How to minimize your risk and maximize your travel experience? Know the right fixer. What will the right fixer do for you? Read on. Below is a continually updated sampling of the trip reviews that your fellow readers are submitting — yes, even during the pandemic — after returning from trips arranged by Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts. Here’s how to get your own extraordinary trip. *
Private villa in Tulum, Mexico
GARRETT BANDY | FEBRUARY 25, 2021
PANDEMIC TRAVEL We rented a private home in Tulum. Honestly, we couldn’t have found the home ourselves. We were fully staffed and had the best price for private chefs to accommodate our food wishes. We weren’t comfortable going elsewhere to get a COVID test to travel. Dani, our agent, was able to easily organize health techs to come to the house to administer the test.
Dani added great value to our trip by not only providing services like in home COVID tests but by working with the home owner to to extend the cancelling policy (which, we fortunately decided not to use). I don’t believe this request would have been successful without Dani’s assistance.
Dani steered us in the right direction for the perfect home in the perfect location. We would not have wanted to be in the busyness of downtown Tulum but rather in the park, closer to the ruins and also have access to staff serving us drinks on the beach from the neighboring hotel. This service alone was worth everything.
I understand the home will be updating its kitchen soon. The pool was ok for the adults and great for the kids. I came to understand that being in the reserve, it’s difficult to update a home with many permits and hoops to jump through. The main draw is the beautiful beach, the service and home. We traveled from 2/12/21-2/22/21.
Family ski trip to Park City, Utah
ADRIENNE WHALEY | FEBRUARY 23, 2021
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Meg was the greatest. Patient with us while we figured out dates and flights and destination. She gave us places to choose from and once we had it down she handled everything. She pulled it off in 3 weeks time. Absolutely we will use her again when planning a ski trip and probably a spring break trip as well. With all the changes in 2021 she guided us through hurdles we would have had to figure out the hard way as well as saved us time in research. Even checked in with us each day and sent me an email at 430 in the morning after checking the status of our 6am flight!!! I can not recommend her enough.
Kid-friendly trip to Mexico’s Caribbean coast
MATTHEW GAMBLE | FEBRUARY 23, 2021
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Meg Austin is a magician, miracle worker, and a hero to the people!
I called Meg to try to get us a safe, on budget, and kid friendly trip to the Caribbean for our family of 6 (including kids ages 9, 7, 4, and 1 1/2) – Certainly not the easiest task in the middle of spiking COVID cases here in the US and changes in policy for travelers returning to the US. To be honest, I was about to give up on this trip due to uncertainty regarding evolving COVID issues and other agents’ difficulties coming in at our budget.
I decided to call Meg as a bit of a “Hail Mary.”
That Hail Mary was a winning touchdown pass for our family. Meg nailed it – nailed it – and nailed it:
Kids had an absolute blast.
And our itinerary was to us quick as a flash. Did I mention I gave her only about 5 weeks of notice?
She’s a kick to work with, enthusiastic and fun, and put us in just the right spot. She was super fast with responses to questions, concerns, and followed up with us on the days of travel and while we were on our trip to make sure things went smoothly with return COVID testing/airline requirements/and all things pandemic related.
Very highly recommended! Call Meg Austin.
Matthew D. Gamble, M.D.
Active adventures and sun in Costa Rica
CINDY FRANCIES | FEBRUARY 15, 2021
PANDEMIC TRAVEL We went to two wonderful locations in Costa Rica with the assistance of Pierre Gedeon in January of this year. Initially, we were supposed to go to Panama but because of Covid, we had to change our itinerary quickly. They proved the worth of a good travel agent because our flights were delayed repeatedly and they handled adjusting our hotel reservations quickly and efficiently. (Along with transfers, etc.) All of this was done from WhatsApp! The activities that were planned were terrific. A great mix of active events and time at leisure to soak in the sun. In short, when you are going on vacation you don’t want to worry about getting things right. Pierre’s team got everything right. Questions were encouraged and answered quickly. We have already started planning our next trip with them.
Kenya safari, with private lodges
JENNIFER ANDREWS | FEBRUARY 4, 2021
PANDEMIC TRAVEL We were in Kenya from January 13 until February 2nd. It was our first trip to Kenya and it was one of my favorite trips to date. Kenya was remarkably safe and very Covid aware (better than the US) and we could not have felt more comfortable. Because Julian picked really incredible lodges with a small amount of rooms, we had two of the lodges all to ourselves. Since it was our first trip there, I don’t have any comparison to non Covid times but I do know it was remarkable to be on the Masai Mara and see no other cars all day. It was like our own private Kenya in lots of ways.
We started in Nairobi at Hemingways for 2 nights to get over jet lag. We then flew bush planes to the other lodges and we usually flew alone but 2 of the flights we had a few others. We relied completely on Julian for our lodges, our itinerary and his experience. We had to have a test before we got on the plane home and Julian had a doctor fly to us in the bush and give us our tests while we had breakfast. Because Kenya put a new form in place while we were there, Julian’s point person in Nairobi spent all day tracking down the specifics and got us the needed TT Code a few hours before our flight so it was seamless for us.
Our lodges were incredible. We had amazing food and wine, the best guides, the most exclusive lodges and such a high level of service– we were completely spoiled. We really put ourselves in Julian’s hands and let him do all the work and we could not be happier with our trip. I was really excited but I had no idea how amazing it would be and how much we loved Kenya. Julian organized all our flights, all our transportation and all our requests had been pre-sent so we just had to show up and have this incredible trip.
We flew Emirates to Dubai and then to Nairobi and they could not have been safer or more careful. When we arrived back in Dubai on the way home, they whisked us through another PCR test because we had to stay overnight due to weather in Boston and it was all handled for us. It’s my favorite airline already but to see how they are handling the pandemic and testing with such efficiency is amazing. We never felt nervous for a second — on the flight or the trip.
I would recommend going to Kenya and having Julian plan it for you ASAP because it is truly remarkable to have all the animals, land and incredible Kenyans show off their country right now.
Places stayed: Ol Donyo Lodge, Sasaab, Salas Camp, Mara Nyika, Hemingways.
Asante sana, Julian.
Kid-friendly trip to Fairmont Mayakoba and Tulum, Mexico
MARY KO | JANUARY 12, 2021
PANDEMIC TRAVEL We went to the Fairmont Mayakoba Dec 28-Jan 3rd. We saw Tulum and swam in a cenote and enjoyed the resort. It was the perfect family friendly resort. The service was great. My 2 year old is particularly difficult and she loved seeing the turtles at the grand cenote and my older girls loved swimming and seeing the bats above our heads. In Tulum they loved running around exploring. Franc was so helpful and kind he picked a delicious restaurant for us to eat at for lunch and helped us skip the wait. He totally didn’t mind having kids around. The resort was the perfect way to relax but escaping to see some of the beauty and history of Mexico was great. Traveling with 3 kids is always tricky but we use Wendy Perrin’s list to make it easy.
