Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

WOW Travel During Covid: The Trip Reviews That Matter Most Right Now

by Wendy Perrin | June 29, 2022

How to minimize your risk and maximize your travel experience?  Know the right local fixer.  What will the right fixer do for you?  Read on.  Below is a continually updated sampling of the international trip reviews that your fellow readers are submitting after using Wendy’s WOW approach for safe, responsible travel during the pandemic. 

Your feedback about the local fixers on Wendy’s WOW List is more important now than ever. That’s because the world has restarted, travel-wise, and what matters is not the WOW that these trip-planning experts delivered pre-pandemic, but the WOW that they’re able to deliver now.  So please, for the sake of your fellow travelers, send us your trip review as soon as you receive Wendy’s post-trip survey!

Paris with a WOW Moment


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Nancy and I were fortunate to have spent a week in early May in Paris, which is one of our favorite cities to visit. We were even more fortunate to have Jennifer and her team assist us with planning this trip. This was the fifth time we have used Jennifer for a trip (3 in France and 2 in Italy). Like all of our other trips with Jennifer, we had a great time and some wonderful experiences.

The highlight of our trip was the WOW Moment Jennifer arranged for us with a tour of some quintessential gardens in Paris with our guide David. We had a great time with David as he provided us with a fun and educational experience. David was always looking out for us and made sure that we enjoyed this WOW Moment. Jennifer also arranged some other wonderful experiences including an after-hours tour of The Conciergerie, a before-hours visit to the Louis Vuitton Foundation, a special tour of the Opera House and a fine tour of the Pinault Collection at the Bourse de Commerce.

One of the great things about using Jennifer and her team is that they check in daily to make sure that you are enjoying the experiences they arranged and to see if they can help you with anything. They also make the entire experience go seamlessly from having an airport greeter to transportation while you are in the city. Jennifer suggested a great place to stay at Le Bristol Hotel and even arranged for us to have our Covid-19 test at the hotel before we returned home (at present, no longer required). With all our trips together, Jennifer knows how we like to travel and makes the planning process thoroughly enjoyable. Jennifer and her team always had time for us and responded quickly to us even though they were extremely busy because of so many people wanting to travel.

We were very lucky to have Jennifer and the team arrange our recent trip to Paris. We will use absolutely use Jennifer if we visit any of the locations which she arranges travel experiences

Read more reviews of Jennifer. Or request your own trip.

Contact Jennifer

Croatia: private yachts, hiking, culinary experiences…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We (two couples) just returned from a spectacular 12-day trip to Croatia arranged for us by Ala over 18 months ago. Our ambitious itinerary was meticulously planned with short stays in Istria, Plitvice, Hvar, Split and Dubrovnik, including a small number of guided historical tours, a truffle-hunting demonstration, a 6-mile hike in Plitvice (breathtaking, unspoiled beauty), two half-day private yacht excursions (totally indulgent and totally worth it), two wine tastings (one would’ve been sufficient), a fantastic cooking class in Split (do not miss this under any circumstances, even if you don’t cook–Chef Jzelko is great), oyster tasting in Ston (do not miss this either, the fresh cooked mussels are delicious too). Each of these activities exceeded our expectations.

There is no shortage of good food in Croatia and the list of restaurants provided by Ala was extensive. Every place we went to had courteous staff, interesting takes on fresh seafood and often the owner was working the tables so we got first-hand insight to preparations, technique and often, free wine, prosciutto and grappa samples. The Croatians (all speak English) are enthusiastic about their food and wine, as are we, so that added another dimension to the experience. Do go to Giaxa in Hvar, Tramonto in Istria, Bokeria in Split, Konoba Dubrava for peka and Proto for seafood, both in Dubrovnik.

The hotels were also excellent, offering 5-star service and amenities with easy access to the Adriatic (Istria, Hvar, Dubrovnik) as well as the pool and short walks into town. The staff were attentive, rooms were clean, views were gorgeous. The Grand Park in Istria and the Excelsior in Dubrovnik were our favorites but we are really splitting hairs. They were all top-notch.

Despite the complexity of our itinerary, Ala and her team ensured that we had flawless connections and transfers, even arranging a last-minute pick up in Venice to get us to Istria after a missed connection that was supposed to get us to Zagreb (a very long and stressful story–get the full Cranky Concierge flight monitoring service–indispensable these days). Cannot emphasize enough the importance of the drivers–they take all the stress out of making connections so that you can focus on your trip. Talk to them, they are eager to brief you on local history and are a lot of fun to chat with. Would also like to make a special shout-out to Natasa Lovic, Ala’s “in country” contact. She was essentially on-call for us and really saved the day with our blown connection. What could have been a nightmare turned out to be a non-event thanks to her. She also took care of a number of last minute restaurant changes and other items for us. Invaluable resource–very responsive and always had a solution.

As with previous trips, all of our guides were engaging and very knowledgeable, especially when we asked questions and showed some genuine interest in Croatia’s history, which is very complicated. This is the key to maximizing your experience with the guides and it adds a whole new perspective to your trip.

All told, Ala and her staff put together the complete experience for us. We cannot say enough good things about her and our trip. None of us wanted to leave, which is the hallmark of a successful vacation, and Ala made it happen. Can’t wait to go back.

Read more reviews of Ala. Or request your own trip.

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Kenya & Tanzania safari with private vehicles


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  JMy daughter and I just returned from the most amazing trip to Kenya and Tanzania. The trip was organized by Linda and Kathy. I contacted Linda approximately 11 months ago to inquire about an East Africa safari. She immediately returned my call. It was clear from my first conversation with her that she knew this area and was “no-nonsense” about her advice. Linda proposed 2 itineraries of various lengths. After choosing one itinerary, she set up all the lodges, transfers, meals, hot-air balloon ride, and guides. We did not worry about a thing—and it all worked out without any problems. Due to different and ever-changing Covid requirements, I was concerned about travelling to more than one country.

Kathy was on top of each country’s entry rules and was able to put my mind at ease (and luckily, the US got rid of its testing requirement while we were on our trip). Once we arrived at each destination, I had no Covid concerns – we had private vehicles and were out in the open at all times. Some special moments: our guide Freddy (just wonderful), the jaw-dropping view at Angama Mara, the “talking shower” at Lemala, the vastness of the Serengeti, the flowers at Gibbs Farm and most important—the time I got to spend with my daughter on this unforgettable trip. Thank you to Linda and Kathy!

Read more reviews of Linda. Or request your own trip.

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Scotland & Ireland: magnificent hotels, expert private driver/guides…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  After two years of waiting to re-book our Scotland/Ireland trip with Jonathan, we were ready to leave behind the reality of COVID, meet warm and generous folks, and experience the wonder of our world.

Driver/guides, from kind-hearted Neil Spowart and dry-witted Robert Mcelwee in Scotland, to youthful Jordan Schmidt in Ireland, became fast friends and wonderful ambassadors for their countries. Treacherous, single-lane roads were no problem for them and while they kept us safe, we were happy to watch indescribable scenery pass by. How many different ways can you express the word “beautiful”? We were simply filled with awe. All three drivers tapped into our sense of adventure, making diversions from our itinerary, exploring less traveled mountain roads and stopping often for photo opportunities and walks. Three different drivers came down with COVID the day before we expected to meet them but these three incredible substitute drivers were found overnight. Pandemic related problems were quickly solved as Jonathan only works with the best companies.

Jonathan has relationships with magnificent hotels and we entered each one with excitement. Stately Culloden House, thank you for your kindness, and a shout out to Stephen for figuring out a way to retrieve items we had left in Edinburgh! Glenapp Castle welcomed us with beautiful gardens, views of Ailsa Craig, and attentive staff. What a magical place overlooking the sea and what a glorious sunny half-day boat ride and tour of Ailsa Craig we had!

In Ireland, Killarney Park Hotel gave us the best hotel greeting of the trip, with warm smiles, elegant rooms, lit fireplaces and the feeling of being in a real home. How fun it was to do a Jonathan-provided perk of an Irish Whiskey tasting in the library our last night there! Thinking no hotel could top Killarney Park, we made our grand entrance into Ashford Castle and felt like royalty coming home. We experienced good food, sumptuous rooms, walks in gardens, a lake cruise, and a juice sommelier at Breakfast! But the Hawk Walk at Ashford and the wonder of communing with a hawk, seeing it fly off your hand and return, filled us with such childlike joy. What a perfect ending to to a life-affirming trip!

Thank you Jonathan and Katie for orchestrating a magnificent tour for us! Our spirit of anticipation of what would be down the road continued from start to finish and we were never disappointed! And thank you Wendy Perrin for always introducing us to the world’s best travel experts!

Read more reviews of Jonathan. Or request your own trip.

Contact Jonathan

Amalfi Coast with teens: private beach clubs, secret grottos…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  After having to cancel several European trips during these pandemic years, it was a joy to finally return to Italy. Andrea’s office did a great job of planning our tour of the Amalfi Coast. We would have skipped Naples, but Andrea insisted in our planning Zoom meeting that we spend time there exploring the rich history. Boy was she right! Our excellent guide, Maria Luisa, walked the city with us pointing out the layers and layers of diverse and multicultural contributions to this unique and ancient city. We learned so much appreciation for Naples from her and had the best pizza of our lives! From Naples, we traveled by ferry to Capri, where we were met by drivers in these outrageously fun cabana cars. I wish I could attach photos but imagine convertibles with striped awnings overhead for shade. They had great style. As did everything in Capri. We loved the accommodations that Andrea arranged for us in Capri. Our hotel was gorgeous, filled with outstanding contemporary art and a sublime pool – but the views from our rooms and private patios were perhaps the most spectacular. We spent a day at the hotel’s beach club, relaxing on private Christian Dior-appointed lounge chairs, swimming in the Mediterranean, and eating fresh seafood. Probably one of our family’s best days ever spent on holiday. Next we traveled by private boat up the Amalfi Coast to Positano. Our Captain, Paolo, and his mate Salvatore, cruised us along the gorgeous coastline, stopping to let us swim and explore grottos at leisure. Paolo persuaded us to skip the more crowded spots and took us to his secret blue grotto, a cave with gorgeous blue lighted water tucked into the coastline. The boat ride was cool on so many levels (thanks in part to Paolo’s 80s soundtrack). Arriving in Positano, we were reminded that we were not the only people who were excited to return to traveling this summer. The narrow streets were jammed with tourists, and the crowds were huge. Our hotel on top of the hill was appreciated for its remote location away from the busy port. We were grateful Andrea arranged for us to have a driver, Roberto, drive us along the famous coastal road. Roberto was experienced and full of information, but also extremely kind. When my daughter felt car sick, he treated her with great care and understanding for which we were grateful. We asked our hotel concierge for an escape from the crowds and they arranged a water taxi to a private beach club along the coast. We had another great day swimming in the Mediterranean and felt better with fewer people pressed around us. The crowds reminded us that Covid cautions have relaxed and we flew home without having to test for Covid as we originally planned. Flights were a challenge. Having had good experience with Wendy’s recommendation in the past, we enlisted Cranky Concierge to help oversee our flights. Their team was on top of cancellations and delays for us, and although we got home later than planned there were no unwanted layovers. We have learned to trust Wendy’s WOW List for ease of travel and guiding us towards those special experiences that only an insider can arrange. Well done Andrea!

Read more reviews of Andrea. Or request your own trip.

Contact Andrea

Spain: foodie tours, Roman ruins, flamenco…

DAVID RAND | JUNE 26, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Fantastic trip to Spain, executed perfectly by Virginia and her staff. Thank you!!

I’ll start by saying our itinerary was pretty complicated, however the execution was flawless and impeccable. Our itinerary included multiple domestic flights around Spain, several day trips from Barcelona, Mallorca and Madrid, and daily private tours activities (many involving private transportation) all arranged by Virginia’s team. EVERYTHING (I mean 100%) was executed with perfection. Every driver was prompt/friendly and each of our personal tour guides were fun, knowledgeable and great people to meet. They all spoke very highly about Virginia and her team – she is a legend in Spain!!

Our trip planning, which started with a call about our trip vision and likes/dislikes, continued over numerous emails. The planning process was seamless, interactive and fun. The team provided wonderful feedback on our ideas and numerous suggestions which resulted in a fantastic trip. The entire team was incredibly responsive throughout the entire process.

We can’t wait to go back to Spain and will most definitely be utilizing Virginia and team for our next trip.

Some of our highlights (for other travelers):
* Lifestyle tours – we did these in every city we went and asked for these to be tailored to focus on the different foods of Spain, shopping, day-to-day living, food markets, interesting specialty stores, insider tips and other locals-only places we would have never known about
* Day trip to Girona – fabulous city about an hour from Barcelona. Loved it! Fun fact: scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed here
* Mallorca – especially Palma and our day trip to Valdemossa. Also LOVED the St. Regis Mardavall Mallorca Resort (best service at a hotel I’ve ever had and I’m a service snob)
* Day trip to Segovia – Roman aqueduct built 2,000+ years ago; castle that’s said to have inspired the castle at Disney’s Magic Kingdom
*Corral de la Morería in Madrid. The most famous and prestigious flamenco tablao in Spain.

Read more reviews of Virginia. Or request your own trip.

Contact Virginia

France & Spain: insider access to private clubs, local celebrations…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Jennifer and her team planned a wonderful itinerary to enjoy the Basque region of Spain/France as well as time in Bordeaux. This is our third trip with her, and this trip was consistent in the high quality we have become accustomed to with Jennifer’s team of planners. We really enjoyed our guides. One was able to get us in to see one of the San Sebastián area’s famed “social clubs” and showed us around the Basque seaside town he grew up in — which included entrance into a hotel not open to the public where the only tapestries Paul Reubens designed reside. The bonus was observing the town’s Corpus Christi celebration. In Bordeaux, our guide was very well versed in wine and gastronomy — the cousin of a *very* famous French chef (don’t want to out him here!), his knowledge of food and wine was unparalleled, and he was well versed in the history and culture of the region too. I could add so many more special moments from our trip, but ultimately the guides’ deep knowledge added so much nuance and depth to our experiences. We made many cherished memories.

Read more reviews of Jennifer. Or request your own trip.

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Venice: an insider’s experience


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Jennifer and Chiara planned a terrific trip to Venice for our family of two adults and two older teen age boys. We went in mid June for a week, and wanted to have something structured and locally meaningful to break the occasional randomness of our own explorations. Jennifer had a lot of suggestions when we met online a few months before the trip and we went over them before selecting just a few. We had a pizza, bruschetta, and gelato making class with Michele one day for around 3 hours. We got to see his apartment in an area of town we would not have traveled to, and all had a lot of fun. We also had a private tour of the islands with Alvise; we were met at our airbnb apartment by motor boat and went out to Burano and Murano and then slowly through the canals. Alvise knows a ton about the city and was a thoughtful and really terrific guide. Seeing the city from the water (and not just on a vaporetto) was wonderful and gives you a great perch to see the different sites; going out to the lagoon was also really interesting for getting a sense of the geography of the islands. Lastly, Chiara selected a restaurant for us for an anniversary dinner that was fantastic and one I never would have found on my own. The inside knowledge the travel planners have is invaluable and can make a trip really unique, plus they take some of the planning out of your hands which can be hugely welcome. We were able to choose just a few things from the long list they offered and they were among the highlights of the trip. One great part about having these different guides is the opportunity to meet local Venetians and ask them lots of questions about the city.

Read more reviews of Jennifer. Or request your own trip.

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Portugal: private Douro river cruise, Lisbon beyond the tourist sites…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL We’ve just returned from a wonderful trip to Portugal that Gonçalo and Joana organized for us. Our itinerary of nearly four weeks began with a short restful stay in Comporta to recover from jet lag, then continued to the Algarve, Alentejo, the Douro Valley, Porto and the surrounding area, Coimbra, the West Coast and finally five days in Lisbon. With the help of Gonçalo and Joana we experienced places we could not have discovered on our own, and we came away with an appreciation of how varied this beautiful country is. Gonçalo and Joana planned the itinerary with attention to our interests and needs. We’re still very cautious about Covid exposure when we travel, and they made sure to help us avoid crowded indoor spaces without isolating us from people and places. Some of the most memorable stays were in small places like Belmonte, where we explored living connections with Portugal’s Sephardic Jewish legacy, and Marialva with its haunting solitude. In the Douro Valley there was a private river cruise, and a highlight in Lisbon was a private sailing on the Tagus. Our driver throughout the trip, João, was marvelous – thoroughly professional, accommodating, helpful in countless small ways, and an excellent driver. Our local guides were all knowledgeable. We especially appreciated Claudia, our guide in Lisbon, who helped us get a glimpse of life in the city beyond the usual tourist sites.

Read more reviews of Gonçalo. Or request your own trip.

Contact Goncalo

Sicily for a milestone anniversary


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Just returned form three weeks in Sicily celebrating 50 years of marriage. This could not have been a better choice for our milestone. Matteo organized our trip to perfection. We did not rent a car and the drivers that were provided were always timely, professional and used very comfortable cars. Our many activities and experiences were too numerous to mention separately but all exceeded our expectations for local expertise. This was a trip of a lifetime. We spent our time in the southeast plus Salina island with days on our own here and there. We also kept our activities to mostly half-days. This pace suited our age and energy. We were very happy to have had Matteo as a local organizer and think that made a huge difference in our very enjoyable time in Sicily.

Read more reviews of Marcello. Or request your own trip.

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Small-ship cruise: Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Denmark & Estonia


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Tom was helpful, prompt and professional as usual and we would definitely book with him again.

