Nancy Footer

Read more reviews of Sicily trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO SICILY

Italy: “A cocktail class at the Martini and Rossi headquarters…”

The verdant Barolo wine region in Italy.

The verdant Barolo wine region in Italy. Photo: Traveler Joe Lyle

“Our trip to Piedmont was excellently planned and executed by Maria and her team. We started in Torino, where the highlights were a chocolate tasting and a tour of the Egyptian Museum (which has the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Egypt). Before leaving Torino, we were treated to a fun WOW Moment: a cocktail class at the Martini and Rossi headquarters outside of Torino.

Then the real fun began as we moved on to the winemaking region of Piedmont, touring its villages, staying in restored castles in Sinio and Guarene, and tasting Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbara and white wines of the region while sampling the regional dishes. One of the many highlights of the trip was truffle hunting. Watching the dog track down truffles was amazing. Unlike the French, Italians don’t use pigs for truffle hunting. Why? Pigs don’t listen, and they eat the truffles.” —Joe Lyle

Read more reviews of Italy trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO ITALY

Italy: “A private cooking demo in the kitchen with chef Anna Barbina…”

Morning seascape of Adriatic sea with the Miramare Castle.

Miramare Castle in Trieste, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

Jennifer helped us plan a two-week trip to Friuli Venezia Giulia. The area is a melting pot of northern Italian, Austrian and Slovenian cuisines and has great wines (mostly white). Inexplicably, the region doesn’t seem to be on the tourist radar, so of course we decided that this was the place for us!  The accommodation Jennifer suggested to us in the Collio was outstanding—just what we were hoping for!  The property was lovely, with a spa and walking paths through the surrounding vineyards.  After our break in the countryside, we moved on to Udine. A highlight was seeing Tiepolo’s amazing ceiling frescoes.

We also had a WOW Moment while staying in Udine: We had a private cooking demo in the kitchen with chef Anna Barbina and her mother, who serves as her sommelier. Anna made five traditional dishes for us to sample (with wine served by her mother, of course), then we had lunch in her osteria, AB Osteria Contemporanea, where she serves contemporary twists on traditional cooking. Heavenly! Anna and her mother were delightful and couldn’t have been more gracious.  FVG was full of beautiful scenery and art, brimming over with fascinating history, and the food and wine were simply spectacular. We’ve had many incredible meals in Italy over the years, but we had more standouts on this trip than any other. If food is your religion, you should make your way to FVG.” —Rachel Webber

Read more reviews of Italy trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO ITALY

Turkey: “One day we traveled via flat-bottomed boat through the reeds to the Lycian Rock Tombs…”

Sailing the Turquoise Coast on a private gulet.

Anne Hall and her husband and sister sailed the Turquoise Coast on a private gulet. Photo: Traveler Anne Hall

“My husband, sister, and I spent eight days in Turkey. Many thanks to Karen for a unique and amazing trip. After four exceptional days in Istanbul, we flew to Dalaman, where a driver and guide took us to Gocek marina to board the Serenity 70, a lovely two-masted gulet. We three were the only passengers.  How do you define perfect?  We can’t say enough about the incredible crew (captain, first mate, and chef) and the four days of sailing the southwestern coast of Turkey. We would sail for 2 to 3 hours each day, then anchored at one of the coast’s many bays. Each day we swam in the silky, blue waters and toured an ancient site on land.

One day we traveled via flat-bottomed boat through the reeds to the Lycian Rock Tombs and toured ancient villages. This was my WOW Moment provided by Wendy Perrin (thanks, Wendy!). The old tombs were amazing—like Petra in Jordan. We swam through the ruins of Cleopatra’s bath house and hiked Gemiler Island. Otherwise, we read, napped, or sat up above with the captain while he steered the boat.  At the end of the voyage the chef baked a cake for our newly retired sister, which congratulated her in Turkish on the top of the cake, and the whole crew joined us in the celebration.” —Anne Hall

Read more reviews of Turkey trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO TURKEY

Croatia: “You arranged to have a gorgeous private sailboat to sail around the Elaphiti Islands…”

Travelers swimming in the Adriatic Sea

Karen Bennett and Donna Praskach’s day on the water included a dip in the Adriatic.

“My girlfriend and I just returned from a most PERFECT and fabulous trip to Croatia that your expert agents designed for us (Sept. 27-Oct. 8, 2023).  The specific agent that we worked with, Ala, was just a wealth of knowledge. She arranged cooking classes, wine tastings, walking tours, visiting an oyster farm and having a private oyster and mussel tasting, but still plenty of time to relax and swim in the Adriatic Sea. It really was a trip of a lifetime and one of the most enjoyable trips I’ve taken abroad. And everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, came together without one hiccup happening. Truly, a PERFECT experience.

My friend had used WendyPerrin.com previously and, therefore, we were granted a WOW Moment and, oh my goodness, was it a WOW Moment!  Probably the highlight of our trip. You arranged to have a gorgeous private sailboat to sail around the Elaphiti Islands right off the coast of Dubrovnik. What an over-the-top experience that was for us and culminated our trip on the last day. It couldn’t have been more perfect, again, perfect!  Thank you, Wendy Perrin, and your incredible team of experts. A trip of a lifetime thanks to you!”—Donna Praskach

Read more reviews of Croatia trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO CROATIA

Italy: “A romantic dinner for my wife and me on the terrace of the Grand Hotel Tremezzo…”

Adam Amsterdam

A view of Lake Como was key to Adam Amsterdam’s villa vacation and WOW Moment. Photo: Traveler Adam Amsterdam

“We worked with Andrea and her excellent team to rent a wonderful villa for three weeks in Ossuccio, a small comune on the western shore of Lake Como (about 12 miles northeast of the city of Como). Andrea’s team found the perfect villa for us and our two adult children and made all the necessary arrangements with the owner and property manager. They even made sure that any groceries and household items we wanted were ordered and stocked for our arrival. Andrea arranged a cooking class for us in Bellagio with an award-winning celebrity chef. We made beautiful tri-color pasta and feasted on a delicious lunch. Andrea also arranged a boat with an English-speaking captain to take us to several towns along the western and eastern shores of Lake Como where we stopped for lunch, shopping, and gelato.

I also must mention that we had a WOW Moment, which was a romantic dinner for my wife and me on the terrace of the Grand Hotel Tremezzo overlooking Lake Como and the twinkling lights of Bellagio, all framed by the pre-Alps in the distance.” —Adam Amsterdam

Read more reviews of Italy trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO ITALY

Canada: “We were treated to a private lobster dinner on the Bay of Fundy…”

Phil Hoch

East Point Lighthouse on Prince Edward Island. Photo: Traveler Phil Hoch

“We just returned from a trip to New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, and could not be happier that we chose Jill as our travel expert.  Jill was excellent at listening to our thoughts and wishes and crafted a beautiful itinerary that kept us mostly focused on smaller towns and areas for walking/hiking. From St. Andrews to St. Martins, we could not have had a better introduction to the Bay of Fundy and life outside the big cities. Of particular note were our guides. Genny was fabulous in St. Andrews and got us on Ministers Island, which you can only drive to at low tide.

In St. Martins, Mike, Jordan, and Joe from Bay of Fundy Adventures took us hiking/walking, kayaking in the Bay and, best of all, our WOW Moment. We were treated to a private lobster dinner on the Bay of Fundy, watching the tide disappear, with enough scallops, lobster and more to feed us for a week. We tried to eat it all and failed!”—Phil Hoch

Read more reviews of Canada trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO CANADA

Turkey: “Our WOW Moment was extra special—reminiscent of Skyfall on the roof of the Grand Bazaar…”

Tina Hunt

Tina Hunt and family on the rooftop of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.

“If you like to travel and experience diverse culture, food, history, and enjoy meeting welcoming people, then Turkey is not to be missed! We worked with Karen to curate and customize our adventure. We started with a three-day gulet voyage on the Prima Donna. Our chef, Zekai, was a wonder as he quietly turned out fantastic food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!  Just over-the-top fun.  After the relaxing gulet, we did a whirlwind tour of Ephesus, which was not to be missed if you enjoy ancient history and beautiful ruins. Cappadocia was a place of pure joy for us. The fairy landscape with the “mushroom”-capped chimneys and cave churches and dwellings provided a much needed bit of exercise with short hikes. Our sunrise balloon experience was pure early morning magic.

All too soon it was time to head back to Istanbul for our last three nights of our adventure. The history just permeates the entire vibe of the city and feels vibrant and modern while mixing seamlessly into structures that are thousands of years old…. Our WOW Moment was extra special—reminiscent of Skyfall on the roof of the Grand Bazaar. We found ourselves wishing for more time at almost every stop in Turkey and can’t wait to return!” —Tina Hunt

Read more reviews of Turkey trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO TURKEY

Portugal: “The surprise was a fantastic candlelight concert in a church courtyard…”

the colorful yellow and red turrets of Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal

The Pena Palace, in Sintra, Portugal, is an outstanding example of the Romanticism style of architecture. Photo: Pixabay

Goncalo and Sara did a wonderful job planning and executing the details of our trip.  We started our trip in the Alentejo region and wish we had had more time to explore!  Our next stop was Lisbon, a beautiful and fascinating city, great for exploring and lots of walking up and down hills!

A highlight of our time in Lisbon was a wonderful WOW Moment arranged by Goncalo. We learned of this surprise when we checked into our hotel and received a note instructing us that a driver would pick us up one evening for a surprise and then return us to the hotel after. The surprise was a fantastic candlelight concert in a church courtyard. Wonderful musicians and setting!  The guide and driver organized for us to explore Sintra were both terrific and on point in every way—getting to explore Sintra alone before its official opening was a treat.” —Jen Kasoff

Read more reviews of Portugal trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO PORTUGAL

Italy: “We were given a special opportunity to be dressed up for the night in the Foligno Quintana traditional costumes for their festival…”

Andrea Phillips

Andrea Phillips and family during their WOW moment in Foligno, Umbria, dressing up in the traditional Quintana festival costumes.

“My family of four, with two teen girls, had a wonderful and action-packed trip to Italy covering Umbria, Tuscany, Florence, Bologna, Lake Como and Milan, planned with Maria.  Italy was busy with travelers while we were there, but I can honestly say that it did not affect our plans at all, as Maria had it coordinated and timed out so perfectly.  This trip was also to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, and Maria had suggested two stops along the way that were very special. Wow, were they ever! Borgo Santo Pietro, a working farm and wellness resort in west Tuscany, and Grand Hotel Tremezzo, near Bellagio in Lake Como. Both resorts resembled something out of dream.

We were surprised with our WOW Moment early in this trip. We were given a special opportunity to be dressed up for the night in the Foligno Quintana traditional costumes for their festival later in the week. That was a unique experience and one that we would never have been able to arrange or even be allowed to do without Maria’s network in Italy. Thank you, Wendy and Maria!” –Andrea Phillips

Read more reviews of Italy trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO ITALY

Turkey: “We also had the pleasure of our most memorable WOW Moment in Datca…”

Vanessa Hulme

Travelers Vanessa and Colin Hulme aboard their private yacht on the Turquoise Coast.

Karen and her team planned an absolutely flawless vacation for my husband and me for 3 days in Istanbul and a 6-day cruise on a gulet along the Turkish coast. Our incredible guide in Istanbul, Sinan, not only showed us the tourist highlights, but out-of-the ordinary places we would never have found on our own. He also introduced us to real Turkish food, even going so far as booking a dinner reservation and pre-ordering a menu that suited us perfectly.  From Istanbul, we flew to Bodrum and boarded our private gulet.  The crew was professional, accommodating, and went out of their way to make the trip special. The stops were beautiful and the food amazing.

We also had the pleasure of our most memorable WOW Moment in Datca, being the first and only guests at a hotel just prior to the opening!  We had the facility to ourselves, were served a gourmet dinner that was overseen by the General Manager and Food Service Manager, and were offered a gorgeous suite for an overnight stay; to say this was very, very special is an understatement. (Thank you, Wendy, Karen and Mustafa.)  Karen and those that work with her obviously have an in-depth knowledge of Turkey.” —Vanessa Hulme

Read more reviews of Turkey trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO TURKEY

Iceland: “My favorite part? The WOW Moment at the Blue Lagoon…”

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Blue Lagoon, Iceland. Photo: Lindblad Expeditions

“Due to problems with a previous agent, we had our first conversation with Mads two months before our Icelandic adventure was set to begin. It was in the few first minutes that Mads noted that he is turning customers away as Iceland is sold out. Obviously freaking out, he quickly added, for Wendy and Brook VIPs, I have rooms/cars/guides. Across multiple calls, in a week, he hit our budget and planned our trip. It was amazing. What our first agent couldn’t do over six months, Mads did in six days…

This trip was to celebrate my birthday. Mads arranged for dinner at the best restaurant in Reykjavík (a pull I couldn’t make on my own), surprised me with not only birthday gifts, but a full hotel property upgrade AND his insistence of an adventure activity (snowmobiling) gave my wife her favorite part of the trip. My favorite part? The WOW Moment at the Blue Lagoon, thank you Wendy & Brook, never had a floating massage before…drifted to relaxation.” –Eric Hammer

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Egypt: “A VIP/behind-the-scenes tour of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), not yet open to the public…”

Travelers posing in front of one of Giza pyramids

Beth Nury’s kids got to see the Pyramids without crowds marring their view. Photo: Traveler Beth Nury

“Arlene on Jim’s staff meticulously planned a 17-day adventure for our family of four that began in Egypt. Egypt continues to be an international tourist hot spot, and since we started planning a bit late, few accommodations were available. However, she was able to use her contacts for stays at the Four Seasons Cairo, where we took advantage of the strong USD and had two five-star dinners. Arlene recommended the Sonesta Sun Goddess Nile cruise ship, a recently refurbished ship. Her insight paid off—the ship was great!  As we sailed down the Nile over four days, we happened to see that our ship was one of the only that had an outdoor balcony, which my husband and I used regularly.

Once back on land in Cairo, we really enjoyed our WOW Moment, a VIP/behind-the-scenes tour of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), not yet open to the public. Very few crowds. We then drove over to Giza, where our guide cleverly started our Pyramid/Sphinx tour backwards, avoiding long lines. Our photos were incredible! They look like we had a private tour of Giza, since there are very few tourists in the background.” —Beth Nury

Read more reviews of Egypt trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

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Ireland: “A wine and cheese tasting in the wine vault of Ashford Castle…”

Nancy Mazarin

Nancy and Guy Mazarin enjoying their WOW Moment in the wine vault of Ashford Castle.

“My husband and I just returned from a fabulous two-week vacation in Ireland, spending time at some spectacular locations, particularly Ballyfin and Ashford Castle, where we enjoyed the extensive onsite activities and amenities. The food at Ballyfin and Ashford, as well as the restaurants selected, was delicious and the pubs were as much fun as expected. My husband started drinking Guinness and I tried a different gin every night.

One of the most memorable moments of the trip occurred at Ashford Castle, where we were treated to a special WOW Moment, a wine and cheese tasting in the wine vault of Ashford Castle. Jonathan coordinated our entire trip down to the smallest detail, providing expert advice about where to stay, what to see, and even when to visit.” —Nancy Mazarin

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Morocco: “A camel ride up the dunes with hor d’oeuvres and champagne as the sun set…”

Camel trek through the Sahara Desert, Morocco.

Camel trek through the Sahara Desert, Morocco. Photo: Geri Krauss

“My husband and I recently returned from a superb trip to Morocco planned by Michael. The trip spanned much of the country—from the cities of Marrakesh and Fes to the Atlas mountains, the Sahara desert and the seashore.  While we had to drive long distances to cover everything we wanted to see, the time passed quickly as the scenery throughout the country was gorgeous and dramatic. The hotels Michael recommended were each special in their own way (riads in the cities, kasbahs in the mountains and a tent in the desert) and the experiences he planned for us – cooking classes, dinner with a university professor to speak to us about the Sufis, walks through villages, markets and the old cities – were truly special.

Wendy treated us to a WOW Moment in the desert—a camel ride up the dunes with hor d’oeuvres and champagne as the sun set—which was truly WOW! T he country itself is fascinating—and we learned so much about its history, politics, culture and role in the world. We have traveled extensively with Wendy’s experts, and every trip has been great.” —Geri Krauss

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Norway: “We were in Aurland at a farm set in a stunningly beautiful valley…”

View of 292 Aurland.

Panoramic view of Aurland, Norway.

“We traveled from Oslo to Nesseby, which is past the Arctic Circle near the Russian border, spending 3 nights each in 7 venues. Torunn tailored the trip to our preferences, which lean toward a bit of adventure and agri-tourism. In the north we stayed at a 2-room lodge run by a Sami fisherman and spent a morning crab fishing on his boat and an afternoon on an archaeological walk with his wife. He was an excellent cook and served foods he and his wife had caught, shot, or foraged from the landscape.  The next day we toured the area with a Sami reindeer herder. We also spent time on a small island well out in the Atlantic where we kayaked along the seashore to a lighthouse; foraged in Trondheim with a professional forager picking plants for our lunch; visited a dairy near Oslo producing a unique cheese product and advocating a more humane way to treat dairy cattle; and spent 3 nights at a farm with a gourmet chef specializing in dishes featuring fruit and vegetables from the farm.

Our wedding anniversary occurred during the trip and Torunn arranged a WOW Moment for us that was great fun. We were in Aurland at a farm set in a stunningly beautiful valley with steep mountainsides and many waterfalls. We were serenaded by a musician playing a Norwegian Hardanger fiddle, a type of double-strung violin. The venue was a small shelter with a magnificent view, and we toasted ourselves and the trip with homemade pear Kombucha made by the chef. We thoroughly enjoyed it.” —George Stephens

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Japan: “Incredible multi-course dinner at the Michelin-star French/Japanese restaurant Motoï…”

Japanese garden with trees, cherry blossoms, and buildings next to the river.

Japanese garden in Heian Shrine, Kyoto, Japan. Photo: Shutterstock

“I wanted a mix of urban and rural life, so Scott made a number of recommendations that would fulfill my desires. Besides vibrant Tokyo and Kyoto, we included a trip through the Japanese Alps, through the Kiso Valley and its enchanting post towns and fairytale villages untouched by time, to the charming towns of Takayama and Kanazawa.

The trip was topped off with a two-day stay in beautiful Hakone. And the WOW Moment! Made even more special by the happy coincidence of Scott being in Kyoto for business. So he was able to join us at the incredible multi-course dinner at the Michelin-star French/Japanese restaurant Motoï, a beautifully atmospheric restaurant with divine food, made extra special by the talented chef visiting us at our table.” —Roseanne Horn

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France: “A tour of the Paris monuments by night in an open-top deux-chevaux…”

Pont Alexandre III (Alexander the third bridge) over river Seine in Paris, France. Architecture and landmarks of Paris.

River Seine in Paris, France. Photo: Shutterstock

“We started in the South, staying at the world-renowned Hotel du Cap—unavailable if you try to book it yourself, but available if you have Philip’s team working with you. One of the best, if not the best, hotel we’ve ever stayed at.   We spent four days touring Southern France with expert driver-guides arranged by Philip. We enjoyed a personal glass-blowing experience where we made our own sculpture (I can’t believe we were shaping 1,000-degree glass by hand, with only a wet newspaper to insulate us) and ate at some of the best restaurants on the French Riviera.  From the South of France, we moved on to Aix-en-Provence, where we stayed for three nights at the superb Villa Gallici, a beautiful hotel tucked into the hillside above Aix with an easy walk into town.  From Provence we took the 3-hour bullet-train ride from Aix to Paris. Dinner at the 3-Michelin-star Epicure restaurant—again, arranged by Philip when no reservations were available—was an absolute highlight of the trip.

On our final night in Paris, Wendy surprised us with a WOW Moment—a tour of the Paris monuments by night in an open-top deux-chevaux. What an amazing way to see the city on uncrowded streets and with all of the famous landmarks lit up at night.” —Larry Bridge

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Switzerland: “It was opened especially for us…”

Deborah Wente

Deb Wente with her husband and the winemaker at the winery overlooking Lake Geneva.

“We just returned from a fabulous trip to Switzerland arranged by Nina and David. There is so much talk of the crowds this summer, but we had many experiences that were intimate and uncrowded…. On our drive from Ascona we arrived to the top of the Gotthard Pass, where we had our WOW Moment. The mountains are hollowed out with tunnels and bunkers from WWII. One bunker has been turned into a hotel/restaurant, La Clavstra. It was opened especially for us for a tour, then a lovely meal 70 meters underground. It was fascinating.

Our next stop was Zermatt, where the skies cleared up for a beautiful view of the Matterhorn. We took the cog railway up to the Gornergrat.  Our last stop was Vevey, on the shores of Lake Geneva. Another incredibly special experience awaited us the afternoon of our arrival. We met our guide at our hotel, walked across the street and hopped in a 1966 Riva wooden boat. We drove along the Swiss Riviera, docked, and were driven to a vineyard in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lavaux. Wine and fondue with the winemaker, it was magical.” —Deb Wente

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Italy: “WOW does not do justice to the opportunity to meet Marta Cucchia…”

Typical stone houses with stunning vineyard in the Chianti region in Tuscany.

Stunning vineyard in the Chianti region in Tuscany. Photo: Shutterstock

Maria planned an amazing trip for us. We traveled through Umbria and Tuscany with a focus on food, wine, and culture. Montefalco is a charming Umbrian town nestled in the hills with a focus on wine and olive oil. Maria had booked us into a charming hotel and made dinner reservations for our first night. The next day we went truffle hunting and shared perhaps the best meal of the trip with the family. Each of the seven courses were delicious and I could have eaten the entire tray of the homemade onion foccacia.

The next morning was our WOW Moment. WOW does not do justice to the opportunity to meet Marta Cucchia, the great-granddaughter of the founder Giuditta Brozzetti who has carried forward the textile workshops. Working on looms from the 15th century, she provided us with a look into the art of weaving. Her joy in the work and understanding of the complexity and history of this art form was enthralling.  This experience set the tone for the remainder of the trip meeting artisans, wine stewards, wine growers, balsamic vinegar artists, parmesan cheese makers, prosciutto ham makers, sculptors, cooks and guides and hoteliers that made us feel welcome. Although it was crowded already in Italy, we always felt as if we had our own private pathways to each activity.” —Lynne Golomb

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French Polynesia: “Such a beautiful evening on the water seeing the sun go down and having the boat to ourselves…”

Brando-Resort-Tahiti-OneTahi-motu.

The Brando resort, Tahiti. Photo: The Brando

“Our eight days of paradise were stunning, fun, relaxing, and so much more. Kleon listened to all my questions and desires and put together the perfect itinerary.  Our WOW Moment in Bora Bora with the sunset cruise was stunning and such a beautiful evening on the water seeing the sun go down and having the boat to ourselves. Our Captain was outstanding!! He sang and made drinks and had snacks for us but, most importantly, he sat and answered all the questions my friends were asking about life in French Polynesia and told us all about his family! He was so sweet and stayed out past all the other boats and we had a wonderful time with him that evening!

One of the treasures we will remember at The Brando is the early wake-up call to see the baby turtles released into the ocean after being born overnight. We were so lucky to be able to see this beautiful and unique experience.  One of the biggest things that we all commented on was how wonderful all the local Polynesians were and so genuine and happy to have visitors and talk or help us in any way. ” —Mary Frances

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Costa Rica: “A multi-hour sea voyage that enabled us to visit with the dolphins…”

Wavy Garza beach inn Costa Rica, surrounded by mountains.

Garza beach in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Photo: Shutterstock

Priscilla planned and executed a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for my multi-generational family. The needs and wants of teenagers, adults, and seniors were all addressed. We saw too many ‘creatures’ to list, including a breaching whale, dolphin pod, sloths, quetzals, trogons, etc. —something for everyone, which isn’t easy, given the age difference and some dietary restrictions. Thanks, Wendy, for the marvelous WOW Moment—a multi-hour sea voyage that enabled us to visit with the dolphins while learning the area’s history from the charming captain.

Priscilla ensured we saw the area highlights yet had sufficient time to just relax and enjoy where we were. I was able to reunite with guides I had first met in the early 90s. Also spoke with the owner of the local coffee company established in 1994 and selling me beans ever since. In thinking about highlights, the hanging bridges at Monteverde and the breaching whale rise to the top of the list, unless you count the smiles of the grandchildren throughout the day… every day. Who says you can’t relive the past?  We did!” —Linda and Joe Rothman

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Egypt: “Wendy arranged for a private sunset dinner cruise…”

Jeannie Mullen

WOW List traveler Jeannie Mullen and friends enjoying their WOW Moment 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.  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.” —Jeannie Mullen

Read more reviews of Egypt trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

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Mexico: “A special lunch at Los Danzantes, including our own personal mariachis…”

Palacio de Bellas Artes or Palace of Fine Arts, a famous theater,museum and music venue in Mexico City

The Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico. Photo: Shutterstock

“This was our second time using Zach’s services, this time for travels to Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende, and, yet again, they excelled. The tours and activities planned in Mexico City (historical city tour, visit to San Angel, Coyoacan, Casa Azul, etc.) were exactly what we wanted. They even arranged a private after-hours visit to the National Museum of Anthropology. We had the entire Museum to ourselves! Wandering through the galleries with an expert was definitely a magical experience and brought the cultures to life.  Before leaving Mexico City, we were treated to a WOW Moment with a special lunch at Los Danzantes, including our own personal mariachis (thanks, Wendy).” —Vanessa Hulme

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Chile: “We had a private stargazing evening, hosted by French astronomer Alain Maury…”

Alain Maury’s SPACE Observatory, Chile.

Alain Maury’s SPACE Observatory, Chile. Photo: Barbara Schoenfeld

Tom designed a Christmas/New Year’s trip to Chile for our family of six. He rose to the challenge of transporting us down and back up half the length of the continent. He organized visits to both Patagonia and the Atacama Desert, securing rooms at Hotel Las Torres in Patagonia and Explora Atacama. Both were excellent choices for their top-notch adventure staff and boutique experience.

And I’m not just saying this because I’m writing a review for Wendy’s WOW List, but the best part of the trip was the Wendy WOW Moment. We had a private stargazing evening, hosted by French astronomer Alain Maury, at his observatory called SPACE (San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations). Above is the photo he took of us in front of one of his telescopes. Plus we have a video he recorded on my son’s cell phone where he described what we were seeing on the Sea of Tranquility on the moon—particularly the smudge where the US Apollo 11 landed.” —Barbara Schoenfeld

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Australia: “On Christmas Day we drove the Great Ocean Road and were completely surprised with a WOW Moment…”

two women in a helicopter flying over the 12 apostles

WOW Moment: A helicopter ride over the 12 Apostles. Photo: Jennifer Mann

“We just returned from an Australian holiday trip with our two teenage daughters. Stuart and Jacki put together a phenomenal itinerary with something for everyone! We began our trip in Melbourne. On Christmas Day we drove the Great Ocean Road and were completely surprised with a WOW Moment of a helicopter ride over the 12 Apostles. It was breathtaking!   The next day we drove through the wine country of the Yarra Valley—with tastings, lots of animal sightings, and delicious food—followed by a two-night stay at the Jackalope Hotel in the Mornington Peninsula area, about an hour-and-a-half from Melbourne. The Mornington Peninsula was also filled with award-winning wine and food, along with charming little beachside towns….” —Jennifer Mann

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Costa Rica: “Our private table was in a glassed-in small private dining area in the treetops…”

Monteverde Costa Rica

Monteverde, Costa Rica. Photo: Shutterstock

Priscilla did a fabulous job of planning a special family trip for us. In Tortuguero, a highlight was the kayaking trip down an inland waterway and a short detour into a small, seemingly endless series of creeks on the side of the main waterway. It was like going into another world, even in the otherworldliness of the jungle. When our guide asked us all to stop paddling, close our eyes, and just listen to the jungle sounds, it was magical.

We had a special WOW Moment in Monteverde when we were taken to the San Lucas Treetop Dining Experience. Each of the delicious small nine courses represented an area of Costa Rica that was explained to us as it was served. Our private table was in a glassed-in small private dining area in the treetops overlooking the town. We were there at sunset, and the view was amazing.” —Beverly Cameron

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Portugal: “A WOW Moment at Claus Porto, a private workshop that started in Porto in 1887…”

a house and vineyard in Douro Valley, Portugal

Douro Valley, Portugal. Photo: Mike Korn

Goncalo planned every detail of our Portugal trip to perfection. We started in the Alentejo—which we had not even thought of going to—and it was the perfect place to get over jet lag and recover in a gorgeous hotel and setting. From there we went to Porto, where he planned amazing walking tours and a day trip to the Douro with an incredible winery visit and lunch. We also had a WOW Moment at Claus Porto, a private workshop that started in Porto in 1887, and we had an incredible experience making soap.

After Porto came Lisbon. Goncalo planned our itinerary so that we had stops with tours on the way to each city, and everyone who toured us or drove us around knew so much about Portugal’s history. December was a great time to be in Portugal, and Goncalo made it a truly wonderful experience from the second we landed until we got on the plane to come home. We did not have to think of anything—he already had it all figured out. We can’t wait to go back!” —Jennifer Andrews

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Bora Bora: “A private sunset cruise and photo shoot…”

Bora Bora

Bora Bora. Photo: Traveler Albert Cemel

“The photos and videos we had seen of French Polynesia hardly compare to the breathtaking views and exhilaration you feel when you set foot on these islands. The lagoons around the Tahitian islands are crystal clear and brightened by every shade of blue you can imagine. Kleon has vast experience in the South Pacific islands and made some great recommendations on things we hadn’t even thought of….

Our final stop was Bora Bora, where the view at the airport was like a WOW Moment in and of itself!  The dazzling turquoise lagoon, a tiny palm-covered islet in the middle, and the beautiful green shades of the iconic Mount Otemanu in the background, makes for an unforgettable, jaw-dropping scene.  In Bora Bora we were fortunate to receive a WOW Moment selected by Wendy Perrin and Kleon. It was a private sunset cruise and photo shoot on a luxurious 21-foot Bayliner named “Love Boat.” It was a beautiful, romantic experience. The captain was a charming man raised on the French Riviera who had moved to Bora Bora 20 years ago and never looked back. We were given a USB key with close to 100 HD photos at the end of our cruise. The photos of my wife and me against beautiful background colors of the setting sun have provided us with wonderful memories of our trip to paradise.” —Al Cemel

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Panama: “We were picked up in a Panama school bus—Diablo Rojo—with all the neon lights flashing and the salsa music playing…”

National Theatre of Panama, Casco Antiguo, Panama City.

National Theatre of Panama, Casco Antiguo, Panama City. Photo: Shutterstock

“Even though our trip was short notice and over the New Year holidays, Pierre put together a really wonderful and memorable trip for us to Panama. We started out in Panama City, where we were given our WOW Moment—and what a Moment it was! We were picked up in a Panama school bus—Diablo Rojo—with all the neon lights flashing and the salsa music playing! It took us from the hotel to the Historic Old City where we had a great typical Panamanian dinner at a local restaurant, then enjoyed the view from a rooftop bar with a glass of wine. Finally, back to the hotel on Diablo Rojo!  What a fun outing!!

On Christmas Day we toured an agro-organic farm called Hacienda Mamecillo, where the family produces all their food organically, as well as a special coffee. It was so interesting and impressive. The meal they served was, honestly, one of the best meals we have ever had—worthy of any fine dining anywhere.” —Sally Boland

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Bolivia & Peru: “The unobstructed expanse of the isolated salt flats make star-gazing on the Salar de Uyuni a truly spellbinding experience…”

Salar de Uyuni salt flat during the starry night, Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni starry night, Bolivia. Photo: Shutterstock

“Our trip was amazing—from visiting the salt flats to checking out a silver mine, boating on Lake Titicaca, visiting cathedrals and museums, eating delicious foods, and meeting wonderful people.  We were delighted from start to finish with Marisol and Mark’s exceptional advice and service, and a big thank-you to Wendy for the WOW Moment: The unobstructed expanse of the isolated salt flats make star-gazing on the Salar de Uyuni a truly spellbinding experience, as the full breadth and immensity of the night sky can be observed and appreciated with the telescope provided or with the naked eye. Located at altitude with almost no light pollution thanks to a sparse population, the Salar de Uyuni is one of the best places to stargaze in South America.” —Dominique Tran

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Israel & Jordan: “We were flying simulated F-16 planes…”

Aerial sun set view of Mediterranean Seashore of Tel Aviv, Israel.

Mediterranean Seashore of Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo: Shutterstock

“Just back from an amazing trip to Israel and Jordan arranged by Joe and Jonathan. We had a WOW Moment on this trip where we were flying simulated F-16 planes—super fun, also very humbling, giving us an even greater respect for our fighter pilots. We had a graffiti tour of Tel Aviv with a very talented artist, as well as a food tour in the souk of Jerusalem.  As for Jordan, Petra was beyond incredible. It was quite an experience walking across the Israeli border into no man’s land and then walking to the Jordan border. We were thankful we had our trusted guides on either side of the border to guide us.” —Toni Casamento

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Scotland: “That afternoon was the highlight of our trip…”

St Andrews Cathedral in St. Andrews, Scotland

St Andrews Cathedral in St. Andrews, Scotland. Photo: Shutterstock

“To plan our 12 days in Scotland, we worked with Jonathan and Katie. Scotland is an incredibly picturesque country, and the people we met there could not have been more welcoming and enjoyable. Highlights included our walking tour of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh with Paul, who pointed out architectural details and many things we would have missed on our own that made us understand and appreciate the city even more; St. Andrews, a picture-perfect town with amazing golf, pubs, and restaurants; and our drive through The Great Glen, whose natural awesome beauty was breathtaking.  Every hotel we stayed at was amazing, and we were given exceptional treatment while there, no doubt because of the relationships they shared with Jonathan.

We had our WOW Moment in Glasgow at The Pot Still pub, a small homey place with hundreds of whiskies lining the walls. We sat at a table in the back, with locals all around us enjoying drinks with friends. There we were welcomed by Chris, who knew more about whisky than anyone I’d ever met. He spent two-plus hours explaining the intricacies of Scottish whisky, the differences between single malt, single grain, and blends. He told us where the various distilleries are and how the locations and production styles affect taste. And while we listened, we ate haggis pies and tasted a variety of different whiskies. That afternoon was the highlight of our trip and one of the reasons we’re already talking about a return trip to Scotland.” —Cindy Kelly

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Greece: “A wonderful dinner cooked by the mama of the house and a Greek dance performance…”

Traditional Greek food, Greece. Photo: Shutterstock

Jacoline listened to our travel preferences and hit the nail on the head: We focused on activities where we interacted with the locals. First was our WOW Moment: We had a wonderful dinner cooked by the mama of the house and a Greek dance performance which we eventually joined in. We sat in a beautiful courtyard, eating delicious food and enjoying the company of lovely people. The language barrier didn’t interfere with the wonderful evening.

Another highlight was visiting a farm in Kythira. I cooked lunch with Anastasia, and my husband spent the morning with Anastasia’s husband, watering the animals and riding the tractor. Lunch was delicious, and the warmth and kindness of these people so impressed us. I could go on and on describing similar experiences.  When we missed our flight from Athens to Santorini and were standing in line hoping to rebook a flight that night, my husband’s phone rang, and it was Jacoline’s team letting us know they had already booked us on another flight. That is why I work with Wendy’s WOW people. They are on top of everything.” —Leslie Goldenberg

Read more reviews of Greece trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

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Italy: “Two local artisan workshops to see classic Venetian crafts—mosaics in hard stone, and paper marbling…”

Sunset in Florence, Italy.

Florence, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

“We worked with Jennifer to craft a remarkable trip through Italy this September, and she was fantastic!  There were 6 of us in our group – my husband and me, another couple we have known for decades, and their 25-year-old daughter and her boyfriend. We began our adventures at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, on the shores of Lake Como.  Our first morning was spent in a beautiful classic wooden speedboat, touring the shores of the lake, learning about history, architecture, and celebrity gossip. We had timed tickets to tour Villa Balbianello, had a wonderful lunch at a quiet café, and strolled around Bellagio. (As you can imagine, we had many great meals in Italy, and Jennifer secured dining reservations at several restaurants that we were unable to book on our own.)

It was in Florence that we had our WOW Moment.  Late afternoon we were met at the lobby of our hotel, where we discovered we would be visiting two local artisan workshops to see classic Venetian crafts – mosaics in hard stone, and paper marbling – and afterwards have a chance to relax with aperitifs and nibbles while talking with our wonderful guide. It was EXACTLY what I wanted.” —Bonnie Thompson

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Malta: “We had an incredibly beautiful picnic on the water with a solo musician playing guitar…”

colorful boats in Marsaxlokk Harbour, Malta

Marsaxlokk Harbour, Malta. Photo: Exclusively Malta

Jason was right to have us start in Gozo.  The hotel (Cesca Lodge) was a beautifully converted ancient stone building. We were tempted not to go out to dinner, but we pushed ourselves to go out to where Jason had booked us—and are we glad we did!!  The owner was amazing…treated us like old friends, and the food was delicious too!  It was such a fun night.  The next day we had an amazing tour with our private guide of Gozo which included some stunning views of the turquoise water from a hidden cave. Later that evening we had our WOW Moment, which was truly spectacular!!  We had an incredibly beautiful picnic on the water with a solo musician playing guitar…some songs which Jason had personally requested that he knew we would like!  We watched the sunset while drinking champagne, sitting on blankets and pillows, surrounded by twinkle lights.