Ski trip to Park City, Utah, for Christmas
LISA MANNING | JANUARY 6, 2021
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Meg planned a trip for my family of 3 to Canyons/Park City, Utah over the Christmas/New Year’s holiday. It was perfectly planned. She suggested great restaurants (although due to covid, we mostly got take out in our lovely suite that she found with amazing views of the mountains). When we arrived at our suite, we had a stocked fridge, a bottle of wine, and a decorated Christmas tree all coordinated by Meg! She found ways to minimize risk on the airplane by getting us first class seats (at a good rate) on the first row of the plane. She had the skis delivered to the lobby of our hotel, no waiting in line!
Meg suggested we ski at Canyons/Park City because we could use our season passes from our local ski resort in Pennsylvania there. This saved us money. We did not have to wait in long lines for lift tickets because we had our season passes already. We went right outside from our hotel and there was the lift. Our flight was delayed on return and Meg was on it immediately, making sure we could get a late check out at our hotel and rearranging the car service to the airport. It was the smoothest family trip we have taken. My husband, who isn’t a big skier, said it was the best ski trip he’s been on! I appreciated her knowledge and feedback in finding the right ski resort for us!
Last-minute Arizona road trip
CHARLIE MYERS | JANUARY 6, 2021
PANDEMIC TRAVEL My family and I were so lucky to have had the opportunity to have worked with Melissa, Mindy and their team on our last minute vacation to Arizona. They could not have been more thoughtful and professional in organizing all aspects of the trip, during a really challenging time.
This trip was arranged by a WOW List candidate. Here’s what that means.
Villa vacation in Cabo, Mexico over the holidays
ANGELA SPRAU | JANUARY 6, 2021
PANDEMIC TRAVEL The trip was wonderful. Our travel specialist helped alleviate all concerns regarding COVID precautions, and encouraged travel insurance, which I gladly purchased. The villa, and staff were superb, and made traveling during the pandemic seamless. We hope to go back soon, cannot say enough about Villa Penasco and Los Cabos.
Family ski trip to Beaver Creek, Colorado
MARY POWERS | JANUARY 6, 2021
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Meg Austin planned and coordinated a ski trip for us that far exceeded our expectations and took the angst out of all the details. We traveled to Beaver Creek the week before Christmas 2020. Being veteran travelers and a party of 9 we wanted the guidance and expertise of a seasoned travel expert with the ever evolving COVID pandemic. Having used Wendy Perrin for a trip a year and half ago, we knew this was our best way to go.
As Richard Branson says, “When making experiences, attention to detail matters.” Meg made sure every detail was covered from arranging a party of nine arriving from three different states to two different airports to finding accommodations where we could all be together. Our equipment was even delivered to our lodging in stages as members of our group arrived at different times. She found beautiful, perfectly located accommodations with amenities that fit our needs. Her demeanor was so positive and enthusiastic! She was very respectful of our budget and made sure to stay within it or find a way to make it work. We take pride in making our own travel plans, however, we do not think we could have even made it work within our budget with the quality of accommodations, location, reservations and services we received.
Meg is very focused and never pushy which we truly appreciated. We threw her curveballs when our son had hand surgery 2 weeks before the trip and our daughter developed a back condition that sidelined their skiing plans and she responded with home run alternative ideas. We often wondered if Meg ever slept as emails and texts were almost always answered within minutes. If you want top notch travel advice with a plethora of options to choose from, we highly recommend her for your next travel experience. We guarantee you will not be disappointed!
We are immensely grateful to Meg for making our family holiday trip truly extraordinary and look forward to using her again in the very near future!
Private yacht charter in the Caribbean, off Belize
SHELBY WILLETS | JANUARY 5, 2021
PANDEMIC TRAVEL An un-BELIZE-able family vacation
Choosing to travel internationally as a family during the pandemic was not an easy decision, but after hearing Rachael Wilson discuss the health and safety measures she was taking during one of Wendy Perrin’s Zoom sessions, we decided to explore the possibility further.
The attraction to us was being socially distanced by miles versus feet. The yacht would serve as our accommodation, dining venue and entertainment for our 10-day vacation.
Another reassuring factor is that the country of Belize requires a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours to enter. American Airlines offers PCR Covid testing through a partnership with Let’s Get Checked. Passengers booked on AA flights are “guaranteed” results within 72 hours. We were pleased with the Let’s Get Checked process and liked that they require you to take the sample while on a video chat with a health care professional.
Traveling during the pandemic does take additional planning. There were no last-minute trips to the store to pick up items as we self-quarantined for 2 weeks prior to our trip. In addition to the Let’s Get Checked test, we took several local PCR Covid tests in the weeks prior to our travels. To minimize transportation exposure, we drove ourselves to the airport and parked in the short-term parking lot. My husband parked the car and walked across the street to enter the airport – well worth the additional cost. We chose flight times early in the morning and late in the evening to avoid the crowds at the airport. Wendy’s seat selection recommendations were greatly appreciated. In our opinion, American Airlines did a wonderful job ensuring everyone was wearing their face mask properly.
If for some reason we would have been unable to travel, we had the option to reschedule the vacation within a year. A very generous offer that put our minds at ease when booking. Rachael and Patricia were very prompt in replying to our e-mails and providing additional information. They even tracked down poker chips at the last minute to add to our yacht – remember, I couldn’t go to the store.
Joining us in our yacht bubble, were 2 wonderful crew members, Eric, the captain and Andrea 1st mate/chef. Whether it was playing silly reindeer games on a rainy Christmas day, spending extra time fishing for the prize catch or cooking up the prized catch, their dedication and attention really made the trip special. They covertly decorated the yacht for our 25th wedding anniversary while we were out kayaking. Andrea even found time to stealthy make a cake from scratch.
We are a SCUBA diving family and diving in Belize has been on our wish list for a while. Rachael and Patricia worked closely with us to arrange private dives and diving equipment that we could procure at the beginning of the trip and keep for the duration. The Amigos Del Mar dive shop in San Pedro were top notch!! We had 7 wonderful SCUBA dives with Carlos and Alex. Having private SCUBA diving excursions limited our exposure to others and ensured we were typically the only boat at the location. Also, it afforded us the opportunity to feel comfortable taking our 12-year-old son to the Great Blue Hole! An amazing experience and bucket list worthy location that not many young divers can say they have accomplished. The juvenile nurse sharks were quite playful and joined us on several of our dives. They showed us around their swim throughs ensuring we all stayed together. In our many years of SCUBA diving, we have never had the wildlife engage with us so much – I think they were feeling neglected with the lack of tourists.
In addition to SCUBA diving, we enjoyed the yacht activities of paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, fishing, exploring deserted islands, spotting the rare red-footed boobie bird, star gazing and quality family time. My 12-year-old and I had an engaging conversation for 2 hours one evening while we gazed at the galaxies – a moment in time that I will treasure.
