Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

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

by Wendy Perrin | May 13, 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!

To get a trip like one below, click on the black CONTACT button, submit the questionnaire, and you’ll hear back from us shortly. Here’s what you get when you start a trip with our questionnaire


Rome: 4 days for a first-timer

NANCY FOOTER | MAY 12, 2022

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.

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

Contact Jennifer


Italy: cooking class, winery visit, private gardens…

ELIZABETH MARSHALL | MAY 11, 2022

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!

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

Contact Maria


Ireland: group of 18 with mobility issues

BRONWEN KELLY | MAY 11, 2022

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!

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

Contact Jonathan


Bora Bora: beach getaway in French Polynesia

MOLLY ASHFORD | MAY 9, 2022

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.

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

Contact Kleon


Namibia: landscapes, sand dunes, stargazing…

JUDY CALVERT | MAY 9, 2022

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!

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

Contact Cherri


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

ANN WILKINSON | MAY 9, 2022

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!

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

Contact Marcello


Switzerland with kids

TARA ROBERTSON | MAY 1, 2022

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!

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

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Family trip to Spain: Madrid & Andalusia

AMY GOLDBERG | MAY 1, 2022

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.

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

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Provence: food, wine, countryside…

BRIAN BALTES| APRIL 30, 2022

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!

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

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

JANICE LAWSON | APRIL 27, 2022

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.

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

Contact Jonathan


Spain: multigenerational trip to Andalusia

ADIL KARIM | APRIL 23, 2022

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

CONRAD EHRLICH | APRIL 22, 2022

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.

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

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Belize trip: beach & jungle with teens

SARAH WIGGLESWORTH | APRIL 20, 2022

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!

Read more reviews of Rachael and Patricia. Or request your own trip.

Contact Rachael and Patricia


Heli-skiing in Canada

RACHEL BUNTON | APRIL 19, 2022

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!

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

Contact Marc


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

JENNIFER ANDREWS | APRIL 17, 2022

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.

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

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Portugal: Lisbon, Douro Valley, Porto, Azores

JOANNE HENTON | APRIL 17, 2022

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!

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

Contact Goncalo


Italy: Venice, Milan, Lake Como…

ADAM AMSTERDAM | APRIL 14, 2022

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!

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

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Portugal: spring break with teens

JULIE HEIMARK | APRIL 13, 2022

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.

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

Contact Goncalo


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

JEFF GREENBERG | APRIL 12, 2022

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.

Read more reviews of Hicham and Radia. Or request your own trip.

Contact Hicham and Radia

 


Caribbean cruise from Miami

MELANIE KAMINETSKY| APRIL 7, 2022

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

ELAINE GOLIN | APRIL 7, 2022

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…

ELIZABETH CRAWFORD | APRIL 6, 2022

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!

Read more reviews of Rachael and Patricia. Or request your own trip.

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England with kids: London & the Cotswolds

JESSICA AND STEVE MARTIN | APRIL 5, 2022

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

CATHY AND JIM GETZ | APRIL 4, 2022

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

ERIN TEXEIRA | APRIL 4, 2022

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

Read more reviews of Marc and Boris. Or request your own trip.

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Italy: Florence, Rome, Pisa, Lucca…

DEBORAH TREECE | APRIL 4, 2022

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…

ARTHUR EVERLY| APRIL 4, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL The three of us just returned from a 12 day trip to Morocco planned by Michael Diamond. 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

PETER WATSON| APRIL 3, 2022

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.

Read more reviews of Jason and Damon. Or request your own trip.

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Mexico: trip planner to the rescue

EMMA JACOBS| APRIL 2, 2022

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…

KARYN SALLUS | APRIL 2, 2022

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…

SANDRA SOUTHWICK | APRIL 2, 2022

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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Northern Italy: fashion in Milan, truffles in Piedmont…

JENNIFER MANN | MARCH 30, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  – This trip was something we had planned for March of 2020, so we were happy to finally get to do it!
– The trip planner made many suggestions of experiences etc… that we worked on together to find the right fit for our family (besides myself and husband, we have 2 teen daughters, 14 & 17).
– We really didn’t have many conversations about Covid or minimizing our risk. We knew Italy was vigilant with mask wearing indoors as well as checking our vaccination cards, so this wasn’t much of a discussion. Our trip planner organized a covid test at a local pharmacy before we travelled back to the US.
– Our trip planner added value by arranging experiences that we would not have known about as well as organizing the drivers and guides. All of the drivers and guides were top notch!
– We really didn’t have any experiences to avoid and liked our itinerary a lot. If anything, we tried to fit a lot into our time frame. We spent 2 nights in 4 different cities, so it was quick moving and we could have spent more time in each place. However, we had a lot we wanted to see and do!

Our trip began after an overnight flight from Newark to Milan. Our first tour, on the afternoon of our arrival, began with a couture fashion designer arranged by our travel specialist, Andrea. We had a private experience with the designer at her studio. She taught us all about designing for the couture and ready-to-wear markets along with a crash course on fabrics, materials etc….We even got to see sewers working on one-of-a-kind dresses. After this experience, we crashed at the hotel until our tour the next morning. Our walking tour of Milan began with pre-arranged tickets to The Last Supper. Our guide met us outside of The Last Supper and helped us navigate our way in after our tickets were not coming up in the system. Following The Last Supper visit, our guide proceeded to give us the history of many of the sites in the city, which ended at the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele Mall. After Milan, we went to Lake Como. Planning this portion was difficult because it was “before season” and many of the well known hotels were not open yet. Andrea’s group booked us at a lovely boutique hotel in the city of Como directly on the lake. The rooms were amazing! We had a walking tour of Como on the first day followed by an all day private boat tour with guide on our second day. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about the lake area and was very easy going about changing our itinerary along the way. Overall, our few days in the Lake Como area was great, especially for being pre-season. Next, we were driven to the city of Bologna, about 2 1/2 hours Southeast of Lake Como. In between the two locations, we stopped at the Ferrari Museum in Maranello. Andrea pre-arranged a private VIP tour of the museum. It was very interesting….even for non car people! We had a free evening to enjoy the amazing food in Bologna. The tour organizers sent us amazing lists of restaurants in each of our locations. The next morning, a chef/guide met us at the hotel to walk us through the old food markets of Bologna. He taught us all about the local foods while we shopped for ingredients for our private cooking class that afternoon. After finishing at the markets, a driver took us to a local cooking school to begin making our pasta lunch. The chef was entertaining and informative. Most importantly, we made the most amazing homemade pastas and sauces! Sadly, we had to leave Bologna the next morning to make the 3 hour drive to the Piedmont region in the Northwest area of the country. This area is best known for wine and truffles! Andrea’s group had recommended a hotel that opened last year called Casa di Langa, located in the hills outside of Alba. This hotel was amazing!!! The views from our room were stunning and the food at the restaurant was special. The hotel had a laid back, but elegant vibe. The Piedmont region is completely underrated!!! It has the beauty of Tuscany without the crowds. My husband is an avid wine collector and had requested a tour of the Gaia winery in a local village. Gaia is not open to the public for tours. Andrea used her connections to set up a private tour & tasting for us. It was definitely a highlight for my husband! On our last day, we were taken to a private home of two brothers that truffle hunt. After a truffle tutorial, we made our way up into the hills with our truffle hunting dog, Leesy. It was so exciting to actually find truffles in the ground! Leesy did a great job finding 2 truffles on our hunt. We proceeded back to the house for an amazing selection of local cheese, salami and Olive oil…..with a generous portion of truffles slices on top! Following the truffle “snack,” our guide took us to an amazing lunch in a local hilltop village and then dropped off in the town of Alba, the largest town in the area. We explored Alba on our own and ended wandering the narrow streets filled with locals for several hours…trying to forget that it was our last day!! After a quiet dinner back at Casa di Langa, we packed up for our trip home the next morning. Northern Italy was a special area that we can’t wait to go back to again!!

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Active Morocco with kids

MARY KO | MARCH 29, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Just got back from Morocco with my 3 kids (ages 3,7, and 9). We could never have planned such a wonderful experience. We rode camels, went ATVing along the ocean, and my girls love couscous. We loved our guide. He has 3 kids himself and was empathetic to the occasional chaos. My snake loving daughter, loved the cobras and snakes she was able to hold. My 7 year old got a fever and cough and our guide helped us find medicine for her. Honestly it is always an adventure to travel, but with 3 kids we have to be able to pivot, and pause. Everyone was so helpful and kind. The Four Seasons was perfect for kids. The beach was beautiful. We feel so lucky to have been on this trip!

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Italy: mixing touring & relaxation

MATT JACOBSON | MARCH 28, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Our trip to Italy was put into a higher category by having used Wendy Perrin’s recommended planners. This was our first time traveling abroad without experienced friends, so we were nervous about getting things mixed up and/or missing out. We did walking, driving, and boating tours. All Wonderful! The guides were mind-bogglingly well educated on their subject (Italy), and spoke superb English.

We loved how they planned only half-day morning tours so that we could relax for the rest of the day and have time to get ready for dinner. Speaking of dinner…. Wow, the restaurants were ALL amazing! One thing to note: they don’t bring the check until you ask for it!

Also, the hotels chosen by our planner were perfect and in ideal locations!

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

Ask Wendy


Argentina & Uruguay: Buenos Aires and the beach

GARY GABEL | MARCH 26, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  My wife and I just returned from a trip to Uruguay and Argentina. The entire trip was arranged by Paul Irvine. Paul did an exceptional job. He arranged for drivers and guides to meet us at both ports and airports. The guides were exceptional. I initially wanted to stay in Montevideo, but since our time in Uruguay was short, Paul encouraged us to stay in Jose Ignacio, a delightful beach town about 2 hours from there. He arranged our accommodations, dinners and tours. Paul followed up regularly to make sure everything was going to plan. He also arranged for our Covid tests at our hotels, which was a real convenience. I would recommend Paul Irvine without any reservation.

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South Africa: safari, wine country, coastal adventures…

JULIE HOLDER | MARCH 24, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We just returned from a 2+ week trip to South Africa that was originally planned for May of 2020, replanned for October of 2021 and we were finally able to go in March of 2022. We were a family of 6, parents and adult children and Katie was our travel specialist who was with us through all the planning and replanning over the 2 years. In October of 21, Katie recommended we simplify our original itinerary to only one country, South Africa, which we did and we were very happy that we did. Not only did it simplify cross border covid testing but it also simplified intercontinent travel so that we could enjoy the places we visited more. We added Grootbos forest reserve and lengthened our safari in Sabi Sabi by a day as a result and we loved that we saw three completely different parts of South Africa; Sabi Sands for safari, Franschoek wine country (including Cape Town) and lastly Grootbos. Our accommodations were amazing; everywhere we stayed was different from the one before and intimate, luxurious, and felt very safe. They were all small venues so we felt as if we had the places to ourselves and since most everything we did was outdoors, they all felt very safe. The staff at all our properties were wonderful and very attentive as were the meals and the safari experience was as everyone said- an experience of a lifetime. We had an amazing guide and tracker at Little Bush Camp and the staff prepared each dinner in a different outdoor venue which was so charming and fun. We stayed at La Cle in Franschoek and Melanie and her team were incredible. We catered 2 lunches and 2 dinners after our excursions and all of our meals were incredible and a great value. Grootbos, on the southern coast of South Africa, is a gorgeous sea and forest venue with fun tours and staff. We had our own private driver once we were in the Cape Town area arranged by Katie, which was so nice as she took us everywhere for the balance of the trip and was very knowledgable as to the areas we visited and our excursions. The Covid testing on our last day went smoothly and only took 30 minutes, very easy and efficient. We were so thankful that we finally got to take this trip with our children and made many very special memories. I have used quite a few WOW consultants over the years and I continue to do so because the attention to detail and local knowledge can’t be beat and each of the consultants we have used has made our trip very special. This was absolutely the case with Katie and her team.

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

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Touring Ireland with teens

JARVIS WELD | MARCH 24, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We could not speak more highly of Jonathan and his team at the offices, as well as on the ground in Ireland. With three and a half weeks’ notice, they planned a fabulous 10 day trip to the Republic of Ireland for our family of two adults and three teens from 2/28/22 to 3/1/22. (We had put off planning, due to Covid concerns, and Covid hardly impacted our trip at all.) We gave them a budget and a couple of wishes and they prepared the perfect trip for our needs.

We stayed two nights in Dublin, where we did a lovely and informative walking tour with Fiona. The next day, our fabulous guide, Brendan, picked us up and spent the next 8 days driving us around. We spent three nights in Galway and three in Cork. During the days, we explored the countryside and visited both historic landmarks and out of the way finds. Along the way, Brendan charmed us with his unending knowledge of historical facts, local stories, jokes, and quick wit. As Jonathan had predicted, Brendan is now on our Christmas card list!

Some of the highlights included: visiting the Book of Kells and the Long Room in Dublin; a fantastic food tour in Galway with Clare; experiencing a private demonstration of sheepdog work in Connemara and getting to know Tom, the farmer; a tour of the Midleton distillery with a whiskey tasting; and visiting the Irish National Stud Farm. Each family member loved learning about the rich history and culture of Ireland. Our kids, aged 20, 18, and 14, were the perfect ages for this trip, as there was so much to learn but also a lot of time in the car to see the far-flung rural sites. We were fortunate to attend a Gaelic football game where Brendan, a former player, could explain all the rules. The kids are very into sports, so this was a definite highlight. In all, the itinerary was a perfect mix for all our interests, and the right amount of moving from one hotel to another.

We were aware how much work Jonathan, Katie in his office, and Brendan did to make sure we were treated as VIPs everywhere we went. Our schedule frequently changed on the fly, due to weather or our wish to stay longer to learn more about a particular place, and Brendan was able to arrange upcoming situations to fit, every time. He could always call ahead to the perfect restaurant to get us right in, and he knew people everywhere we went to pave our way. The weather was rainy and cold sometimes, and one morning it even snowed. This really did nothing to set back our enjoyment of the trip. In addition, we had the bad luck for four out of the five of us to catch a bug over three days, and Brendan was adept at organizing around these problems, always thinking of our needs and what would work to continue a fantastic vacation for our family.

In addition, Jonathan and Katie booked us the perfect hotels for our needs and budget with very short notice. They were all very high quality and we received wonderful service.

Lastly, this is our second family trip through Wendy Perrin, the first being to Colombia in 2020. It is even more clear to us that Wendy brings enormous value to the trip. Using her service guaranteed an agent who is not only an expert in the region, but also plans a dynamic, exciting, varied, and completely personalized holiday. We received the royal treatment wherever we went, and problems we faced were quickly arranged away. Each of us are experienced travelers, but we would not have been able to do the volume of planning required to make this trip happen so well and so quickly, or to sit back, relax, and experience all the joys of Ireland while trying to manage the myriad logistics on our own. For sure, we will be using Wendy from now on, whenever it is appropriate. Thank you so much to everyone involved, for making such a success of what was a very important trip for our family, before two of our children launch!

Thanks Jonathan and team for a memorable trip!

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St. Barts: Caribbean getaway with a French vibe

TONY FORD-HUTCHINSON | MARCH 22, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We wanted a last minute vacation for myself and my wife plus our son and his wife and two young children somewhere warm. Brook suggested St Barth and put us in touch with Allegra. We decided to rent a villa for a week with the family and then spend three nights in a hotel after the family had left. We chose a 5 bedroom villa with pool in the middle of Gustavia, the main town. This was a great choice (apart from the roosters crowing each morning!) as we were able to walk to dinner to all the great restaurants as well as walk to Shell Beach. It also allowed us to appreciate the European/French vibe to the island which makes it very different to many English-speaking Caribbean islands. Allegra recommended we rent cars which was a wise move as you can not walk around the narrow island roads and it allowed us to visit various beach hotels for lunch and to get beach chairs. The last three nights were spent at Le Serena Hotel which has very comfortable rooms but unfortunately we were there at a time when the winds were blowing very strongly right at the hotel. One of the reasons St Barth is so exclusive is that you can not fly there directly and instead you either take a boat or puddle jumper to the short runway on the island. The scheduled service on Saturdays fills up well in advance so booking airfares early seems advisable, otherwise you may have to charter a plane or take the ferry.

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

Ask Wendy


Costa Rica: Small hotels on the Osa Peninsula

JUDITH FRIED | MARCH 18, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL I just returned from a trip to Costa Rica that was planned by Irene. We wanted to minimize our contact with others and so chose the Osa Peinsula for both its beauty, diversity and isolation.

Irene worked closely with us to plan the trip based on our interests and within the budget I gave her.

I also did not want to do any of the logistical planning which I generally enjoy doing. But, because of covid I did not want a lot of contact with others.

Irene placed us in very small hotels and managed every detail from planning our whale watching tour to arranging all transportation. There was not one glitch in our travel. People were always waiting to transport us or remind us of our upcoming activities.

I more than highly recommend and encourage you to use her travel services if you are planning a trip to Costa Rica.

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Honeymoon road trip through France, Monaco, Italy & Switzerland

MARGARET HARVEY| MARCH 14, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  My husband and I booked a very special trip, our honeymoon, with Phillip this past December. We wanted to do a road trip through Europe. Our trip consisted of multiple moving parts, and Phillip helped give us the honeymoon of our dreams. He was there for us to help guide us with COVID necessities and shared his expertise on each place. My husband and I wanted to enjoy romantic, luxurious hotels, and every single one Phillip booked was incredible. What was so nice was he made sure each was different as not to compete with each other. Each time we arrived at a new place we both could not stop smiling and saying “Wow”!

We started off in Geneva, Switzerland where we kicked off our trip with a Christmas market that was across the street from our hotel. Our next stop was Gastaad, which felt like a winter wonderland. After that we drove to Chamonix, where we stayed in what was my husband’s dream spot at the top of Mount Blanc. It was truly something, we had to take the most charming red train to get to our hotel. The stars there were unlike we had ever seen. After Chamonix we drove to Fossano, Italy, where we visited a castle and stayed in a suite that felt as if we were in an old Italian romance novel. Next, we went to Monte Carlo, where our hotel key gave us access to the Monte Carlo Country Club. My husband is an avid tennis fan and this was really special for us. We enjoyed the famous American Bar, and the people of Monte Carlo couldn’t have been nicer or more welcoming. We stayed on the top floor and had the most incredible view of the city and water. We even were across from Rafa Nadal’s suite. Following Monte Carlo we went to St Paul de Vance where we relaxed in a spa hotel with a Mediterranean influence. Our trip’s pace started to slow down a bit on this second half which was really nice. Phillip was able to get us reservations for meals at some exceptional places. Next was Aix in Provence where we stayed at a dreamy chateau. After that we went to Avignon where we stayed across from the Pope’s Palace. It felt as if we were in a castle. We had a car and it was very difficult driving through the narrow roads, but we made it and it was a fun part to look back on. We ended our trip in Paris on New Years Eve. It was a trip of a lifetime and we both were thrilled with our experience.

Covid wise, travelers do need to have their proof of vaccination. We had to get a Covid Passport, which was relatively easy to do. Pretty much every place we went to asked to see our Covid Passport upon entry. Getting a COVID test prior to return was a bit tricky. It all worked out but because we needed to have a rapid test 24 hours before arrival the timing was tough. We were traveling to Paris from Avignon on the high speed train, and it was New Years Eve, which meant many pharmacies closed early. We had to get our test in Paris to meet the 24 hour requirement. Thankfully we found a pharmacy that would do it, but it did take up almost 2 hours of our night. To enter Switzerland we needed an Entry Pass filled out beforehand, and it was a bit confusing and difficult to do. Phillip was easy to get a hold of, made some phone calls, and helped us with the process. It was the middle of December and things were rapidly changing again; we felt confident in Phillip and he was a huge help to us.

I don’t think we could have planned such a remarkable trip without Phillip’s help, knowledge, and expertise. We had just planned our destination wedding and were a bit planned out. We wanted something to remember forever, that would blow us both away. This trip delivered and then some. He gave us a multitude of options and listened to what we wanted. We felt he was also very honest, upfront, and informative. We are so grateful for your recommendation, and look forward to booking another trip in the future! Thank you so much!!

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Galapagos for a 60th birthday celebration

ALISON DECAMP | MARCH 9, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Galapagos Islands, Land Based, Galapagos Safari Camp (February 27 – March 6, 2022)  Alison DeCamp (plus husband and two young-adult children in their mid-to-early 20s)

Back in October my husband and I began thinking about how to celebrate his upcoming 60th birthday. He decided he wanted an “adventure” rather than simply a “vacation.” But we also wanted our kids to join us, one of whom is finishing up his Masters and therefore bound by a school break schedule. We considered Europe, Scandinavia, and Iceland, but late February/early March was our window (and cold weather might not cut it), we had only around 9 days (so we would be better off not dealing with jet lag) and we had never been to South America. What about Machu Picchu? Or Patagonia? Which is where Wendy Perrin and Tom come in.

I’ve known Wendy’s name from years of reading her advice column and was really lucky to have chosen Tom to help us plan this trip. Tom was incredibly patient, explaining just how far Patagonia is from us in Michigan and that the time of year was the rainy season in Machu Picchu. With his help, choosing the Galapagos was the very best decision we could have made, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have come to that conclusion without Tom. Then it was a matter of land based vs. water based. I’ll admit, I don’t think we were the easiest people to deal with–we wanted a smaller boat for at least 7 days and that didn’t exist, but Tom reached out to Galapagos Safari Camp and made that work perfectly for our family. It was a great combination of being in one location with daily excursions both on land and water.

From that point on, Tom connected us with a Latin America flight specialist who got us really great flights at a very fair price (also taking into account leg room for our 6’3″ son). She kept us up-to-date with any flight changes and Tom was very prompt with any Covid protocol changes in Ecuador and/or the Galapagos both before and during our travels. We have been very, very cautious about Covid (neither wanting to catch Covid nor wanting to spread it) and felt completely safe during every step of this trip. Everything we did and every place we went, people were courteous and careful.

Approximately two weeks before we left we received a very detailed itinerary that honestly went off without a hitch. It explained everything so well that it left me absolutely no room to have any type of travel-related anxiety. If the itinerary said Gloria would be at the airport, BOOM! There’s Gloria! If it said our guide, Jose, would be at Safari Camp at 7:20 am, you’d better be ready at 7:15. And aside from that, the little things I never would have known were possible, were so incredibly helpful. Having Gloria guide us the correct way through the airport was so great when we flew to the Galapagos. Arranging for day rooms at the Wyndham was such a nice touch, and one I never would have known existed. And being welcomed at the VIP lounge in the Baltra Airport (where EVERYTHING was handled while we ate brownies) was incredible. (Our son claimed he felt a little out of place in the VIP lounge, but I have to say it didn’t stop him from eating all the food lying around).

I would highly recommend Tom. He was patient while we decided just what we wanted to do and helped arrange it around different schedules, he saw to all the minor (and major) details, explained things so thoroughly, was always accessible to answer questions, and even contacted me the day before we left the Galapagos to give me some updates and suggestions for testing before leaving the islands. Tom made this trip so much better than if I had planned it myself, and I would use his services again in a heartbeat.

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Family trip to the Maldives & Dubai

MARTA ALBORS | MARCH 9, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL We usually plan our own trips but wanted something special for this one and felt that we needed help sorting through all the many Maldives resorts and the constantly changing COVID policies.

Wendy recommended Justin Parkinson and, though we had a bit of a rough patch in the planning process (you should definitely follow Wendy’s advice to have a long call with the agent!), it was quickly solved and we were put at ease by Justin’s knowledge, recommendations, and flexibility to adapt the tours to our needs and pet peeves.

The trip itself was amazing, and something that we could not have created on our own.

In Dubai, everything ran smoothly and on time, from the PCR nurse to the private tour guides, who were top-notch (most especially Lourdes, who deserves seven stars!!), allowing us to make the best of the short time we were spending there; the recommended restaurant was a success and, thanks to Lourdes’ tips, our short Expo visit on our own was fun and fruitful.

And for the Maldives… what a paradise! The resort Justin recommended (one that was not on our radar and probably wouldn’t have been without him) was absolutely perfect for us and our family’s needs, covering all our requirements and beyond. Unforgettable!

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Egypt & Jordan: sailing the Nile, Petra, Wadi Rum…

ANNE HALL | MARCH 8, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  My sister and I just returned from an extraordinary five days in Jordan and 17 days in Egypt. We worked with Jim to design a February 2022 trip that included our top requests (Petra, sailing on a dahabiya), and thoughtful and inspired suggestions from Jim. The trip could not have been more marvelous thanks to Glenda, from Jim’s team, and the group of representatives, guides, drivers, and Egyptologists we worked with, all of whom were the best of the best.