The next day we took a private boat transfer to Malta. Along the way we passed Comino Island and the gorgeous waters of the blue lagoon. Jason arranged a picnic basket of food for us on the boat which was such a thoughtful touch…although the water was too rough for us to eat, once we got to the hotel we were certainly grateful to have some food. Our driver had been waiting for us…everything was organized perfectly. The hotel Jason recommended (Iniala) was beautiful and right on the Grand Harbour—an amazing location with a fabulous view. That afternoon we went exploring on our own and had dinner on an incredible rooftop terrace where an opera soloist was singing. Once again, the owner treated us like royalty, as we were guests of Jason’s.” —Elliot Laskin

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Germany: “In Berlin, we had the joy of our surprise WOW Moment…”

Aerial view of Berlin skyline with famous TV tower and Spree river in beautiful evening light at sunset in summer, Germany

Berlin, Germany. Photo: Shutterstock

“We have just returned from a spectacular two-and-a-half-week trip to Germany. We found a beautiful, diverse country with friendly people and an interesting but complex history. Claudia listened to our needs and desires and addressed them admirably. She contributed great ideas and arranged outstanding driver/guides, hotels, and restaurants.  To cover a broad swath of Germany in the time available, we moved every third day. Each time, we regretted leaving our wonderful hotel.  Especially memorable were our room in a real castle with a patio overlooking the Rhine River and our balcony overlooking Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles in the Alps.

A variety of special experiences planned by Claudia enhanced our trip. They included visits to the Berlin Wall and Potsdam, castle visits, boat trips on the Rhine and Lake Constance, and a side trip to Strasbourg, France. In Berlin, we had the joy of our surprise WOW Moment, earned after two Wendy Perrin trips. It was a special riverside gourmet dinner followed by a wonderful nighttime cruise on the Spree River. This cruise, with all the city lights and activity, gave us a whole new perspective of Berlin. I could go on and on because we can’t stop talking about this trip.” —William and Lynn Martin

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Peru: “A tour of the ‘real’ Lima with a local guide…”

Panoramic view of Lima from Miraflores

Lima’s Miraflores, Peru. Photo: Shutterstock

“How many different ways can you say the word ‘amazing’???  Marisol and the experts on her staff were the sum of all the ways it can be expressed. One example is upon landing in Lima our first day. One of her team went out at 11pm at night and found and DELIVERED a new knee brace to our hotel, as the one my husband packed had been “misplaced” by the airline. We had an early flight in the morning, so this was nothing short of miraculous. Without this brace, my husband may not have been able to explore Machu Picchu or the other sites planned.

Our WOW Moment was a tour of the ‘real’ Lima with a local guide. We got the scoop of the good, the bad, and the ugly related to the nuances of life in Lima. Not just the tourist façade view of things. The fabulously in-depth tour was capped off with a visit to the Circuito Magico del Agua, a light/laser/fountain show in Lima. The projection show story was the perfect synopsis of all of the history we had learned that day in addition to being beautifully magical! We even convinced our guide to run through the water tunnel with us where we all got drenched! A good laugh is a good laugh in any language! ” —Andrea Reed

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Ireland: “Sitting on one of the columns at the Giant’s Causeway sipping Bushmill’s Reserve whiskey gives a new meaning to ‘whiskey on the rocks’…”

Giant's Causeway in a beautiful summer day, Northern Ireland

Giant’s Causeway on a beautiful summer day, Northern Ireland. Photo: Shutterstock

“Because we were traveling to different cities (Belfast, Dublin, Killarney, Cong and Galway), Jonathan suggested a driver rather than self-driving, and he was so right! Having the pressure of driving removed gave us so much more freedom to explore the areas and enjoy the days. Also, the drivers did not just drive, they provided historical facts, made suggestions of out-of-the-way places to visit, knew the best local places for a pub lunch, the best place to buy a special gift, the place to stop for the best view/photos, etc.  Many of our outstanding experiences—a day trip to the Aran Islands, a sheepdog demonstration, a food tour in Galway, etc.—we would not have known about, had it not been for the suggestion of Jonathan and his team.

Thank you, Wendy, for another memorable WOW Moment. Sitting on one of the columns at the Giant’s Causeway sipping Bushmill’s Reserve whiskey gives a new meaning to ‘whiskey on the rocks’. Everyone passing by us was jealous!” —Vanessa Hulme

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Greece: “The e-bike tour that we had there was incredible, especially the sunset—a true WOW Moment!”

 Varlaam monastery_Meteora_Greece-cr-Shutterstock

Varlaam monastery, Meteora, Greece. Photo: Shutterstock

“My son and I traveled in Greece together, and Mina’s team did a great job of identifying activities and places of interest for us. The most breathtaking place we went was Meteora, where we got to see, close-up and personal, the monasteries that were built on cliffs and how they functioned. The e-bike tour that we had there was incredible, especially the sunset—a true WOW Moment!  On the island of Naxos, on our river walk hike, our guide led us through the backcountry to unique places off the beaten path and showed us old water mills and different plants, wild herbs and vegetables that cover the landscape. Our catamaran day cruise was also an amazing experience, with snorkeling and great food.  My son and I are now officially addicted to tzatziki! Thanks so much for helping us plan this once-in-a-lifetime trip together.” —George Powers

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Egypt & Jordan: “We felt like Egyptian royalty sailing on our own private yacht on the Nile…”

Photo of a boat sailing down the Nile in Egypt

A sail along the Nile in Egypt. Photo: Billie Cohen

Jim crafted a mind-blowing three-week journey through Egypt and Jordan for us. Our itinerary was amazing at every turn. Highlights included: In Cairo, walking along the narrow, shop-lined streets of Old Cairo and then the even narrower alleys of the Khan al Khalili. We gained a true feeling of what the city was like in ancient times.  In Aswan, we appreciated being able to speak with a local in the Nubian Village and visit his home and learn about a part of Egyptian culture you hear little about.  In the Valley of the Kings, the most magnificent tomb was that of Nefertari, where we were the only people inside and our guide was very gracious in allowing us extra time there so that I could take photos of everything!  And in Jordan, our guide worked his connections to gain us access to the Petra by Night experience an hour before it officially opened to the public!  Walking through the candlelit Siq alone and coming upon the candlelit Treasury, we were awestruck.

Wendy, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for arranging with Jim our very special WOW Moment. Imagine our faces when we were taken to a yacht for a private sunset cruise on the Nile all around Elephantine and other islands. Sunset was magical as the colors of the sky, Nile waters, and surrounding land changed from yellow to golden to pink and then deep purple, followed by the twinkling lights of Aswan as night fell. This glorious sunset experience was followed by a seafood feast on the boat with a private chef. We felt like Egyptian royalty sailing on our own private yacht on the Nile!” —Mary Lou Voytko

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Hawaii: “We toasted the beautiful scenery, our gorgeous picnic, the kids below on their surfboards…”

Hawaii - Kaneohe Bay, Oahu

Aerial view of Kualoa Point at Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Hawaii. Photo: Shutterstock

“We just came back from a three-generation trip to Oahu, Hawaii, which included a WOW Moment. First, your WOW List travel advisor, Dani, was fabulous—she knew just what we were interested in seeing and doing, and planned the trip we wanted around the grandchildren.  She made sure we had the best rooms, provided amenities at both resorts, and made this one of the best trips ever!

And now the WOW Moment—I have to say we were all impressed beyond words!  We had planned a surfing lesson at Turtle Bay for our two grandchildren at the Jamie O’Brien Surfing School. Dani arranged, on a promontory above where the lesson was taking place, the most sumptuous gourmet picnic we have ever enjoyed, complete with champagne. We toasted the beautiful scenery, our gorgeous picnic, the kids below on their surfboards—and Dani and Wendy Perrin!!!!  It was a perfect day, a perfect spot, and we loved every minute of it.  But that was not to be all —when the lesson was over, who came out to greet us but Jamie O’Brien himself!  Needless to say, we were all dazzled—especially the kids who had been watching this Hawaiian surfing legend on YouTube! This was all perfectly orchestrated—and was a WOW Moment my family will never forget.  By the way, my grandkids are now asking when they can be in our next WOW Moment!!!!!” —Nancy Bern

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Kenya & Rwanda: “We had a private tour of the Ol Pejeta Conservatory Northern White Rhino Project…”

African white rhino, National park of Kenya, Africa

White rhinos in Kenya. Photo: Shutterstock

“My main focus for the trip was not just an animal safari, but also to experience the African culture, see the local conservation efforts, witness the labors to preserve endangered species, and incorporate my interest in the work of Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall.  Dan’s connections with the best local operators and guides made things so much easier.  At Ol Pejeta Safari Cottages in Kenya, we had a very private and secluded cottage with a verandah for dining and just relaxing. We received royal treatment from the moment we arrived.

Our WOW Moment was perfect! We had a private tour of the Ol Pejeta Conservatory Northern White Rhino Project, met the two remaining Northern White Rhinos, and learned about the global efforts and cooperation amongst countries to save the species.” —Sue Newton

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Rwanda & Uganda: “Lunch out there at an amazing lodge with rapids rushing all around us…”

Waterside scenery showing the River Nile with lots of greenery on the sides.

The Nile River near Jinja, in Uganda. Photo: Shutterstock

“We travelled to Rwanda and Uganda for the month of January.  Cherri did a wonderful job of putting together all the pieces of a complicated multi-country trip with multiple lodgings in both countries. We saw very few other tourists.  On safari we rarely saw another Land Rover. The genocide museum in Kigali was empty, as was the art gallery we went to. As for the WOW Moment arranged by Cherri, all I can say is WOW WOW WOW! We flew by private helicopter from Entebbe to Jinja, the beginning of the Nile River, had lunch out there at an amazing lodge with rapids rushing all around us and then returned in time to catch our flight back home.” —Ron Klausner

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Italy: “An artist’s studio where she helped us make our own mosaics in her found-object style…”

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

Florence, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

“My family of six—including four daughters, ages 5 through 11—traveled to Italy and Switzerland in November/December 2021. Maria pulled it all together on relatively short notice. She arranged for great hotels, fun excursions, and private guides in Florence and Zurich who were fantastic with the girls.  We had a fantastic time making pizza in Florence, and another major highlight was our WOW Moment. Thank you so much, Wendy, we really enjoyed it!  We walked across the river in Florence to a more residential neighborhood and visited an artist’s studio, where she welcomed us and helped us make our own mosaics in her found-object style.  While they dried, we enjoyed sandwiches and cake in the cafe. The artist and Elvira (our guide) were so friendly and welcoming it was a real treat to spend the afternoon with them.” —Rebecca Bartlett

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Belize: “After we wore ourselves out dancing, we were guided to a beautifully laid table on the beach and served an extraordinary 6-course private dinner…”

sunset in Belize at Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye, Belize. Photo: Absolute Belize

Patricia planned an excellent itinerary, matched by superior management of all logistics. Our family of five, with our three active teenagers, spent four nights in the jungle, then seven nights at the beach. While based in the jungle, we kept our three teenagers busy with horseback riding, cave tubing and visiting the Mayan ruins at Xunantunich. We enjoyed fantastic gourmet meals and even squeezed in some time at the spa and the pool. Then, at the beach, we enjoyed leisurely days at the pool and also snorkeling, fishing, and barbequing on the beach.

The highlight of the itinerary was the unexpected WOW Moment. Knowing that we have a strong interest in learning about local culture, Patricia arranged with the Black&White Garifuna Restaurant to come to our hotel for a private, immersive evening focused on the Garifuna Afro-Caribbean culture. We were treated to a magical singing and dancing performance, and then got dancing lessons and drumming lessons. We also received short, digestible lessons on Garifuna history, language, holidays, and cuisine. After we wore ourselves out dancing, we were guided to a beautifully laid table on the beach and served an extraordinary 6-course private dinner prepared by O Restaurant at Las Terrazas resort. While we dined, the singing and dancing continued. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” —Robyn Smyers

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Italy: “We were meeting the Marchesa Elena Torrigiani at her estate and grounds in the middle of Florence!”

Giardini Torrigiani, Florence.

Giardini Torrigiani, Florence. Photo: Brian Dore.

“We just returned from a fantastic 3-week trip to Italy that Maria had arranged for us….When we thought it couldn’t get any better in our 3 days in Florence we had a Wendy WOW Moment that was over the top!!  We saw that Maria listed “a one of a kind experience” in the early evening. Of course, we tried getting hints from [our guide] Elvira, but she was not sharing anything, until we were almost at our destination and told us that we were meeting the Marchesa Elena Torrigiani at her estate and grounds in the middle of Florence!  Her family goes back generations and is considered royalty in Italy. The garden is 17 acres and she personally led us through the gardens and explained all the monuments, trees, etc. The best site on the grounds was a neo gothic tower and walls from the Middle Ages!  Elena was so charming and a wonderful host as she told us her interesting family history up to the present. She finally led us to an outside bistro where we had a wonderful dinner. What a way to end the day. Thank you Wendy!” —Sandy Collins

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Cabo, Mexico: “We took a private boat to a secluded cove for a private snorkel…”

El Arco, Cabo San Lucas Photo: Roberto Trama Mexico

Boating and fishing in Los Cabos. Photo: Roberto Trama

“We rented a very private home near San Jose del Cabo—with a gorgeous outdoor living space and pool—and felt completely safe.  Julie helped us all along the way, including helping us decide to stay closer to San Jose Del Cabo than to the more touristy Cabo San Lucas.  That turned out to be a great decision. We were traveling with our small family of three, including our young son. We had a 24/7 concierge named Hector the whole time, and he did a great job with questions about the house, activities, grocery stores, restaurants, and the like.

We were also lucky enough to have a WOW Moment on this trip: We were picked up at our house by our guide, Oscar, who is a lovely man with a great knowledge of the local area, its geology, history, traditions, culture, and food. Oscar took us to the marina in Cabo San Lucas, where we took a private boat to a secluded cove for a private snorkel. We were so happy with the location, especially as we saw how crowded the other snorkel locations were. Oscar helped our 10-year old son learn how to snorkel and helped him spot puffer fish, angel fish, and other cool wildlife. And then Oscar made us the most amazing gourmet lunch on the boat! We had some delicious local fish, sashimi style, and a ridiculously amazing guacamole. He loves food almost as much as I do! To top it off, Oscar helped us find a local fishmonger on the way back. I bought marlin and bonito, both caught that day and cleaned and cut to my specs, with a friendly pelican who enjoyed eating the fish scraps. We grilled the fish over the next two days, and they were amazing!  A total home run, and we were so grateful for this outing. Julie, Wendy, and team, a sincere thank-you!” —Chris Kloes

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Costa Rica: “We drove to the lake where a boat was waiting. There was a three-piece band and a dance teacher aboard…”

Amazing panoramic view of beautiful nature of Costa Rica with smoking volcano Arenal background. Panorama of volcano Arenal reflected on wonderful picturesque lake, La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s Arenal volcano. Photo: Shutterstock

“My daughters (ages 15 and 16) and I went to Costa Rica, and Irene arranged a trip exactly to my specifications. We had adventure, culture, relaxation, and beautiful accommodations. We enjoyed so many experiences, from hiking to zip lining, an ATV tour, a private cooking class, a chocolate farm tour and tasting….

We also had our WOW Moment, which was really something special. Edgar picked us up in the late afternoon, and we drove to the lake where a boat was waiting. There was a three-piece band and a dance teacher aboard. We were serenaded and taught to dance the salsa. Back on shore, we were taken to the private home of a chef in town. He and his wife prepared a delicious four-course dinner, and we could see the prep, as the kitchen was outside by the table. The food was fantastic. Little did we know that Edgar had been observing our food preferences throughout our trip, and dinner was chosen from his recommendations. So much thought was put into the experience. My daughters and I will remember that night fondly.” —Karyn Sallus

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Belize: “We were driven to a pool by a waterfall where lunch had been set up with table and chairs…”

Tiger Fern waterfall in Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, Belize.

Tiger Fern waterfall, Belize. Photo: Shutterstock

Patricia could not have been more helpful and we ended up staying in three places. Her first recommendation was Cayo Espanto, a private island with a few luxury villas and with two butlers assigned to each villa. It could not have been a better choice, with great private snorkeling trips, bone fishing and water sports at the island. She then arranged a charter flight on Tropic Air to take us over the Blue Hole (well worth doing) and then to fly us out to Hidden Valley.

A highlight there was a WOW Moment when we were driven to a pool by a waterfall where lunch had been set up with table and chairs, sparkling wine in an ice bucket, a hammock and towels for bathing. We transferred from there via the Mayan site of Caracol to the Lodge at Chaa Creek, a magical place we last visited 25 years ago. It may be more modern, but it is still magical with the same owners who live on site. There Patricia organized a birding trip for us with a local expert, we canoed on the Macal River, lounged in our private plunge pool and hiked throughout the property.” —Tony & Jane Ford-Hutchinson

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The Maldives: “We headed across the atoll to use a drone to try to find whale sharks and manta rays…”

Arial view of an uninhabited, tropical island with lots of trees and turquoise water in Maldives.

Arial view of a tropical island in the Maldives. Photo: Shutterstock

Justin was fantastic! We planned our eight-day trip to the Maldives to split time between two resorts.  He was quite right in discouraging two seaplane-distance resorts, given our short time in the country and the unscheduled nature of seaplanes in the Maldives. His recommendations for restaurants to prioritize at both resorts was spot on, and he was very helpful with plans for scuba, advising on better house reefs, etc.

Our WOW Moment at Gili Lankanfushi was such fun!  We and the dive master and two naturalists headed out and we had a fantastic dive. Then we headed across the atoll to use a drone to try to find whale sharks and manta rays. While none were to be found, it was still a blast to watch the naturalists use the drone to hunt for them!” —Kim Prater

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Hawaii: “A fantastic hike to Pololu Valley and Beach…”

family posing at Pololu Valley with cliffs and ocean in background Big Island Hawaii

Traveler Kathy Gardner and her family hiking Pololu Valley on Hawaii’s Big Island.

“Hawaii expert Dani planned a fabulous vacation to the Big Island for our family and kindly included my sister and her family in our plans/reservations at the almost last minute. We really enjoyed the Fairmont Orchid, which Dani highly recommended. It was perfect for our families (parents and teens). She ensured we had lovely rooms with wonderful views and fantastic, attentive service. Dani recommended a snorkeling trip just for our two families.

Thanks to Wendy, our WOW Moment, a fantastic hike to Pololu Valley and Beach, was delightful. Dani engaged Derek Stuart, of Active Families Hawaii, as a personal guide, including visiting the Waimea Market, a stunning drive to the northeast of the Big Island and the above mentioned hike and picnic on the black sand beach.” —Kathy Gardner

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Belize: “A very special horseback riding morning and WOW Moment overlooking the entire property…”

A river surrounded by the Belizean jungle.

A river surrounded by the Belizean jungle.

Patricia was amazing to work with, and her recommendations of the Lodge at Chaa Creek and Belize Sailing Vacations were the perfect combination for our family of five.  The experience at Chaa Creek was incredible… from our outing to the ATM caves (one of the most amazing things we’ve ever done) to a very special horseback riding morning and WOW Moment overlooking the entire property along with an outdoor cooking experience, we couldn’t have asked for anything more.

From the jungle, we headed back towards town to meet our catamaran and crew. As new “sailors,” we can’t say enough about this adventure. Our chef, Ellen, fed us better than we could have imagined, all while giving us a taste of local flavor, including conch ceviche and conch fritters. Our captain made the adventure especially fun for our 11-year-old son by allowing him the chance to help onboard the boat with the anchor, fishing rods, etc… ” —Kate Rader

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The U.S. Southwest: “We had more time to go further into the canyon and do more repels and obstacles…”

woman rappelling and rock climbing in Zion national park

Amy Evers rock climbing in Zion National Park.

“Phoenix to Salt Lake City, with so much in between!  Melissa put together an amazing trip for my husband and I!   We went mountain biking twice and white water rafting. We went on a hot air balloon flight. We hiked in many gorgeous locales. We did a cooking class (the food was out of this world), a sunset tour in the dessert, a UTV tour, a stargazing experience, and jeep tours. We had some time to explore on our own as well. Our two favorite experiences were exploring the very narrow slot canyons in Escalante with a guide that took us off the tourist grid (we didn’t see anyone else!) and canyoneering near Zion. No doubt we are slight adrenaline junkies, but this trip really fulfilled our desires!

We also had a WOW Moment while canyoneering. We thought we were doing a half day trip but it turns out it was an entire day! And we had a photographer with us to take pictures of us all day! I am elated that we had more time to go further into the canyon and do more repels and obstacles. I haven’t seen the pictures yet but I’m guessing they are epic! There was even one small section that got me out of my comfort zone and that is usually what I’m looking for! ” —Amy Evers

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Uruguay: “We were serenaded at a private dinner outdoors and then rode back to the barn under the stars…”

Ron Klausner enjoys his WOW Moment in Uruguay.

The Klausners enjoying their WOW Moment in Uruguay.

“For our first stop in Uruguay, Maita sent us to a property north of Punte del Este called Sacromonte. It was heaven. Four cottages in the middle of a vineyard on more than 500 acres. The owner treated us like royalty. A local Belgian-French couple had recently opened a ‘private’ restaurant in their home that we wanted to try, but there was a minimum group size necessary for dinner, so Maita called the next door neighbors, a Canadian couple, to ask if they would join us for dinner. After an incredible meal, the Canadian couple, who live a 10-minute drive away on 1,000 acres, invited us to join them at their recently renovated estancia for coffee the next day. What a great experience!

Our next stop was lunch at the Bodega Garzon, a Francis Mallman restaurant at the top of a hill in the middle of an even greater vineyard. After lunch we then drove to the beach town of Jose Ignacio and stayed at another small, intimate property, Playa Vik. While there we went to a polo match at its sister property, Estancia Vik—our first—and it was spectacular. After the match we ate and drank with the players and exchanged stories; the polo players were from around the world and were all fluent in English and had very interesting personal lives. Our WOW Moment was the following night, back at the Estancia:  We took a horseback ride at sunset, played golf on a ‘homemade’ course, were serenaded at a private dinner outdoors and then rode back to the barn under the stars. Magnificent! ” —Ron Klausner

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London: “A private tour and tasting in The Stafford’s amazing wine cellar, which was built in the 17th century…”

Big Ben and Westminster Bridge on a cold, snowy winter day, London, United Kingdom

Big Ben and Westminster Bridge, London. Photo: Shutterstock

“It has become our practice to consult Wendy Perrin’s WOW List whenever we plan a trip. This time our goal was to spend Christmas in London. We spoke with Jonathan about our previous visits to London and our desire to see and do something new. As we had already seen most of the highlights of London, Jonathan suggested other tours we would not have thought of. One was a Charles Dickens walking tour; our guide was extremely knowledgeable and entertaining, and we now understand how London during Dickens’ time influenced his writing. Another highlight was a private ‘Behind the Glass’ after-hours tour of the Churchill War Rooms. We had seen the War Rooms before, but nothing can compare with going there in the evening when it’s closed and actually going into the rooms that are not accessible to the public.

Jonathan also executed a surprise “Wendy WOW Moment” for us during our stay. It was a private tour and tasting in The Stafford’s amazing wine cellar, which was built in the 17th century and used as an air raid shelter during WWII! The master sommelier, Gino, gave us the tour and made the experience very special!.” —Susan Ketchum

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Rome: “The food tour in Testaccio was so much fun…”

Gina Melton italy WOW

Gina Melton and her husband enjoying their WOW Moment in Rome, Italy.

Jennifer’s team provided top-notch, personalized service throughout our week in Rome. The private guides she selected for us were experts in their fields and added so much nuance and color to our personal tours. For example, I have a love of Baroque art, and our art guide was a former art-history academic who specialized in the Baroque period. Not only was Susanna able to really dig in and educate me more about art from this period, but we also did a specialized Caravaggio tour that culminated in visiting an art restoration studio with restorers who had worked on some of the Caravaggios that I had just seen hours before. Being in that studio, up close and personal with the art, was one of the most impactful travel experiences I have ever had—so much so that I was brought to tears.

I also want to thank Wendy and her team for the wonderful WOW Moment in Rome!  The food tour in Testaccio was so much fun!  We loved trying the Trapizzini (at Trapizzino), and I really enjoyed Mastro.  Jason loved meeting the owners of Giolitti. Thank you for making our trip special.” —Gina Melton

Read more reviews of Rome trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

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Africa: “A spectacular sunset and sundowners with about a dozen local Masai…”

man and guide looking over view in Africa

Paul Bennett at Sundowner Rock, Africa. Photo: Traveler Catherine Olsen

“We have many vivid memories of Africa, thanks to Cherri. We had one morning in the Southern Serengeti, where the day began with a visit to our Masai guide’s uncle’s traditional boma. We were invited inside his grandmother’s mud-and-dung hut for a tour of her humble home, but only after she’d carefully swept the mud floor and cleared a seat for us on her husband’s simple cot. Her son, who spoke fairly good English, explained why they’d moved up into the hills until the wildebeests and the tourists left the area. We continued for a bush walk through the hills, accompanied by more Masai; the hike culminated with breakfast, cooked over the fire, at a stunning cliff-edge perch overlooking the Rift Valley.

You’d think the day couldn’t get much better, but we still had our WOW Moment ahead of us. In the late afternoon, we were taken to a very special, quite spiritual escarpment called Sundowner Rock. After a spectacular sunset and sundowners with about a dozen local Masai, we were led around the back side of the rock, where a surprise dinner was being cooked for us in a cave over an open fire. Two fires, actually—one with local goat roasting on sticks for the Masai, and the other grilling chicken and beef for us. After we’d all feasted, the Masai sang and danced and entertained themselves (and us) by the campfire, and we reveled in how lucky we all were. It was truly magical. Thank you, Wendy, for a once-in-a-lifetime WOW Moment!” —Paul Bennett and Catherine Olsen

Read more reviews of Africa trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO AFRICA

Romania: “We visited the highest tower at Bran Castle, an area generally off-limits to the public…”

Legendary Bran (Dracula) historical castle of Transylvania, Brasov region, Romania, Eastern Europe

Bran Castle (a.k.a. “Dracula’s Castle”) in Transylvania, Romania. Photo: Shutterstock

Raluca found us extraordinary accommodations in Romania. She tracked down a private residence in Bucharest where we had a private suite and were treated like personal friends of the family. We had three nights in Brasov in a lovely three-room hotel and four nights in Maremures in our own house on a 70-hectare property. The house was probably 100 years old and had been saved from destruction in the local village, moved to the host’s property, and completely remodeled inside. Raluca even arranged for a cook to come to the house and make us breakfast and dinner—truly special.  And Wendy, thanks for the WOW Moment. We really enjoyed getting to visit the highest tower at Bran Castle, an area generally off-limits to the public. Our very experienced guide had never been there.” —George Stephens

Read more reviews of Romania trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO ROMANIA

Colombia: “We were surprised with a cooking class at Carmen’s, the best restaurant in Cartagena…”

colorfully painted walls on a block of Cartagena Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia. Photo: Shutterstock

Boris and Marc organized a wonderful itinerary in Colombia that kept me, my husband, and our two teenagers completely engaged. We loved visiting the very different regions of the country and learning about each area’s distinct history and culture.  The best part about working with Wendy’s WOW team are the WOW Moments: We were surprised with a cooking class at Carmen’s, the best restaurant in Cartagena. We all enjoyed learning about the local cuisine, preparing, cooking, and ultimately eating what we had prepared! The restaurant was truly lovely, and we won’t forget our time spent there.” —Barbara Palter

Read more reviews of Colombia trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO COLOMBIA

Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Canada: “We had an unbelievable meal that lasted the entire evening…”

chef cooking over fire at Inn at Bay Fortune Prince Edward Island Canada

Inn at Bay Fortune, Prince Edward Island.

Jill planned a fabulous trip for us in the Canadian Maritimes that included an evening of Nova Scotia wines and local specialties at Le Caveau (you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten Brant Lake Wagyu beef), staying at Glenora Distillery on Cape Breton Island, and dinner overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at Panorama at the Cabot Links golf course.

The pièce de résistance was our WOW Moment at The Inn at Bay Fortune on Prince Edward Island, where we had an unbelievable meal that lasted the entire evening. A farmer regaled us with stories about his farm and some of what we would be eating, we had a feast of oysters, and everything was cooked over an open flame! Little did we know there would be another WOW Moment the next morning, when we met the chef carving up a 322-pound tuna in the kitchen. ” —Sonja & Brian Haggert

Read more reviews of Canadian Maritimes trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO THE CANADIAN MARITIMES

Paris: “We were guided to a beautiful shop in a charming neighborhood and into a private room…”

Caves Legrande is one of the oldest wine shops in Paris

Caves Legrande wine shop in Paris. Photo: Caves Legrande

Jennifer had a great feel for the kind of experience of Paris that my husband and I desired. We had an incredible food tour in Saint-Germain-des-Prés and a private cooking class with a chef who taught us how to prepare the most amazing duck recipes per our request. He also took us food shopping prior to the class; visiting all of the little shops in Paris for bread, cheese, wine, and our duck was a treat! In addition, Jennifer was able to secure some very hard-to-get dinner reservations; we were able to dine everywhere on my wish list.

Lastly, thank you, Wendy, for an incredible WOW Moment! Jennifer arranged our surprise WOW Moment at the oldest wine shop in Paris. We were guided to a beautiful shop in a charming neighborhood and into a private room for a wine tasting with a sommelier who said he was opening bottles that he had actually never been able to taste himself before, as they were that rare. He was thrilled with our WOW Moment too!” —Tina Sarafa

Read more reviews of Paris trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO PARIS

Vienna: “A private tour at the Kunsthistorisches Museum with a curator who gave us special insight into the Klimt brothers’ paintings…”

The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna Austria

The Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria. Photo: Shutterstock

Gwen provided excellent recommendations for ways to enjoy our time in Austria. The hotels and guides she selected were amazing, the transportation (train, driver, and rental car) seamless. She even teamed up with Wendy for our WOW Moment in Vienna—a private tour at the Kunsthistorisches Museum with a curator who gave us special insight into the Klimt brothers’ paintings on the Museum’s walls and ceiling. Not only did Julia teach us so much about the history of the works and the artists, but she had high-resolution photos of the works on her tablet that allowed us to zoom in on artistic details that you cannot see with the naked eye. This gave us a completely different perspective; the works of art are even more amazing when you see them through that lens. Thanks to Gwen (and Wendy!), we had a trip we will remember for a lifetime.” — Jennifer Webb

Read more reviews of Austria trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO AUSTRIA

Croatia: “A private boat ride from the new harbor to the old harbor just outside the Ancient Walls…”

Aerial view at famous european travel destination in Croatia, Dubrovnik old town.

The old town of Dubrovnik, Croatia. Photo: Shutterstock

“We were traveling over Easter and wanted to maximize our time in Croatia.  We wanted a mix of history, art, culture, Jewish history, and Game of Thrones—and each of our three guides delivered.  Gwen was able to help us secure reservations at the restaurants we wanted, including Michelin-starred Restaurant 360 in Dubrovnik. We also loved her suggestions of Restaurant Dubrovnik and Adriatic Graso in Split — we had amazing meals and service.

While in Dubrovnik we were surprised with our WOW Moment. We had a private boat ride from the new harbor to the old harbor just outside the Ancient Walls of Dubrovnik. We were served wine and charcuterie. Despite the rough waters, Captain Chris gave us a wonderful tour and a new perspective of Dubrovnik. It was such a treat. Croatia is a magical place, and Gwen and her team are there to roll out the red carpet for you.” —Joellen Shelden

Read more reviews of Croatia trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO CROATIA

Australia: “A seaplane ride over Sydney Harbour and the Opera House…”

seaplane flying over Sydney Harbour with bridge and opera house

A seaplane tour over Sydney Harbour. Photo: Stuart Rigg

“We would use Stuart again—our Australia trip was outstanding and everything went off without a hitch. Great properties, people, and experiences!! We also had our first Wendy Perrin WOW Moment, which happened to be a seaplane ride over Sydney Harbour and the Opera House. This is something that we would not have thought to do ourselves—and we would have missed out big-time! An amazing and fun experience. We even happened to get to travel up the coast a bit because the seaplane company needed to drop some passengers at a small resort destination. The views were stunning and provided a perspective we would not have had without Wendy’s WOW. Thank you, Wendy, for such a magnificent addition to an already outstanding adventure.” —Bill Schierl & Sarena Melotte

Read more reviews of Australia trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO AUSTRALIA

Bali: “It was magnificent and thrilling—and what a surprise!”

Balinese dancer Dewi Aryani performs for travelers during a special presentation

Balinese dancer Dewi Aryani performs for travelers during a special WOW Moment. Photo: Edith Netter

“The WOW Moment that Diane arranged for us in Bali was magnificent and thrilling —and what a surprise! Four days into our trip (so we were still jet lagged), we were invited to a private area of our beautiful hotel to watch something riveting. We quickly forgot our jet lag. It was contemporary Balinese dancing at our doorstep. Dewi Aryani danced for us, and Rucina Ballinger responded to our many questions. We shared stories and learned about Balinese dancing. Dewi even got the two of us on our feet and dancing. Any dances we saw later in the trip could in no way approximate our experience with them. I should add that we had a lovely Balinese ‘tea,’ but the star of the show was Dewi .” —Edy Netter

Read more reviews of Bali trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO BALI

Belize: “The entire resort came out to watch and dance with us…”

Belize

The Lerner family in Belize.

“We worked with Patricia to plan a special vacation to Belize with our adult children and a girlfriend. We loved literally every minute but, if there is one aspect of the trip that deserves special mention, it is our WOW Moment at Naia Resort in Placencia, on the Caribbean coast. We really didn’t know what to expect as we were escorted down to the beach… until we could hear the beating of the drums and see the flaming bonfire awaiting us at sunset. Richard and his family taught us about the indigenous Garifuna people and their very interesting history and culture. The many dances, including the ‘Go Mommy’ chant for my wife Julie’s birthday, were so much fun. The entire resort came out to watch and dance with us.” —Stephen and Julie Lerner

Read more reviews of Belize trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO BELIZE

San Diego: “We spent the day riding electric bikes around the quaint residential areas, and then we kayaked out into the Bay…”

The Gill family WOW Moment.

The Gill family WOW Moment.

“Our teenagers are still talking about our Southern California paragliding adventure over the beaches and golf course at Torrey Pines and our beach barbeque at Crystal Cove State Park while watching the sunset with our toes in the sand. Sheri was very helpful in recommending and organizing hotel stays at both the new hipster Pendry Hotel in San Diego and the luxurious Pelican Hill Resort outside of Newport Beach. We initially had a little misunderstanding with the resort regarding our room location, but after a short conversation with Sheri, we were quickly upgraded to a room with a much better view (thanks, Sheri). This type of personalized service is the reason we plan most of our trips using Wendy Perrin’s trusted travel experts.

Since this was our third qualifying trip, Wendy surprised us with a WOW Moment—a day of adventure on charming Coronado Island. Our guide for the day picked us up at our hotel for a short ferry ride over to the historic island, where we spent the day riding electric bikes around the quaint residential areas, and then we kayaked out into the Bay. Thanks, Wendy and Sheri, for a very memorable day for all of us!”—Janette Gill

Read more reviews of Southern California trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO CALIFORNIA

Chile: “We arrived at a spot in the middle of nowhere and were led by flashlight…”

Atacama desert, Andes, Chile

Atacama desert, Andes, Chile. Photo: Shutterstock

Maita planned a flawless trip for us to Chile. At the end of long days of hiking we had beautiful meals and fine Chilean wines to celebrate. The Explora lodges in the Atacama Desert and on Easter Island were amazing. And Wendy gave us a WOW Moment in the Atacama. We were picked up at 17:30 by our guide and told to bring a windbreaker and blanket. Then we traveled on gravel roads for what seemed like an hour. Our guide kept us in suspense until the last minute, when we arrived at a spot in the middle of nowhere and were led by flashlight to a table set for two. I felt like we were on the set of a Hollywood movie. We were on the Moon Crater in the Atacama Desert, having a gourmet dinner under the stars. This does not happen in the real world. After a lovely dinner we were treated to an hour of stargazing. The laser point was the only thing that made us feel like we were connected to the 21st century. It was an amazing evening and one we will never forget. Thank you, Wendy.” —Jeanne Lee

Read more reviews of Chile trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO CHILE

Belize: “Lobster hunting! Those who wanted to went freediving with a spear…”

Snorkeling in the clear water in Belize.

Snorkeling in the clear water in Belize. Photo: Brook Wilkinson

“Without Patricia’s input, I would never have thought of chartering a catamaran for our trip to Belize. We very much enjoyed traveling along the reef in the boat and loved the snorkeling. The food was delicious! And being able to fish off the back of the boat was an unexpected bonus. And then we could eat what we caught! The stars at night were spectacular.

Our WOW Moment was really cool too. We were in a dinghy on our way to go snorkeling when we saw a plastic bottle floating in the water. I asked if we were going to pick it up, and Captain Dan said no, we’re going lobster hunting! Those who wanted to went freediving with a spear and shot lobsters (it took me five tries). Then Kainie made ceviche and served it with all the fixings and a bottle of Prosecco. It was a really great experience that I’ve been sharing with friends and family.” —Deborah Wente

Read more reviews of Belize trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO BELIZE

Paris: “A private, behind-the-scenes tour of the Palais Garnier, the Beaux-Arts Paris opera house…”

interior view of the stage at Palais Garnier, Opera National de Paris France

Palais Garnier, Opera National de Paris. Photo: Shutterstock

“Our trip to France arranged by Jennifer was wonderful. The surprise for my daughter’s birthday on a Seine river cruise was spectacular, and my daughter and grandchildren were shocked—and pleased. Our guided tour of the Eiffel Tower was superb. Our WOW Moment was a private, behind-the-scenes tour of the Palais Garnier, the Beaux-Arts Paris opera house—and it was very special for all of us. Jennifer also arranged for a rental car, all hotels, and recommended events and restaurants as we drove from Paris to Strasbourg, Colmar, Dijon, Burgundy and back to Paris. Each hotel she chose was extremely well located.” —Richard Goldin

Read more reviews of France trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO FRANCE

Paris: “A secret food adventure with a young chef who brought  us to the best specialty shops…”

aerial view of Famous palace Versailles with beautiful gardens and fountains in France

Versailles palace gardens, France. Photo: Shutterstock

“In Paris, it was all about special access, skip the line, and going to the private areas not accessible to the public. Our excellent guide to Versailles, Marie-Ange, is one of a kind. She knows the history and the palace very well, and she got permission for us to enter the “not for the public” sites in the palace.  At the Louvre, Jennifer managed to arrange an amazing tour with one of the curators, followed by a secret food adventure—part of our WOW Momentwith a young chef who brought us to the best specialty shops for meat, seafood, chocolate, jam, puff pastry, and macarons. We managed to taste them all in two hours, then go to the Eiffel Tower for another skip-the-line service. Despite the packed itinerary in Paris, we still had a whole day for shopping on our last day.” —Suryo Wibowo

Read more reviews of Paris trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO PARIS

Australia: “The boat ride on the Yarra River gave us an amazing perspective of the city…”

Aerial view of the tip of Mornington Peninsula.