We will be talking about this vacation for years to come! Thank you to Rachael and Patricia for helping us feel safe while traveling during the Covid pandemic and making family memories that we will forever cherish.
Safari in Kenya with private game drives
JEREMY LYNCH | DECEMBER 28, 2020
PANDEMIC TRAVEL As an avid traveler, I knew that planning an African Safari was beyond my own abilities. After reading about Julian’s recent trip to Kenya with his son in Billie Cohen’s article Dispatch from Kenya: What a Safari Looks Like Now, I knew that Julian could plan the right trip for me.
I first made contact with Julian on October 19, 2020. Julian was patient, informative, and knowledgeable. Julian’s patience and planning were immediately tested when everyone in my travel group backed-out of this trip as soon as Julian had it completely planned and ready to go. Instead of complaining about these travelers backing-out, Julian sensed how much I wanted to take this tour to Africa, and he planned a solo trip just for me. As an added bonus, Julian was going to accompany me on this trip. As Wendy would say, WOW!
By November 12, 2020, Julian had modified a multi-person itinerary to a solo itinerary just for me. From December 4-14, in less than four weeks, I would be traveling to Kenya and the Maasai Mara.
I only had a few requests for Julian regarding this trip:
1. I wanted the best opportunity to see as much game and birds as possible (no checklist, just opportunity);
2. I wanted as much of the trip to be inclusive as possible, so that I did not have to incur additional costs during the trip;
3. I wanted private game drives so that my time searching for game would not be determined by others; and
4. I wanted to “go with the flow once in the Mara”–get up early, go to bed at a reasonable time, but see what the day and conditions dictated, rather than having a set time-table and schedule of things to do.
not only delivered on each of these requirements, but he exceeded them. For most of this trip, I felt and believed I was the only person in the Mara. From his selection of camps, Instinct of the Mara and Entim Camp, to knowing what to look for and ask for, Julian’s knowledge was invaluable. Notable, unexpected highlights included:
1. Traditional fire-roasted lamb prepared by Maasai men, accompanied by sundowners high on a hill in the Mara;
2. Persuading Richard and staff at Instinct of the Mara to prepare and serve an impromptu three-course-meal on a sandbar in the middle of the Sand River;
3. Assisting me with adding over 70 new bird species to my bird knowledge and inventory;
4. Innumerable animal encounters; and
5. An unexpected, secluded waterfall and resulting pool in the Mara.
Covid-19 protocols were evident at every step of the trip planning process and the trip itself. Admission to Kenya required a negative PCR test and answers to a Kenyan Government internet health questionnaire, which resulted in a QR code to be submitted upon arrival in Nairobi. The most stressful part of this trip was awaiting the results of my PCR test, which required that the test results be no older than 96 hours upon arrival in Kenya. I received my results at 10:30 PM, the night before my departure flight. (That was too close for comfort for me—outside the “cancel for any reason” window. In hindsight, when I plan another trip of this magnitude and expense, I am going to have a second, “back-up” Covid-19 test conducted through the mail.) Julian pointed out all of the Covid-19 testing requirements early in the planning process, and he continually followed-up with me to ensure that I had what I needed for arrival in Kenya, including satisfactory trip insurance.
During the trip, every person in Kenya with whom I made contact was wearing a mask. Before entering any Camp or establishment, each time I was required to wash my hands, and hand sanitizer was present at all locations. In addition, all camps conducted temperature screenings prior to entering, and all eating establishments practiced social distancing by keeping patrons and guests separated. I felt each Camp did everything it could to ensure the most safety for its guests.
Even though a negative Covid-19 test was not required for my return trip to Georgia, Julian assisted me and was able to schedule a Covid-19 test prior to leaving Kenya so that I could have a high degree of assurance that I was not infected prior to returning home.
The most people I encountered at one time during my Kenyan Safari was at the major international airports—Atlanta, Amsterdam, and Nairobi. Everyone wore masks, and I kept my distance, finding a seat away from groups. I had never seen Atlanta’s international terminal so empty, but Amsterdam and Nairobi were busy but not crowded. The international airports were the only places where my thoughts returned to Covid.
I look forward to another experience just like this one, and I will ask Julian for his assistance and planning when I do.
Asante sana, Julian.
Acqualina Resort on Miami Beach
JOHN ARNDT | DECEMBER 21, 2020
PANDEMIC TRAVEL We just returned from a fantastic trip to the Acqualina Resort in Sunny Isles (Ft. Lauderdale). Lindsey Epperly introduced us to this resort several years ago when we celebrated our 40th anniversary. That trip was over the top itself and set a very high standard for both Lindsey and Acqualina. From the champagne served during registration (which has been discontinued for now due to COVID), to the incredible upgrade and super attentive service like rose petals on our bed and a very nice complimentary cocktail and snack waiting for us in our room. Since then, we have returned to Acqualina several times and Lindsey and her team have assisted us each time. With COVID, we had to reschedule 3 times, and each time they were super helpful making reservations, then rescheduling, working with the resort staff; it just made things so very easy. They made certain we knew what the cancelation timeframes were and helped us stay in touch with the resort so that we wouldn’t lose our deposits each time we had to reschedule. After we made this final reservation, Lindsey quickly put us in touch with the resort management and concierge team. The management reviewed their heightened cleaning and general COVID protocols insuring we were comfortable in advance of our arrival. We were very impressed with the resort’s adherence to these and how well they coordinated servicing our room when we were either dining or at the beach, all very seamless. The concierge team set up our dinner reservations, spa appointments and did the normal things these teams do. But with each email from the resort, Lindsey’s staff was included and insured everything went smoothly and then followed up with us to confirm it was as we desired. Lindsey and her team are just so easy to work with and stay on top of all the details. We couldn’t recommend them more highly to other travelers.
Turkey: sightseeing, boating, ballooning…
KATIE STINER | DECEMBER 4, 2020
PANDEMIC TRAVEL What a spectacular trip! I was desperate to go anywhere this fall after a long quarantine in New York. Earl was incredibly responsive and after just one phone call, our itinerary for Turkey was quickly assembled. Our amazing guide Riza and our lovely drivers could not have been more thoughtful and careful given the pandemic, and our itinerary was constantly being tweaked to avoid crowds, maximize time outdoors, while not missing a single sight! All our hotels had rigorous pandemic protocols that made us feel safe as we enjoyed the magical cities we explored. Earl also helped us adapt our itinerary throughout the trip. We booked the Bosphorus cruise while in Turkey after initially opting out and it turned out to be a true highlight. We appreciated all the helpful guidance from Riza, who blended tremendous historical knowledge, with incredible recommendations for restaurants, quick bites, and quality vendors for souvenir purchases. He made sure we missed absolutely nothing while making sure we weren’t exhausted. I don’t know how he did it, but his guidance truly made the trip. It was incredible having him as a constant presence throughout our trip. This was a truly remarkable trip and I strongly encourage anyone who feels comfortable traveling to take the opportunity to visit Turkey without the crowds.