I’m so glad our family of six decided to travel to Europe and take a Scandinavian cruise in late May and early June on Windstar’s Star Legend. We had a few glitches with our air travel, but that was not the fault of anyone but Delta. We sailed from Amsterdam to Stockholm and were in the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Estonia. People there are living their lives freely and without any COVID restrictions. At one point, the cruise director was diagnosed with COVID and in isolation, but he was fine a few days later and back at work. And I’m not aware of anyone else on the ship being ill.

We loved the Norwegian Fjords – a wonderful cool break from a hot summer here in the U.S. and I have never seen so many waterfalls!

Since you asked for tips, here are a few random ones:

• I did learn that late May and early June are best there as the crowds in July can overwhelm the small villages where the ships dock.

• Mariehamm is an unusual stop for a Scandinavia cruise, but is lovely and another good reason to choose a smaller ship for this cruise.

• I will NEVER again use Trip Advisor / Viator to book a tour/excursion. While in Stockholm, we used a lovely Viator guide to see Drottningholm Palace. The price of the excursion was changed after the booking. When I tried to pay for the additional cost with a VISA, I was told by Viator (not our individual guide) that I would be charged an extra 24 percent for simply using a credit card. When I politely protested about this exorbitant extra fee, the Viator manager by phone accused me of trying to cheat him!!! Viator, never again.

Read more reviews of Tom. Or request your own trip.

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Peru: a family trip focused on food, hiking and Machu Picchu


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Our recent trip to Peru was a trip of a lifetime. With concerns regarding European crowds, Eastern Europe conflict and COVID, we pivoted somewhat last minute and looked to South America for a long awaited trip.

Marisol and her colleague Mark put together what proved to be an incredible time. Mark reached out promptly following initial contact, listened very clearly to our interests focusing primarily on food and hiking, and tailored a trip, spent largely in the Sacred Valley and Cusco, that aligned nearly perfectly with our family’s goals. Mark guided us on choosing appropriate activities, lodgings and dining. He presented options, offered pros/cons, and after getting to know us, made ideal suggestions. He steered us from crowds and minimized risks of altitude and COVID illness. Mark took care of all the details, including booking connecting flight and train tickets, coordinating complicated Machu Picchu arrangements, managing high end restaurant reservations, ensuring hotel rooms included connecting rooms, and setting up all ground activities. He also advised all establishments of food preferences and allergies that proved very helpful. After arrangements were made, he provided detailed itinerary information in communication including a useful phone app that was quite helpful during our trip. Costs were clear and understandable. Lastly, prior to arrival, Mark coordinated a group communication thread with folks on the ground to make sure we were all on the same page.

Once on the ground, things were seamless. Delayed international arrival?, no worries, they changed connecting flights to ensure we didn’t miss flights. Mark had a representative at each airport arrival and departure to ensure smooth transitions. Hotels and restaurants expected us, knew our names and likes. Prearranged lunches were some of the best we’ve eaten, wrapped and labeled almost like birthday presents. Activities included things we never could have arranged on our own. Daughter hiking in hand with an alpaca, helping plow a field at 12000 ft in traditional garb with no other tourists in sight, ceremonial offering followed by picnic snack with traditional food with locals. Hiking at 15000 ft followed by another picnic lunch, creekside, in the sun, slight breeze, with arguably the best boxed lunch ever, when alpacas start meandering in the area. Early morning start, train ride toward Machu Picchu, getting off train early for 8 miles on the Incan Trail while our bags head on the train to the hotel, all permits and tickets and arrangements made. What could have felt contrived or cliche felt authentic and real. We didn’t feel like we were imposing, we didn’t feel guilty; we just felt like we could relax and experience.

While Mark created a framework for a great trip, it was primarily our guide Joaquin, that made it truly remarkable. Joaquin was an incredibly knowledgeable, friendly and reassuring presence. Always prepared and on time, Joaquin kept things organized and moving, while affording us flexibility, time and fun. He would give us the Quechuan name for a plant, followed by its Spanish name, then it’s Latin name. He knew all the birds, all the constellations. He pointed out details on hikes and drives that played on our interests. He knew of well more than Incan history, and would often connect things to relatable American and Indian themes. He dropped a Tupac Shakur reference. He advocated for us with vendors, supported our kids in hiking endeavors, tuned the radio to stations we would enjoy. Joaquin seemed genuinely interested in sharing his passion for Peruvian and Incan history with us while also taking the time to really get to know us and share some of his personal history as well. Around others, it was abundantly clear that Joaquin was on another level when it comes to guides- in more popular places we had people eavesdropping or asking him for significant advice.

In Lima, Mark’s team set us up with another guide, more of a food guide, that brought us to a fascinating market, a great gelato shop and then to a local restaurant, one we’d never heard of and would not have gone to, where we arguably had the best meal we ate in Peru- trying this and that including the best ceviche ever.

Only things in trip I would change would to have been perhaps a little less scheduled so as to have some more time to enjoy the wonderful hotels and relax just a bit more.

Read more reviews of Marisol. Or request your own trip.

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Italy: Florence, Milan, Cinque Terre…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL Our trip was from June 4 through June 18th and took us to various regions of northern Italy. The impetus for the trip was a wedding in Piedmont region followed by travels to the Cinque Terre then Florence then Milan. Only one of us had been to any of these places some 20+ years ago. The detailed planning of Andrea and her team was essential for this venture. All hotel reservations and travel reservations excluding airline tickets were set by the planners. Also an app was provided that made the daily plans easy to follow. Each of our venues included a guide to show us the sites. Each of these 3 guides could not have been nicer and more informative. The sites we visited were incredibly historic and our guides were most knowledgeable about the subjects.They moved us along comfortably, set up lunch at great restaurants and provided names and reservations for dinner as well. I cannot imagine trying to do this trip without these 3 persons.
When we plan our next trip I am sure we will use this team. Overall the trip was really fun, the accommodations excellent, the food and wine outstanding.

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Alaska: Small-ship expedition cruise

PHIL HOCH | JUNE 21, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Just got back from Alaska on a National Geographic cruise we planned with the help of Ashton and his team, and we couldn’t have been happier. While we originally planned a land-based trip, the many lengthy conversations with Ashton helped us solidify goals and make this choice. The small ship size was perfect and the staff and crew were as great as the wildlife and landscape experiences. We saw whales, bears, more bald eagles than we could imagine, sea lions, seals, etc.

With Ashton’s help we picked a cruise that had the Covid protocols we felt safe with and I would highly recommend Ashton and the cruise to anyone.

Once you begin a dialogue with him, It is clear why Ashton is on The WOW List!!

Thankfully we didn’t have any issues or problems but we were confident Ashton would have been there and solved them easily.

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Greece: Crete, Naxos, mainland adventures…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Faye was our travel specialist and she did a great job of identifying activities and places of interest for our trip to Greece. My son and I traveled together, with our trip starting in Athens. We had multiple private tour guides on our trip and all were truly knowledgeable and enhanced our experience. 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, we were impressed with the food and the River Walk Hike. On the Hike, our guide Thomas led us through the back country to unique places off the beaten path and showed us things like the old Water Mills as well as the different plants, wild herbs and vegetables that cover the landscape. We liked to hear how the locals make full use of these when in season. We had an incredible meal at Elliniko in the capital city of Chora. The catamaran day cruise was also an amazing experience with snorkeling and great food. On the island of Crete, we were totally blown away by the Blue Palace Resort & Spa – everything there, from the rooms to breakfast to the grounds, were so well done and over the top. The view from the resort looking out on Spinalonga was spectacular, especially in the mornings. And the meals we had in the nearby villages of Plaka & Elounda were outstanding, especially at the the Taverna Spinalonga and Lotus Eaters. Crete’s landscape was truly beautiful and unique. Would go back there again! Also, don’t miss the Knossos Palace and the archaelogical museum in Heraklion as they were really neat. The people in Greece were so inviting, easy to talk with in English while teaching Greek words along the way, and so generous when serving us their delicious meals. My son and I are now officially addicted to Tzatziki! Thanks so much for helping us plan this once-in-a-lifetime trip together!

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Honeymoon in France


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Philip and his team planned the most incredible 3-week vacation for our honeymoon! Everything exceeded our expectations and we could not be more thrilled. Every hotel was unique and luxurious with fabulous accommodations and staff. We had several walking tours and wine tours, all of which were fantastic. The guides for each tour were extremely friendly and knowledgable. The overall itinerary was perfectly planned–we felt as though we had enough time in each city and we had a good combination of activities planned versus down time. The hotels chosen for us all had very delicious restaurants attached–some Michelin-rated.
Overall, our time traveling was seamless and without any road bumps. I greatly appreciate all the hard work Philip’s office put into planning our trip. They were flexible with altering the itinerary until it met our exact needs. The app they used for our itinerary was also extremely helpful! They went above and beyond to provide driving directions to each hotel and activity as well. This truly deserved 5 stars. Thank you!

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Portugal with young kids


PANDEMIC TRAVEL Booking travel for a family of four (our children were 4 years and 4 months) with two weeks’ notice is not an easy task, but Isabel took the challenge on without stress or strain. We had a very informative call and were able to narrow down our goals, then she sent me a handful of hotel options at each location. This proved to be an invaluable tool, because very quickly once she understood the types of accommodations we were looking for, she was able to put together a lovely trip that encompassed the vibes of each location chosen. The activities recommended were impeccably chosen, as were her recommendations on restaurants. She was communicative, flexible, and helpful at every stage.

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

Ask Wendy

England: Cotswolds with a private driver/guide


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  My mother and I returned last week from 10 days in the Cotswolds (June 5-14). Our trip was planned by Jonathan. This was our first time to use a trip planner and we weren’t sure what to expect. Jonathan and his team made everything go smoothly, from our airport transfers to dinner reservations, and we had exactly the trip we had envisioned.

During our initial consultation, we discussed what my mom and I wanted from the trip and listed our must-see sights. Jonathan then designed a trip where we based out of three beautiful villages (from small and remote Painswick and Lower Slaughter to bigger and more bustling Chipping Campden) and worked our way from south to north, ticking items off our sightseeing list along the way: Tewkesbury Abbey, attending Evensong service at Gloucester Cathedral, Sudeley Castle & Gardens, Kelmscott Manor, St Mary’s Church in Fairford, Hidcote Manor Gardens, Kiftsgate Court Gardens, and Blenheim Palace. One of the gardens we wanted to visit wasn’t running their normal tours because the head gardener was out on medical leave. At no cost to us, Jonathan was able to arrange a short private tour with the general manager of the property, after which we were left to enjoy a pot of tea in the magnificent garden.

All of our accommodations were outstanding (in fact one of them, The Painswick, couldn’t have been more perfect if we’d designed it ourselves), with superb locations, amenities and food. For our last night before flying home, we were booked at The Runnymede on Thames. Though only 10 minutes from Heathrow, it’s right on the river. After a long day of sightseeing and then driving back to London, we were able to spend one final glorious summer evening enjoying gin & tonics outside by the river.

Jon, our driver/guide, was a simply a gem. He was prompt, professional, knowledgeable and lots of fun! Ahead of our visits, he provided us with printed materials about our chosen sights so we could familiarize ourselves and make sure we didn’t miss anything that would be of interest to us. He booked lunches for us at wonderful local pubs so we didn’t waste valuable time looking for a place to eat or standing in queues. He chose beautiful scenic routes and stopped in several villages along the way so we could have a short ramble, and he gave us good advice on our plans for the days we were on our own. After a visit to Blenheim Palace on our final day, he drove us away from the tourist crowds to the little village churchyard where Winston Churchill is buried. This was the perfect way to end our trip!

Jonathan and his team allowed us to really relax and enjoy ourselves, making our “dream trip” a reality.

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Portugal: Food, wine, small towns, castles on hills…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL Gonçalo was wonderful in planning my trip to Portugal in early May. We planned a 10-day tour around the country focusing on food, wine, and cultural attractions that covered a diverse range of towns big and small. Lots of castles on hills and good wine along the way. Gonçalo knew the out-of-the-way places that made Portugal come to life, and the local knowledgeable tour guides to properly show them.

What’s even more impressive is he put together an amazing itinerary with little direction. I just told him I wanted to get the feel for the different regions of Portugal, only a month before my departure, and he put together an itinerary that was exactly what I was looking for. They even put together a list of restaurants I should dine at in each town I visited and gave me recommendations for where I should rent an apartment in Lisbon for the next part of my trip. I’d highly recommend him and his team to anyone who wants to experience this great country!

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Italy: yachting on the Amalfi Coast, cooking at a Michelin-starred restaurant…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL Wendy, Thank you for another amazing referral!

Destination Italy – Matera –> Pompei—> Amalfi Coast. May 31-June 11, 2022
We had several phases of a complicated group and private trip to Italy for our “gang of 8” adults deferred through Covid, and finally we were able to travel in May 2022. Fortunately we booked our Amalfi villa accommodation before the 2022 travel demand explosion, but we hadn’t made most of the detailed arrangements re. logistics of transport of our large group, and our activities, and frankly I was exhausted trying. In steps Maria at T minus 1 month, with detailed recommendations, advice, and ultimately a well-organized, richly experiential itinerary (with a lot of moving parts!). The absolute highlight of our trip was a private tour of the Amalfi Coast by sea on the powerboat Sea Legend. Captain Leonardo and first mate Bianca were delightful, the sun was out, the seas were warm(ish) and welcoming, and the day was simply the best. A second high point, nearly as much fun as the boat trip, was the cooking class arranged at Michelin-starred Don Alfonso in the village of Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi. Chef Nicola was a charming teacher, and we actually ate the food we prepared! The Don Alfonso property and family proprietors could not have been more welcoming. The irony is that Don Alfonso was a last-minute substitution found by Maria and team for the originally planned class that had to be cancelled owing to unforeseen water issues. These were experiences I’m quite sure I would not have found on my own. Maria and her Italian colleague Cristina were also very flexible with short-notice adaptations to the schedule, which we very much appreciated. Another time I would come to Maria much earlier in the planning stages to let her do her magic for more aspects of a trip, but within the constraints I gave her, she and her staff were brilliant.

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River cruise on the Seine, plus Paris


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  My wife and I just returned from a Scenic river cruise—Normandy & Gems of the Seine with Highlights of Paris (5/22/2022 – 6/4/2022)—we scheduled through Tom. Tom and his staff did their usual excellent job and responded quickly to our questions and concerns, and there were many due to COVID. At Tom Baker’s recommendation we scheduled our own flights on Air France MIA to CDG non stop and return premium economy which were uneventful and on time. Scenic picked us up at CDG and took us to the Hilton Opera House in Paris for two nights before transfer to the Scenic Gem. The ship was at about 70% capacity; staff may have been a little less than our previous cruise but the room, service, food, drinks, entertainment and excursions etc. were all top-shelf. Staff led by Mandy, Mitch, Mikai were excellent. This was a great trip and is highly recommended.

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Croatia: family trip with adult kids


PANDEMIC TRAVEL Our trip planner for a 9 day trip to Croatia was Jay. (Caveat: We planned an eight day cruise on Katarina before COVID hit. After waiting two years, we coupled the cruise with a family trip so spent nearly 3 weeks in Croatia. Jay handled the family portion of the trip, June 4-13). Once Wendy connected us, the entire trip planning experience was seamless. Jay was professional, detail oriented but not bothersome. Even made personal phone calls to clarify our goals for the trip. He asked good questions to better understand what we were looking for and what our price point was. The personal website he built for us kept everything centralized and added tremendous value to the overall experience. Everything was right there in front of us, with extensive details on our hotel, the excursions, history of the country, the restaurants and very importantly, tipping directions. Even the payment process was on our website and very clear/concise. Jay was also very patient with us since planning for 5 is really a contact sport…..lots of ideas/preferences/wishes flying around. He never got frustrated with us or gave up trying to find the “perfect” group activity. And the trip was planned in a way that we could really just relax and enjoy. We never had to worry about getting from the airport to the hotel or finding our guide or getting on our boat. All of the directions were incredibly clear. Our timing was impeccable as we beat the summer crowds AND heat. We also dodged the COVID testing for return to the US by 23 hours! Lucky us. Croatia itself was spectacular. Unbelievably beautiful, the people really stood out. So friendly, so helpful and so engaging. And everyone had enough English to be helpful, since our Croatian is very, very bad! But I’d be remiss not to mention the superb food and wine. And of course the grapa. Drinking wine on a boat as the oyster farmer shucked fresh oysters for us had to be a highlight. A very important component of our trip was our local Croatian expert, Ivana Laca who we were introduced to about 30 days before our departure from the US. She turned out to be our friend….our hand holder….and our emergency kit. She was a true delight. She suggested restaurants and made dinner reservations for us. If it was too windy to sail, she was talking to us immediately regarding Plan B options. She made sure my sister in law’s birthday was a memorable evening and surprise. Even when our flights back home were cancelled, she was there immediately making sure we had lodging and a shuttle to the airport as our return plans “evolved.” Lots of special touches. She was truly a godsend. We’ve only been back a few days but we already miss Croatia and want to return. And everyone had a wonderful time… small feat when you’re dealing with a 29, 30, and 55 year olds….to say nothing of retired people like us. But there was something for everyone. (We did not hear one siren for three weeks, only saw two police cars, never saw a homeless person and felt totally safe everywhere we went, no matter the time). COVID felt like a non-issue though we did discuss with our Croatian hosts how hard the past two years have been for them. One final bit of advice. Bring Dramamine! If you are at all prone to motion sickness, between the boats and small, switchback roads, Dramamine was a vital component of our trip! We highly recommend Wendy and Jay…..and Ivana. I would use them again in a heartbeat. We had a wonderful family trip with pictures and memories that will last a lifetime.