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Photo: Shutterstock

Stuart put together a wonderful month-long visit to Australia for my husband and me, with a great balance of programmed activity and free time. We had a variety of activities—a sailing trip; driving the Great Ocean Road; wonderful, knowledgeable guides for our hikes—but we also had ample time to walk and hike on our own in the national parks and the cities.

I also want to thank Wendy for our WOW Moment in Melbourne. The boat ride on the Yarra River gave us an amazing perspective of the city. It was a very enjoyable addition to our 53rd wedding-anniversary day. Thank you!”  —Sandra Southwick

Read more reviews of Australia trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

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British Columbia, Canada: “A photographer gave us a personal tour of several waterfalls…”

aerial view of Sonora Resort in the Discovery Islands, British Columbia

Sonora Resort in the Discovery Islands, British Columbia. Photo: Tim Baker

“My husband and I and our two teenage daughters wanted to go to British Columbia, but to avoid any really crowded areas. Marc suggested we spend a few days in Whistler, then a few days on Sonora Island, and end in Vancouver. He set us up for fun activities in Whistler—RZR cars, white-water rafting, zip lining—and we were treated to a WOW Moment: A photographer gave us a personal tour of several waterfalls, giving us photography tips along the way and taking family photos; although I am the photography buff in the family, he was able to engage the whole family and everyone really enjoyed the experience (thank you, Wendy!).

We then took a seaplane to Sonora Resort, which the entire family agreed was heavenly. So remote, with beautiful scenery and gourmet food. On our eco-adventure tour we were lucky enough to be in the middle of a pod of about 100 dolphins.  Finally, in Vancouver, Marc suggested the Fairmont Pacific Rim for us, which also was in a fabulous location. Since we are foodies, he planned a food tour at Granville Island, where there are so many booths that it was helpful to have an expert direct us; the tour allowed us to sample more items in small quantities than we could have done on our own.” —Nancy Wolf

Read more reviews of British Columbia trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO BRITISH COLUMBIA

Australia: “A not-to-be-missed helicopter ride over Uluru and Kata Tjuta…”

Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park

Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park. Photo Tourism Australia

“My husband and I spent five weeks in Australia on a spectacular trip planned and executed by Stuart and Debbie. We had long wanted to visit our seventh continent but quickly realized that even with five weeks we couldn’t see the entire country. My top priority was to see The Kimberley, a remote area in northwestern Australia that even many Australians never get to. We could not have had a better trip. That it was topped by one of Wendy’s WOW Moments—a not-to-be-missed helicopter ride over Uluru and Kata Tjuta—is just one more reason why Wendy Perrin’s experts are the best. Wendy’s experts (and we’ve used a lot of them) all share two essential traits—attention to detail in planning and careful execution of arrangements. Where they—and Stuart—are unmatched is in their ability to intuit what their clients want, need and, most important, will delight in. Kudos.” —Jan Heininger

Read more reviews of Australia trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO AUSTRALIA

Shanghai: “We would never have known such an experience exists, nor that it would be so cool…”

The Bund at Night, Shanghai, China

The Bund at night, Shanghai, China

“The trip to Beijing and Shanghai that Mei arranged for my wife and me was outstanding. We requested ‘local’ hotels, and they exceeded our expectations; we ended up in areas with few other foreigners. Our food tour was one of our most memorable evenings; eating locally was a cultural plus. In Shanghai, we had the pleasure of receiving our WOW Moment—a motorcycle sidecar tour of the area near the Bund. We would never have known such an experience exists, nor that it would be so cool. The champagne toast on the bridge overlooking the amazing Shanghai skyline was a superb touch.” —Bill Schierl & Sarena Melotte

Read more reviews of China trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO CHINAB

Vancouver and an Alaska cruise: “It truly was a moveable feast…”

Aerial view of Misty Fjords National Monument in Alaska

Aerial view of Misty Fjords National Monument in Alaska. Photo: Shutterstock

Tom planned a magical trip to Alaska for our multigenerational family that included our 10- and 12-year-old grandsons. He booked us adjoining rooms on Holland America’s Westerdam, which turned out to be an excellent choice and value. He arranged all our shore excursions with a private company. Each excursion was better than the description and a good value compared to what the ship was offering. The helicopter ride to the top of the glacier in Juneau was an otherworldly experience that thrilled every member of our family. Tom even arranged for all six of us to go in one helicopter, which is out of the ordinary. He also recommended a small zodiac tour in Ketchikan; we were divided 3 and 3, with my husband and son each driving a zodiac, following the guide. The best was when the guide waved a dead fish in the air and threw it into the water about 100 feet away where an eagle swooped right over us, picking it up. It then flew the fish back to its nest where we had just seen the fuzzy head of an eaglet. So memorable.

But the absolute best was our WOW Moment. During our three days in Vancouver, we were surprised with a private food tour of Granville Island Market. We sampled salmon with wine, cheese and specialty meats, light-as-air donuts, and much more. It truly was a moveable feast.” —Christine Stoll

Read more reviews of Alaska trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO ALASKA

Easter Island, Chile: “It began with a private guided walk through fields, caves and coastline…”

woman toasting with wine on Easter Island

Eva Strasburger enjoying her WOW Moment on Easter Island.

“I contacted Jordan to organize a surprise birthday trip for my husband to Chile with a focus on Easter Island and stopovers at a Casablanca Valley vineyard and a night in Valparaiso.  The trip was hugely successful and my husband was both surprised and delighted. Highlights of the trip were meeting the people who looked after us – all very warm, friendly and knowledgeable, the unexpected surprise experiences along the way, like the graffiti lesson in Valparaiso and Wendy’s fabulous WOW Moment on our trip to Easter Island. It began with a private guided walk through fields, caves and coastline and ended with music, pisco sours, delicious bites, a presentation of a book on Rapa Nui, birthday cake and a sunset overlooking the moais and the ocean. It could not have been more perfect!  Thank you for this unforgettable moment and we were wowed.” —Eva Strasburger

Read more reviews of Chile trips. Learn how to get your own WOW Moment. Or use our trip questionnaire (reached via the black button below) to start a WOW trip.

START A TRIP TO CHILE

 

Wendy Wants To Amp Up Your Trip!

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

 

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.

a mom and two sons covered in mud at the Dead Sea

Trips To Make Mom’s Life Easier

Often the person least likely to get a true break when traveling is Mom. It’s just the same work in a different location. You fly to a new country and Mom feels she must manage every logistical detail. Or you rent a villa and she ends up doing all the dishes and laundry. Or you hit the water park and she’s the one who has to pack everything, remember everything, and sit on the sidelines watching everyone else’s stuff. And so, in honor of Mother’s Day, I’m going to tell you exactly how to give Mom an effortless trip that allows for a true vacation: Use a Trusted Travel Expert. The traveler reviews below show the difference it makes. Read more traveler reviews to find more Mom-friendly trip solutions, and have a Happy Mother’s Day! —Wendy


Switzerland: “I feel more connected to my son, as we did activities together without worry…”

Traveler Wendy Mueller and son Evan riding the gondola with the Matterhorn in the background on the Swiss Side of Zermatt, Switzerland.

Wendy Mueller and son Evan riding the gondola on the Swiss side of Zermatt, with the Matterhorn in the background.

“I took my son (age 19) to Zermatt for a ski trip the first week of March. I wanted a special mom-and-son trip. I reached out to WendyPerrin.com for a referral to help and was connected with Nina and Simon. They took my wishes and planned an EPIC trip for me. The accommodations were amazing, the ski guide was so good I booked him an additional day, and they added to the itinerary a gorge trip and a special nighttime fondue and another evening tapas tour.

What made it more spectacular were the guides hired. We are very accomplished skiers in the U.S., living in Colorado and Tahoe. We knew Zermatt was a little more complicated of a mountain, with the lifts and the Swiss and Italian sides. They recommended a ski guide, and we are so very happy they did! Made the skiing more efficient and fun! One of the more memorable moments was a walk down into town from the evening fondue, and as we passed through one of the small hamlets, a small white one-room church—like the kind in old western towns—was lit, and our guide noticed my interest so he went over to see if it was open. It was and I was able to make a small donation in the box and light a candle and have a prayer of gratitude. I will remember this forever.

I rarely use travel services, as I do travel a lot and am comfortable booking on my own. However I wanted to have a bonding experience with my son and be stress-free. I feel more connected to my son, as we did activities together without worry. I would definitely recommend Nina and Simon when you want to be taken care of and have special moments. The guides were in direct contact with them, and it appeared to me the relationships are deep and very positive. We were the beneficiaries of those relationships for truly one-of-a-kind experiences.” —Wendy Mueller

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

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Mexico City: summertime adventures with a teenage granddaughter

Helen Blumen

A balloon’s-eye view of the pyramids at Teotihuacan, near Mexico City. Photo: Traveler Helen Blumen

“My 16-year-old granddaughter and I spent 10 days in Mexico City and Oaxaca in August 2023, and we had a wonderful time! We especially loved the cooking lesson with a wonderful Zapotec lady, and the menu was adjusted for teenager tastes so that we ate quesadillas and chiles rellenos.

Another highlight was the balloon ride to see the pyramids at Teotihuacan. We are grateful for Zach‘s flexibility when our original flight was delayed.” —Helen Blumen

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

START A TRIP TO MEXICO

“My daughter and I both cook a lot and consider ourselves to be decent cooks, but I think we both learned new techniques that we’ve applied to our cooking since…”

Appetizer plate of Irish blended whiskey and cheeses.

Irish blended whiskey and cheeses. Photo: Shutterstock

“Having used Wendy Perrin’s WOW List last year to travel to Greece, we chose Jonathan and his team to book our mother-and-adult-daughter trip to Ireland, and they made the entire process extremely easy. We started at historic Dromoland Castle in County Clare. In Galway we took a food tour through the city to experience the best food the city had to offer. Our guide Regina was a chef herself and you could tell she thoroughly enjoyed sharing the amazing food that Ireland and Galway specifically had to offer. During this tour, we had the best raspberry croissant with red striping and a delicious raspberry puree center. We also had a whiskey tasting where we tried Irish Poitin, which is Ireland’s version of American Moonshine and it definitely made you cough on the smallest sip. The other highlight for me of the food tour was at lunch when we had local oysters. I am not usually a fan of oysters, but Regina described them as a little burst of fresh salt water, and that’s exactly what it was!

Next we headed over to Killarney and the Killarney Park Hotel. We had a very interesting whiskey tutorial and tasting with the head of spirits at the hotel. We also explored the town of Kenmare and took a chocolate-making class at Lorge Chocolates. Neither of us had ever done a chocolate-making class or anything of the sort before, and it was very fun and educational. Benoit Lorge ran the private lesson with the two of us, and he was so enthusiastic and passionate about his chocolate and the quality of chocolate that he creates.

Finally, in Dublin, we took a private cooking class with Alix Gardner’s Cookery School, and there we learned how to make all the essentials for a true Irish feast. We made scones, soda bread, shepherd’s pie with lamb, and a Guinness cake. My daughter and I both cook a lot and consider ourselves to be decent cooks, but I think we both learned new techniques that we’ve applied to our cooking since. The food was delicious and we got to take home our leftovers. We managed to bring a whole Guinness cake on the plane home with us to The States! A slice of Guinness cake after a full day of traveling was well worth the trouble of packing it.” —Robin Stone

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

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“She and her team allowed me the opportunity to simply enjoy 10 glorious days with my daughter…priceless.”

Big Ben Clock in London, United Kingdom.

Big Ben Clock in London, United Kingdom. Photo: Shutterstock

“I wanted to create an unforgettable experience for my daughter’s 16th birthday. Words cannot express how perfect this trip was. I spoke with Jennifer before we even began the process, and she asked questions about my daughter to help tailor the trip around her preferences and interests. I did not have to worry about anything but my airline reservations. She and her team allowed me the opportunity to simply enjoy 10 glorious days with my daughter…priceless.

We stayed at the Reubens on the Palace in London, which was a beautiful hotel and very well located for walking to shopping, theater, Buckingham Palace and the Underground. The hotel provided a lovely gift and note to my daughter upon our arrival for her birthday and left a variety of treats for turndown each night. We had a very busy itinerary which included horseback riding in Hyde Park, a private guide for a full day in London, Windsor Castle, East End, theater tickets, a visit to Harry Potter studios, and even a day train trip to Harry Styles’ hometown (specific request).

Jennifer arranged a VIP Meet and Greet for us when we arrived in Paris, which was quite helpful to navigate our luggage through the train station and out to our driver.

We stayed at Hotel Madame Reve in Paris. Our room had a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower and a large outdoor terrace. There was a bottle of champagne and macarons waiting upon our arrival with a nice note for my daughter. We have visited Paris many times, so Jennifer provided excellent activities for us, including a Perfume Workshop, Pastry Making Class, private Louvre tour, the Moulin Rouge and a day trip out to Chateau de Chantilly to ride horses and tour the chateau with a private guide/driver.

Our departure was a welcome surprise. The driver was timely, friendly, helpful and dropped us off at the airport to another VIP Meet and Greet. This gentleman took our luggage, walked us through the airport, helped complete tax refunds, took us to VIP check-in and escorted us to the boarding gate. If you have the opportunity to take advantage of this, I think you will find that you will never do without again! We loved it.” —Lisa Semple

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

START A TRIP TO PARIS AND LONDON

“My daughter and I just came back from an amazing week in Egypt!”

 

View of Nile from the dahabiya boat, Egypt.

View of Nile from the dahabiya boat, Egypt. Photo: Billie Cohen

“My daughter and I just came back from an amazing week in Egypt! This was one of those trips that we will truly never forget. The end of April was a great time to go, as the weather was really lovely. It was Ramadan during our time there, but this really did not impact any parts of the trip (certain attractions closed earlier in the afternoon, but this really worked well for us as it gave us time to relax after a full morning/afternoon).

Someone asked what our favorite parts of the trip were and, to be perfectly honest, it is impossible to pick one thing. The local trip leaders and guides were so friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. Our guide, Abdullah, on our 4-night trip on the Nile was so passionate about hieroglyphics—we really got such a detailed instruction on how to “read” these stories within temples and tombs.

The days on the dahabiya on the Nile were so relaxing. It was nice to only have 12 tourists on the boat (which was the maximal number); this allowed for nice conversations, particularly during meal time. The meals were pretty amazing, with plenty of options for any dietary limitation/restriction. Eman, with whom we spent 3 days in Cairo, was so informative. My daughter and I really bonded with her. We would love to have her again on another trip into Egypt!

Arlene on Jim’s team really made this trip successful from beginning to end. We were so well taken care of by the drivers, trip leaders, and guides. We felt safe throughout.” —Rekha Mankad

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

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“…A mix of sightseeing, adventure, and downtime that was perfect for all of us.”

Killarney National Park with a scenic tour from Killarney Jaunting Cars.

Horse tour in Killarney National Park. Photo: Shutterstock

“My friend and I took our four teenage sons on a March spring break trip to Ireland arranged by Jonathan. It was a mix of sightseeing, adventure, and downtime that was perfect for all of us. I can’t speak highly enough about our time with our private drive-guide, Frank. Frank got to know the boys and their interests and went out of his way to add to the itinerary with activities such as Gaelic Games and time with a local club soccer team. Our boys loved getting to spend time with other teens from Ireland.

Some favorite activities were our boat ride in Killarney National Park followed by a seven-mile jaunting cart ride. The Galway food walking tour was a hit for all. While the rest of our group did Gaelic games, I did a walking tour of Dublin and had a wonderful time learning about Dublin past and present.

This is my second trip that I have done going through your WOW List. Your trip planners make vacations memorable and special. I will never plan a trip without going through Wendy Perrin—and I freely share this advice with others.” —Jennifer Brown

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

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“…The most wonderful, memorable trip for my 18-year-old son and me…”

A red kangaroo sitting inside the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, near the city of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.

Kangaroo in Tasmania, Australia. Photo: Shutterstock

“We cannot thank Stuart and Jacki enough for arranging the most wonderful, memorable trip for my 18-year-old son and me—two and a half glorious weeks running around beautiful Australia. They both spent real time talking to us about our likes and hopes. Every element of the itinerary they came back with was flawlessly executed and fun-filled, tailored perfectly to our quirky interests. We loved it—wow! It was nonstop terrific. Highlights especially were our time at Arkaba Station, our day at MONA and walking in Mt Field in Tasmania, and—so touristy, but oh boy so fun—petting all those kangaroos at the wildlife reserve near Hobart. Who knew kangaroos were like dogs, just wanting a cuddle and scratch?

My son adds that he also especially loved surfing on Bondi Beach, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and taking a cocktail mixology class at Saffire. In addition to the thoughtful itinerary, Jacki and Stuart paired us with some truly terrific guides, very well matched to us. For example, in Sydney, they found us a professor of architecture to give us a tour of the wonderful architecture there. It is such a beautiful country, and we can tell we only just dipped our toes in. We will certainly be back for more, with the whole family next time.” —Cate Bradley

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

START A TRIP TO AUSTRALIA

“I wanted to take my youngest daughter to Japan to celebrate her high school graduation…”

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

Cherry blossoms bloom around Heian Shrine in Kyoto, Japan. Photo: Shutterstock

“I wanted to take my youngest daughter to Japan to celebrate her high school graduation. Scott planned a fabulous and varied itinerary, and our guides were fantastic: They were very flexible to accommodate our interests and energy levels and very understanding of how a teenager would like to travel.

Scott arranged several special experiences based on the relationships he has formed. We had a cooking lesson with an amazing woman in her home, a fascinating dinner at a club with geishas, and a calligraphy lesson with an excellent teacher. We both loved Studio Ghibli and the Monkey Park.

Scott’s choice of hotels was wonderful. We slept so well every night, particularly at our ryokan. The Mandarin Oriental serves a fantastic breakfast buffet. The Ritz-Carlton was very luxurious (and yes—we did see Leonardo Di Caprio there). We were particularly fortunate that the cherry blossoms came out when we got there and we got to experience the beauty of the season. Throughout the trip, I was able to sit back and relax and enjoy everything because of Scott’s careful planning and knowledge of Japan. I would absolutely use him again and recommend him. I have been a fan of Wendy’s since her Condé Nast days. This is now my second special trip with her experts, and I plan on more. The level of professionalism is exceptional.” —Patricia Klein

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

START A TRIP TO JAPAN

“…The most outstanding mother-daughter spring break trip to Baja California, Mexico, for my 20-year-old and me.”

Sea lions swimming and playing, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Sea lions swimming in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Photo: Shutterstock

Zach and his wonderful team planned the most outstanding mother-daughter spring break trip to Baja California, Mexico, for my 20-year-old and me. We were interested in a nature-focused experience, spending all of our time on whale watching, sea lions, whale sharks, etc. Zach was so thoughtful, spending a series of phone calls with me figuring out what kind of travelers we were and what kind of experiences would be right. He then proposed the perfect itinerary, including four days in a remote whale-watching camp alongside time in La Paz on private boat excursions to key wildlife sites.

We weren’t excited about spending time in busy Cabo, and he found us an under-the-radar boutique hotel that checked all our boxes (quiet, beautiful, excellent service).  The trip was flawlessly executed, thanks to his colleague Carolina’s careful detail work and real-time monitoring. She went out of her way to figure out where we could skip logistics steps and bypass lines. It couldn’t have run more smoothly during a very crowded time in Baja.” —Cate Bradley

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

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“We learned so much history, ate amazing food, cooked amazing food, and saw incredible architecture and art.”

aerial view of Chapultepec Park and the Chapultepec castle in Mexico City, with green trees in foreground and city on the horizon

Bosque de Chapultepec, Mexico City. Photo: Shutterstock

“I wanted to plan a trip to Mexico City for my mom, my sister and I that we could all enjoy. I wanted us to learn, experience and spend quality time together. I think all of these objectives were met by Zach. The planning process was a bit slow initially but then went smoothly. Our transfers and day trips were seamless, everyone always on time. We felt very safe the entire time and this was a big concern of my mom’s. Our guide was very good at noticing when my mom needed to slow down a bit or take a break and she was very knowledgeable. Our driver, Alfonso, was lovely, looking out for us, showing patience and even concern at times. There were a few miscommunications between my expectations, given what was written in our itinerary/discussions, and the on-the-ground team but generally these were worked out. Our hotel was very nice and we enjoyed the location. We even had the “fortune” to experience Labor Day on our departure day. This made things hectic but we were able to figure out another meeting point with our driver, as all the roads were closed and this was not anticipated. Someone from the hotel walked with us to meet him. We learned so much history, ate amazing food, cooked amazing food, and saw incredible architecture and art. My mom even cried when I said good-bye to her at the airport because she was so happy we were able to have this special time together.” —Amy Evers

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

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“…A fun day at a working farm outside of Guayaquil where we made our own artisan chocolate and went tubing in a river…”

blue footed booby galapagos islands ecuador

Blue-footed booby, Galapagos Islands. Photo: peterstuartmill/Pixabay

“Even though I started the planning process late, Allie booked the perfect trip for us to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, taking into consideration the diverse interests of my family members. She was able to secure reservations at hotels that were ideal for our family and book tours that we all enjoyed, including a fun day at a working farm outside of Guayaquil where we made our own artisan chocolate and went tubing in a river. Allie helped us find places and things to do that we wouldn’t have found on our own. And on top of her expert advice, she was a pleasure to work with. My advice for working with Allie is to give her detailed information about the specific interests and needs of each family member. She is extremely knowledgeable. Armed with information, she can work magic.” —Patty Levin

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

START A TRIP TO GALAPAGOS AND ECUADOR

“She helped us take advantage of a deal for extra free days at Universal…”

Happily Ever After fireworks over the castle at Disney World

Happily Ever After fireworks at Disney World. Photo: Disney

“My family of four was headed to Orlando and wanted to visit Universal (staying at the Hard Rock Hotel and focusing on the two Harry Potter worlds) and Disney (since the kids are a little older, we wanted Epcot and Animal Kingdom).  Michelle definitely added value to our vacation. She helped us take advantage of a deal for extra free days at Universal that allowed us to see the parks in a much more relaxed fashion. She also wisely steered us toward a concierge floor at our Disney hotel. At first, I didn’t think this was a big deal, but after long days in the parks, it was great to have the option of grabbing food in the concierge-floor lounge instead of going out again to get dinner.” —Melissa Pollack

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

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“Meeting people who have a direct hand in the life and culture of Italy was special.”

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

Florence, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

“Italy can be overwhelming because there is so much to do, see, and eat, but Maria planned a spectacular trip to Florence, Bologna, and Rome for me, my teenagers, and my fiancé over the Christmas/New Year’s holiday. In Florence we visited a noble family estate and cooked a five-course meal (and learned how to make tortelloni) with the family chef, had a tour of the wine cellar, and joined one of the family members for lunch. We learned of the family’s wing of art at the Uffizi, which we visited the next day. Meeting people who have a direct hand in the life and culture of Italy was special. In Rome, our food lovers’ adventure on Vespas with Toni was a complete standout. My 6′ 4″ son was mortified to ride on the Vespa—and got over that fear in one minute. We were a team of five Vespas! Don’t mess with us! As for Bologna, I am a dental surgeon and am really glad Maria recommended visiting the Teatro Medica at the University of Bologna with my kids. I am sure there is no way I could’ve arranged such a trip.” —Wendy Halpern

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

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Machu Picchu, Peru

Great Inspiration for Graduation Trips

The gift we can give our graduates—and the gift they’ll give back to us

Graduation trips are among the most popular family trips we see here at WendyPerrin.com, and we agree that an academic achievement deserves to be marked with a fun, memorable—and yes, sometimes even educational—experience. To provide inspiration for your own travels with your favorite grad this year, we’ve looked back at the graduation trips arranged by our WOW List destination experts that have most delighted your fellow travelers.


Portugal: “The destinations and route they planned—from Lisbon to the Alentejo region and the West Region—were perfect.”

The river Guadiana and the village of Mertola. Alentejo Region. Portugal

The river Guadiana and the village of Mertola im Alentejo Region, Portugal. Photo: Shutterstock

“This was our first trip using a recommended Wendy Perrin trip planner. We travelled to Portugal March 8th—March 15th, 2024. It was a special trip to celebrate our son’s graduation from college. Our trip was planned by Goncalo and Joanna. WOW! What an amazing trip they planned for us. The accommodations that they chose for us were fantastic! Very unique and customer oriented. The destinations and route they planned—from Lisbon to the Alentejo region and the West Region—were perfect. Our driver, Sandru, was amazing and he made sure everything was taken care of when we reached our destinations. (He also knew our itinerary and was always able to answer questions.) Sandru went above and beyond to make our trip very special.

We had a wonderful cooking class and gastronomic tour with Lara in Lisbon and even attended a Benefica Football game. In the Alentejo region we experienced an outstanding lunch with a wine pairing, horseback ride, cork factory and hikes. In the West Region, a full day tour which included Obidos, Nazre, and Alcobaca. The details were taken care of for us, from tours to restaurant reservations, it was the best trip I have ever been on. I can’t wait to plan our next trip with a Wendy Perrin recommended trip planner.” —Lori Bentley

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

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Paris: “Our January trip to Paris was for our daughter’s college graduation. She was interested in fashion, food, and the Louvre…”

Louvre Museum at night, Paris, France

The Louvre Museum at night, Paris. Photo: EdiNugraha/Pixabay

“Our January trip to Paris was for our daughter’s college graduation. She was interested in fashion, food, and the Louvre. Let’s start by how incredibly smooth our airport arrival was! Upon exiting the aircraft, we were whisked away by Mohammad, who led us through customs, helped us with our luggage, and delivered us to our driver. I bet we saved two hours not having to wait in the line at customs.

Jennifer, our trip planner, did a great job planning our tours and making our dining reservations! We were very impressed with each tour guide: our private half-day tour of the Louvre could not have been better! We loved our croissant-making class and our chef was fabulous. We were pleasantly surprised with our tour of the Dior museum—so unexpected and maybe one of our most favorite things. We had the museum to ourselves and our guide was fantastic! Jennifer secured a fashion expert who took us to neighborhood boutiques featuring up and coming Parisian designers, and this was a real treat! We loved meeting the shop owners, and we felt like locals shopping for the afternoon.

Each and every restaurant reservation that Jennifer procured provided the best table in the restaurant with amazing views of the Eiffel Tower. One of the restaurants surprised us with a sparkler in my daughter’s dessert, which was so fun.” —Kim Brown

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

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Romania: “Since the trip was last-minute (before my daughter began her new career as a RN), and it was the height of tourist season, we wanted to pick a destination that was less traveled…”

Legendary Bran (Dracula) historical castle of Transylvania, Brasov region, Romania, Eastern Europe

Bran Castle (a.k.a. “Dracula’s Castle”) in Transylvania, Romania. Photo: Shutterstock

“I traveled to Romania on a last-minute graduation trip with my daughter, Amelia, in August 2023. We have done numerous trips with Wendy’s WOW List agents before and knew that finding an agent through Wendy was the only way to go. Even the destination of our trip was inspired by articles written by Wendy.

Since the trip was last-minute (before my daughter began her new career as a RN), and it was the height of tourist season, we wanted to pick a destination that was less traveled. We chose Romania, and Wendy matched us up with Raluca and Ioana. Important to us was connecting with the local people and understanding the country.

Raluca and Ioana set us up with a local guide, Tavi, whose personality matched well with us, which was a good thing since we drove around Romania for 10 days with him. We started in Bucharest, which was great for my daughter to learn what can happen to a country if you vote in a narcissist authoritarian as a leader and to understand what life was like under the latter parts of communist ruling. We had a university history professor give us a tour of an apartment frozen in time from the 1980s under communist rule. We enjoyed wonderful restaurants, an amazing art exhibit, and historical sites in the city.

In Transylvania we enjoyed visiting the Cris Bethlen Castle. It was particularly fun for us since one of our favorite horror movies, The Nun, was shot there. A local man who lives in town jumped in and gave us a detailed tour, including side stories on the actors during the filming. We went on an amazing mountain bike ride (about 20 miles) primarily in the hills and forests with some fun single track as well. The mountain bike guide had helped to build the trails, which will eventually connect a large portion of Transylvania for mountain bike tours.

We saw wonderful fortressed churches and cities throughout our trip, including the beautiful Sighisoara. Always enjoying them without crowds and with a random local who had the keys to let us in the church or describe some interesting tidbit of history through our guide as the interpreter.

We met a local weaver whose family had been doing traditional weaving for generations and who rescued a loom headed for destruction. We enjoyed a visit with a local herbalist whose herb garden was expansive and whose knowledge of remedies was sought out throughout the area. Here we enjoyed a dinner in her home, again understanding her story and her life and sharing ours. We enjoyed seeing the UNESCO site Viscri, supported by King Charles, and enjoyed the views from the fortressed church over the rolling hills.

We moved on to Brasov. Here we had a private tour of Bran Castle and had the opportunity to climb into the highest turret to view the mountain pass that the lookouts would use in centuries past. When we expressed interest in a hike, Tavi took us up a mountainside where he had helped a friend build a cabin. We met one of his friends, a local shepherd, and discussed bears threatening his flock.

Bottom line our visit was filled with unique experiences where we connected with the people of Romania and attempted to understand their stories. Romania is a beautiful, relatively undiscovered country with rich medieval history and more recent history of the rise and fall of communism. It is not as restored as other places in Western Europe, but its beauty, its history, and its people are wonderful to experience. The smaller crowds allow for a much more enjoyable visit than other European countries.”—Theresa Boone

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

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South Africa & Botswana: “My two children and I celebrated my son’s college graduation by taking a trip for the ages!”

Lynn Casper

Thomas Casper celebrated his college graduation with a safari. Here, he’s atop Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Traveler Clare Casper

“Just back from South Africa and Botswana! My two children and I celebrated my son’s college graduation by taking a trip for the ages! We worked with Christian from Julian‘s office, who put together an itinerary that included places we had not even considered. Five days in South Africa included the awe-inspiring Grootbos Nature Preserve at the bottom of the continent. We explored ancient caves, went whale watching, hiking and thoroughly enjoyed the unforgettable cuisine at Grootbos! We loved our guide Hosea who gave us such in-depth history and cultural insight on the area. It was a small gesture, but my kids really appreciated Hosea taking them into a local market in Cape Town’s Bo-Kapp neighborhood to enjoy a mid-day snack.

After a day touring and hiking on the magnificent Table Mountain, we set off to Botswana for 6 days at 3 different safari camps. Each camp was in a different ecosystem, which was something we never would have considered and were so appreciative of Christian to plan in that manner. I knew I would see the animals but did not expect to learn so much from the guides at each camp. The magnificent birds were also an unexpected surprise. The delicious food and lovely staff will never be forgotten and really made the trip our favorite so far!

Kudos to Christian for setting up this amazing experience!”—Lynn Casper

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

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Switzerland: “We booked a trip with our 18- and 21-year-old children to celebrate graduation and be outdoors as much as possible…”

Andy Shafran

Andy Shafran and family spelling out OHIO on top of Mt. Jungfrau.

“Switzerland was a beautiful country and our active hiking, kayaking, paragliding trip was exactly what we were looking for. We booked a trip with our 18- and 21-year-old children to celebrate graduation and be outdoors as much as possible. Nina and her staff helped us build an itinerary that maximized the experiences and minimized the hassle and travel time. We spent two days in Zurich/Rhine Falls, three days in Grindelwald, and three days in Lucerne. There is so much to do that we felt we could have stayed an extra week just in these three locations.

Our major interest was hiking, and we had a guided tour up Mt. Grindelwald first, which included a gondola ride up and a Trottibike ride down (highly, highly recommended). Then we took the train to the Jungfrau and even though it was pricey for that part of the trip, well worth it for the views and incredible Alpine experience. Thumbs up: Rhine Falls, Trümmelbach Falls, Aare Gorge hike, Lake Brienz kayak trip, and our full-day peak-to-peak hike on Mt. Rigi where we ate lunch at Berghaus Unterstetten on the side of the mountain with incredible views and good food.

All three hotels we stayed in were unique, terrific locations, and have fun quirks, such as the private funicular car that takes you up from Lake Lucerne to the Art Deco Hotel Montana….” —Andy Shafran

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

START A TRIP TO SWITZERLAND

Japan: “I wanted to take my youngest daughter to Japan to celebrate her high school graduation…”

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

Cherry blossoms bloom around Heian Shrine in Kyoto, Japan. Photo: Shutterstock

“I wanted to take my youngest daughter to Japan to celebrate her high school graduation. Scott planned a fabulous and varied itinerary, and our guides were fantastic: They were very flexible to accommodate our interests and energy levels and very understanding of how a teenager would like to travel.

Scott arranged several special experiences based on the relationships he has formed. We had a cooking lesson with an amazing woman in her home, a fascinating dinner at a club with geishas, and a calligraphy lesson with an excellent teacher. We both loved Studio Ghibli and the Monkey Park.

Scott’s choice of hotels was wonderful. We slept so well every night, particularly at our ryokan. The Mandarin Oriental serves a fantastic breakfast buffet. The Ritz-Carlton was very luxurious (and yes—we did see Leonardo Di Caprio there). We were particularly fortunate that the cherry blossoms came out when we got there and we got to experience the beauty of the season. Throughout the trip, I was able to sit back and relax and enjoy everything because of Scott’s careful planning and knowledge of Japan. I would absolutely use him again and recommend him. I have been a fan of Wendy’s since her Condé Nast days. This is now my second special trip with her experts, and I plan on more. The level of professionalism is exceptional.” —Patricia Klein

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

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Austria: “I can only describe the experience as life-affirming…”

Cityscape views of one of Europe's most beautiful town, Vienna.

Vienna’s city streets, Austria. Photo: Shutterstock

“We just returned from a 14-day family trip in Austria planned by Gwen. I can only describe the experience as life-affirming. The official occasion for the trip was my son’s graduation from high school and sending him off to music school in the fall, so we had a heavy musical focus, but there was truly something for everyone in the family. We toured palaces and cathedrals in Vienna, experienced local food, watched the Lipizzaner stallions perform and had a private tour of the stables.

We moved on to the Wachau Valley for wine tasting and breathtaking Danube scenery, then visited the abbeys of Melk and Stift-Admont. In Salzburg, we soaked up the music festival, saw the fortress and countless Sound of Music film locations, attended a Mozart opera, a Vienna Philharmonic concert, and a world-class string quartet. We learned to make apple strudel and Salzburg Nockerl, and visited the charming lake district outside Salzburg. We rounded out our trip with several days in Innsbruck and a final train ride to Munich, where we celebrated my son’s birthday at a beer hall and caught our flight home.

Gwen was helpful and responsive and understood my family’s diverse needs. She steered us away from tourist traps and embraced our interest in some off-the-beaten-path locations. She suggested lovely boutique hotel experiences and guides with extraordinary depth of knowledge of their cities.” —Katherine Stadler

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

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Italy: “Our eight-day food tour was requested by our 21-year-old son who was graduating from university…”

Bologna, Italy Food store food market showcase full of food in Bologna city in Italy

Food market in Bologna, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

“Our eight-day food tour of Italy was requested by our 21-year-old son, who was graduating from university. Milan was the starting point, next was Bologna to learn about the renowned foods of the region, and then a repeat visit to Florence—and we absolutely loved everything Maria planned. The drivers, guides, food tours, wine tasting, cooking class were all impeccable. In Milan, when our guide found out our son loved fashion, she made a call to a fashion designer, and we were able to meet with the designer. We spent an hour-plus speaking with him, trying on his designs, and buying some of his pieces.

In Bologna our guide took us on a delicious food tasting that culminated in copious amounts of prosciutto, hams, cheeses, bread, balsamic vinegar, wine. Our all-day food tour through Parma and Emilia-Romagna was incredible, as was the private wine tasting where we sat in the cellar with the vineyard owner for more than two hours, tasting food and wine pairings. The vineyard owner then asked our driver to detour us through the medieval village of Fontanellato, to view the castle and moat and to indulge in gelato.” —Deb Lurie

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

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Western Canada: “Our son wanted to mountain bike on Whistler/Blackcomb…”

Turquoise Wedgemount Lake and wild alpine flowers, Whistler, British Columbia Canada

Whistler, British Columbia. Photo: Shutterstock

“We recently traveled to British Columbia to celebrate our son’s high school graduation. On Wendy Perrin’s recommendation, we contacted Sheri, who suggested that, given our time constraints, we limit our visit to Whistler and Tofino. That proved to be an excellent recommendation which allowed us to enjoy our vacation without being rushed. Our son wanted to mountain bike on Whistler/Blackcomb and truly enjoyed it.