One word of warning, no one in the Cappadocia balloon ride apart from us wore their mask and there was little enforcement although the pilot did try. Most tourists were from Russia and showed an utter lack of regard for the pandemic. Warn any guests that might be sensitive. I don’t want to recommend against the balloon company though because they objectively were excellent pilots and got down into the canyons in a way that other companies did not.
Greece with kids: culture, history, hiking, food…
ELENA LYTKINA | NOVEMBER 30, 2020
PANDEMIC TRAVEL So grateful for both Faye and Stella who arranged a fabulous experience to Greece from 10/24/2020 to 11/1/2020 for our family of four on super short notice. Stella was incredibly helpful in arranging a great experience every step of the way and was a joy to work with. She graciously and promptly handled lots of last minute questions and change requests which made all the difference. Our trip was full of special experiences, knowledgeable guides, special hikes, tastings and more – All your partners were great and the activities were well planned and very enjoyable. Thank you for everything!
5-star resort and nature activities in Arizona
MARY HOAK | NOVEMBER 15, 2020
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Once again Dani did such a fantastic job for us in her role as travel specialist! During the pandemic, we have found that it helps to have 2 sets of plans. Dani helped us set these plans up and made sure that when we had to pivot to plan B, we were able to get deposits refunded. Dani helped us with dinner reservation, even getting us outdoor seating where available. With the perks that her travel agency provides, we also have a credit and breakfast every day. She also help us with upgrades and late checkout if needed or available. We loved all the hiking in Scottsdale AZ. We spent hours hiking the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Dani knows that we like to have a suite with a separate area and an outdoor space as well and she knows how to pick a great room for us. Thanks again!!!
Adventures and thrills in Utah’s national parks, plus a canyoneering WOW Moment
AMY EVERS | NOVEMBER 7, 2020
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Melissa and her colleague Mindy put together (in just a couple of weeks) an amazing trip for my husband and I! Like many others, we were supposed to be somewhere else (Zimbabwe for us) but were unable to go secondary to covid. Instead we opted to stay in the country and visit the southwest. We were NOT disappointed. We flew into Phoenix and out of Salt Lake City, but rented a car and drove between.
Our trip was filled with incredible, fun, and active ventures. We started things on the relaxing side with golf for my husband (which he did again later in the trip), a massage for me, and a bit of pool time. We then moved on to a lot of very active experiences until the end when we relaxed again. We went mountain biking twice and white water rafting. We went on a hot air balloon flight. We hiked in many gorgeous locales. We did a cooking class (the food was out of this world), a sunset tour in the desert, a UTV tour, a stargazing experience, and jeep tours. We had some time to explore on our own as well. Our two favorite experiences were exploring the very narrow slot canyons in Escalante with a guide that took us off the tourist grid (we didn’t see anyone else!) and a WOW Moment of canyoneering near Zion. No doubt we are slight adrenaline junkies, but this trip really fulfilled our desires!
We had booked a half-day of canyoneering, but the WOW Moment surprise turned it into a full day of elevated canyoneering with a special picnic along the way. And we had a photographer with us to take pictures of us all day! I am elated that we had more time to go further into the canyon and do more repels and obstacles. There was even one small section that got me out of my comfort zone and that is usually what I’m looking for! I know that type of thing is not for everyone, but that’s where it’s up to an intuitive and knowledgeable travel agent to find those things that make the trip really shine. I definitely feel like our travel agent “got us” in planning this trip. Our guides were all amazing too. They were personable, knowledgeable and good at what they do. My husband and I are both fit individuals and our guides were able to tailor our activities to our physical abilities, allowing us to get the most out of each day. I know the guides also had a heads up on expectations even before we met them, thanks to our travel agent! We ended our trip with some much needed, relaxing spa time in a gorgeous mountain resort.
Our hotels were all perfectly chosen for us. We ate like kings and queens. We even had some amazing meals in some very small towns. Melissa & Mindy made us feel very special throughout, leaving treats and champagne at hotels for us, as well as during excursions or sunsets. We truly were blown away by the beauty we have here in our own country! We felt safe throughout the trip. Nearly all our excursions were outside. We also ate outside for the majority of our meals. We wore masks anytime we weren’t outside and distanced and others did too.
This trip was arranged by a WOW List candidate. Here’s what that means.
Croatia: culture, history, food, wine…
JENNIFER ANDREWS | OCTOBER 31, 2020
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Our trip to Croatia could not have been better planned by Ala. She thought of absolutely everything and made it so easy for us. Every single aspect was planned out perfectly- our fast track services, our drivers, our experiences, the restaurants— every detail was thought of. From the moment I talked to her she was on top of all Covid issues and gave us options on how to best handle them. She came up with experiences for us that were even better than they sounded on our itinerary and she clearly spent a lot of time and thought bc everyone mentioned they had read our itinerary – which was nice bc we didn’t have to tell each person where we had been or what we had done- they already knew so there was no repeating all the time.
This was my first trip through Wendy Perrin. I chose it bc of the emails I got that sounded so well versed in Covid issues. I will never try to plan alone or use anyone else for now on bc of how detail oriented our trip was. I said it before but Ala thought of everything. We never worried about Covid bc we were well prepared and did everything private. She was really good about giving her opinion rather than just planning what I thought we wanted to do and we would have had a far less experience had she not planned our trip. She really listened to our preferences and then ran with them. We got to spend a day with a vintner in Hvar and then have a really special meal and wine tasting at the end of the day that was such a highlight for us. The websites for the hotels made it a bit hard to gauge but she knew the hotels personally and was able to address any questions. It was so nice to be traveling and Ala made sure we felt safe and comfortable – and aware of what we needed to do and she had a backup plan had things gone south.
If anyone is thinking of going to Croatia, it felt so safe. They have not been hit hard at all yet they are following all the guidelines and safety measures. We are going to go back in April (if covid allows). It was not crowded at all but it also did not feel deserted so it was perfect. Had it not been for Covid, we would have just booked some hotels and drivers on our own and I cannot fathom how much we would have missed by doing that. Ala didn’t plan too much (we didn’t want every minute planned) but she planned our activities perfectly and they were not things I could have found online and booked myself so we are so grateful for her amazing planning- and she has great taste in restaurants so that was a plus too!
Editor’s note: You can read a full interview with Jennifer Andrews here.
This trip was arranged by a WOW List candidate. Here’s what that means.
Escape to Tahiti, including The Brando
JEFF GOBLE | SEPTEMBER 30, 2020
PANDEMIC TRAVEL There were three areas where Kleon provided super value in French Polynesia.
First, I would have passed on The Brando if it wasn’t for Kleon, and that would have been a mistake. Why? The price—it’s expensive. But it was well worth it. … It’s the finest resort we’ve ever stayed at anywhere in the world, in terms of service, privacy, and attention to detail.