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

Ask Wendy

Turkey: Istanbul, Ephesus, Bodrum, private sailboat…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL Turkey. I have been dreaming about it since 2014. It exceeded my dreams. I had originally contacted Karen in the winter of 2020 and we had started working on an itinerary that combined our love of history and love of culture and water, especially water. Then Covid came and plans were dashed. I was a little hesitant to commit in early 2022 but spoke with Karen and her team and decided it was worth it. Also followed Wendy’s advice to get Medjet.
So the trip expanded in time because you only live once as Covid has taught us. Amazing, fabulous, and dream-fulfilling.
Each guide was so well versed and genuinely interested in us and our interests. Our guide in Istanbul took us to get local pizza, pide. And a real handmade Turkish rug. Our Ephesus guide actually worked on the excavation. The guide in Bodrum helped me buy a rare Turkish mineral zultanite ring. The Alcatsti guide helped us with wine and the Dacia guide took us to the local market. The drivers and driver guides were professional and always on time.
Now for the private gulet. Over the top and I felt so spoiled. Attentive to our requests, needs for naps after wine at lunch and the special attention to food and presentation. I want to go back!!!
Karen and her team are outstanding. Can I give 10 Stars? yes

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Alaska small-ship cruise; Ecuadorian cloud forest


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Our cruise, “Exploring Alaska’s Coastal Wilderness” (May 14 – 21, 2022) could not have been more perfect. Aston’s team helped us choose the cruise line and the particular cruise so that we were able to have exactly the kind of experience we wanted. They also helped us with all the details when our cruise was cancelled (twice) due to covid. They helped us choose the right trip insurance, and made sure the insurance policy was transferred both times the cruise was cancelled. While it wasn’t possible for them to suggest any special “experiences” since it was an all-inclusive cruise, we wouldn’t hesitate to work with them again in the future. Having them handle all the details put our minds at ease and enabled us to really enjoy our trip to the fullest.

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Spain: tapas, flamenco, city tours with flexible private guides…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Outstanding two-week trip to 5 cities in Spain. Entire trip was planned by Pablo. All planes, trains, and automobiles were coordinated flawlessly. The highlights of the trip were the guides he picked to take us through each city. Knowledgeable, experienced, easygoing, flexible. They brought an entirely new level of understanding to our travel experiences. Interesting anecdotes, stories, historical context, an understanding of art, architecture, culture, and even horticulture. COVID was a non-issue, by the way. Each city was 90+% vaccinated and everything was clean. Didn’t wear a mask except for a few small places. Testing prior to US return just ended, but that was a pain.

Madrid was fabulous. Next time we will spend more time there to see all 3 major art museums. Our itinerary: Madrid, Granada, Ronda (day), Sienna, Cordoba (day), San Sebastian, Barcelona.
Staying on site in the former monastery at the Alhambra was a unique experience. The gardens are stunning and the place is lush compared to how it looks in photos (like a desert). The nearby Sierra Nevada white-capped mountains were gorgeous. Barcelona was small and crowded, but Gaudi cathedral and park were not to be missed. Cordoba was rather touristy, so we should have allocated less time to there and more to Madrid and Seville. San Sebastian had the best food by far. I hadn’t heard of it before, but it was amazingly different from the rest of Spain. We even went to Southern France, which was only 20 minutes away.

Pablo arranged full-day tours and tapas food tours with local experts for us to sample the sites and food of each area. From flamenco dancing to scenic views, he made sure we didn’t miss anything. We didn’t have to navigate or get frustrated with travel schedules because he did all the planning. All 5 hotels (small, non-chains) were exceptional, centrally located yet away from tourists, with amazing amenities, location, views and service. Including breakfast was a nice way to start each day.

Pablo’s recommendations were perfect for us. He took the time to understand us as individuals, and was flexible as we adjusted the plan along the way. We came away with a much better understanding of how Spain really feels like several different countries and is worth exploring further. We are now thinking about scheduling a trip to Portugal with Pablo as our expert guide. Thanks to Pablo and all of our wonderful guides Alfonso, Ellie (Eli), Vicky, Paula, Marianne, Lola, Manfredo, and our numerous classy drivers including Eduardo, Francisco, Daniel, Pablo, etc.

Random advice to travelers: Carry your hotel name and address on a handy card to show to taxi drivers. Taxis were cheap within cities (~$6-12). Be sure to check whether hotels have instant coffee or Nespresso machines in the room. Makes a big difference to coffee lovers! First class on trains has 3 seats across; regular class has 4 seats. Otherwise, not worth double the price for each ticket. Take express trains when you can, and consider flying. Purchase tickets in advance (everything is online) to avoid waiting in long lines. We didn’t use cash the entire time, so no need for money changing. No place accepts dollars, but credit cards are accepted everywhere. Make sure your bank’s ATM doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee.

Take photos of local maps so you don’t look like a tourist if you get lost. Pickpockets were only an issue in Barcelona (be careful there).

Meal times are very different. Breakfast is an espresso. Lunch is at 2:30 or 3pm. Dinner starts at 9pm. There are separate shops to go for coffee, drinking, tapas, fine dining, quick meals, and they open and close at unpredictable times. Expect them to be closed when you are hungry. Tapas (small food plates) provide a good excuse for people to go pub hopping and socialize with different friends. We saw mostly the same food tapas menu everywhere, but some people go to 3-6 places in one night: Iberian ham, croquettes (yummy), bread with tomato topping, fried potatoes and chorizo topped with fried egg, gazpacho, tomato soup, Russian potato salad, fried calamari, garlic shrimp, fried anchovies, etc. Each tapa is ~4-5 euros (roughly $5). I recommend staying away from cheap pizza and hamburgers (most American food). Bring multiple charging adapters and USB hubs. You’ll need them!

Talk with locals whenever you can. They are the best part of Spain!

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Bali: meeting artisans, temple visits, village homestay…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL On a scale of 1-10, our trip to Bali was way over the 10+ level thanks to the detailed plans from our trip planner, Diane.
Although Bali was just opening back up for tourists, traffic on the island had not increased to pre-pandemic levels.

Happy with all decisions and extremely happy with Diane and her planning.
We were in three areas of Bali: Ubud-Tjampuan; remote NW region (Pemuteran, Menjangan); and eastern Bali (Candidasa villages) for last two weeks of May (between the rainy and dry season)

Diane’s plans and information were all very detailed including attention to COVID-related requirements. Bali’s COVID restrictions had just lifted before we arrived but everyone was wearing masks indoors and the Balinese population has a very high rate of vaccination. We did not have any problems but Diane was able to arrange mobile COVID testing for us in our small village the day before departure. Diane was very clear about requirements, details, our contract as well as advising trip interruption/cancellation insurance.

Diane definitely added value to our trip. Even though I had been to Bali many times, it had been 10 years since we had been there and we were taking some of our family who had time limitations. Diane created an ideal itinerary for us that allowed us to maximize our time and to experience the rich cultural practices and people of Bali. Diane has many contacts with the best people, places and experiences in Bali.

Although Bali is a tropical paradise with many beautiful beaches, that is not the reason to go to Bali. I wanted my family to experience their deeply communitarian culture where art, work, government, healing, spirituality, ritual and family life are integrated with few disparities across wealth, class and religion. The people truly live and resolve conflicts by karma, treating everyone with a caring respect.
Our trip was organized to experience Balinese people’s daily lives–we spent a couple of days in two different villages working alongside people doing their work (in the terraced rice fields), their art (making music, wood carving, puppet making, weaving), and cooking or preparing for religious/cultural festivals. We participated in a purification ritual and visited a body work healer. If we had more time, I would have wanted to visit a Tjokorda (a village leader/spiritual advisor). We visited many temples–our favorites being the Royal pools at Tirta Gangga, Temple Lempuhan, and the Bat caves at Goa Lawah. Another highlight was the very early morning (2 am) hike up Mt. Batur to see the sunrise.
We stayed only in Balinese hotels and avoided any of the international hotels on the southern end of the island. If you want beaches and large resorts, there are many other locations where you don’t have to take 25hrs to get there!
Everything is wonderful in Bali but avoid Kuta and Nusa Dua unless you like loud, drunk tourists. Instead, spend a few days in a Balinese village homestay–in the middle of a rice terrace–talking and learning from the Balinese.
Although we loved scuba diving on Menjangan Island in the remote NW part of Bali, I would probably skip this part of our trip unless you have more than two weeks. Or go to Nusa Penida for a couple of days and dive with the manta rays.
Regardless of how much time you have in Bali, you will always want more so use Diane to plan your perfect Bali itinerary.

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Greece: Santorini, Crete, Paros


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We were thrilled with our trip. Our trip to Greece with friends and family was originally planned for April 2020 and, needless to say, cancelled last minute. We planned this new trip using The WOW List because of awesome past experiences and because we decided to go with relatively short notice (3 months) and visiting the Greek islands can be challenging, logistically. We were very happy with Faye and Stella, who helped us with all the preparation and with any and all issues, on site.

We took extra insurance to mitigate cancellation and covid risks.

The experiences and accommodations that I discussed with the planners were awesome. They listened to my thoughts and suggested great ideas that hadn’t occurred to me. The wine tasting and private catamaran trips in Santorini were spectacular. We also loved that we went to three islands that were each delightful and each so different from the others: Paros, Santorini, and Crete.

My only advice would be, for any tours/experiences, to be sure to get as much clarity as possible as to how much time you’d be in a car, how windy the roads, etc. We had a couple of people who were prone to motion sickness and 2+ hours in a car up hairpin mountain roads was not ideal. Also, be aware that on those inter-island ferries, you are pushing your own luggage up the steep gangway. Not easy with large pieces of luggage! And a foot injury!

Again, highly recommend using Wendy and her team; we certainly will for our future adventures!

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Turkey: Istanbul & a private sailboat off the Aegean coast


PANDEMIC TRAVEL My family is so happy that we went to Turkey. The timing was perfect. We went at the end of May to beginning of June for 2 weeks. It was not hot or cold. Karen put together a perfect itinerary for us. We wanted to spend more time in Istanbul and less on the gulet. She helped make that possible by changing the itinerary and the flights. She added so much value by choosing the guides and hotels in each city. We went to Istanbul, Cappadoccia, Izmir, and Bodrum. Tulay was our amazing guide in Istanbul with so much knowledge. She kept my 21- and 23-year-old adult children so engaged. They were so sad to say goodbye to her. She became part of our family.
Everyone should definitely experience the gulet. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Mehmet, Ahmed and Mustafa were terrific. We were given a five-star experience on a boat, by the food we were given, the way we were taken care of and felt so safe. They went above and beyond for us. We want to go back next year!

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Vietnam & Cambodia: Angkor Wat with no crowds, chats with former North Vietnamese soldiers…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL We had a terrific trip to Vietnam and Cambodia arranged by Sandy in early May 2022. Our original plan was to go in March but Vietnam was still getting its act together regarding visas. As it was, we got the visas a few days before we left. So we were among the very first American travelers to arrive in Vietnam after 2 years of Covid closure. They were very happy to see us. We went to Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hoi An, Hue, and Saigon, and then to Siem Reap in Cambodia. Having come of age in the Vietnam War protest era, we were especially interested in history. Although our guides were born after the war, they shared family stories and experiences with us. We were also invited into the homes of former North Vietnam soldiers, sharing tea and rice wine. Their perspective was that the war was between governments and not people. As with all of our WOW List travels, the guides were intelligent, educated, interesting and personable. It was a pleasure to get to know each one of them and to have an ongoing information exchange about our respective countries and cultures. Being the first tourists was mostly a good thing. A few things were closed. But we had many places practically to ourselves. Angkor Wat draws thousands of visitors daily, during normal times, but we were able to see the temples with just a handful of others.

People were very conscientious about masking in Vietnam. In Cambodia it was optional. The food was excellent. We learned that coffee is big in Vietnam, and Vietnamese iced coffee is an amazing treat.

Sandy and team did a wonderful job of coordinating everything on the trip and juggling the few Covid-related snafus (couldn’t fly into Siem Reap, so we were picked up and driven 5 hours from Phnom Penh).

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Indonesia: hiking, snorkeling, school visit…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL Diane is truly the expert on Indonesia! We have traveled the world and back and I have to say this trip was not only an amazing adventure it was meticulously planned and and went off without a hitch. This was an excellent time to travel to Indonesia, as the tourists are just starting to return.
We traveled to Singapore, Yogyakarta, Bali, Komodo and Sumba Islands. I cannot say enough about the guides Diane chose, they were knowledgable, professional and truly kind. We climbed mountains, biked through rice fields, paddle boarded down rivers, learned to play new instruments with the locals, released turtles on the beach, went swimming with horses, snorkeled with the mantas, and found a few scary Komodo dragons! We also visited a clinic and school and sang and danced with the beautiful children! Everyone we met along the way left us with indelible memories.
This was the most incredible trip, thank you Diane, from the bottom of our hearts!

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Israel: meeting with local chefs, journalists, soldiers…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Joe arranged the perfect trip. From the VIP service at the airport to the stargazing in the Negev Desert, Joe’s attention to detail was beyond reproach. During this trip we saw religious and archeological sites and so much more. Our WOW Moment was having Joe as our guide for four days and that translates as WOW times ten. Joe has a PhD in history. His background information was invaluable. It was very informative but not overwhelming. Gil Haran took over on day 5. Gil was the Head of National Tour Guides Training Program for the Israel Ministry of Tourism. Needless to say, he was an excellent guide. Gil has a PhD in archelogy and by the end of the trip even I could identify stones from the second temple period.

Joe arranged for my husband, ex-infantry officer who fought in Vietnam, to meet some reserve officers. At Kibbutz Hanita near the border with Lebanon we met Major Avraham Levine, a reserve IDF Intelligence Officer, who gave us the latest updates about the relations between Israel, Lebanon, and Hezbollah. We met with Eyal Droran an IDF officer and founder of the Israeli military aid project in Syria called the “Good Neighbor Campaign” at Fence Post 116. He gave us an in-depth geopolitical analysis of the situation in the Middle East. It was a privilege to meet these remarkable men.

We met with two journalists over breakfast. The first was Matti Freidman an Israeli-Canadian journalist and author. He was a reporter and editor in the Jerusalem bureau of the Associated Press. Khaled Abu Toameh is an Arab Israeli journalist who is a producer and consultant for NBC news. Fascinating men with great insights.

Chef Tal prepared a gourmet picnic overlooking the Sea of Galilee. It was a meal that you would expect from a Michelin-starred restaurant. The day we spent at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem was amazing. We have done markets on other trips but this one was different. We had a local chef take us to his favorite shops for pastries, spices, coffee, wine, cheese, etc. After sampling the best that the market had to offer, we went back to the atelier for a cooking class. We helped prepare a meal and then sat on a roof top deck overlooking the market to enjoy the feast.

The visit to the Negev Desert was exceptional. The jeep tour into Machtesh Roman was specular. To add to the experience Joe arranged for us to have a private stargazing experience with a knowledgeable guide with a high-powered telescope. It was the best way to spend our last night in Israel. Wendy thank you for introducing us to Joe.

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African safari: Botswana, Victoria Falls & South Africa


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  BEST BEST TRIP – Perfect Itinerary, Magical Scenery, Spectacular Animals, Stunning Accommodations – we spent 19 days visiting Africa, during which we stayed in 7 different places and had 15 different flights – and it was all seamless, full of “oh can you believe this” moments.
I started working with Julian in 2019 for a 2020 trip, and, like many others, we had to reschedule twice before finally going this May. (Julian was fabulous each time with the rebooking.) I can say that Julian really listened to what I said because even without me realizing it in advance of the actual trip, this was a PERFECT itinerary for us. The pacing, the selection of hotels and camps, the schedule for our few days in Cape Town – we loved it all! We started with 5 nights in Cape Town (one more than originally planned due to flight changes but we took the first day “off” after 30 plus hours of travel). We had a delightful guide, Malcolm, and spent one day doing local sightseeing, one day heading to the Cape of Good Hope, and one day in wine country and small surrounding towns. Cape Town is fabulous, we stayed at Cape Grace – terrific hotel in a super location. Next off to 3 Wilderness Safari camps in Botswana – Quorokwe, Jao and Duma Tau – spectacular all. Then to Zimbabwe and lucky us, Victoria Falls were full and raging, there are no words! We spent a relaxing night in Johannesburg (The Residence) before heading to Rattrays at Mala Mala. I could go on and on about each place — all our guides were fabulous, we saw every kind of animal and animal movements we ever dreamed about (and it was dreamy). All our accommodations were unique and luxurious. The chefs even pleasantly catered to my special dietary needs which Julian and Lisa had advised them during planning. One of the camp managers said to me “you have many choices about where to spend your time here, and we are so happy you came to us” and they make you feel so special and welcomed.

Bottom line: Julian and Lisa planned the PERFECT trip for us. We are only home 2 weeks and are constantly talking about when we can make a return trip. The connections were seamless. Our guide was always there to meet us. My husband was very concerned about small planes and after the trip, he commented the planes between camps were the easiest way to move between places — better than back to a larger airport and spending the day on connecting flights. You can leave one camp at noon and be in the next camp at 1:30. Twice we were the only passengers on the plane.

DO NOT HESITATE ONE SECOND, CALL JULIAN … this is truly the trip of a lifetime and Julian and his crew are experts at planning the BEST TRIP.