Sheri suggested other activities which kept the rest of us active while our son spent the day on the mountain. Her recommendation that we stay at the Four Seasons Whistler was great. It’s a beautiful hotel with great staff and a wonderful breakfast. We enjoyed our time in Tofino as well; Sheri’s recommendations for lodging, food, and activities were perfect for us.” —John Masko

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

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Peru: “She is about to study marine biology in college, so Marisol steered us toward the right Amazon basin area we hadn’t even considered…”

Gateway of the Sun, One Day Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu. Photo: Southwind Adventures

Sun Gate, Machu Picchu. Photo: Southwind Adventures

“This was a special trip to Peru for my niece just graduating from high school. She is about to study marine biology in college, so Marisol steered us toward the right Amazon basin area we hadn’t even considered. My husband, niece, and I just returned yesterday from Peru and wanted to send a HUGE GRACIAS to Marisol and her crew for making this trip one of a lifetime! There’s no way I ever could have constructed such a wonderful journey on my own. For sure, it was packed, but we came back feeling we’d seen such a diversity in Peru.

It was a perfect balance of wildlife, culture, adventure and a bit of relaxation. And although the weather was terrible during our one-day Inca Trail hike, with rain and clouds obscuring Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate, we still wouldn’t change a thing. I will of course recommend and tell everyone I know to use Marisol—and to once again trust a Wendy Perrin specialist. Over the years, I have used and vetted many of Wendy’s travel specialists—and, no doubt, Marisol and her team are top of the list.” —Jon Paul Buchmeyer

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

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Uzbekistan: “My son was graduating from Harvard’s Kennedy School with a degree in public policy, and his interest is Central Asia…”

Poi Kalon Mosque and Minaret in Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Poi Kalon Mosque and Minaret in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Photo: Shutterstock

“My son was graduating from Harvard’s Kennedy School with a degree in public policy, and his interest is Central Asia, so as a graduation present we took him to Uzbekistan. Not only would I recommend Uzbekistan as a travel destination, but I would highly recommend Zulya to anyone planning a trip there. She arranged for a wonderful guide to accompany us throughout the country; our guide stayed with us day and night, shared meals and her culture, and helped us navigate a very foreign language. Zulya even arranged for us to have lunch with her family in Bukhara. It was amazing. Her mother taught my son how to make Plov. The lunch was a true feast, with about 20 family members. After lunch we all got up and danced together. It was an experience my wife, son, daughter-in-law, and I will cherish forever.—Ron Klausner

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

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Positano on the Amalfi Coast, Italy

Romantic Travel Ideas for an Anniversary Trip, or Any Trip

Considering what we’ve all been through in the past few years, it feels more important than ever to celebrate joyous milestones.  So we’ve collected these unforgettable wedding-anniversary trips enjoyed by your fellow travelers. They all used The WOW List to find the right trip planner who could deliver the maximized experience and VIP treatment that people who are celebrating a special anniversary deserve.  Here’s how to get your own WOW trip.


25th Anniversary trip to Panama: “I never would have found this hotel on my own. It is on a private island…”

Bungalow of a private resport in Panama.

An eco-friendly private-island resort, Isla Palenque located on the Pacific coast of Panama. Photo: Isla Palenque

“My husband and I had a fabulous 25th anniversary trip to Panama planned by Pierre. We started out with one night staying in the Old City in Panama City. At Pierre’s suggestion, we stayed at the American Trade hotel. It was fabulous. It was like a throwback in time but with all the modern luxuries. And the location was perfect for exploring the Old City and going out to eat. Pierre arranged a dinner reservation at a nearby restaurant that could accommodate all of my husband’s dietary restrictions. To our surprise, they seated us at a secluded table on a balcony overlooking a plaza.

The next day was on to Isla Palenque. Absolute paradise. Pierre arranged all of the travel, from the car to the airport to the pickup at the airport in David and the boat ride then to Paradise. I never would have found this hotel on my own. I have never been to such a fabulous hotel. It is on a private island. 400 acres. Eight casitas and one villa. There are nearly 50 staff members for less than 20 guests. The water was 85°. The sand was soft as silk. The restaurant was excellent and very accommodating to our dietary restrictions. We went snorkeling, see kayaking, paddle boarding and dolphin watching. We still had plenty of time to do nothing on the private beach.

On the final day we had about 8 hours in Panama City before our evening flight back to the States. Pierre arranged a private guided tour of the Canal and the city. That was also fabulous.” —Randi Maidman

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

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30th Anniversary trip to Antarctica: “When we entered the igloo, the ship’s crew had it decorated with anniversary décor along with champagne…”

Travelers in Antarctica

Jeff and Lisa Wellen having a ball on Antarctica.

“From the first Zoom call with Ashton and Christine, we knew we were in great hands for our dream trip to Antarctica. On this trip, we were celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary and I asked if there could be something special I could do to surprise my wife on the trip. They took care of everything. They first surprised us with an anniversary bottle of champagne and a cake at our hotel in Santiago.

One of the things you can do on the ship is sleep in an igloo on the top deck. It was first come, first serve. We were able to get the igloo reserved for one night. When we entered the igloo, the ship’s crew had it decorated with anniversary décor along with champagne and treats. It was so emotional that it brought my wife and I to tears.

The Lindblad Resolution was spectacular, and we are so thankful Ashton pushed us to take this ship. This is their newest ship and we saw every day why this is the best ship to take to the Great White Continent….This ship’s capabilities allowed us to go to the eastern side of the peninsula. Not one of the other sixty ships in the area had the capabilities to do that. It allowed us to sail through the Weddell Sea and see enormous tabular icebergs the size of three or four football stadiums, 100’s of Emperor Penguin chicks, thousands of penguins, pods of killer whales and watched pods of humpbacks eating fifty yards from the ship.—Jeff Wellen

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

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50th Anniversary trip to Croatia, Italy, Slovenia, and Switzerland: “Following in some of the footsteps of our original honeymoon…”

Tom Redburn

Lisa Redburn during a cooking lesson at Tatjana Ciciliani’s home in Trojir, Croatia. Photo: Traveler Tom Redburn

“Lisa and I have had a lot of wonderful adventures in our more than 50 years together, but for our 50th wedding anniversary trip to Italy, Croatia, Slovenia and Switzerland, the extraordinary planning of Claudia and Luisa took our travel experience to a whole new level. It’s true that Europe was already getting overrun with tourists during our six-week trip, but we rarely felt it because time after time Claudia and Luisa arranged guides and outings that took us away from the crowds and to hidden corners we never would have found on our own.

There are too many highlights to include all of them, but some of our most memorable moments were a gastronomic walking tour of Bologna with Giacomo, a guided E-bike ride along the Appian Way in Rome with Gioia, who spontaneously added in a visit to the multi-layered Church of San Clemente when we expressed interest in it, a guided cable car ride and walk to the top of Anacapri with Melania, and two hikes in the Dolomites with Paola, who revised her plans to reflect our own capacities for strenuous walking (there’s a theme here: nearly all our best guides were women). And that’s just Italy.

In Croatia and Slovenia, we enjoyed a guided walk up Mt. Srd above Dubrovnik, where two women from Piknik Dubrovnik had set up an extraordinary sunset picnic dinner just for us, two guided trips (one by E-bike, the other walking) in the backcountry of the islands of Korcula and Hvar that both included amazing private lunches far from the madding crowds, and an extraordinary tour by the charismatic Mario Bartulovic of his family’s winery and steep-sided vineyard on one of our only rainy days. We nearly cancelled but are so thankful that we didn’t. We also had a food shopping and cooking session with the charming Tatjana Ciciliani at her home in Trojir, near Split.

And the discovery of the trip, for us, was Slovenia, where we dined at the famous Hisa Franko (a 3 1/2-hour, 18-course tasting menu from chef Ana Ros), with a stay at tiny Chalets Nebesa, which is not to be missed if you are anywhere in the area. Four-room Nebesa (reserve far in advance!) is owned and run by Ana’s charming mother, father, sister and brother-in-law, and enjoys an extraordinary view in the Julian Alps over Kobarid, where there are still trenches from the devastating fighting along a front of World War I.

I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that, with only one or two exceptions, every guide was sensational, just about every accommodation was terrific, and nearly all the reserved dinners were a delight. And that’s not to mention our WOW Moment from Wendy of a lunch and wine tasting at the extraordinary BIBICh Winery, on a day when we traveled from Split to Zadar, right after visiting Krka National Park.

Luisa and Claudia took my idea of following in some of the footsteps of our original honeymoon trip to Europe (10 months on $6,000 in 1973-74 to Italy, Yugoslavia, Austria, Greece, Switzerland and France) and built it into an equally memorable highlight in our lives together. We spent our actual anniversary at a pension in the car-free Fex Valley in the Engadin that was one of the top places we stayed on our honeymoon. Our trip lived up to everything I had been dreaming about since we first thought of the idea more than two years in advance.” —Tom Redburn

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

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50th Anniversary trip to the Galapagos Islands: “A bouquet of five dozen roses and a bottle of wine…”

Blue-footed Booby on rocks, in Galapagos Islands.

Blue-footed boobies in the Galapagos Islands. Photo: Shutterstock

“We just returned from Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands celebrating our 50th Anniversary. We shared with Allie our desire to focus on the Galapagos: the variety of wildlife, geography, and culture.   The trip was wonderful. Celeste, our mainland guide, met us at the airport and checked us in at the Hilton Colon Guayaquil. Our room, on the executive floor, was decorated with rose petals covering the bed and an assortment of chocolates in celebration of our anniversary (thanks, Allie).

We flew to the Islands and boarded the Endemic, a 16-passenger catamaran with floor to ceiling windows and balconies in each large stateroom. Carlos, a native of the Galapagos Islands, was our terrific naturalist guide. We visited the islands of Santa Cruz, Santiago, Bartolome, Isabella, Fernandina, and Rabida. We snorkeled with marine iguanas, crabs, sharks, penguins, green Pacific turtles, flightless cormorants, and sea lions. We also saw land iguanas, flamingos, blue-footed and Nazca boobies, giant tortoises, pelicans, hawks, frigatebirds and many other endemic species. We took numerous hikes learning about the geology and geography of the Islands and viewing wildlife. Carlos kept us very busy, with four planned activities each day, including hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, and panga rides. Guests were welcome to stay and relax onboard if they wanted to skip an activity.

Celeste escorted us from the Guayaquil airport to the Hotel del Parque on our return to the mainland. We were greeted in our suite with a bouquet of five dozen roses and a bottle of wine in celebration of our Anniversary (thanks again, Allie). With Allie’s advice and help, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” —Scott and Lorna Conroy

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

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20th Anniversary trip to Italy: “Exploring the gardens and farm…eating the farm-to-table food…all set in a serene oasis in the heart of Tuscany…”

Andrea Phillips

Traveler Andrea Phillips and family enjoying a summer evening in Tuscany during their WOW trip.

“My family of four, with two teen girls, had a wonderful and action-packed trip to Italy in mid to late June covering Umbria, Tuscany, Florence, Bologna, Lake Como and Milan, planned with Maria. We stayed at hotels that were the perfect fit (like the one in Florence that had a rooftop pool to beat the heat!), had the best rooms and locations and such personal service, all due to Maria’s connections.  Italy was busy with travelers while we were there, but I can honestly say that it did not affect our plans at all, as Maria had it coordinated and timed out so perfectly.

This trip was also to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary and Maria had suggested two stops along the way that were very special. Wow, were they ever! Borgo Santo Pietro, a working farm & wellness resort in west Tuscany, and Grand Hotel Tremezzo, near Bellagio in Lake Como. Both resorts resembled something made out of a dream. Beautiful landscapes, amazing service, delicious food, gorgeous rooms, and so many amenities. At Borgo Santo Pietro, you had the feeling of being in a fairy garden wherever you went and around every corner, there was something new to discover.  Bicycles & e-bikes, animal-tending sessions, exploring the gardens and farm, tennis courts, the spa & classes, eating the farm-to-table food in their lovely restaurants, all set in a serene oasis in the heart of Tuscany. We did not want to leave!

The other amazing stop was the Hotel Grand Tremezzo, which is a standout feature on any Lake Como ferry ride with its striking architecture, gardens and in-lake floating pool in front, so actually staying there was quite a treat! The inner decor of the hotel and outer gardens were magical and so were the concierges and staff that were always ready to help. We enjoyed the spa, the many pools and casual restaurants and even had a private wakeboarding session one morning on the Lake! That is a memory that will never be forgotten and made this stop my girls’ favorite! Maria also arranged a great private boat tour to visit Bellagio and the famous villas of the lake with a lovely private guide, who had access to go inside the villas and educate us on all of the historic collections and stories. It was fascinating!

We were surprised with our WOW Moment early in this trip. We were given a special opportunity to be dressed up for the night in the Foligno Quintana traditional costumes for their festival later in the week. That was a unique experience and one that we would never have been able to arrange or even be allowed to do without Maria’s network in Italy. Thank you Wendy and Maria!

We had many other activities that were also highlights. In Umbria, we went canyoning through a roaring mountain river, had an in-depth local cooking class, a gelato-making class, and went truffle hunting with the cutest, yet very talented dogs. In Siena, we had lunch on the exact alleyway where the Mille Miglia Race of Classic Cars were driving through to enter the Il Campo (definitely because of Maria’s connections in Italy!). In Florence, we climbed the Brunelleschi Duomo, took a lively pizza-making class, saw the awe-inspiring David & the Uffizi Gallery, and took a relaxing Arno River boat ride. In Lucca, we rode bikes around the medieval walls where we crossed paths with a special parade of classic Fiat 500’s. In Bologna, we visited one of the world’s oldest universities, and in nearby Maranello, drove Ferraris through the streets of the town where they are made! In Milan, we had the privilege of being able to see the Last Supper, which was breathtaking. Needless to say, we were very busy on this trip!

It was a trip full of variety, which I had specifically asked Maria for when planning this vacation last fall, and she delivered!  When we head to Italy again, I will definitely have Maria help me plan our route around the country, but next time, we will stay longer than 3 nights at each stop to really experience the culture and have some more free time to explore on our own!” —Andrea Phillips

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

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50th Anniversary safari: “A bush dinner with an open bonfire and full moon celebrating our anniversary. Local folks came in their native dress, danced and sang…”

Two young lion cubs ( Panthera Leo) looking at the camera, Samburu National Reserve, Kenya.

Two young lion cubs at the Samburu National Reserve in Kenya. Photo: Shutterstock

“To celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary, we decided we wanted to take our two daughters and their families on an African safari. The trip Daniel planned for us was fantastic. Since we and our daughters live in 3 different U.S. cities, we met in Nairobi and stayed for 2 nights. The accommodations at the House of Waine were outstanding and the staff very accommodating, given two of our arrivals were very late and the 4 grandkids varied in age from 6 to 13. This gave us time to get over some jet lag and see some of Nairobi. We then flew via private charter for 4 nights to a Saruni camp in Samburu, followed by another private charter to a Saruni camp in Maasai Mara for 4 nights, before returning to Nairobi for our flights home.

The staff and guides at the camps were friendly and went out of their way to please us. They had a special celebration for our anniversary at all three locations. They also celebrated one of our son-in-law’s birthdays while we were on the trip with a cake and singing at each location.

Samburu is semi-arid and Maasai Mara lush and green. It was great to see the two different areas and experience the different as well as similar animals in each. Daniel is the one that recommended the two different areas and we are quite happy he did. The pace of the trip which he planned was good; having 4 days at each camp gave us the time to truly experience and appreciate each area.

Our experience suggests that other travelers should pace their trip similar to ours. Two of our international flights were extremely late and having 2 nights in Nairobi before going to the safari camps allowed us to catch our breath. Also spending 4 nights at a camp allows you to settle in and appreciate the uniqueness of the location.

Seeing all the animals with our extended family at each location made this a special travel experience. Some of the most outstanding were seeing the 5 animals unique to the Samburu area, lions along with some cubs, leopards, cheetah, elephants, giraffes and hippos. The sundowners and meals in the bush also were very special times. Of these, the most memorable was having a bush dinner with an open bonfire and full moon celebrating our anniversary. Local folks came in their native dress, danced and sang. They encouraged the kids and adults to participate and we all had a grand time. We would not have had all these wonderful experiences if it had not been for Daniel.” —David Magdanz

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

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Norway: “We were serenaded by a musician playing a Norwegian Hardanger fiddle…”

Reine village with traditional red rorbu cottages, fishing boats and high mountains in the background on Lofoten islands in Norway.

Reine village surrounded by high mountains in Lofoten Islands in Norway. Photo: Shutterstock

“We traveled from Oslo to Nesseby, which is past the Arctic Circle near the Russian border, spending 3 nights each in 7 venues. Torunn tailored the trip to our preferences, which lean toward a bit of adventure and agri-tourism. In the north we stayed at a 2-room lodge run by a Sami fisherman and spent a morning crab fishing on his boat and an afternoon on an archaeological walk with his wife. He was an excellent cook and served foods he and his wife had caught, shot, or foraged from the landscape. He served the crab we caught in 3 different preparations, each of which was excellent.

The next day we toured the area with a Sami reindeer herder. We also spent time on a small island well out in the Atlantic where we kayaked along the seashore to a lighthouse; foraged in Trondheim with a professional forager picking plants for our lunch; visited a dairy near Oslo producing a unique cheese product and advocating a more humane way to treat dairy cattle; and spent 3 nights at a farm with a gourmet chef specializing in dishes featuring fruit and vegetables from the farm. We received very personal treatment from the hosts at our smaller venues and each of them indicated how much they valued their relationship with Torunn.

Our wedding anniversary occurred during the trip and Torunn arranged a WOW Moment for us that was great fun. We were in Aurland at a farm set in a stunningly beautiful valley with steep mountainsides and many waterfalls. We were serenaded by a musician playing a Norwegian Hardanger fiddle, a type of double-strung violin. The venue was a small shelter with a magnificent view, and we toasted ourselves and the trip with homemade pear Kombucha made by the chef. We thoroughly enjoyed it.” –George Stephens

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

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20th Anniversary trip to Tahiti: “No noise other than the wind, the waves, and the coconut trees…”

Michael Ruma

Rainbow over Tahiti. Photo: Michael Ruma

“We traveled to Tahiti, visiting three different islands. I had held off on faraway, remote beach destinations for decades under the notion of the value for your money and the ease of travel of Mexico and the Caribbean. But given this trip was meant to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, I threw caution to the winds and went all in.

Getting to Tahiti is not the hard part. The adventure starts as soon as you begin booking your inter-island air travel, boat transfers, a sundry of activities, and actually coordinate all of the above to achieve a relaxing visit to the islands. We did not have to worry about any of this with Kleon at the helm. He asked important questions about our likes and dislikes and then crafted an itinerary which slowly evolved into a spectacular journey with three ever-better chapters in a jaw-dropping beautiful region.

Our first stop was Vahine Island Resort and Spa. With nine acres and only a handful of rooms, this small island stop helped us relax, reset and realize what truly is Tahitian beauty and calm. No noise other than the wind, the waves, and the coconut trees. No thinking about meal choices with simple, but elegant prix fixe dinner menus. No people (there were a few other couples which we visited with over meals and activities), but a private tranquil island where my wife and I watched the sunset on the dock with baby blacktip reef sharks swimming underneath, cracked open fresh coconuts when thirsty, and went paddle boarding in the large bay between Vahine and Tahaa…all alone. The privacy, intimacy, and peace on this island with such a limited number of guests began to open my eyes to why we made the long journey to this beach.

We traveled to Bora Bora next. A water taxi with an impromptu stop to see over a hundred blacktip reef sharks in pristinely clear water was an unexpected highlight during our ride to the airport. No airport security made the trip even better. Upon arrival to Bora Bora, another boat awaited to transfer us to the St. Regis. While significantly more tourists visit this island, the number of hotels and additional guests did not diminish the striking beauty of Mount Otemanu. We enjoyed our over-the-water bungalow immensely, in particular, leaping off the deck into the refreshing turquoise lagoon water. We chose to refresh our diving skills and were incredibly fortunate to have two massive reef mantas swim two feet over our heads while we gazed upward from 40 feet below on the white sand bottom.

Immensely relaxed, in beach mode and thrilled with our first two hotel stays, we topped off our travel with our final nights at the Brando in Tetiaroa. Lunch at your private pool, scuba diving outside amongst a mountain of colorful coral, cocktails at sunset at the bar above the treeline…simply ask and your wish is their command. Getting to the hotel is equally spectacular using a singular private charter which whisked us to and from paradise without a worry and with ease. And for my wife who seems to attract mosquito bites wherever we may be, the hotel has an answer for that as well. Their island scientists eradicated the pest from the island without the use of any chemicals, allowing for outdoor enjoyment unlike any other experience where you may encounter the often annoying bugs. The experience at the Brando can only be described as sublime perfection, where any of your needs or desires instantly come to fruition.

Tahiti is burned into our memories with its unforgettably blue waters, tranquil relaxing days, vivid and abundant sea life and unique island vibes. Now home, we daydream daily of when we will return.” —Michael Ruma

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

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25th Anniversary trip to Italy’s Cinque Terre: “All of our dinner reservations included the best tables and the best views…”

Colorful harbor at Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy.

Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

“My husband and I had a fabulous trip to the Cinque Terre, Italy, for our 25th anniversary.

I had an initial meeting over Zoom with Anna to discuss the purpose of our trip and our style of travel, things we enjoy, etc. and then Anna basically took it from there. She came up with a suggested itinerary which we then discussed and finalized together.  I had no idea what to expect and we were WOWED from the moment we arrived. All of our transfers included first-class transportation services, each of our hotels provided a complimentary upgrade along with a welcome gift, and all of our dinner reservations included the best tables and the best views.

We especially loved our two boat days: One included a tour of Portofino and lunch at a restaurant overlooking the cove of San Fruttuoso, and another included a trip to Portovenere and lunch onboard in a beautiful bay. Anna’s advice was spot-on and we felt as though we were in excellent hands. We had the perfect balance of activities and down time and never felt overscheduled.” —Kim Brown

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

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30th Anniversary safari: “At each stop we were made to feel so special, with an incredible ‘sundowner’ experience at Old Drift, along with cakes and celebrations…”

Rainbow over Victoria Falls on Zambezi River, border of Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Victoria Falls, Zambezi River, Africa. Photo: Shutterstock

“Our 30th wedding anniversary was coming up, and I landed on an African safari as the perfect way to celebrate. We’ve just returned from this spectacular trip: Four days in Cape Town visiting Table Mountain, Boulders Beach, the Cape of Good Hope, the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and of course the Winelands, along with a fantastic lunch at Glen Carlou; two nights at Victoria Falls in the lovely Old Drift Lodge; and six nights in Botswana: two at Savute, two at Camp Moremi, and two at Shinde. All the accommodations were outstanding, and the transport between camps was flawless.

At each stop we were made to feel so special, with an incredible ‘sundowner’ experience at Old Drift, along with cakes and celebrations at each safari camp for our anniversary. It was clear that Julian and team had taken exceptional effort to ensure all the camps were aware of our special event, which was a wonderful surprise that we really appreciated.

This complicated trip was made so easy!  While I often plan trips myself, I can highly recommend arranging a trip like this through an expert.  Julian’s services took all the stress out and we were left with nothing but fantastic fun and great memories.” —Nancy Megehee

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

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25th Anniversary trip to Italy’s Amalfi Coast: “Jennifer helped select a room with a stunning view of the Mediterranean…”

A postcard view of Amalfi Coast in Italy.

The Amalfi Coast, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

“We planned our trip to Italy to coincide with a friend’s wedding in Ravello and our own 25th wedding anniversary.  Jennifer made sure the transfer from Rome’s airport to our hotel in Capri was seamless. Given that this required planning a 2-hour car ride, 45-min ferry, and a taxi up to Anacapri, this was welcome expertise coming off of our long flight from the US!

In Capri, Jennifer helped select a beautiful hotel and a room with a stunning view of the Mediterranean. Even the porter helping with our luggage shared that it was one of his favorite rooms. For dining, Jennifer chose options that met our desire for terrific Caprese food, wonderful service, and exquisite views. For the most part, we just stuck to sitting out in the sun and going off to dinners in the evening. On one of the days, though, Jennifer chartered us a boat to explore the Amalfi Coast. Our captain and his crew were a perfect fit. We had a fantastic day on the water swimming, sunning, and posing for classic Amalfi photographs.

We left Capri to make our way to Ravello for the wedding. Jennifer made all of the arrangements, including a stop in the city of Amalfi itself for our favorite meal of the entire trip. We arrived for the wedding well rested, adjusted to the time zone, and ready to party.” —Stephan Roche

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

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Bora Bora: “A perfect day on a beautiful boat with snorkeling, swimming with sharks, spinner dolphins…”

overwater bungalows aerial view Brando Suites, Bora Bora.

Brando Suites, Bora Bora

“It was a trip of a lifetime, and Kleon made it happen for us! We went to Taha’a and Bora Bora and had the most relaxing and enjoyable time together because he managed all the details, which allowed us to just focus on each other.

Kleon set up the most romantic, private dinner on the beach, with live Polynesian music. The table was set with linen, flowers, a bottle of champagne chilling, all surrounded by tiki torches. It was picture-perfect.

Kleon’s relationships with French Polynesian locals gave us a unique opportunity to meet many extraordinary people: the family-owned vanilla plantation, the operation of a pearl farm, etc. He also arranged a boat tour around one of the islands. The captain and his first mate were so personable, and we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them. It was fun listening to them talk about their backgrounds and their knowledge of the area and ocean life. It was a perfect day on a beautiful boat with snorkeling, swimming with sharks, seeing a huge, beautiful manta ray, spinner dolphins who gave us quite a show, and enjoying coconut water and snacks. Kleon shared that it was our anniversary, and the captain surprised us with real wine glasses and a bottle of chilled wine for a truly special day!” —Kimberly Redmon

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

START A TRIP TO FRENCH POLYNESIA

25th Anniversary trip to Portugal: “They secured one of the few very best rooms with the best view at our resort on the Algarve…”

Beautiful sandy beach near Lagos in Ponta da Piedade, Algarve region, Portugal

Beach near Lagos in Ponta da Piedade, Algarve region, Portugal. Photo: Shutterstock

Goncalo and his team planned a Portugal trip to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. They secured one of the few very best rooms with the best view at our resort on the Algarve, which we could not have obtained ourselves. Very few rooms at the very large hotel had ocean views, so this was a big deal (we even had two balconies facing the ocean).  All of their recommendations as to where to stay were great and took into account our preferences, which we discussed in a planning call. They planned great activities, like a lovely large private sailboat from Sintra back to Lisbon, a visit to an observatory (at night of course), and a private cruise along the cliffs of the Algarve. We would not have known about the lovely hotel converted from a farming village in the Alentejo if we hadn’t used a Portugal expert, and we wouldn’t have known which towns to visit. We loved the itinerary they planned and will use them again if we return to Portugal!” —Rita Solomon

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

START A TRIP TO PORTUGAL

Belize: “While my husband played golf, she arranged a tour for me of the Mayan ruins at Xunantunich…”

Xunantunich Mayan ruins in Belize

Xunantunich Mayan ruins. Photo: Absolute Belize

Patricia is my new best friend. We told her that our trip to Belize was to celebrate our wedding anniversary. She listened to our wants and needs and more than delivered. She suggested that we split our January trip between inland and the coast and set us up with activities that satisfied both of our desires, since they were not necessarily the same.

My husband wanted to play golf, and Patricia made the arrangements for him. She satisfied our interest in culture and history with the Garifuna Cultural immersion. Additionally, while my husband played golf, she arranged a tour for me of the Mayan ruins at Xunantunich and a day at the San Antonio Women’s Co-op to learn about the ancient Mayan life. Patricia joined me for my tour of Xunantunich, and my husband was jealous that he didn’t get to meet her in person.

On the coast we both wanted water sports. She arranged two wonderful boat/snorkel adventures for us, and one included a barbecue of freshly caught fish. Yes, my husband had the opportunity to reel in one fish while we were on the boat.  I cannot say enough good things about how we were treated by Patricia, our guides, the staff of the hotels that she recommended, and the activities that she arranged.” —Bonnie Warton

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

START A TRIP TO BELIZE

10th Anniversary trip to Peru: “When we arrived at our picnic, we were amazed to see a canopy tent popped up in a field that overlooked the Andes…”

Peru's Sacred Valley mountains and rivers

Peru’s Sacred Valley. Photo: Aracari

“Our favorite experience in Peru was on the afternoon of our 10th wedding anniversary. We thought we would be having a simple picnic lunch, but when we arrived at our picnic, we were amazed to see a canopy tent popped up in a field that overlooked the Andes. The table was tastefully decorated with linens, lace, fresh flowers, and local decor pieces. Wow!  A three-man cooking team prepared a lovely four-course meal in a separate tent while we sipped wine. There was even a portable toilet in a third small tent!  Nothing was overlooked. In fact, during our ten-day trip arranged by Marisol, no detail was left unturned, from our beautiful accommodations to our awesome local guide to the snacks in our vehicle. We had an incredible trip.” —Erica Stanforth

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

START A TRIP TO PERU

30th Anniversary trip to Australia: “Stuart must have told everyone that we were celebrating an anniversary…”

rustic beach bungalow overwater suite at Haggerstone Island resort at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia

The remote Haggerstone Island resort at the Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Haggerstone Island

Stuart planned the perfect trip for our 30th wedding anniversary: We spent three weeks in Australia, taking multiple in-country flights and visiting Melbourne, Tasmania, Kangaroo Island, Uluru, the Daintree Rainforest, and Sydney. We wanted luxury lodges and unique experiences, and our expectations were exceeded.

Stuart must have told everyone that we were celebrating an anniversary because, at each location, we received not only cards and good wishes but sometimes cakes or champagne or chocolates. But this is what blew us away: In Tasmania, at Saffire Freciynet, we tasted several excellent local gins one evening and commented to the staff on how much we liked them, and when we reached Sydney at the end of the trip, there was a gift of three bottles of gin and a lovely note from Stuart. That is one of the above-and-beyond gestures that made this trip extraordinary.” —Robin and Josh Madden

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

START A TRIP TO AUSTRALIA

25th Anniversary trip to Provence: “We visited wineries, explored several old and charming towns, shopped and took a hike in the footsteps of Van Gogh…”

the hilltop village of Gordes, Provence, France

The village of Gordes, in Provence. Photo: Pixabay

“My wife and I took a long awaited celebration of our 25th anniversary and our 50th birthdays to Provence, France.  Philip planned a terrific trip which wound up being one of the best weeks of our entire lives!  He listened very carefully to our list of wants and desires and the result was a perfectly paced yet action-packed week. We visited wineries, explored several old and charming towns, ate in 3-Michelin-star restaurants as well as fantastic low key cafes, shopped and took a hike in the footsteps of Van Gogh. We have fallen in love with Provence and will definitely be going back. I am looking forward to seeing Philip’s plan for our next trip there!”—Brian Baltes

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

START A TRIP TO PROVENCE

Disney World: “Everyone knew it was our anniversary!”

Happily Ever After fireworks at Disney World.

Happily Ever After fireworks at Disney World. Photo: Disney

“While we take fairly involved adventure vacations (safaris, a dog-sledding expedition, and scuba diving, rafting and trekking trips), none have involved the degree of planning that our recent Disney trip did!  Disney World can be overwhelming: To maximize your time there, you need to carefully plan out your schedule for each day and manage restaurant reservations, show times, and Fast Passes.

Michelle’s advice was invaluable in this regard. She took into consideration that this was an adults-only vacation and made great suggestions such as visiting a practically empty and childless Magic Kingdom with an After Dark ticket. She managed to fit in a coveted reservation for Be Our Guest, and her recommendations for the Epcot Food & Wine Festival helped us navigate that fun event.  Michelle’s hard work enabled us to have a wonderful anniversary trip—and everyone knew it was our anniversary because Michelle told them!” —Barbara Sheridan

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

START A TRIP TO DISNEY WORLD

2nd Anniversary trip to Spain: “Pablo was able to secure reservations at three Michelin-star restaurants…”

Madrid, Spain. Gran Via, main shopping street at twilight.

Madrid’s Gran Via shopping strip lights up at night. Photo: Shutterstock

“I used Pablo to arrange a celebration trip to Spain—Barcelona, San Sebastian, and Madrid—for my son and his wife for their 2nd wedding anniversary. One of their interests was to try different exclusive restaurants and wineries, and Pablo was able to secure reservations at three Michelin-star restaurants. He arranged tours of boutique-style wineries, including a special wine-tour bike ride in Barcelona. Since my son is a guitar enthusiast, Pablo arranged for a Spanish guitar lesson and also got him into a special Flamenco show. Pablo had the ability to secure unique, private, and culturally enriching activities, allowing my son and daughter-in-law to experience Spanish cuisine and culture in a way that I am sure would not have been possible otherwise.” —Jeffrey Bernfield

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

START A TRIP TO SPAIN

Paris: “I wanted to present her with the diamond ring she never got when we first got together 10 years ago”

Pont Alexandre III (Alexander the third bridge) over river Seine in Paris, France. Architecture and landmarks of Paris.

River Seine in Paris, France. Photo: Shutterstock

“I wanted to make the most of a short trip to Paris to celebrate my wife’s birthday and to present her with the diamond ring she never got when we first got together 10 years ago. Jennifer made a variety of suggestions, and we decided I would surprise my wife with the ring in a renewal proposal aboard a private yacht. I had originally requested a Venetian boat, but at the last minute it had mechanical problems, rendering it unavailable. Jennifer quickly replaced it with Sophia Loren’s private yacht and assured me that the furnishings and seating would be altered to make it more intimate and romantic. The result was spot-on, resulting in the highlight of our trip.” —William Harwayne

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

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53rd Anniversary trip to Australia: “We had a variety of activities—a sailing trip; driving the Great Ocean Road; wonderful guides for our hikes…”

Aerial view of the tip of Mornington Peninsula.

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Photo: Shutterstock

Stuart put together a wonderful month-long visit to Australia for my husband and me, with a great balance of programmed activity and free time. We had a variety of activities—a sailing trip; driving the Great Ocean Road; wonderful, knowledgeable guides for our hikes—but we also had ample time to walk and hike on our own in the national parks and the cities. The biggest hurdle we had was that, once the itinerary was set, I had to postpone the trip by a few weeks. Stuart didn’t skip a beat—all was done with no worries. I wholeheartedly recommend him. I also want to thank Wendy for our WOW Moment in Melbourne. The boat ride on the Yarra River gave us an amazing perspective of the city. It was a very enjoyable addition to our 53rd wedding-anniversary day. Thank you!” —Sandra Southwick

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

START A TRIP TO AUSTRALIA

10th Anniversary trip to Italy: “Our private boat captain picked us up in Capri, toured us around the island, let us swim in the grottos, and eventually dropped us off for the rest of our stay in Positano…”

Positano on the Amalfi Coast, Italy

Positano on the Amalfi Coast, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

“My husband and I rarely use a travel agent because we love to do the research and plan every detail of our vacations. However, this trip to Capri and the Amalfi Coast was for our 10-year wedding anniversary, so we wanted the ultimate luxury experience without having to worry about anything. Andrea really listened to what we wanted and tailored the trip accordingly. And there wasn’t a minute of it that went by that my husband and I didn’t think, ‘This was worth every penny and more.’  From the knowledgeable drivers to awesome tour guides and boat captains, it was beyond perfect. Our favorite day of the trip, and arguably in our lives, was when our private boat captain picked us up in Capri, toured us around the island, let us swim in the grottos, and eventually dropped us off for the rest of our stay in Positano. The views were stunning, but the captain really made our experience so special. Andrea has the connections with all of the right people, which makes the entire experience unlike any other.” —Meredith Still

Read more reviews of Capri and The Amalfi Coast trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

START A TRIP TO CAPRI AND THE AMALFI COAST

25th Anniversary trip to Bali: “Affordable luxury with a fascinating itinerary…”

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, Hindu temple on Bratan lake landscape, one of famous tourist attraction in Bali, Indonesia - Image

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, Hindu temple on Bratan Lake, Bali. Photo: Shutterstock

“Our trip to Bali was perfect for celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.  Diane lined up affordable luxury with a fascinating itinerary.  We took in many diverse sites in the Ubud area from our base at the Komaneka Resort at Bisma, and the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa upgraded us to a lagoon-access suite, which was very relaxing.  Diane lined up the perfect English-speaking private guide and driver, and she also introduced us to Nadya, a clothing designer whose home we got to visit. Our trip was a great balance of guided travel and looking around on our own. We felt truly fortunate that we could make use of Diane’s excellent insight. She is a gem. Thank you!” —Charles Barber and Carolyn Roth

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

START A TRIP TO BALI

50th Anniversary trip to Provence: “We particularly loved our canoe trip to the Pont du Gard and the private tour of the top level of the aqueduct…”

Leafy town square with fountain in a picturesque village in Provence, France

Saignon, Provence, France. Photo: Shutterstock

“My husband and I asked Philip to help us plan a week in Provence to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. We stayed in the countryside in beautiful old hotels and especially loved the Baumanière in Les Baux. I originally thought it would be too fancy for us, but Philip persuaded me that it would be perfect, and it was. We had our 50th anniversary dinner in the two-Michelin-star restaurant there, complete with a chocolate anniversary ‘card.’  We particularly loved our canoe trip to the Pont du Gard and the private tour of the top level of the aqueduct—a perk not available to the general public. One whole day was devoted to a tour of the Luberon, including the towns of Lacoste, Menerbes, Gordes and Roussillon. It was a wonderful trip, perfectly planned and executed, and a memorable celebration for us.” —Barbara Rabin

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

START A TRIP TO FRANCE

Hawaii: “A sunrise visit to the top of Mt. Haleakalā and a subsequent bike ride down, surfing lessons in Lahaina, a helicopter tour of the Big Island…”

Maui, Hawaii

Maui, Hawaii. Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority.