Second, I don’t think we could have found testing, if it were not for Kleon.
And third, not huge, but we made a decision while at The Brando that we wanted to visit a pearl market, and he made those arrangements for us on the fly and organized the transportation for us.
Without Kleon, the trip would have been a much less enjoyable experience—or we might not have been able to go at all. That’s because French Polynesia’s entry requirements changed while we were going through the planning process. Just having Kleon hold our hand through it and make sure we did it correctly was very reassuring.
Editor’s note: You can read a full interview with the Gobles here.
Island hopping in the U.S. Pacific Northwest
KATHY WOEBER GARDNER | AUGUST 20, 2020
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Sheri is the consummate professional: she gave us excellent guidance on planning our trip to the Olympic Peninsula and San Juan Islands and superb and detailed advice as to where to stay and what to do; she truly tailored the trip to our interests and was “with us” throughout the trip (even assisting when we made a silly mistake with a ferry (notwithstanding her detailed written instructions to the contrary). We would work with her again in a heartbeat.
Renting our own places was a criterion for us and, interestingly, hard to do. Houses were very booked up. So Sheri was hugely helpful in piecing together our places to stay.
We rented a house close to Olympic National Park, but not in it. It was on the water, super pretty and an easy drive into the park. Then we spent three days on San Juan Island in another rental home, and a week on Lopez Island in another.… We loved it. We had really beautiful weather, and it was easy to be completely by ourselves.
Sheri knows that anyone who wants to travel right now needs to be careful, so she has great ideas. Before we could even ask our questions, she gave us great advice about how to navigate the process… she had the answers about socially distancing, about the ferries, about where to stay. Sheri could not have been better.
Editor’s note: You can read a full interview with Kathy Woeber Gardner here.
Alaska: wilderness lodges and outdoor adventures
JANETTE GILL | AUGUST 11, 2020
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Judith made sure I understood what was required. She let us know that we had to have a negative Covid test within 72 hours of travel. She sent me information on where I could go in Houston for the Covid test and walked me through the worst-case scenario if we didn’t get our results. This is the exact reason why we use travel specialists from WendyPerrin.com—for situations like this.…
The Lodge at Whale Pass is an amazing remote upscale adventure lodge. Mainly the focus there for us was fishing. We wanted to get remote because I love remote Alaska, away from cruise-ship passengers. Judith recommended it for the food too. Only one other family was there when we were, and for dining we sat spaced out, but we had just gotten our negative test results and the other family obviously had too, so our masks came off the minute we arrived.
Tutka Bay Lodge in Homer was everything I imagined it would be…and we were the only family there. At about 6 a.m., we headed out on a bear-viewing adventure. We saw seven bears, a mom with her cubs, a red fox, and a couple of eagles in their nests with babies inside. It was just a fantastic day.
We got back to Homer at about 2:30 in the afternoon and there was somebody waiting for us. They said, There’s some bad news: There’s an issue with the restaurant you dined at Sunday night [in Anchorage]: It has shut down because an employee has tested positive. They didn’t yet know which employee or whether that employee was even working when we were there. But the lodge made the safety decision that we would not be returning.
I was very disappointed but, when you travel in a pandemic, you take that risk that things may change. It turned out that the employee who had tested positive wasn’t even working on the day that we were there Tutka Bay Lodge very graciously offered to let us come back later for the unused portion of our stay, and Judith credited us back for the unused portion of the chartered flight that we didn’t use on the return to Anchorage.
Editor’s note: You can read a full interview with the Gills here.
Wildlife, rafting, horseback riding, rock climbing, paragliding in South Dakota and Wyoming
AMY EVERS | JULY 31, 2020
PANDEMIC TRAVEL We had such an amazing trip! Melissa was wonderful to work with during the planning stages. She really listened to what I was hoping to get from this trip and did all she could to accommodate that. We made several changes in the initial planning. I wanted to see wildlife in the Lamar Valley so we switched the location of our accommodation the night before entering Yellowstone so we would enter through the northeast entrance which is the closest to the Lamar Valley. And we lucked out! We saw several wolves, foxes, bison, and a bear! We wanted to go paragliding, which Melissa did not book for us, but she adjusted the schedule so we had a morning available to do it. We down graded a few nights of accommodation to save a bit of money as well. Then, just as I was about to book the trip (which was somewhat last minute given the covid-19 situation), my sister and her 2 girls decided to join us on the trip. This required some more manipulation of accommodation and switching a few activities around. Melissa took this all in stride with grace and had the new itinerary to us in no time! I was very impressed!
On to the execution of the trip… very well done indeed! We had a nice mix of independent time and guided activities. On arrival in South Dakota, it was arranged for our guide to meet us at an unusual location to make it more convenient for us given where we had just driven from. We had one hiccup on checking into the hotel in Rapid City but Melissa was available via phone and took care of it immediately.
Our time in Yellowstone, Tetons, and Jackson Hole went very smoothly. We did so many activities (learning about the geothermal features, wild life viewing, white water rafting, horse back riding, rock climbing, fly fishing, paragliding, etc.)! We brought our bikes with us and were able to tootle around at Under Canvas in Yellowstone as well as on all the pathways out of Teton Village. We loved our stay at Under Canvas, especially the kids, and really loved being all in one suite in Teton Village.
We are so grateful that we were able to see and experience an incredible part of our country during a very difficult time and feel safe while doing it! Thank you Melissa!
Editor’s note: You can read a full interview with Dr. Amy Evers here.
This trip was arranged by a WOW List candidate. Here’s what that means.
Mexico: luxury resorts with stand-alone villas
CHARLIE MYERS | JULY 30, 2020
PANDEMIC TRAVEL My family enjoyed a wonderful trip to Mexico during this very challenging moment. Zach was extremely helpful in recommending and securing the perfect accommodation and experiences for my family.
My concerns were: Will my family be safe? Are we taking unnecessary risks by traveling? Will we be in certain situations that will be beyond our control? In terms of meeting those concerns, the recommendations that the travel specialists made helped—especially the first resort, Chablé, because it’s such a large property and the accommodations were stand-alone villas. It felt 100% safe. The safety protocols at both resorts and both airports, and even with the car rental, made me feel like they were taking it very seriously.
During the trip, Zach’s staff were on-top of every detail and stayed in contact via SMS, which was just the right level of touch. They even sent someone to assist at the airport on our outbound journey, which was above and beyond. We were thrilled with the level of care and attention they gave us.
Editor’s note: You can read a full interview with Charlie Myers here.
The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, Florida
SUSAN NETHERO | JULY 16, 2020
PANDEMIC TRAVEL We started out over a year ago to plan and subsequently book a week at the Amanjara resort in Turks and Caicos but then COVID hit. Lindsey did a great job getting our $9K deposit back and canceling the trip for us. After things settled down we called Lindsey to see if there were some attractive driving trips we could take on the SE Coast. Within literally 72 hours we explored several options and they booked us at the Ritz at Amelia Island. Lindsey’s team was amazing!