The first and last thing we want to say about our trip is that we felt safe the entire time. Our guides, or the dahabiya staff, were with us the entire time. Even if they hadn’t been, there wasn’t a hint of concern in either country. Our guides asked us to spread the word that Egypt and Jordan are safe, and we are glad to pass this message along. Further, we felt that the team and our guides and drivers took Covid seriously, wore masks, were vaccinated, and were cautious about staying away from crowds.

We arrived in Amman, Jordan then traveled with our beloved guide Ahmad, and driver, Mohammed, to Mt. Nebo, Petra, and Wadi Rum. It was a pleasure to work with these gentlemen and we shed a tear or two when we had to say goodbye. Thank you Ahmad and Mohammed. Petra is extraordinary. We spent a day there, including hiking up all 850 steps to the Monastery, and could have spent more time. The civilization that created the Treasury must have been extraordinary. Further south we drove through the Wadi Rum, the desert where Lawrence of Arabia staged the attack on Acaba. Ahmad had us stand up (in the back of our 4 x 4) and listen to the desert. The quiet will stay with us forever. What a memorable experience. Then we glamped camped at the Discovery Bedu camp where our tent was charming, the food was fantastic, and the welcome and care from the owner and staff could not be beat. Our recommendation is that you stay at least two days at this camp.

In Cairo we were met by Farid, whom we call the Miracle Worker. Farid is funny and kind and was wonderful to work with. He convinced Air France to check our bags all the way from Cairo to Seattle, and provide boarding passes for all flights, even though we changed airlines that weren’t partners with each other. Thank you for everything, Farid.

Our three days in Cairo included the amazing pyramids at Giza, the downtown mosques, and a day in Sakkara. We were treated here, and in other places along our trip, to local food in ‘mom and pop’ type restaurants, all of which were excellent. The only female guide of our trip, Reham, was in charge of our tour in Cairo. She is amazing, and so much fun to talk with. Thank you, Reham, for all you do to protect the animals of the pyramid and for all you did for us. In Luxor, Bassem provided a comprehensive background to the Valley of the Kings and the Tombs of the Nobles. As others have noted, the tomb of Nefertari was expectedly memorable. Thank you Bassen. In Aswan, we toured the modern wonders of the dams of Aswan and were impressed by the Philae Temple with Ashraf. The felucca sail around Elephantine and Kitchener Islands was terrific. Seeing Abu Simbel, looking out over the blue water of the Nile, was a highlight of the trip. Thank you, Ashraf.

We’d like to mention that many of our guides knew Jim and all of them smiled when they talked about him. One of our guides volunteered that Jim’s was considered the best travel company operating in Egypt. We can concur that the planning and organization of our trip was flawless. Everything we expected to happen happened – guides were at the hotel to pick us up and always on time, the comprehensive knowledge of the guides was humbling, the drivers were careful, and every care was taken. Again, we were safe in Jordan and Egypt.

We need to mention the trip on the dahabiya. Our boat, the Adelaide of the Nour El Nil line, was a flat-bottomed boat with two sails. We sailed up the Nile with four other families or couples, for five days. If sailing on a dahabiya is the only thing you do in Egypt, your trip will have been well worth it. The boat sailed slowly with no motion at all, docked at least once a day to tour a temple or to take a walk, or to play soccer and swim in the Nile. The rest of the time we lay on the couches of the upper deck and read or watched Egypt glide by. The food, made up of local Egyptian specialities, was wonderful. The staff made the trip unique with their kindness, laughter, and joy. We can’t recommend this adventure highly enough.

Finally, we should mention the hotels. As Agatha Christie fans, we’ve always wanted to stay at the Winter Palace in Luxor, and the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan. They were fabulous. We woke in Luxor to hot air balloons over the Nile, and the river traffic and the ruins on Elephantine Island in Aswan. Part of the pleasure of the trip was spending time in our rooms watching life go by on the Nile.

Thanks to Jim and Glenda, and the rest of Jim’s staff, and to Wendy Perrin and The WOW List that brought us such a memorable adventure.

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Kenya & Rwanda: safari, culture, conservation…

SUE NEWTON | MARCH 8, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  What began as a thought to go to a warmer place in February morphed into a bucket-list trip to Kenya & Rwanda! I reached out to Dan in November and the planning began for an African adventure for my husband and I from 13-23 February.

My main focus for the trip was not just an animal safari, but also to experience the African culture, see the local conservation efforts, witness the labors to preserve endangered species, and incorporate my interest in the work of Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall.

Dan engaged immediately via telephone and truly listened to me. He created an itinerary that checked all the boxes; not an easy thing to do! To add to the complicated logistics, it meant traveling to two African countries: Kenya and Rwanda.

Dan was very patient with my numerous emails and questions, promptly responding to each one. He was also not afraid to advise if something was not a good idea and offered other options, which I appreciated.

He coordinated with local ground operators in both Kenya and Rwanda, which made things so much easier. From meeting us at the plane with a wheelchair, getting us through Customs & Immigration, arranging COVID testing or self-quarantine when required, escorting us to our guide/driver, even tracking down a missing suitcase and getting it delivered just as we were leaving for our safari. I’m sure we could not have done it without them. It was obvious that Dan communicated our wishes to them, too, so it was a seamless transition.

How was this trip different from a pre-pandemic trip? The most obvious is the multiple, varying requirements for COVID testing. It could be confusing as to when to get tested, how to get the results, where to post them online, etc. Dan answered all my questions and once we departed, the ground operators coordinated everything. No worries!

The lodging Dan suggested was amazing! Not only great, personalized service, but each of the four locations took precautions to minimize health risks. The two where we stayed the longest come with my highest recommendation:

Ol Pejeta Safari Cottages in Kenya: We had a very private & secluded cottage with a verandah for dining and just relaxing. We received royal treatment from the moment we arrived; our personal butler (John), chef (Victoria), night “watchman” (Robert), and guide/driver (Mike) were all great! Our hosts, Andy & Sonja, ensured we felt welcome by adding little touches that made all the difference.

Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel in Rwanda: A quiet room with a secluded patio meant we were never aware of the other guests. Our room attendant (Salus) always made sure we had everything we needed. Even though the tables in the dining area were well-spaced and everyone wore masks, the manager offered to serve our meals in another building that was more easily accessible for me. He even prepared a special candlelight dinner by the fireplace on our last night.

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

This was exactly what I wanted in the trip — to see and experience the Kenyan & Rwandan people & culture without being too touristy. Dan and his connections with the local operators and the best guides, definitely made this a fantastic trip.

My advice: Listen to your guide’s suggestions and go for it! Be flexible & spontaneous. A rare cheetah sighting? Let’s go! An early awakening to watch the sun rise behind Mt. Kenya? Definitely worth it! A personal tour of a beading or weaving “factory”? Sure! Visiting a project to improve lives for single mothers? (And celebrating their joy as they sang and danced to welcome us.) You bet! There is so much to see & do that you never know what you’ll find! But most importantly, just be in the present and experience Kenya & Rwanda. And know that, with Dan and his team behind you, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime trip!

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Family villa in Los Cabos, Mexico

CORY BAGNALL | MARCH 7, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL Julie, Alex and their team worked with us for almost 2 years and multiple cancellations and reschedules due to covid. They were more than understanding and willing to shift things up to 1 month before our trip. They took care of setting up any tours or in house catering we wanted, and Hector, our concierge, was never more than a quick message away from getting us a ride back to the villa or reservations to a restaurant. Before the trip Julie and Alex answered all of our questions and gave us great recommendations for restaurants and tours. They even arranged for our return covid tests at the villa. I highly recommend them.

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Belize: local culture, snorkeling, Mayan ruins…

LINDA GREEN | MARCH 7, 2022

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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U.K. with private touring

AARON EICHELBERGER | MARCH 7, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Phillip and his team did a great job making the best of the situation of post covid lockdown. This trip took over 2 years to make happen as we originally scheduled it before covid hit and we had to cancel our originally scheduled trip. They were in constant communication the whole time leading up to and during the trip. They scheduled the tests that we needed and made sure everything went as easy as possible. Albeit there were some bumps in the road adjusting to the new normal but they went above and beyond to make it as pleasant and enjoyable as possible. All of the tour guides were amazing and were worth every penny spent! We would have missed so much just attempting to wander around ourselves. We would have not experienced and seen half of what we did if we tried doing it on our own. All in all, it was a great trip and we would do it again in a heartbeat!

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Belize: connecting with locals

RICHARD ASHMORE | MARCH 1, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Rachel and Patricia curated a wonderful trip for us to Belize.
The accommodations were first-rate. Each place at which we stayed was beautiful and serene. At The Lodge at Chaa Creek no matter where we stood the view was picture perfect. Further, at each of the five places we stayed, the service matched the setting. We were treated very well.
We experienced once in a lifetime activities. The highlights were the ancient Mayan sites of Tikal and Xunantunich, Che Chem Ha Cave, a visit to the San Antonio Women’s Group Center, and a back street food tour in San Pedro.
Our guides were consistently good which substantially enhanced the activities we were offered. Brainerd in and around San Ignacio was excellent, and Eder at Xunantunich was fabulous.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we were able to meet, spend time with, and learn from many wonderful people. Gonzo, Andrea, and Calliandra of Che Chem Ha were enchanting. Callie is the definition of precocious and a treat to be around. Timotea and the other members of the San Antonio Women’s Group Center were gracious, committed, and knowledgeable. Eder and his father El Fego at Xunantunich made us feel welcome and taught us much. Don Eladio took us for an educational and entertaining romp through his organic farm, Victoria taught us much as she prepared our lunch, and her children Christian and Tristan made us part of the family for the day. Axel, Vickie, and Isien of Manta Island Resort were so good us that, even in the age of covid, hugs were essential. And then there were the two anonymous guests (fishermen we surmised) who ate dinner at the table next to ours two nights in a row at the Copal Tree Lodge. Their unselfconscious, almost childlike joy (even choosing the entrée for dinner was an adventure to be savored) underlined for us how fortunate we were to be there at that moment.
Rachel and Patricia provided us with many such moments, and for that we are very grateful.

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50th anniversary trip to the Galapagos & mainland Ecuador

CHRISTINE STOLL | FEBRUARY 22, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Were we going or were we not? All plans were up in the air. This trip to the Galapagos for our 50th wedding anniversary was originally booked for 2020, rebooked for 2021, and rebooked again for 2022. Two weeks before we were ready to depart, one of our traveling companions tested positive for Covid. Through it all, Allie was a calm and patient guide. From the beginning, after getting to know us and our expectations, she planned an exciting trip tailored exactly to our needs and desires. By the time we got back all negative tests a day before we were to depart, we were so glad that we had Allie working for us to make our dreams a reality.

Once we departed until the end of the trip, everything worked without a glitch. That was part luck and part Allie’s planning. Flying into Quito was the first breathtaking moment as our plane came through the mountains and its the stunning valley. We were picked up by Gabby from South Expeditions and taken into the Old Town where we were checked into Casona de la Ronda. The charm of the hotel immersed us instantly into everything Ecuadorian. Walking up the stairs was no problem as our luggage had been quickly carried to our room. The front desk recommended the restaurant next door for dinner, Casa Los Gerranios. What a gem. It was our first chance to try the local drink, canelazo. The flaming potato soup was both a show and delicacy. My husband ordered another delicacy, the guinea pig. He’s more adventurous than me.

Early next morning, a nurse came to the hotel to give us the necessary PCR test required to get into the Galapagos. It was processed while we were out touring the city. The hotel printed and delivered the results to us before the promised time. On the tour, Alejandra was a fun and knowledgeable guide. The day was filled with history, interesting sights, and good food.

Quito was just a tune-up, though, for the main feature, the Galapagos Islands. The excitement was building as our panga took us out into the harbor to board our expedition yacht, The Letty. It was just as Allie had described it. We weren’t interested in luxury. Our priorities were a small passenger-to-guide ratio and intimate feel. There were 14 passengers with two naturalists. Perfect. Everything on The Letty was well-maintained and worked well. The yacht was kept extremely clean from rinsing all feet and equipment after snorkeling or hiking to having beds made and rooms cleaned while we were at breakfast. The rooms were a little tight, but it just added to the more authentic, remote feel we were going for. Covid seemed like a very distant thought as all on board had been tested, and we basically saw no one else the whole week.

But, of course, it was the experiences that were the highlight. We saw every one of the “bucket list” animals, birds, or marine life that we hoped. And, the excitement of the guides was catching as we would see something special like a 2-day-old sea lion, mating frigates, or dancing blue-footed boobies. Animals and birds barely noticed us. A few times, someone would say, “Don’t step on that iguana” as one would be resting right on our path. Snorkeling was special. There was always a guide in the water who would poke his head up and call, “Coming your way” so we didn’t miss anything special. Two pangas with crew were always nearby keeping an eye out for anyone who needed help or was ready to get out of the water. I even got comfortable with the non-aggressive “Galapagos” sharks. And as we boarded The Letty, we were always greeted with treats and something special to drink.

Our captain, David, was accessible and skilled. He made small adjustments as circumstances dictated. A big one, though, was the night we went off our course to get a view of Wolf volcano erupting. All the passengers voted to be awakened in the middle of the night to see it. We all trundled on to the deck to see the show. Two hours later, the captain woke us again for an even better view. No one wanted to miss that experience.

After our wonderful week in the Galapagos, Allie arranged for us to spend a couple of nights at Hacienda Zuleta about two hours north of Quito. The stay was extraordinary. Zuleta was owned at one time by the president of Ecuador. It is absolutely beautiful, but, with family pictures still sitting on surfaces, making it feel like you’re a guest in someone’s home. In fact, you are as family members come stay often. We took a carriage ride up to the condor sanctuary, arranged by Allie, and rode horses to a nearby waterfall. Each evening there would be a fire in our wing’s fireplace with cheese from the farm and wine set out for us. What a perfect end to our trip.

We felt absolutely secure knowing that Allie and her team had the knowledge and resources to help us if we experienced any problems either big or small. Allie’s expertise and attention to detail simply translated to an amazing trip.

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Egypt & Jordan: temples, Petra, insider access…

MARY LOU VOYTKO | FEBRUARY 22, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Jim crafted a mind-blowing three-week journey through Egypt and Jordan for us. His local team made everything worry-free, especially at the airports and with our Covid PCR tests (which, by the way, were so inexpensive compared to what we had to pay in the US!). Arrangements were made for doctors to come to our hotel and administer the tests, and we received the results the next day. It was also comforting to learn that everyone in the travel/hospitality business in both Egypt and Jordan had to be vaccinated.
Our itinerary was amazing at every turn. Highlights included: In Cairo, walking along the narrow, shop-lined streets of Old Cairo and then the even narrower alleys of the Khan al Khalili. We gained a true feeling of what the city was like in ancient times. In Aswan, we appreciated being able to speak with a local in the Nubian Village and visit his home and learn about a part of Egyptian culture you hear little about. We loved our Nile cruise on the Farah. Having only 25 passengers on a ship that can hold 120 made our cruising experience extra special and very safe from a Covid perspective. In the Valley of the Kings, the most magnificent tomb was that of Nefertari, where we were the only people inside and our guide was very gracious in allowing us extra time there so that I could take photos of everything! And in Jordan, our guide worked his connections to gain us access to the Petra by Night experience an hour before it officially opened to the public! Walking through the candlelit Siq alone and coming upon the candlelit Treasury, we were awestruck.
Wendy, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for arranging with Jim our very special WOW Moment. Imagine our faces when we were taken to a yacht for a private sunset cruise on the Nile all around Elephantine and other islands. Sunset was magical as the colors of the sky, Nile waters, and surrounding land changed from yellow to golden to pink and then deep purple, followed by the twinkling lights of Aswan as night fell. This glorious sunset experience was followed by a seafood feast on the boat with a private chef. We felt like Egyptian royalty sailing on our own private yacht on the Nile!

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Mainland Ecuador & the Galapagos by land

STEPHANIE DANFORTH | FEBRUARY 21, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL We had a fabulous trip. Allie did a great job customizing the trip to fit our interests and goals. We started the trip off the beaten path at the Hacienda Zuleta which was simply fabulous. I love historical inns and at 400 years old it hit the mark for me. The hiking and horse back riding was superb. The staff was incredibly friendly and tried to make everything perfect for the guests. One of my daughters is a skilled rider and she and her horse guide (Jose who was an angel) went out galloping through fields, mountain trails and back roads each day for hours. She had a tremendous time.

The next stop was the Galapagos Islands which we did via a land based tour. Again the hotels were unique and charming with first rate staff. Our guides were outstanding. They went out of their way to make sure everything went smoothly and we were having the best experience possible. Most importantly the wildlife was spectacular, abundant and ruling the land and sea. All of our tours were either private tour or small group tours (2 families) so we felt our experiences were unique and we were not on a conveyor belt.

Everyone we connected with was friendly, interesting and happy to share their paradise with us. I would highly recommend a trip to Ecuador and Allie’s crew.

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Costa Rica: snorkeling, monkeys, boat rides…

GAYLE SMART | FEBRUARY 20, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL My Husband and I just returned from a trip to Costa Rica assisted by Irene and it was amazing! We visited several times and she gave me choices of places to pick from and recommendations that were spot on. We started out in San Jose with a beautiful hotel, I saw several chains when we were leaving the airport but the Grano de Oro was a beautiful old mansion with a wonderful restaurant. Thanks to Irene we enjoyed a fantastic meal in a stately courtyard. The next morning our ride was waiting for us, dropped us off at the airport, telling us exactly what to do. After a short flight we arrived at Copa De Arbol, and we felt we had the best room out of the ten. It was a wonderful resort, and the local staff that ran the place were amazing. The trip to the national park and snorkeling were beautiful. The biggest surprise was our transfer – I read the itinerary and knew it would be about a three hour trip, I assumed car but boy I was wrong. We traveled across the ocean and then went up a river for about an hour. We loved it! What a pleasant surprise. Our next stop was Arenas Del Mar, there was a little mix up on the room – NOT Irene’s problem, but she was quick to help. If you ever want to live in the middle of a monkey sanctuary – GO. We saw lots of nature and enjoyed it so much we actually extended our trip two more days. Irene graciously helped us rearrange our flight back to San Jose, changing it to a drive – again NOT her problem and we loved it. Our driver was amazing and so full of information. He loved his country and it showed. We connected with WhatsApp throughout the trip and Irene was quick to respond to our questions and needs. She treated us to our first night supper meal, again not expecting that, but a lovely surprise. We will be returning to Costa Rica and will use Irene again. The small country has so much to offer and I will use her expertise to guide me another time. Thank you Wendy for her recommendation!

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Expedition cruise in the Galapagos

STEVE VALLEY| FEBRUARY 16, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Ashton was great to work with on our Galapagos Islands trip. Ashton spent enough time with us to understand our trip expectations and the things that we wanted and expected from our trip. He had the courage to tell us which cruise lines would meet our expectations and which ones would leave us disappointed. His suggested cruise line exceeded all of our expectations. We will definitely be using Ashton again for future expedition trips.

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Safari to South Africa, Botswana, and Victoria Falls

TINA HUNT | FEBRUARY 13, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We did an absolutely incredible 3-week trip to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana in Dec-Jan. Julian listened to what we wanted and curated a wonderful itinerary with beautiful lodges, stunning game drives, very knowledgeable guides, impeccable service and delicious food and drinks. And of course the stars of the trip were all the amazing animals. We learned so much about nature and the wild from all our guides.

We started in South Africa in Makweti lodge in welgevonden game reserve. The lodge is stunning, well appointed and has just 5 suites. Bertis (our guide), Collin, and the rest of the staff couldn’t have been more warm and welcoming, always making sure we were having a great time. We also spent a few days in Cape Town and the neighboring wine region – gorgeous with so much history and beauty!

Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe were so majestic, even at a fraction of their full flow. We visited 3 different camps in Botswana – each one unique and amazing. Seeing elephants, hippos and all kinds of antelope right next to the lodges was super cool. We felt safe and well taken care of the entire time. Okavanga Delta is stunning and not to be missed, even during the rainy season. Camp Shinde was another one of our favorite camps with top notch service and gem viewing. The Desert and Delta Safari went above and beyond, flying us from one camp to another via helicopter twice because the bush planes couldn’t reach some locations because of the heavy rains. It was an unexpected and very special treat – twice!

Traveling during Covid can be challenging, but every place we visited took all the right precautions and felt very safe. Being mostly outdoors greatly reduced our risk. Julian had arranged for required Covid testing throughout the trip, making it super easy on us. He was very responsive to all my questions during the trip, which were mostly related to changing Covid rules and testing.

We immensely enjoyed every part of our trip, agreeing that this was our best one so far, even though we travel all over the world and have some very memorable trips. A huge thank you to Julian for planning such a fabulous trip. We can’t wait for the next time!

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Antarctica and South Georgia Island cruise

JEFFREY GRINSPOON AND JON FOLEY | FEBRUARY 11, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  My husband, Jeff Grinspoon and myself, Jon Foley signed up for the Scenic Eclipse cruise from Ushuaia to the Antarctic Peninsula and then on to South Georgia and Falklands. We originally signed up for this cruise through Ashton’s team for December of 2020 and it was rescheduled (COVID) twice and the itinerary was a bit different and because of COVID restrictions, we were not allowed to land in the Falklands this trip but that was all beyond anyone’s control. We were delighted to be able to go this Jan-Feb, 2022 and had an amazing time.

Working with Ashton and his team through all of the COVID chaos and changes was overall a good experience that allows us to recommend them highly for any future travel. We felt they communicated as clearly and quickly as possible given that the situation was continually changing and decisions being made on the fly.

Our experience on the Scenic Eclipse was also overall highly positive. The COVID concerns remained however the testing processes were well managed and low stress for guests. As mentioned, we were not able to land on the Falklands but we felt that Scenic fully compensated with extra landings on the Peninsula and South Georgia. We were weather-lucky mostly in both locations and were forewarned that often the weather prevents as many landings as we made.

The Scenic Eclipse Team – the hotel/restaurant and expedition teams were amazing and continually tried to go above-and-beyond which was not always possible as several of the hospitality team members were down due to COVID. But Scenic flew them in half-way during the trip (to King George Island) so that they could then provide the full luxury service experience.

We questioned whether the two days at sea (rough sea) and four days back (also rough) were going to be worth going to South Georgia. In a word: unquestionably! Absolutely every stop was meaningful and usually magical in its own way. Jon actually felt often as if he were in a Disney movie with the ridiculous abundance of amazing animal life bounding around the equally inspired scenery.

We are not typically cruisers but found this was the best (and only) way to see both Antarctica and South Georgia. We loved this ship and the food was delicious. We felt the social areas could have been designed better to inspire more socializing. The lounge was an extension of the reception area/lobby and didn’t feel cozy or as inviting as one might hope. In warmer climates, there would be outdoor spaces that might serve but in the Antarctic, these were not functional. Our room was quite noisy at sea due to creaking at the wall/ceiling connection. Other guests did not have this noise issue. We were in suite 902.

We heard of a possible option to avoid the Drake Passage crossings by flying to King George Island then joining a ship – not sure which cruise lines offer this option.

Both the ship – the Scenic Eclipse, with its two helicopters (which we loved) and submarine (which was not best used in the murky South Sea), is a phenomenal way to see the 7th Continent – and we felt in very good hands with Ashton to coordinate this trip of a lifetime for us.

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A month in Rwanda and Uganda

RON KLAUSNER | FEBRUARY 7, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We travelled to Rwanda and Uganda for the month of January 2022. This trip was fantastic! We are so glad we threw caution to the wind and travelled during Covid. We felt safer in Africa than we do at home.

This trip was different from our usual trips in that we avoided indoor activities and home visits with locals. We ate most meals outside. For the ones we ate inside all staff was masked. Not that it really mattered. Staff was required to get pcr tests before going to each lodge and they stayed for months at a time.

Cherri did a wonderful job of putting together all the pieces of a complicated multi country trip with multiple lodgings in both countries. She arranged all the Covid testing and made it as easy as possible. She also suggested insurance in advance of the trip so we had total peace of mind. She even had a list of over 60 gratuities she provided us in advance to make things very easy.

This trip was different from the one we originally envisioned in that we were the only ones staying at the various lodges for most of the time. At most, there was another couple. Also, we saw very few other tourists. The Nile River was devoid of any other tourist boats. On safari we rarely saw another Land Rover. The genocide museum in Kigali was empty as was the art gallery we went to.

We had the best guides because only the best get work. Gorilla and monkey treks were planned out in advance so we did not get stuck on very strenuous ones.

We could not have planned this trip by ourselves. It just had too many moving parts. Everything went seamlessly except for one chimp trek. Since that did not go 100% as planned Cherri arranged to get the whole thing refunded.