“We used Dani’s help to put together our trip to Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii. It was a great trip packed with hiking, a sunrise visit to the top of Mt. Haleakalā and a subsequent bike ride down, surfing lessons in Lahaina, and a helicopter tour of the Big Island, including the active volcano. Dani was in constant contact with us throughout, which was greatly appreciated, as we had questions about various things while we were there. We had mentioned this trip was a celebration of our wedding anniversary, and at both of our hotels there was chilled champagne and sweet treats, courtesy of Dani. She even managed to snag us an upgrade to a suite at the Four Seasons Hualalai, which was a pleasant surprise.” —Joseph McBrine

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

START A TRIP TO HAWAII

60th Anniversary cruise in the Caribbean: “We were a family of 10 traveling for my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary…”

Idyllic tropical beach with white sand, turquoise ocean water and blue sky at Antigua island in Caribbean

Antigua. Photo: Shutterstock

“We were a family of 10 traveling for my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. We had first-time cruisers and seasoned cruisers, and we wanted an itinerary that would enable us to spend time together as well as enjoy personal time. For our specific needs, Tom suggested Celebrity Cruises, and we selected an itinerary in the ‘ABC islands’ with several days at sea. Everyone was very happy.  Both the sea days and the days in port offered everyone enough sightseeing, shopping, and relaxation options to keep as busy (or not) as we wanted. Some of us went to the beach, while others went to town and sightseeing. We all met for cocktails in the Martini Bar before our family dinner each night. It was a fun and successful cruise for everyone, and my parents especially appreciated the special touches that Tom provided—including champagne, flowers, and a delicious chocolate cake in their cabin.” —Lorraine Victor

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

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World globe ball on the white background

The Countries That Are Open to U.S. Travelers and How to Get In

Which countries are open and relatively safe?
The Menu below lists the smartest places where U.S. residents can go now and what the entry requirements are. Note that requirements may be different for children; follow each country’s links for more details.

Are you curious what travel looks like now?
Read these reviews from travelers just back from international trips. They got safe, easy trips because they used the right local fixers to design their itineraries and book their arrangements.

Use the black buttons below to contact the best local expert for arranging a safe, smart, WOW trip. Using Wendy’s questionnaire is the only way to get the priority treatment and WOW perks that the travelers in these trip reviews got.

 


Menu

Europe
Mediterranean:  Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Portugal, Spain, Turkey
Northern and Scandinavia: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom
Central:  Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland
Eastern: Bosnia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Serbia

Atlantic Islands
Bahamas, Bermuda

Caribbean Islands

The Americas (North, Central, South)
Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay

Asia
Cambodia, China, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam

Pacific Region
Australia, Bora Bora and Tahiti (French Polynesia), Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea

Africa: Safaris and Islands
Botswana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, the Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Cradle of Civilization, Ancient Lands, Arabian Peninsula
Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Republic of Georgia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (Dubai, Abu Dhabi), Uzbekistan (Silk Road)

 


Countries Open to U.S. Travelers With No Quarantine

Argentina

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT ARGENTINA


 

Australia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT AUSTRALIA


 

Austria

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT AUSTRIA


Bahamas

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT THE BAHAMAS


 

Belgium

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT BELGIUM

 


 

Belize

boy jumping in to ocean from a high dock in Belize

Tourism businesses need to earn a Gold Standard Certificate to operate in Belize. Photo: Wendy Perrin

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT BELIZE

 


 

Bermuda

The Reefs, Southampton, Bermuda

The Reefs, Southampton, Bermuda.

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT BERMUDA

 


 

Bhutan

Entry requirements:

  • None

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Bolivia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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Bora Bora, Tahiti (French Polynesia)

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT TAHITI + FRENCH POLYNESIA

 


 

Bosnia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT BOSNIA

 


 

Botswana

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT BOTSWANA

 


 

Brazil

Entry requirements:

  • None

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Bulgaria

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT BULGARIA

 


 

Cambodia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT CAMBODIA

 


 

Canada

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT CANADA

 


 

Caribbean islands

Idyllic tropical beach with white sand, turquoise ocean water and blue sky at Antigua island in Caribbean

Caribbean islands are opening with various rules and restrictions. Photo: Shutterstock

Entry requirements:

  • Vary by island. See Caribbean Tourism Organization for details

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ASK US ABOUT THE CARIBBEAN

 


 

Chile

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT CHILE

 


 

China

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT CHINA

 


 

colorfully painted walls on a block of Cartagena Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia, is colorful, almost like New Orleans. Photo: Shutterstock

Colombia

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT COLOMBIA

 


 

Cook Islands

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT THE COOK ISLANDS

 


 

Costa Rica

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT COSTA RICA

 


 

Croatia

Entry requirements:

  • None

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Czech Republic

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT THE CZECH REPUBLIC

 


 

Denmark

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT DENMARK

 


 

Dubai and Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates)

Dubai Burj Khalifa view from hotel balcony

Photo: Timothy Baker

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT DUBAI

 


 

Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT ECUADOR AND THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

 


 

Egypt

 

 

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT EGYPT

 


 

Estonia

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT ESTONIA

 


 

Fiji

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT FIJI

 


 

Finland

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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France

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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Georgia

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT GEORGIA

 


Germany

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT GERMANY

 


Greece

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT GREECE

 


 

Hungary

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT HUNGARY

 


 

Iceland waterfall Skogafoss in Icelandic nature landscape. Famous tourist attractions and landmarks destination in Icelandic nature landscape on South Iceland. Aerial drone view of top waterfall. -

Skogafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland. Photo: Shutterstock

Iceland

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT ICELAND

 


 

India

Entry requirements: 

  • Random testing on arrival

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ASK US ABOUT INDIA

 


 

Indonesia 

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT INDONESIA

 


 

Ireland

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT IRELAND

 


 

Israel

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT ISRAEL

 


 

Italy

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT ITALY

 


 

Japan

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT JAPAN

 


 

Jordan

Entry requirements:

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT JORDAN

 


 

Kenya

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT KENYA

 


 

Laos

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT LAOS

 


Latvia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT LATVIA

 


 

Lithuania

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT LITHUANIA

 


 

Luxembourg

Entry Requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT LUXEMBOURG

 


 

Madagascar

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT MADAGASCAR

 


 

Malaysia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

 

ASK US ABOUT MALAYSIA

 


The Maldives

private villa in the Maldives on a spit of land surrounded by turquoise water

Photo: Soneva Fushi

Entry Requirements:

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT THE MALDIVES

 


 

Malta

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT MALTA

 


 

Mauritius

Entry requirements:

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT MAURITIUS

 


 

Mexico

Tulum Riviera Maya, Mexico

Photo: Journey Mexico.

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT MEXICO

 


 

Monaco

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT MONACO

 


 

Mongolia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

Montenegro

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT MONTENEGRO


 

Fez Morocco ceramic studio Art d'Argile

The ceramic studio Art d’Argile in Fez Morocco. Photo: Tim Baker

Morocco

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT MOROCCO

 


 

Mozambique

Entry requirements:

  • Full vaccination, or PCR test conducted within 72 hours of departure

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT MOZAMBIQUE

 


 

Namibia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

Ask us about Namibia

 


 

Nepal

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT NEPAL

 


 

The Netherlands

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT THE NETHERLANDS

 



New Zealand

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT NEW ZEALAND

 


Norway

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT NORWAY

 


 

Oman

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT OMAN

 


 

Panama

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT PANAMA

 


 

Papua New Guinea

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT PAPUA NEW GUINEA

 


 

Peru

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT PERU

 


 

Poland

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT POLAND

 


 

Portugal

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT PORTUGAL

 


 

Qatar

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT QATAR

 


 

Romania

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT ROMANIA

 


 

Rwanda

gorilla standing in the jungle in Rwanda

 

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT RWANDA

 


 

Saudi Arabia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT SAUDI ARABIA

 


 

Serbia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT SERBIA

 


 

The Seychelles

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT THE SEYCHELLES

 


 

Singapore

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT SINGAPORE

 


 

Slovakia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT SLOVAKIA

 


 

Slovenia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

 

ASK US ABOUT SLOVENIA

 


 

South Africa

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT SOUTH AFRICA

 


 

South Korea

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT SOUTH KOREA

 


 

Spain

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT SPAIN

 


 

Sri Lanka

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT SRI LANKA

 


 

 

Sweden

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT SWEDEN

 


 

 

Switzerland

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT SWITZERLAND

 


 

Taiwan

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT TAIWAN

 


 

Tanzania

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT TANZANIA

 


 

Thailand

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT THAILAND

 


 

Turkey

Entry requirements:

  • None

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Uganda

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT UGANDA

 


 

United Kingdom

Entry requirements: 

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT THE UNITED KINGDOM

 


 

Uruguay

Entry requirements:

  • Medical insurance covering Covid-related expenses

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT URUGUAY

 


 

Uzbekistan

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT UZBEKISTAN

 


 

Vietnam

Entry requirements:

  • None

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ASK US ABOUT VIETNAM

 


 

Zambia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT ZAMBIA

 


 

Zimbabwe

Entry requirements:

  • Full vaccination or PCR test done within 48 hours of departure

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT ZIMBABWE

 

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.

teenage boy jumping in Negev Desert Israel

Ask a Teenager: 3 Cool Things to Do on a Family Trip in Israel

Update from Wendy:  My son Doug wrote this article when he was 14, based on our trip to Israel five years ago, but all of these experiences are still available today in 2023. 

When my mom took me to Israel, we did a lot of things that teenage boys would like. We went sandboarding in the Negev Desert. We went four-wheeling through Mahktesh Ramon. We climbed all over tanks in the Golan Heights.  We splashed through Hezekiah’s Tunnel below the City of David. We dug up artifacts with an archaeologist. But my mom wants me to tell you my three favorite things we did.  So here they are.  If your parents take you to Israel, these are three things you should not miss:

 

START YOUR OWN FAMILY TRIP TO ISRAEL

 

  1. Powered Paragliding at Masada

Masada is a 2,000-year-old fortress that was occupied by Jews, then conquered by the Romans. In the morning, we went to the top and walked through it. Our guide, Joe Yudin, showed us everything. Here we are at a 3-D model of the fortress.

guide pointing at 3-D model of Masada fortress Israel

Then, in the afternoon, we got a surprise: Back down at the base of Masada, we did something that you’ve most likely never done before. And it was thrilling.

Israel powered paraglider on ground

We met up with a friend of  Joe’s who has a powered paraglider. Segev was our pilot.

tourists paraglide over Masada Israel

In the powered paraglider, you take off going extremely fast for about 40 meters. For the first 30 seconds, I was terrified. Segev increased altitude really quickly. After that, you felt like a bird. If you wanted, you could do a bunch of really sharp turns, so it was like a rollercoaster. Then we went high up into the air and circled Masada.

Aerial view of Masada Israel from a paraglider

Our aerial view of Masada. Photo: Tim Baker

Our view of Masada was like the 3-D model but better. From the air I got a whole different view of Masada than when we were walking in it. It changed my perspective of how beautiful Masada is. When you have an aerial view of the fortress, you can see how big certain rooms are. The storage room, which I had thought was tiny, turned out to be 1/8 the size of the fortress. You can see how everything was configured in a strategic way to ward off the Romans. And from the air you can see the ramp that the Romans made to conquer it and where they would live and hide.

Then we went what felt like five feet over the Dead Sea Canal. It felt like my feet were going to get wet.

aerial view of the Dead Sea Canal Israel from paraglider

In this photo, we were high above the Dead Sea Canal, but then we swooped down and almost skimmed the water. Photo: Tim Baker

Then the pilot went back up and cut the motor, so we glided down softly using the parachute—until he blasted it again, getting ready for landing. The landing was just as fun as the takeoff.

Next time I would love to paraglide over Jerusalem because it has a mix of modern and ancient buildings.

Check out the video that Segev made of our flight!  Everybody in the family had a turn flying over Masada.

2. Counterterrorism Training

Eitan Cohen, a counter-terrorism and security expert

Our counter-terror instructor, Eitan Cohen, at Caliber 3. Photo: Tim Baker

We got to experience what it is like to train as an Israeli soldier when we spent an afternoon at a counterterrorism training center called Caliber 3. Our instructor, Eitan Cohen, taught us the tactics and moves of the soldiers.

After giving us a safety briefing, Eitan gave us a real gun, and we got to do target practice on balloons. They make it very safe and you wear protective gear.

A counter-terrorism and security expert in Israel

Eitan Cohen gave us a safety briefing before we did target practice on balloons. Photo: Tim Baker

I learned how the army trains and why many people in Israel feel the duty to serve in the army. I also learned why they would be willing to give up their lives to protect others. They do it for their country and how much they love their country.

A counter-terrorism and security dog practices in Israel

The dog, Zeus, bites into a protective suit they use for training. Photo: Tim Baker

We also got to see a private demonstration of the K-9 unit. Their dog, Zeus, was found on the street when he was a puppy. With years of love and practice, he is now a soldier. He knows when to attack and was trained to jump through a 6-foot-high window. It was spectacular what Zeus could do. Our little dog at home can’t jump even one foot.

tourists learn about counter terrorism training in Israel

We attempt to figure out who the terrorist is. Photo: Tim Baker

Then we did an exercise where they set up their shooting range to simulate a crowded marketplace. We were told that one of these people is a threat. Our job was to figure out which one.  What we learned is that you can’t tell who the terrorist is by what they look like.  Any of these people could be a terrorist.

In a real marketplace, the soldiers’ job is to quickly spot the terrorist and to get between the terrorist and the innocent pedestrians and protect them.  We learned about how first responders will rush in when everybody else rushes out.  First responders don’t even know you, but they will rush in and try to save you. They will sacrifice their lives to save you. That’s just the kind of people they are.

3. Scuba Diving in the Red Sea

teenage boy scuba dives in Israel

This was my first time scuba diving in open water.

In Eilat I went scuba diving for the first time. In the past I had been snuba diving, which is in between snorkeling and scuba. In snuba, you have a regulator (which is the tube you breathe through), and your air tank floats on top of the water. In scuba, you have more freedom; you’re not confined by a hose to a certain area. In Eilat, you’re allowed to scuba dive without being certified.

teenage boy scuba dives in Israel

The shallow area was about eight feet deep, but we went down to 20 feet on the dive.

We went down to 20 feet on the dive. We saw a few colorful fish and jellyfish, but mainly we went diving with dolphins. The dolphins were a lot closer than I expected. One of them tried to play with Dad. One of them came up to about an inch in front of my face.

The dolphins are wild animals, not captive. They can come and go to the open sea as they please.

man scuba dives in Israel near a dolphin

A dolphin tried to play with Dad.

It was cool because we saw what the marine life is like in a different part of the world. The guide held onto our hands to keep us safe, but that didn’t take away from the experience. It was an amazing experience that I hope I will be able to do again.

Even though some of these experiences might look scary, none of them were. They were fun and exciting.

START YOUR OWN FAMILY TRIP TO ISRAEL

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.

aerial view of Masada Israel

What the Right Local Fixer Can Do For You in Israel (or Anywhere)

It had been 20 years since my last trip to Israel, and all I remembered were overcrowded sights and frustrating logistics: wall-to-wall tour groups on the Via Dolorosa, endless lines snaking through the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, hours of rigmarole just trying to rent a car with collision-damage coverage for the areas we wanted to drive in ….

This time my experience of Israel was the polar opposite. That’s because, this time, I had the right local fixer.  As you know, I created my WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts specifically to point you to such fixers in locations worldwide.  And so, for my family trip to Israel, I turned to Joe Yudin, the Israel specialist on my WOW List.   As you read below about how Joe saved us from lines and tourist traps, and opened doors that are normally closed to the public, please keep in mind two important things:  First, I wasn’t getting special treatment.  He’s done the same thing for many travelers, as you’ll see by reading Joe’s reviews.  Second, the other destination specialists on The WOW List do the same thing in their different destinations.  Wherever in the world you’re headed, here are eight ways a WOW Lister can make the magic happen:

They are your insurance against bad weather.

Tel Maresha archaeological dig

On a rainy day you can dig up ancient artifacts underground at Tel Maresha. At left, in gray, is archaeologist Asaf Stern of Archaeological Seminars Institute. At right, in red, is Joe Yudin of Touring Israel. Photo: Timothy Baker

I chose to take my family to Israel during the kids’ February school break because February is Israel’s low season. That means fewer crowds and lower prices, but it can also mean the possibility of torrential rains. Although it did rain in Israel while we were there, we never saw one drop, and that’s because Joe has the flexibility and connections to nimbly alter itineraries based on the weather or other surprises. When it was raining in the north, we headed south for sandboarding in the Negev Desert and scuba diving with dolphins in the Red Sea. When the rain was over, we headed north to the green vineyards of the Golan Heights.  Joe can also move things around so that, if it does start to rain where you are, you can either hit the indoor must-sees (say, view the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Israel Museum, or go to the Ayalon Institute—a secret 1940s ammunition factory, built beneath a kibbutz to fool the authorities at the adjacent British army base, that was pivotal to winning the Independence War in 1948) or you can do below-ground activities (say, explore Hezekiah’s Tunnel beneath the City of David, or dig for artifacts from the Hellenistic period at the archaeological excavation at Tel Maresha, pictured above).

 

Caesarea sunset israel

When the weather cleared, we hit the ancient Roman port of Caesarea. Photo: Timothy Baker

They put you in the right place on the right day.

Makhtesh Ramon Israel

When we landed in Israel on a Saturday, we headed to Makhtesh Ramon in the Negev Desert.. Adam Sela (on the ground) is a desert expert who led our jeep adventure into the makhtesh.  Here, he photographs my 14-year-old who is finding new ways to combat jet lag. Photo: Timothy Baker

Every country has its holidays when things are closed, as well as its best days for hitting the weekly markets and other events. In Israel it’s important to plan around Shabbat (the Sabbath), from sundown on Friday through sundown on Saturday, since that’s when most places are closed or, even if the doors aren’t physically shut, normal operations take a break. If you arrive in Israel on a Saturday, for instance, you might have trouble checking into your hotel room before dark, especially if your hotel is in Jerusalem. Some travelers arriving on a Saturday opt to hit the beach in Tel Aviv and power through their jet lag with fresh air and a swim. We arrived on a Saturday and headed south to the Negev Desert, combating jet lag with sandboarding and a jeep tour of Makhtesh Ramon. (A makhtesh is a crater-like geological landform that is unique to Israel’s Negev Desert and Egypt’s Sinai Desert.)  On our second Saturday in Israel, we went to Masada (since it’s open on Saturdays) and the Dead Sea. Things get more complicated—in terms of where you should be when—during Easter, Passover, Christmas week, and the many other religious and national holidays in Israel. (When planning your itinerary, remember that Sunday is the start of Israel’s work week.)

Makhtesh Ramon Negev Desert israel

When it was raining elsewhere, we went to Makhtesh Ramon. Photo: Timothy Baker

They get you past the crowds and lines.

crowd at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem Israel

This is what the tour-group crush in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity looks like—in low season!  Photo: Timothy Baker

Israel is jam-packed with tour groups from all over the world making pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Even low season (January/February) is high season for low-budget group tours. When we arrived at Masada early on a February morning, as one example, there were 50 tour buses in the parking lot and at least 300 people in line for the cable car. (Naturally, Joe took us through a different entrance and to the front of the line.)

One of the most crowded sites in the world is the spot that is recognized as the manger where Jesus was born, deep inside Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity.  Just one of the factors that make a visit tricky is that Bethlehem is in an exclusively Palestinian-controlled part of the West Bank where Israelis can’t go, which means you need a Palestinian guide—but one who can make the traffic and bureaucracy at the border checkpoints disappear.  Most travelers get handed from an Israeli guide on one side of the border to a Palestinian guide on the other, but Joe skips all that by using an Arab Christian guide, Daniel Sahwani, who met us on the Israel side, drove us (in a gleaming new white Mercedes van) into the West Bank, showed us everything we wanted to see in and around Bethlehem, then dropped us off back in Jerusalem’s Old City, all in record time.

You also want a guide with the right connections both outside and inside the Church of the Nativity.  When we got to Bethlehem, Daniel artfully managed to park the van in a small V.I.P. lot right at the front door of the Church. He shepherded us past a very long line comprised of umpteen tour groups (according to Daniel, the line was four hours long and, in high season, it can take all day) to the door and staircase that lead to the underground Grotto that is recognized as Jesus’s birthplace. In the photo above, you can see the mad crush at the door to the Grotto.  You can also see Daniel ahead of me (well, the side of his face), near the door, leading my 14-year-old (light brown hair, olive shirt), to his right, through the mob. Down in the Grotto, Daniel made sure we had enough time to photograph the manger. (You’re officially allowed only about two seconds.) Then he led us into the adjacent Church of St. Catherine, the Catholic chapel where Christmas Eve mass is broadcast to television audiences around the world, and showed us other sights in Bethlehem, including edgy Palestinian street art, before zipping us out of the West Bank and back to Jerusalem, all in just a couple of hours. It was like watching a magic act.

Entering West Bank Area A from Israel

This is the border checkpoint you pass through as you drive into the West Bank’s Area A, where Bethlehem is located. Photo: Timothy Baker

They get you to each sight at the best moment.

Western Wall at night Jerusalem Israel

The Western Wall is best experienced on a Friday at sundown. We shot this later, as we were leaving after dark. Photo: Timothy Baker

The Western Wall is at its most interesting on Fridays at sundown, the start of the Sabbath. You’ll see young men in dashing suits and Lubavitcher fedoras, old men in long black robes and Lithuanian fur hats, and all manner of other traditional garb and headgear worn by worshippers’ Eastern European ancestors. You’ll see female soldiers joyously singing and dancing in groups, with machine guns strapped around their bodies. You’ll see and hear multifarious small collections of worshippers holding their own services, singing their own songs and dancing in their own circles. Joe made sure we arrived shortly before sundown (which, depending on the time of year, could be any time between 5:00 pm and 8:15 pm).  Using cameras (or any other electronic devices) during the Sabbath is not smiled upon, so Joe also made sure we got to the Western Wall on another day when we could take photos of our kids doing as the locals do—writing their prayers on small slips of paper, wadding up the paper, and cramming it into a crack in the Wall.

 

Men praying at the Western Wall Jerusalem Israel

Taking photos at the Western Wall during the Sabbath is frowned upon, so go twice: once to see the scene on Friday at sundown, and another time to take photos like this. Photo: Timothy Baker

They know cool new ways to see old places.

Powered paragliding over Masada Israel

We soared over Masada and the Judean Desert in this powered paraglider. Photo: Timothy Baker

Whether you’re hiking up to Masada—the 2,000-year-old fortress-palace built by King Herod atop a rock plateau in the Judean desert overlooking the Dead Sea—or ascending by cable car, you can’t see any of the ancient city till you’re on the mountaintop. Most people explore the fortress only at eye level. But, thanks to Joe’s friend Segev Baram, a flight instructor with a powered paraglider, we got to enjoy aerial views too. We each took a turn soaring over Masada and the sites of ancient Roman camps in the desert, and then over to the Dead Sea Canal, dipping downward until we almost skimmed the surface of the waterway. My 14-year-old says it’s the coolest thing he’s ever done.

Segev turns out to be a cinematographer too. Somehow he managed to pilot the machine, working the controls like a marionette, while simultaneously filming our entire ride.  To fly over Masada vicariously with us, check out this three-minute video Segev made and sent to my family.  It’s sababa!  (That means awesome.)

 

They ensure you taste the best local flavors.

Mahane Yehuda Market dried fruit tea vendor

Our tasting tour of Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda Market included this stall that sells “dried fruit tea.” There’s no tea in it. It’s just diced, sweet, intensely aromatic dried fruit that you mix with hot water. Photo: Timothy Baker

I can meander through foreign food markets all day long, losing myself in the scents and colors. But when time is short and markets huge and labyrinthine, a guide who knows everybody in the market—who knows whose Medjool dates are the plumpest and whose tahini is ground the centuries-old way and where to taste which award-winning cheese—can really enhance your experience. And that’s especially true if you’re in one of those markets on a Thursday or Friday during the pre-Shabbat scramble.  That’s why everybody in my family agrees that two of our trip highlights were our private tasting tours of two of the biggest markets: the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv and Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. At Mahane Yehuda, when we couldn’t resist buying edible souvenirs to take home, our guide arranged for our purchases to be delivered to us later, so we wouldn’t have to lug our haul from stall to stall.

Carmel Market etrog medicine man shop Israel

Medicinal fruit juices— including those made from the etrog (that bumpy greenish-yellow fruit she’s holding)—are served at the Etrog Medicine Man shop in Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market. Photo: Timothy Baker

They reduce airport waits and hassles.

Joe’s travelers get airport VIP service, and here’s what that means:  When we landed at Ben-Gurion on a Saturday morning, we were met at the end of the jetway and led on an alternate path to the immigration area.  We were led to a separate VIP desk, to the side of the immigration lines, where we were handed our stamped cards to get into the country.  We exited the immigration area for the luggage carousel at the same moment that the first people off our flight were arriving to queue up at the end of the already long lines.  Back at the airport on Sunday morning eight days later for our flight home, we were met curbside by another VIP agent who enabled us to bypass the standard check-in lanes and escorted us through security to our gate.  We zipped through without a hiccup.  I estimate that this airport VIP service spared us at least an hour each way standing in lines.

Your passport no longer gets stamped when you enter Israel, by the way. At Immigration you are given a small laminated card with your principle details and a stamp on it.  Don’t lose it, since this card gets you the V.A.T. discount when you check into hotels.

They introduce you to interesting people you’d otherwise never meet.

Here I’m with Sarit Zehavi, a security expert and lieutenant colonel in the reserves of the Israeli Defense Forces, at Israel’s northern border in the Golan Heights. You’re looking at Syria (beyond that light-colored road). Photo: Joe Yudin

What’s a trip to Israel without hearing varied local perspectives on the geopolitics of the Middle East, the war against terrorism, and other important topics of the day?  So Joe arranged a few of the meetings that he has arranged for so many WOW List travelers, as you can read in their reviews of Joe’s trips.  I’ll give you just a few examples:

Joe told me that if I wanted to understand Israel’s outlook on the Middle East, I needed to go to the Golan Heights, an area of rolling vineyards and army bases on the border with Syria. There we met Sarit Zehavi, an expert on Israel’s security challenges at the northern borders. Zehavi is a 15-year military intelligence officer and lieutenant colonel in the reserves of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and is also the founder of ALMA, a research and education center focused on the border conflict. She is actually of Syrian heritage (her father grew up in Damascus). She is also a mom whose house sits six miles from the Lebanese border, so she lives with a visceral sense of danger, day in and day out.  Pointing to the Syrian border (see the photo above), she showed us exactly where and how the situation has been changing along it.  A week after we met, Zehavi was headed to Washington, D.C., to address members of Congress and other U.S. leaders at AIPAC. Here’s what she told them.

Eitan Cohen, a counter-terrorism and security expert

Eitan Cohen, a counter-terrorism and security expert, with my son Doug at Caliber 3. Photo: Timothy Baker

Joe also arranged for us to meet with Eitan Cohen at Caliber 3, a counterterrorism training academy that offers security solutions and intelligence operations to clients around the globe. Cohen is a charismatic and inspiring colonel in the IDF and a security expert who works in elite undercover units. The kids got hands-on training in self-defense strategies, as well as an unforgettable lesson in patriotism and how profound love of country—like Cohen’s for Israel—is what inspires soldiers around the world.

journalist and author Matti Friedman

We met journalist and author Matti Friedman for breakfast at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel. Photo: Timothy Baker

Of the local journalists Joe offered to connect me with, I chose Matti Friedman, a former Associated Press correspondent who also served in the Israeli army.  Friedman is the author of two award-winning books, The Aleppo Codex and PumpkinFlowers: A Soldier’s Story of a Forgotten War, and his third book, Spies of No Country—the story of Israel’s first spies in 1948—is coming out in November.  Friedman believes that, because of the way news about the Middle East is framed by Western news media, many travelers are left with a lot of misconceptions about Israel and the situation in the Middle East.  As just one example, people think Jerusalem is dangerous, but last year there were only 27 deaths in Jerusalem caused by acts of violence, compared with 133 in Jacksonville, Florida, and 175 in Indianapolis (cities similar in size to Jerusalem).  Social problems that Americans take for granted—health care, homelessness, gun control—hardly exist in the same way in Israel. For instance, Friedman has four kids and pays only $56 per month for health care for his whole family.  As for his perspective on conflict in the Middle East, the main takeaway was:  Don’t come to Israel with a lot of preconceptions. Or, if you do, meet with Friedman.  2023 UPDATE: Matti Friedman has little availability nowadays. Instead, you can meet with journalists such as Gil Hoffman and Khaled Abu Toameh

 

cooking class in Jersualem Israel

Chef Tali Friedman taught the boys how to cook an Israeli feast, including apple-filled phyllo pastries, in her kitchen. Photo: Timothy Baker

I went to Israel thinking most of my time would be spent on sites of historical, cultural, and religious significance.  As it turned out, most of my time was spent eating.  Israel’s culinary scene has been exploding, and one of the reasons why is Chef Tali Friedman. She gave us a cooking lesson in The Jerusalem Atelier, her kitchen workshop inside the historic Mahane Yehuda Market, and then we got to eat the feast we had cooked. I’m still dreaming of the best eggplant dish I’ve ever tasted: roasted Baladi eggplant, grilled over an open flame until scorched and smoky, with tahini and balsamic vinegar drizzled on top. So simple, yet so flavorful.  We took the recipes home with us, but I’m not so sure I can replicate them without easy access to the superb produce and ingredients in the Market.

Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market Israel

Inbal Baum introduced us to her favorite finds in Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market. Photo: Timothy Baker

We also had a blast with Inbal Baum, founder of Delicious Israel, who steered us to her favorite stalls and shops in the Carmel Market, Tel Aviv’s largest outdoor food extravaganza. This eliminated haphazard guessing as to the best foods to sample—which in turn eliminated thousands of unnecessary calories—and it also meant no standing in lines:  In each spot, seats and tables magically appeared for us, and then dishes suddenly appeared on them. Come hungry!

Chef Tal Zohar and his mobile kitchen in the Golan Heights. Photo: Timothy Baker

When we went to the Golan Heights, we weren’t expecting gourmet dining al fresco, but that’s the surprise that awaited us in the middle of nowhere, thanks to Chef Tal Zohar and his mobile kitchen.  A friend of Joe’s with grandparents from Turkey on one side and Germany on the other, Chef Tal went to culinary school in New York City, and now he zips all over Israel creating gourmet “picnics” in spectacular locations.  You can see photos of what we ate here.

Joe Yudin, the Israel travel specialist on my WOW List

Joe Yudin of Touring Israel at Tel Maresha. Photo: Timothy Baker

And here’s who made it all happen:  Joe Yudin, the Trusted Travel Expert for Israel on my WOW List.  Contact Joe using my questionnaire so he knows Wendy sent you and you get the same caliber of trip that I, and all these other travelers, received.

START YOUR OWN TRIP TO ISRAEL

UPDATE:  This article was written in 2018, based on a trip to Israel in that year, but all of these experiences are still available today in 2023. 

Transparency disclosure: Thanks to a stipend that Joe Yudin received from Israel’s Ministry of Tourism for press, most elements of this trip were complimentary.  In keeping with WendyPerrin.com standard practice, no strings were attached:  There was no request for coverage, nor was any promised.

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.

The Best Trips to Book in June: What to Lock in Now

UPDATE:  THE PANDEMIC IS CAUSING HUGE CHANGES IN TRAVEL, SO CLICK TO ASK WENDY BEFORE PLANNING ANYTHING.

PLEASE SEE OUR COVID-19 TRAVEL COVERAGE.

WE WILL UPDATE THIS ARTICLE AS INFORMATION DEVELOPS ON SAFE TRAVEL.


We know you’re busy figuring out your summer travel plans, but now’s the time to be firming up your winter holiday trip too. We’re not kidding: If you’re hoping to use frequent-flier miles or find a decent coach airfare for late December, it’s important to check seat availability in June, and many hotels in popular December resort destinations will be sold out by the end of the month. Haven’t even started making summer plans yet? Never fear: We’ve got that covered too.

(Don’t miss the rest of our series on what trips to book in each month of the year. If you prefer to know which destinations are ideal for traveling to in any given month, see our Where to Go When series, and don’t miss our comprehensive guide to the benefits of booking early.)

Paris and London Apartment Rentals For the Holidays

christmas tree by London Tower Bridge

London’s Tower Bridge at Christmas. Photo: London Perfect

For: December 2019

Savvy travelers are already booking their families’ December getaways to Paris and London, two cities that sparkle even more than usual during the holidays, what with all the Christmas markets and festive lights. Go early in the month for Christmas shopping, or ring in the New Year London-style (the fireworks show over the Thames is one of the best in the world). By staying in an apartment, you can slip easily into local life, enjoy shopping for meals at neighborhood markets, and often house a family more affordably than in a hotel.

Why book in June? Plan now, while there is still a good selection of suitable apartments and space for you at the most festive events, whether it’s The Nutcracker at London’s Royal Opera House or a soufflé class with the former chef of the American Embassy in Paris.

Ask about a holiday stay in Paris or London

Ask Wendy to find the right travel specialist for your needs and to plan the best possible trip. You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this.

Indonesia: See Komodo Dragons While You Still Can

For: September and October 2019

Indonesia’s Komodo National Park, which spans two major islands and several smaller ones, is home to the famous giant monitor lizards known as Komodo dragons. Tourism to Komodo has jumped dramatically over the past few years, and for ecological reasons the Indonesian government is seriously considering closing the most heavily trafficked portion of the park on Komodo Island for one year, beginning sometime in 2020. (Current plans keep Rinca Island open and its resident Komodo dragons on display, though that could change.) While negotiations are still in the works, anyone who has Komodo Island on their bucket list should visit this year. September is an ideal month weather-wise; October is also pleasant, before the rainy season begins in November.

Why book in June? If the government does announce a future closure, demand will skyrocket, so get your plans in place sooner rather than later for the coming dry season.

Ask about a trip to Indonesia

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this.

Kenya: A Brand-New Safari Camp

A cheetah in the high grass of Masai Mara, Keny

A cheetah in the Masai Mara, Kenya. Photo: Korin DeAcetis / Hippo Creek Safaris

For: August, September, and December 2019 and January 2020

This August, the owners of the much-loved Mara Plains Camp will be debuting a stunning new camp, called Mara Nyika, located in a private conservancy bordering the Masai Mara National Park. It will be small and intimate, with just four rooms, all under canvas and on raised decking. Guests can enjoy walking safaris, night game drives, and off-road driving, all of which are not allowed within the park itself. Each traveler’s stay supports more than 500 Maasai families and ensures the conservation of this vital section of the Masai Mara ecosystem through the payment of conservation fees. The camp still has availability over the holidays and during the peak of the Great Migration in August and September.

Why book in June? Once word gets out, this camp is sure to be booked up far in advance; take advantage of this insider intel to get there while it’s still a secret.

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Egypt’s Ideal Weather

women in green dresses dancing in Egypt

Temperatures in Egypt are perfect in December. Photo: Jim Berkeley/Destinations Adventures

For: December 2019

Temperatures in Egypt are perfect in December, when the summer’s crushing heat has given way to warm days and cool nights in Cairo, and Upper Egypt’s desert is a dry 85 degrees. Plus, the government is now allowing travelers to visit the tombs of Queen Nefertari and Pharaoh Seti (both of which are closed to the general public) much more affordably than they could in the past: This special insider access—which Trusted Travel Expert Jim Berkeley can obtain—currently costs approximately $300 per person, down from a whopping $6,000 a few years ago.

Why book in June? While fewer Americans have visited Egypt in recent years, it’s still a popular winter destination among Europeans, and Egyptians themselves love to spend time in Luxor and Aswan over the holidays. Book now while there is still good availability on Nile cruises and at the five-star hotels.

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A Disney Park for Christmas

Toy soldiers marching at Disney park at Christmas

If you want to have Christmas dinner at Disney, you have to make reservations 180 days before. Photo: ©Disney

For: December 2019

At Disney Parks, dining reservations become available 180 days in advance. Everyone wants that holiday dinner in the castle with the princesses, or the fine-dining restaurant seating timed to watch the fireworks; some options are so popular, they fill up within a day. So if you’re planning to be in one of the parks during December, then June is the time you need to start reserving those special activities.

Why book in June? You might get lucky and snag a reservation later, but paying attention in June means that you can be first in line for Christmas dinner reservations.

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Iceland: Next Summer’s Adventure

iceland volcano tour

On a summer vacation in Iceland, Wendy and her family descended into a volcano. Photo: Timothy Baker

For: July and August 2020

Tourism to Iceland has skyrocketed over the past couple of years: Where else can you hike through moonscapes, dive into volcanoes, walk atop glaciers, and hop into geothermal pools? Summer is the prime time for many activities, since the temperatures are mild and the days are long.

Why book in June? In Iceland demand still far outweighs supply when it comes to accommodations, all-terrain vehicles, glacier guides, and other elements of the country’s tourism infrastructure. That’s why you have to book a trip now to be assured of reserving the best-qualified guides and the most comfortable accommodations in the locations you want to visit.

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Newfoundland: A Summer Escape

Ferryland Lighthouse picnicand walk, Newfoundland. Photo: Maxxim Vacations

For: August and September 2019

Ever since Wendy went there one August several years ago, she’s been urging other East Coasters to flee to Newfoundland in late summer, as an antidote to the crowds, heat, and beach traffic that choke the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. You get a foreign island with dramatic sweeping landscapes, lighthouses and fishing villages galore, roads to yourself (well, you plus a few moose), a distinct local culture, and incredibly friendly people, all without having to schlep too far from home. (You can fly there via Toronto or Halifax from many U.S. hubs.) A must on any Newfoundland itinerary is the Fogo Island Inn, a fascinating five-star philanthropic experiment that Wendy says has the most soul of any hotel she’s ever seen—and, by some miracle, the Inn actually has availability in late August this year. Read why Wendy loved it here.  (Transparency disclosure: Yes, the Fogo Island Inn is an advertiser. But Wendy visited and fell in love with the Inn and its people, community, and concept long before this website was conceived.)  