And even though it was Fourth of July and it was last minute, they were able to get us an oceanfront suite. You would have thought the whole place would be filled, given it was Fourth of July weekend, but it was not full. At the hotel everybody wore masks. We felt completely safe… They had activities for the kids that were really cute, and overall we felt like the social distancing was pretty good, except it was hard at the pool. We had chocolate on our pillow every night, and another time the GM came over and talked to us about what it’s been like for them. The people at the Ritz can’t do enough for you. There wasn’t anything we asked where they weren’t like, “Sure, we can work that out.”
Editor’s note: You can read a full interview with the Netheros here.
Historic beachfront hotel in Rhode Island
JANE KASEY | JULY 13, 2020
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Becca Clark and her associate, Olivia, both did a great job with our very last-minute planning process for a summer trip amid COVID-19. We knew nothing about Rhode Island’s beautiful beaches and had never even heard of the Ocean House before they recommended it! It suited our needs for this trip perfectly–close by, on a gorgeous beach, and with a high level of service, despite COVID restrictions. We enjoyed the croquet clinics, the beautiful views from our porch, and, of course, the beautiful beach. Most of all, we enjoyed the change of scene and indulgence of staying at a luxury resort after 3.5 months on lockdown at home! We approached Becca with some overall parameters to find something on water with some available services within a few hours’ drive. She returned with multiple options. We quickly narrowed in on Ocean House as our top choice for type of room, dates, short drive from our home in New York, and safety of the state in terms of low transmission rates. We enjoyed our trip! Thank you!
This trip was arranged by a WOW List candidate. Here’s what that means.
Southeast Asia: temples, markets, villages…
GINGER WILCOX | MAY 12, 2020
This review is long overdue. In December of 2019, I left a job and had a small break before starting my next gig. My husband and I decided we should take a last-minute trip. We have traveled extensively but had never traveled to SE Asia. I’m particular, so I’ve always planned our vacations to ensure I could control the experience. Unlike previous trips, I did not have months of time to plan or perfect my trip, and I knew that I needed to call in a pro. As a matter of fact, we only had three weeks from the date we started planning the trip, to the date we wanted to leave.
I started researching online and found Sandy mentioned by Wendy Perrin. After doing my research and reading all of his reviews, I was intrigued. We had a call with Sandy, he was (miraculously) willing and able to work with us, and we decided to hire him.
Sandy worked miracles to not only plan a great vacation in three weeks, he truly planned the trip of a lifetime. We already had round trip flights from San Francisco to Singapore when we called Sandy. He booked the rest of our trip. Our itinerary was:
San Francisco to Chiang Mai, Thailand (via Singapore)
Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang to Siam Reap, Cambodia
Siam Reap to Phuket
Phuket to Singapore
Singapore to San Francisco
Every part of this trip was memorable. Sandy set us up with knowledgeable local guides in each location. He took care of every detail on the trip and constantly surprised us along the way. I travel for work, so I’ve been fortunate to stay in some of the nicest places in the world. Sandy gave us options at multiple prices and his hotel choices are now some of my absolute favorites.
In Chiang Mai, we explored temples, visited local markets, and did shopping away from the tourist zones with our guide, a local artist in Chiang Mai. She was very knowledgeable and a joy to be around. We received a monk blessing, cooked with local farmers, visited the hill villages, and hiked to waterfalls. We took a meditation class with a Buddhist monk at a royal temple built in the 14th century. This class will forever change our meditation practice and our lives. We had amazing food, stayed at a world-class hotel, and soaked up the local history, religion, and culture. This city is fabulous and our guide was best-in-class.
After Chiang Mai, we flew to Laos. The scenery is stunning and despite the devastation caused by the Vietnam War, the people are warm and welcoming, We visited an elephant rescue center and did a half-day hike in the jungle with elephants. We also visited temples, markets, and local villages. We participated in Alms giving at dawn and had a blessing with monks. We climbed caves and swam in waterfalls. We took a three-hour boat ride and watched the sunset over the Mekong River. We visited the Hmong tribe, spontaneously attended a Hmong funeral (no joke!), and attended a Baci ceremony that was given in our honor at the family home of our fantastic local guides. I cried when I left Laos. Our guides, a husband and wife team, were amazing. They welcome us into their home like family. I wish I could give them a hug today, as we sit worlds away.
After Laos, we headed to Siem Reap. It was hot and dusty when we arrived, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. And then, we arrived in our new home, the Jaya House River Park. This may be my new favorite hotel in the world. It is casually elegant, sustainable, and staffed with the most amazing people I have ever met. During our stay, we saw the sunrise over Angkor Wat, one of the wonders of the world and the largest religious monument in the world. We visited the circus and saw many temples. They are all spectacular. It was hot, but our exceptional guide knew the right time to maximize our visit without ever getting overheated.
We had many magical moments in Siem Reap, but on our last night, we had one of the most unique dates I’ve ever experienced. It included a local village tour, a private palm frond weaving class, and an ox cart through local villages and through the countryside. We hiked to a local lake and took a boat across the lake at sunset. After the sunset, we feasted on a candlelit five-course dinner in a beautiful garden by the rice paddies. I’m so grateful we had this experience – it was truly once in a lifetime.
If you have a chance to work with Sandy, he is the best in the business. He created memories that will forever change our lives. As I write this, most of us are not able to travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I can’t wait to travel again. And when I can take my next adventure, Sandy will be the very first person I call.
Incredible experiences last a lifetime. Sandy – we thank you for making our dreams come true.
Australia and Tasmania when Covid hit
JAN HEININGER | MAY 6, 2020
PANDEMIC TRAVEL I have waited to write this review to reflect on what this trip meant to us. There is no need to go over the trip in detail because the couple we traveled with did a superb job in David Macdonald’s review dated March 27, 2020. We arrived in Australia on February 21, 2020, for our second trip planned by Stuart Rigg and the first trip for David and Francine Macdonald. We arrived home on March 17 just as the COVID-19 pandemic was exploding across America. Until the day we left Australia, normal life had been in full force everywhere we went. The day we left Australia imposed a 14-day quarantine on all incoming visitors; it subsequently banned all visitors. Yet the day we left, my husband and I had had a wonderful time exploring the Museum of Sydney. The streets were crowded and restaurants were full. Decamped cruise ship passengers had just started to infiltrated Sydney. As far as we are concerned, our month in Australia is the last semblance of normality in our lives for the foreseeable future.