As for the WOW Moment arranged by Cherri all I can say is WOW WOW WOW!!! We flew by private helicopter from Entebbe to Jinja, the beginning of the Nile River, had lunch out there at an amazing lodge with rapids rushing all around us and then returned in time to catch our flight back home.

My only regret is that I did not travel earlier during the pandemic. Go now before it is too late!!!!

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Two resort stays in French Polynesia

LAINE ORCUTT | FEBRUARY 4, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  My husband, daughter (21), and I visited French Polynesia. We were there from January 1-8, 2022. Kleon Howe was our travel planner. I wanted a planner that specialized in that area and he did a remarkable job for us. I can’t imagine planning all of this myself especially during a pandemic. Omicron was just hitting the U.S. and the world right at the time we were to depart. Kleon was able to keep us informed of the constant changes in testing and vaccine requirements. Of course, he also made sure we had proper travel insurance well before our trip.

After listening to what we were looking for in this vacation, Kleon suggested spending time on 2 different islands: Le Tahaa and Bora Bora. He sent us many options for restaurants and activities. He had first hand experience with some of the resorts, restaurants, and activities. This insight was invaluable. The best thing about using Kleon and Wendy Perrin’s other agents is that every thing goes so smoothly. At every point, we had someone to greet us and lead us to the next stop. We never had to wander around and try to figure out logistics ourselves. Kleon even made notes on our local flights as to which side of the plane we should sit on to get the best view.

This was the trip of a lifetime. I won’t hesitate to use another agent on The WOW List!

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Oaxaca, Mexico: food, artists’ studios, ancient ruins…

ANN WILKINSON | FEBRUARY 4, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Wow! Wow! WOW! We’re just home from a glorious trip to beautiful Oaxaca. I can’t say enough about the outstanding service we received from Zach and his team. I particularly appreciated that Zach responded immediately to my initial inquiry, set up a phone visit, and from then on, each and every contact with Zach and his team was seamless.

We were able to share our goals for the trip—seeing colonial architecture, ancient ruins, interacting with locals to learn about their culture, visiting a contemporary artist, enjoying the fabulous cuisine, both indigenous and modern. As self proclaimed foodies, we particularly appreciated the balance between the choices of local color and flavor during daytime excursions and the exquisite upscale restaurants in evening.

Zach came up with an itinerary that perfectly suited our tastes and preferred pace. Unfortunately Covid prevented us from enjoying some museums we wished we could have seen. On the other hand, we were able to visit artists in their studios. Our guide, Gabriel, never ceased to amaze us with his knowledge of architecture, art, culture, history, even horticulture. He is an encyclopedia of everything Oaxaca!

The Covid protocol in Oaxaca had us feeling very safe—at the hotel, in restaurants and historic sites and galleries. We loved visits to the markets, a personal cooking class, meals with their famous chocolate drink sitting with the locals. Zach’s deputy Adriana was on point each and every day, sending us reminders of tour hours, restaurant reservations, even making timing and site adjustments in the itinerary when requested. Even setting up our Covid antigen test at our hotel rooms prior to return to the U. S.

We were so very happy with our stay at the Quinta Real. We had originally requested a boutique hotel, but when our choice was not available for the week, we took Zach’s recommendation of the Quinta Real Oaxaca, a 16th century convent, now a hotel. The experience was outstanding. We were there a full week and frankly felt like ‘family’. The service was impeccable, the staff delightful, Covid protocol was exceptional, rooms comfortable, views exquisite.

Thanks to Zach, Laura, Adriana and Gabriel and all the team for a magical week which met every expectation and more!

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6 weeks in Portugal: Alentejo region & the island of Madeira

MAURICE GOLDBERGER | JANUARY 31, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Gonçalo and Débora helped us organize a trip to Portugal and Madeira from late November 2021 to January 2022. This was a different sort of trip: we needed more unscheduled time to recover from a gruelling year, and we wanted to minimize our risks of contracting Covid–the reason we had chosen Portugal to begin with. Gonçalo and Débora suggested wonderful properties in the Alentejo region for our first 2+ weeks that would allow for deep relaxation with some outdoor adventures to enjoy the natural landscape, cultural history, and local wine. Memorable and highly recommended: the horseback ride across the dunes in Comporta, birdwatching and stargazing adventures further inland. All guides booked were first-rate. At all locations accommodations were made for our vegetarian, gluten-free diets. We enjoyed a final stretch in Madeira, beginning in a quiet resort on the west coast before moving to the busier city of Funchal, where Omicron caught up to us, forcing us to isolate and extend our stay. From the moment we had symptoms Gonçalo was in touch with us daily to see whether we wanted to consult with a doctor and to support us through all aspects of the situation. The hotel he and Débora selected for us could not have been a better fit given the circumstances, and we felt secure and well-cared for every step of the way. We cannot put a price on what that meant to us. We would not hesitate to recommend Gonçalo and we hope to book another trip to Portugal with him in the coming years.

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Belize: fishing, snorkeling, Mayan ruins, cultural immersion…

BONNIE WARTON | JANUARY 31, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Patricia is my new best friend. We told her that our trip to Belize was to celebrate our wedding anniversary. She listened to our wants and needs and more than delivered. She suggested that we split our trip between inland and the coast and set us up with activities that satisfied both of our desires since they were not necessarily the same. The bonus was introducing us to Brainard August who was our guide and driver for the first half of our trip. My husband wanted to play golf and Patricia made the arrangements for him. She satisfied our interest in culture and history with the Garifuna Cultural immersion. Additionally, while my husband played golf, she arranged a tour for me of the Mayan ruins at Xunantunich and a day at the San Antonio Women’s Co-op to learn about the ancient Mayan life. Patricia joined me for my tour of Xunantunich and my husband was jealous that he didn’t get to meet her in person. On the coast we both wanted watersports. She arranged 2 wonderful boat/snorkel adventures for us and one included a barbecue of freshly caught fish. Yes, my husband had the opportunity to reel in one fish while we were on the boat. She is wonderful and caring. When my husband had a health issue and we had to cancel one day’s activity she asked if Brainard should come and take him to a doctor. Thankfully it wasn’t serious and no doctor was needed. We had a couple of small issues and Patricia immediately responded to our WhatsApp cry for help. I cannot say enough good things about how we were treated by Patricia, our guides, the staff of the hotels that she recommended and the activities that she arranged.

Part of her job during this time was to keep us informed of Covid 19 testing requirements and restrictions. We followed her advice and there were no issues. She even gave us face masks that we happily are wearing at home and hand sanitizer with tropical scents.

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Botswana: game drives, boating & walking safaris…

PATRICE LUOMA | JANUARY 31, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We had a perfect trip in Botswana for 2 weeks in January for my son age 19, husband and me. Julian planned the trip for us to stay at 3 different lodges owned by Desert & Delta Safaris – Camp Savute, Okavango, and Moremi.
Each camp was different in the experience – Savute was all driving safaris and we saw all possible game that is in the park (elephants, giraffes, many lions, leopard, cheetahs, wild dogs, jackals, buffalo, and many more). Our guide KT was amazing! He made sure we had the exact experiences we were looking for and he always sat with us at the evening campfire and some meals. The staff there was fantastic as well – Yompy, Neo, Osi, were very socialable and also talked with us and ensured the best experience. The watering hole out front is fun to watch animals come to drink. It was rainy season so it rained at least some of every day, but we went out on every game drive and had ponchos ready. Highly recommend.
Camp Okavango was a water based and walking safari camp. It was beautifully designed on elevated walkways. The room was beautiful – we had the family room. We had two walking safaris, 2 boat rides (seeing hippos) and 2 mokoros – saw lechwe and a big group of giraffes, as well as many new types of birds. Our guide King was excellent as was Tsabo our tracker and second mokoro pilot. King also ensured we got a 20 minute helicopter ride with doors off for no extra charge. It was amazing the views.
Third camp – Moremi was mostly safari drives but we did one boat ride. Not that much to see on the boat. We saw lots of game, lots of hippos in the ponds around Moremi and even saw the resident hippo Oscar. We had buffalo sleeping next to our tent. Our guide Lasty was excellent and also made sure we saw all possible wildlife. We had this camp entirely to ourselves for the 4 nights we were there and had the staff all to ourself. We felt like royalty! Clifford and Gorecha were great managers. They made sure we had a fire every night and joined us at the fire along with our guide. Also enjoyed the swimming pool there as the sun was out every day.
Overall, I can’t recommend this trip enough! Between the views of wildlife, learning about animal behavior, plants and birds and the fantastic level of service, it was probably our best vacation ever! Even the doctor flying in to give our Covid tests.
We originally planned to go to Victoria Falls, but that would have required 3 more Covid tests and our flight was cancelled, so Julian arranged for us to spend two extra nights at Savute.
Most people don’t spend 6 nights at one camp, but it was definitely worth it for the very thorough experience and also some time to get into the rhythm of 5:30am wakeups for game drives. I hope we can go back one day.

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France: Paris, Lyon, Provence

ALEX RIEHM | JANUARY 27, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Michaël, Alessia, and their team made our trip experience the trip of a lifetime! We first began planning this trip somewhat later than we would usually do because of some sudden availability in our calendar, and Michaël and the team made that easy, connecting us immediately with an agenda that met all of our needs, respected and assuaged our concerns, and helped us navigate five cities in two weeks. We were in contact with them right up to the start of the trip (and during it of course), with the option to reschedule or cancel the trip if it became necessary (thankfully it did not!). They organized covid tests for us to navigate travel easily and even found a way to help us navigate customs. Michaël’s intimate knowledge of southern France resulted in a guidebook full of ideas and opportunities for exploration, many of which we never would have thought to enjoy (for instance: two very surprising art exhibits outdoors, new and innovative restaurants, and opportunities to enjoy daily life in the area at the weekly market or a locals-only bar). He even met us personally for an intimate tour of his own hometown region. We could not recommend Michaël and his team enough for their support, deep local expertise and resources, respectful and careful planning, and the opportunity to travel carefully in 2021. This is a luxury travel planning service done right who can serve you well on your next trip!

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Rome, Naples & Pompeii with exclusive access

KEVIN HANEY | JANUARY 26, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Nancy and I were lucky to have spent the first week of 2022 in Rome, Italy on a trip planned by Jennifer and her team. This is the 4th time that we have had a good fortune to have used Jennifer’s services on a trip to Europe. Jennifer provides invaluable services from the planning of the trip to the actual implementation of the trip when you are on vacation. We found it especially comforting using Jennifer on this trip as it was our first trip abroad since the outbreak of Covid and we knew that we could count on Jennifer and her team to look out for us while we were in Rome. Also, Jennifer has learned how we like to travel and this made the planning process easy and fun.

Jennifer arranged for us to stay at the Hotel Eden while we were in Rome. The staff at the hotel were so nice to us and looked out for us during our stay. They worked with Jennifer to make sure that we got our Covid test at the hotel for our return to the United States. The staff at the Hotel Eden sure that we were comfortable and this made the trip even more enjoyable.

Jennifer also arranged some great experiences during our time in Rome. By far, our favorite experiences were exclusive visits to the Galleria Borghese and the Galleria Doria Pamphilj with Alessia, our favorite guide during this trip. Alessia was able to navigate both galleries so that we saw the most we could during our limited time and her knowledge of the art in each location was outstanding. Two other experiences which were highlights during our trip were a day trip to Naples/Pompeii with our guide Liberata and driver Salvatore as well as a lovely food tour in the Trastevere neighborhood with Luca where we got to sample some Roman delicacies.

Like our past trips, we always felt looked after by Jennifer and her team when we were in Rome. They would check in daily to see if we needed anything and they would lay out the itinerary for the next day. This was important to us during this time of Covid and in fact they made the call to cancel a planned outing when the tour guide tested positive for Covid. They offered to arrange another experience but Nancy and I decided to spend the day exploring Rome on our own.

All in all, it was another great trip planned and executed by Jennifer. We feel so fortunate that we have found Jennifer and know that everything will be spectacular and that we will be well taken care of when we are on a tour which she has arranged. We highly recommend that other travelers consider using Jennifer and we know we will use her again in the near future.

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London with only locals

NANCY FOOTER | JANUARY 26, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  I am just back from a magnificent visit to London thanks to Jonathan Epstein. Work and family obligations kept me from traveling for a few years and then when I finally was able to travel again the pandemic happened. As a regular reader of Wendy Perrin’s newsletter, I finally decided last fall that it was time to start traveling again, but that the services of an expert trip planner were probably in order. Wendy directed me to Jonathan and his wonderful colleague Katie who were super attentive to my interests and also my circumstance as a woman traveling alone. I could not be more grateful to them.

When Katie told me this might be one of few chances I would have to meet and hear mostly Brits in London I’m not sure I really believed her. January in London is the off season after all, but still I never expected to see Westminster Abbey with only 5 other visitors! The same was true almost everywhere I went, whether Churchill’s War Rooms, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s, Hampton Court Palace, Tower of London, British Museum. The food markets were busy but mostly with locals, and the same was true in the pubs and restaurants. Londoners were COVID cautious and respectful, with almost universal masking.

My tours were fantastic and my guides were smart, knowledgeable and fun. I really felt like I’d made new friends when we parted company. Jonathan and Katie steered me toward a few tours I might not have otherwise done – as a great travel planner should – and that made my days especially interesting. Alex and Emma made London come alive for me, not just through great history lessons and fun facts, but also by showing me different ways to experience the city. I would not have thought about London street art but Alex is an expert and I had so much fun learning about it from her. And Emma’s history of London in four drinks ended up in a gin distillery – what’s not to love about a great history lesson with a gin and tonic in hand! I really wanted to visit Hampton Court Palace again and fit in a visit to Oxford. Simon, my driver guide, made the day extra special by suggesting we include a stop at Runnymede and also asked if I’d like to attend Evensong at one of the college chapels in Oxford. The day was filled with great conversation, meaningful history, glorious sites and capped by a beautiful service at New College chapel.

My hotel could not have been more perfect – not just the room, also the dining room and mostly importantly the caring staff. Located across from Kensington Palace with easy access to the tube and bus and all of Hyde Park, I almost felt like a local. The Milestone is quintessentially English – just what I wanted.

Between the time I booked the trip and finally left the Covid rules must have changed three times. Jonathan and team kept me updated and reassured. Like many other travelers have said, I almost felt safer in London than I do here at home.

Thanks Jonathan and team for a memorable trip!

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Kenya safari with private flights

SAMANTHA THIEL | JANUARY 26, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  My husband and I are always thankful that we have selected a Wendy Perrin-recommended planner for our most significant trips. This trip was no exception! As we were headed to Africa for a wedding over the holidays, we decided to extend our stay and spend 8 days in Kenya on safari. Wendy connected us with Dan & his team, who planned an exceptional journey for us. Dan was highly engaged from our first call, asking detailed questions about our expectations, wishes for the trip, and prior experiences, to get a sense of what was important for us when we travelled. What resulted was a magical experience. We spent 3 days at a really unique camp in the Namunyak Conservancy, where we were able to learn about how the local tribes are being integrated into the conservation efforts. We were incredibly well-taken care of, including getting a private flight from the local airstrip to our primary airstrip to avoid a 2+ hour bumpy drive! Our second camp, just outside of the Mara, also exceeded expectations, with fabulous service, food and spa.

This felt like the perfect trip for on-going pandemic risk. We felt safe throughout, with most of our time spent outdoors and with strict restrictions around vaccination status and masks. When we first booked, the world had calmed down, but with Omicron hitting the world in December, we had a lot of last minute stress… Dan was fabulous with continuously communicating through changing restrictions and ensuring that we had all the paperwork and could meet our testing requirements. Whenever any bumps arose (e.g., company to take our departure test was late), Dan was available via WhatsApp and quick to respond.

10/10 would recommend Dan and his team. For folks looking to go on safari in East Africa – any time of year is great! You will have different experiences based on timing (e.g., Great Migration, vs. just normal safari) but the views and experience are breath-taking no matter the timing.

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Antarctica and South Georgia Island expedition cruise

LAURIE RICHTER | JANUARY 24, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  My husband and I just returned from a cruise to South Georgia and Antarctica on Le Lyrial. It was not the trip I started thinking we were going to take but a long conversation with Ashton and Chris set me straight. I originally wanted to see the northern lights but my timing was all wrong and they suggested that we head south instead as our January timing was perfect for the southern hemisphere summer. They presented me with several options for boats along with plusses and minuses for each. They also strongly suggested we include South Georgia on our itinerary and I am so glad we took their advice.

Our boat was chartered by Abercrombie and Kent for this sailing and they don’t miss a beat. We also purchased our insurance and our flights through A&K so they could be accountable if something needed to be changed. Chris helped me choose an appropriate cabin size and location and we were not disappointed. There was also a lengthy list of items that were needed for these unique weather conditions and their advice was very helpful.

Part of the appeal of this trip during Covid was the isolation but in reality, the Covid situation was so fluid that from the time we left until we flew back into the US, we were covid tested 6 times with the possibility that we would be quarantining somewhere foreign with a positive test. A&K were very conscientious about testing us at every location at their expense and there were typically a few people who we left behind as a result.

We were masked on the ship all the time except when we were eating or drinking and when we were outside on excursions. The itinerary was terrific and we were blessed with relatively calm seas and good weather. The A&K expedition crew was superb in that they were both knowledgable and very personable. The Ponant crew (restaurant and housecleaning) were also very good. Other than masking and repeated testing, it was easy to forget about Covid for a while.

The other way in which Covid affected us was this itinerary normally includes a stop in the Falklands but it had to be skipped because the Falklands are closed to outsiders. As a result, our first cruising length was three full days at sea from Ushuaia to South Georgia which was a long time. All in all, this itinerary contained seven full sea days and calm seas in the southern ocean are still fairly rough so this is not a cruise for the seasick prone.

The evening before our last day of excursions in Antarctica, we got news that there was a crew member with a medical emergency and the crew had determined we had to turn around and head back to Ushuaia for him to have surgery. As a result, we had a full extra day in Ushuaia and the expedition crew wanted to keep us in our bubble so we would test negative to be able to fly back into the US. They arranged for us to have a long afternoon catamaran ride in the bay at Ushuaia and it was the warmest day of the season (72 degrees). It was spectacular and such a great way to end our cruise, not to mention an inspired pivot by the crew who had to put it together quickly. Towards the end, several crew members did test positive and were taken off the boat to quarantine elsewhere. Fortunately, only one guest tested positive the whole time we were on the boat. It was pretty miraculous.

One other thing I’d like to mention about Ashton and Chris is that they were very savvy about Antarctica cruise ship amenities that are worthwhile vs. ones that are gimmicky and wouldn’t be particularly useful. You have to have a deep knowledge of the companies and their products to know this and I appreciated not making the mistake of being attracted to the shiny object of the day.

Would I use them again to arrange a similar trip? Yes.

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Paris for a milestone birthday

ANNE BARGE CLEGG | JANUARY 24, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Because of great advice from Wendy Perrin about traveling to Paris during Covid, my friend, Cam and I had the most PERFECT six days in Paris imaginable! Wendy put us in touch with a “Guardian Angel” travel expert, Jennifer Viriglio and from the moment we landed until the moment we left, every detail was handled flawlessly! The guides and staff were consummate professionals not to mention gracious and totally accommodating. The most wonderful Alain Ducasse river cruise was one of the highlights of the first day, not to mention all of the incredible restaurants that followed. Needless to say, I will never plan another trip without Wendy’s guidance and recommendations….there was not a moment that was not impeccable!

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Private yacht charter in the Galapagos

COLLEEN GRAZIOSO | January 23, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Ashton Palmer and his team did an incredible job helping us plan our vacation of a lifetime to the Galapagos to celebrate our Dad’s 75th Birthday (and my 50th!). We booked this trip THREE YEARS AGO, before Covid was even a thought. We can’t believe that all fifteen of us made it and were so grateful to Ashton and his team for advising us and setting up all of our Covid testing (the rules on which changed 23 days before our departure!). My dad, sisters and their families all came. We spent 8 days / 7 nights aboard the Seamans Journey, which is a sturdy, and very comfortable catamaran that sleeps 16 passengers across 8 passenger cabins. The ship has a crew of ten that provided amazing service. It was incredible to have the entire boat to ourselves. Normally, they carry multiple families who don’t know each other. With no internet onboard, we spent real quality time relaxing together. My dad claims he spent more time with his grandkids on this trip than over the past 15 years combined! The itinerary is pre-set by the Galapagos park service so there were no decisions, no coordination, no arguments about anything! Although a few of the islands do have inhabitants, we ate all meals on board and slept on board every night- no need to pack & unpack, which was lovely. The food was delicious and they were fantastic at accommodating my one vegetarian and one dairy free family members. Like really fantastic. They had an alternate dairy free option at every turn- even her own hot cocoa waiting after snorkeling. The water is surprisingly chilly (even though we crossed the Equator twice!) but all wetsuits and snorkeling gear were available for a very reasonable $10 / day rental rate. Several of us are certified SCUBA divers and were a little upset before we got there that we wouldn’t be diving on this trip, but I have to say, the snorkels we did on this trip were more spectacular that any dives I have ever done, anywhere. We had penguins nibbling our fins, watched sea turtles noshing underwater and sea lions performing acrobatics in front of us–every single day. We saw rays and whales and sharks and eels and tons of colorful fish and starfish the size of hubcaps. If you like to snorkel, this trip will top anything you have done, I guarantee it! We also walked on young lava around volcanos, hiked up mountains, kayaked in caves, saw tons and tons and tons of all sorts of iguanas, swam on deserted white sand beaches, watched octopus in tide pools, walked next to giant land tortoises and saw lots and lots of blue footed boobies. There were more birds than I can re-count. Flightless cormorants were especially interesting to watch and learn about. We had a private English speaking guide (Camilo) with us the whole time and he was all you could hope for in a guide. Patient, knowledgeable, funny, insightful and kind. Our activities for the next day were posted on a white board every night and everyone could choose to attend any or all of the activities. No one held anyone back if they chose to stay aboard the ship and relax on the sundeck or read in the air conditioned lounge. It was a perfect multi generational trip. Highly recommended!!

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Christmas Markets in Poland and Hungary

SARAH WADE | JANUARY 20, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  I worked with Gwen and her team to travel with my sister, mom and her best friend to the Christmas Markets in December 2021. Our original plan had us going to Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna for 9 nights in early December 2021. Gwen put a great plan together for us and we were excited to take this trip.

As we approached the time to depart (about a week before we were to leave) we began to get notices from Gwen (and we saw on the news) that one by one each city was cancelling the Christmas markets and eventually Austria (where two of three cities were planned) closed down entirely. Gwen’s team was on top of it each step of the way. They offered us alternatives and reassured us that there were still options for where we could travel. Gwen was emailing us day and night leading up to our trip and we talked on the phone when needed. They went above and beyond to make sure we were comfortable and happy with our decision. Our group decided that we really wanted to take the trip so we were flexible about where we would go.

Eventually, we settled on an itinerary of Warsaw, Krakow, and Budapest. Because of all the moving parts we didn’t even have the full itinerary until the day or two before we departed. The absolute best thing we asked Gwen to add for us was VIP arrival and departure service in our European cities. When we got to Warsaw we were whisked off to a private lounge, the staff took our passports and COVID arrival info and handled all the details for us. As we relaxed in the lounge, they took care of our arrival into the country. No lines, no frustrations with procedures, and no stress. We loved it! Before we knew it, we were being taken to our private transfer and off to the hotel. We even got a call during our ride to the hotel from the in-country planner who checked to make sure all was well. It was worth every penny. In fact, we loved it so much, we asked Gwen to add the VIP departure service to our flight leaving Budapest at the end of the trip. Once again, we hung out in a private lounge as everybody took care of our paperwork. We were escorted through private security and then to a private transfer right to the door of the plane where we were the first to board. Fantastic!

Our three city choices were great. Some highlights:
*the gingerbread cookie baking class in Warsaw was wonderful.
*In Krakow our tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau was so moving and impactful. Our guide was incredible and we were so fortunate to have him explain the history of this terrible place to us. We found out that our guide’s father was a survivor of Auschwitz and it was humbling to have him share with us. Guides really do make or break tours.
*A private ornament making session with a renowned hand-painted ornament business. They were even so sweet as to bake us an apple cake and our guide along with the owner sang us traditional Polish Christmas carols as we decorated our ornaments and the snow fell outside. Quite the experience!
*A fantastic meal at the beautiful castle restaurant in Egar with Hungarian wines paired to our various courses – the best meal of the trip!
*A private boat on the Danube to see the lights of night time Budapest.