(PS- at the time we traveled, we needed 2 Covid tests, one leaving Zimbabwe and one to fly back to the US from Johannesburg. Both were done at our hotel, the managers printed out the results, it was easy. The rules changed during our trip and Lisa communicated exactly what we needed to do).

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Indonesia: multigenerational trip to Bali & beyond


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We were supposed to go to Indonesia in May 2020 … of course it didn’t happen. Diane asked if we wanted a refund or a rescheduling. I thought no refund, we were going to go the following year for sure…. Diane kept up with us for two years: sending us updates on the situation in Indonesia (closings, vaccinations status, requirements….), asking about our health … she was always available for enquiries and suggestions … When Indonesia finally opened to foreigners, we decided to go (May 2022, two years after our schedule). Unfortunately the original group of travelers dissolved in those two years and we asked her to organize at the last minute a multigenerational itinerary (from two years old to grandparents). We had days when we would be together and days when we would meet for lunch or dinner only. This way, everyone was happy. We traveled to Bali, Lombok and Java. The tourism situation is different in each island. Bali is seeing some tourists (mostly Europeans), some restaurants and stores are still closed and many times we were the only tourists in some of the famous temples or at the rice terraces. But the tourists are coming back and reservations are up for July and August. At the famous Java temples (Borobudur and Prambanan) there were local tourists and many students on school trips but we were the only foreigners there. It must be said that as of now, no tourist can climb up Borobudur, but to make up for the disappointment, Diane sent us on a hill to have breakfast and see the sunrise over Borobudur (we were the only foreigners there too). In Lombok and the famous Gili islands, we were able to go snorkeling with the turtles alone without any other group.
Indonesians are very good with mask wearing, even outside, they are all vaccinated and boosted (once) and Diane organized for us to take the COVID test for US re-entry at a local hospital. It was $7.
The charming and very knowledgeable guides told us that people in tourism had not worked for two and a half years and they are ready to welcome everybody. We felt lucky that we missed the notorious Bali crowds and pampered by everybody in hotels, restaurants and stores.
Diane was extraordinary and I wouldn’t go to another Indonesian island without her expertise.

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Spain with an itinerary tailored to perfection


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We cannot say enough good things about Pablo. Four of us took a 13 day trip to Spain in mid-May that included Barcelona, Seville, Granada, Madrid, with day trips to Toledo and Cordoba. Our hotels were superb, our guides excellent, and our transfers seamless. Pablo helped us in our initial planning to decide on how much territory to cover and the number of days in each place. We told him our interests, and he tailored the trip accordingly. We would not have seen so much, learned so much, or enjoyed it as much without his expertise.

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Greece: Athens, Santorini, Crete…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Athens, Santorini and Crete from May 15-30, 2022, was a truly marvelous travel experience for us. We, of course, had not traveled for awhile but, other than wearing a mask and trying to always dine outside, nothing really felt differently from previous trips. We had already chosen our destinations and hotel accommodations but worked with the trip planner for tours. Wow, did we have great tours! We had talked by phone with Faye about Greece and discussed what we were interested in. Mina planned the itinerary for us. We were stunned at how well all the tours were thought out and planned for our ultimate enjoyment. Every detail was considered to make each day fun, informative and with special and thoughtful events. No two days were alike and all were exciting and personalized. The guides and drivers were exceptionally well versed in Greek history and knowledgeable in the focus of the tour. They impressed us with being experts in their field. They were always on time and careful in wearing their masks too. We highly recommend traveling with this group!

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Spain: castles, artist studios, culinary experiences…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We had an absolutely marvelous vacation. It was wonderful to be back out in the world. While we wore masks in taxis and trains, there was very little stress over COVID and we felt comfortable throughout.

Virginia and her team mapped out a full 12 day trip for us to Andalusia and Madrid. There were several people engaged in setting up our plans and they were all responsive to our requests and interests. As well, Virginia herself was available on email before, during and after the trip. Several times during the trip we said to each other “trust Virginia” – including the Almodevar Castle visit which was a highlight, and also spending the 2 days in Madrid. Our Prado tour and contemporary galleries was perfect. With the head of the art department of a local university, we saw inside artist studios, an auction house and other galleries. Mencia took us on a memorable food and lifestyle tour, also in Madrid. The Seville Jewish tour WOW Moment was super interesting and on-point with our interests; the Alhambra and Ronda tours and guides, exceptional.

Perhaps we were a little over-ambitious and/or maybe it was the unanticipated heat, but we ended up cutting back a bit as we traveled and Paloma was a lifesaver making last minute changes to accommodate us.

Our hotels were super. In Granada we were upgraded to a suite, at the Hacienda we relaxed and rejuvenated and they were wonderful hosts. The staff at Mercer and Ursa could not have been more gracious and accommodating and both hotels were excellent and well-located.

Booking through Virginia is not inexpensive but you get what you pay for. We sat next to another American couple at a cafe in Madrid. They were lamenting poor hotel choices, train travel delays and were travel weary from their sightseeing. Working with Virginia’s team takes away all the travel coordination stress and you are assured of great accommodations, knowledgeable and friendly tour guides (and drivers), and worthwhile experiences.

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Multigenerational trip to Nepal


PANDEMIC TRAVEL Toni helped us plan an amazing trip to Nepal that would have been difficult for us to pull off even with family living in the country. We cannot recommend her guidance and support enough. Nepal is not an easy country, so if you’re on the fence, this is one of those times paying for more support is the smart move because on vacation, you want things to be easy, not hard! Throw in COVID and having the peace of mind that the team working with you will mask up indoors is peace of mind that is invaluable.

We traveled in mid-May with the monsoon season approaching. Having an air conditioned tourist bus for the five of us (two grandparents, two adults, one four-year-old) was indispensable, and the fact that there was a team of three with us meant that all of us could enjoy the trip. Sanjeeb our guide was super knowledgeable and unflappable – we had to reschedule a few things due to weather and local events that would have meant overcrowding, and he handled it all on our behalf.

My husband’s father also has an injured knee, and having a guide, a driver, and assistant meant that everyone had enough support for whatever could come up. Our 4-year old loved Suresh, the assistant, and we were so grateful that Suresh was willing to give our 4-year old shoulder rides when he got tired of walking. The pre-monsoon heat was ferocious at times, but instead of meltdowns, there was Suresh!

The experiences Toni picked out for us were memorable – the highlight of the trip. Even the grandparents who are locals loved participating and learned something new. Our time in Dhulikel was special, and we were grateful for the upgrade we received at the resort. Dwarikas was seriously one of the nicest places we have stayed at on any of the six continents we’ve visited.

All in all, Toni delivered terrific value. Nepal surprised us with how much of life is set up for outdoor living, something you want in COVID times. There weren’t many tourists in the pre-monsoon season which was great and added to our enjoyment. We’re so glad we worked with Toni and highly recommend her.

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Italy: Rome, Amalfi Coast, Capri…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL Our trip to Italy began 2 years ago. The agency worked with us during the planning of our fabulous trip to Rome and the Amalfi Coast. They guided us towards great accommodations, excursions, guides and some local dining adventures. Then Covid and lockdowns. They continued to work with us for 2 years as we rescheduled then had to cancel again. When the trip finally was going to happen – they worked with us to make some changes to the itinerary and our trip was almost perfect. They use a wonderful app to help with all our documents and a local contact that was available 24/7 during our trip. All of the drivers and guides were extremely professional and knowledgeable – truly felt like we had the very best while there. Before the trip they also sent out book and movie recommendations for prep on our trip and large restaurant guides that helped us plan our lunches and dinners. The private yacht to the island of Capri, the pasta-making class, the private dinners, the Vespa tour—all highlights of our trip. Highly recommend and will definitely use them again!!!

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Morocco: tailored tours, friendly locals, excellent dining…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Radia & Oussama put together a top notch itinerary for my husband and I to experience Morocco in just 8 days. We were blown away with the hospitality of all of our guides, the local people in general, and of course our amazing driver Ahmed. The experiences were all exactly tailored to what we discussed ahead of time, while also allowing for on the fly modifications based on how we were feeling (ex: adding on extra time to our hike in the Atlas mountains). The dining was excellent, whether it was our driver choosing a place for us to stop along the way on our road trip, or a selected restaurant in Marrakech, every meal was a hit. Our guides took great care of us, acquiring entrance tickets, paying restaurant tabs, etc so that we didn’t have to worry about it. All we had to do was show up and enjoy ourselves, Moroccan people are friendly, hospitable, and we felt so very safe the entire time, even when we ventured out solo.

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Italy: Cinque Terre with a quick-thinking planner

ERIC HAMMER | MAY 31, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  A week before our trip, Emanuela noted a cruise ship would be docked in La Spezia. As our plan to enjoy the Cinque Terre was to train south to north, the recommendation was we pivot to a car. Simply, due to the size of the roads, the thousands of disembarking cruise passengers would only be able to travel the Cinque Terre by train. We didn’t want to feel the NYC commute in Italy!

When we arrived in Riomangarri, Emanuela planned for us to visit a boutique vineyard. A six-person operation, producing 20,000 bottles a year based on the side of a cliff and run by a man who can trace his family to this village for over a 1000 years. After a wonderful experience we drove north.

There are three ways to travel the Cinque Terre; 1. Small Boat. 2. Train. 3. Car. For years the Italian government has discussed converting the train tracks to a bike trail and building a new train system inland. It’s old, hot and busy. The road is narrow, wrapping itself around cliffs, but it turns a hour 45 min drive into 20 minutes. Beautiful and easy was the drive from Riomangarri to the next village. Well until it wasn’t…

An avalanche struck the road a day or two prior. There were no signs, no police, but the road was closed. Our guide called Emanuela. She pivoted us from the car to the train only to find out the train station was on fire and also closed. As boat times didn’t work, we had to drive back to La Spezia, miss lunch and continue to Montarossa. A 20 minute drive now nearly two hours.

Emanuela personally apologies, treating the rockslide and fire as if it’s her fault. Then tells us she booked us a lunch in hills of Montarossa. For this lunch we were hosted by a former Italian senator and World Bank executive who now owns this slice of heaven. For over two hours we drank, ate and experienced true dolce vita. This was an experience we never would have had without the Rockslide. Fire. Royal Caribbean day trippers.

Our adventure in the Cinque Terre was ripe for disaster, but we had Emanuela watching our every move from Genoa. She took our trip as seriously as if we were her visiting family and her desire for us to have the best trip showed. Everyone wanted to impress Emanuela through us; we had the best tables, hotel upgrades and surprise experiences that just consistently took the trip up a level. Thank you!

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

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Jordan & Israel: historic sites, Dead Sea mud baths, desert camp…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Just returned from a 3-week trip to Jordan and Israel planned by Jonny and Dan. We have been using Wendy Perrin’s recommendations for many years and Jonny and Dan did not disappoint. Our initial consultation was with both of them, after which Dan handled our entire trip. We started planning the trip in 2019 and due to the pandemic did not travel until this May. Dan and his team hung in with us for almost three years until we were able to go. At last count we had over 400 emails fine tuning, changing, adjusting the trip. It was well worth the wait! We had some challenges due to the covid protocols, especially in Israel. I won’t go into detail because the covid restrictions were lifted the day after we arrived and hopefully no one will have to deal with them again. The trip exceeded our expectations. The sights were incredible, the guides knowledgeable, food delicious. One of the joys of small-group travel is being able to change and adjust as needed. The guides that Dan selected were outstanding. Ready to make changes if the drives were too long or we wanted to stay longer in one place. The accommodations were excellent. The only issue we had was with the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem. We were travelling with one couple who, since we booked in 2019, has mobility issues. The comfort rooms at the American Colony are very small and the bathrooms have the old-time tubs that made it impossible for him to shower. Dan’s team was on it and we were upgraded to one of the larger and more spacious rooms. I don’t recommend the comfort rooms to anyone, mobility issues or not. One of the best experiences that Dan put together for us was a stay at the Bedu Discovery Camp in Wadi Rum. Unfortunately, Wadi Rum is getting very crowded with camps. But Discovery has only 6 tents so you really get the feel for the desert. Even better, we were the only 2 couples in the camp that night. The staff set up a fire in front of the dining tent and we were able to have our evening drinks overlooking the amazing desert landscape. Both dinner and breakfast were excellent. Dan picked the Kempinski Hotel for our night in the Dead Sea area. Beautiful hotel and setting. After going into the Dead Sea from the hotel’s private beach, you are treated to mud being spread over your entire body, after 10 minutes you go back into the water to get the mud off, then salt scrub is spread over your body followed by a rinse. Fun and relaxing. I would have stayed a second night there before the frenetic pace of Israel. We had major hassles crossing the border, nothing that Dan could have prevented. After the very positive experiences in Jordan we found Israel to overall be much less welcoming. The sights were interesting although a bit overwhelming some days. It was important for us that we had a local guide that made adjustments as needed. He was always aware of any potential marches or disturbances and we changed our visits when necessary. I think this is very important in Israel given the potential for unrest. In Israel we also liked the Scots Hotel in Tiberius. Beautiful, historic hotel overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Stayed there 2 nights and would have liked to stay another. The days in Israel are very full and there wasn’t a lot of down time by the time you got back to the hotel. The town is very appealing and would have liked more time to explore on our own. Once again, another great trip from one of Wendy’s recommendations. I would highly recommend Dan for Middle East travel.

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Morocco: Jewish sites, hiking, cities & towns…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We just returned from amazing adventures in Morocco, thoughtfully arranged by Michael. Our discussions with Michael began in November 2021 and from the beginning, he understood our priorities and interests. As a result, our trip included a range of cities and smaller towns as well as Jewish sites and hiking opportunities. Our 15-day itinerary included overnight stays of different lengths in Casablanca, Tangier, Chefchaouen, Fes, a hiking destination in the High Atlas, Essaouira and Marrakesh. Michael booked fabulous riads in each location and had wonderful recommendations for dinners. The trip was flawlessly executed by Michael’s local contacts. Our guide Said’s love of his country’s history, culture, art and architecture tremendously enhanced our trip and remained responsive to our particular interests. Fayssal, our superb driver, flawlessly coordinated with Said whenever necessary and was available for evening transportation to our dining destinations. Morocco was an excellent choice for our return to international travel. Thankfully, no issues arose during our trip that required Michael’s attention, but we traveled with confidence knowing that he and his local staff were available at any time. We would recommend, with no reservations, planning an unforgettable trip with Michael.

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Iceland: guided activities & independent adventures

KELVIN ROTH | MAY 28, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL   This was a fantastic trip. Chris listened to our request and provided a perfect itinerary, that hit on on all of our requests. We loved the pacing of the days and the variety of activities. It was a great blend of guided activities and self-guided activities.

The hotels were all great and had their own unique features that made them special. Each of them had great restaurants and we thought the breakfasts were really good. We had an issue at one of the hotels and Chris jumped into action to address the issue and set the hotel straight.

Each guided activity we had was great as well. They treated us in a way that made us feel special and while they may do the same for other clients, they all left us with the impression that they were doing this “just for us.” They all clearly loved what they were doing as well (and we loved the big inflating/deflating wheels they had on their trucks).

As people will tell you, the food is expensive in Iceland but it’s easy to forgive that when it’s so delicious. I’m going through fish withdrawal as I write this :-)

We had initially asked about driving the Ring Road. I’m so glad Chris talked us out of that as we only had 7 days. Having been there, I think that would have been way too much driving to get it done so quickly.

We marveled at how responsive Chris was to any and all requests – from the “good morning” emails with a reminder of the day’s activities and any logistics to the on the spot lunch suggestions – we felt extremely well taken care of.… It was like having a portable concierge. He knew the country well and thought of little things like WiFi for the car, the best places to park, clothing recommendations, and even when and where to look for gas stations.

I would say this was a once in a lifetime trip, but we’ll definitely be coming back for more Iceland adventures… and we’ll definitely be using Chris!

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Croatia: wine tasting, truffle hunting, cooking class…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  I traveled to Croatia with 5 girlfriends to celebrate my birthday and our friendships in May 2022 for a week. We started in Split and went to Dubrovnik with a stop along the way for a wine tasting and snacks in Ston. The whole trip was absolutely fabulous and our trip planner, Ala, did an amazing job. I told her what we were interested in doing and what our “travel style” was and she developed an itinerary that wowed us. When she found out that we loved cooking, she suggested an amazing truffle hunting experience in Split along with a cooking class in Dubrovnik. All of her recommendations from activities to restaurants were wonderful and made this a trip of a lifetime for me and my friends. I cannot thank her or recommend her enough. Thanks for introducing us Wendy!

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Morocco: souks, seaside, food tour…

THOMAS JOHN | MAY 25, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We have just returned from a great two-week trip to Morocco. The trip was planned by Radia (except the riads, which we selected before finding Radia). We started in Casablanca, then moved on to Fez (from there we visited Chefchouen, Meknes and Volubilis). The scenery in this area of Morocco was beautiful, with vista of green, hills with acres of olive trees and wonderful people. Our next stop was Marrakech, a personal favorite, where we enjoyed wandering in the souks, a food tour, cultural highlights like the Radia Palace, great restaurants, the Atlas Mountains and beyond with connections to the Berber community and a lovely riad. Then on to Essaouira, a lovely seaside city with great views, open streets, and wonderful seafood.

The absolute highlight of the whole trip was our driver Said, a warm, friendly and extremely helpful person who we all appreciated so much. He literally could not do too much for us, including shopping for clothes and pharmaceuticals in Fes as our luggage was delayed for five days (thanks to KLM and Air France). He was with us at all times, is a great ambassador for Morocco and has become a good friend.