We are inveterate travelers. I’ve done it all–from post-college backpacking across Europe to demanding overseas work trips, carting our kids all over the place, and many, many trips planned by Wendy Perrin’s experts. I’m really good at trip planning. So why use one of Wendy Perrin’s experts? Because I can’t do what they can. I’m quite fond of Stuart Rigg as he is one of the very best. The itineraries for our two trips have been very complicated and filled with off-the-beaten-path destinations and adventures only a true expert can put together. Stuart really listens to what his clients are interested in and then designs trips that not only meet those expectations but exceed them. His advice is canny and spot on. His guides are superb; the accommodations he recommends are top notch. I do a great deal of back and forth during the planning process tweaking and refining itineraries. What I need – and highly value – is the advice I get. He really figures out not only what his clients say they want but what they are likely to need and not even know it. In David Macdonald’s review, he touts the wonderful experience we had at Arkaba Station in the South Australian outback. When I talked with Stuart and told him how much we had loved it, he told me he doesn’t send many people there—only the right kind of people—the ones like us he knows will love it. When we talked about the afternoon- long cruise we did on a private yacht around Sydney harbor, he apologized for the weather (driving rain the entire afternoon) but knew we’d love it because of the couple who run the trip. And we did. In the planning process, I’d suggested we go to the Whitsunday Islands; he nixed it as the wrong season and suggested Lord Howe Island instead, about which I knew nothing except that Capella Lodge was a member of Luxury Lodges of Australia. Our experience there was far beyond anything we’d expected. Listening to clients matters; intuiting what will most satisfy them is even better.
Many of Wendy’s trip specialists have assistants to coordinate logistics. Debbie Bollen who handled our first trip (now in the New Zealand office) and Jacki Lang who handled this one were both superb. As David mentioned in his review, we knew our trip was being closely followed (and it wasn’t just the Diet Coke and black licorice that routinely showed up). My husband and I loved Karen Dick of Inala Nature Tours, our fabulous birding guide on Bruny Island off Tasmania’s south coast. Karen asked us early that morning whether we wanted lunch at a winery or a picnic lunch where we could continue to bird. We opted for the picnic lunch and were glad we did. As Karen unpacked an amazing lunch (with champagne for me and two other wines for my husband), and tons of salads, cheeses, meats, pickles, desserts – and her own glass wine glasses—she mentioned that “you wouldn’t believe how much back and forth there was with Jacki over this lunch to make sure you’d like it.” The attention to detail was evident in every step of our trip. Places we especially loved: Saffire Freycinet in Tasmania, Lord Howe Island, Tasmania in general and Arkaba Station. David mentioned our favorite guides and our terrific driver Gail Lynch.
I cannot recommend Stuart Rigg highly enough. He is not a travel agent; he’s a trip expert. He knows personally about all the places, destinations, guides, accommodations and experiences he recommends. He coordinated two superb trips for us to Australia, the second of which will forever be linked in our memory as the last semblance of normality we’ll have for quite some time. Good on ya, Australia. And good on ya, Stuart and Jacki.
Patagonia: last-minute private villa at Awasi
JASON COVIENSKY | APRIL 27, 2020
We had a phenomenal experience with Nikki and Jena on Jordan’s team. Patagonia has been on our bucket list for years and originally where we wanted to honeymoon – I was due to be in Chile on business for a few weeks in January and once we could book flights on points for my wife to join me, we decided to plan a 7-10 day trip at the end of that. This was all done about a month in advance and around the holiday season. Despite that, they were able to secure a room at the Awasi Patagonia which was our dream hotel and which we heard usually reserves up almost a year early. It was a complicated itinerary since I had to build in some flexibility for work meetings during our time in Santiago since the schedule was only due to be finalized at the end. They were able to accommodate everything and fully understood our needs. We received candid advice at the beginning on whether to visit Patagonia or the Lake District or the Atacama desert. We never felt pushed, they were always very informative and knowledgeable.
Throughout the process we always received quick replies to our emails or calls. The guides were all excellent – they tried to manage it so we had the same driver for our multiple transfers which was great too. We were a bit nervous booking the trip considering the social unrest in November – they explained all the ways they manage around this, including recommendations on areas to go, avoiding downtown Santiago on Fridays when the protests are still ongoing, etc. I appreciated all of this even more when hearing from a colleague who had recently been to Chile and all the issues they had encountered.
Our final itinerary was really perfect and stress-free. We started a little earlier than we would’ve liked but appreciated the full days and ended up napping in the car on the daily drives back to the hotel. The Awasi hotel was truly incredible and a once in a lifetime experience.
I would definitely work with Jordan’s team again.
Patagonia, with a WOW Moment in an artist’s studio in Buenos Aires
LESLIE AND RICHARD MORGENTHAL | MARCH 31, 2020
Maita and her staff were fantastic to work with. She/they covered all aspects of the planning and execution of our trip and made valuable suggestions along the way. Maita spoke with us at length on the phone several times prior to our departure and really understood who we were. Her professionalism was evident personally and within her staff as well.
Maita was able to logically plan our trip around a cruise we had booked thru Ashton — approx 2 weeks before and after. She stayed attuned to us as we were apprehensive about starting in Chile as the riots were going on there. She gave intuitive advice on our concerns and all was well. Also at one lodge we experienced mold in the villa and we were able to change villas for the remaining nights, without bothering Maita. However when they refused to credit part of that night’s stay I asked Maita to intervene. She did successfully and we are expecting a credit shortly.
The level of resorts we stayed in would be attractive to anyone who wanted comfort along with truly daring experiences. The excursions were customized to our needs and we felt very fulfilled.
Also, the WOW Moment in Buenos Aires was well curated beforehand and the attention to detail was superb. As we are both artists the experience of being in the studio of a renowned silversmith, which was as much a gallery as it was a workspace, was certainly appreciated. Also being picked up in a beautifully preserved antique auto and being served an immaculate dinner within the artist’s space was a tribute to the thoughtfulness of Maita and her staff. It was certainly a WOW event! Beyond a doubt we would not have had the same experience without this superb guidance.
Four weeks on safari in Africa, with a WOW Moment at Sundowner Rock
PAUL BENNETT AND CATHERINE OLSEN| MARCH 29, 2020
Thanks again for recommending we use the services of Cherri and Katie to help us create our extraordinary 4 week trip to South & East Africa (Botswana, Tanzania, & Rwanda). After Katie talked with us extensively by phone, their recommendations for routing, lodges & camps were superb. Every travel connection, including transfers on some very remote airstrips in East Africa went perfectly. And after I had the misfortune of injuring my ankle in the Kalahari on our very first day, (a pathway collapsed that had been eroded by rain) both Katie & Cherri checked in regularly to help us get the medical assistance I needed, and made arrangements with various camps & guides to assist me so that I could continue the trip and not miss out on anything, including seeing the gorillas in Rwanda.
I have previously worked as a journalist and photographer, and spent much of my life working in documentaries at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. While we wanted to have the big game experience on the Serengeti, Katie also listened to my husband & my strong desire to interact with people and helped make that happen in a way that did not feel touristy.