I appreciated Gwen’s team being willing to make changes for us as we moved through the itinerary. Because we didn’t have a lot of time to process the itinerary before we left, there were some small things we wanted to change as we went along. Gwen’s in-country team handled them with no problem.

Even though this was not the trip we had originally planned, we ended up with a trip that we all enjoyed and were glad to be able to take our girl trip. I would highly recommend using Gwen and her team. They were complete professionals and there is no way this trip would have happened without them. It was such a relief to know the logistics were handled and we had someone on call should anything change or become difficult. I will definitely use Gwen again!

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France: Champagne tasting in Reims, cooking class in Paris…

KATIE HAUSFELD | JANUARY 19, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  My husband and I just returned from Paris just over two weeks ago and I’ve already been in contact with Jennifer regarding planning a girls’ trip with 3 friends for a belated 40th birthday! Jennifer and her team planned a delightful trip for us, with a good mix of culture and relaxation – highlights included a day trip to Reims, complete with an intimate lunch with champagne pairings at a family-owned champagne house; a market tour and curated cooking class in the beautiful home of a French chef near the Eiffel Tower; and a private wine and cheese tasting at a historic wine shop with a young sommelier highlighting new and emerging winemakers from less well-known regions in France. Jennifer’s team was very responsive in the planning – quickly addressing any questions or concerns we had given the ever-changing Covid guidelines – and checked in with us regularly during our trip, seamlessly managing a few last-minute, unforeseen itinerary changes. Cannot recommend Jennifer highly enough – and am looking forward to all the fun she has in store for my return trip to the Champagne region with my friends later this year!

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Italy: Barolo wine tasting, The Last Supper with no crowds..

GINA MELTON | JANUARY 19, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We were so very fortunate to be able to experience an impromptu trip to Milan and the Piedmont region in early January 2022- and could have never have done it without Jennifer and her team. First, the trip was initiated and planned in less than 3 weeks. Jennifer provided excellent advice on how to insure our trip and how to minimize risk if we found ourselves in the unfortunate circumstance of testing positive for Covid while we were abroad or before travel–since the new variant was impacting the world. Even though we are vaccinated, knowing I had a way back home to my children if we tested positive allowed me to enjoy the trip and not worry. The trip itself was glorious. We went to a Barolo village and had the chance to visit a Barolo wine cellar for a private tasting and tour. Our guides in Torino and Milan were excellent, and we relished the opportunity to take in the Last Supper and other masterpieces with no crowds. Like, NONE. In Piedmont, the weather was mild and we were able to spend a lot of time outdoors. And our vaccine and booster allowed us to eat in restaurants with other vaccinated people and not put our health in jeopardy. Our private transfers and drivers were professional and masked at all times, and we honestly felt safer on the trip than we do at public places at home. We made some wonderful memories, and cannot say enough about how this trip abroad gave us a much needed change to start 2022. Thank you Jennifer!!

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Sustainable Costa Rica: private reserves, indigenous communities…

PHYLLIS BOSSIN | JANUARY 18, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL My husband and I just returned from a 12 day trip to Costa Rica (January 2-14). This is the second trip to Costa Rica we have taken using Irene to plan our trip. It was every bit as perfect as our first trip. We stayed at three different places: one in the Arenal Volcano region, one further north overlooking Lake Nicaragua and one about an hour and a half from San Jose. One place was better than the last. Everywhere we stayed was intimate and personal. There wasn’t a detail that Irene didn’t pay attention to. Our guide, through the first part of the trip, was outstanding. We had a great experience with him–he was knowledgeable and fun to be with! We had the opportunity to engage with a member of an indigenous community and learn about that culture. We also had an opportunity to visit a private reserve and meet the people who started it and who are working with communities to assist them in having potable water. Part of sustainable travel is engaging in these types of activities. Our trip was perfect and we can’t recommend Irene highly enough!

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Portugal: wine tasting, cooking classes, Lisbon & coastal towns…

LISA RUANE | JANUARY 17, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  When my husband and I decided to travel to the enchanting city of Lisbon, Portugal to watch our son participate in a marathon we immediately contacted Wendy Perrin and team for an outstanding travel specialist recommendation and we were not disappointed!! Goncalo and his team made our trip amazing and memorable!!
I cannot imagine traveling during these uncertain times without the assistance and knowledge of the spectacular travel specialists that work with Wendy Perrin and her team. Goncalo proved invaluable in planning our trip and making sure we were in compliance with the covid rules that were continuously changing. He made sure our vaccine records were properly registered, informed us of any changes in covid rules, and also arranged for our covid pcr tests to be administered in the convenience of our amazing hotel room. Also, the results of our tests were texted to our phones in time for our departure to the United States. The entire process was easy, stress free and hassle free too!
In regards to our trip, Goncalo continued to add tremendous value! We began our trip planning with a zoom call in which Goncalo covered everything from hotels, tours, restaurant reservations, airport transfers, etc.,, He listened to our expectations for our trip and truly exceeded them! After our zoom call, Goncalo put together an outstanding list of recommendations and helped us put together an incredible itinerary that included several private tours, a wine tasting at a local vineyard and an excellent cooking class that covered some of our favorite Portuguese dishes.
The tours were incredible and highlighted the rich history of Lisbon and some surrounding coastal towns too. Every tour was outstanding and our knowledgeable guides provided deep insight into the wonderful history of Portugal. I would also recommend the cooking class and market tours provided by Goncalo’s group. It was simply perfect and provided us with an unmatched perspective that we could never experience on our own! We really loved it all and will never forget our last day in Portugal that ended with the wine tasting tour of a local vineyard. It was truly a wonderful way to end our day of tours.
We cannot thank Goncalo and his team enough for all their hard work and preparation in making our trip to Portugal so very special. Goncalo and his team were very detailed and provided exceptional value to every aspect of our trip. Every recommendation was spot on! We also appreciated their welcome basket on our arrival to the hotel. It was obvious they were there to please and they certainly achieved it! Thank you Wendy Perrin and all for helping to make our trip to Portugal unforgettable!

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Safari with teens in Kenya

BETH NURY | JANUARY 15, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  2021/22 Christmas and New Year’s in Kenya – An unforgettable Nury family holiday extravaganza!

Initial discussions with Cherri and her team began in July 2021 to further investigate if 2021 would be the year to go on safari. What Covid hurdles would we encounter? How would we handle a trip cancellation if a family member tested Covid positive days prior to departure? Where is the best place to see the Big 5?

She and her team answered those questions (and plenty more!) enabling us to explore Kenya for 15 days. Cherri’s team guided us from the beginning and insisted on three key items to avoid possible trip derailment and an immense financial disaster.
1. Transportation: Due to Covid country entry requirements regularly changing with little notice (the U.S. changed their entry requirements two times after we booked our trip in July), Cherri recommended a direct flight from JFK via Kenya Airways. This smart strategy limited us to only one Covid test when leaving the U.S. and avoided the possibility of additional tests for connecting international flights and airports. Cherri also recommended limiting our travel to one country, Kenya, to again avoid additional, costly Covid tests in order to enter another African country.
2. Insurance: Cherri highly recommended we purchase Trip Cancellation insurance and evaluate the optional CFAR (Cancel For Any Reason) endorsement. I generated quotes via Squaremouth.com and ended up with an AXA policy with the CFAR endorsement. Granted, the policy was expensive and the CFAR endorsement only indemnified me for 75% (industry standard) of the total trip cost, but it provided peace of mind as the Delta and Omicron variants raced across the U.S. with me and my family as potential targets!
3. Health & Safety: Cherri recommended bringing paper copies of all travel documents: Covid vaccines, health insurance cards, Trip Cancellation policy, Covid test results, passports etc. and not rely on my phone as the only document location. This strategy enabled us to move through airport check-in quicker than others because Kenya Airways wanted to review paper copies and not documents on a phone. Cherri’s team also coordinated our return Covid tests at Saruni Mara with a Kenyan doctor prior to leaving. The day following the tests, results were emailed to me at Giraffe Manor, our final stop, and the staff was instrumental with printing the lab report with the QR Code which was required in order to board our flight home.

The accommodations recommended by Cherri were superb. The hospitality was warm, the bush guides were knowledgeable, the food was excellent and the facilities were immaculate and regularly wiped down to eliminate any threat of a virus. A special shout out to Sasaab and Saruni Mara for going above and beyond by arranging meaningful visits to local people! Cherri’s tip to bring some candy and small gifts for the village children as an icebreaker was all that was needed for smiles, giggles and an insider’s view of the locals’ homes and lifestyles.

I cannot forget to note the sleeper of the trip: Governors Balloon Safari. My husband and I were skeptical of this bucket list item, envisioning being stuffed in a basket with other random tourists prior to sunrise. Boy, were we wrong. An overwhelming sense of nostalgia overtook us as we rose high above the trees of Masai Mara, spotting elephants, giraffes, hippos and buffalo in their natural habitat for the hour ride. It brought back memories of our 1970s childhood: Sunday nights, the entire family parked around the vintage RCA console television, spellbound by the breathtaking treetop scenes from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. But this time, it was live and we were filming!

How could I conclude without mentioning the game drives, the true meaning for the trip? Our guides had us up early for good reason. We regularly viewed big cats over kills every morning. Breakfast in the wild was a chance to pause and reflect. Night drives were full of excitement as we watched the drama of life and death unfold again.

Africa, as revealed by Cherri’s team, is truly the “trip of a lifetime!”

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Panama: private-island resort & private canal tour

NANCY HANKEE | JANUARY 15, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  I cannot be more thankful we proceeded with our trip, December 30 to January 10, 2022. Two weeks prior we explored the possibility of canceling due to Covid. Susan Elizabeth, from Eric’s team, was instrumental in providing timely feedback on the Covid environment and addressed all concerns we shared. The hotels arranged by Susan were spectacular. The “piece de resistance” was the Isle Palenque portion of our trip. To be on an island with only ten casitas was just “what the doctor ordered”! And it culminated in a WOW Moment!! Wendy, thank you! Our boat ride with champagne and a charcuterie board in the mangroves at sunset was fabulous. On the return to the resort for dinner, we assumed the WOW Moment was complete. To our surprise the manager ushered us to a private area of the beach to have dinner with candles leading to our private tent. The chef prepared a five-course meal and introduced each course to us as they were served. What an amazing evening!!!! Thank you so much Wendy!
Our private trip to the Panama Canal was so informative. To sightsee alongside the canal with no other tourists and a guide who had a wealth of knowledge about the canal made the tour so special.
Our hikes into the mountains were glorious. Lush greenery and our knowledgeable guide added the information we needed as we hiked the beautiful terrain.
Again, thank you Wendy for the WOW Moment and for organizing such a special group of travel agents. We have taken over ten trips with your WOW agents and NEVER been disappointed.

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Galapagos cruise & a hacienda in the Ecuadorian highlands

KRISTEN MACLEOD | JANUARY 13, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Allie planed a 2-stage trip for 5 five of us ranging in age from 18-53 yrs, visiting Ecuador and the Galapagos from 12/27 to 1/10/2022. The first week was in Quito and the surrounding mountainous areas including Mindo and Otavalo. The last week was spent on an out-of-this-world cruise in the Galapagos.
First of all, without Allie there is no way we would have been able to correctly negotiate the shifting sands of COVID regulations in Ecuador, the Galapagos islands and for our return to the US. I mean this. Talk about value. It would have been a full-time job to get everything in order for all 5 of us and likely, we would have failed to do it all correctly, getting turned back and losing our money.
Over the month. prior to the trip she sent weekly and then bi-weekly emails updating us on the requirements and forms, which kept changing. She had us send copies of all tests results etc… to her and she kept them on the ready in case we encountered any difficulties. The cruise company that Allie set us up with and the agency, required travel insurance of some sort. Allie gave us good recommendations on this, such as check with your credit card, it may have coverage, and if not, here are recommendations. Allie made certain that both our driver and guide were fully vaccinated and they both wore N95 or KF94s the entire time. They spoke beautiful English but were also willing to let a few of us try out our Spanish when we felt up to it. As our travels from Reno began during the biggest storm we have seen in 10 years, Allie she kept in touch with the staff on the ground in Quito regarding our delays. Sure enough, when we exited the plane in Quito, our driver, Daniel, whisked us out of the airport and directly into our Mercedes Sprinter as he collected our bags. Unfortunately, given the delay due to the storm, our bags missed the connecting flight. Daniel went to speak to the baggage office in Quito before we even left the airport grounds. The local travel agency started making calls and sure enough, the bags were delivered to our hotel the following day without incident. Super. I had wanted to go straight to the Galapagos cruise, but Allie had strongly advised that we leave lead time in Quito beforehand – just exactly for reasons like this! If we hadn’t planned the trip with the lead time, we wouldn’t have had our luggage for our 8-day cruise! Allie booked us in at spectacular but smaller places, thereby avoiding crowded areas. The mild weather allowed most of our touring to take place outside. We were impressed with how organized, efficient and strict, but sensible, the Ecuadorians were regarding COVID safety. Allie’s local partners chose the perfect driver and guide for us. They both had university degrees in tourism. Additionally, our guide, Kristina, had a second degree in Environmental Science. She was an absolute fountain of information and perfect for science geeks like us! Kristina and Daniel were a great pair, we always felt perfectly safe, and were so impressed with how smoothly they organized our transitions. This was particularly key when we had to swing through the Quito airport and get pre-Galapagos PCR testing, as well as when we went back for our Rapid Antigen test prior to our trip home. They had it so dialed in that we waited no more than 10 minutes despite the long line of people. Again, talk about value! Who wants to spend an hour waiting in line at the airport clinic multiple times during the trip? Additionally, Allie emailed us repeatedly reminding us to email results to her and print them out at the hotel as well. Then Allie made sure to email our Galapagos PCR test results to the cruise ship and confirmed their receipt! All of this was crucial as vaccination status, test results and temperature checks came, at times, unexpectedly and we had to be ready.
All in all, despite the initial luggage delay, everything went seamlessly and almost unbelievably, we all tested negative each time.
So… what are the can’t miss parts of our trip?
1) That Galapagos cruise with Ecoventura (we were on the Theory) !!! Indescribable experience. Small ship – only 14 people on a 20 person ship. Both of the other families had college/young adult kids. We were a perfect match and this was not entirely an accident. Their sister ship, the Origin, traveled in tandem with us and had a very different passenger mix. Our crew struck the perfect tone between high-level service and a more casual, friendly attitude, to match the young people on the boat. This was worth the price tag!! Trust me!! Our naturalists were top notch. As a bunch of science nerds we were impressed! really! Perhaps most notable was that absolutely everyone, from Captain Peter, on down to our panga drivers was equally excited the wildlife sightings. You could see the excitement on the staffs’ faces as they ran to grab cameras and Go-Pros when a pod of pilot whales followed us or when penguins were sighted diving in front of us while snorkeling. Our captain took the ship 2 hours out of its way so that we could get a good view of the volcano that started erupting on Isabella, necessitating a longer nighttime navigation for him and his first mate. When you added the almost unbelievable geology and wildlife of the Galapagos Islands to the outstanding ship and crew, it was magic!
2) Otavalo and the Hacienda Cusín outside of Quito. The Hacienda is such a special place. Highlights include; the buildings dating back to 1605, the game room, old fashioned squash courts, horseback riding, beautiful monastery, the hot water bottles at the foot of your bed and the private cooking class that they designed for us on their expansive back lawn. I would go back in a heartbeat and stay longer. The surrounding area is beautiful with San Pablo Lake and the Parque Condor which houses injured birds of prey including the Condor! We visited traditional indigenous weavers and Andean instrument musicians and craftsman as well as the lively and well-known Otavalo market.
I am out of time and breath, but could go on and on. The experiences were unforgettable, but none of them would have happened without Allie’s understanding of our interests and her sensational organizational skills.
Thank you Allie and thank you to the local staff at South Expeditions, as well as our beloved crew of the Theory! And thank you Wendy and staff, without whom, we would not have found these folks.

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Three-day layover in Istanbul

LAUREN SCHOR | JANUARY 13, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL Karen and her team planned a perfect multigenerational trip to Istanbul for our family! From the moment we arrived we felt the special treatment. We were met off the plane and moved swiftly through the airport with VIP service and then transferred to our vehicle with not only a driver but also an escort (separate from our guide) who we saw throughout the trip–he even accompanied us to dinner to make sure everything was fine with our reservations. We were greeted with a welcome bag including perfectly curated mini guidebooks with information you would not be able to find on your own, covid-related items like extra masks and sanitizers and little gifts which were so appreciated, especially by our ten year old. A really nice touch. All of our activities were private and felt safe–from a cooking class to a river cruise on the Bosphorus (which I definitely recommend to get an overview of the city when you arrive). We had the same driver each day in an immaculate vehicle equipped with wifi and always bottles of water. Our guide Cenk was fabulous, so knowledgeable and he knew all the hidden gems to take us to–even diverting from our planned itinerary once he got to know us and had a better idea of things we would enjoy. When we had a couple of covid-related challenges that required an immediate change it was handled quickly and effectively by both Cenk and Karen’s office. Most of the trip was not that different from how it would have been pre-pandemic, other than the mask wearing. We found that most people (tourists and locals) wore masks both indoors and outdoors which made us feel safer. In our short trip we were able to hit most of the highlights of the city without feeling rushed, thanks to Cenk. Usually I like to research where to eat every meal and snack, but this time I went with Karen and her team’s suggestions and they didn’t disappoint! A couple of months before the trip we weren’t sure if we felt safe traveling to Istanbul at this stage in the pandemic, so I reached out to Wendy. Wendy suggested I speak with Karen and I’m so glad I did!

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Costa Rica with college-age kids

JULIE KELLY | JANUARY 11, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We had originally planned to go to New Zealand over the holidays but due to Covid restrictions that trip had to be postponed and we shifted gears to locations we could visit and landed on Costa Rica. We connected with Pierre Gedeon for this trip and were extremely grateful we did. We had been to Costa Rica before but with Covid decided it would be better to have the assistance of a travel specialist even though we were knowledgeable of the country. Having a resource that was up to date on all of the covid requirements, help us with testing and ensured we had a safe and fun trip was invaluable. Pierre was extremely mindful of our concerns and confirmed that all of our arrangements met with our requirements. We had our flights completely changed as a result of Covid and Pierre and his team immediately set to work on changing literally all of our hotels and activities. Pierre checked in on us throughout the trip to ensure all was going well and was available for questions and requests during our stay. The trip highlights for us were rappelling down multiple waterfalls, a wave runner/snorkeling experience and a zipline tour next to the Arenal volcano. All of the hotels we stayed at had amazing staff that not only were very focused on covid protocols but were so kind and engaging, it just added to the trip. All of our transportation was coordinated by Pierre which alleviated any potential stress with getting to our various locations. This trip was with our two college age children, which these days getting time with them is getting harder and harder, so having such a wonderful trip with them was extra special. Thank you to Pierre and team for making our trip spectacular!

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Private guiding in Venice

JENNIFER ROSENBERG | JANUARY 11, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We had a great experience with Jennifer and her staff. We planned a trip to Italy over Christmas and New Year’s 2021-2022, but had already booked accommodations, so asked Jennifer to assist with booking tours and activities. We were afraid Christmas and New Year’s day would be “dead days” with nothing open and nothing to do, but Jennifer was able to find us really interesting activities. On Christmas day we had a cooking class with a local chef and then sat down to Christmas lunch with her family, just outside of Florence. On New Years Day, we had a golf cart tour of Rome. She booked us walking tours in both Florence and Siena and our guides were outstanding. Finally, the highlight of our tour was a truffle hunt, followed by lunch (made with our truffles) and wine tasting at a Tuscan vineyard. We had one tour that went awry, but within minutes of contacting Jennifer’s staff, they had gotten us a full refund. Overall, great experience.

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Chile: Santiago, Valparaiso, wine country & Atacama Desert

JEANNIE MULLEN | JANUARY 9, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL Just back from the holidays in Chile, December 22, 2021 – January 7, 2022. This was my second trip (Russia in October of 2021) using a Wendy Perrin travel planner. I had had such a great experience with Wendy’s first suggestion that I decided to try her again. I was looking for a travel destination over the 2021 holidays that involved a place that was warm and that I had not been to before. With Brook’s advice and counsel I settled on Chile and followed her recommendation to use Tom. To cut to the chase, I could not have been any more pleased with Brook’s recommendation and with Tom’s trip planning and assistance. To get the covid questions out of the way … all of the assistance with necessary testing and country specific entry documents was invaluable and relieved a lot of pre trip stress. Tom did a great job with all of those details, which would otherwise take away from the joy of travel. As for the trip itself, since I wanted to save Easter Island, the Lake District and Patagonia for a future trip this coming year with friends, we focussed on Santiago and its environs, wineries, Valparaiso, Vina del Mar and the Atacama desert. The highlights:

1) Vina Vik in Millahue Valley, south of Santiago – what a phenomenal location, beautiful art and architecture, terrific young staff and fabulous food. Every detail taken care of no matter how small. I hiked every day starting with the first afternoon I arrived, took a tour and had a tasting at their winery, took a cooking class with their chef, Camilo, which started with choosing our ingredients for lunch from their organic garden, and also took a mixology class with their bartender and learned the secret to a pisco sour. There was also the option to take day trips to other nearby wineries.

2) City tour of Santiago, a walk through the boho neighborhoods in Valparaiso (shopping, street art, great food) and a fresh seafood lunch in Vina Del Mar. My guide, Valentina, was interesting, knowledgeable and had a great sense of humor. She was a wealth of knowledge about current events in Chile (I’m a nerd about politics … they have just elected a new president and are writing a new constitution). She also knows where to go for the best Peruvian food (which I was on the hunt for). Our driver, Rodrigo, was fun and interesting and simplified a lot of our logistics.

3) Winery tours – In addition to the days spent at Vina Vik, we made stops at Vina Montes, Harás de Pirquie (organic) and finally, the giant, Santa Rita (phenomenal and interesting tour and lunch). All great places, all different and interesting tours and tastings. And of course, great wines.

4) And last, but not least, the Atacama desert … an unexpected pleasure and my favorite experience, hands down. You’ll have to humor me here, as I cannot say enough good things about this special place. I didn’t know what to expect when Tom first suggested the desert, but I went with it anyway and followed his advice. I never knew how beautiful the desert, this desert, could be. From every angle, at every time of day … the colors. Awasi, a Relais and Chateau property in San Pedro de Atacama, and their staff, did not disappoint … an interesting and authentic local property, fresh and creative food, an energetic, caring and engaging staff, and attention to absolutely every single detail. Every guest is assigned their own guide/trekker and 4×4 vehicle for the entirety of their stay. As luck would have it, I had two guides with me, Jota and Thibeaux, both very experienced and knowledgeable (also fun and funny) and who have worked with serious trekkers over the years. I am not a serious trekker, but they always made me feel as though I was the most important thing in their day. What a joy they both were. My first afternoon there we sat down and discussed my goals for the time I was to be there and developed a plan/calendar from that discussion. It was at that time that I apparently told them that I wanted to challenge myself, but still make it home in one piece. Each day we trekked, (always to a new and interesting place, i.e. the salt flats, the petroglyphs, canyons, etc) they added a little more difficulty, gradually increasing the elevations, and offered me technical instruction when appropriate and necessary. We’d hike in the morning and in the afternoons, never in the middle of the day when the heat was at its worst. One morning we left at 5:30 a.m. to drive to the geysers in time for the sunrise. On the way back they stopped at a scenic overlook and cooked me breakfast out of the back of the 4×4. On what would have been my last day to trek before heading to the Calama airport the next morning, Jota and Thibeaux convinced me that I could trek to the summit of Toco volcano (elevation approx 18,400 ft). I took a leap of faith and extended my trip an extra day in order to make the ascent (Tom and the Awasi staff made it easy for me to do this by handling all of those last minute travel logistics also). I hadn’t come prepared with the appropriate clothing to do the trek, so Jota and Thibeaux loaned me socks, gloves, long underwear, a heavy parka and a knit beanie. And, from the Toco base at 17,000 ft, with their encouragement and gentle instruction along the way when I became uncertain, I made it. An hour and 4o minutes for the ascent and 45 minutes for the descent. It was hard, and I had plenty of doubts along the way and I could NOT have done it without the two of them. On the way back to San Pedro, we stopped for lunch (again out of the back of the 4×4), and then they called ahead and made arrangements for a massage upon my return. When we got back to Awasi, the staff was waiting outside the front gate to congratulate me. A day that I will never, ever forget. And all because of their encouragement. That night at dinner, Pablo, the sommelier, recommended an infusion (tea) with rica rica to help me recover from the affects of the altitude. In sum, a phenomenal leg to the trip that resulted in achieving several personal bests and an unforgettable time in an infinitely beautiful desert.