Radia’s recommendations for tours and activities was perfect, and the selection of guides excellent. We highly recommend Radia’s team and a big thank you to Wendy Perrin, who did indeed provide a WOW experience. In fact we will lean on Wendy’s connections to help us plan a few days in Istanbul next year.

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Sicily: vineyard tour, pastry class, hike with a vulcanologist…

LISA WOLLAN | MAY 25, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We just returned from an incredible trip to Sicily, curated by Marcello. From beginning to end, Marcello did a wonderful job of listening to the sometimes varied needs and wants of our two couples, crafting personalized experiences that truly helped us understand the beauty and uniqueness of Sicily, and staying in touch to make sure we were having a wonderful time. We knew very little about this amazing island before our trip – and thanks to the interesting places and knowledgeable guides and delightful experiences arranged by Marcello, we left feeling a great affinity for Sicily and looking forward to coming back. This was our first Covid-era trip and we were impressed with the safety measures taken by our guides and throughout our travels. While it is hard to pick a favorite moment, some of the highlights included an amazing vineyard tour and lunch in the hills of Camporeale, making pastries with the incredible 82-year old Maria Grammatico in Erice, experiencing the stunning Infiorata in Noto and hiking on Mt. Etna with a Vulcanologist during a very active time. We will be reliving this trip for years to come. Thank you Wendy for introducing us to Marcello and bravo to his entire team!

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Mexico: nature & wildlife in Baja California


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Zach and his wonderful team – Carolina and Jose among many others behind the scenes I’m sure – 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 and a transfer evening in Cabo. 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 itself 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.
I was also so appreciative of their flexibility and help when, at the last minute, I had a medical emergency and couldn’t go with my daughter. They immediately shifted all of the reservations to a new family member who accompanied her. Hearing their glowing, joyful reports every day of the amazing time Zach and team had organized was almost as wonderful as being there myself.
We can’t recommend Zach, Carolina, Jose and team more highly.

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Belgium: Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp

AMY KALES | MAY 24, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  The trip Thomas had planned for us to Belgium two years ago was worth waiting for. His hotel choice, The Amigo, was the perfect place from which to explore the sights in Brussels and to return to from our day trips. We also enjoyed Thomas’s restaurant recommendations near our hotel which offered everything from local seafood to haute cuisine.

The daily excursions, which were very well planned, gave us an opportunity to see the old in Bruges, the new in Brussels and everything in between. Because I am a retired teacher and museum educator, I expect a guide to be an energetic and engaging person who is well versed in his/her subject matter. Thomas’s relationships with his guides allow him to pick among the best.

Thomas choose Sofie, who spoke excellent English, for our guide for Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp. She was more than perfect. In addition, she was very sensitive to my husband’s mobility problems and included stops for coffee, biscuits and chocolates along the way. The two days we spent with her were interesting and fun.

COVID is hard to avoid in Europe. Venues are crowded and no one wears masks. My husband and I, who tested negative 24 hours before our flight, became ill 48 hours upon our return. We think we were exposed on our last day in Brussels or in the airport before our departure but will never know. One has to accept the risk in order to travel.

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

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Northern Ireland and Scotland: history, countryside, behind-the-scenes distillery tour…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Another great trip from Jonathan and his team!

After a 2-year delay due to Covid restrictions, my son and I were able to finally make it to Northern Ireland and Scotland for a great 7-day trip which included visits to Belfast, Islay and Glasgow. This was my third time using Jonathan and every trip has been fantastic. We landed in Dublin where we were met by Jimmy, our driver-guide for the first leg of our trip – Jimmy was excellent. The drive to Belfast from Dublin gave us a chance to see the Irish countryside and learn more about the evolution of Northern Ireland since the “Troubles” were resolved in the 1990s. The natural beauty of the area remains strong and while you can tell that the area is still struggling to recover from Covid, the experience was top-notch including a private Bushmills tasting that Jonathan arranged for our hotel. Our next stop was Islay, which remains an undiscovered gem. Hard to get to, but worth the effort, especially if you are a fan of peated scotch. Our driver-guide David – also excellent – guided us through two full days of distillery tours and sight-seeing, including a private, “behind the scenes” tour of the Laphroaig distillery – what an incredible experience! Our final stop was two nights in Glasgow with John McElwee – John is a superstar when it comes to driver-guides. John led us on a trip to Oban where we had the best, freshest fish & chips that we’ve ever eaten, not to mention a great tour of the Oban distillery. We finished up our trip with a visit to Culzean Castle and Burns Memorial Gardens before heading to the airport for our flight home.

Overall, this was another amazing trip delivered by Jonathan’s team. It was astounding what they were able to pull together in a world still trying to recover from Covid. Their knowledge of the hotels and the sights guarantees great trips, but the secret is the quality of the driver-guides. The driver-guides have all been excellent. They are the difference between a very good trip and a fantastic one. It is very likely that I will be using Jonathan and his team again in the future.

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Netherlands and Belgium: museums, chocolate tasting, private canal tour…

DEE BADEN | MAY 24, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Aer Lingus required a mask but restrictions in the Netherlands and Belgium were easing by the time we took the trip. As we had private drivers (and didn’t require public transportation), there were no places that required a mask, including museums and restaurants. The trip was fantastic, and private guides in each of the cities were superb. After a long flight, a canal tour in Amsterdam was a relaxing way to start our adventure. Our private boat captain picked us up in front of our hotel. He provided interesting historical details and answered questions as we sipped cool beverages from the bar and waved at passengers on the larger tour vessels. We were dropped off near the Anne Frank house where we had tickets to tour this remarkable site. The following day was a guided walking tour of Amsterdam that concluded with visits to the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museum. The next day was at leisure before we joined a bike tour the following day. Tom was great to work with in coordinating our adventures in the Netherlands and Belgium before and after our bike adventure. The travel app he provided was a great way to keep track of our itinerary and to communicate with him during our travels. On the last day of the bike tour, a private driver picked us up in Bruges and drove us to Ghent for a couple of days. Our last stop was in Brussels. The hotels were great! Private guides in each city took us on amazing tours of historical sights and we enjoyed another boat tour in Ghent. We especially enjoyed visiting boutique chocolate shops and a private chocolate tasting. Tom suggested and helped obtain tickets for Floralien Ghent – Nocturne 6th of May which only occurs every 5 years. It was the most amazing floral exhibit I have ever seen! He also secured reservations at a special restaurant for us to celebrate our anniversary.

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

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Chile: Patagonia, Atacama Desert, Santiago…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL Wendy, Thank you for another amazing referral!

Have just returned from a 17 day trip to Chile planned by Jordan and his team. Thanks to Jordan and Krista for a trip we will never forget. Originally planned pre-COVID and then rescheduled 2 times due to Chile’s travel restrictions, Jordan’s team stayed on top of everything and made the required changes as smooth as possible. I am very detail oriented and do a lot of research prior to traveling. They really listened to what I wanted and came up with fantastic options to choose from for each stop during our trip, in addition to suggesting some not on my radar.

As our departure date finally arrived, and Rapa Nui remained closed to tourism, a last minute destination change was made and our time at Awasi Atacama ended up being a highlight of the trip! Patagonia, Santiago along with Central Chile were all amazing, each area with its own charm/beauty.

Jordan’s local guides/drivers were fantastic. Hotel recommendations were perfect and fit our travel personality perfectly. Communication was timely, informative and always personable!

We look forward to planning another trip with Jordan in South America!

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Italy with unique experiences: wine, music, Lamborghinis…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL We just returned from our third trip to Italy with Maria and Brian and maybe the best compliment I can give them is to say that we are already looking forward to a fourth trip. (And for readers with Covid concerns, we were in Italy last September when many restrictions were still in place including mandatory masks and showing proof of vaccination for indoor locations. Those restrictions were mostly dropped just prior to our arrival, but much of our trip was outdoors and people were still respectful – and we felt very comfortable the whole time.)
This trip focused on Emilia-Romagna (Parma, Ravenna, Modena, Bologna) with an additional stop in Lake Garda. We had been to each of those towns before (except Modena) but this trip was so much more interesting, educational and memorable, thanks to Maria and Brian’s planning. As always, the pace of the trip was exactly what we prefer; we like having some free time every day as well as a couple of totally free days within the two weeks. As always, our guides and drivers were terrific and added tremendously to our experience. Hotels were well-matched with our tastes and even when there were a couple of last minute hotel changes, we were notified in advance and everything worked smoothly. Thanks to Maria’s suggestions, two of the hotels in particular were simply exceptional and we will be dreaming of them for years to come.
But what makes working with Maria and Brian so special is the unique experiences they organize to suit your interests. We had a private winemaker/winery visit outside Parma that we’ll never forget, a magical visit with a violin-maker in Cremona, fun experiences at the Lamborghini Museum and Imola Formula 1 racetrack, and a delightful visit to some beautiful villages in the foothills of the Appenines.
Last but not least, since Emilia-Romagna is the food paradise of Italy, Maria booked several lunches and dinners at restaurants for us — something we don’t do too often — and all of them were fabulous, with staff that made us feel at home and the kind of down-to-earth menus that we love. So now we just have to decide where in Italy we want to go next, of course with Maria and Brian’s help.

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Portugal: help within minutes during the trip


PANDEMIC TRAVEL Gonçalo and Joana put together an excellent trip for us throughout Portugal in May 2022, identifying hotels that fit what we were looking for perfectly and different parts of Portugal that we would not have explored on our own. We especially loved the activities they arranged for us at the Torre de Palma Wine Hotel and an amazing stay in Marialva, where we felt like we had the town to ourselves. While Gonçalo and Joana were fantastic before our trip, they seemed overwhelmed by the sudden huge travel demand coming of the pandemic. They were not terribly responsive to questions or concerns before we departed. However, during our one issue on the trip, they were in touch within minutes and got it solved quickly. While I do hope that they can improve their pre-trip response time, I would absolutely use their services again, as we would not have had such a great trip without their expertise.

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Italy: wine tasting in Chianti, museum-hopping in Florence…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Since we’ve returned from Italy, my husband turns to me EVERY SINGLE DAY and remarks, “That travel agent did a PERFECT job on our trip. Every detail was fabulous!” Yes, Andrea’s team listened closely to our needs (as seniors) and found us perfect accommodations and perfect transportation within Italy to make our time unforgettable. Andrea’s idea of three days in the Chianti countryside after the tiring overnight transportation from Chicago gave us time to relax and enjoy tiny towns and green hillsides (and taste wine) before arriving in more urban Florence. She selected an unforgettable countryside resort with two fabulous restaurants. Her driver picked us up for three days of scenic hill towns, tiny shops, and a well known winery where we had our own private tasting on a hillside overlooking the vineyards. After that, our marvelous driver, Giovanni, dropped us off in Florence, and we were delighted with the hotel’s location–a 10-minute walk from everything we hoped to see: museums, Duomo, shops, and river, but not buried in the crowded shopping area. We requested a suite so we could relax every day before dinner, and Marta (part of Andrea’s dream team) found us a suite with its own balcony where we could view the entire plaza and cathedral while sipping a glass of wine. Our Florence tour guide, Olivera, was divine: informed, responsive, and delightful to be with. Eleanora, on Andrea’s team, efficiently purchased all of our museum passes so we had no long waits in line and gave us a good list of restaurants. The hotel Maria Novella staff went out of their way to be helpful with dinner reservations within walking distance and spoiled us with their friendly concern for our every need. We had the name and phone number of a “team member” in case we needed extra help while we were in Italy, and she arranged for covid tests IN OUR HOTEL ROOM so there was no searching or uncertainty. We stayed in stunning rooms, met lovely Italian staff members, and we returned thrilled with Andrea and her delightful, knowledgeable, and patient staff. We’d definitely ask for their help again and recommend her to others. The $300 pre-booking fee worried me at first, but I learned that it was worth gold. This is an experienced group with an international reputation. Hats off to Wendy Perrin for helping us make this invaluable connection!

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Portugal: city, wine country, seaside…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL We have just returned from a 10 day trip to Portugal planned by Goncalo and his assistant Joana from May 6th to the 16th. The trip was amazing in every way. We began in Lisbon where we spent 3 nights and then progressed on to Alentejo, the Douro valley, Porto and finally Cascais. The city hotels were centrally located in convenient areas. The hotels in Alentejo and the Douro Valley were gorgeous. The scenery was exquisite in both places. The seaside hotel in Cascais was quite beautiful and we wished that we had more than one night there. Our driver John, was a total professional. He was always on time (usually early) and was completely accommodating even with some last minute changes to our itinerary. Having a private driver was was very reassuring and we felt more comfortable and safe than we would have on a group tour. The tour guides were all wonderful but our favorite was Tiago. He had a wealth of knowledge on every subject and was able to impart it in a very engaging way. Our tours in Lisbon were more enjoyable because of him. The highlight of the trip for us was a private lunch and wine tasting in a beautiful estate winery. It was definitely a once in a lifetime afternoon.
We had given a deposit a few months before our trip and were told that the remainder was due 30 days before. They did not ask for the balance until 2 days before our trip. This may have been due to the recent uptick in Covid cases.
Joana arranged for a lab technician to come to our hotel room for Covid testing before our return to the US. This was so convenient and saved us quite a bit of time.
I would highly recommend Goncalo and Joana to anyone planning a trip to Portugal. They will tailor the trip to your specific needs.

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Galapagos cruise & Ecuadorian cloud forest


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  The Galapagos had always been on our bucket list and moved to the top of the list due to Covid, as we figured that being on a small ship would help isolate us and the ship required all passengers to be tested prior to embarkation. Until this trip I had done our own trip planning, but Ashton and his team have changed my mind.
During our initial hour-long call Ashton explained the pros and cons of different ships, and we discussed what time of year to visit, from the weather to animals. In the end we decided on Silversea in May. The ship was beautiful, the crew fantastic, and the food excellent. We were younger than most of the passengers (average age probably in mid 60s); although this wasn’t entirely surprising to us, the pace did end up being a bit slower than we had anticipated.
We snorkeled with sea turtles, penguins, and playful sea lions (it’s true that the animals have no fear of people); hiked beautiful islands; saw land and marine iguanas up close (almost tripped on them close) and walked among giant tortoises; and saw many exotic birds (yes the blue footed boobies’ feet really are bright blue).
Ashton highly recommended we visit Mashpi Lodge in the cloud forest as an add on to our trip. He was actually rather insistent, and we are glad he was, as the lodge and its staff were spectacular. Our only regret is he recommended two nights and we wish we stayed three. Note that it is a three hour drive from Quito, the last one over bumpy dirt “roads” and the main activity at the lodge is hiking in the forest. Although there were a few relatively easy options for activities, overall these were not simple nature walks—they were real hikes (and we only did moderate ones).
Ashton’s team, particularly Monica, was very patient with my many questions. I actually started to feel bad for asking so many questions and requesting so many different quotes, but they were all handled with good cheer.
Thanks to the Points Guy website for mentioning Wendy in an article, Wendy’s team for recommending Ashton, and Ashton’s team for putting together a fantastic trip.

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Five-week road trip through France (and a bit of Italy)


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  I cannot say enough great things about Philip, and our constant contact Evane! And even our Paris contact, Sarah! We always had someone readily available throughout our 5-week trip for any questions, concerns or changes we wanted to make!

We decided on a last minute trip to France, and Philip was more than up to the task by scheduling a zoom call to discuss everything we wanted for our trip. We gave them no easy task with a month’s notice to plan a trip starting on February 26th to March 22nd, and then surprising them by adding another week (with only a week’s notice) while we were on the trip!

They created a perfect itinerary for us. We had never been to France and were overwhelmed with all that France had to offer. We didn’t know what to expect or what would be best to see during that time of year so all their suggestions and planning were invaluable to us. It felt like most places were all to ourselves, due to their impeccable planning during the off-season. Particularly scheduling our skiing after all the French school breaks, something we would have no idea about if we planned the trip ourselves. They sent us plenty of options for hotels, mostly 5-star and some 4-star, when the hotel was on par to any 5-star accommodation or the location was too cool to pass up. They gave us a plethora of options while steering us in the right direction since we wanted to stay in some more off-the-beaten path towns and some in more central locations, helping us decide which would be best in all of our destinations. Some of our hotels even gave us upgrades for both rooms, while making sure our rooms were adjoining or close to each other. All in all, we stayed in Paris for a few days three times and they made sure to put us in a new arrondissement each time so we could see as much of Paris as we could. Philip, Evane, and Sarah were truly so patient and accommodating dealing with all of us.

At first, we were a little hesitant to travel but we were more than ready to pack our bags for over a month and finally go somewhere! Philip made sure to tell us what the current situation was in France and made us feel way more at ease about going to a different country during this time. Now looking back, I don’t even know why we were worried because it was such an easy process to get the vaccination pass on our phone or a test at a pharmacy. Only once did covid come up during our entire trip, when Sarah immediately contacted us about our previous guide testing positive so we all took a test with luckily negative results. She was so prompt to keep us informed and made sure we got tested immediately. In terms of covid, we felt safer in France than here in the States.

We wanted to do a road trip around France so we could see as much as we could while still having a few days in each place to relax. Philip and Evane mapped out some smaller and cool towns that we could stop at while on our drives. They literally provided us a Google map with all the stops and drive times. They provided great lunch suggestions for us to eat at in each stop, and my dad’s favorite was in Dolceacqua overlooking one of the bridges that Monet painted while on our way from Fossano to St Paul de Vence. We have driven in a handful of other countries but we didn’t know what to expect driving in France, and through the mountains with potential snow, etc. Philip and Evane advised us on what parts of the trip would be best to drive ourselves and what areas would have lots of traffic or any headaches, etc. so it would be best to have a driver. I cannot thank them enough for those recommendations and it definitely added to our smooth trip.