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Thailand’s Festival of Floats

For: November 2019

Many Thai people regard the northern city of Chiang Mai as something of a national Shangri-la, thanks to its distinctive festivals, 14th-century temples, arresting landscape, and invigorating cool-season climate (which sets in come November). During Loy Kratong, which literally translates to “Float a basket,” thousands of people float kratongs—lotus-shaped boats—filled with food, betel nuts, flowers, joss sticks, coins, and a lit candle down rivers and canals in the hope of fulfilling their wishes and atoning for their sins. This atmospheric scene takes place during the full moon (November 11–13 this year), and is especially popular among romantic couples.

Why book in June? Our Trusted Travel Expert can match you with a local host in Chiang Mai, who will take you to the market to buy the materials for your kratong, guide you in its preparation, and bring you to an appropriate spot to enjoy this beautiful festival. But once the TTE’s local hosts have all been reserved, you’ll miss out on this personal experience of the sacred event.

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An Italian Villa for Next Summer

Dining Pergola Ca di Pesa Italy villa

Plan a summer getaway at an Italian villa, and you could be eating like this every night. Photo: Homebase Abroad

For: June through August 2020

Imagine spending a week or more at a villa in Italy—lingering over long meals at a farmhouse table al fresco, enjoying a passeggiata in a nearby village, getting to know the wine makers next door…. You can still find a good variety of villas for groups of two to ten travelers, and for larger groups inland (the small selection of exquisite homes that fit 12 or more along the water typically book 12 to 18 months in advance).

Why book in June? Come September, next year’s villa rates go up—and in August it’s difficult to communicate with the villas’ Italian owners, who are often on vacation. If you start your planning in June, you’ll have your pick of villas to find the one that’s just right for your group.

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Namibia’s Vast Desert and Dark Sky

starry sky over andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in Namibia Africa

Spacious and serene suites at andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge. Photo: andbeyond.com

For: March through May 2020

Few things boggle the senses like the enormity and utter silence of the Namib Desert. Sossusvlei Desert Lodge reopens this October as the ultimate escape amongst the region’s mountains, sand dunes, canyons, and salt pans. By day, you can spot rare desert wildlife, climb the huge dunes, or visit ancient San rock paintings by quad bike or safari vehicle. Hot-air ballooning gives you an elevated perspective of this magical landscape and its famed “fairy circles,” still a mystery to scientists. By night, the incredible spectacle of the southern sky is unparalleled: This area is far from any village, making it one of the best places on earth for stargazing. An in-house astronomer guides you through the galaxy from the lodge’s private observatory, which features a 12-inch telescope. The ideal time to go is March through May, when temperatures are mild night and day, the occasional rains tease the desert wildflowers into bloom, and the animals are fat and happy.

Why book in June? Once the unveiling of this gorgeous new property becomes public, availability will be harder to find than the elusive brown hyena!

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China’s Ice and Snow Festival

ice sculptures at ice and snow festival in harbin china

More than 10,000 workers haul ice from the frozen Songhua River to make sculptures at the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival in China. Photo: Shang Hujia

For: December 2019 and January 2020

Each year in the frosty northern Chinese city of Harbin, more than 10,000 workers haul ice from the frozen Songhua River to make magnificent sculptures that are more than 100 feet tall at the world’s largest Ice and Snow Festival; last year the record-breaking creations included a full-sized steam train. Apart from the festival, there’s plenty to see in Harbin: Russian and Jewish influences imbue the city’s architecture, food, and culture, from the Byzantine-style St. Sophia Cathedral to the Jewish Culture Museum (which is housed in the largest synagogue in East Asia).

Why book in June? People come from all over the world for the festival, so the high-end hotels and English-speaking guides—including the rare few who are well versed in the region’s Jewish history—book up far in advance.

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Bhutan: A Festival Spectacle

person in mask at Bhutan’s annual Gomphu Kora Festival

Bhutan’s annual Gomphu Kora Festival is a sight worth seeing. Photo: Myths & Mountains

For: April 2020

“Go around Gomphu Kora today, or tomorrow may be too late,” warns a local song in Bhutan. This charming temple, located in the less-touristed eastern part of the country, is where the famous Buddhist teacher Guru Rimpoche vanquished a fierce demon; it is said that circumambulating the temple helps to cleanse you of your sins and grants merit for your next life. Tribal people from all over eastern Bhutan, as well as the Dakpa tribe from India, make a pilgrimage to celebrate the yearly Gomphu Kora Festival, which is scheduled to occur April 1–3, 2020.

Why book in June? The festival takes place near the town of Trashigang—which has extremely limited hotel space. If you wait any longer to book, chances are you won’t be able to find a room nearby.

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Myanmar for a Fabulous Fall Festival

boat rowers racing at Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival in myanmar

One of the most popular festivals in Myanmar is the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival on Inle Lake. Boat races are part of the fun. Photo: Myths & Mountains

For: September and October 2019

One of the most popular festivals in Myanmar is the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival on Inle Lake. Set in a sublime location, it’s a riveting spectacle that includes the ceremonial rowing of Buddha images around the lake, boat races, martial arts, and Shan dancing. This year the festival is set for September 29 to October 16. While many travelers like to stay on the lake, the town of Nyaung Shwe is a smart alternative with a wider variety of restaurants and places to walk around in the evening.

Why book in June? If you haven’t made reservations yet, don’t wait or it may be too late to find rooms at the highest-quality hotels near the festival.

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Borneo’s Prime Season for Wildlife

For: June through September 2020

Borneo’s dry season runs from the end of May through September (dry being a relative term, as this is still the rainforest). The combination of good weather, stunning beaches, and excellent animal sightings—orangutans, proboscis monkeys, and more—make July and August particularly popular for family trips.

Why book in June? All of Borneo’s jungle lodges are small, leaving travelers with limited options; the most sought-after properties tend to sell out almost a year in advance for these key months.

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We’re here to help

If your goal is an extraordinary trip when the time is right, go to Ask Wendy. We know which trip-planning specialists have up-to-the-minute intel for your destination and can minimize your risk and maximize your experience. Check out Real Trips Right Now to see the difference that this makes.

 

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The Best Trips to Book in October: What to Lock In Now

UPDATE:  THE PANDEMIC IS CAUSING HUGE CHANGES IN TRAVEL, SO CLICK TO ASK WENDY BEFORE PLANNING ANYTHING.

PLEASE SEE OUR COVID-19 TRAVEL COVERAGE.

WE WILL UPDATE THIS ARTICLE AS INFORMATION DEVELOPS ON SAFE TRAVEL.


Knowing when to book a trip is as important as knowing when to take it. Certain destinations require just the right amount of lead time to ensure you still have your choice of accommodations, activities, and private guides. That’s why we run this monthly series showcasing the places you should be booking right now.

An extravagance of cherry blossoms, millions of wildebeest on the move, and spectacular glowing night skies: Some of the world’s greatest natural phenomena are approaching, and you’d better start planning now if you want to be there to experience it. Read on for these and other trips during the coming year that you’d be wise to book in October.

(Don’t miss the rest of our series on what trips to book in each month of the year. If you prefer to know which destinations are ideal for traveling to in any given month, see our Where to Go When series, and don’t miss our comprehensive guide to the benefits of booking early.)

Italy’s Charming Christmas Markets

Christmas Market in Bolzano, Italy

Christmas Market in Bolzano, Italy.

For: November 2019 to January 2020

Six Christmas markets are held in Italy’s Alto Adige region during these months: The towns of Bolzano, Merano, Brunico, Vipiteno, Glorenza, and Bressanone each have their own specialty, from handcrafted wooden gifts to traditional alpine clothing to festive food and hot wine.

Why book in October? Unlike the Christmas markets in other parts of Europe, Alto Adige’s remain relatively under the radar, so it’s not too late to book a last-minute trip that will get you into the holiday spirit (and maybe help you cross a few people off your shopping list).

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China’s Yunnan Province: Cuisine and Culture

lunch at a local restaurant in Dali, Yunnan Province, China

The ingredients at a local lunch spot were so fresh because they were farmed nearby. Photo: Billie Cohen

For: December 2019

China’s capital of hippies and ham, Dali is known for its rich gastronomy and talented artisans; Trusted Travel Expert and Yunnan Province native Mei Zhang even wrote a book on the region’s long culinary history, Travels Through Dali With a Leg of Ham. In winter, Dali’s ham is given a salty rub and left to dry in elaborate smokehouses until it practically melts in your mouth. After eating your fill, you can visit nearby salt wells to witness a centuries-old process of salt harvesting (the seasoning has been a major contributor to China’s economy since at least the seventh century, and this area’s salt is widely revered). Dali’s also a bit of a hippie hideout, where you can view a surprising Chinese counterculture of dreadlocked youth selling handicrafts on the street, mixed among the local Naxi minority.

Why book in October? This is your last opportunity to find hotel space and a guide with access to the ethnic communities that will be preparing ham, sausages, and pickles for winter.

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Norway: Best Shot at the Northern Lights

Northern Lights, Finnmark, Norway

Northern Lights, Norway. Photo: Terje Rakke/Nordic Life – Visitnorway.com

For: December 2019 through March 2020

Winter is the best time to catch the northern lights, when the night sky glows with a rainbow of colors. Since snow is sure to be covering the ground during these months, you can spend your days dog- or reindeer-sledding, skiing, and snowshoeing. We can’t guarantee that you’ll see the aurora borealis, but every traveler we’ve sent to the little town of Alta in search of the phenomenon has witnessed it.

Why book in October? Before long, the best hotels and guides will be booked up—particularly over the Christmas season. Secure your spots now so that you won’t have to compromise a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

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Spring Break Diving/Snorkeling and Ski Trips

Aspen Skiing, Rockie Mountains

Skiing in Aspen. Photo: Parker Olsen.

For: March 2020

It may feel like the school year has only just begun, but now is the time to lock in plans for your family’s spring break travel, to both warm-weather destinations and cold.

Why book in October? Right now, you can still choose from a wide selection of accommodations in your chosen destination and reserve the best dive masters and ski instructors; if you wait until everyone else books, you might have to settle for lesser hotels and activities. Ski passes (which give you access to multiple resorts throughout the winter for a much lower price than individual lift tickets) are typically only available until mid-November.

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Morocco’s Most Beautiful Season

Flowers, High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Flowers, High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

For: Mid-March to mid-May 2020

Spring is a prime time to visit Morocco, when the wildflowers are in bloom and Marrakech isn’t yet terribly hot. The valleys on the southern side of the High Atlas are green due to snow melt, and the gorgeous Ourika Valley is at its prettiest: all red rocks, green hills, and rushing river. Ourika is an easy day-trip from Marrakech, and you can stop at Setti Fatma village and hike to the waterfalls from there, or have a tagine lunch at one of the riverside restaurants.

Why book in October? Book at least four months in advance to have your pick of the most atmospheric riads and the savviest local guides.

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Japan’s Iconic Cherry Blossoms

women in kimonos look at cherry blossoms in Japan

Two young women in kimonos view the cherry blossoms at Koishikawa Korakuen Garden in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Ben Simmons

For: April and May 2020

Springtime in Japan is the season of sakura, or cherry blossoms. Their sweet scent and beauty permeate the country, and the entire nation comes alive to celebrate hanami, or flower viewing, in colorful kimonos.

Why book in October? With both foreign and domestic travel at its peak during these months, you’ll need to plan well in advance to stay in the most atmospheric ryokans (particularly in Tokyo, Kanazawa, and Kyoto), and to hire the most well-connected guides.

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Italy’s Dolomites: A Summer Wonderland

landscape view of dolomites jagged mountains overlooking green fields and trees in Italy

The Dolomites are a breath-taking, jagged-peaked mountain range in the north of Italy. Photo: IC Bellagio

For: May through September 2020

Many associate an Italian vacation with culinary indulgence. In the Dolomites—a breath-taking, jagged-peaked mountain range in the north of the country—you can put all that carb-loading to work when you spend your days hiking and biking. But you don’t have to rough it: There are world-class resorts here (and chair lifts that let you skip the steepest sections), and even the backcountry rifugios serve delicious meals that will fuel your daily activities.

Why book in October? The Dolomites’ winter season picks up in November, at which point it can be hard to pin down the best guides (who are all out skiing and snowshoeing). Better to start planning now, when things are relatively quiet and the local businesses have time to think about next summer.

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Alaska Small-Ship Expedition Cruises

Alaskan brown bear sow and its cub at Brooks Falls in katmai National Park, Alaska

An Alaskan brown bear sow and its cub at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park, Alaska. Photo: Shutterstock

For: May through September 2020

Alaska’s cruise season runs from mid-April to late September, and each part of the short season offers different highlights. May sees fewer visitors, the arrival of migrating humpback whales (typically late in the month), and bears foraging along the shoreline at dusk and dawn. May and June have the most days of sunshine, and you’ll find beautiful wildflowers abloom in June and July. Humpback whales, orcas, sea otters, bald eagles, and sea lion colonies can be seen throughout most of the season. The smaller ships, which carry fewer than 100 passengers, get you 10 to 15 yards from bears, moose, glaciers, and waterfalls. Days are dictated not by a port-to-port schedule, but by seizing the best opportunities for wildlife watching, hiking, and kayaking.

Why book in October? For these cruises, the most popular cabin categories and departure dates typically sell out before Thanksgiving.

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U.S. River Rafting Trips

white water rafting boat in river of Gates of Lodore Colorado

Rafting the Gates of Lodore, in Colorado. Photo: Josh Miller

For: May through September 2020

Rafting trips are popular come summer, but if you have the smarts to book now, you’ll not only secure spots on some of the country’s most beautiful rivers, you’ll have access to deals that will disappear by the time everyone else starts shopping.

Why book in October? Since most people don’t start thinking about next summer’s travel until after the New Year, discounts may be available on a number of trips.

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Tanzania’s Hidden Gem

safari tourists in a jeep watching elephants pass in Tanzania

The Chem Chem Reserve is strategically located between two of the country’s crown jewels—Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Park. Photo: Chem Chem Safari Lodge

For: June to October 2020

Northern Tanzania is home to the stuff safari dreams are made of: herds of zebra, wildebeest, and giraffe stretching to the horizon; Maasai warriors displaying their bush skills; elephants basking in a riverine mud bath. The Chem Chem Reserve is strategically located between two of the country’s crown jewels—Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Park—and the three Chem Chem properties there offer an array of experiences without an overabundance of tourists. What’s more, the owners’ commitment to conservation and community development means that lions aren’t preying on herders’ livestock, and women are getting the support they need to start small businesses.

Why book in October? For this month only, our Trusted Travel Expert can save you 15% on any stay at Chem Chem Lodge, Little Chem Chem, and Forest Chem Chem between June and October 2020—but only if you contact her via WendyPerrin.com.

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Sri Lanka’s Best Festival

people dancing in traditional costumes at the Kandy Festival in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s Kandy Festival. Photo: Sri Lanka in Style

For: August 2020

Sri Lanka’s largest and most popular festival (particularly with children) is the Kandy Esala Perahera, an annual celebration where religion, tradition, and the arts come together to pay homage to the sacred tooth relic of the Lord Buddha, which has been housed in the country since the fourth century. These ten days of striking processions feature scores of glittering elephants, fire breathers, and thousands of dancers, culminating on the full moon day when the relic is paraded through the streets of Kandy.

Why book in October? Some of Kandy’s hotels have rooms with views of the perahera; these generally sell out around November. Almost all of the hotels in town sell out by Christmas.

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Africa’s Peak Time for Safaris

great migration, wildebeest, mara river, masai mara Kenya

The great migration wildebeest crossing the Mara River, Masai Mara, Kenya. Photo: Hippo Creek Safaris

For: September 2020

September is glorious in South Africa: The winter chill has left, spring is on its way, and the grasses have been eaten down, leaving the animals in full view. It’s also the best time to see the annual migration in East Africa—the ultimate wildlife spectacle, where more than a million wildebeest and other animals pass through Kenya’s Masai Mara Game Reserve.

Why book in October? It’s already difficult to find space at safari lodges and camps for August; by next month, it’s likely that the best places will be full for September as well. Most airlines release award seats about 11 months in advance, so right now you have the best chance of redeeming miles for next year’s flights.

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We’re here to help

If your goal is an extraordinary trip when the time is right, go to Ask Wendy. We know which trip-planning specialists have up-to-the-minute intel for your destination and can minimize your risk and maximize your experience. Check out Real Trips Right Now to see the difference that this makes.

 

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.

The Best Trips to Book in August: What to Lock In Now

UPDATE:  THE PANDEMIC IS CAUSING HUGE CHANGES IN TRAVEL, SO CLICK TO ASK WENDY BEFORE PLANNING ANYTHING.

PLEASE SEE OUR COVID-19 TRAVEL COVERAGE.

WE WILL UPDATE THIS ARTICLE AS INFORMATION DEVELOPS ON SAFE TRAVEL.


August is a great time to start thinking about travel plans for the rest of the year, and into the next one. We know, we know—you’re still focused on summer and not quite ready to start planning for the winter. But now is the window when smart travelers can get good deals and choice accommodations in certain destinations. That’s why we offer this monthly series on when to book various trips—to help you get the most value for your money and the most worthwhile experiences for your time.

Below you’ll find a list of the places you should be booking trips to right now. Follow our advice and you’ll still have a range of accommodations to choose from, the best guides won’t already be taken, and our Trusted Travel Experts will have enough time to work their magic and optimize every aspect of your trip.

(Don’t miss the rest of our series on what trips to book in each month of the year. If you prefer to know which destinations are ideal for traveling to in any given month, see our Where to Go When series, and don’t miss our comprehensive guide to the benefits of booking early.)

Berlin’s Up-and-Coming Art Week

Berlin Wall, Germany. Photo: Context Travel

Berlin Art Week sees the city overrun with artists, curators, and gallery exhibits. Don’t miss the art on the Berlin Wall either. Photo: Context Travel

For: September 2019

During Berlin Art Week—which takes place this year from September 11 to 15—the city runs amok with artists, curators, and collectors. It’s a great time to visit Auguststrasse, the original core of Berlin’s artistic community in the early 1990s and now home to some of the city’s most prestigious galleries. On the private and small-group tours arranged by one of our Trusted Travel Experts, you’ll learn about the area’s history from a local curator or arts writer, and also get insider access to some of the galleries.

Why book in August? Berlin Art Week is overshadowed by better-known exhibitions in other European cities; that doesn’t mean that the art is lower quality, but it does mean that you can plan a last-minute trip and still get your choice of hotel room just a month prior.

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Milan’s Fashion Week

Milan italy city center photo by Igor Saveliev Pixabay

Milan gets even more fashionable in September. Photo: Igor Saveliev/Pixabay

For: September 2019

Milan’s Fashion Week takes place this year from September 17–23, featuring brands such as Gucci, Versace, Moschino, and Armani in some of the city’s most exclusive locations. Though the event is by invitation only, with our Trusted Travel Expert’s expansive network of contacts, she is sure to bag you tickets to the must-see shows in true Milano V.I.P. style. And the fall months are a lovely time to visit, with pleasant temperatures and the return of locals from their summer holidays.

Why book in August? Fashion-industry insiders don’t book far in advance for the shows, so there’s still time to arrange a trip. If you wait till next month, though, it will be very tough to find a room and impossible to get near a catwalk.

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China’s Colorful Fall Festivals

Miao festivities in Guizhou China

Miao festivities in Guizhou, China. Photo: WildChina

For: September–November 2019

China’s subtropical Guizhou province, with its colorful tapestry of minority villages, is host to a number of festivals each fall, including the musical Lusheng festival in October and the vibrant Miao New Year in November; it is Miao tradition to clear the streets and make way for long banquet tables heaving with fresh produce to celebrate the year’s bountiful harvest.

Why book in August? Since Guizhou is well off the beaten track, you don’t have to plan a year ahead to attend these authentic festivities—but by September, all of the best hotel rooms and guides will already be reserved.

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Shanghai’s Perfect Season

Zhujiajiao, Old Town

The old town of Zhujiajiao is Chinese version of Venice.

For: October 2019

Fall is the most ideal period to visit Shanghai: As the peak season cools down, the airfare and hotel rates become more attractive and the weather is much more pleasant to enjoy outdoor activities such as exploring Zhujiajiao. Also known as the “Venice of Shanghai,” Zhujiajiao has beautiful waterways with countless traditional houses, ancient streets, and stone bridges. One of our Trusted Travel Experts offers a half-day private walking tour that can be customized to focus on Zhujiajiao.

Why book in August? Since high season has ended, you can plan a trip relatively last-minute and won’t have trouble finding a hotel room or savvy local guide for fall.

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Greece for Food and History Fans: The Centuries-Old Olive Harvest

For: November 2019–early January 2020

Olive harvesting in Greece is a tradition that has remained almost untouched throughout the centuries; nowadays, you can join locals as they harvest from their trees, discovering the indigenous Greek olive varieties and following the process that starts in the olive groves and ends with a bottle of glistening golden oil. The crowds are thinner (or nonexistent) at this time of year, giving you an opportunity to experience true Greek culture without the stresses of high season. And the mild weather also makes it a pleasant time to explore the archaeological sites and natural scenery.

Why book in August? You can’t just walk up to any olive farm in Crete and expect to help, but our Trusted Travel Expert has relationships with olive producers in different parts of the country who will open their farms and presses to you at this busy time of year. Many resorts and hotels will have closed for the season, but there are charming boutique and historic hotels and guesthouses where you can stay. The options are somewhat limited, though, so it’s best not to wait until the last moment to get organized.

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Myanmar’s Best Weather

The Pagoda Festival on Inle Lake. Photo: Myths & Mountains

For: November 2019–February 2020

November through February are the most popular months to visit Myanmar: The weather is cooler and dry, ideal for trekking to see hill tribes and for visiting both the major sites of Bagan, Mandalay, and Inle Lake and lesser-known places such as Hpa An or the Golden Rock. The Burmese adore festivals, and there are plenty to see during these months: the Shwezigon Pagoda Festival in Bagan, Karen New Year in Hpa An, the Mahamuni Pagoda Festival in Mandalay, and for the brave, the Taunggyi Fire Balloon Festival.

Why book in August? The country’s top hotels fill up quickly; if you want a room with a view of the sunset on Inle Lake during high season, you’d better book now. Additionally, the country’s top guides are in very high demand and some prefer to work with large groups rather than individual travelers. By booking early, you can be assured that you’ll have access to the most experienced guides.

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Get a Head Start on Patagonia’s Peak Season

Torres del Paine National Park view of mountains and water

Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile. Photo: Luis Felipa, Southwind Adventures

For: November 2019–February 2020

Hikers flock to Chile’s flagship national park, Torres del Paine, in the southern-hemisphere summer, when the weather there is relatively stable. If you want to be in Patagonia with penguins and glaciers over the Thanksgiving holidays or early next year, you’d better act fast (it’s already too late for Christmas or New Year’s reservations). To compliment your Paine adventure, take a four-night natural history cruise through the fjords of Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego.

Why book in August? The park’s three high-end lodges have just 101 rooms between them; by September, they are often fully booked for those peak travel dates. And with this much lead time, our Trusted Travel Expert can arrange for your stay to align with the less frequent but more convenient flights from Santiago to Puerto Natales (instead of Punta Arenas), saving you three hours of driving time and avoiding an extra hotel night while making your way to the park.

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Central Italy’s Homespun Christmas Charm

Christmas in italy santas on horseback

Christmas in Italy’s cities and small towns still feels authentic and homespun. Photo: CIU Travel

For: December 2019

In the small towns and even the major cities of central Italy—Montepulciano, Perugia, Rome, Florence—Christmas continues to have a homespun, traditional feel, without the crass consumerism that surrounds the holiday here in the U.S. Many towns, and the larger piazza in big cities, have enchanting Christmas markets where you can buy artisan crafts and handmade decorations.

Why book in August? To fully soak up the holiday ambiance, you’ll want to stay in a city apartment or smaller hotel where you can stroll through town right from your doorstep; since this narrows the options, it’s wise to book now for the widest choice of accommodations.

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Note: If you’re looking for a countryside villa to celebrate Christmas in, read The Rewards of an Italian Villa Vacation in Winter.

Brazil’s Other Big Party: New Year’s

New Years Eve fireworks Reveillon Copacabana beach, Rio, Brazil

New Years Eve Réveillon on Copacabana beach, Rio, Brazil. Photo: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo/Flickr

For: December 2019

New Year’s is perhaps Brazil’s biggest celebration outside of Carnaval, and the locals’ infectious party spirit is a major draw for travelers. Rio celebrates with one huge beach party all along Copacabana; revelers dress in white and make offerings of flowers to the sea, jumping over waves and of course knocking back a few caipirinhas. There are also free concerts and one of the world’s largest fireworks displays. More low-key parties take place in almost every beach village in the country; jet-set crowds and international DJs soak up the laid-back vibe in Trancoso and Florianoplolis.

Why book in August? Rooms at the country’s top hotels are still available over New Year’s—but that won’t be the case for long. Right now, our Trusted Travel Expert can also procure tickets to exclusive private parties overlooking the festivities in Rio.

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Uganda’s Great Apes

gorilla group in the jungle, Uganda

Gorilla trekking in Uganda. Photo: Explore Inc.

For: January and early February 2020

The experience of a gorilla trek in Uganda is unparalleled at any time of year; the advantage of going in January and early February (before the rains hit hard in mid-February) is that the chimpanzees are more readily visible, as fruits are in season at lower elevations. Hike up the Virunga Mountains through magnificent jungle to locate one of several gorilla families, then spend an hour observing their family dynamic, playful nature, and social complexity in their home environment.

Why book in August? Trekking permits are a case of high demand and low supply; now is your last chance to snag one for this prime season.

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Bhutan’s Season of Wildflowers and Festivals

dancer in colorful robes at Bhutan's Trashigang Festival

Bhutan’s festivals are a kaleidoscope of color. Photo: Myths & Mountains

For: February–April 2020

Witnessing a Bhutanese festival is a bucket-list experience, and spring planting season is one of the best times to catch a multitude of celebrations in different parts of the country; it’s also when the rhododendrons and azaleas are in bloom, making the countryside an incredible kaleidoscope of color, framed by snow-capped Himalayan peaks. You can choose among city festivals, such as the Paro Tsechu; small village festivals such as Talo; or the enthralling Gomphukora, held in early April 2020 at a small temple in eastern Bhutan. This last festival attracts not only Bhutanese but also tribal people from nearby Assam in India.

Why book in August? Only two airlines, Druk Air and Bhutan Air, fly into the country, so you need to reserve now to get the flights you want for next spring. Bhutanese hotels also tend to be quite small; if you want to attend the Punakha Tsechu in February or the Paro festivals in March, for example, some of the very best hotels nearby have only eight and 11 rooms respectively.

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Galapagos for an Unexpected Spring Break

blue footed booby galapagos islands ecuador

Blue-Footed Booby, Galapagos Islands. Photo: peterstuartmill/Pixabay

For: March–April 2020

Spring break is a great time to take the kids on an educational journey to the Galapagos: They can paddle with marine iguanas, play with sea lions, and tread next to bobbing penguins. Some ships offer specific family-friendly departures during spring-break weeks, and those fill up especially quickly.

Why book in August? This far in advance, the right travel specialist can match you to the ship that best fits your traveling style and specific travel dates (the latter being particularly important when working with school schedules); plus, you can still snag the inter-connected or triple cabins that are most convenient and economical for your family.

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An Australia Safari Rich With Culture and Wildlife

Bamurru Plains Luxury Lodges of Australia

Consider a safari in Australia’s Northern Territory and you’ll see wallabies, buffalo, and more. Photo: Bamurru Plains—Luxury Lodges of Australia

For: July–September 2020

Peak safari season in Australia’s “Top End”—the uppermost section of the Northern Territory, home to Kakadu National Park and the city of Darwin—runs from July through September. Here you’ll find abundant wildlife (wallabies, crocodiles, buffalo, and prolific birdlife), a rich indigenous culture and its accompanying rock art, and stunning outback scenery.

Why book in August? Since the region’s much-buzzed-about lodges have only 10 to 20 rooms each, you need to book a year in advance to get the accommodations you want.

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A Safari-and-Seychelles Extravaganza at 15% Off

A leopard sitting in the grass in Botswana

A leopard takes a rest in Botswana. Photo: Machaba Safaris

For: all dates through 2020

Looking for a vacation that combines safari-style adventure with relaxation on an idyllic beach?  Yeah, so is just about every honeymooner we know.  This month you—and they— can lock in a deal on just such a trip: a safari in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, followed by fishing, diving, and beach time at a private-island resort in the Seychelles. In Botswana you’ll divide your nights between Machaba Camp and Gomoti Plains Camp, where you’ll have the opportunity to see the Big Five on game drives, walking safaris, and canoe trips. Then it’s off to Alphonse Island, home to giant tortoises, fabulous white-sand beaches, and the world’s best bonefishing. Here you can snorkel and scuba dive in water with 150 feet of visibility, take nature walks, pedal around the island on beach cruisers, and indulge in spa treatments.

Why book in August? Our Trusted Travel Expert has negotiated 15% off trips that combine six nights in Botswana and eight nights in the Seychelles—just for WendyPerrin.com readers—but only if you book this month; this represents a savings of at least $3,800 for a couple. The savings are even available during the peak winter holiday season, when prices are often exorbitant. Rates include all accommodations, meals, several charter flights, and a wide variety of activities at all three properties.

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The Best Trips to Book in November: What to Lock In Now

UPDATE:  THE PANDEMIC IS CAUSING HUGE CHANGES IN TRAVEL, SO CLICK TO ASK WENDY BEFORE PLANNING ANYTHING.

PLEASE SEE OUR COVID-19 TRAVEL COVERAGE.

WE WILL UPDATE THIS ARTICLE AS INFORMATION DEVELOPS ON SAFE TRAVEL.


From the trails of Patagonia to the overwater bungalows of French Polynesia, these are the vacations that you should be booking right now, before it’s too late. If you wait any longer, chances are you’ll have to compromise on your accommodations, your private guides, and the extra magic that our Trusted Travel Experts can sprinkle over your trip.

(Don’t miss the rest of our series on what trips to book in each month of the year. If you prefer to know which destinations are ideal for traveling to in any given month, see our Where to Go When series, and don’t miss our comprehensive guide to the benefits of booking early.)

Last-Minute Availability: Cabo for the Holidays

Villa Cielito Los Cabos looking out over an infinity pool and ocean

In May, the weather in Los Cabos is mild and there’s little chance of rain. Photo: CaboVillas.com

For: December 2019 through January 2020

If sunny weather, great restaurants, and lively nightlife are the makings of your ideal holiday trip, look no further than Los Cabos, on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. And it’s an easy, no-headache getaway too, with nonstop flights from almost 20 U.S. cities.

Why book in November? Our Trusted Travel Expert has a handful of private rental properties, from one-bedroom condos to 10-bedroom luxury estates, that are still available over Christmas and New Year’s. On December 2, she’s also offering a third night free at many villas for travel until December 20 or from January 6–31.

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Last-Minute Availability: Caribbean Sailing for the Holidays

aerial shot of Belize ocean with sailboat

Explore Belize on the water. Photo: Belize Sailing Vacations

For: December 2019 through January 2020

Think a private yacht over the holidays is out of your price range? Think again. Our Trusted Travel Experts in Belize—known for its world-class snorkeling and diving and crystal-clear Caribbean waters in 100 shades of blue—can set you up with your own catamaran, helmed by a first-rate captain and first mate/chef, for less than $400 per person per night. That rate is nearly all-inclusive, covering all meals, an open bar, and equipment for snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, and more. Read reviews from other travelers who have done it.

Why book in November? A few of our TTEs’ vessels haven’t yet been booked for Christmas or New Year’s—but that could change quickly.

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China: Beijing’s Secret Winter Delights

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China. Photo: Willian Lindesay

For: December 2019 through March 2020

Though it can be quite cold, winter is prime time for Beijing’s ski resorts—which will be hosting the Winter Olympics in 2022. Some of the best runs are found at Huabei, Nanshan, Yuyang, and Badaling. If you want to experience the Chinese New Year festivities but avoid crowds, Beijing is an excellent option, as many residents leave the city to visit family (the holiday falls on January 25 in 2020). While you’re there, explore 798—the city’s famous art zone—on a tour arranged by one of our Trusted Travel Experts and led by a local curator. You’re also likely to find better deals for hotels and flights in the winter.

Why book in November? This being a quieter time of year, it’s possible to book a trip much closer in than you could during high season—but you still want to plan at least a month out to snag the prime hotel rooms and the most in-demand guides.

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Brazil’s Famous Carnaval Celebrations

Carnaval, Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Matuete

Carnaval, Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Matuete

For: February 2020

There’s no more memorable party atmosphere than Rio de Janeiro’s Carnaval (which always falls 40 days before Lent—in 2020, that will be late February). After you’ve had your fill of the many-days-long festivities in Rio, leave time to recuperate on the beach in Paraty or Trancoso before returning to the wintry weather back home.

Why book in November? Hotels won’t fill up until January, but the order of the Carnaval Competition is released in late November—most people don’t realize that the world-famous parade is in fact a fierce contest among 12 top samba schools. So now is the time to decide on which day you want parade tickets (or even get in costume and march with one of the samba schools, which our Trusted Travel Expert can arrange).

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Chile: Patagonia After the Crowds Leave

For: late February through April 2020

The southern hemisphere’s autumn is a brilliant time to be in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, when the landscape takes on muted hues and the temperature is still very palatable (and if you’re visiting other parts of Chile, they won’t be as hot as in summer). March and April see dramatically fewer visitors to the park than previous months do, and the high peaks will likely be snowcapped. Most lodges provide heavily discounted prices starting April 1.

Why book in November? This is your last call for a fall trip, before the top lodges (many of which have only a handful of rooms) fill up entirely.

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India’s Dramatic Holi Festival

Holi Festival at Nandgaon temple complex, Uttar Pradesh, India

Holi Festival at Nandgaon temple complex, Uttar Pradesh, India. Photo: Abhijit Kar Gupta/Flickr

For: March 2020

Holi is the Hindu festival of color marking the start of spring. It’s always fantastic to visit India during a festival, and this one is definitely a favorite, jubilantly celebrated with the joyous throwing of colored powder over friends and family. This coming year, it will take place on March 10.

Why book in November? “The Diggi Palace in Jaipur hosted a Holi party as part of our wedding celebrations, and it was so much fun that they’ve done it every year since,” says Bertie Dyer, our Trusted Travel Expert for India. “Book now to reserve a room, and we’ll join you for the festivities.”

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China in Bloom

Hangzhou west lake with Banyan tree and boat

Hangzhou Lake, China. Photo: WildChina Travel

For: March 2020

The cities of Hangzhou and Suzhou are well known in China for being slices of paradise on Earth. There’s a famous Chinese saying that translates to, “There is heaven above and there is Suzhou and Hangzhou below.” In March, spring is in full swing and the rich natural landscape flourishes. Hangzhou’s West Lake will be surrounded by verdant weeping willows and sweet-smelling peach blossoms. It’s also when Longjing tea leaves are harvested, and you can take part in this local tradition by picking tea in the nearby fields. Suzhou is famous for its traditional Chinese gardens, where you’ll see colorful displays of pear blossoms, canola flowers, tulips, and cherry blossoms.

Why book in November? Hangzhou and Suzhou are popular spring destinations for domestic travelers, so book now to make sure you get the most comfortable hotels and a guide with special access.

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Chile: Solitude on Easter Island

For: March and April 2020

Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, is a tropical paradise with history, culture, and mystery at every beautiful turn. While the crowds descend from December through February, you’ll find more temperate weather—and a nearly tourist-free experience—in March and April.

Why book in November? There’s often only one flight daily from Santiago, and as it begins to sell out—as has already happened for most of January and February—fares jump. Book now while there’s still space and prices are reasonable.

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Jordan’s Temperate Spring Weather

For: March through May 2020

Spring is the sweet spot after the cold of winter and before the summer heat really kicks in, meaning that a night out in Wadi Rum—something that really shouldn’t be missed—is more appealing. It’s also when the almond and olive trees are still in bloom, and the crowds are minimal.

Why book in November? Acting now gives you pick of the country’s best hotels and choicest guides.

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Italy: Puglia’s Springtime Gems

market vegetables in Puglia Italy

Puglia gets a head start on spring compared to the rest of Italy.

For: March to June 2020

While the northern portions of Italy are still shaking off the winter chill, Puglia—the heel to Italy’s boot—gets a head start on spring. Even early in the season you’ll find green leaves on the olive trees; by April the wildflowers are in bloom and there is fresh local produce on the menu (Puglia, after all, is where Italians go to eat).

Why book in November? Many of the region’s most charming hotels have 20 or fewer rooms, so they fill up quickly. Start planning now and you’ll still have your choice of accommodations.

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Peru: Hiking the Inca Trail

Wiñaywayna ruins along Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

It is magical to approach the ruins of Machu Picchu on foot via the Inca Trail. Photo: Southwind Adventures

For: March to November 2020

The most famous trek in South America (and deservedly so), the Inca Trail isn’t just a way to get to Machu Picchu: Along the route, you’ll pass three other major Incan ruins and walk through landscapes that range from cloud forest to alpine tundra. A luxury outfitter can hire guides and porters to carry your gear, set up camp each night, and cook your meals so that a multi-day backcountry hike doesn’t actually feel like roughing it.

Why book in December? Inca Trail permits for 2020 went on sale October 15. These spots are in high demand, so the longer you wait, the lower your chance of getting a permit for the dates you want.