Lastly, back to Tom … I goofed up my own last day of the trip in Santiago by unwittingly packing an expired personal covid test kit. Tom stepped in and fixed that as well. He made my last days in Santiago memorable and very enjoyable on extremely short notice. Kudos and thank you.

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Wellness retreat on Mexico’s coast

MICHELE AND KEN KRISKO | JANUARY 9, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We have just returned from a trip to Playa del Carmen and enjoyed a fabulous week at the Palmaia, House of Aia. What a gorgeous resort with a beautiful beach just 45 minutes to an hour south of the Cancun airport. Our trip was planned by Jose, one of Zach’s associates. They arranged private transportation to/from the airport and our hotel accommodations. We had 2 beautiful rooms for our family of 5 and enjoyed the ocean views from 3rd and 4th floors. This was a trip for just relaxing so we didn’t plan any excursions. We enjoyed the beach and pools – a perfect vacation. The staff all wore masks and we spent most of our time outside, which made it feel more comfortable. The hotel is an all inclusive serving top shelf drinks and the food was mostly vegan (though you could get seafood and meat at a few restaurants). The most delicious food we have eaten on vacation. We plan to return!

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Touring in Santiago, Chile

CATHERINE COATES | JANUARY 9, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We had a great tour of Santiago. Everything was Covid appropriate. The planner organized all logistics very well: pick-up/drop-off at our hotel, nice newish car and good driver, lunch, and most importantly, a wonderful guide. Alvin was knowledgeable, professional, and friendly. We learned about neighborhoods, history and current affairs. He was a pleasure to spend time with. We highly recommend this tour with Alvin.

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Winter trip to Iceland with Northern Lights viewing

ANN PLAZA | JANUARY 8, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We had an amazing trip to Iceland during the peak holiday season that was planned by Chris. I have used many travel planners recommended by Wendy Perrin and Chris was by far the best!

We started planning the trip relatively late and Chris worked some miracles to find us accommodations. He also found us fabulous guides and experiences. He truly was available 24-7 and provided us with morning updates on weather/road conditions and alerts for the best viewing of the Northern Lights (which we saw on our first night!). He even planned out walking guides of Reykjavik based on the types of stores/sites we wanted to visit.

There were no real problems on the trip but he did smooth out some small bumps we encountered, such as moving dinner reservations to comply with Iceland’s new Covid restrictions. It gave me great peace of mind knowing that we had Chris to support us if we had encountered any problems or tested positive while we were there. I highly recommend that anyone considering travel to Iceland should work with Chris!

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

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Mexico: San Miguel & a private villa in Puerto Vallarta

VANESSA HULME | JANUARY 7, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  When we decided on a family vacation in Mexico for three generations, plus a pre-vacation vacation for my husband and me, we knew we needed help with logistics. Also, we wanted to make sure we navigated all the ins and outs of dealing with COVID while feeling safe and still having fun.

Zach and his colleagues came through on both counts. It took us a while to get the itinerary just right, however Zach listened carefully to how we liked to travel and what activities we like. He was also very patient as we revised days and activities several times.

The first stop for my husband and me was in San Miguel de Allende. While we had initially hesitated to stay at the Rosewood because it was not in the center of town, Zach convinced us this hotel would be excellent, and he was correct. Thanks to Zach, we were upgraded to their Tower Suite, which not only came with an enormous amount of space on two levels, but its own private elevator, three outdoor patios, and two butlers! Everything about this hotel (staff, restaurants, service) was magical, and we cannot wait to return.

The tours Zach arranged in San Miguel were excellent. There were many highlights, including a market tour and cooking class with a chef, and an in-depth tour of San Miguel and Guanajuato (Zach had difficulty convincing us to spend the time on the day tour of Guanajuato, but we are so glad he did; it is a lovely, interesting city, and we were sorry we had not allocated an extra day or two to explore there).

The remainder of our trip was spent in Puerto Vallarta with the entire family. We had mentioned to Zach that, because of COVID, we wanted to stay in a private villa. We also had very specific requirements for the villa – directly on the water, large enough so we would all have our own space, fully staffed (and the staff vaccinated), close to activities, and located an easy distance from the center of Puerto Vallarta. We also wanted private activities, just to be safe. Our villa, Casa Demae II, is in a gated complex, and was exquisite and outstanding in every way – spacious bedrooms (all ensuite, and most with balconies) with views of the pool and Banderas Bay, incredible common areas, infinity pool with a swim-up bar, jacuzzi, outdoor dining areas (from where we saw whales most days), streaming services – you name it, it was there! The staff were excellent and always helpful; what a treat to always have, without asking, coffee ready in the morning and (for the adults), margaritas ready in the evening! Our chef was fantastic – we actually cancelled two dinner reservations because the food at the villa was so wonderful. Another very nice touch was simply putting the dirty clothes in the closet basket, and having clean ones reappear that afternoon. This was like having our own private hotel…but better.

As in San Miguel, the activities planned were second to none. Everyone is still talking about the whale watching tour where we saw lots of whales during our 3 hours, and the day on the private catamaran around Banderas Bay with complete crew and a chef. Also, because we had the benefit of entry to the complex Beach Club, the staff arranged for us to jet ski, paddleboard, and snorkel only a short distance away.

Zach’s overall planning made for an fantastic trip: transfers worked everywhere, excellent drivers and guides, patient in-country contacts that went above and beyond to ensure we were happy, activities planned for the entire family and others for only specific family members, with enough downtime for all of us to just relax. Most importantly, we always felt comfortable with the COVID protocols that were in place.

There is no way we could have put together this trip on our own. From the moment my husband and I landed in Guanajuato until the entire family boarded our flight home, absolutely everything was handled efficiently and worked smoothly. When we return to Mexico, we will use Zach again. Kudos to Zach and his entire staff for ensuring we had a memorable vacation!

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Argentina: horseback riding, vineyard bike rides…

CAROL JOHNSON | JANUARY 7, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  I took my husband and two adult children to Argentina for the 2021 holidays (13 day trip). I planned this trip with Maita only six weeks beforehand due to the uncertainty surrounding Covid. I wanted to be off the beaten path and stay in interesting places that offered active enjoyment of the natural beauty of Argentina. Maita helped me narrow down the locations to BA, Mendoza, Salta and Iguazu (we recently had been to the lake region and Patagonia in Chile). I also wanted to stay in family-run estancias — and though my husband and son aren’t huge fans of horseback riding — I convinced them that this is an important part of the Argentine experience. I wanted to experience the vastness of the landscape on horseback, and get to know the people, history and culture of Argentina. The trip exceeded all expectations and I can’t wait to return to Argentina — with Maita’s expert guidance. We stayed at 3 estancias which were amazing and even my husband and son enjoyed the excellent horses and gorgeous trail rides. One of these estancias had never taken paying guests before — it turned out to be one of the most unique and enjoyable travel experiences of our lives. In addition, we stayed at several small hotels when we were not at the estancias which felt very authentic (mostly Argentine travelers) and had interesting locations/architecture. Maita was able to quickly respond to all of our requests: last minute flight changes due to Covid issues, securing and changing restaurant reservations at the most popular places, arranging a last minute bike ride through the vineyards, and gave us many ideas about art galleries, sites, stores, etc. that are special. She provided us with two superb guides who made our trip enjoyable, more meaningful and active (we requested frequent walks to break up the driving). The customer service was extraordinary. I highly recommend Maita and her team.

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Egypt: Cairo, Nile cruise, the Red Sea…

BERNARDINE WU | JANUARY 7, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We had an epic family trip to Egypt over Christmas and NYEve break! Arlene & Jim set up this trip perfectly – and with very little input since we were too busy. We entrusted them to prioritize and plan our limited time in Egypt, and they did it quickly and brilliantly. The tool they use to share itinerary drafts and the final documents and suggestions were fantastic! When we faced some issues or had changes, they were quick to support us. When we had to cancel one of our group due to Covid, they tried to get as much $ back as possible. Scuba diving the Red Sea was a bucket list item for me and we pulled that off as well (even though it was a little cold). Tour leaders and Egyptologists were all awesome – helpful, knowledgeable, friendly and organized. St Regis in Cairo, Sonesta Star Nile cruise, and Savoy Sharm el Sheikh were all great choices too – especially NYEve party!

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France: hidden gems in Provence & the Riviera

JAN HEININGER | JANUARY 3, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We spent the first two weeks of December in Provence, the Riviera and Paris on an enjoyable trip planned by Philip. After we canceled two trips for late October because of COVID, we jumped on Wendy’s offer from fourteen trip specialists who were designing trips to areas safer from COVID. One was Philip who specializes in trips to Provence and the Riviera. We’d been to Provence in 2015 and loved it; this was a good way to go back, see things we had missed and also see the Riviera, which neither of us had spent much time in. We settled on a two-week trip staying outside Nice, in Aix-en-Provence and Avignon ending with four nights in Paris. This was far from high season for Provence and the Riviera so we expected to see few tourists. Our sense of this being a relatively safe choice was aided by France’s requirement for a vaccination health pass to get into almost anywhere – restaurants, hotels, museums and shops. At least, we figured, most of those we encountered would be vaccinated. In fact, we had to show our passes almost everywhere.

Philip creates elegant itineraries designed around memorable experiences. He’ll send you to the “major” sights if that’s what you want, but he especially likes to expose clients to lesser-known gems. When he learned we’d seen much of Provence, he suggested we also explore the Cote d’Azur and created a wonderful itinerary focused on memorable experiences and lesser-known sights. The hotels he chose were excellent; we especially liked Mas de Pierre in the hills northwest of Nice. Our rooms in all hotels were both comfortable and spacious—a combination less often found in France. The experiences were memorable to say the least. Philip suggested a glassblowing class in Antibes. We’d watched Netflix’s Blown Away, a glassblowing reality competition, so our ears perked up. It was a wonderful morning during which my husband and I made three glass pieces each – two vases, one bowl, two perfume bottles with fancy stoppers and my favorite, my jellyfish in a glass globe. Didier Saba, our glassblower, shipped them to the U.S. for us. The Riviera has lots of museums but Philip sent us to one of his favorites – the remarkable MACM – Museum of Classical Art–in the hilltop village of Mougins. We didn’t just tour this small museum that intersperses antiquities with Old Masters and modern art; Philip arranged for the museum director to spend three hours guiding us through it. What an enlightening experience. He arranged much of a day black-truffle hunting outside Salon de Provence, which was interesting and surprisingly educational. (They use dogs now, not pigs, because dogs can be trained with food to back away from a truffle it finds. Pigs don’t, which is why many truffle hunters are missing finger tips.) We had a delightful seven-hour private cooking class in Aix-en-Provence with a former chef who emailed us all the recipes for the dishes we’d made. We went horseback riding in La Camargue, the wetlands area south of Arles between the two branches of the Rhône River. La Camargue is famed for its white horses, bulls raised for French bullfighting (the bullfighters have to snatch a ribbon from between the bull’s horns, not kill it), and pink flamingos. We had fun riding through this region on the ranch of a former bullfighter and seeing the bulls and horses he and his elegant wife raise. We missed the flamingos due to a flat tire in our rental car that derailed our birding expedition. A don’t-miss experience was Hotel Mirande’s Table d’Haute dinner in Avignon. We dined in the hotel’s tiny cellar kitchen on a nearly all-French evening (except the chef and sommelier who spoke English), which tested my vocabulary but engaged us with locals and Belgian tourists. In Paris we did three tours including a fascinating history of the French fashion industry. We did much more but these were highlights.

Philip and his expert team including Evane Pasquier and Sarah Latrous were creative, attentive and responsive. Like the best of Wendy’s experts, Philip is good at responding to what you’re interested in but also in intuiting what you don’t know you might enjoy. We never would have known about MACM; if we hadn’t gone there and been guided by the museum’s director, we would have missed a memorable experience.

The trip was not without flaws. We learned the hard way not to stay at a hotel for three days that has closed its restaurant. My husband got food poisoning and we could get only very limited food. And don’t rent a car that doesn’t have even a donut spare tire but a container of goop to be pumped into the flat. Traffic along the Cote d’Azur was a nightmare and this wasn’t tourist season! Obviously not Phillip’s fault but true nonetheless. Going to Monaco without a guide was an exercise in frustration, as we got lost repeatedly. We thought we’d be fine with Apple Car Play but we found on all our recent trips to Europe that GPSs all-too-often lead rental car drivers astray. It seems Apple Car Play does too since we got lost several times driving through deserted hill towns. The downside to going offseason was amplified by the low volume of tourists traveling in December. We saw few except French ones and galleries and restaurants were closed all over the place. The hill towns above the Riviera were especially disappointing; half the fun comes from popping in and out of the many galleries and boutiques, but most were closed.

Philip’s guides were well chosen – knowledgeable and engaging. We’re grateful to Remy who helped me find rapid COVID tests in Aix when we had to rule out COVID in case it wasn’t food poisoning. I was glad to find it wasn’t and went off for a day of wine tasting in Cassis and on to Marseilles with Remy while my husband slept the day away. Our food tour in Nice with Franck turned out to be more a political and literary history of Nice, which was enlightening as well as enjoyable. We would happily have Philip design us another trip. Kudos to him and his team.

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Belize jungle & beach with a WOW Moment

ROBYN SMYERS| JANUARY 3, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We almost never return to the same country. As we confronted the possibility of trying to travel between Christmas and New Years in 2021, we decided to make an exception to our ordinary rule and return to Belize. In 2019, we took a fabulous family trip to Belize with the assistance of WOW Lister Patricia Johnson and her team. Everything about that 2019 trip was superb and really easy. Given that we were traveling during Covid, we wanted easy again.

The wisdom of that choice was completely validated by our experience the second time around. First, Patricia and the team knew us well and planned a great itinerary, which was helpfully provided to us on an app on our phones. Our family of 5, with our three active teenagers, spent 4 nights at The Lodge at Chaa Creek in the jungle, and 7 nights at the beach resort at Las Terrazas on Ambergris Caye. While based in the jungle, we kept our three teenagers busy with horseback riding, cave tubing and visiting the Mayan ruins at Xunantunich. We enjoyed fantastic gourmet meals and even squeezed in some time at the spa and the pool. While based at Ambergris Caye, we had many leisurely days at the pool and beach, but also enjoyed two special days of snorkeling, fishing and barbequing on the beach with the same wonderful boating captain we’d had two years earlier. One of those two days was with close friends from our hometown who also planned their trip with Patricia Johnson upon our recommendation.

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

The excellent itinerary was matched by superior management of all logistics. Everything went smoothly and just as planned. We were met on time at every spot by drivers with signs with our names, and all of the guides were first-rate. Importantly, Covid safety protocols received the attention they deserve. We stayed only at hotels with the strictest Covid policies and appreciated the ease of getting Covid antigen tests on the day before departure through the hotel. Prior to departure, Patricia promptly answered all of our questions about Covid requirements and safety conditions. We definitely felt safer in Belize than we did at home.

All in all, the trip was an A+. We had quality time as a family, and interesting, memorable experiences in a beautiful, diverse country. Thanks to Patricia Johnson and the team for making it all so easy. We are very grateful.

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Christmas at Disney World

ANN MARIE BELL | DECEMBER 31, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  I recently returned from a trip to Disney World planned by Michelle (12/22/2021-12/27/2021) with my husband and two children (19 & 21). We visited WDW several times when the kids were smaller, but knew the trip would be different now that they were older. Michelle did a thorough intake call to understand what was important to us–taking in the new Star Wars land and enjoying the fireworks. She was able to secure great reservations for us (including drinks at Oga’s Cantina, dinner at the new Space 220 restaurant in Epcot, and two different reservations that allowed for great views of the fireworks). She suggested moving from our historical go-to hotel (the Contemporary) to one that was walkable to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. We never would have made that choice on our own and it worked out perfectly. We had hoped to do some “behind the scenes” tours, but those were unavailable due to Covid. Even with pandemic restrictions, Michelle was able to craft an amazing itinerary filled with stand-out experiences. She reached out during our trip to check in and on our last day rearranged our car service to pick us up earlier given the delays that were being reported at airports due to the pandemic. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner to plan our trip. Thank you, Michelle and her entire team!

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Family trip to Italy and Switzerland with a WOW Moment

REBECCA BARTLETT | DECEMBER 30, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  My family of six—including four daughters, ages 5 through 11—traveled to Italy and Switzerland in November/December 2021. Maria pulled it all together on relatively short notice; I think we had only four weeks of lead time. She arranged for great hotels, fun excursions, and private guides in Florence and Zurich who were fantastic with the girls. It was really nice to have the same driver the whole time we were in a city, and each driver was excellent and very accommodating. We had a fantastic time making pizza in Florence, and another major highlight was our WOW Moment. Thank you so much, Wendy, we really enjoyed it! We walked across the river in Florence to a more residential neighborhood and visited an artist’s studio, where she welcomed us and helped us make our own mosaics in her found-object style. While they dried, we enjoyed sandwiches and cake in the cafe. The artist and Elvira (our guide) were so friendly and welcoming it was a real treat to spend the afternoon with them. As for Covid, we felt pretty safe: Things felt mostly normal (but with masks…and a QR code app in Switzerland). The Italians and Swiss seemed comfortable and ready to move on, which put us at ease as well. Maria arranged for Covid tests for us prior to our return flight. Everything went smoothly, and it was nice not to have to worry about anything. I will definitely call Maria again when we return to Italy or Switzerland.

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Oman: Muscat, desert, mountains, coast…

JUDY CALVERT | DECEMBER 27, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL Oman is a total gem that was a fun and different adventure!
Nov 25-Dec 7, 2021
We reached out to Dan Waters back in August 2020, and honestly, I found him a joy to work with. Very responsive, personal, suggestive – just a relatable, super nice person! Oman is not on everyone’s radar, and it isn’t easy to research all the options of what to see and do, and he put together an absolutely perfect trip for myself and husband. He made sure we had all the latest intel on Covid requirements and answered all my endless questions (bathroom situation, souvenirs to buy, respectful clothing to wear, where to get booze, etc). We LOVED Oman and cannot recommend it enough. It’s like a young Morocco in terms of not being very touristy…yet. Of course, like everyone else, our trip was touch-and-go as to whether it would happen, but nothing cancelled on us, and we tested negative, so off we went. We had 1 driver the entire trip and basically did Muscat, the desert, the ocean/island scene, the mountains and back to Muscat. Every vignette was very different from the last. People are extremely nice. It is a bit of driving, BUT compared to horrible Uganda roads, Oman roads/infrastructure are very good, and driving the desert “highway” is super cool and even the one-way dirt mountain road is interesting and fun. Our favorite parts actually were the drives. It really is a beautiful country – the wadis, the desert, the mountains, the ocean, the beach – it really does have it all. In regards to Covid, it’s our 2nd big trip during these times, so I’m not sure what really stood out. Oman has done fairly well, follows all the same protocols (sanitize, masks, etc) we felt safe. The only hiccup that is on us completely, is on day 1 our driver said he was fine if we all wanted to not wear our masks in the car. Honestly, rookie mistake that we are just all so tired of wearing masks that we jumped at the chance and told ourselves, yeah, we are in a bubble with our driver. BUT we should have not let our guard down and held firm to wear masks in the car because towards the end of our trip he started sniffling and had gotten a cold (we tested negative 3 times after for Covid, so it was just a cold) but then I got a cold (confirmed from testing) BUT the stress is not what you want to deal with when travelling. The bottom line – do not let your guard down during these Covid times. He was totally fine to wear a mask in the car once we said we wanted us all to. Another bottom line – we would not have been able to organize this trip on our own and it was a relief knowing you have someone watching your back and is there should you need them. We also LOVED the Chedi hotel in Muscat so much that we are looking for future opportunities in our travel schedule to just “pop” in!

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Three months in Italy: Rome, Florence, Tuscany, Pompeii…

DANIEL WILE | DECEMBER 27, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  The trip was the most enjoyable of my life. In 87 days, Andrea’s team showed foresight in catering to my needs/interests and flexibility in adapting to my needs and interests as they changed, instead of rigidly and blindly following the itinerary. That includes changing transport arrangements based on circumstances and my preferences and guides being willing to take me places that I saw on the spot and sounded interesting. The guides had to be among the most knowledgeable in their cities and regions. Andrea’s team worked seamlessly with a riding outfitter to mix horse trips with their arrangements. This review really only scratches the surface of 87 days in Italy, five weeks of which were horseback riding.

• How did this trip differ from one you might have taken before the pandemic?
Less than you might think. Yes, a few small rooms in a palace in Florence were closed, there were one way routes through museums, I was having to show proof of vaccination everywhere, I had to wear masks in different places, and I had to get tested before returning home and make provisions for a positive test, but in terms of activities, hardly at all. Italy has done better at managing the pandemic than most countries, and the regime was strict but not oppressive.

Because there were way fewer tourists in famous places like the obvious sites in Rome (and Rome overall), the Vatican, Pompeii, and Tuscany, the trip was far more enjoyable. I don’t know how many times I heard a guide telling me, “Before the pandemic, this street would have been packed!”

• Did the trip planner suggest experiences, accommodations, dining options, travel logistics, etc., that felt Covid-appropriate to you? Did he/she solve particular challenges or destination-related problems?
Yes. An occasional restaurant had tables that were a bit too close for my comfort level, but that is totally subjective, and I discussed that with the guide already. As to the second, airport staff used by Andrea’s team helped me deal with with an airline problem and would have helped get to a city by other other means, and Nicole booked a hotel in Torino the night before a flight because heavy snow around where I was staying in the mountains 90 minutes away could have turned into ice and made it impossible to get out. I, of course, had to pay extra.

• What did the trip planner do, or not do, to minimize your health risk or financial risk?
I never felt that there was any unreasonable health or financial risk. I don’t know what would would have happened if I had tested positive a few days before the trip, and Andrea’s team made known an evacuation insurance company that could have taken me home if I had met its criteria. If I hadn’t, according to the Embassy, I could have quarantined for as long as three weeks at my expense at my expense and not because of Andrea.

• Did the trip planner add value to your trip?
Yes. By having really knowledgeable guides who had dealt with the people who worked at every site who were willing to change the itinerary as circumstances and personal interests changed. We couldn’t do the Siracusa archeological area on the first day, but were able to add it to the beginning of another. Also, having private drivers meant that it was possible to see more since the driver could let us off at one place and pick us up at another. The guides and Andrea’s team were able to book restaurants at the last moment and other activities, such as puppet shows in Sicily.

• Did you have certain trip experiences that other travelers should either seek out or avoid?
They should seek out a villa in Sicily between Siracusa and Agrigento with complete mosaics that depicted in fine detail life in Ancient Rome, the private tour of the Vatican Museums/Sistine Chapel, the Palazzo Colonna in Rome, the Galileo Museum in Florence, the city of Verona, and the Piemonte region, which has rolling scenery every bit as beautiful as that of Tuscany plus great views of the Alps. Being with dogs hunting truffles was a lot of fun. San Gemignano, Siena, Assisi, and Perugia were all beautifully preserved medieval and Renaissance cities/towns that made me feel transported back in time. Being in Rome, Florence, and Verona during the time right before the holidays would have been beautiful anyway because of the decorations, but all the more so because Italians had come out of a very tough lockdown and were obviously joyful and relaxed. The only place which I wish I hadn’t visited was the August Mausoleum because the restorations and alterations totally wrecked what was an amazing building when it was constructed.

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Paris: behind-the-scenes tours, private dining…

LISA RUANE | DECEMBER 18, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL Thank you Wendy Perrin for your awesome recommendation of Jennifer and team for our wonderful and memorable trip to Paris and Versaille. The value that Jennifer and team added to our trip is one that we could never have achieved on our own! (and this is a couple who travels extensively and has been to Paris multiple times!)

My husband and I were planning this trip to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. We were a little concerned about the covid restrictions that were in place and how it might impact our plans. Jennifer and her team put us at ease. They were very knowledgeable about all the changes taking place in France and kept us up to date on anything that might personally impact our trip. This included arranging for our required vaccination passes that were mandatory for entrance into all public venues. In addition, Jennifer’s team also arranged for our pcr covid tests, performed in the convenience of our hotel room, before our departure back to the states.

Jennifer’s focus to detail was apparent from our first zoom call where she covered all our expectations from hotel accommodations, experiences, restaurant reservations, car services, etc. She followed up our zoom call with multiple suggestions that allowed us to choose some fabulous experiences such as private guide tours at the Louvre and Versaille. The tours were absolutely incredible and added such insight (our guide at the Louvre was an art historian) that we never could have encountered on our own. We received access on some of these tours that is normally not available to the general public. This included after hours tours of Versailles and Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet.