We had a few days in Paris to adjust to the time change before going to Champagne, where they arranged a private visit to Veuve Clicquot. Then we drove to Chamonix, where Evane arranged for a private ski guide that was invaluable as we would have never been able to ski as much of the mountain as we did and go to all the best spots to view the Alps and Mont Blanc. Also, it was so helpful because we have some skiers and snowboarders in the family so we were able to bypass any long flat parts that might make it difficult for any of us snowboarders.

Philip and Evane even added the Piedmont region in Italy (a small addition they included since I told them how much my dad loved Italy and us being so close by), filling our time there with lots of Barolo and Barbaresco wines. Then we drove to Nice but stayed in smaller St Paul de Vence with day trips around to see Eze, Monaco, Antibes, and all the spots along the Riviera.

Eventually worked our way to Provence and went around the region with William, our fantastic guide. Finishing off with a few days in Paris but adding some time in-between up in Normandy before leaving from CDG.

I cannot say enough about how much we loved our guides all throughout our trip. Sebastien in Lyon, took us to his family-owned winery in the Beaujolais and a private demonstration of weaving in Lyon. In Provence, I don’t think my family can say enough nice things about William. He went above and beyond to make sure our packages got shipped back to the U.S. and along with our hotel, found the best option that would not be outrageously expensive. Marie Ange was everything Google and the Internet could only tell you after some seriously extensive research on Paris. My sister and I are so thankful for her knowledge of vintage stores in Paris and helping us bargain at the flea market. Diane was absolutely amazing and told us everything and anything about Normandy. Nothing was lost in translation because she was an American living in France – made it very easy for us to walk away with all the knowledge we had hoped for when visiting the beaches and important sites. I cannot recommend any of these guides enough, and thank you to Philip and his team for being able to get such amazing guides for us our whole time there! They really made the trip surpass all of our expectations.

We had a decent amount of last minute additions and decisions, and they did not hesitate to respond as soon as possible to accommodate all our requests and needs. My sister decided later on that she was going to join us in France, and Evane amended the entire itinerary to accommodate all of us. This also included us changing our flights while we were there and her making all the necessary changes to our itinerary. We also loved France so much that we decided to extend the trip another week! Giving Sarah, our Paris contact, only a week to plan an adventure up to Normandy and a few days in Paris. Honestly, we owe Sarah (and Evane) our lives! She looked up every hotel in Paris because it was beginning to be the high season in the city and everything (literally) was booked up. She did not hesitate to find us the best 5-star options in a location we had yet to stay in without a crazy price tag.

We are beyond thankful to Wendy for putting us in contact with Philip and cannot wait to go back. Without a doubt we will be contacting Philip next time. It was a trip of a lifetime where it never felt like too much time in each destination but it will always never be enough! Thank you for making us fall in love with France!

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Caribbean cruise with upgraded suite


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Before the pandemic we had planned a few cruises with Tom through Wendy Perrin’s advice. When all the cruises were cancelled due to COVID-19 Tom kept us well informed and handled all the cancellations and rebooks.
We just returned from a long awaited cruise on Virgin Voyages April 10-15 that was originally booked for June 2020. Tom was helpful in making sure we got our cruise credits that were offered due to the pandemic and helped us with updated pricing and upgrades. He rebooked us in an upgraded suite that was stunning, putting our credits to good use!!
We had one hiccup while on board and I immediately got in touch with Tom from the ship. We had remaining credits that we wanted to use on board but couldn’t due to a discrepancy with Virgin Voyages. Tom answered our call and immediately started contacting the people at Virgin and was able to get the issue resolved within hours.
I highly recommend working with Tom because he is kind, patient and very knowledgeable in the travel industry. He always responds to your calls and emails quickly no matter where he is in the world. When Tom is not available to speak to you directly he makes sure to have one of his team members available to handle any of your questions or travel needs.
I have other cruises booked with Tom and am looking forward to working with him with confidence and excitement for future fantastic vacations.

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Ireland: private home rental for a family trip

BEN WRIGHT | MAY 18, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  I was extremely satisfied with Jonathan and Katie, the two people I worked to plan our family vacation in Ireland. They were able to take an amorphous concept that I had in my mind and make it tangible.
They arranged the perfect house for us to rent, with just enough amenities that we were not isolated, but enough space to enjoy and relax.
All details were as they promised, from the airport pickup, to the tour guides, to the restaurant recommendations.
We are a difficult family to travel with since two people have celiac disease. Jonathan made the experience seamless. Each restaurant had full menus from which to choose and that made my wife and daughter extremely happy. Similarly, at our hotel in Dublin for our last weekend in Ireland, the hotel staff knew about the dietary needs and we did not need to even address it.
Most importantly, Jonathan and Katie were both kind and patient with all my questions and worries, especially since we began planning while Covid restrictions were still significant. I am thankful for their skills and we will use their services again.

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Southern African safari: small camps, top guides, airport VIP service…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We just returned home from our African safari in April/May 2022. This trip was originally planned for 2020, then 2021 and finally 2022. The Trusted Travel Expert, Cherri, and her colleague Katie rescheduled without complaint. It was a lot of work for one trip! We had never traveled to southern Africa and trusted the recommendations of Katie of how to structure our trip. We traveled to Kenya, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It was a lot of countries in this time of Covid, but fortunately all test restrictions were lifted shortly before our trip (other than testing to return to the US). Of course, every time we crossed a border we were required to go through security, customs, vaccine check, etc. It was invaluable to have someone facilitate airport transfers. They often took us to the front of the line, directed us through the airport, checked us in to airport hotels as needed and helped with luggage. It’s a TTE service that just makes traveling that much easier.

We loved every camp we stayed at. They were intimate and welcoming. We also had the top guides at a couple of camps thanks to Cherri’s connections. I wore their company’s hat, and it was always recognized and it gave me confidence that the TTE was familiar with the camp and checked in on an ongoing basis.

I just completed a 100 p book of our adventures, but I’ll try to summarize.

Makgadikgadi Plains in Botswana is a desert environment. As we traveled during April, there were not huge herds, but we were lucky enough to come across a couple of fresh kills so were able to observe the cycle of lion/cheetah kills, jackals, vultures and hyenas. The walk with the Bushman was fascinating and felt very authentic. Finally, the habituated meerkats were fun, we have some great photos of them climbing on us. I think my favorite part was the brilliance of the stars.

Khwai Leadwood in the Okavango Delta was magical. Our guide, Banda, was fantastic and we saw a great variety of wildlife. The camp was one of our favorites, due in large part to the hostess, Mimi. She was fantastic! Always there to greet us and send us off with a smile. Sleeping to the sound of hippos is memorable.

Thornwood Lodge on the Zambezi river was a bit bigger, but was our base to visit Victoria Falls. It was so worth seeing.

Our final camp was Somalisa. Our guide was Calvet who had been voted best guide in Zimbabwe in 2021 – thanks to Katie for making sure he was our guide, he was wonderful. The feel of the lodge was comfortable and fun. AND, there is a watering hole right in front where we saw herds of elephants, buffalo (300!) and hyenas.

This felt like a very safe trip as far as Covid is concerned. We were outside on safari for about 8 hours a day, and ate all of our meals outside.

Transfers can be complicated moving from camp to camp, but Katie managed them beautifully.

I was sorry to have to leave. Safaris are an amazing, life changing experience. We are lucky that so much land in Africa is protected to ensure the safety of these animals.

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Paris: personalized shopping, dining, airport VIP service…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Jennifer created the perfect girls’ trip getaway for me and a friend in Paris.

We had both been before and had done museums so we wanted a different experience this time. Jennifer recommended the Grande Hotel de Palais Royal and we could not have been happier (and we were upgraded upon arrival!). Excellent location, delicious breakfast, and such friendly, helpful staff.

Jennifer connected us with a local personal stylist who took us to 4 French designer boutiques that we would never have found on our own. It was such a fun and unique experience.

Jennifer also recommended excellent restaurants and while the street cafes are absolutely delicious, our meal at Girafe overlooking the Eiffel Tower was simply spectacular.

The recommendation to have a personal meet and greet at the airport and driver to/from the hotel was invaluable since CGD was very crowded and hectic.

Jennifer and her team were fantastic and I would highly recommend. I already want to plan another trip with them! Thank you for connecting us!

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The Galapagos: 20-passenger yacht with private balconies

JULIE OLSON | MAY 16, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We just returned (May 2022) from a fabulous trip to the Galapagos that was originally scheduled for May of 2020. The original trip planned with the help of Allie  included both Machu Picchu and the Galapagos and got postponed 2x during the pandemic as has happened to so many travelers.

In January as Covid was surging again, we decided to break the trip into 2 pieces as we did not want to risk entry into 2 countries. Allie quickly jumped in to help us secure the original 8 day Galapagos cruise as planned, and we are now planning an extended trip to Peru in May 2023. The pandemic has forced us all to make choices with ever changing information, and we couldn’t be more appreciative of her help in adjusting our original plans.

For the Galapagos, Allie listened to what we wanted from the trip and suggested a newer small boat that provides balconies for each cabin and accommodates only 20 people. In fact, we had only 14 guests when we arrived! Before we left, Allie got a call from the boat company, who was trying to accommodate a family group, offering us a free upgrade to a suite. What a testament to her connections that she got the call! It was a treat to have bigger windows from which to see the beautiful vistas!

Prior to our trip, Allie asked for information on food allergies/sensitivities that was shared with the boat. At each meal, the chef made sure I had options that worked for me, and the cruise director made sure I was clear on what was in each dish on the buffet line or plated for dinner. For anyone with food allergies, this is so important, and their help made the trip safe and enjoyable for me! The boat also provided walking sticks and full wetsuits for each of us which was much appreciated.

At the end of the trip, Allie ensured that a nurse came to meet us at our hotel the day before we flew back to the US to perform required covid testing with results that were returned by email within hours. That allowed us to provide necessary documentation to check in the night before our flight. The value of having this part of travel made easy cannot be over-stated!

With Allie’s help, we had a truly fabulous trip!

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Rome: 4 days for a first-timer


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  As a first time visitor to Rome I knew I needed expert help, especially since I only had 4 days the first week in May and a long list of must see sites. Jennifer came to my rescue with a great plan that allowed me to see the key sites and also have several super special off the beaten path experiences. My golf cart tour was such a fun way to get oriented to the city and Mauro was charming and knowledgeable. I cannot say enough good things about my afternoon with Alessia visiting Borghese Gallery and Palazzo Colonna – she’s a brilliant and passionate guide who makes history and art come alive. Borghese Gallery is magnificent and our visit to Palazzo Colonna was completely private – just the two of us and so magical. I had the good fortune to see the Colosseum and Forum with Alessia as well as the Vatican. Jennifer suggested I visit Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer palace, which is not something I would have known about myself. Just 30 minutes from Rome, the palace and gardens are beautifully situated above Lake Albano – the day was an idyllic respite from the hustle and bustle of Rome. Again, my guide and driver were superb – I could not have enjoyed the day more. Jennifer also found a way to accommodate my request for a food tour – I loved being in Testaccio, a neighborhood devoid of tourists filled with artisanal food shops, restaurants, and a fantastic market. Jennifer made wonderful restaurant recommendations and sent me to quintessentially Roman coffee shops and gelaterias. I did not leave Rome hungry!

I would say travelers are back – Rome was super busy and many sites were crowded given that Covid restrictions are loosening. My guides did a great job steering clear of the worst crowds and a good bit of my time was spent outdoors. The hotel staff were courteous and helpful and I loved being able to open my window to the see the Spanish Steps and Via Condotti. Maria, a member of Jennifer’s team, did a great job keeping me posted on daily logistics. I appreciated Jennifer’s attention to airport pick up and return, and loved her fast tracking through the Rome airport on departure.

I am sure I could not have had such a comprehensive and memorable first visit to Rome without Jennifer’s help. After two trips this year using Wow List travel experts I cannot imagine traveling any other way.

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Italy: cooking class, winery visit, private gardens…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL This trip was planned for 2 years ago. We were a couple of weeks away from travel with everything paid when COVID shut everything down. Maria assured us the trip would be waiting for us when we were ready to travel, and she delivered on her promise.

We kept the itinerary the same and had a fabulous time. Starting in Florence, drivers then took us on the scenic route to Montefalco in Umbria, then to Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast, ending in Rome by way of Pompeii. All of our guides and drivers were top-notch.

Accommodations throughout were great with beautiful views and helpful staff. Our favorite hotels were Antica Torre in Florence and Grand Hotel Capodimonte in Sorrento.

All the tours and activities were enjoyable and informative, but a few stand out. We had a WOW Moment surprise in Florence (Thank you, Wendy!) when we were led along back streets to the Torrigiani Gardens, the largest private garden in city limits in Europe. It’s been owned by the same family for centuries. After a tour of the spectacular grounds, the owner took us to the balcony in his residence and visited with us over wine and a huge assortment of antipasti – a wonderful experience.

On our drive to Umbria, we stopped for lunch and a tour at I Balzini, a small family vineyard and winery. Lunch was served on the patio overlooking the vineyards and gorgeous Tuscan scenery. The wines and food were delicious, and we’re looking forward to the arrival of wine we purchased there.

Cristina set us up with dinner reservations throughout the trip and all of them were good. Ristorante Bagni Delfino in Sorrento was special for the lovely sunset view on the water as well as excellent food. We ate well with a fun cooking lesson from Chef Andrea at Locanda Rovicciano in Umbria, a food tour in Rome, and one great restaurant after another.

Maria recommended the use of Cranky Concierge for our air arrangements and I’m so glad she did. We had delay after delay on the trip to Florence, and we had peace of mind knowing they were ready with backup arrangements if we didn’t make our connection.

The trip was definitely worth the wait. Maria listened to what we wanted on this trip and gave us the trip we hoped for. Highly recommend!

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Ireland: group of 18 with mobility issues


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Having lost a sibling earlier in 2021, my husband and I reached out to Jonathan in October to see about organizing a trip to Ireland for the remaining siblings and in-laws some time in 2022. Jonathan didn’t even flinch when we mentioned the group totaled 18, 3 of whom have mobility issues. Jonathan and Katie went right to work helping us think through best time of year to travel with a group that large and destinations to reasonably cover in a two week period. Then came the hard part. All accommodations, restaurants, sight seeing venues and transportation had to be largely wheelchair accessible — not an easy feat in historical venues — and had to meet local Covid requirements and capacity limits in effect earlier this year when most of the bookings were finalized. Jonathan, Katie and the team did an absolutely spectacular job for our family! The accommodations were all 5 star (Adare Manor is beyond 5 stars and not to be missed! and The Europe is so special right on the Lake), meals were a delightful mix of everything from pubs to gorgeous private rooms, the itinerary perfectly captured the scenic beauty of Ireland and the history and vibrancy of Dublin, and the private transportation was amazing. We were met at the airport by our incredible guide Brendan and chief driver Martin and instantly knew we were in great hands. They became part of the family, along with relief driver Patsy, and taught us so much about their beautiful country while appreciating the banter on the bus and often participating in it. For most of the group, this was their first time abroad and to say this was a trip of a lifetime is an understatement! Every detail was thought through by Jonathan, Katie and the team. They strongly recommended and booked an early private tour of the Book of Kells, they organized a private tour of the Kilmainham Gaol, helped us work with The Epic Museum for some research into ancestry (not an easy task for a family named Kelly) and presentation to our group, they organized a private music experience for our group that was one of the highlights of our trip, shared knowledge of exceptional crafts people for those interested in bringing back crystal and jewelry, organized an informative and memorable Falconry experience for the group and arranged for a private whiskey tasting at an up and coming distillery. With a group this large, there were of course some challenges to overcome. When a personal wheelchair proved too difficult to travel with, Brendan miraculously produced a scooter we were able to utilize and travel with for the length of our stay — I still don’t know how he sourced this but without it, that couple would have missed so much! At each stop, Martin and Brendan set up and repacked 2 wheelchairs, a scooter and an additional mobility device. We didn’t travel light but these gentlemen never made any of us feel like a burden and did whatever they could to make sure wherever we stopped could be enjoyed by all of us. Jonathan, Katie and the team were very helpful when some of the group experienced Covid (no one was seriously ill) and we will always be grateful for their assistance. (Covid restrictions of all kinds were eliminated just prior to our arrival and Ireland experienced a surge in cases as did most of Europe as a consequence of lifted restrictions). The final challenge came as an organized trucker protest was setting up just as we were heading to the airport. Jonathan’s transportation partner, Bruno, was exceedingly kind, calm and helpful in ensuring we made it to the airport in time for our flight! My husband and I have worked with a few of the listed travel specialists and I can honestly say that Jonathan Epstein was an absolute joy to work with and is absolutely worthy of a WOW label. I would work with him again in a heartbeat and highly recommend him without any reservation!

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Bora Bora: beach getaway in French Polynesia


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Great Recommendations and deep knowledge of the area…..
Just back from a lovely trip to French Polynesia. Kleon did a great job of recommending interesting places to stay and things to do, helping us to narrow and hone our itinerary. He suggested two things in particular we would not have known about otherwise–the magical Vahine Island Resort which would not be perfect for everyone but he understood how much we would respond to its charm and also the delightful Villa Mahana restaurant on Bora Bora. Both those, and our Bora Bora hotel, the St. Regis, knew him and greeted us warmly as his clients with personal notes and welcome treats. All the connections and details were flawless and made everything easy. He also was responsive and current on Covid concerns and regulations. In addition to our travel materials, we appreciated that he provided an informative and curated packet on the islands and their history and culture with maps and resources.