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Australia: Swimming with Whale Sharks and Humpback Whales

diver with whale shark Australia

The experience of diving with whale sharks is regulated by the Western Australia Parks and Wildlife Service in order to ensure a safe and ethically responsible encounter. Photo: Tourism Australia

For: March through October 2020

The Ningaloo Marine Park, off the west coast of Australia, is one of a handful of locations around the globe where humans can swim with whale sharks and humpback whales—and here the experience is regulated by the Western Australia Parks and Wildlife Service in order to ensure a safe and ethically responsible encounter. Tour operators employ spotter planes to try to locate the whale sharks and humpbacks, giving you the best chance of swimming alongside these marvelous beasts (and also dugongs, turtles, manta rays, dolphins, and tropical fish). Part of the cost of your experience goes to the conservation of these animals.

Why book in November? Whale sharks only visit the region from March to July, and the humpbacks from July to late October. The tours that visit them are limited to 20 people with the whale sharks and 10 with the humpbacks. Plus, the best accommodations in this remote part of the world are quite limited.

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Laos for New Year’s (in April)

For: April 2020

This New Year’s festival is celebrated throughout Southeast Asia but the experience in Laos is much closer to tradition than the water fights you’ll find in Thailand these days (though you should still be prepared for a water bath from a passerby, meant to wash away your sins). The festival lasts for three days or more (running from April 13 to 15 in 2020) and includes parades, carnivals, fireworks, and lots of ramwong, a traditional Lao group dance that can break out at any time!

Why book in November? Our Trusted Travel Expert has a limited number of experienced local hosts, and turns away travelers once those hosts are booked; act now to reserve both that and your choice among the city’s limited top-quality accommodations.

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Spain: Andalusia’s Festival Season

For: April and May 2020

Colorful and joyous spring festivals attract many travelers to this part of Spain, which in the last few years has seen the opening of some stunning boutique hotels. In 2020, Holy Week runs April 5-12, the Seville Fair April 26–May 2, and the Jerez Fair May 9–16.

Why book in November? The region’s finest hotels tend to have only a few rooms, which may be sold out by December. There are also many intimate, private experiences that give travelers a true reflection of the local culture—such as visits to family-owned vineyards and olive-oil mills—but which must be scheduled far in advance.

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Bolivia: Photography of the Salt Flats

Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni salt flats, Bolivia.

For: May 2020

With their mirrored surface and tricks of perspective, Bolivia’s Uyuni salt flats are catnip to photographers. Our Trusted Travel Expert has enlisted professional lensman Max Milligan to lead a group of no more than 12 travelers on a week’s journey across the salt flats; through workshops and one-on-one sessions, Max—whose photographs use no flash or filters—will offer tips on shooting these epic landscapes, their hardy wildlife, and the people of the region.

Why book in November? Those who reserve a spot on this trip before November 29 will save almost $1,000 per person off the trip price.

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Southern African Safaris at the Best Time of Year

Busanga bush camp, Zambia

Busanga bush camp, Zambia. Photo: Wilderness Safaris.

For: May 2020

May is the insider’s secret to Southern Africa: It’s when the parks are less crowded, the weather and wildlife viewing are at their prime, and yet the rates are lower. Many of Zambia’s camps only start opening in May after the summer rains, so they offer additional free nights during this low season.

Why book in November? Savvy travelers have driven up the popularity of this low-season gem, so lodges can fill up quickly. Book now to secure the top-notch locations in the ideal sequence to make the most of flight schedules and wildlife sightings, and without having to break the bank.

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Romania’s Spring Bloom

Wildflowers in bloom, Enisala, Romania

Wildflowers in bloom, Enisala, Romania

For: May and June 2020

Romania holds many of the last wild places in Europe, and the untamed nature there is at its best in late spring, when the weather is warm but not too hot. The fruit trees bloom in May, and the wildflowers come alive in June. (Prince Charles always spends at least a few days at his private residence in eastern Transylvania at this time of year.) Additionally, local schools are still in session, so you’ll come across fewer domestic travelers.

Why book in November? Romania’s most charming guesthouses are small—many have fewer than ten rooms—so they fill up fast.

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Portugal’s Rollicking Festivities

Saint Anthony Festival Lisbon Portugal

Lisbon’s June festivals for St. Anthony and St. John, Portugal.

For: June 2020

During the month of June the two main cities of Portugal are bursting with energy devoted to the celebrations of St. Anthony (in Lisbon, on June 13) and St. John (in Port, on June 24). In Lisbon, the old neighborhoods organize colorful parades down the main boulevard, and the younger crowds grill sardines and sausages in the streets. In Porto, people hit each other on the head with plastic hammers—as a sign of good luck, believe it or not—and the festivities culminate with a fireworks display.

Why book in November? People travel from all over Portugal—and elsewhere—to attend these festivals, but if you book now, you can still get a hotel room and restaurant reservations right in the middle of the action.

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Zanzibar’s Beautiful Beaches

beach with chaises and palapas on Zanzibar island

Zuri Zanzibar is one of the newest beach resorts on this Indian Ocean island. Photo: Zuri Zanzibar

For: June and July 2020

Zuri Zanzibar, one of the newest beach resorts on this Indian Ocean island, takes its name from the Swahili word for “beautiful”—and that’s not hyperbole. Relaxing on the resort’s gorgeous white-sand beaches is the perfect way to cap off a safari; if you have any energy left for exploration, Zanzibar also has a deep colonial history and captivating Arab architecture. June and July see the driest and sunniest weather on Zanzibar, and you can often catch the Great Migration in Tanzania or Kenya.

Why book in November? Right now, our Trusted Travel Expert can get you 15% off a stay at Zuri Zanzibar in June or July 2020—but only if you contact her via WendyPerrin.com.

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Galapagos Over the Kids’ Summer Vacation

family with giant tortoise on galapagos island

The Galapagos Islands are very popular for families during school breaks. So book early. Photo: Expedition Trips

For: June to August 2020

The Galapagos is a wildlife mecca all year round, where you can swim with sea turtles, photograph giant tortoises, and have up-close encounters with blue-footed boobies. Since it’s a living laboratory of evolution at work and a zoo without enclosures, the Galapagos is particularly popular for families traveling while the kids are out of school over the summer; these trips are known to sell out six months or more in advance.

Why book in November? People often discuss family trips over the holidays; if you start making your plans now, you’ll have a jump on the travelers who are waiting until January to book, giving you a wider selection of cabins and departure dates.

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Tahiti: An End-of-Summer Paradise

sailboat in the water in Tahiti, French Polynesia

Tahiti, French Polynesia. Photo: Gloria Manna/Flickr

For: August 2020

August in French Polynesia is lovely. Sea breezes keep temperatures in the low 80s and the humidity down; it still rains, but in 30- to 40-minute bursts, and then the sun comes out again. The lagoons can be a bit choppy, but that’s great for kite surfing, catamarans, and outrigger canoes.

Why book in November? Since this slice of paradise is actually part of France, it gets lots of visitors in August, when many Europeans take long vacations. New nonstop flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco also mean that there are more travelers arriving but the same number of hotel rooms, so the best overwater bungalows sell out far in advance.

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Mexico’s Day of the Dead Celebrations

Day of the Dead celebrations in Oaxaca, Mexico

Day of the Dead celebrations in Oaxaca, Mexico. Photo: Journey Mexico

For: October and November 2020

Witness the people of Oaxaca take part in this pre-Columbian ritual, which offers a very different perspective on death than that generally held by modern society. Colorful altars, bustling local markets, and vibrant festivities between October 31 and November 2 help welcome the spirits of loved ones back to earth.

Why book in November? While Oaxaca is still tidying up from this year’s celebrations, hotels are already booking up for next year; act now to have your pick of the best accommodations for this extremely popular celebration.

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Thailand’s Lantern Festival

For: November 2020

Yi Peng is one of northern Thailand’s most celebrated festivals—and an awesome sight to behold, with swarms of Lanna-style lanterns launched into the night sky. The festival is a time to make merit and reflect on one’s actions, but there are also parades, fireworks, pageants, and feasts on a grander scale than you’ve seen just about anywhere else.

Why book in November? Yi Peng coincides with the popular Loy Kratong Festival, celebrated throughout Thailand; the combination means that you need to book a year in advance to secure the best rooms and services.

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We’re here to help

If your goal is an extraordinary trip when the time is right, go to Ask Wendy. We know which trip-planning specialists have up-to-the-minute intel for your destination and can minimize your risk and maximize your experience. Check out Real Trips Right Now to see the difference that this makes.

 

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.

The Best Trips to Book in January: What to Lock in Now

UPDATE:  THE PANDEMIC IS CAUSING HUGE CHANGES IN TRAVEL, SO CLICK TO ASK WENDY BEFORE PLANNING ANYTHING.

PLEASE SEE OUR COVID-19 TRAVEL COVERAGE.

WE WILL UPDATE THIS ARTICLE AS INFORMATION DEVELOPS ON SAFE TRAVEL.


January is usually a great time to start thinking about where you’re headed for the major holidays at the end of the year: Spring break in Peru? New Year’s Eve Down Under? To secure the best value and access, plan early. Here are a few ideas for trips that are best booked now, in January.

(Don’t miss the rest of our series on what trips to book in each month of the year. If you prefer to know which destinations are ideal for traveling to in any given month, see our Where to Go When series, and don’t miss our comprehensive guide to the benefits of booking early.)

The Netherlands in Tulip Season

tulips and windmill at Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands

Spring is tulip time in the Netherlands. Photo: Keukenhof Gardens

For: March to May 2020

With Easter taking place smack in the middle of April this year and a few public holidays in May, the best time to visit the Netherlands is mid-March through mid-May, except the days right around Easter (April 9-13). This way, you can avoid the crowds and still enjoy the flowers that will be in bloom all over the country—particularly in the fabulous Keukenhof Gardens. April 27 is a national holiday, King’s Day, and it can be fun to be part of the festivities and witness a parade in a rural setting.

Why book in January? Tickets for the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam become available two months ahead and sell out quickly; book your trip in January so that you know exactly when you want to visit this remarkable site and can snap up tickets as soon as they become available.

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Peru for Cusco’s Easter Festivities

Cusco city center, Peru

Cusco city center, Peru. Photo: Aracari

For: April 2020

In Cusco, Easter celebrations last for an entire week—known as Semana Santa—starting with Palm Sunday and followed by the Señor de los Temblores festival on Holy Monday, when Cusco’s most venerated image of Christ is taken out in procession and the entire city participates. (Booking through Marisol Mosquera means that you’ll watch the festivities from one of the coveted balconies overlooking the main square.) April is also a beautiful time to visit Machu Picchu, since the rains have just departed and left the hillsides at their greenest.

Why book in January? Easter is high season in any Catholic country, so this is your last chance to find availability at hotels and on flights.

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Off-Season Deals in South Africa

Three cheetahs lounging, Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa

Cheetahs in Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa.

For: December 2019/January 2020

The Southern Hemisphere’s fall is a great time to see South Africa, as the weather is lovely in Cape Town, and the packs of tourists don’t arrive until peak safari season starts in June. andBeyond’s Phinda Private Game Reserve and Singita’s South Africa lodges offer both lower rates and excellent wildlife at this time of year, and are easily combined with a few days in the city. United is testing a new nonstop flight between Newark and Cape Town through March (the first direct flight on that route in more than a decade). If it proves successful, you can spend an extra day on safari instead slogging through a connection in Europe.

Why book in January? While the best lodges and camps often book up six months to a year in advance, you can still find space—and excellent values—for April and May.

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Sicily’s Ancient Greek Theater Performances

Greek Theater, Sircusa, Italy

Performance at the ancient Greek Theatre of Siracusa, Italy. Photo: Marcello Baglioni

For: May and June 2020

Every year from the middle of May through the end of June, Sicily’s ancient Greek Theatre of Siracusa—which was first built in the 5th century B.C.—hosts modern performances of the ancient Greek tragedies. The theater is part of an archaeological park that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; you can explore its ancient limestone quarries, temples, and orange and olive groves before the performance.

Why book in January? Four months out, you’ll still have access to the prime tickets (those closer to the stage and in more shaded areas of this outdoor theater) and to the cultural guides best equipped to help you contextualize the plays in their proper time and place. You’ll also have your choice of accommodations in nearby Ortigia’s historical center.

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Malta: Spring Sunshine and Festa Celebrations

colorful boats in Marsaxlokk Harbour, Malta

Marsaxlokk Harbour, Malta. Photo: Exclusively Malta

For: May and June 2020

This Mediterranean isle is at its best in late spring. The crowds have not yet descended, and while sunshine is practically a guarantee, the heat is not overbearing. Plus, you can drop into a different village’s festa just about every weekend; these celebrations of the local patron saint involve music, parades, fireworks, and lots of delicious food.

Why book in January? The best accommodations on Malta are boutique hotels that typically have only a few rooms; planning ahead gives you a wider range of options. It also allows our Trusted Travel Experts to arrange special-access experiences with important people on the island whose schedules fill up far in advance, and to match you with the guide whose expertise most closely overlaps with your interests.

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Alaska by Small Ship

a blue-ish glacier in Alaska

Alaska. Photo: Marybeth Coghill/Expedition Trips

For: May through August 2020

Only a handful of small ships treat travelers to a more intimate, up-close experience of Alaska. Four National Geographic–flagged ships, including the newer Nat Geo Venture and Nat Geo Quest, will ply the waters of the Inside Passage this summer, with five different itinerary options to choose from.

Why book in January? With capacities of just 62 to 100 passengers, these ships fill up quickly. Lock in your summer plans while there’s still a good selection of cabins and departure dates.

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Croatia Without the Crowds this Summer

The beach at the Bellevue Hotel in Dubrovnik, Croatia

The beach at the Bellevue Hotel in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Photo: Exeter International

For: May, June, September, and October 2020

Summer in Croatia is to be avoided, due to heavy crowds—especially hordes of day-trippers from cruise ships—and the highest prices of the year. In May and the beginning of June, and from late September through October, you’ll find lower hotel rates, great weather, and fewer tourists.

Why book in January? Now is the time to reserve rooms at the best boutique hotels, some of which have only eight rooms.

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Austria’s Summer Music Festivals

Salzburg, Austria skyline with buildings and mountains

Salzburg, Austria. Photo: SalzburgerLand Tourismus

For: July and August 2020

Sure, it will be crowded, but come summer the days are long and the weather is great, and there are music festivals—especially opera—all over Austria. You can usually find good hotel deals, except in Salzburg during its six-week classical music festival (one of the biggest in Europe).

Why book in January? Six months out, you can still lock in the most charming hotels and the guides with special insider access; delay longer and you’ll be stuck with mediocre options for both.

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China’s Ancient Rituals in the Birthplace of Tai Chi

A Taoist priest performs tai chi in China’s Wudang mountain range, the birthplace of the martial ar

A Taoist priest performs tai chi in China’s Wudang mountain range, the birthplace of the martial art. Photo: Wild China Travel

For: September 2020

The birthplace of tai chi and the center of Chinese martial arts, China’s Wudang mountain range has drawn Taoist philosophers to its peaks for centuries. On September 9 each year, many Taoist priests converge there for worship rituals of fasting and offering, praying for national prosperity and peace. Wake up early and watch robed priests flow through the tai chi movements that have been performed in these mountains for centuries; you can also join in the rituals, making your own offering for peace and prosperity. In addition, autumn sees the best temperate weather for hiking among the sacred peaks.

Why book in January? This off-the-beaten-path destination has only a couple of hotels, so you’ll have to make your reservations early in order to be part of this ancient practice.

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A Tahiti Yacht Charter

Catamaran off Motu Island Tahiti

Catamaran off Motu Island. Photo: D. Kirkland Tahiti Yacht Charter

For: September and October 2020

Chartering your own yacht in French Polynesia is like staying in a moveable overwater bungalow—with a staff devoted entirely to you. You can go shelling at deserted beaches, snorkel in remote locations, stop in local villages, stargaze from a blanket laid out in the netting of your catamaran, even catch your own fish for dinner. September and October, when the trade winds aren’t too strong, are the best months to do this.

Why book in January? While there are many crewed boats to choose from in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, there are only about 50 available to charter throughout all of French Polynesia; that means you need to plan well in advance to get just the right boat for you.

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An Antarctica Expedition Cruise

Gentoo penguin leaping over ice, Antarctica. Photo: ExpeditionTrips

Gentoo penguin, Antarctica. Photo: ExpeditionTrips

For: November and December 2020

Dream of setting foot on the Antarctic continent this year? With several new ships debuting both last year and in 2020, there are more options than ever before—all the more reason to have our Trusted Travel Expert explain what makes each vessel and itinerary different, and which is right for you.

Why book in January? January is always one of the busiest times for booking Antarctica cruises, and we expect that to be even truer this year, with so many new ships coming online. The least expensive cabins and suites tend to sell out first, so it pays to plan early.

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Mexico for Christmas

Palmasola villa pool Punta de Mita CR Journey Mexico

Villa rentals, like this one in Punta de Mita, fill up by February for Christmas 2020. Photo: Journey Mexico

For: December 2020

Christmas may have just passed, but it’s now or never for planning your next holiday escape to one of Mexico’s prime destinations, such as Tulum, the Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta, Punta de Mita, Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, Oaxaca, or Merida.

Why book in January? As each week goes by, the villas, boutique hotels, and haciendas in these hot spots rapidly fill up for their busiest time of the year, and by February you may well have to settle for the waiting list or a lesser property. Not only that, but the most well-connected local guides get reserved far in advance too.

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Hawaii for the Holidays

beach at Kawaihae, Big Island, Hawaii.

The beach at Kawaihae, Big Island, Hawaii. Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

For: December 2020

Hawaii has soared in popularity as an end-of-year holiday destination—so much so that many top resorts and rental homes are already fully booked for late December: They save their space for their holiday guests who return year after year.  If those returning guests should cancel—and sometimes they do when deposits come due in March or April—then a few rooms may open up to new travelers at that time.

Why book in January?  If you want an in-demand five-star resort, get yourself onto the waitlist now, so that you’re at the top of that list when a few rooms open up in the spring.  For other hotels, book now to get the room type or rental house that suits your needs.  Our Trusted Travel Expert has an excellent relationship with the Four Seasons Maui and other such highly coveted properties, meaning that your chance of getting an optimal room is increased.

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New Year’s Eve Down Under

Sydney Opera House New Years Fireworks

New Year’s Eve fireworks over the Sydney Opera House. Photo: Robert Wallace/Tourism Australia

For: December 2020

Sydney is the first major city to ring in the New Year—and one of the most popular places to celebrate it anywhere on the globe. A massive fireworks display goes off over the Harbour Bridge not once but twice, the first at 9 p.m. for families and the second at midnight.

Why book in January? Harborview accommodations, charter vessels, and overnight cruises generally go on sale a year in advance and disappear quickly. Get those major items in place now, and you can reserve tables at harborside restaurants or other fireworks vantage points as they become available later in the year.

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We’re here to help

If your goal is an extraordinary trip when the time is right, go to Ask Wendy. We know which trip-planning specialists have up-to-the-minute intel for your destination and can minimize your risk and maximize your experience. Check out Real Trips Right Now to see the difference that this makes.

 

We’re here to help

If your goal is an extraordinary trip when the time is right, go to Ask Wendy. We know which trip-planning specialists have up-to-the-minute intel for your destination and can minimize your risk and maximize your experience. Check out Real Trips Right Now to see the difference that this makes.

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.

The Best Trips to Book in December: What to Lock In Now

UPDATE:  THE PANDEMIC IS CAUSING HUGE CHANGES IN TRAVEL, SO CLICK TO ASK WENDY BEFORE PLANNING ANYTHING.

PLEASE SEE OUR COVID-19 TRAVEL COVERAGE.

WE WILL UPDATE THIS ARTICLE AS INFORMATION DEVELOPS ON SAFE TRAVEL.


Don’t have Christmas or New Year’s plans? Check out our first two recommendations for fantastic last-minute options that are still available. And if celebrating Carnival in Rio, seeing tigers in the wild, or cruising the Galapagos are on your wish list for the coming year, it’s time to snap into action: December is the optimal moment to book these trips, before the choicest accommodations and the most experienced guides are gone. Read on for our full list of the trips you’d be smart to book this month.

(Don’t miss the rest of our series on what trips to book in each month of the year. If you prefer to know which destinations are ideal for traveling to in any given month, see our Where to Go When series, and don’t miss our comprehensive guide to the benefits of booking early.

Belize: A sailing adventure

a yacht is anchored at Sergeant's Caye off the shore in Belize with yellow kayak on sand

Sergeant’s Caye, Belize. Photo: Absolute Belize

For: March and April 2020

The Caribbean trade winds prevail in March and April, making for the best sailing conditions to charter a crewed catamaran. And the summer humidity is still a long way away, so evenings are beautifully fresh and breezy. You can choose to sail to tiny, palm-studded islands that dot the reef and see nary another soul, or hop among islands kitted out with beach bars, boutiques, restaurants.
Why book in December? Not all of Belize’s live-aboard catamarans are created equal; book now to snap up a luxury vessel at an all-inclusive rate, which includes captain and crew, private chef and meals, and a selection of water toys available for your use.

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Brazil for Carnaval

Carnaval, Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Matuete

Carnaval, Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Matuete

For: February 2020

There’s no more memorable party atmosphere than Rio de Janeiro’s Carnaval (which always falls 40 days before Lent—in 2020, that will be early Feb 21–25). After you’ve had your fill of the many-days-long festivities in Rio, leave time to recuperate on the beach in Paraty or Trancoso before returning to the wintry weather back home.

Why book in December? Hotels won’t fill up until late January, but the order of the Carnaval Competition is released in late November—most people don’t realize that the world-famous parade is in fact a fierce contest among 12 top samba schools—and the theme for the glamorous Copacabana Palace Ball is announced in December. So now is the time to decide on which day you want parade tickets (or even get in costume and march with one of the samba schools, which our Trusted Travel Expert can arrange).

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Oman’s Desert and Oases

The Dunes of the Empty Quarter in Oman, the largest continuous sand desert in the world.

The dunes of the Empty Quarter in Oman, the largest continuous sand desert in the world. Photo: Wild Frontiers

For: February to late April 2020

Late winter/early spring is a great time to visit this jewel of the Middle East—particularly if you are fed up with winter skies at home. Even in February you’ll be greeted by warm days and nights, and a warm sea for swimming. And as the temperatures rise the desert becomes more appealing, making a couple of nights out in the vast Empty Quarter (the largest continuous sand desert in the world) an experience that will stay with you forever.

Why book in December? For now, you can still find the right combination of comfortable accommodations and experienced guides. But before long availability will become tight—and you don’t want to put off your trip until later in the spring, as everything winds down once Ramadan starts in late April.

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Antarctica: A Whale Safari

a whale's dorsal fin breaching the icy Antarctic water with a boat of tourists watching

Venture to Antarctica to study whales. Photo: Polar Latitudes

For: February 2020

The comfortable, 114-passenger Hebridean Sky will be setting sail for Antarctica in late February, with a group of scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution aboard. The lucky travelers who accompany this research team will not only explore Antarctica with experts, but they can also help collect data for a groundbreaking study on the feeding habits of humpback whales in the Southern Ocean.

Why book in December? Right now, our Trusted Travel Expert can get you 25% off the cabin rates for this special voyage.

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India’s Prime Time for Tiger-Spotting

Royal Bengal tiger sitting in the grass looking directly at the camera, India

Royal Bengal tiger, India. Photo: Lewis Kemper/Nomadic Expeditions

For: Late March to Mid-May 2020

India is home to most of the world’s population of the rare Bengal tiger, and the window with the best chance of seeing these animals in the wild is short—just a couple of weeks in spring, when the dry season minimizes foliage and brings the animals to watering holes (after mid-May, the blazing temperatures make heat stroke a real deterrent).

Why book in December? The bottleneck in India’s premiere national parks for tiger spotting—Kanha, Bandavgarh, and Pench—is accommodations. The Taj lodges have only 10 to 14 rooms each, the Pugdundee lodges just twice that, so capacity is low. While there are other lodges near the parks, none have the high caliber of naturalist guides that these properties offer.

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A Grand Canyon Rim-and-River Trip

The Colorado River flowing through the Grand Canyon. Photo courtesy O.A.R.S

The Colorado River flowing through the Grand Canyon. Photo courtesy O.A.R.S.

For: April to October 2020

More than five million people visit the Grand Canyon each year; make sure your experience of this natural wonder stands out from the crowd by booking with an expert. The specialists we know can get you access to roads not open to the public; a behind-the-scenes view of the Kolb Studio; and a day float on the Colorado River through nearby Glen Canyon, which mimics the vistas of the Grand Canyon without requiring a commitment of five days or more.

Why book in December? Our experts have access to hotel space that isn’t available to the general public—but if you want to be based in the park itself, you’ll still need to book early.

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An Alaska Cruise at the Best Price

Panoramic view of Glacier Bay national Park. John Hopkins Glacier with Mount Orville and Mount Wilbur in the background. Alaska

John Hopkins Glacier (with Mount Orville and Mount Wilbur in the background) in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska. Photo: Shutterstock

For: May to September 2020

Alaska is one of those places that converts even the most skeptical cruise-goer: Only by boat can you see some of its most knockout landscapes and abundant wildlife. The best itineraries encompass both the Inside Passage (an archipelago of 10,000 islands in the Alaska Panhandle near British Columbia) and the Gulf of Alaska (the coastline farther north that gives you access to Alaska’s interior, including Denali National Park).

Why book in December? In December and January, cruise lines such as Princess and Holland America offer their best promotions on these Gulf of Alaska sailings. The early-booking discounts for summer departures tend to expire in February, but in December you’ll reap the benefits while still having a wide range of ships and cabins to choose from.

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The Galapagos Next Summer

blue footed booby galapagos islands ecuador

Blue-Footed Booby, Galapagos Islands. Photo: peterstuartmill/Pixabay

For: June to August 2020

The Galapagos Islands offer a wildlife-rich experience throughout the year: You can swim with sea turtles, photograph giant tortoises, and have up-close encounters with blue-footed boobies no matter the season. But given how popular the destination is with families, it’s especially important to plan ahead for summer voyages—even more so if you prefer a small yacht or catamaran where space is limited.

Why book in December? People often chat with family and friends over the holidays about an upcoming trip, and then reserve their cabins in January; get a jump on them by making your arrangements now, while there is still good availability across a variety of ships (especially among the few connected or triple cabins that families covet).

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Ireland’s Busy Summer Season

Rock of Cashel castle on a hill in Ireland

Rock of Cashel, Ireland. Photo: Shutterstock

For: June to August 2020

Ireland is enticing more and more travelers and most Americans who go choose it for their big once-a-year summer vacation that combines history, scenery, and culture with a little R&R.

Why book in December? Given Ireland’s summertime popularity, the days of booking a summer vacation there in April—and getting your top-choice hotels and experiences—are over. In December, there will still be some availability, but by January many of the best hotels will be booked up. Also, as more rooms sell, rates climb, especially in Dublin, so your trip will cost less if you book it ASAP.

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Bali’s Coveted Private Villas

Green rice fields on Bali island Indonesia

Green rice fields on Bali island. Photo: Shutterstock

For: July to September 2020

Summer is Bali’s dry season and brings the best all-around weather that the island sees. It’s also the most popular and heavily booked time of the year. Imagine having your own private villa with a pool and a full kitchen, plus a chef and staff who will keep the place stocked with fresh food from local markets. For families or several couples traveling together, a beautiful private villa can cost less than staying in a high-end hotel. But true beachfront villas, as well as those near the action in Ubud, are limited and therefore in high demand over the summer.

Why book in December? Starting in January, many people are making their summer travel plans; by booking in December, you get a jump on your competition for the most coveted beachfront and Ubud-area villas.

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Africa: A Holiday Safari

Singita Grumeti reserve in the Serengeti, Tanzania.

Singita Grumeti reserve in the Serengeti, Tanzania. Photo: Nina Wennersten.

For: December 2020

The Christmas/New Year’s period is a popular time for safaris. It falls during the southern hemisphere’s summer and at a time when getting away from work is relatively easy. But the most in-demand African safari camps have only a few rooms each, so availability is always low.

Why book in December? The top camps and lodges in southern and East Africa often sell out by January for the following December. Book now if you want to spend next year’s holiday season in style at a place like Royal Malewane or one of the Singita properties.

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We’re here to help

If your goal is an extraordinary trip when the time is right, go to Ask Wendy. We know which trip-planning specialists have up-to-the-minute intel for your destination and can minimize your risk and maximize your experience. Check out Real Trips Right Now to see the difference that this makes.

 

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.

The Best Trips to Book in May: What to Lock in Now

UPDATE:  THE PANDEMIC IS CAUSING HUGE CHANGES IN TRAVEL, SO CLICK TO ASK WENDY BEFORE PLANNING ANYTHING.

PLEASE SEE OUR COVID-19 TRAVEL COVERAGE.

WE WILL UPDATE THIS ARTICLE AS INFORMATION DEVELOPS ON SAFE TRAVEL.


If a sea or river cruise is in your 2020 travel plans, right now may well be a smart moment to book it. It’s true: If you want your choice of cabin and departure date, cruises to many destinations that are popular in May (Alaska, the Greek Islands) and to places where vessels are few (French Polynesia, France’s canals) need to be reserved a year in advance. Below, you’ll find those and seven other extraordinary getaways that must be booked right now.

(Don’t miss the rest of our series on what trips to book in each month of the year. If you prefer to know which destinations are ideal for traveling to in any given month, see our Where to Go When series, and don’t miss our comprehensive guide to the benefits of booking early.)

Alaska Cruises Done Right

Hikers in Alaska's Tongass National Forest

Cruise Alaska during the spring or fall and you’ll find a lot more than snow and ice. Photo: Lindlad Expeditons/David Vargas

For: May to September 2020

A cruise is the best way—indeed, the only way—to see some of Alaska’s most beautiful coastline. Look for one that encompasses both the Inside Passage (an archipelago of 10,000 islands in the Alaska Panhandle near British Columbia) and the Gulf of Alaska (the coastline farther north that gives you access to Alaska’s interior). The shoulder months of May and September see the lowest fares, as well as colorful wildflowers and fall foliage, respectively. The warmest and longest days are in June and July, when you’ll also see active, calving glaciers.

Why book in May? The season is short for Alaska cruises, so book at least a year in advance to reserve the cabin you want on the ship that’s right for you; if the price drops before your final payment, you can request a refund for the difference.

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Finding Bliss on the Mediterranean

Sagrada Familia Barcelona Spain

Barcelona is a don’t-miss port on many Mediterranean cruises. Photo: Pixabay

For: May 2020

May is the sweet spot for a Mediterranean cruise: The weather is gorgeous, temperatures are ideal for sightseeing, and crowds are not as abundant as in summer, when kids are out of school and both overseas visitors and Europeans flock to the seashore.

Why book in May? Cruise-line incentives are generally the richest from May through October for the following year’s departures. Snag your preferred cabin at the best rate currently available, and don’t be too concerned about the price dropping or missing out on a last-minute deal: All cruise lines will fulfill a reimbursement request if the fare falls before you send in your final payment, as long as you didn’t book a nonrefundable rate.

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Mexico’s Eye-Popping Monarch Butterfly Migration

Monarch butterflies, Michoacán, Mexico

Monarch butterflies, Michoacán, Mexico. Photo: Scott Clark/Flickr

For: November through March

The Monarch butterflies arrive in Mexico on their annual southern migration in November, and they can be viewed at a biosphere reserve in the states of Michoacán and Mexico until March. It’s quite a sight to see, with up to one billion butterflies carpeting the forest. During the peak months of January and February, wildlife lovers can also spot migrating gray whales in Baja California.

Why book in May? The hotel options are slim in this region, so it’s important to secure your room as soon as possible.

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Morocco’s Best Season

camel trek through the Sahara Desert, Morocco.

Wendy and family on a camel trek through the Sahara Desert, Morocco.

For: Mid-September to mid-November 2019

Spring and fall see the best weather throughout Morocco, avoiding the harsh heat of summer. Autumn is also the perfect time to spend a night at a Sahara encampment, with clear skies for stargazing. And the fall harvest means that markets are full of fresh dates, newly picked olives and pomegranates, and the first fruit of citrus season—making the local cuisine even more delicious.

Why book in May? Wait until summer, and you’re likely to find that the most experienced guides and most atmospheric riads have already booked up.

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Rafting Iconic Rivers in the American West

Choosing the right river is the first step to planning a rafting adventure. Photo courtesy O.A.R.S.

Choosing the right river is the first step to planning a rafting adventure. Photo courtesy O.A.R.S.

For: May to September 2019

Fifty-one years ago, the Salmon River in Idaho and the Rogue in Oregon were among eight waterways designated by the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act to remain free-flowing, thanks to their outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational value. Unplugged, active days on these rivers and starry nights around the campfire are a proven recipe for rejuvenation and reconnection with friends and family.

Why book in May? Book now while there’s still space on guided trips down both of these rivers this summer.

Ask about a river rafting trip

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this.

England’s Spectacular Fall Foliage

Bodiam Castle and moat, , East Sussex, England.

Bodiam Castle and moat, East Sussex, England. Photo: Visit Britain

For: October and November 2019

Few places are more charming and romantic than the English countryside during the fall, when the foliage is bright and colorful and the summer crowds have gone. It’s the perfect time to stroll between villages, go on drives along the winding roads, and while away an afternoon in front of a pub’s toasty fire. Plus, the restaurant menus are full of freshly harvested fruits and vegetables, plus lots of game, such as venison, duck, and pheasant.

Why book in May? Autumn is far less busy than the summer, but the beauty of the season is no longer a secret. Plan now for the fall so that you still have the best choice of accommodation at the finest countryside inns and stately homes, which have just a handful of rooms each.

Ask about a trip to England

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this.

Australia: Hiking in Tasmania

Cradle Mountain Huts Walk Tasmania

Tasmania’s six-day Overland Track takes you through a Wilderness World Heritage Area. Photo: Cradle Mountain Huts

For: September 2019 to March 2020

Tasmania has a bounty of fantastic hiking trails; two of the most iconic are the Overland Track and the Three Capes Walk. The Overland Track is a six-day, 40-mile adventure through the heart of the island’s spectacular UNESCO-designated Wilderness World Heritage Area, past mountains and rainforest. Join a guided trek and stay in private huts where three-course dinners are served, accompanied by Tasmanian wines. The Three Capes Walk is a four-day, 30-mile trek on the remote and rugged Tasman Peninsula, with guided departures that overnight in lodges.

Why book in May? Spots on the guided hikes along these trails during the busy summer season—particularly over school and Christmas holidays—almost always sell out. Reserve your spot now, while there’s still availability for those most popular periods.

Ask about a trip to Australia

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this.

Cruising the Canals of France

Barge Luciole cruising on Canal du Nivernais, Burgundy, France. Courtesy: Barge Luciole

For: June and September 2020

These two months are considered peak season for barge cruises along the canals of France, when the weather there is at its best. September is particularly popular in the wine regions, since that’s when the grape harvest takes place. Barges glide through the canals for a few hours each day, moving slowly enough that you can walk or bike alongside; passengers spend the other half of the day on guided excursions to local chateaux, markets, and villages. Canal barge cruising is a wonderful way to get to know a bit of France on an intimate level.

Why book in May? Barge vessels range in size from just four to 14 passengers, so there is very little inventory available. Itineraries during these most popular months often sell out a year or more in advance.

Ask about a barge cruise in France

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this.

China’s Unique and Traditional New Year Celebrations

Miao festivities in Guizhou China

Miao festivities in Guizhou, China. Photo: WildChina

For: October and November

Rich in colorful minority culture, China’s southwest province of Guizhou sparkles with the traditions of ethnic groups such as the Buyei Miao and Yi Miao. During October and November they will be preparing for their new year celebrations (Miao New Year starts on November 2 in 2019). Join the Miao people, adorned in their signature silver headdresses, as they gather provisions, arrange ancestor worship, visit neighboring villages, and play the Lusheng—a traditional musical instrument made from bamboo. You’ll be kindly welcomed into the community with rice wine and exotic feasts of local fare.

Why book in May? Still off the beaten path, Guizhou has only a few high-quality hotels and English-speaking guides; book now to ensure you get the best of the best.

Ask about a trip to China

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this.

Namibia’s Delightful Shoulder Season

A desert lion crosses a sand dune in Namibia

A desert lion crosses a sand dune in Namibia: Flip Stander & Ultimate Safaris

For: April and May 2020

Namibia is glorious in April and May: Temperatures are moderate both day and night, and the landscape is greener and less dusty than later on in the year. Plus, it’s the least expensive time to visit, with savings of up to 35% off the high-season rates that kick in from June through August. Don’t miss Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp; this vast, isolated wilderness is an ideal place to see oases, sand dunes, and the country’s uniquely desert-adapted wildlife. Or for a completely private experience, stay at The Nest @ Sossus, a new, one-of-a-kind luxury villa immersed in the picturesque landscape of the Namib Desert.

Why book in May? Namibia fills up even more quickly than the rest of the continent—even for shoulder season—so if you don’t reserve your guides and accommodations now, you’ll likely be out of luck.

Ask about a trip to Namibia

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this.

French Polynesia’s Unusual Cruise Experience

Hiva Oa Marquesas Islands French Polynesia

The Aranui 5’s route through French Polyneisa’s Marquesas Islands includes a stop at Hiva Oa, where you can walk a black-sand beach and see the most impressive collection of tika sculptures outside Easter Island.

For: May/June or September/October 2020

The Aranui 5 is a combination freighter/cruise ship that does a two-week trip from Papeete, Tahiti to the Marquesas Islands (see: How to Island-Hop Your Way Around French Polynesia). It’s one of the last such combination ships left in the world, giving travelers an overview of the region while resupplying local communities.

Why book in May? This cruise is so popular that it often sells out a year in advance; the balconied cabins go first. Book now for a spring or fall cruise next year.

Ask about a trip to French Polynesia

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this.