In addition, Jennifer arranged all of our dining experiences throughout Paris and Versaille. All of her recommendations were excellent and exactly what we wanted. She also arranged for our special anniversary dinner on the grounds of the Airelles Chateau de Versaille at the amazing Alain Ducasse restaurant. She also arranged for a private room and a very special anniversary dinner that was way beyond spectacular!

In addition, to our excellent car service Jennifer also arranged for our meet and greets upon arrival and departure. This was definitely useful and made the normal hassle of airport travel completely stress free. I cannot emphasize during these new norms of travel how having such an incredible and professional group like Jennifer and her team is invaluable.

Jennifer and team were incredible and their focus on detail was exceptional. In addition to our detailed itinerary prior to our departure, we also received daily detailed reminders of all our scheduled events on our phones. I cannot fully express my gratitude to Wendy Perrin for another amazing recommendation. I left Paris with some incredible memories because of all the hardwork Jennifer and her team provided. It was an amazing and stress free experience!!! Thank you for helping to make this trip so very special!!

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Sicily: farm visits, wine tasting, genealogy….

CHRIS LOPINTO | DECEMBER 18, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  The first time tour of Sicily that Matteo planned for me was an amazing cultural tour of my ancestors’ homeland. I asked him to plan a 10 day tour across the whole island, focusing on culture and food (of course, being Sicilian myself) and he did not disappoint. Sure anyone could open a tour book and pick from the standard museums and cultural attractions, however the benefit of using an experienced local agency like Matteo’s was their firsthand knowledge of experiences I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

For example, I went wine tasting at multiple vineyards, however doing so with a personal guided tour from the owner and a certified wine sommelier made the experience that much more exceptional and personal. I visited an almond farm (didn’t even know you could do that) where we sat down with the owner and ate an amazing traditional Sicilian lunch prepared by his wife. Of course the best was touring Palermo with a local who then helped research and translate the birth records of my great-grandfather in the village where he was born was an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity, (Thanks Enrica!) If youre going to visit Sicily, I highly recommend you consult with an experienced agency like Matteo’s before you do.

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Croatia: coastal exploring, dinner with locals…

MURIEL STEPHENS | DECEMBER 16, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL We left the United States on Sept. 17 and traveled for 16 glorious fall days to Croatia. On the FIRST morning of the trip my husband and I were visiting a small village in Istria with a guide, and I slipped on wet cobblestones. I broke my wrist, and we seriously just considered going home. However, I reached out to our local contact, Antonija, and she took over from there. We absolutely could not have continued our trip through Croatia had it not been for Jay and his team, and in particular, Antonija!

Naturally, we had to make some itinerary adjustments, doctor and hospital appointments, but Antonija worked everything out for us.

As for Croatia, it is now on my all-time favorites list…We started in Rovinj (and Istria) then worked our way south to Dubrovnik. All the towns, accommodations, drivers & guides were chosen for us by Jay and his team, and all are praise worthy! My personal favorite was the small island of Korcula and Taras Lodge Hotel. It was a small boutique hotel right on the Adriatic with the bed facing the water. Every morning when I sat up, I felt like pinching myself … is this real? And the people of Croatia are incredible as well. They are all kind and accommodating. And just glad to have us in their country! One extremely special evening was actually in a local family home in Dubrovnik. Jay set up a “dinner with locals”. We joined 8 other travelers to eat Peka on the owner’s outdoor patio…

Our Covid travel experiences were also fairly easy. We had a local PCR test 3 days before leaving on British Air. For our return, Antonija had a driver pick us up at our local Dubrovnik villa and take us to a small medical center for a rapid test. Our results were received within an hour!

This was our first time to travel with local experts, and we absolutely do not plan to travel any other way in the future. I cannot say enough about the secure feelings we had on this trip!!

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

Ask Wendy


Off-the-beaten-track Thailand

MATTHAEUS KALA | DECEMBER 15, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL Dan did an absolutely incredible job of making our December 2021 trip to Thailand unique and unforgettable. As seasoned travelers with a healthy budget, we expect top service and want to be shown places/experiences off the beaten track. Thanks to Dan, we got routes, visited destinations and met locals that blew our minds. I even ended up buying great contemporary art pieces from a little art gallery we visited along the way (something I would not typically do). When I chatted with friends who have been living in Bangkok for more than 20 years and told them about our experiences, they weren’t even aware of a majority of the places we visited. My wife and I can’t stop talking about our incredible time with Dan’s team. Thanks again, Dan, you are the best. And, of course, a big thanks to Wendy and WendyPerrin.com. It will continue to be our go-to site for the best guides around the world

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Spain: landscapes, architecture in Madrid and Andalusia

RUBY SINCLAIR | DECEMBER 11, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL We chose southern Spain because of its high vaccination rates and relatively warm late Fall weather. Virginia planned a wonderful 11 day trip that included charming hotels, skilled guides, and an itinerary that exposed us to the incredible Andalusian architecture and landscapes. We felt safer from contracting COVID in Spain that we would in the US as the Spanish are “religious” about wearing masks both indoors and outdoors and are constantly sanitizing all surfaces in restaurants, museums, and other public and private facilities. A few truly special aspects of our trip:

The Urso Hotel in Madrid is a wonder. When our room wasn’t ready upon our arrival, we were upgraded to a better room. Our stays in Madrid bracketed our trip and when we returned we were given the same room. The entire staff were invariably warm and resourceful. They surprised us with cards, wine and cookies to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary and then to top off our stay allowed us to keep our room a few extra hours (w/o charge) to accommodate our departure schedule. Please, when can I move in?

We worked with 5 different guides and each was knowledgeable about their subject area, and passionate about “their” city and its sites. Some of the best guides we’ve ever had.

Virginia, Clare and their team supported us in various ways throughout the trip. They sent updates regarding Spanish and US health and travel regulations. (The requirement to be tested for Covid w/in 24 hours of traveling back to the US occurred while we were in Spain). We changed the terms of our car rental and struggled a bit with pick up and drop off and received prompt assistance.

We look forward to working with Virginia to plan our next trip to Spain and Portugal!

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Colombia: meeting locals, cooking classes, Caribbean water…

ANNE LEARY | DECEMBER 8, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Firstly, we can’t begin to express our gratitude to Boris in crafting such an amazing trip!

We had an absolutely stellar time! Everything he suggested was truly spot on.

To break it down a bit more…

Cartagena:
What a gorgeous city! We absolutely loved our time there. Our guide Gustavo was wonderful. He was so nice and funny and truly had a wealth of knowledge. He did a great job telling stories of the city and showing us around. It was great to meet lots of people he knew all over the city too. Really an amazing time with him/because of him. And all of the activities we booked were fantastic too!! We really really loved the cooking class and the day on the boat! But everything was super special. And the hotel Boris found for us was really special too. What a beautiful hotel… amazing room, amazing staff, amazing location, etc. etc.

Coffee Region:
What a great contrast to the coast. Everyone was very apologetic about how rainy it was, but honestly, coming from LA it was a nice change. Haha. So glad Boris recommended the area! Our guide Sebastian was just as wonderful too. Really truly made us feel welcome and did an amazing job showing us around. His genuine warmth and friendliness was so special and memorable. We had such a great time exploring the area and eating all the amazing food! Even when we couldn’t go on the rafting trip because of the weather, he was so great about finding another activity for us. We were especially touched when he took us to his house to meet his mom. What a great guy! As for activities… we LOVED meeting Pascal and Diego and sharing lunch with them in their little slice of paradise. That will definitely be one of our favorite memories from the trip! And staying at Bambusa was so wonderful. What a cool hotel in the middle of the mountains. Really peaceful and relaxing and comfortable and had great food!

Honestly… we’ve run out of all of the amazing words to describe our experience.

The trip was magical and we are absolutely in love with Colombia. We can’t wait to come back and see Medellin and Bogota and all of the other amazing places!!

Thank you to Boris a million times over for creating such a special trip for us. I don’t want to say it was once in a lifetime, because I know we’ll be back. But suffice to say it’s in the pantheon of absolute favorite trips we’ve been on.

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Morocco as the borders closed

LINDSEY STEWART | DECEMBER 6, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  My husband and I just returned from two weeks in Morocco. We used Radia and Hicham to organize the trip. They did a spectacular job. During the planning phase, they were truly interested in our interests and incorporating them into the itinerary. They also had recommendations of their own which were spot on. We were met at the airport by a greeter who fast tracked us through the official process and led us to our personal guide and driver waiting for us outside with their Mercedes van. Totally seamless. The vehicle, driver and guide were top notch. Our guide, Husan, was outstanding. Perfect English. Knowledgable. Great sense of humor. The boutique hotels were all great. Flexible itinerary if we wanted to return to, say, a particular shop, or linger at a particular attraction (such as the YSL museum and garden). Three days before the end of our trip, the airport closed as a result of the new Covid virus. The team didn’t miss a beat and took care of us for 3 days in Casablanca until we could get a flight out. Really felt safe and cared for. We ended up having a great time in the modern city of Casablanca (which was a surprise). Morocco is a fully functioning, multi-cultural, diverse society that offers so much to the visitor. People are very friendly. Most speak English. Shopper’s paradise for any budget. We highly recommend Morocco as a destination and Radia and Hicham as the people to make it all happen for you!

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Tahiti: island-hopping in French Polynesia

ROSE INGER | DECEMBER 4, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Our trip to French Polynesia on October 9 to November 3, 2021 included the islands of Tahiti (Intercontinental), Huahine (Lapita, and Le Mahana), Vahine motu near Tahaa, atoll Tikehau (Pearl Resort) and Morea (Sofitel), all highly recommended.

What a pleasure it was to have Kleon arrange another vacation trip for us to French Polynesia in October 2021. Kleon had organized a memorable wedding anniversary trip to Tahiti for us two years ago, so in early 2021, expecting that the Covid-19 pandemic with its associated lock-downs would hopefully soon be over, we asked Kleon, through Wendy, to arrange another trip to Tahiti with the excuse it was to celebrate a significant birthday.

We had very specific requirements for our trip: about 4 weeks long with stays in about 5 different islands or atolls, small resorts, quiet, all within our budget, but with the option of exceeding the budget for something exceptional. Leading up to the trip, Kleon kept us informed about changing requirements for entry to French Polynesia, so we could get prepared and schedule any required tests.

Kleon provided everything we asked for, small quiet resorts on 4 islands and one atoll, ocean front & spacious bungalows with privacy, all with snorkeling, great food and wine and friendly congenial staff. Kleon also arranged for a very appropriate WOW Moment, two bottles of French wine and a massage. It was such a pleasure to make the trip arranged by Kleon, because we did not have to worry about any of the details: internal flights between the islands were all pre-booked, the transfers between the airports and the resorts mostly private…..no more having to deal with aggressive taxi drivers or overloaded vans, or wondering how to get to the next location…….It was all seamless: we got off the plane, were met by a driver and van or a boat, and were promptly delivered to our next location.

Of course, the concern about Covid-19 was everywhere, but we felt safe and secure thanks to Kleon’s advice and familiarity with the resorts. At all the resorts we visited, guests were required to wear masks when in contact with other people (even if most of the guests were double or even triple vaccinated), and certainly ALL the staff we encountered in Tahiti wore masks.

Getting our Covid-19 test before leaving Tahiti was of great concern to us. We had to get the Molecular PCR test to enter Canada, which usually takes 24-48 hours. It just so happened that we were leaving on a Tuesday evening, and the labs were closed on Sat, Sun, and Monday since it was a Tahitian holiday. Kleon overcame all obstacles about getting us the test. We were staying at the Sofitel on the island of Morea, and Kleon arranged for an early Tuesday morning taxi to take us to the testing lab for our Covid PCR tests. When we checked out of the hotel at 4 pm same day, the hotel’s reception, plus the concierge, each handed us copies of the Covid test results. We would not have been able to get that organized without Kleon.

Thank you, Kleon, for another great trip.

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Portugal: beautiful countryside, incredible food, welcoming locals…

STEVE MANSFIELD | NOVEMBER 29, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  My wife and I took a 10 day trip to Portugal in November 2021 upon the recommendation of Wendy. We gave some parameters on the trip we were looking for and dates, and Portugal was the recommendation and it was a fabulous one. Wendy recommended we use Gonçalo and Joana to guide us and they were terrific. We had an introductory call with Goncalo and Joana and several email conversations iterating on the itinerary. It was a relatively tight planning window complicated by limited availability but they worked their magic and everything came together without any issues.

We did two nights in Lisbon, 4 in Douro Valley and 3 in Alentejo. I personally don’t love hyper planned itineraries or doing a lot of tours but they balanced the schedule very well and the tours they arranged were the best parts of our trip. In Lisbon, it felt like we were accompanied by a college professor. It was a very efficient use of our time and allowed us to avoid the crowds. In the Douro Valley we had a private winery tour, lunch and tasting. It was relaxed yet educational and luxurious. In Alentejo we did another private winery tour and lunch and tasting but accompanied by the owner, which was wonderful. We would simply not have had, or even really known where to begin, in scheduling experiences like this.

They also arranged delivery of the rental car to the htel in Lisbon and drop off at the airport. This was seamless and allowed us to avoid going to and from a rental counter, worry about parking, etc.

This was our first experience using Wendy’s service and it will not be the last. It is highly worth it and this is coming from a skeptic that is used to planning all travel. If you are visiting Portugal, we highly recommend Goncalo and Joana – they made the trip exceptional and easy for us, all the way down to the 36 page custom and detailed itinerary (including all contact info, directions, background, history, etc). Hard to go wrong with Portugal, it is the perfect mix of natural beauty, incredible food, warm and welcoming people and very easy to navigate.

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California: wine country, Santa Barbara, Joshua Tree National Park

JOAN KEMLER | NOVEMBER 21, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We normally go out of the country and travel internationally in the fall. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic we elected to stay in the United States. We wanted to visit an area that was warmer than our New England home. We wanted to go to a part of the country where Covid 19 protocols are generally followed. We felt our travel agent Sheri directed us appropriately on these issues.
She was excellent in making a time schedule that enabled us to see many areas but not felt rushed. She made numerous suggestions of things to do in each location so there were many choices.
We were very pleased with all the hotel selections and suggestions for restaurants were well thought out and considered our tastes.
Our wine tours in Paso Robles were informative, and most enjoyable. We even had our requested olive oil tasting. The Light installation that we visited was phenomenal!! A must see for anyone in a 50 mile radius.
Our Santa Barbara food and wine tour was wonderful and introduced us to several different kinds of foods and wine. Halloween in Santa Barbara was an event!
Our last tour was in Joshua Tree National Park and I would never have imagined how much we learned and saw of the park. For people from the East it was a different world.
I certainly would hire Sheri again and recommend her highly!!
She asked questions and listened to our answers and then planned!
Last we had some changes and she or her employee responded quickly!!

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Botswana safari with private game drives

BONNIE BOTTINI | NOVEMBER 21, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL Back from Botswana!

Julian and his team, especially Lisa, planned & coordinated our WOW experience that began with one full day in Johannesburg, South Africa followed by eight nights at three separate five-star camps in Botswana at the beginning of November.

We had a few interview calls with Julian to identify what we would like to see and do since this was our first safari and we did not really know what to focus on in planning such a unique trip. Julian made it easy and conversational and we were not disappointed. He exceeded our expectations in terms of the quality of the camps, the flight connections between the camps and vast array of large and small animals that we experienced during each game drive, twice a day.

There was no short cut to the very long flight times from Miami to London to Johannesburg to Botswana & back and the many COVID protocols required along the way that required great attention to detail, however once we were on our safari we felt very safe the entire time and everyone was mindful of COVID health precautions.

The camps were all far below capacity for guests, guests arrived and departed daily and ranged from 4 guests including us to 18 guests and most of the time we were alone with the guide on our game drives.

I would recommend packing as light as you can based on the time of year but do take advantage of the available free laundry service right from your room in order to have added space in your luggage to bring back gifts. Julian selected a camp near an authentic village made up of mud huts, straw thatched roofs, no electricity or running water, where the villagers make hand crafts which was on our list of something to see. We were quite impressed this was an authentic experience rather than a tourist stop.

Early November is the first week of rainy season in Botswana but we had no rain and above normal hot days so no limitations for our game drives to see in excess of twenty five different animals during our visit that we saw from the Toyota Landcruisers, by boat, helicopter and bush planes. If you are travelling during a hot time of year, selecting a camp with room air conditioners is a must as the temperature soared to 107 degrees in mid day and even the dry heat similar to Arizona is uncomfortable.

In summary, if you are looking for something entirely different to experience on your next vacation and can find a way to schedule a safari with Julian, you will walk away with an extraordinary WOW experience with memories and pictures for a lifetime.

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Spain: cooking class, flamenco performance, food tours

TYLER CLARK| NOVEMBER 17, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Ivan planned an awesome trip for my wife and I in Spain for November 7-13, 2021! We spent 3 nights in Seville, 1 Granada, and 2 in Madrid. All of the tour guides were great (they showed us around Seville and Cordoba), and Ivan was our personal guide for a tour of artisanal food producers in rural Andalusia (southern Spain) which we really enjoyed. He also set up a private cooking class, got us into a flamenco performance, and booked hotels that my wife liked. I highly recommend working with Ivan – he is a good person, a great conversationalist, and is passionate about southern Spain.

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

Ask Wendy

 


Athens, Greece: private tours before a cruise

WILLIAM HARRISS| NOVEMBER 15, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We were on a trip with Duke University that began in Athens and wanted a custom schedule for the two of us in and around Athens over October 28th to 30th. Wendy’s group put us in touch with Mina. Mina reached out to us and we had a telephone conversation to review our interests. She put together a wonderful itinerary that started at the airport and included three tours and transportation to the ship.

The tours were just what we had in mind. The guides were excellent as were the drivers. Mina and the support group were easy to work with as well as very accommodating. We greatly appreciate their good work and would highly recommend them. After the tours we commented to each other that, “This is the way to travel.”

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European river cruise on the Rhine

SCOTT SHERMAN | NOVEMBER 5, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Uniworld European River Cruise (Amsterdam to Basel)

When half of our existing travel plans fell through due to high rates of Covid at our intended destination, we decided to replace them with a European river cruise. We had always wanted to do a cruise like that, and it seemed a good, relatively safe option during the pandemic. It was pretty easy to search on our own to identify the leading European river cruise lines. What proved much more difficult however was identifying cruises that fit with the dates of the remaining part of our trip, which had relatively little flexibility. Further, we had little means to distinguish between the top cruise lines.

We reached out to Tom for assistance with choosing and booking our river cruise. Tom and his staff were extremely helpful and knowledgeable. They recommended Uniworld based on our preferences and identified two cruises that met our scheduling needs. They answered all of our questions rapidly and thoroughly and helped us to negotiate an exception with the cruise company to get us a two-category upgrade.

The cruise itself was wonderful. Excellent food and wine, amazing staff. The daily tours (all included in the price) were fun. At ages 61 and 59, we were probably 10-15 years below the median on the cruise. As a result, it was not as physical as we would have liked and we will probably do other activities on our next river cruise to make it more physical.

All in all, a wonderful trip. Thanks to Tom and team for making it so easy.

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Silversea cruise to the Azores and Canary Islands

JUDITH GOODMAN | NOVEMBER 2, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We were very nervous about traveling during the pandemic, but Gavin, on Mary Jean’s team, made it easy. And, frankly, Silversea was incredible. Silversea was simply amazing! I can’t wait to travel with them again.

Gavin answered every one of my numerous and frequent questions about testing requirements and protocols. No matter what I threw at him, he responded quickly and knowledgeably.

He also planned the two nights in Lisbon, pre and post-cruise flawlessly. He gave us a choice of three hotels, at different price points, and we were lucky enough to choose the One Palacio, which I cannot recommend highly enough. It will be our go to hotel in Lisbon.

Cheri, also on Mary Jean’s team, was patient with my many cruise bookings and cancellations. When we finally settled on the Silversea cruise to the Azores and Canaries, she picked a very well located suite.

We are anxiously awaiting next December’s Regent cruise from Capetown, and especially the pre-cruise safari and land trip that Gavin has planned.

So glad we went with Mary Jean and her team.

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Andalusia, Spain: jamón, flamenco, history…

JONATHAN TSAI| OCTOBER 31, 2021

Just returned from a 16-day exploration trip to Spain arranged by Iván. With changing restrictions and guidelines, this last-minute trip was planned with Ivan about 3 weeks prior to departure in early October. Ivan made many adjustments and planned the itinerary based on our preferences while providing invaluable suggestions and alternatives. He also had to work around two consecutive Spanish and community holidays to ensure that we were able to cover the major sights. The focus of the trip was the Andalusia area due to the season and trip length. We went to Barcelona (Figueres day trip), Madrid (Toledo day trip), Cordoba, Seville, Jerez (include Cadiz) and Granada (via Ronda). Long distance transfers were done with Spain’s AVE high speed trains (1st class seating when possible) while the rest were done via luxurious private transfers.

The entire trip was fully guided, and the excellent guides adjusted the itineraries based on our interests while providing timing/feedback and adjusting/ensuring that we covered the main attractions. We experienced wonderful guides who provided us with curated experiences at the museums, palaces and parks while also enriching us with different knowledge and perspective. Ivan specializes in Andalusia and we were fortunate to have him guide us in Seville and Jerez. Throughout the entire trip as we traversed through Spain, he would check-in consistently for feedback and make any recommendations and adjustments where necessary.

We had a fascinating visit to a boutique traditional family-owned artisan Jamón Ibérico producer and had a fun, educational tour and tasting session that included visiting the free roaming pigs in their oak forest. We learned about the curing and aging process; appreciating all the various cuts of ham and the wine that enhanced the jamón. The owners and people who run the farm were warm, hospitable and have been in the business for generations – the matriarch is an absolute character and gem. We left with a better understanding and appreciation of the Jamón Ibérico and simply loved every part of that experience.

Ivan also arranged for a private visit to one of the rare female-owned bull farms to give us a more holistic view to one of Spain’s most famous and controversial traditions. We were able to see “a day in the life” of the brave farm owner. Seeing these magnificent creatures in their element and understanding the economy and system that supports the culture of the Spanish bullfights was very meaningful. It was good to learn about the entire story of this tradition – from rearing to selection to the bullfight – not just what we typically are exposed to, the fight. We had a wonderful lunch with the owner and even more exchange around the trials and tribulations of running the farm during Covid and the future of this tradition. This was an intimate experience and truly eye opening.

Ivan surprised us with VIP seating and backstage barn access during the Equestrian school show in Jerez. On the last day in Granada, we were surprised and treated to a WOW Moment: a handcrafted wet plate tintype portrait session at a wonderful little studio located in cave-studded Gypsy neighborhood of Sacromonte.

Besides the grand sights, other highlights included Patios festival in Cordoba; evening guided group tour of Cathedral de Seville including the rooftops, tower and interior (cathedral was closed to public that day); impromptu visit to a former professional flamenco dancer’s (friend of Ivan’s) store where it was interesting to hear her perspective of the art and accessories associated with the flamenco culture; flamenco performance; and tapas bar tours.

Restaurant recommendations were provided, and Ivan also made all the reservations including seven Michelin starred restaurants. Language can be an issue at some very local restaurants, but everyone was very kind and helpful – and the delicious food and being a fly on the wall observing the locals and their interactions with one another makes it worthwhile. When we visited the local market in Jerez, we told Ivan for our love of mangoes and he got us Málaga mangoes on our last day in Jerez (they were fragrant and deliciously sweet)!

Even though we carried the Abbott Home Test kit as a backup, we decided to get the rapid PCR tests via the airport clinic recommended by Ivan. He arranged the stopover during the transfer back to Madrid one day before our departure flight. The driver escorted us to the clinic, and we were out in less than 10 minutes with the results via email within 2 hours.

On departure day, there was a marathon that closed the streets around the hotel area and Ivan was on top coordinating with the hotel, driver, and police for the airport transfer. The tax refund process and immigration were unfortunately extremely slow (maybe due to long weekend) and we nearly missed our flight.

Spain enjoys the highest percentage of vaccinated population in Europe, we felt completely safe and at ease with the guides, drivers and everyone are very respectful of wearing masks indoors, outdoors and in vehicles. The people of Spain enjoy a relaxing outlook on life and there were virtually no one honking even in large cities like Madrid. We had absolutely no bad meals and enjoyed great weather the entire trip.

In summary, Ivan was able to curate and plan a private luxurious exploration trip showcasing Andalusia’s tradition, diverse culture from different Moorish, Christian and Jewish influences that still persists in its architecture, art, food and people. He truly cares that you have an amazing and memorable trip.