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Namibia: landscapes, sand dunes, stargazing…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Stunning Namibia enhanced by a WOW moment:

Just back from our 2nd trip booked with Cherri, with Elise taking the planning helm. The trip totally exceeded our expectations, which were already high based on our perceptions from some of the high end lodges’ marketing. We give full credit to Elise for taking the bits and bobs of what we wanted to experience and putting it into a fully rounded Namibia experience. The direction she chose of having the trip start with animals and build in lodge quality with each one and experience just getting better and better. We really enjoyed all the properties, with Onduli Ridge and and beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge being real stand outs (Okonjima Bush Camp and Ongava Lodge were very good too!). The only negative to the trip is on me, as I chose/pushed for Shipwreck Lodge, which although the staff were great and the property/location stunning, the experience fell below expectation for us. I would still highly recommend the area, just another property.

Our trip was just under 3 weeks from April 14-May 1, 2022. Even though Elise had provided all covid related information, all covid testing was relaxed for all of our destinations right before we left, which was so great. However, we had asked Elise to ensure Ultimate Safaris knew that we wanted to wear masks still while in the closed vehicle – compliance without an issue! Originally, we were adding on a South African portion to the trip which Elise fully planned BUT then Omicron hit and we decided to dial back to just travelling to Namibia and she made all those changes for us, bless her.

Namibia is fabulous. It’s a large country, so a lot to cover, but private flights and private safari vehicles make it happen. The intimate boutique lodges are outstanding and the food and beverage a great surprise of how good it all was. They have all the wild life, with some being desert-adapted, the amazing natural beauty of landscape, sky, sand dunes, ocean, stargazing (never have we seen the southern cross and milky way so clearly) and friendly people!

We really felt that we were treated like VIPs throughout our trip, getting the better room, getting the better guide, getting the better pilot, etc. And then there was our WOW Moment, which happened in Walvis Bay. After we finished our private kayak with Cape Fur Seals surrounding us, the owners of Mola Mola took us further along the beach where they had set up a private VIP gourmet beach lunch, complete with a beautiful beach toilet (honestly, a thing of beauty!). Their wonderful engaging personalities were icing on the cake… adding to tasty huge crayfish and delicious wines. Thank you!

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Sicily with experts: chef, volcanologist, architect, archaeologist…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  My trip to Sicily was a long time coming—-originally planned for April 2020, postponed by the pandemic, and finally came to fruition in April 2022—and the wait was worth it!!
Throughout it all, Marcello provided a steady hand in the initial planning, the COVID cancellation, and finally the execution of what is one of the most wonderful trips ever.
When rebooking, adjustments to the itinerary were inevitable. But with Marcello’s expertise and contacts, he succeeded in providing an ever more stellar experience.
The itinerary gave us the perfect mix of the cities as well as hilltop villages and landscape in the hinterlands. Among the highlights—a market visit and cooking class in Ortigia, a day foraging for wild herbs with a food historian and chef near Buccheri, visiting Mt Etna with a volcanologist, touring Palermo and Monreale with an architect and Siracusa with an archeologist, experiencing an Easter procession in Scicli, birding with a naturalist near the temple of Segesta.
Drivers, guides, accommodations were just perfect at each and every location.
Most importantly, Marcello was with us via phone and WhatsApp throughout. He was totally engaged in checking and rechecking to ensure all went as planned and on schedule.
His personal attention had us feeling “like family” as he understood our interests and tastes so well!
I’ve been home less than a week and have already recommended Wendy Perrin and Marcello to friends. Thank you once again for another WOW trip!

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Switzerland with kids


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Our Switzerland trip with Philipp and Nina was incredible. I would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone who is going to this beautiful country. They accommodated all of our requests including staying in a hotel using our points at one stop, going to a specific town to see friends, and most important, they planned a trip that made everyone in our family happy. Not an easy task with an 8- and 11-year-old! We were supposed to take this trip pre-COVID and had to postpone. Philipp worked with us for over a year until we could actually travel. He was always responsive and helpful to everyone we needed and planned a well thought out trip for Spring that really showed us diverse aspects of Switzerland. We could not have asked for a better agent!

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Family trip to Spain: Madrid & Andalusia


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Virginia planned and executed the perfect family trip to Spain at the end of March to visit my son who was studying for the semester in Madrid. She balanced the itinerary between spending time with my son in Madrid to see his life there and traveling throughout Andalusia. The hotel accommodations were terrific and the tour guides were knowledgeable and accommodating. She coordinated a private lunch at a castle with the owner to learn about the history of the castle and the family that has owned it for generations. Our planned fishing trip in Marbella was cancelled because of the weather and she adjusted the itinerary so that we could spend more time in Granada to see the Cathedral and tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella. All of the transportation between cities was seamless and the drivers were all professional. I would strongly recommend Virginia and her team to friends that are planning trips to Spain.

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Provence: food, wine, countryside…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  My wife and I took a long awaited celebration of our 25th Anniversary and our 50th Birthdays to Provence, France April 15-23. 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 going back. I am looking forward to seeing Philip’s plan for your next trip there!

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Ireland: five-star hotels & a private driver/guide


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We took an incredible trip to Ireland using Jonathan and his team. They were very responsive in listening to what we desired and were patient with us when we felt the need to postpone during the Covid crisis. They booked us beautiful five star hotels and breath taking rooms. I figure they must have a map of each room at each hotel so they can fulfill your request, we never walked into one of our five hotels and thought they could have done better! It was always spot on. After our long flight they were thoughtful without asking by booking us two nights of rest before our touring at the Ballyfin. Every need is taken care of there by the experienced staff. After two days we caught our breath and the most professional driver/guide picked us up. Frank Kelley is a professional like no other. His knowledge on our touring was vast and his professionalism can not be beat. We moved on to Sheen Falls Lodge, Gregan’s Castle, Ashford Castle and the Shelbourn in Dublin to end our trip. We spent 6-8 hours a day with Frank. He found us wonderful restaurants and pubs for lunch. Took us to all the wonderful sights Ireland has to offer. Everywhere we went the hotel staff fondly talked about Jonathan Epstein. He and his company made a very good impression on not only us by the hotels we stayed at. Jonathan’s team booked all our dining reservations and most of our tours. We did also manage to add a few tours to our itinerary at the suggestion of our driver. We would definitely use Jonathan and his team for a future trip.

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Spain: multigenerational trip to Andalusia


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We highly recommend working with Ivan. Ivan helped us plan a multi-generational 8 day trip that took place in April 2022. He put together an amazing itinerary that took into account family interests, mobility limitations, and dietary restrictions. His team went above and beyond to assist us with a lost luggage problem that was not their responsibility. Communication was excellent throughout starting with a Zoom call in October 2021 to explain our interests and with regular detailed e-mails and documentation after that. I’m the kind of person that has always planned itineraries myself. Ivan and team worked so seamlessly that I was never concerned or felt like I was missing information. This included items such as covid testing prior to our return to the US and arranging for a home chef for selected meals. Even during the Easter crowds, we felt comfortable with the itinerary and transportation plan. My only regret is that it will probably be some time before we return to Andalusia! Ivan helped us create some wonderful family memories while removing the burden of detailed planning. Highly recommended.

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

Ask Wendy

Caribbean cruise with upgraded suite


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  At the advice of Wendy Perrin, we started working with Tom on March 10, 2021 on planning cruises because, after being on self-imposed Covid lockdown for over a year, we wanted to begin enjoying life again when we felt it safe to do so which we guessed would be in another year. The first cruise Tom planned was on the Celebrity Apex, April 2, 2022 – April 9, 2022. Tom handled the reservation with ease and when pricing suddenly became more favorable in an upgraded suite, he was able to act immediately and be the first to secure the cabin. Dealing with Tom is a joy and we feel he adds great value. We are particularly impressed with his profound and up to date knowledge of the cruise industry, its personnel, and its procedures, and with his response time. No matter where in the world Tom happens to be located, he will respond promptly and fully to any inquiry. Now that’s service! Planning a one week Caribbean cruise is a relatively simple matter perhaps but we can also say based on working with Tom on a 2023 World Cruise, that he possesses a unique skill set. We clearly love working with Tom.

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Belize trip: beach & jungle with teens


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Patricia crafted a wonderful itinerary for our family of four in April 2022. She did a great job helping me think through how to spend our week in Belize, and explaining the options for activities and accommodation in various parts of the country. We spent 3 nights in the Cayó district in the west (Mayan sites, caving, canoeing) and 4 nights in Placencia on the beach. Her recommendations were spot-on and the tours/activities she organized were great. Only regret: I wish we had opted for more activity on some days – there was a lot of sitting during driving, canoeing, small-boat fishing – but it felt important when booking to keep things unstructured. Patricia asked all the right questions along the way. We had a fantastic time!

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Heli-skiing in Canada


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We took our first helicopter skiing trip February 26th through March 8th and have decided that was the most fun vacation we’ve ever had! We started with a phone conversation with Marc to explain our interest in heli-skiing combined with fine dining restaurants and luxury accommodations. Our biggest concern was that most heli-ski trips appear to involve staying in remote accommodations for a week with a small group of strangers and a common dining room, but no restaurants or other activities on-property for the bad weather days. Marc suggested we try staying in the Whistler-Blackcomb Village in Canada at the Four Seasons Hotel and utilize the Whistler Heli-Skiing company that leaves daily directly from the Village. The best decision we made was to go with his recommendation. Marc’s staff, Beatrice and Andrea, did an amazing job of handling the trip details. Private transportation was arranged to take us from the airport to Whistler and back. They made dinner reservations every night of our trip at the best fine dining restaurants and Andrea even called the restaurants every day to reconfirm. One of our scheduled heli-ski days got cancelled due to weather and Andrea immediately rescheduled our day including spa reservations to ensure we didn’t miss a beat. We were able to heli-ski two other days and it was a blast! It was so nice knowing our trip planner was following up all the way through our trip. There was even a surprise cheese board that arrived in our hotel room shortly after arrival with a special note from our trip planners. Covid was not really an issue on this trip. We had to take the tests to enter and exit the country, but those were easy. The level of details that were thought through for this trip were outstanding and more than we could have done on our own. They even provided an itinerary with all the spa/travel/hotel/heli-ski details that we needed to know for each day, so we could just relax and have fun.

We will definitely do this trip and utilize this planning team again!

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Budapest, Vienna, Prague: food tours, Danube, wine tasting…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Gwen planned our first trip to Budapest, Vienna and Prague to perfection. We had experiences beyond anything I imagined (private tours of palaces, libraries, etc) with incredible guides. We had a food tour in Vienna that we could never have done on our own and a lovely boat trip at sunset down the Danube in Budapest. And in route to each city, we stopped at a vineyard for a private tasting and even had lunch in a Michelin star restaurant in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t have to think of anything, Gwen had it all planned. She picked amazing restaurants and every one of them knew of my dietary requirements before I got there. She picked amazing hotels and got us really good suites and the hotels gave us extra stuff with a note that said your travel designer planned x for you – which was a wonderful surprise. She knows the area so well and after speaking with her, she knew what we would and would not like. She even communicated with her colleague that planned different trips for us and Ala told her our likes as well so she really knew what to plan for us. When you get someone like Gwen, you immediately understand why having someone plan out your trip takes it to a level you could never achieve. Covid was not really an issue where we went but we did have to get a test to come home and the hotel sent someone to our room for an instant result test so it was easy. The Axus app that comes with the trip is constantly updated so it’s your bible on the trip and when our flight got canceled and rebooked later the same day, I emailed Gwen and the app was instantly updated and she changed our pickup, etc. without me having to do anything. We really loved all three cities and I know it’s because of how Gwen planned it for us.

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Portugal: Lisbon, Douro Valley, Porto, Azores


PANDEMIC TRAVEL Our trip to Portugal was incredible. Goncalo and Joana did an awesome job planning our extensive itinerary. They kept us moving – which we love to do. From Lisbon to Douro Valley, with much in between. From Douro Valley to Porto, with much in between. Four days in the Azores was a different experience than the mainland. Enjoyed exploring the volcanic lakes, hot springs and the lushness. Then back to Lisbon to explore for our final two days. Our guides were fun and knowledgeable and our driver Luis was terrific! We felt safe the entire time. Covid testing was seamless. We needed to test on a Sunday to return to the U.S. As Portugal is a religious country, many places were closed. Tiago figured it out so as not to lose any time running around to find a testing place.
We would not recommend the pottery class. We did not get to take it, however, as when we drove up, one of the artists mentioned to Luis that one of his staff had tested positive for covid. Never relayed this info to Goncalo. (we did get reimbursed) Stargazing was not what we expected. Perhaps it was the time of year. They were the only two snafu’s.
Our trip would not have been the same without planning through your recommended tour specialist in Portugal. Highly recommend Goncalo and his team. Much more to see in this beautiful country. We will be back!

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Italy: Venice, Milan, Lake Como…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL We returned yesterday from a fabulous trip to Italy planned by Maria. I don’t know how it could have been any better! We received a package a couple of weeks before our departure containing our final itinerary and two high-quality face masks. The “nota bene” section of the itinerary included a ton of useful Covid-specific and other information. Maria very thoughtfully arranged for a pharmacist to come to our hotel room the day before we returned home to administer the rapid Covid antigen test required for entry to the US. How convenient! Covid precautions (masks, proof of vaccination, etc.) in Italy were very similar to those at home and we never felt uncomfortable or at an unreasonable risk.

A combination of our visit occurring during shoulder season and the pandemic severely limiting tourists from Asia and other regions meant we encountered no crushing crowds and no problems getting into restaurants. This was most noticeable in Venice, where we enjoyed strolling freely the narrow streets of La Serenissima.

Fabulous hotels!!! In Milan the Hotel Principe di Savoia is a luxurious property, centrally located for walking to most things we wanted to do. Our guide Lorenza was delightful. Her insights into DaVinci’s Last Supper were better than anything we could have gotten out of a book.

Maria broke up our drive from Milan to Venice with a stop in Verona for a walking tour and lunch. It was perfect. We loved our guide Marina so much that we insisted she join us for lunch.

Venice is my wife’s favorite city after our home city of New York, and she has always wanted to stay in the Gritti Palace. Maria arranged a beautiful room with a balcony facing the Grand Canal. It could not have been better. Daria was the perfect guide! An Italian who spent time living in New York and going to college in Boston; she was a perfect bridge between the Italian and American cultures.

On the drive from Venice to Lake Como we stopped in Vicenza to see some of Palladio’s best architecture and a delicious lunch in the wine cellar at Il Cepo. The Grand Hotel Tremezzo on Lake Como is like something out of movie. We had a corner room with a lake view of Bellagio. The “Grand” in the hotel’s name is most appropriate. Our guide Rita and our skipper Carlo, took great care of us and had fantastic senses of humor. We spent the morning touring on a private water taxi. Tremezzo and its surroundings took our breath away. Lunch at Crotto del Misto was unbelievable! We had the restaurant all to ourselves. It was like a dream.

This was our first international trip since the lockdown and it reminded us of how much we’ve missed traveling. We’re already thinking about our next trip!

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Portugal: spring break with teens


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We just returned from a long awaited trip to Portugal. Gonçalo arranged a two week tour of Portugal for our family of four over spring break 2022. We spent six days in Lisbon, five days exploring the hilltop Templar castelos of Central Portugal, and then three nights in the Azores. Gonçalo and his team were very responsive and provided great support during the trip. We had difficulty finding the meeting spot for one activity and Gonçalo’s team solved the problem for us promptly (not only on the phone but our previous guide personally came and found us to make sure we were ok!) Gonçalo’s hotel recommendations were spot on. We loved Hotel Bairro Alto in Lisbon — luxurious, great balcony for drinks and dining, fantastic location. And São Lourenço do Barrocal in the Alentejo is now up there with one of my favorites in the world — think a Portuguese Meadowood. Just an exquisite property, and I’m already dreaming of a return trip there. Gonçalo arranged many unique experiences for us — a graffiti workshop, dinner in a Portuguese home (the best food we ate the entire trip), rail biking outside Mervão (my 16 year old’s favorite), stargazing in Dark Sky Alqueva (my 14 year olds favorite), and guided hiking in the Azores. For me, the highlight of the trip was a picnic lunch in a nature reserve outside Sintra after braving the hordes at Pena Palace. We spent the most delightful two hours in a sunny flower filled meadow sipping vinho verde, enjoying delicious homemade food and laughing and talking with Lara (the chef and foodie tour guide) and Tiago F. (our walking guide and one of the smartest and most entertaining guys we’ve met), discussing everything from the Oscars to Queirós. I felt like I was experiencing the best of authentic Portugal and its people.

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Morocco: open-air sites, Sahara, Berber village…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Just back from a great two-week trip to Morocco, arranged by Radia and her team. This was twice delayed by Covid, so we made sure health issues were taken care of first. Morocco is actually a great place to visit in the Covid world, as it has an extremely low infection rate and most of the places we visited were outdoors and spacious. Our driver and guides were fully vaccinated, masked etc, so we felt completely safe. Radia also worked with us on being flexible on cancellation policies as Morocco was closed for a time before our trip.
The trip planning process was excellent, with Radia working very patiently with me to adjust the trip itinerary, hotels and activities as required. The trip to the Sahara, staying in a tent amidst the sand dunes, was special, along with a hike/mule ride to a Berber village at the top of a mountain, including tea with a local family. Our driver Said was with us the whole trip and was fantastic- a good driver as we hit a snowstorm on a mountain pass, and always flexible as timing or weather changed, re-arranging/adding items to the trip. They even provided us with some small bills upon arrival so we could have money for tips before we were able to hit the ATM.
Overall a fantastic experience and would highly recommend Radia and her team.