 

We’re here to help

If your goal is an extraordinary trip when the time is right, go to Ask Wendy. We know which trip-planning specialists have up-to-the-minute intel for your destination and can minimize your risk and maximize your experience. Check out Real Trips Right Now to see the difference that this makes.

 

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.

Newfoundland scenery

Extraordinary Getaways in the U.S. and Canada

When you can’t plan far in advance and don’t want to travel too far from home, here are options for a wide variety of extraordinary trips in the United States and Canada. If you’re not sure which Trusted Travel Expert is the best fit for your particular trip goals, feel free to Ask Wendy.

“Our teenagers are still talking about our Southern California trip…”

The Gill family WOW Moment.

The Gill family’s WOW Moment.

“Our teenagers are still talking about our Southern California trip, especially the paragliding adventure over the beaches and golf course at Torrey Pines and our beach barbeque at Crystal Cove State Park while watching the sunset with our toes in the sand.  Sheri was very helpful in recommending and organizing hotel stays at both the new hipster Pendry Hotel in San Diego and the luxurious Pelican Hill Resort outside of Newport Beach.  We initially had a little misunderstanding with the resort regarding our room location, but after a short conversation with Sheri, we were quickly upgraded to a room with a much better view (thanks, Sheri). This type of personalized service is the reason we plan most of our trips using Wendy Perrin’s trusted travel experts.  Since this was our third qualifying trip, Wendy surprised us with a WOW Moment—a day of adventure on charming Coronado Island. Our guide for the day picked us up at our hotel for a short ferry ride over to the historic island, where we spent the day riding electric bikes around the quaint residential areas, and then we kayaked out into the Bay. Thanks, Wendy and Sheri, for a very memorable day for all of us! ” —Janette Gill

Utah: “The sunset at the rim of Bryce Canyon displaying blazing shades of yellow, orange, and pink…”

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. Photo: Mark Campbell

“Our trip to the national parks and monuments of Utah was a breathtaking adventure, thanks to Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert.  We experienced moments in time that were transformative: The Navajo guide who sang to us in his native language while we were sitting within a grotto at Monument Valley; the slot canyon tour that resulted in absolutely amazing photos, thanks to another native Navajo guide who helped us with our Nikon camera settings, thus maximizing the camera’s capacity to capture vivid colors within the stunningly colorful canyons; the sunset at the rim of Bryce Canyon displaying blazing shades of yellow, orange, and pink; the drive at the base of the canyons at Capitol Reef that could have so easily been missed, had she not pointed this out to us; lastly, the hot-air balloon ride at the Amangiri.  I still cannot believe we experienced all that we did.” —Linda Johnsey

Atlantic Canada: “There were breathtaking panoramic views, rugged coastlines, fascinating history, photogenic lighthouses…”

Gros Morne Western Brook Pond fjord, Newfoundland

Gros Morne Western Brook Pond fjord, Newfoundland. Photo: Maxxim Vacations

Jill arranged a wonderful itinerary for our four-week road trip through Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland. There were breathtaking panoramic views, rugged coastlines, fascinating history, colorful houses, photogenic lighthouses, quaint ports, interesting art, gourmet food offerings, a lot of friendly people, and outstanding activities such as a private tour of Green Gables where you would have believed that Anne herself was taking us through Marilla’s home, a lighthouse picnic in Ferryland with million-dollar views whichever way you looked, a private boat tour exploring the rugged Atlantic coastline between the sea stacks, a sailing boat on the inland sea at Baddeck, and a guided hike to two amazing areas of Gros Morne National Park. It certainly is an advantage to get a local person to arrange an itinerary such as we have enjoyed and organize special accommodations and activities that you would not find if you did not have that local knowledge. It was also a real treat to meet Jill while we were there; it added an extra-special personalized moment for us.” —Paul and Karen Fehlberg

Alaska: “We caught ten 15-pound salmon in Talkeetna (and we had never fished before)…”

A Kodiak brown bear, Alaska

A Kodiak brown bear, in Alaska. Photo: Entree Destinations

“This was our third trip to Alaska—and it was a ‘WOW’ trip for us, thanks to Judith. We flew to the remote village of Anaktuvuk in Gates of the Arctic National Park, caught ten 15-pound salmon in Talkeetna (and we had never fished before), saw bears at Brooks Falls, saw sandhill cranes at Creamers Field, hiked around Byers Lake, got a private tour of the Morris Thompson native heritage center, reached ‘The End of the Road’ in Denali National Park…. Everything was just a delight!  And without Judith’s knowledge as to where to stay, what flying companies to work with, what fishing licenses were needed, and the many details and connections that were necessary for this trip, I could not have put it together without being frazzled and worried about making sure things worked as intended. This was a delightful, stress-free trip.  Judith and her team even arranged the weather for us to get a ‘clear’ view of Denali.” —Marsha Friedli

Wyoming: “She found us the perfect cabin in the Tetons…”

kayaking in jackson lake grand teton national park

Grand Teton National Park is full of outdoor activities in the summer, including kayaking on Jackson Lake. Photo: Billie Cohen

“We—my wife and I and our six-year-old twins—were searching for a memorable 10-day Thanksgiving trip in the mountains anywhere in the West that had the best chance of snow. After advising us as to the pros and cons of every mountain area from Colorado to British Columbia, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert steered us toward Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She found us the perfect cabin in the Tetons for half of the time and then obtained a truly phenomenal suite for us at the Four Seasons. We booked excursions in the refuge to see bison, hundreds of elk, and bighorn sheep, and we were directed to great hills to sled on and wonderful hiking areas. It was a five-star experience.” —Garrett Bandy

Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia: ” The looks on our daughters’ faces were priceless…”

fisherman in a river with a helicopter parked nearby in the mountains of British Columbia Canada

Heli-fishing in British Columbia, Canada. Photo: Entree Destinations

Marc arranged a private heli-fishing tour in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest. We were first a little hesitant due to the cost, but now we can honestly say that this was by far the highlight of our trip to BC!  Our heli-adventure began with a very scenic ride out to an isolated stream where we fished for pink salmon under the watchful eyes of bald eagles that were nesting in the trees above. The looks on our daughters’ faces were priceless as a mama black bear and her cub ventured to the other side of the stream for a drink. Next we flew past majestic waterfalls to a glacier where we ate a delicious, gourmet picnic lunch followed by a short hike around the fields of flowers and streams. Our adventure continued as the helicopter landed on a very small sandbar on the side of a rushing river to fish for coho salmon followed by another scenic ride back to our resort. It’s these little touches from Marc and his relationships with his service providers that made our vacation to Canada go from good to GREAT…hotel room upgrades, restaurant recommendations and reservations, a personalized foodie tour of Granville Island Market with a personal chef, a candy bar and birthday celebrations for our girls, and a delicious cheese/fruit tray for my husband and I.” —Janette Gill

California Road Trip: “A wonderful road trip on the Pacific Coast Highway from Mendocino down to San Diego…”

Bixby Bridge on the Big Sur coast of California

Bixby Bridge, on the Big Sur coast of California. Photo: Visit California/Myles McGuinness

“Wendy recommended a Trusted Travel Expert who helped us plan a wonderful road trip on the Pacific Coast Highway from Mendocino down to San Diego. He suggested a number of curated visits that were amazing. We especially liked a fabulous canoe trip down the Big River in Mendocino, a bike and wine tour through Sonoma, and a guided tour through Point Lobos (one of the most beautiful spots on earth). He knew the best rooms to stay in—we had some unbelievable views of the ocean from our hotels. It was one of our best trips ever—a definite WOW!” —Cathe and Bob Spear

Maui and Lanai: “We were unsure which Hawaiian islands we wanted to visit…”

Four Seasons Maui balcony

Four Seasons Maui. Photo: Four Seasons

“We were unsure which Hawaiian islands we wanted to visit, but Dani asked our family (four adults) so many questions about what we expected and how we wanted to spend our time, and was so well-informed, that we ended up with a fantastic vacation. We decided on the Four Seasons resorts on the islands of Maui and Lanai, which turned out to be perfect choices. Dani arranged all of our activities: surf lessons, paddleboard lessons, skeet shooting, archery. We had dinner reservations ready and were able to just enjoy our days. A highlight was our WOW Moment, biking down Haleakala through sun and clouds. Just a pleasure! Dani also maximized our time by advising us to take the ferry to Lanai, but to fly from Lanai to Maui instead of using the ferry again. Great advice!” —Nancy Stone

Prince Edward Island: “We had an unbelievable meal that lasted the entire evening…”

chef cooking over fire at Inn at Bay Fortune Prince Edward Island Canada

Inn at Bay Fortune, Prince Edward Island.

Jill planned a fabulous trip for us in the Canadian Maritimes that included an evening of Nova Scotia wines and local specialties at Le Caveau (you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten Brant Lake Wagyu beef), staying at Glenora Distillery on Cape Breton Island, and dinner overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at Panorama at the Cabot Links golf course. The pièce de résistance was our WOW Moment at The Inn at Bay Fortune on Prince Edward Island, where we had an unbelievable meal that lasted the entire evening. A farmer regaled us with stories about his farm and some of what we would be eating, we had a feast of oysters, and everything was cooked over an open flame! Little did we know there would be another WOW Moment the next morning, when we met the chef carving up a 322-pound tuna in the kitchen. ” —Sonja & Brian Haggert

The Olympic Peninsula to Vancouver and Victoria: “Scenic drives, hikes inside national parks, ferry rides…”

A beautiful sunset on the ocean among the rocks, Cape flattery trail , Olympic Peninsula, Washington state

Cape flattery trail, Olympic Peninsula, Washington state. Photo: Shutterstock

“For our trip from the Olympic Peninsula to Vancouver and Victoria, Sheri planned all the logistics, telling us which ferries to take, what time to visit a national park, what to do only on a sunny day rather than a cloudy one, which hikes to take in light of the ages of our kids, restaurants that we would enjoy, traffic advice, museums to visit, and more. She helped us find a great vacation home in the Olympic Peninsula that we would never have found on our own. We were initially reluctant to hire a travel agent who charged for her time, but we are so glad we did because she was worth every penny. Much of the detailed itinerary planning she does wouldn’t yield a commission for her—for example, planning scenic drives, hikes inside national parks, ferry rides—so I understand why she bills for her time the way she does and would highly recommend her.” —Sally Vaugh

Oahu and Maui: “There are many beaches to stop at, and you can see which is the right one for you…”

Hawaii - Kaneohe Bay, Oahu

Aerial view of Kualoa Point at Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Hawaii. Photo: Shutterstock

Dani did a five-star job planning our Hawaii trip; her recommendations were awesome. If you go to Oahu, head to the North Shore to catch the real vibe of Hawaii. Take the Kamehameha Highway; there are many beaches to stop at, and you can see which is the right one for you. At Pearl Harbor, don’t miss the USS Bowfin Submarine tour and the USS Battleship Missouri. Maui is so much more than the west side of the island. Be sure to explore upcountry, and take the Road to Hana. Make dinner reservations at Merriman’s—in the Kapalua area of the North Shore—for 30 minutes before sunset. But get there earlier so you can sit outside and watch the day end while overlooking Kapalua Bay! As for Lanai, it’s very laid back and a restful place to chill, but be sure to take the 4 x 4 drive to The Garden of the Gods and beyond to Polihua Beach. The journey is the destination! Shipwreck Beach is interesting too: Where else can you walk out to a WW2 ship run aground on the shoals?”  —Joe Linnehan

Disney World: “…carefully planning the order of parks we would visit to make best use of open hours and Disney Magic Hours…”

Fireworks at Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Fireworks at Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Photo: Disney

“My husband, two grandsons, and I just returned from Disney World, where we had a fabulous trip, largely due to Michelle. She worked with me on a detailed itinerary, carefully planning the order of parks we would visit to make best use of open hours and Disney Magic Hours (which we took full advantage of). She suggested that we stay at Disney’s Beach Club Resort because she said it had the best pool for our grandsons. With its pirate ship, slides and other water-park features, she was absolutely right. Michelle got reservations for a fun sit-down dinner each day, giving us a chance to take a breather and eat some interesting and healthy food. Each restaurant was convenient to where we were spending the day; I could see the wisdom of all her choices as we went through the week. One dinner even included VIP seating at Hollywood Studios’ excellent light show. On the day we qualified to sign up for our Fast Pass choices, Michelle selected the attractions that were most popular and geared to our grandsons’ ages and interests. She also ordered our Disney wrist bands that were linked to our hotel room, parks, Photo Pass, and credit card. I didn’t even have to carry a purse when we went out for the day. She made it possible for us to focus on memories instead of logistics. That’s a big reason why our grandsons announced to their parents when we returned that it was the most fun trip they had ever been on.” —Christine Stoll

Whistler and the Discovery Islands, British Columbia: “So remote, with beautiful scenery and gourmet food…”

aerial view of Sonora Resort in the Discovery Islands, British Columbia

Sonora Resort in the Discovery Islands, British Columbia. Photo: Tim Baker

“My husband and I and our two teenage daughters wanted to go to British Columbia, but to avoid any really crowded areas. Marc suggested we spend a few days in Whistler, then a few days on Sonora Island, and end in Vancouver. He set us up for fun activities in Whistler—RZR cars, white-water rafting, zip lining—and we were treated to a WOW Moment: A photographer gave us a personal tour of several waterfalls, giving us photography tips along the way and taking family photos; although I am the photography buff in the family, he was able to engage the whole family and everyone really enjoyed the experience (thank you, Wendy!). We then took a seaplane to Sonora Resort, which the entire family agreed was heavenly. So remote, with beautiful scenery and gourmet food. On our eco-adventure tour we were lucky enough to be in the middle of a pod of about 100 dolphins. The food at Sonora Resort was so delicious that on the first night at dinner our daughter said, ‘Thank you for bringing me here.’ Finally, in Vancouver, Marc suggested the Fairmont Pacific Rim for us, which also was in a fabulous location. Since we are foodies, he planned a food tour at Granville Island, where there are so many booths that it was helpful to have an expert direct us; the tour allowed us to sample more items in small quantities than we could have done on our own. Although I was very involved with the details of our trip, I didn’t have to figure out where to go or how to get there or worry about logistics during my vacation. That made it a true vacation for me.” —Nancy Wolf

Oregon: “She got us into the cellar of a family-owned winery…”

View of Cannon Beach and Indian beach in Ecola State park Oregon

View of Cannon Beach and Indian beach in Ecola State park Oregon. Photo: Shutterstock

“Wow, do not hesitate to hire Sheri when planning your trip to Oregon. Highlights: She snagged a 7 pm dinner reservation with a view at a restaurant that was booked solid three months out; she got us into the cellar of a family-owned winery in the Willamette Valley where the owner popped off the cork of the barrel and asked us to listen to the crackling sound of wine fermenting; she arranged for tide pooling at Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach. All of the resorts were spot-on, and her restaurant suggestions for dinner were culinary delights—especially the chef’s tasting menu with wine at Castagna in Portland. Her detailed planning service is worth every penny.” —Linda Johnsey

Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland: “Excursions which we never could have arranged by ourselves and about which my three grandchildren never stop talking…”

Newfoundland scenery

Newfoundland scenery. Photo: Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

“For our three-generation family trip to Atlantic Canada—Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland—Jill arranged excursions which we never could have arranged by ourselves and about which my three grandchildren never stop talking. These included a boat trip where we dug for clams, pulled up lobster traps, gathered fresh mussels and oysters, and had a wonderful lobster boil on a secluded beach. Another boat excursion was to islands dark with puffins, murres, razor bills, cormorants and other birds, and a boat tour of coastal resettled communities during which we saw whales.  We also had a songfest in a private home with guitar and accordion. And we (and some say this was the best) hiked along the shore with Lori, a chef, who pointed out plants which were edible and then used them to make a sumptuous lunch. The vistas of inland lakes, pine forests, and ocean fronts were magnificent. This was a visit of a lifetime.” —Richard Goldin

Washington, D.C.: “We were able to get special access to the Supreme Court…”

The Supreme Court building exterior in Washington, D.C

The Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Photo: Shutterstock

Emily’s team did a great job helping us with our Washington, D.C., trip. I was completely befuddled by the plethora of options—and even though I booked just one tour with them, they gave me very solid advice in plotting my itinerary. As it turns out, we were able to get special access to the Supreme Court that day. They were also nice enough to switch our tour to the British Museum for an upcoming London trip. That guide did a fantastic job: He made our high-school daughter look shockingly knowledgeable when she was able to answer questions about ancient Mesopotamia a few months later.” —Susan Hughes

Alaska: “The only backcountry lodge permitted to conduct guided hikes within the Park…”

Denali National Park, Alaska

Denali National Park, Alaska. Photo: Michael DeYoung/Alaska Tourism

“There are travel agents, and then there are travel experts. When going to Alaska, you can buy a nice package deal off of a travel agent, get a cruise, take some side tours and perhaps an extension to Anchorage, Katmai, Talkeetna, Denali or Fairbanks. You will see great places, but you will be part of a crowd. We wanted to see how an Alaska travel expert could customize a trip to meet our desires. Our main objective was to see one of the wildest areas of North America—the backcountry of Denali National Park and Preserve. There are very few travel-agent packages that take you this deep. So Wendy put us in contact with Judith. A travel expert like Judith will book you in a place that is off the grid, 92 miles inside Denali, in the only backcountry lodge permitted to conduct guided hikes within the Park and Preserve. Despite the location, this lodge is a first-class operation. She will also connect you with a behind-the-scenes tour with a native Alaskan and a first-rate guide for birding in Talkeetna. We usually do our own driving, but Judith convinced us to try the Alaska Railroad GoldStar Service between Fairbanks, Denali Park, Talkeetna and Anchorage. Good move, with wonderful travel on each leg of the trip. The views from the train were spectacular, and meeting other train travelers was a fascinating experience. Warning: Alaska is expensive. But Judith will provide a first-class experience of a lifetime. Only about 30% of the people visiting Denali get to see ‘The Great One.’ Judith gave us an excellent shot of seeing the highest mountain in North America. We succeeded and now are part of the lucky 30%.” —Henry Sosinski

Maui and The Big Island, Hawaii: “She even managed to snag us an upgrade to a suite…”

Four Seasons Hualalai pool Hawaii

Four Seasons Hualalai, Hawaii. Photo: Four Seasons

“We used Danis help to put together our trip to Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii.  It was a great trip packed with hiking, a sunrise visit to the top of Mt. Haleakalā and a subsequent bike ride down, surfing lessons in Lahaina, and a helicopter tour of the Big Island, including the active volcano.  Dani was in constant contact with us throughout, which was greatly appreciated, as we had questions about various things while we were there.  We had mentioned this trip was a celebration of our wedding anniversary, and at both of our hotels there was chilled champagne and sweet treats, courtesy of Dani.  She even managed to snag us an upgrade to a suite at the Four Seasons Hualalai, which was a pleasant surprise.” —Joseph McBrine

kayak on turquoise water Koh Lipe island Thailand

Holiday Travel Ideas from Sophisticated Travelers

Idyllic tropical beach with white sand, turquoise ocean water and blue sky at Antigua island in Caribbean
Antigua island in the Caribbean
colorful buildings Puerto Vallarta Mexico
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
vineyards with snow-capped mountains in background Mendoza Argentina
Mendoza, Argentina
Great Barrier Reef aerial view
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Rio Celeste Waterfall photographed in Costa Rica
Costa Rica
kayak on turquoise water Koh Lipe island Thailand
Koh Lipe, Thailand
the red sand of Chile's Atacama desert with tall mountains in the distance
Atacama Desert, Chile
camel trek through the Sahara Desert, Morocco.
Sahara Desert, Morocco
Blue-footed booby, Galapagos Islands.
Galapagos Islands
Leafy town square with fountain in a picturesque village in Provence, France
Saignon, Provence, France
paragliding Masada Israel
Masada, Israel
Egypt
Udaivilas Oberoi hotel Udaipur india lake view
Udaipur, India

 

A lot of travelers write to us seeking suggestions for unusual Christmas-New Year’s destinations. They want to go where everybody else isn’t going. Depending on what sort of experience they’re after, Wendy might suggest anything from Malta to Abu Dhabi.

As for the holiday travel plans that WendyPerrin.com travelers have already made, among the most popular locales are Argentina, New Zealand, and Thailand.  Travelers who want to explore the world closer to home are bound for Mexico, Costa Rica, the Caribbean Islands, and Belize.

If you haven’t planned your holiday trip yet, now is the time, as many flights and resorts fill up months in advance. For inspiration, browse the lists below that show where your fellow travelers are headed. We’ve also got helpful monthly articles on Where to Go When. If you have other ideas or plans for your winter travels, let us know in the comments where you’re headed!

Top 10 Countries Booked by WOW List Travelers for Christmas/New Year’s Trips

Argentina
Mexico*
Chile
Costa Rica
Morocco*
New Zealand*
Caribbean Islands
Thailand
Belize
Egypt*

* = tied with the country listed above it

Top 16 Countries Already Booked By WOW List Travelers for Winter Trips
(November through February)

Mexico
Thailand
Chile
New Zealand
Argentina
Vietnam*
Morocco
United States*
Caribbean Islands
Costa Rica*
Cambodia
The Galapagos Islands*
Australia
Belize
France*
Italy*

* = tied with the country listed above it

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.

Capri, Amalfi Coast, Italy

The Ideal Islands for Each Month of the Year

Figuring out the optimal time to travel to an island can be tricky. “Peak season” often does not mean the best time to go; it just means the most expensive time, based on when school’s out in the countries that send the most vacationers to that island. “Low season” might mean peaceful and lovely, with a brief and pleasantly cooling shower each afternoon, or it might mean that every restaurant and famous site shuts down entirely. In addition to seasonal changes in weather, most islands have limited lodging—which can drive rates to extortionate levels—and some island can get crowds that will overtax the small tourism infrastructure, especially when cruise ships stop there.

We’re here to help—by suggesting a few islands for each month of the year. These are the opportune moments when the destination is at its best yet, in most instances, offers shoulder-season pricing. Craving an island not listed below? Punch its name into the “Destinations” search box at top left; if we’ve got an Insider’s Guide for that island, you can read the best and worst times to go.

Seeking the right island or island-trip-planning specialist for your specific needs? You may ask us here.

January: Madeira, Portugal

This sub-tropical Portuguese island may be small, but it puts on a New Year’s Eve celebration and fireworks show that rivals the ones in Sydney, London, and Rio. (Book early!) Later in the month, the world-class hotels will be far more affordable, yet you can still enjoy virgin laurel forest, panoramic hiking, and great local gastronomy, including the island’s namesake wine.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Portugal, and use our questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

January: Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar

With a private yacht at your disposal, the Mergui archipelago is a veritable playground of diving and snorkeling sites full of rare underwater species, mangroves with crystal-clear water, and beaches where the only human footprints will be the ones you leave. In January, the weather is warm and sunny, and the seas are calm.

Ask Wendy who is the best Myanmar or yacht-charter specialist to plan your specific trip.

January: Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Located where the Pacific currents meet the Indian Ocean, this archipelago is a marine Eden with more than 1,300 species of fish and three-quarters of all the hard corals found in the world. Above the water line, the forested karst islands are home to fantastical creatures such as birds of paradise and tree kangaroos. October through April is Raja Ampat’s dry season; just after the holidays, prices drop considerably.

Ask Wendy who is the best Indonesia or cruise specialist to plan your specific trip.

February: Isla Palenque, Panama

Isla Palenque is an eco-friendly private-island resort off the Pacific coast of Panama.

Isla Palenque is an eco-friendly private-island resort off the Pacific coast of Panama.

A private-island resort off the Pacific coast of Panama, Isla Palenque offers both environmental sustainability and barefoot luxury. Just a 15-minute boat ride from the mainland, it’s easily combined with other parts of Panama or even Costa Rica, and you get seven different beaches, the surrounding Chiriqui National Marine Park, and a jungle full of monkeys and birds. February sees gorgeous weather—and with just eight thatch-roofed casitas and one villa on the 400-acre island, you’ll never encounter crowds.

Ask Wendy who is the best Panama specialist to plan your specific trip.

February: Venice, Italy

All that is sumptuous and extravagant about Venice is kicked up several notches in February, thanks to Carnevale. A month’s worth of elaborate celebrations—marked by Baroque costumes, masked balls, sinful sweets, and general bacchanalian overindulgence—reach a fever pitch in the “Fat Days” preceding Martedì Grasso (Shrove Tuesday). Carnevale dates vary from year to year but always include at least part of February.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Venice, and use our questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

March: Crete, Greece

The island of Spinalonga, Crete, Greece. Photo: Blue Palace Resort and Spa

The island of Spinalonga, Crete, Greece. Photo: Blue Palace Resort and Spa

While many Greek islands go into hibernation in the winter, with resorts and restaurants shuttering for the season, Crete is large enough that it stays vibrant year-round. It’s also Greece’s most southern—and thus warmest—island. Not everything will be open in March, but it’s a great time to get a dose of local culture, and hotel rates are lower than you’ll find later in spring.

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March: Bermuda

The Reefs, Southampton, Bermuda

The Reefs, Southampton, Bermuda.

April is when the cruise ships start to arrive for the summer season, letting off up to 4,000 passengers at a time. A month earlier, hotel rates are half their summer peak, temps are in the low 70s (great for golf and tennis, if not bikinis), and there are free tours, lectures, and arts demonstrations all over the island.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Bermuda, and ask Wendy who is the best Bermuda specialist to plan your specific trip.

March: Malta and Gozo

gozo island green hills scenery in Maltese archipelago

Gozo is smaller and more rural than its neighbor Malta.

March sees few of the cruise-ship visitors who arrive daily in Malta come summer. With highs in the mid-60s and a lush green coating on the hills brought out by winter rains, this is a particularly great time of year for countryside walks and cycling on neighboring Gozo, which is smaller and more rural than Malta.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Malta, and use our questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

April: The Azores

green fields on Flores island The Azores Portugal

The Azores are known for breathtaking natural beauty. Photo: Visit the Azores

You won’t find ultra-luxe resorts and 24-hour concierge service in the Azores, but you will find whale- and dolphin-watching (sightings of migrating cetaceans peak in April), breathtaking natural beauty, and locals who are genuinely happy to see tourists at this time of year. For a slower-paced trip, stay just on the main island of São Miguel; if you prefer to see a bit more, base yourself on Faial and take day trips by ferry to Pico and São Jorge.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Portugal, and use our questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

April: The Maldives

person swimming in clear blue water at Cheval Blanc Randheli resort in the Maldives

The Maldives. Photo: Cheval Blanc Randheli.

April (after Easter) is when you’ll find a sweet spot of lower hotel rates and ideal weather: Temperatures are consistently in the high 80s year-round, but in April there is almost no rain or wind, so the water is calm for snorkeling and diving.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to The Maldives, and use our questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

April: Sardinia, Italy

Sardinia is a little-known hiker’s paradise, with trails that bestow views of white-sand beaches and crystalline water on one side, and craggy mountain peaks on the other. But if you go there to walk in summer, you’ll melt. Visit in April instead, when it’s not too crowded, the temperature is pleasant, and the wildflowers are in bloom.

Ask Wendy who is the best specialist to plan your specific trip.

May: Santorini, Greece

Oia town on Santorini island, Greece. Traditional and famous houses and churches with blue domes over the Caldera, Aegean sea

Oia town, on Santorini. Photo: Shutterstock

May weather is warm but not hot, and hotel rates are lower than from mid-June through September. The crowds are less too, which has the added benefit of ensuring the service will be better. During the hectic summer months, when hordes of cruise-ship passengers invade the island, service suffers; you can barely even find an available taxi.

 Use our questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

May: Capri, Italy

Capri, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Capri, Amalfi Coast, Italy. Photo: IC Bellagio

Mild spring temperatures make it pleasant to explore this legendary island, which is still in a state of tranquility before the mad crush invades in June. The orange and jasmine flowers in bloom lend wonderful scents and colors; it’s also the time of year for many sailing events, as well as the annual celebration of the island’s Patron Saint San Costanzo.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to the Amalfi Coast, and use our questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

May: Corsica, France

aerial view of Corsica island France

Corsica is great for hiking in May. Photo: Philip Haslett

While summer is high season, May and June are hard to beat: The temperatures are a bit lower, the crowds fewer, and the hotels don’t impose minimum-stay requirements. It’s a great time for the hiking, cycling, and canyoning that Corsica is known for—but if you want to spend a lot of time in the water, you’re better off waiting until September.

Ask Wendy who is the best Corsica specialist to plan your specific trip.

May: Oahu, Hawaii

View from the Makapuu Point Lookout, Oahu Hawaii

View from the Makapuu Point Lookout, Oahu. Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Mark Kushimi

Oahu’s temps are consistently pleasant year-round (usually between 78 and 82 degrees). The reason May is ideal—except for the Japanese holiday of Golden Week, at the start of the month— is that airfare is less expensive and crowds are fewer.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Oahu, and use our questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

June: Bali

Green rice fields on Bali island Indonesia

Green rice fields on Bali island. Photo: Shutterstock

June has the most reliably pleasant weather in Bali—daytime temps in the 80s and gentle breezes to keep the sun from feeling too hot—and better prices: High-season hotel rates don’t kick in until July.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Bali, and use our questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

June: Sri Lanka

eautiful Tropical Beach In Kalpitiya, Sri Lanka. These boats used to take people to watch dolphins

Kalpitiya beach, Sri Lanka. Photo: Shutterstock

Sri Lanka’s east coast, stretching from the quiet beaches of Trincomalee to the surf paradise of Arugam Bay, bursts with life this month. Compared to the better-known beaches in the south, those along this coast are more secluded, with a calmer and shallower sea—perfect for whale watching, snorkeling, diving, and fishing. After Easter and before summer vacation, visitors are fewer and the prices are easier on the wallet.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Sri Lanka, and use our questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

June: Spitsbergen, Norway

Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard Archipelago, is one of the world’s best places to see polar bears. While Arctic voyages set sail throughout the summer, going early in the season maximizes your chances of seeing these magnificent animals before the sea ice recedes.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to the Arctic, and use our questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

June: Mallorca and Menorca, Spain

Beautiful traditional boathouses, apartments and beach at Playa Santanyi, located in the south east of Mallorca.

Find beautiful traditional boathouses, apartments and beaches at Playa Santanyi, located in the south east of Mallorca.Photo: Bespoke Travel Spain and Portugal

Early in the month, you’ll find great weather without the crowds of beachgoers who invade in summertime. Mallorca is a golfer’s dream, with a wide range of hotels, while Menorca is off the typical tourist circuit and ideal for those who want to relax by the sea and enjoy life as the locals do.

Ask Wendy who is the best Spain specialist to plan your specific trip.

June: Yakushima, Japan

This sub-tropical island, located in the waters just south of Kyushu, is ideal for intrepid travelers: Its mountains and vast forest of ancient cedar trees are crisscrossed by a network of hiking trails, from easy walks to challenging ascents. June signals the end of the rainy season, so you’ll find stunning waterfalls along the trails; it’s also when endangered loggerhead sea turtles return to Yakushima’s beaches to nest.

Ask Wendy who is the best Japan specialist to plan your specific trip.

July: Vanuatu

This Melanesian chain of roughly 80 islands that stretch across 800 miles is a remote and undeveloped paradise. You won’t find five-star resorts, but you will find crystal-clear waters, coral reefs, gorgeous beaches, active volcanoes, and warm and hospitable locals. July and August are a drier, cooler time of year in this tropical island nation.

Ask Wendy who is the best South Pacific or boat-charter specialist to plan your specific trip.

July: Aeolian Islands, Italy

Italy in July, you say? Isn’t it jam-packed? Not in this chain of islands—some of the most pristine left in Europe—that are just a short sail from Sicily and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in their entirety. While the mainland is mobbed, charter a yacht with a captain who was born on the islands and who can show you beautiful and lush Salina; the jet-setters’ getaway of Panarea; and magnificent Stromboli, where volcanic eruptions frequently light up the night sky.

Use our questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

July: Tahiti

Heiva group dancing contest in Tahiti

Heiva group dancing contest. Photo: Tahiti Tourism

French Polynesia’s “Heiva” festival falls during July, with the culmination of ceremonies in Papeete, Tahiti, around the 20th. Heiva is a celebration of life and all things Polynesian. The outer islands hold local contests—in everything from outrigger racing to stone carrying and spear throwing, traditional dancing and singing to tifaifai (quilt) making—and the best go to Tahiti for the main festival. It’s a great time weather-wise as well; the trade winds keep temps in the low 80s and the humidity low.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Tahiti and French Polynesia, and use our questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

July: Zanzibar

July is a perfect time to cap off a safari with a few days on Zanzibar’s gorgeous white-sand beaches. It’s one of the island’s driest and sunniest months, with daytime temperatures in the low 80s and not much humidity. Plus, the Great Migration is usually in Tanzania’s northern Serengeti in early July, with the enormous herds of wildebeest and zebra crossing the Mara River into Kenya’s Masai Mara by mid-month.

Ask Wendy who is the best Zanzibar specialist to plan your specific trip.

August: Faroe Islands, Denmark

Gásadalur on Vagar Island, Faroe Islands. Photo: Tina Thorman

There is great hiking on the Faroe Islands, and more sheep than humans. Photo: Tina Thorman

The weather in the Faroe Islands is notoriously dramatic and unpredictable—but your surest chance of warm and sunny days comes in the summer. There is great hiking on the islands, more sheep than there are humans, and a rustic charm and sense of welcome that could have you sharing a home-cooked meal with a local family. Luxury here is not in the bathroom fixtures or the thread count of the sheets, but in the time and space to clear your mind and recenter your soul.

Ask Wendy who is the best Faroe Islands specialist to plan your specific trip.

August: Great Barrier Reef Islands, Australia

Great Barrier Reef aerial view

Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Photo: Shutterstock

August brings warm weather, good visibility for divers and snorkelers, and calm seas (the wind dies down at the end of July). It’s also the best time to view whales—dwarf minke whales visiting the northern reefs and humpbacks on their annual migration to Antarctica. Every August, Hamilton Island also hosts Race Week, a sailing regatta with festivities on and off the water.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to the Great Barrier Reef, and use our questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

August: Madagascar

Ring-tailed lemur looks directly at the camera in Madagascar

Ring-tailed lemur, Madagascar

August is deep enough into the dry season that the wildlife viewing is very good (the lush foliage of rainy season makes it hard to see the animals) yet it also precedes the peak season of September and October, when the parks are more crowded (and the weather hotter).

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Madagascar, and use our questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

August: Ionian Islands, Greece

If August is your only time to travel to Greece and you don’t love crowds, charter a yacht in the Ionians. Many of the smaller islands in this group are accessible only by boat, so you’ll be free of the swarms that plague Santorini and Mykonos this month. Instead, you’ll find a temperate climate, spectacular beaches, lush vegetation, beautiful mountains, and the true flavor of Greece when you disembark from your boat and head into a tiny town for a meal at a local taverna.

 Use our questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

September: Ibiza

Bay with sailboats in Cala d Hort IBIZA Spain

In September, it’s not nearly as crowded at Ibiza’s beach clubs, restaurants, and nightclubs

Come September, it’s not nearly as crowded at the beach clubs, restaurants, and nightclubs (or on the roads). Rates for hotels and private boating excursions drop, but the weather is still lovely, and it’s warm enough to swim (with ideal air temperatures for hiking and biking as well) right up until the hot spots’ closing parties in early October.

Use our questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

September: Hvar, Croatia

aerial view of Hvar island and surrounding sea Croatia

On Hvar in September, it’s still swimsuit season but the party crowds have gone. Photo: Exeter International

It’s still swimsuit season, but the atmosphere is much more laid-back than in July and August, and the travelers are more sophisticated than the summer party crowds. Croatia is known for its excellent wine, and September also coincides with the grape harvest. Later in the month, hotel rates drop.

Ask Wendy who is the best Croatia specialist to plan your specific trip.

September: San Juan Islands

Lime Kiln Point Lighthouse, Haro Straight, San Juan Islands, Washington

Lime Kiln Point Lighthouse, Haro Straight, San Juan Islands, Washington. Photo: Shutterstock

The weather in the San Juans (and the Olympic Peninsula) is usually still very nice in September, and there are fewer tourists than you’ll find in July and August. (The best time to see the resident orca whales, though, is June.)

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to the San Juan Islands, and use our questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

September: Lofoten Islands, Norway

Reine, Lofoten, Norway. The village of Reine under a sunny, blue sky, with the typical rorbu houses. View from the top

The village of Reine in Lofoten, Norway. Photo: Shutterstock

In September and October, the crowds are gone, the weather is still pleasant, and the days are long enough to enjoy hiking, kayaking, fishing, and other activities—but with enough darkness that you stand a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights.

Ask Wendy who is the best Norway specialist to plan your specific trip.

October: Sicily

coast of Cefalu, Palermo Sicily Italy

The coast of Cefalu, Palermo, in Sicily. Photo: Shutterstock

October is one of the most colorful and flavorful months in Sicily. It is the season of the harvest, which means fresh olives, almonds, chestnuts, wild mushrooms, prickly pears, and carob complement the usual variety of culinary offerings. Air and sea temperatures are still warm and inviting, the ancient cultural sites are bathed in a crisp autumn light, and flights and hotels are less expensive than during the summer..

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Sicily, and use our questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

October: The Seychelles

Anse Louis, Seychelles

Anse Louis, Seychelles. Photo: Maia Luxury Resort.

October brings calm winds and beautiful temperatures, but it’s not a popular time for Europeans to travel—so rates are lower than usual. It’s also the best month for spotting whale sharks.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to The Seychelles, and use our questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

October: Hawaii’s Big Island

Wai'pio Valley Lookout, Hawaii

Wai’pio Valley Lookout, Big Island, Hawaii.

October is one of the Big Island’s driest months, with daytime temps hovering around 85 degrees.  It’s also a month for deals, given that so few families are traveling.

Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to the Big Island, and use our questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

October: Newfoundland