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

Ask Wendy


Spain: wine, art, tapas…

BILL HIATT | OCTOBER 31, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Pablo crafted a wonderful itinerary for my wife and me in the Ribera del Deuro and the Basque Country of Spain. We had guides take us to a couple of wonderful wineries and the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Guides also introduced us to the wonderful world of pintxos (tapas) in the Basque Country. Something we will always treasure is the morning we spent with the owner/chef of a small waterfront pintxos bar learning how to make pintxos. We and our guide got to enjoy our creations washed down with a bottle of local txakoli wine outside on the terrace. It was a truly special experience. We have a new appreciation for anchovies!
trip!

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Russia & the Baltics with insider access

JEANNIE MULLEN | OCTOBER 27, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Just back from Russia and the Baltic’s … when I saw a three week window open on my calendar recently I made a very last minute decision to go to Russia … Greg and Stella put together a fabulous and interesting itinerary (encouraging me to add Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) expedited my visa application and guided me through all of the covid related hoops going from country to country … when my own covid test results didn’t come through in time for my initial departure, Stella found and set up an appointment for a rapid test 5 minutes from my ATL hotel the morning of departure, thereby saving me a potential delay in leaving for the trip. As for the trip itself, I had a blast. Every single detail was taken care of, the extraordinary experiences (behind the scenes at the theatre in Moscow, dinner in the home of a lovely young woman in Suzdal, theatre tickets, a boat trip in St Petersburg, chocolate making class in Estonia, I can’t remember them all) were each phenomenal. Guides, drivers, covid testing and hotels all perfectly arranged and top notch. Thank you Greg and Stella for a very memorable return to travel after 20 months at home due to covid restrictions (both here and abroad) and to one of the places that has been on my list for a long time. I’ve already got designs on my next trip!

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Ireland with a private driver/guide

PETER ZADRO | OCTOBER 24, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  I returned from a two week trip to Ireland in early October 2021. I was interested in a trip to Ireland and looked at many organized tours, but none were satisfactory. I reviewed Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts and reached out Jonathan Epstein.

Jonathan and Nicole listened to all I desired to do in Ireland but also want I did not want do. They put together the perfect tour with a private driver guide. The hotels were spectacular, excellent dining reservations were made. The driver guide, John was outstanding! He was extremely knowledgeable, friendly and it was hard to say goodbye. Every detail was taken care of.

The tour needed to be rescheduled twice due to Covid. Nicole rebooked hotels several times graciously. She replied quickly to any questions and offered helpful tips and suggestions.

I cannot recommend Jonathan Epstein and his team enough. I absolutely will use them again for future trips!

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France: cities & villages, history, wineries…

DEBORAH WENTE | OCTOBER 22, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  What an incredible trip! We started with a couple of nights in Brittany, then Paris, Alsace and Champagne. It was a very full trip that went seamlessly. Alex and I worked together to plan this trip for 6 women. We stayed in a different hotel every two nights but Alex worked to ensure that the transitions were seamless. We would be picked up in the morning, and would arrive at our hotels with our bags in the rooms. The hotel choices were wonderful. The guides were incredible, of special note were Yann in Brittany, Caroline for the Louvre and David Ling in Alsace. We were exposed to so many special moments. Alex checked in regularly to make sure everything was going ok and was always available for any questions or changes. I really can’t say enough about how much we enjoyed this trip. The tide changes in Brittany, walking in quicksand at Mont St. Michel, learning about the history of Alsace, exploring the caves in Champagne. I just finished a digital scrapbook and it is 75 pages – so many experiences.

We felt very comfortable regarding Covid. We all received our French health passes and used them for all interior activities. France is 86% vaccinated, and masks are required inside. Alex arranged for a nurse to do our Covid tests for our returns, it worked out beautifully.

We had time to wander the cities and villages, visited wineries, champagne houses and a barrel making factory that was unexpectedly interesting. I would highly recommend Bott Freres in Alsace and LeClerc Briant in Champagne. We had a fascinating tour of this biodynamic champagne house, then an incredible meal cooked in front of us paired with champagnes. It felt like a WOW Moment when they opened a bottle of Abyss (champagne aged for a year in the sea) for us to enjoy. I believe this special moment may have been thanks to our driver Thomas.

I can’t wait for the next trip to France!

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WOW Moment at a vineyard with dancing and plate tossing

TONY FORD-HUTCHINSON | OCTOBER 18, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Greece seemed to be an easy country for vaccinated Americans to enter (it was with direct flights from the USA) and we hoped that islands like Santorini would not be overrun with cruise ships (turned out to be true). We approached Jacoline and set up a zoom call. We spent 75 minutes talking in which we told her what we liked about past trips and what we were hoping to get out of this trip. She then asked us a series of questions about our likes and dislikes which resulted in her putting together an outstanding itinerary which reflected exactly what we were hoping for. We indicated we wanted to go to Santorini and Crete and she suggested also going to Nafplio in the Peloponnese (a place not even on our radar screen, but popular with Athenians). Throughout the trip we had some outstanding guides who brought to light the ancient Greek and Minoan cultures, but also an excellent food guide in Athens who took us around all sorts of specialty stores to help us understand Greek cuisine. We asked to stay in small luxury boutique hotels where we would not be sharing elevators etc with many tourists. The best were Perivolas on Santorini and Kapsaliana Village Hotel in Crete. In addition to the archeological tours, we also had wine tours, a WOW Moment with Greek dancing and plate tossing in a Greek vineyard and a trip on a catamaran. Eating well was also very important for us and Jacoline suggested and booked some outstanding restaurants throughout the trip. We spent a week in Crete, rented a car there (easy to drive around) and could easily have spent longer. Jacoline kept in touch through email throughout the trip and provided a bound personalized book which they call a piglet which covers the whole itinerary with lots of useful suggestions. Thank you Jacoline for a great trip.

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Alaska: bear viewing and ocean fishing

MARSHA FRIEDLI| OCTOBER 15, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL Our fifth trip to Alaska was again spectacular thanks to Judith and her team. We wanted to visit Kodiak Island and also go ocean fishing. Judith recommended the Kodiak Brown Bear Center for some quality bear viewing and checking out Homer for the fishing. We were all set to go then Covid hit and the world stopped. Fortunately the vendors were able to keep our reservations and we finally arrived.

The Kodiak Brown Bear Center was very interesting and did we see the bears! We saw them in the water, on the land, and even in the trees! We were given instructions on bear manners just in case we had an encounter while out on our hikes. While on excursions there were always 2 guides watching for bears. The staff was so friendly and knowledgeable about the environment, history, and of course the bears. We also enjoyed the lodge and the limited number of people that can stay at one time. There are only 4 cabins. We have talked about staying there again. Without Andrea and her recommendation and knowledge of the lodge we would not had the wonderful experiences at Kodiak Brown Bear Center.

Judith and her team made arrangements for us to go ocean fishing, and another bear viewing opportunity at Lake Clark and Katmai. My husband and I had never gone ocean fishing or almost any other type of fishing either. Judith picked the right charter for us, Homer Ocean Charters. And it was a full service charter, meaning not only did they provide the bait and tackle they also handled the cleaning and made arrangements for processing so we could ship our catch home for us to enjoy. The weather was beautiful and the sea was relatively flat. The scenery was spectacular. On our way to the fishing area we saw whales and Puffins. We fished for salmon and halibut. Again without Judith and her team’s knowledge of the the area and what the different charters had to offer we would have had no idea how to go about this.

Our hotel was on the Homer Spit so we could watch the boats come and go. One evening we brought our dinner back to the hotel so we could watch the sunset from our picture window. In doing so we were treated to a group of sea otters having fun playing in the water that we would have missed by eating at a restaurant. Another wonderful trip! Thank you Judith and also thank you Wendy Perrin for your list of Travel specialists.

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Romania: city sights, mountain hikes, countryside explorations…

DAVID WEINKLE| OCTOBER 13, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Have just returned from our first trip to Romania and wanted to say thank you to Raluca for a warm welcome to her fabulous country! From first contact we knew we were in good hands. A phone call helped Raluca determine what type of adventure we were looking for and from that moment on, everything ran smooth as silk! Recommendations for sights, restaurants and hotels were all spot on.
Our personal guide, Alex escorted us into the countryside for sightseeing, hikes in the Piatra Craiului Mountains, led a private tour of the magnificent Romanian Athenaeum in Bucharest, and even arranged access for us to services in the beautiful Choral Synagogue. By the end of our trip, Alex felt like an old and well informed friend!
Raluca kept in touch during our visit via email and phone calls just to make sure all was going well. COVID and seasonal changes threw a few obstacles into our plans, Raluca however was on top of everything and adjustments were made without having to miss anything on our agenda.
I cannot give enough kudos to Raluca and her team and look forward to planning our next trip to Romania!

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Newfoundland, Canada: Fogo Island Inn & St. John’s

ELLIOT LASKIN | OCTOBER 11, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  First of all, Jill was extremely sweet and kind and a true pleasure to deal with. Jill helped us plan a fantastic trip to Newfoundland for a week, her suggestions for our itinerary to Fogo Island and St. John’s were all terrific. We decided this was the year to stay in Canada given Covid and see something inside our own country that we wouldn’t usually do. While we were in St. John’s hurricane Larry was rapidly approaching and we decided to alter our plans to leave St John’s a day early to try to avoid Larry. This involved quick adjustments by Jill who managed to get us the same room for an additional night at the Fogo Island Inn. Fortunately we made this change as otherwise we would have been stuck in St John’s with power outages and a cancelled ferry. Jill kept checking in with us to make sure we had what we needed and were comfortable with the changes. On our last morning we came down to breakfast a couple hours before needing to catch the ferry to leave Fogo Island and another glitch, the ferry was down due to a broken water pump. Jill was in constant communication with the hotel, who moved us during the day to another room so we could relax and wait for the ferry to be fixed, fed us and made sure we were comfortable while waiting. That night- finally at 9 pm we caught the ferry to Gander and stayed the night to allow us to catch our rescheduled flights the next day. During both of the mishaps Jill couldn’t have been nicer and more involved to make sure the trip adjustments were made seamlessly. We really loved Fogo Island Inn and the people on the island, a true treasure to have this experience which we will never forget. The staff at the Inn were so friendly and authentic, the food was delicious and the room was unique and comfortable. We loved the hikes and our 2 local guides were truly enjoyable to be with while enjoying the stories and history they provided us. Watching the broadway play Come From Away newly released on Apple TV for the 20th anniversary of 9-11 in the Inn’s intimate movie theatre was a special memory for us as well. We hope we will come back to eastern Canada one day soon!

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Slovenia, Croatia & Bosnia: wine, truffles, natural beauty…

SARAH ZEITLIN | OCTOBER 11, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Our trip to Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina in September 2021 was a long time in the planning stage. Due to Covid 19, it was postponed and in working with Ala we had to pay close attention to the changing requirements.
The trip was very well organized. The drivers and the guides in each country were superb. While planning the trip we indicated that we love history, culture, nature and of course food and wine. Ala found the perfect balance between the two. Walks in amazing natural beauty in Slovenia and Croatia (Truffle searching with dogs, though none were found), wine tasting and a lot of history. What we found probably the best part of the trip was how knowledgeable the guides were. At the end of our almost 3 weeks, we felt that we had a great understanding of the complicated history of the region, which each guide and driver, with their own point of view and personal experiences shared with us.
Ala recommended and reserved great restaurants for us and everyone of them was a “hit”, as was the opera in Ljubljana.
While Ala planned an amazing trip for us, our contact “on the ground” Natasa, was very responsive when I had a few questions.
Throughout the whole trip, special attention was paid to compliance with each country’s Covid regulations. Drivers and guide always wore masks in the car, all were vaccinated, hotels and restaurants all took the necessary steps to minimize our risk of infection.
A great trip all around, with memories (and pictures) for a lifetime.

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Utah’s national parks by jeep, foot & helicopter

JAN ROWLAND | OCTOBER 7, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Review of Utah Trip September 12-20, 2021

We had a wonderful COVID safe trip to the National Parks of Utah. We had the opportunity to visit 5 magnificent National Parks with experienced private guides specializing in photography and canyoneering on both land (hiking and via jeep) and air (helicopter). An additional highlight of our trip was the lodging secured by Melissa and her team. Each accommodation was an upscale individual bungalow, casitas, or cabin with all the amenities to ensure a relaxing, luxurious stay. The locations were perfect for visiting the National Parks as well as restaurants or grocery stores. Each unique accommodation was located on spectacular properties with distinctive features and amazing views. Melissa and her team worked very hard to fit all the puzzle pieces of this custom trip together. They had to marry availability at the very best accommodations with availability of each private guide within the context of visiting 5 National Parks.

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Kenya safari: vaccinated camp staff, private flights

STEPHEN BEHNEN | OCTOBER 6, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL Going on safari in Kenya, from the 19th to the 30th of September, 2021.

When we started planning our trip to Kenya over two years ago, we knew from our experience with an earlier trip to Botswana that we would benefit from working with an expert knowledgeable about Kenya. We contacted Dan and, after listening carefully to what we wanted, he put together a well thought out itinerary. At this point, he had already proven his value to us. Then COVID struck and his services became even more important. Dan walked us through the preparation of all the additional paperwork necessary to enter Kenya in the middle of the COVID pandemic. The staff at the safari camps Dan had selected for us were fully vaccinated. In addition, they wore masks at all times, even though almost all our activities were outdoors, including our meals. Knowing that we needed a negative PCR test to return to the US, Dan arranged to have COVID testers come directly to our last camp. Taking everything together, we felt perfectly safe throughout our trip.

Dan’s value was proved to us in other ways as well. Included in our original itinerary was a visit to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi, where we had adopted an elephant. COVID forced the orphanage to change the hours they were open to the public. As a result our plan to visit after returning from the safari camps was no longer possible. When we learned this less than a week before the start of the trip, Dan was able to rework the itinerary to allow us to instead make the visit upon our initial arrival in Nairobi. This included getting us on the approved visitors list and arranging a car and driver to take us there.

In short, our trip to Kenya was everything we could have hoped. The logistics were carefully planned and everything came off without a hitch. Dan and his team put together an itinerary that perfectly met our expectations. We visited three safari camps, spending 3 nights at each. The three camps were quite different, but each was special in its own way and provided a wonderful experience.

The most beautiful camp was Sarara with its 6 tents. The setting is spectacular and we had the best tent (number 6) from which to enjoy our stay. One unexpected feature of our tent was the elephant path just behind it. On several occasions we just looked through the screen in our bathroom and enjoyed the sight of elephants crashing through the brush, probably on their way to the watering hole visible from the lodge. One particularly pleasant surprise was getting met at the Air Kenya airstrip by Jeremy, the owner, who flew us the rest of the way to the camp in his private plane, thereby avoiding a two hour drive. At the end of our stay, he then flew us directly to our next camp, bypassing the three hour drive that we had expected.

Sirikoi was our overall favorite camp. Sirikoi is a small camp, with just 4 tents and 2 cottages, but it has the best combination of location, game viewing, wonderful dining, and attentive service. Sue, the owner, has done a spectacular job of creating a little bit of heaven on earth. We were quite impressed by the degree to which the camp is self-sufficient. During our ‘Back of the House’ tour we saw how the camp is able to grow most of its own food, build its own furniture, power everything with solar, and even make its own charcoal to be used in the tent fireplaces. The camp’s location in the Lewa Conservancy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is superb. Close in viewing of dozens of both white and black rhinoceroses with their babies was quite special. We could have easily spent a week at Sirikoi.

The Mara Bushtops camp wins the award for best game viewing. Our guide asked us what we wanted to see and we answered: as much as possible. He was happy to comply. During our two full days there we took two game drives in the Masai Mara. The first was 8 ½ hours long, the second was 9 ½ hours. We were reluctant to stop since we kept seeing remarkable things. We started at 5:45 each morning and enjoyed breakfast on the drive, eating at a table set up for us in a particularly scenic location. The last drive was best of our trip. On that one drive, we saw all of the Big Five, plus cheetahs feasting on a kill, as well as the tail end of the Great Migration featuring a large herd of zebras crossing the Mara River into the Serengeti. In addition, we managed to pay a short visit to Tanzania. It was a wonderful way to end our trip.

Mara Bushtops is a luxury camp with all the amenities that implies. During our three night stay we were the only guests in the 12 tent camp and were treated royally. Even though travel in the age of COVID can be challenging, there are certainly benefits to going at this time. Being able to avoid the crowds normally associated with visits during the high season is special.

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Germany: Strasbourg’s old town, Heidelberg Castle, the Black Forest…

STEPHEN BEHNEN | OCTOBER 5, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL Touring the Frankfurt area from the 14th through the 19th of September, 2021.

While planning a trip to Kenya we found that we would need to change planes in Frankfurt. Sensing an opportunity we decided to turn our connection into a 5 night layover and contacted Gwen to help us make the most of our stay. It turned out to be a good decision. While we might have stumbled across some of the elements that made it into itinerary, dealing with all the details while trying to ensure that we were not taking undue risks due to COVID would have been a significant challenge.
After listening carefully to our interests, Gwen and Lori put together an itinerary that suited us perfectly. They suggested we board a train at the Frankfurt airport and travel immediately to Baden-Baden. Our three night stay there was perfect. Baden-Baden made a terrific base of operations for our explorations. We started that first day with a guided walking tour that acquainted us with the charming city. We then took a full day tour of the Black Forest, which included strolls around lakes and hikes along waterfalls. It also included a private demonstration of a chef putting together a Black Forest cake and a visit to a cuckoo clock atelier. The next day we drove a rented car to Strasbourg. There our guide toured us through the Old Town of that delightful World Heritage Site, ending with a visit to the famed cathedral. We also enjoyed a relaxing private boat tour on the river that took us by the impressive buildings of the European Parliament.
At the end of the day we returned to Brenners Park, our hotel in Baden-Baden. Not only are the accommodations there exceedingly comfortable, and the location an easy walk to the heart of town with its fun dining options, but the staff is the best of any hotel we have visited. We would not hesitate to recommend Brenners Park to anyone staying in Baden-Baden.
The next day was dedicated to the town of Heidelberg, with a focus on Heidelberg Castle, which should be considered a must-see for anyone in the area. We then drove to our hotel in Frankfurt, which was within walking distance of the old part of town. Our last day gave us a chance to explore this largely underappreciated city.
This trip involved some complex logistics. This included arrangements for our COVID PCR tests at Brenners Park. Gwen and Lori had it all under control. With just one small exception, everything went according to plan. The exception was an anomaly which Gwen has already taken steps to insure won’t happen again. We would recommend the services of Gwen and Lori to anyone planning a trip in the area.

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Germany: Munich, Hamburg, the Alps, the Black Forest, Rhine River Valley…

WENDY DUCHENE | OCTOBER 3, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Claudia provided a highly personalized Germany itinerary that exceeded all expectations. It was flawless. We traversed Germany both in geography and local culture from Bavaria in the South to Hamburg in the North. We experienced the highs and lows of Germany’s history from visiting Dachau concentration camp to the revelry of sharing a bier with locals in Munich during Oktober. We had a Porsche Carrera convertible with detailed maps and itinerary to visit many quaint villages, castles and churches as we drove from the Alps through the Black Forest and north along the Rhine River Valley. We had a private tour of Neuschwanstein where along with the guide, were the only 3 individuals with the keys to the Disney castle. We ate five star cuisine. We took a ride to the highest point in Germany at Zugspitze. We slept in castles and strolled a university town. We even spent a day biking with locals in Hamburg. So much to see and do and memories made. Very exquisite.

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Morocco: cities, mountains, & desert

MARCIA WOOD | SEPTEMBER 28, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We just got back from a 2 week trip to Morocco that had originally been planned for June of 2020, but the world had other plans… We were put in contact with Hicham and Radia by Wendy Perrin for that original trip and kept in touch with them as we ultimately moved the trip to Sept. of 2021, thinking surely COVID would be behind us then. We worked primarily with Radia and largely revised our original itinerary but with a few tweaks learned from the interim. Radia from the very start was quick to respond, helpful and upbeat. She understood the kinds of things we wanted to do, that we wanted charming riads not big hotels and that we were willing to be active. I gave her a rough outline of the 5 places/areas of Morocco I was most interested in seeing and that this was to be a family trip with our grown children (ranging in age from 27 to 31). After all this meticulous planning, fast forwarding to the trip itself, it was a great sequence of places starting with landing in Marrakech, heading right to Essaouira on the coast the next morning for 2 nights, followed by a long drive (totally worth it and not to be missed) to the Sahara to a desert camp for a night, back to Marrakech for 3 nights, then to the high Atlas Mts for 2 nights and ultimately to Fes for 2 nights. Essaouira was perhaps our least favorite of the locations but still interesting and the most fascinating experience there was taking us to the docks as the sardine fishermen came in: a scene of mayhem, color, sound, smell, and unbelievable variety of sea creatures and since it had been a good catch, the fisherman were giving away lots of fresh fish to the poor who thronged around with buckets. We had a guide for the whole 2 weeks, Anouar, and a driver, Hafid, who were both terrific. Hafid drove confidently and well through absolutely harrowing roads that had my husband intensely thankful he was not driving, through mountains and city streets and was always waiting when we needed him. Anouar was a crucial part of the trip (both chosen by Radia, although he freelances) and a fount of cultural and historical information about his beloved country and even more beloved Fes (just for the record, everything is better in Fes). He steered us to wonderful quality shops, whether it was jewelry or fresh dates or leather goods and was willing to help haggle in Arabic, when needed. So much of this trip was different than what one might expect of a trip to Morocco in non-COVID times because tourist numbers were still way down. Rather than acting resentful we found Moroccans generally friendly, enthusiastic, willing to be of great service and places that were open (sadly many restaurants we might have wanted were closed, either temporarily for COVID or now permanently) rolled out the red carpet. For example, one of the absolute highlights of the trip was a night in the Sahara at a desert camp. It is a long drive (roughly 12 hours split over two days each way) to get there and our comfortable van with Hafid gave way for the last hour to 4-wheel drive vehicles capable of rough sand roads and ultimately just hard sand. Then we transitioned to riding camels into the dunes (actually dromedaries because only one hump in Morocco) for about 20-30 min but they would have let us ride longer, or not at all if one didn’t want to). Normally set up for about 8-10 full size luxury tents in this Berber camp, we were the only tourists there, and I think the first ones in almost 15 months, but they treated us with such warmth and welcome. Plentiful food, fresh orange juice brought up to the top of the dune where we were watching the sunset, a feast followed by music and singing on traditional drums around a camp fire with unbelievable stars. We got up to ride the camels again to see sunrise over the dunes. Another highlight of the trip was our hotel in the high Atlas Mts (near where some of Game of Thrones was shot) Kasbah Tamadot (owned by Richard Branson). They had gorgeous, extensive grounds with pools, nooks and crannies with appealing seats, lawns with games from grass tennis courts to bocce, ping pong, and showed the movie Casablanca on a big screen on the lawn with headphones that evening if one wanted to see it (was great fun). The physical, mountainous setting was spectacular. We also did a hiking afternoon with a local guide, Rasheed, who couldn’t have been better. One of us wanted a less strenuous experience but still to go, so Anouar accompanied me with Rasheed taking others in the family, and we had two mules for riding at times if desired. Our last stop, Fes, for two nights was wonderful and a good capstone. Anouar knew excellent shops for those of us wishing to purchase ceramics, leather goods, and fresh dates (quite a dizzying array of each available so having someone’s expert guidance for quality and price was invaluable). Fes normally would be clogged with tourists in its narrow alleys but because tourist numbers were down so much, we had much easier path through places. The riads we stayed in at each location of the trip were exactly the level of accommodation we had hoped for and Radia delivered: more like charming smaller boutique hotels with Moroccan history and art all built around beautiful interior courtyards, usually with fruit trees and fountains, with outdoor and/or rooftop dining. Our last evening in Fes was memorable because Anouar invited us to have dinner in his home with his family and had arranged with his wife to make a few of the dishes we had most enjoyed on the trip (e.g. chicken bastilla) and on one other occasion had a friend of his who owned a restaurant which was closed, open up with a private rooftop dinner for us with one of Marrakech’s speciality dishes served. – On one COVID related note as a warning, Radia had very nicely set up rapid Antigen testing at our hotel the day before leaving, required for us to fly back to the US. While they did come do the testing, they did not include our birthdays and passport numbers or stamp each certificate that they were supposed to email to all of us (and only 2 of the 5 of us got their emails), which Anouar ultimately solved. At the airport, the lack of this info on the test result caused consternation as to whether it was acceptable but ultimately Air Maroc let us fly. I don’t fault Radia in the least but if you need COVID testing, make sure the facility includes all that info on the results certificate. – All in all, it was a really terrific trip and I’d urge people not to shy away from visiting Morocco as soon as possible, preferably even before all the hordes of tourists reappear. So much of our experience was in open air that this also helped us feel safe in COVID times. We felt that going through Wendy Perrin who put us in touch with Radia who then hired out guide Anouar and driver, was a really successful way to have customized a trip that was exactly what we wanted and had ultimate flexibility and focus to our needs and wishes, with invaluable local knowledge and experience. Radia checked in with me by phone several times during the trip to make sure all was going as planned. Five stars all around! – Marcia Wood, Portland OR

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Italy: last-minute Puglia and Sicily

GRACE LEONE| SEPTEMBER 26, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Our trip to Puglia/ Sicily was planned very last minute (2 weeks prior!) with many variables going on. Ali nailed it and went over and above a trip planner. In addition to amazing experiences at a Masseria w/ a cooking lesson & dinner al fresco, Olive oil tasting and dinner at a 600-year-old olive-tree farm, a day on a boat, and private Mt. Etna hiking and winery visit, the list goes on.
She also coordinated all our pick ups as we were coming from 3 different places, all our COVID tests for our return to the US and checking in and coordinating our 2 lost bags on 2 different airlines!
All the guides were the best we’ve had on our travels and she definitely picked out the most can’t miss, authentic and cultural trip for us. I will definitely be working with her again and recommend her to everyone.