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Caribbean cruise from Miami


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Cheri guided us with our first foray back to cruising. Our friends had decided to cruise in December in Europe on Viking, contracted Covid after 3 days aboard, and spent 12 days isolating in a (beautiful) villa in Greece until she FINALLY tested negative. With that misadventure in mind, I did not want to need to isolate on a Caribbean island!
We found out that Regent isolates you on board, and brings you to your final destination, Miami-Miami in our case. With that reassurance, we were comfortable taking the chance.
As well, the ship had 490 passengers vs. 700 capacity.
Cheri guided us to an insurance agent for our Cancel-for-any-reason insurance, in case we were not comfortable going at the last minute.
Cheri guided us with our cabin choice; it was fabulous.
I was so happy to be back on a ship. It was perfect. Cheri said we would love Regent and we did!

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Turkey: private guiding in Cappadocia


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Our request to Earl was a bit of an unusual one – we already were joining a cooking seminar in Antalya and Istanbul for a week prior, so were just looking for someone to plan a four day extension to Cappadocia in March 2022. Earl went above and beyond. He recommended and booked an exquisitely beautiful, perfectly located hotel in Cappadocia that turned out to be one of my favorites anywhere (great rooms, great food, great service). He paid attention to our interests and planned an itinerary accordingly. He was always super responsive to our emails and requests, and handled everything with a nice sense of humor. And perhaps most importantly, the guide he picked for us, Riza, was among the best I’ve had anywhere in the world. A wealth of knowledge with a can do, flexible attitude, and a great conversationalist, Riza quickly got our vibe and interests and made everything just that much more fun and interesting. As an obsessive with respect to all things food, I liked that he made sure I tried all the local specialties. Between Earl, Riza and our driver Mehmet, it was a seamless and truly memorable trip and they will be my first call (through Wendy of course!) when I return to Turkey, which I now hope will be very very soon. Now – with respect to Covid – we had a little bit of chaos when the Turkish Airlines representative wouldn’t accept our test results because they were more than 24 hours before our international flight (and contended that Emed video testing was a “home test.”) Anyway, that was in no way Earl or Riza’s fault, and in fact, we were thankful that Riza was still with us and was able to advocate with us with the airline, translate for us at the testing center, and generally manage the process until we were safely on the plane. Can’t recommend this team enough.

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Belize with teens: jungle & private yacht charter…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  My husband and I just returned from a fabulous 10 day trip to Belize. We stayed in 3 different areas and each one was beautiful and interesting with terrific hotels. Since we knew very little about Belize, Patricia was extremely valuable in helping us decide where to stay and in identifying activities and experiences that fit our interests. Patricia arranged for a Garifuna immersion day while we were in Placencia which was very interesting and a lot of fun. We stayed in Chaa Creek Lodge which was gorgeous and where we enjoyed the on-site activities as well as visiting Xunantunich and the Saturday morning farmers market. And on Ambergris Caye, Patricia arranged for a private catamaran snorkeling tour of the famous barrier reef which was perfect for my husband who is not a strong swimmer and was hesitant to snorkel on his own. The crew was fantastic in providing personal snorkeling guides for each of us and preparing delicious food and drinks for us to enjoy. Belize was a perfect destination during Covid given that everything we did was outdoors and all of the staff and guides were vaccinated. Patricia handled all of the logistics which were flawless, including arranging for our Covid tests before returning to the U.S. The trip truly exceeded our expectations!

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England with kids: London & the Cotswolds


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We travelled to London and The Cotswolds in March of 2022.

Our team, led by Jonathan, was exceptional. They helped us pick the perfect hotels for us (in London, The Goring, and in the Cotswolds, Lucknam Park) and for that reason alone they were worth it- we were so overwhelmed by all of the choices. Our transfers and all of the details that can be very tedious and annoying were all seamless and we didn’t have any kind of logistical stress during our whole trip.

The tours they chose for us were perfect and we got guides that were great for our family. We especially loved the Mini Cooper Harry Potter tour, and our tour of Oxford and the Cotswolds. They helped us organize our days so that each day was special but not overwhelmingly busy.

The Goring was amazing- the service was the best we have experienced and it was so charming and English. The bar, breakfast service, and afternoon tea were great and the rooms were beautiful. Housekeeping went above and beyond and the concierge is incredible. The location is great too.

In the Cotswolds we stayed at Lucknam Park, which is a beautiful, expansive property. My daughter loves horses and my son loves being in nature and we all really enjoyed it. It was a great change of pace from London and a relaxing way to end our trip.

In terms of Covid, it really wasn’t a concern of ours. The UK has dropped all protocols and it feels very pre-pandemic over there, which we loved.

This is our second time using Wendy Perrin and it certainly won’t be our last. Before, we always figured with the internet you really don’t need a travel agent. But we have learned that the value-add makes it well worth it. The headaches are removed, the itinerary is thoughtfully organized, and you have access to special experiences you wouldn’t otherwise have. We highly recommend Wendy Perrin!

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Italy: food focus in Rome & Umbria


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We truly enjoyed a wonderful trip to Umbria and Rome. Maria and her team had a spectacular itinerary tailored around food and walking. We were blessed with wonderful weather as we hiked near Assisi and explored Gubbio, Spello, Spoleto, Bevagna and Montefalco with Maria’s team of excellent guides and drivers. Our guide Marco’s knowledge of art was truly amazing and we learned the Umbrian perspective on 2000 years of history. We explored smaller, well preserved walled towns, most dating from Roman times. We ate magnificently, with truffles being a major focus in pasta, bruschetta and scrambled eggs. The truffle hunt was fun and informative and lunch following truly memorable thanks to Cristina. Rome was very busy, Gina made our food walk there one of the highlights of the trip, showcasing smaller neighborhoods, shops and wine bars. Maria had everything in place for Covid protocols and we had no issues with our Green Pass, EU tracing and testing to return to the US. In addition, the team was more than accommodating with minor changes, including a request for a second dinner reservation in Montefalco at a very small, highly rated spot.

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Colombia for a multigenerational family


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Boris and his team were absolutely invaluable in helping us have an amazing family trip. Pre-planning was very easy via phone and email, and the expert guidance on activities and locales led us to have a wonderful time.

On arrival, every arrangement unfolded as planned: Each of the three tour guides were so professional, knowledgeable, flexible, and very warm/good-humored — truly lovely people who are great at their jobs and really enhanced our time. We would recommend them all without hesitation.

A special note of gratitude to coffee region tour guide Sebastian Arbelaez who, after three very full days of touring, met us at our hotel at 5am and helped us through the confusing, two-hour-long process of getting checked in and organizing our luggage and paperwork for departure from Armenia. He was incredible and patient, and I literally don’t know what we would have done without him.

The tours themselves were amazing, especially Gregorio Uribe (music) and Maria Paula (art tour) in Bogota and Palenque (so beautiful and culturally rich)! Cartagena is, of course, incredibly special and we mostly enjoyed walking around and soaking it all in. The coffee region was so different — lush, green and peaceful.

We adored Casa Medina and Hacienda Bambusa — gorgeous, high quality, unique hotels with superb staff. If we had it to do over again, we probably shouldn’t have arranged quite so much activity so that we could relax at our wonderful hotels a bit more. I wish Casa Medina and Sofitel had been able to arrange adjacent hotel rooms, but for some reason hotels (in general) rarely seem to be able to accommodate these requests.

In Cartagena, the Sofitel is stunning, we loved the historical feel of it, and the food/buffet is stellar, but the hotel was too large and crowded for our tastes. More importantly, the hotel rooms showed obvious wear and tear and need to be refreshed. It was simply not in the same category as the other two hotels on the trip. If we returned to Cartagena, we would not stay at the Sofitel again.

As far as Covid, it was a non-issue. Everyone wore a mask (moreso than in the States) unless we specifically invited them not to. Most restaurants checked vaccine cards. The Covid testing was remarkably easy to arrange and results were prompt. We felt safe every step of the way.

We hired Boris’ team for their pre-trip planning expertise, and that aspect was absolutely wonderful. What was unexpectedly amazing was being able to truly enjoy our time and not spend part of each day debating what to do, see or eat. This is a huge bonus, especially with a multi-generational family group full of opinionated people. Having a great plan in place allowed us all to actually relax and enjoy our family time pretty much from day one. In other words, the trip planner absolutely added value to our trip!

All that to say, we highly recommend Boris, and we will call again when we return to beautiful Colombia!

Thank you to Wendy Perrin for helping us find Boris. It was an unforgettable family trip

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Italy: Florence, Rome, Pisa, Lucca…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  A most beautiful trip to Florence, Italy with a brief overnight in Rome and day trips to Pisa, Lucca, and shopping the outlets. Our hotel had a patio with a view of the Duomo that was truly stunning.
One of the best features of visiting Europe is the knowledge of the tour guides. Most are historians and become certified to offer their expertise on the past and current culture. We had amazingly friendly and knowledgable guides who offered not only a unique perspective on Florence and Rome but also on Italy in general. We are given a person to contact with any questions or concerns while abroad. This came in handy for covid testing before returning home and following up with any necessary questions about where to eat, etc. It was truly a beautiful trip.
We had the most amazing meal in Rome for our anniversary and it was one of the top five meals of my life.
Our vaccine card and masks were required to enter every store, restaurant and museum. We chose to wear our masks in large crowds outdoors but mostly went without while outside.

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Morocco: cities, Sahara, Atlas Mountains…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL The three of us just returned from a 12 day trip to Morocco planned by Michael. When the three of us put our heads together after our trip we could not come up with a single change we would have made to the planning. Michael worked with us early to understand all that we wanted to see and do, then planned the perfect trip for us. We were met at the Casablanca airport by a gentleman who guided us through the airport, bypassing all the normal lines and took us to our waiting van to meet our guide Zayd and our driver Mohammed. These two were wonderful, guiding us every step of our trip giving us great details about the many places, architecture, and culture we visited. This was no easy task as we visited Rabat, Chefchaouen, Fes, the Sahara for a camel trek and Marrakech. This does not even include the countless little villages while traveling the Atlas Mountains. Zayd’s extensive knowledge of his country and Mohammed’s driving skills made our trip truly special. Just wonderful!
Our trip ended when another gentleman named Asad guided us back through the Marrakech airport avoiding all the normal hassle. Just a perfect trip!

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Southern Spain with teens/tweens

DAN RYAN | APRIL 3, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  My family of 4 had an amazing trip to Southern Spain, thanks to the planning and efforts of Ivan. To begin with, Ivan setup a 1-hour Zoom meeting so he could meet me and better understand my family, our travel desires and anything that could make our trip more special. Within a few days, he had multiple options for our itinerary, as well as hotel choices.

We spent 3 nights in Granada and 3 nights in Seville. Both hotels were great and our guides were amazing. Ivan really knows the local area and the local guides, and our hotels were perfectly situated to everything we did.

Our itinerary was a great mix of history, culture, food and family activities. And even though were experienced travelers, we would have had a very hard time replicating what Ivan was able to deliver.

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

Ask Wendy

Malta: meeting locals, insider experiences


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We completed a very enjoyable trip to Malta in late March 2022. We had originally conceived of a short trip to Malta being part of a cruise. But we then changed our minds and decided to add Malta to our trip to the UK. Malta can be easily accessed from the UK via Air Malta (the carrier we used) or British Airways or Ryanair.

We worked exclusively with Jason to set up the trip having identified his company through The WOW List. It turned out that we had a lot in common having both grown up in southern Ontario. We had an initial call to set some of the parameters e.g. number of nights (in the end 6 nights), hotel in Malta (he proposed and we agreed on Domus Zamitello – superb location in the center of Malta from where you can walk to dinner and local attractions), whether Sicily should be included (there is a ferry which makes daily trips but we opted not to add this and instead focus on just Malta) and then Jason developed a proposed trip. His initial proposal exceeded my budget and so we worked together to refine his proposal. The final itinerary included a combination of, on various days, a guide, a car, a guide and a car and self-guiding. On the days we had a guide we picked the experiences we wanted from Jason’s vast catalogue of options. We were very satisfied with all of our choices but one – what ended up as a public tour of the Manoel Theatre as they would not permit our guide to host our visit. We met many local residents and had ample opportunity to get to know them and learn about their life in Malta. For example, at our farm lunch, we met our host for the day, the farmer and his wife and her helper as well as a local maker of musical instruments and music all in a country-like setting. We sampled tasty local red and white wines and tapas. We have no doubt that we would not have had these sorts of experiences had we not worked with Jason. We had several excellent meals in and around Valetta.

Covid concerns were greatly reduced by March as we were past the Omicron peak. But we were happy that we postponed our trip from February as originally scheduled. We did not have any Covid issues at any time during our trip.

Malta is very safe to visit. We had hoped for warmer weather but temperatures were moderate and it was after all early spring. There was very little cruise traffic in Valetta which also contributed to the “local” experience. We had no issues during our trip which necessitated contacting Jason but were we confident that he / his team would be there if we needed them.

Robert was our local guide and Mario was our local driver and Mario also handled our airport transfers. Both were very experienced in taking care of travelers like us. We were well taken care of and enjoyed engaging with them throughout.

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Mexico: trip planner to the rescue


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  My husband and I are very seasoned travelers having visited over 114 countries in the world. We have never experienced service as good as this before, that’s for sure.
Zach, along with his team on the ground, were incredible.
There are always moments along the way when something goes awry, small details can and do fall by the wayside at those times. Carlos, our contact on the ground, jumped in and did an excellent job
However the REALLY BIG difference came when my husband needed a doctor.
On returning from dinner to our hotel one night in Mexico City, Patrick was experiencing chest pains that felt like very bad indigestion, so we stopped by the desk to ask for a doctor.
Within a few minutes the owner of this small boutique hotel was at our side, saying he had called an UBER and was going to go with us to the ER, by then, it was around 1030 pm.
Sam stayed with us translating and advocating for us.
I can’t imagine how we would have coped without him. No one spoke English except the doctors. We speak no Spanish really. He navigated us through the ER making sure that we were taken care of, even referring his mother’s cardiologist to us. At 230am a young man named Tim arrived. He reported directly to Zach, basically he was the head guy on his team, he had been woken up in the middle of the night and came immediately to the hospital.
When my husband was admitted for over night evaluation at around 4am and they had ruled out all heart issues, Tim took me by UBER back to the hotel.
Over the next few days Sam and Carlos checked in on us regularly and his team stayed on top of the situation until we left.
All I can say is, thank you Zach, the relationships that you clearly have formed on the ground really paid off for us!!

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Portugal with teens: history, adventure, cooking classes…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We just returned from a long awaited trip to Portugal. The trip was rescheduled three times due to Covid and throughout this process Gonçalo and his team were patient and through.
We had a fantastic trip in spite of rain throughout the 10 day trip and a once every 20 year sand storm that blanketed the country for 3 days giving all our photos a yellow/orange haze.
Our trip began in Porto where we stayed a beautiful hotel walking distance to shops and good food. We had a great tour guide who spent two days showing us the sites and history of this beautiful city. We had an amazing cooking class at an estate outside the city that had been in the owner’s family for 18 generations. Unfortunately weather did not permit enjoying the beautiful grounds.
Next we spent time in Algarve where Gonçalo booked us at a wonderful resort on the beach. We spent the afternoons exploring nearby towns. Our boat trip to the caves was a bust due to weather, but now we have an excuse to return to this beautiful part of the country.
Lastly we spent the end of our trip in Lisbon. We had an amazing tour guide Matilda who was able to engage our three teenage girls and keep all of us interested in the history and sites. We did an amazing Coasteering activity along the coast the girls loved. It involved cliff jumping, rock climbing and swimming. We were freezing but adrenaline kept us going, and the wetsuits helped a bit.
Our last day we were rewarded with a chilly but sunny day…..we took a sailing trip and explored some cities outside Lisbon.
Gonçalo arranged a trip exactly as requested: some history, some culture and some active adventure. If only he could have controlled the weather it would have been a perfect trip!
As usual Wendy’s Wow List did not disappoint!

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Peru: food, nature, history, pisco sours…


PANDEMIC TRAVEL  My husband and I were scheduled to take two trips back to back (they were trips postponed twice due to covid) in Chile and Peru. As the travel dates approached, the requirements for entering Chile and the rise in covid cases in Chile had me worried. I cancelled the Chile part of the trip (for a third time!). With airline tickets booked I now had 8 days free. So, best to ask Wendy! She connected me with Tom and he did a great job finding activities that didn’t overlap with our other planned activities.
Our guide Claudia was delightful. She is a wealth of knowledge but knows just how much information to give each person – doesn’t leave you with questions and doesn’t overload you with information. In Lima, she brought us to an open market where where she shops and she introduced us to all kinds of fruit and vegetables we had never seen. We had a cooking class and a pisco sour making class. We went to a tasting of sustainable sourced Peruvian chocolate bars. For history, we went to the Larco Museum. Claudia could write books with the knowledge she has about Peru’s history and she shares it in a very understandable way.
While in Paracas we went to Ballestas Islands and Paracas National Reserve for my nature fix. I could never have done this on my own. So glad for Tom’s itinerary.

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*  Although we have compiled and reviewed these reviews for trip planners to earn a spot on The  WOW List, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or truthfulness of the reviews we receive and cannot assure that all travelers will have the same experience.

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