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

Ask Wendy

 


Venice without crowds or tour groups

BO ALDIGE| AUGUST 29, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  During our initial phone consultation, Luisa listened carefully to all our preferences and worked quickly to line up airport pickups, our preferred hotel (based on our conversation), guides, and restaurants and made suggestions for things to do during our free time. She was extremely flexible if we decided we wanted to make slight alterations.

My only complaint is that we only had five days – our choice, not theirs! (And they were flexible enough to adjust their minimum of a 10-day trip to accommodate our inability to spend more than five days.)

The hotel, Ca’ Sagredo, was absolutely what we wanted – a former palazzo, on the small side, so I would put it in the boutique category. We had a gorgeous junior suite with 3 huge windows on the Grand Canal and it was an easy walk to most parts of Venice, other than the St. Marks area and the Biennale. We loved exploring Canareggio and Dorsoduro on our own and of course got lost, even with Google maps trying to help us.

The restaurant suggestions were all wonderful and each one had impeccable service and lovely food. The two guides Luisa lined up were both helpful and knowledgeable – and very different. One had grown up on Murano, so knew much about Venice from the perspective of a local; the other was a Brit who has lived in Venice for about two decades. Both provided a wealth of information about art, architecture and history and gave us great insights without overwhelming us with details. It was such a pleasure to experience Venice as I remember it 25 years ago, before the crowds became overwhelming and floating skyscrapers were allowed to anchor in the lagoon. We were thrilled to learn that cruise ships are now permanently barred from anchoring in the lagoon and it is likely to be some time before the big tour groups return and make it impossible to walk across the Rialto Bridge. These moves might just “save Venice”!

I am a very particular person and quite observant of details that turn out to be much less than expected and I have absolutely nothing to complain about during this trip – except not having enough time to do all we wanted, even in five days. Thank you for connecting us with Luisa; I would highly recommend her for your WOW List!

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

Ask Wendy


Small-ship cruise in Alaska

PAT HUGGINS | AUGUST 25, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  My husband, my ten-year-old granddaughter and I traveled on a Lindblad/National Geographic cruise to Alaska earlier this summer. I originally found out about this cruise from a promotional brochure by the company. We sailed with Lindblad on two previous occasions and had very positive experiences. We were looking for an itinerary appropriate for our physical abilities as well as my granddaughter’s interests. Important to us as well was finding a ship with a three-person cabin.

What I did not know was what other small-ship expedition companies offered. To find out I turned to Ashton Palmer. We had a great initial phone call where we chatted about my requirements and limitations. Ashton pointed out the positives and negatives of other expedition cruises and we mutually came back to the Lindblad offering. He logically validated my opinion which put my mind at ease.

We signed up for this cruise in 2019 for the summer of 2020. The Covid situation kept the entire cruise industry in flux and plans were ever changing. Ashton’s team kept us informed whenever they received any new information. By the summer of 2020 we decided to roll our trip over to the 2021 season. The cruise line took measures to ensure our safety by requiring vaccination for all who were eligible as well as Covid testing five days out and immediately before boarding. Until very close to departure we were still not sure if the virus would stop us from going.

In the end we flew for the first time in two years to Alaska, boarded the ship and had a wonderful time. We were comfortable in our three-person cabin when we were not out and about viewing wildlife. There were staff dedicated to the children and activities designed for them. All the walks, zodiac rides or kayaking excursions accommodated a wide range of physical ability. Our memories will last a lifetime.

Thanks to Ashton and his team for helping me find the perfect cruise for us and staying with us through the turmoil.

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Private touring in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

HARRY EISENBERG | AUGUST 10, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Dan planned out a trip for us to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Custer State Park to see the Devils Tower, and Mt. Rushmore. Because my wife is handicapped he had a wheelchair provided for her and our guide pushed her where necessary. All our accommodations were handicap accessible and first rate. Our guide was spectacular and was with us every second of the day. Our minivan was extremely comfortable. We originally had planned to go last August but because of Covid and plane reservations changing every day, a few days before our trip I called Dan and said we did not want to go then and to postpone the trip to this past week. Without a second thought he said fine, no hassle, no problem. Throughout the booking process, there was constant communication, advice, suggestions etc. I would rate every aspect of our trip A++. Our guide provided gourmet picnic lunches for us instead of wasting hours eating at the restaurants in the parks amid the crowds.

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

Ask Wendy


Private villa and activities in Los Cabos, Mexico

KAREN DAVIS | AUGUST 8, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL Julie helped us plan a wonderful week long trip to Cabo with our 3 sons who are in their twenties. She found us a lovely villa with plenty of space, a private pool and an amazing view in the Palmilla subdivision near San Jose del Cabo. Julie and Beth were very easy to reach and patient in answering my questions, and they shared their wealth of information and expertise about activities and restaurants. They booked a driver to take us to our villa from the airport and had a rental car waiting there for us. That made arrival at the San Jose airport much quicker, smoother and less stressful! I recommend that you have a rental car if you are staying at a villa.

Our concierge Hector was at our villa upon arrival, and he spent a lot of time answering our questions. Throughout the week I was able to contact Hector at any time to ask for recommendations or have him book activities for us. He always responded quickly and his knowledge was invaluable! My husband and sons played golf at 3 different courses, and I took a cooking class at Flora Farms which I highly recommend. Hector set up a fishing trip where the boat picked up my husband and sons at the Palmilla beach (just a few minutes from our villa) so we didn’t have to drive to a marina.

Julie and Beth had our COVID tests scheduled a few days before departure and someone came to our villa to quickly administer the tests. Our results arrived by email an hour later. They also arranged for a driver to take us to the airport on departure day and we were able to leave the rental car at the villa for pickup by Avis. My family all agreed that we will return to Cabo and I will definitely use Julie to plan our next trip!

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Uzbekistan and Tajikistan: culture, history, hiking

SALLY LEE | JULY 19, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  I traveled to Uzbekistan w/ Zulya in late May/June of this year. Here are the highlights:
* the country was fully open as was Tajikistan. I had originally planned to also travel to Turkmenistan (this trip was originally planned for last year but COVID made it untenable) but it was still closed due to COVID.
* My itinerary was the same as the original one, minus Turkmenistan. It included a week and a half or so in UZB and 3 days of hiking in the Fann Mountains in TJK.
* The logistics were flawless — was smooth and well though out. My guide, Faikhridden, was also great and was w/ me for the entire trip. I also had two drivers as I covered a lot of territory. However, this was unique as I have typically had multiple guides and drivers — often one in each city that I visit as it is more economical. This was a plus for me — it was great to get to know both Faikhridden and the drivers — they were all kind, helpful, and knowledgeable.
* UZB is fully open, despite COVID. I felt very comfortable throughout as I am vaccinated, although I mostly wore a mask b/c of the testing requirement to return to the U.S.
*I traveled to Tashkent, Nukus (Savitsky Museum), Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand and the Tien Shan mountains. The sites were all great and I learned a lot of history about this part of the world that is often overlooked in American schools! In particular, i enjoyed the Savitsky Museum in Nukus. Zulya set up a private tour w/ the Museum exhibition director who is also an art history professor at the local university. She was terrific and spent over 2 hours w/ me. Her explanations of the history in both Russia and Nukus/UZB during the 1920s – 1940s gave me a great perspective on the art. Her descriptions of the artists and their art was also terrific. While it’s not on many itineraries b/c of its remote location and lack of other things to see (although we visited a very interesting cemetery outside of town w/ a beautiful underground mausoleum), people who enjoy art should make the effort!
*Another highlight was Zulya setting up a lunch w/ her parents/family in her hometown of Bukara. It was a real treat to meet her parents as well as many of her siblings and nieces, nephews. The lunch was really tasty and bountiful — they demonstrated how they make plov, the national dish, and also had many other tasty dishes, bread, and homemade fruit juices. After lunch, the children put on a dance show, first the boys and then the girls. I was asked to join them — I am NOT a dancer but gave it a go! Their warm hospitality was much appreciated and I had a wonderful time.
* The ancient cities of Khiva, Bukara, and Samarkand are all wonderful — the architecture is breathtaking, perhaps some of the best preserved Islamic architecture in the world.
* The only disappointment was that the Tajikistan border inexplicably closed a day before I was to travel to TJK!! I don’t think Zulya or her team were able to figure out why (it was only for a short period of dates). So my hiking had to be canceled, a big disappointment. However, Zulya and her team pivoted and were able to organize hiking in the Tian Shan mountains just outside of Tashkent w/in 24 hours, complete w/ a guest house and a local hiking guide. I did 3 hikes and the scenery was great. While I would have preferred to see the Fann Mountains/Seven Lakes, it was great to still be able to do some hiking on such short notice. I appreciated Zulya’s ability to arrange this w/in less than 24 hours’ notice!
*My COVID test was arranged at my hotel 3 days before my departure — very easy and results were provided w/in 24 hours.

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Adventure, culture, and relaxation with two teens in Costa Rica

KARYN SALLUS | JULY 8, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL Wendy, once again your WOW experts did not disappoint. My daughters (ages 15 and 16) and I went to Costa Rica at the end of May and the trip was perfect. Irene arranged a trip exactly to my specifications. We had adventure, culture, relaxation, and beautiful accommodations. We had a wonderful guide throughout our trip who was patient, knowledgeable, and entertaining. Irene and Edgar were there to solve the few catastrophes were had along the way, including forgetting our laundry bag when we left Arenal/La Fortuna heading to Nosara. They called the hotel picked the bag up and flew it to the local airport and delivered it to our hotel in two days. They didnt even charge us for the effort. Edgar was very knowledgeable about the country, wildlife, and food. He was sooooo patient with my teenage daughters who could often be more interested in their phones than what he was showing us.

We enjoyed so many experiences from hiking, zip lining, ATV tour, a private cooking class, a chocolate farm tour and tasting…. we were busy from the start of our day until the end.

My daughter had her birthday while we were in Costa Rica and they were so great in helping us celebrate. The hotel had a cake at breakfast. Edgar had the van decorated with balloons and a gift basket, the chocolate tour gave her chocolate bars to take home and the cooking class had a cake for her as well. The entire day a celebration for her!

We also had our special WOW moment which was really something special. Edgar picked us up in the late afternoon and we drove to the lake where a boat was waiting. There was a three piece band and dance teacher aboard. We were serenaded and taught to dance salsa (or at least they tried to teach us the Salsa). As the sun went down we toasted our great stay in La Fortuna. After we arrived back on shore we were taken to the private home of a chef in town. He and his wife prepared a delicious 4 course dinner and we could see the prep as the kitchen was outside by the table. The food was fantastic. Little did we know our guide Edgar had been observing our food preferences throughout our trip and dinner was chosen from his recommendations. So much thought was put into the experience. My daughters and I will remember the night fondly.

We ended our trip in Nosara, a small beach town were we could unwind and relax before heading home. My only complaint was the hotel was not anything special. It was a very low key, beachy hotel with minimal bells and whistles. Once we got settled in it was fine and we could walk to the beach and surf as they provided surf boards and boogie boards. We definitely got to relax after or jam packed time in La Fortuna.

I would recommend Irene for planning a fun filled trip to Costa Rica. And Edgar was the bomb….patient, kind and knowledgeable.

Thanks once again for an outstanding vacation.

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Mexico’s Riviera Maya: diving, snorkeling, and a private villa

DEBBIE DESANTIS | JULY 3, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL What a great trip our group of eight all had! Everyone agreed that the Rosewood Mayakoba is absolutely lovely, as is the entire resort property with all four Mayakoba hotels available to guests. All of our planned offsite activities as well as our spontaneous ones were lots of fun and very memorable…. swimming with the whale sharks and manta rays with marine biologist, Rafa!!!; Cozumel diving and snorkeling with a ceviche lunch on a floating table; Dos Ojos cenote dive/snorkel exploration and private-guided Tulum tour; private cooking lesson at the beautiful Ceiba Garden; archery lessons; tennis; cycling daily through the resort; running on the nature trail throughout the property; lounging at our pool and hot tub at our beautiful villa; dinner at a different restaurant every night. And most especially, we loved the wonderful people of Mexico …. all were so very friendly, gracious, and kind. Mirsa, our private guide, scuba and snorkeling leader, and logistics expert extraordinaire was the star of our Riviera Maya trip. She is a true gem, always laughing and engaging, while watching out for us at the same time. The entire staff at the Mayakoba resort was amazing in every respect and also surprised us with gifts most every day. All of these wonderful experiences lead back to our super WOW list travel specialist, Meg. She planned this really wonderful adventure and getaway in truly difficult times. Her experience and network allowed us to re-enter the realm of international travel with relaxed smiles and a feeling that the world is hopefully on the mend.

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Road trip through New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts

LISA GOODMAN | JUNE 29, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  In mid-June, we went on our first family trip since the pandemic started, and it was exceptional. It exceeded our expectations from beginning to end. We wanted to combine a college tour trip for our son who is 17 with a family vacation including our daughter who is 14, so we went on a road trip along the east coast. With the wonderful itinerary from Sam and his team, we all loved the trip! After flying into New York, we drove along the coast of Connecticut to Newport, RI (where we spent 3 days) and then we spent a day in Cape Cod and a day in Boston before heading to western MA for a few days in the Berkshires. Sam and his colleague Lisa took into account everything we were looking for in our trip, and they did not miss a detail. Lisa was our primary contact, and was wonderful to work with from the planning phase all the way through the trip. She created a detailed itinerary (which was easy to follow) telling us the best routes to take and where to stop along the road. She planned two excursions, sailing in Newport and biking in the Berkshires, which were the highlights of the trip. The guides were terrific. I was a bit anxious that I would have some trouble biking 20 miles in the mountains, but she arranged for us to have e bikes which allowed my whole family to access the biking in a fun way. All of her hotel and restaurant suggestions were perfect for our family as well.
When we were initially planning the trip, there were still more restrictions due to COVID in some states along the east coast, and Lisa was able to guide us where would be best to go given the unknown at the time. As it turned out, the states had opened up by the time of our trip. She planned for outside dining at all restaurants because that is how we felt most comfortable. The college tours were still closed, which we knew going into the trip, but we were able to walk around the areas and outside the campuses to get a feel.
When we travel, we like a combination of activities and tours that are best with a guide and also plenty of time to explore on our own. This trip provided the perfect combination of support and planned special activities with unstructured time for us to explore. I would definitely use Sam and his team again to plan another road trip.

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

Ask Wendy


Stress-free trip to Costa Rica

DAENA CRAVEN | JUNE 8, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL We just returned from an amazing trip to Costa Rica designed by Pierre and his colleague Michael. We couldn’t be happier with the entire experience, start to finish. In our initial phone conversation, Pierre understood that we were looking for a stress-free balance of activities and relaxation. We also needed a bit of assurance that it was a good time to travel to Costa Rica. Pierre shared information and gently reassured me that Costa Rica is eager to welcome back tourists and that Covid protocols are being followed and respected. He couldn’t have been more correct. Costa Ricans are incredibly friendly and lovely people, and we felt Covid-safe in every hotel, on every activity, and in all situations. Pierre and Michael ensured that our trip was stress-free by arranging everything – private transportation, wonderful activities, professional guides, and beautiful lodging. They even arranged for our Covid tests to be taken in San Jose the night before returning to the US. The trip was flawless, and they exceeded our expectations. Thank you, Pierre and Michael!!

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Nature and wildlife in Costa Rica

REBEL RICE | JUNE 7, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Priscilla Jimenez and her team assembled a magical trip to Costa Rica for our family in May 2021. Pre-pandemic my husband and I were travelling without our 20-year old daughter and on a shorter trip. Rescheduling the trip to a date 14 months later worked out well, as we were able to include her and spend time in places like Monteverde, that were usually filled with tourists. We were relieved that all of our previous payments were still in place. Only one company had gone under we were told, but it did not seem to change our costs. Adding the daughter and additional days increased the cost!

Covid-19 prevention was always top of mind for all the people that we encountered in our travels, especially those connected with Priscilla’s team. We are fully vaccinated so we had few concerns but were happy to comply with their requirements. Their operations group send us a daily email with the next days or days activities and timing. What a nice luxury! One day I even wrote back and asked for a dinner recommendation in La Fortuna and they made us a reservation in a fantastic restaurant. The other positive aspect for us, the travelers, is that no place was crowded. At all.

We visited the Osa Peninsula, Arenal and Monteverde and found each to be fascinating in its own right. We flew into Pt. Jimenez on the Osa Peninisula and then stayed at Bosque del Cabo, a somewhat remote eco-lodge in the heart of the rainforest. The variety of wildlife was remarkable. The lodge has an outstanding tropical biologist on staff who took us on two amazing guided hikes that the planner recommended. We learned so much. The only drawback is that their birding guide was not available because so few people were visiting, but Priscilla’s team did not know that. It wasn’t until later in the trip that I realized just how much we missed. The food was outstanding as well!!

From there we went to Arenal and were provided excellent shuttle service by Priscilla’s company. Turns out that the shared shuttle was private. That happened several times. We are so glad that the company chose to honor their commitment rather than just make us wait until more people showed up. We heard about other companies doing that to other tourists.

The activities that our planner recommended were all enjoyable and interesting. Importantly, the guides are terrific, knowledgeable and enthusiastic and they help make the experience. At Arenal we visited the Sky Park for the Nature hike and the zip line – so much fun. We went white water rafting on the Sarapiqui, which is only an hours drive away. The guide was skilled and fun and the water was wonderful. She booked the twilight tour for Mistico Hanging Bridges and we did not even realize it would turn into a night tour. Amazing. Great surprise! She also worked in a Chocolate tour (Rainforest Chocolate) that was so much fun.

In Monteverde we had guided hikes at Monteverde Cloud Forest and at Curi Canche Reserve. The latter may have been the highlight of the trip in part because they booked the best guide imaginable. His enthusiasm and engagement with us was fantastic. We also visited the Orchid Garden on our own at their recommendation and loved it. Kinda surprised about that one.

I also want to give a shout out to our shuttle driver on almost every drive, Mauricio. Terrific driver, extremely knowledgeable about all things Costa Rican from plants to history, and a real pleasure to spend several hours with in the van.

The paperwork and insurance to go to Costa Rica can be confusing. We used Trawick for that specific insurance requirement. To return to the US, we found the lab paperwork to get the required Covid test was also a bit frustrating and it seems to be changing. Priscilla’s team organized a very convenient lab testing site and helped us sign up for the antigen rather than the PCR, saving us money.

All in all we hope to go back someday and will surely work with this group as well!

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Resort-hopping in the Maldives

KIM PRATER | MAY 24, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL Justin was fantastic! We planned the trip to the Maldives to split time between two resorts- half was at St Regis on points so Justin didn’t play a specific role there. However- he was excellent at helping us narrow down choices for the other resort & when there was Covid at the one we chose, he was very proactive at getting us into another resort (if there has been Covid you can’t switch from one resort to another in the Maldives). I can’t imagine dealing with the nightmare of finding a new place 8 days before arrival without someone to work through the logistics. He was quite right in discouraging two seaplane distance resorts given our short time (8 days) in the country and the unscheduled nature of seaplanes in the Maldives- it would have taken a day away from enjoying a day! His recommendations for restaurants to prioritize at both resorts was spot on and he was very helpful with plans for scuba, advising on better house reefs etc. While Justin didn’t make the St Regis reservation, he was very willing to help with recommendations for the resort and I’m quite certain would have stepped in to help had any issues arisen. He dealt with us personally throughout the planning process.

Our WOW Moment was such fun! We and the dive master and two naturalists headed out and we had a fantastic dive. Then we headed across the atoll to use a drone to try to find whale sharks and manta rays. While none were to be found it was still a blast to watch the naturalists use the drone to hunt for them!
We have nothing but praise for Justin, who put together a great trip!

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Three-month exploration of Colombia

DANIEL WILE | MAY 14, 2021

PANDEMIC TRAVEL Colombia trip January 15-April 21.

WOW memory: Standing on my balcony on my suite in Cartagena in the late afternoon and watching the golden waves striking the shore below the colonial era walls. This would be true at any time, but was sensory overload after a year without travel.

There are some important features of travel in Colombia that are independent of the pandemic. Perhaps because Colombia has no obvious famous tourist destinations such as the Galapagos or Machu Picchu, and because it just emerged from a fifty year civil war, it doesn’t get many foreign tourists in most parts. As a result, very few people in the travel infrastructure speak English. That is true for check in agents at airports, and flight attendants even on Avianca, Colombia’s premium airline, and in five star, international class hotels such as the Four Seasons Casa Medina Bogota.

A person should go to Colombia because of the spectacular variety of intimate, beautiful experiences in one country.

In what was an often challenging travel environment, Marc and Boris performed heroically and with the complete finesse of an expert kayaker on the most challenging whitewater. After the pandemic, anyone on a trip with them will find working with them even more of a total joy. Without them, my trip would have been impossible.

To address the questions Wendy asked:
“How did this trip differ from one you might have taken before the pandemic?”
Because of the possibility of a national lockdown or travel ban in the US, I arrived three weeks earlier than in the original itinerary, namely, before January 20. I switched hotels at the end so that I could stay in a hotel with a room more tolerable in a two week quarantine. Historically important churches everywhere and some museums and restaurants were closed because of the pandemic. One region was closed that I would have otherwise visited. Airline travel at every stage was always awkward. Covid procedures were different at each airport.

“Did the trip planner suggest experiences, accommodations, dining options, travel logistics, etc., that felt Covid-appropriate to you? Did he/she solve particular challenges or destination-related problems?”
The answer is yes to every part of the first question. With regard to the second, Marc and Boris’ team wrote letters that enabled the guide to enter airline terminals generally restricted to passengers in order to help me check in with airline agents who spoke only locally accented Spanish. Their team over the phone helped me fill in very confusing forms for pre-registration for arrival and departure and for extending my visa. The outfitter arranged for the hotel to have a doctor test me for Covid in my room within the required three days before departure. To deal with the closure of the region in the previous section, the outfitter rescheduled and expanded visits to other places to fill the gap. The outfitter and the local partners were able to adapt airport transfers to accommodate local lockdowns and curfews. They were always accommodating to my uniquely personal wishes and interests, requests for itinerary changes, and inherent way of doing things. They were easily reachable over the phone and responded quickly to emails

“What did the trip planner do, or not do, to minimize your health risk or financial risk?”
Because my trip was always going to be private and in luxury accommodations and private cars, the health risk was reduced substantially. There really wasn’t any financial risk.

“Did the trip planner add value to your trip? If so, how?”
Being able to negotiate the often changing or confusing or difficult procedures described earlier, being willing to make frequent changes, and knowing the fine details of which rooms in a particular hotel were suitable to my tastes added immense value.

“Did you have certain trip experiences that other travelers should either seek out or avoid?”
In Cartagena, do stay at Sofitel Leyenda Santa Clara. Don’t stay at the Four Seasons Casa Medina in Bogota because they didn’t observe the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the room and because the hotel has restaurant staff who don’t understand menus that are printed in English, and don’t stay at Gitana Del Mar on the Caribbean coast because the receptionists were rude or indifferent and because their kitchen staff did not observe basic Covid rules. Marc and Boris do not deserve a scintilla of responsibility for these bad experiences; the hotel staffs do completely. No travel company can be around a client every minute of every day.

Read more reviews of Marc and Boris. Or request your own trip.

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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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