Seeing the thousands of wildebeest on the Serengeti plains, the mothers giving birth & the wild dogs stalking their newborns…. the Silverback gorillas & their mates looking deeply into our eyes during a tropical rainstorm in the jungle… the bull elephant pinning back its ears & giving us a warning when we got too close…. all of these are vivid memories that we will never forget, but it was the people we met that made our trip so exceptional… both the local guides and opportunities to meet and interact with locals (including Kalahari Bushmen, Maasai and their families). We spent a lot of time in markets, and small villages, and on several occasions had the opportunity to visit our guides’ families and friends. All truly special, including one morning in the Southern Serengeti where the day began with a visit to our Maasai guide’s uncle’s traditional boma. We were invited inside his grandmother’s mud & dung hut for a tour of her humble home, but only after she’d carefully swept the mud floor, and cleared a seat for us on her husband’s simple cot. Her son, who spoke fairly good English explained how he was responsible for inoculating their cattle against various diseases, and why they’d moved up into the hills until the wildebeests and the tourists left the area. We continued for a bush walk through the hills, accompanied by more Maasai , and a park ranger with an AK 47. Our “security” team. The hike culminated with breakfast, cooked over the fire, at a stunning cliff edge perch overlooking the Rift Valley.
You’d think the day couldn’t get much better, but we still had our WOW Moment ahead of us.
In the late afternoon, after another game drive witnessing herds of wildebeests, zebras, their predators, and the sometimes brutal cycle of life, we were taken to a very special quite spiritual escarpment called Sundowner Rock.
After the guides and Maasai pushed and pulled me & my injured ankle up the rock face, we not only experienced a spectacular sunset and sundowner shared with about a dozen local Maasai, we were then led around the back side of the rock where a surprise dinner was being cooked for us in a cave over an open fire. Two fires actually. One with local goat roasting on sticks for the Maasai (which Paul also ate), and the other grilling chicken & beef for us. After we’d all feasted, the Maasai sang and danced and entertained themselves (and us) by the campfire, and we reveled in how lucky we all were. It was Truly magical!! And the African night sky was extraordinary. One of the most memorable evenings of our lives! Thank you Wendy for a once in a lifetime WOW Moment!
A month in Egypt and Jordan, as the pandemic began
SANDRA SOUTHWICK | MARCH 22, 2020
My husband and I traveled to Egypt and Jordan – just barely ahead of the corona virus! We were in Egypt for three weeks and in Jordan for one week. Being in our seventies, we don’t like to pack and unpack often nor do we like to have too many days in a row of activities. Jim did an excellent job of scheduling our trip to accommodate our needs. We had personable, knowledgeable guides who let us choose how much to see and do.
Not only did the guides have encyclopedic knowledge about the ancient sites but they also knew the patterns of the masses of tourists. Often, they got us to places before or after the crowds. We saw too many amazing places to list here. We learned something new (often a lot) every day.
Our accommodations were excellent with one exception. The Nile cruise was very nice and the activities, food and staff were very good. The rooms were acceptable but our bathroom was in serious need of repair.
Overall Jim created a fantastic, well planned month of touring for us.
An unusual experience of Japan during Covid
BILL SCHIERL | MARCH 18, 2020
PANDEMIC TRAVEL My wife, Sarena Melotte, and I traveled with Grant’s company from March 8 – 16th to Japan. Though traveling during a very difficult time with Covid-19, we had a wonderful experience based on a very good itinerary put together by Grant. We had several excellent guides on the ground; however, structurally we would have preferred the review of an existing itinerary rather than having the conversation feel like we were building one in real time. Understanding flexibility is a valued option in touring, we realize finding a happy balance can be difficult.
Our accommodations were right on the mark and provided a true Japanese experience while meeting a level of luxury equivalent to global brands. All of our meal reservations made by Grant’s team were extra special and made the trip very memorable.
Editor’s note: You can read a full interview with Bill Schierl and Sarena Melotte here.
This trip was arranged by a WOW List candidate. Here’s what that means.
Peru: Machu Picchu, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley
LEEANN FAIRFIELD | MARCH 15, 2020
From the very first moment we began planning our trip to Peru with Marisol’s team to the very last moment they walked us to security at the Lima airport to bid us farewell, our trip was exceptional. Mark Green did a fantastic job of planning our itinerary based on our interests. The hotels were incredible and we enjoyed immensely each day’s schedule and activities, This trip was beyond our expectations and I highly recommend it. A big thank you to our guide and driver, Juan and Loriano, who were with us from the Sacred Valley, Cusco and Machu Picchu. They were professional, attentive and a delight to share our time with, we also enjoyed Jorge while in Lima. This is our second Wendy Perrin trip and we look forward to our next one with great anticipation. Thank you to all!
Panama, with VIP access to the Panama Canal
ERICA ANKENY | MARCH 11, 2020
Eric Sheets’ team created an amazing itinerary and trip for me and my husband. We had no idea how much of a comfort it would be to have personal transportation for all of our adventures. We are not fluent in Spanish and felt more relaxed with our guides and driver.
The extra attention we received was unimaginable. The VIP tour at the Panama Canal was incredible. The curious /envious looks we received proved this was a very special perk we never would have gotten on our own.
We were also supplied a phone number for a local rep in Panama who could be contacted 24/7. Desiree was extremely helpful and even called to see if she could get me anything when I unfortunately got food poisoning during the trip.
I can’t imagine finding all of the locations we visited on our own. My husband and I agreed that this as well as the service we received were priceless.
Gorillas in Rwanda, luxe safari camps in Kenya
CANDACE CHIARUTTINI | MARCH 9, 2020
Linda Friedman helped us plan the most wonderful safari. Our first stop was Rwanda to see the gorillas. That was definitely a magical experience! We also spent a night in Kilgali and we were surprised what a beautiful city it was. We visited the genocide museum which was sad, of course, but also very informative. Our guide team that Linda arranged were fabulous. Then we went to Kenya where we stayed in two different camps. But first we had a one night stay in Nairobi where John and David from Linda’s company met us. We also met Linda’s colleague Kathy Obbish, who happened to be visiting from Chicago. We had a delightful lunch with her! Our two Kenyan camps were exactly what we were looking for and we were treated like royalty. The staff at both camps (Sirikoi and andBeyond Bateleur) knew her personally and it was quite obvious that they are very fond of her. Our guide David who works with Linda, met us in the second camp and he was such a pleasure. He is an expert – especially with birds. He is actually a Silver rated guide and is working to become Gold. We felt fortunate to have him as our guide! We left our second camp via private air transfer to Nairobi at Linda’s recommendation and we are so glad we did. Worth every penny. Thanks Linda, John, David and Kathy. It was truly the most wonderful trip!
Chile: Explora lodge in Patagonia AND Explora lodge on Easter Island
TERESA PACKARD | MARCH 6, 2020
Tom did an excellent job putting together our trip to Santiago, Patagonia and Easter Island. Tom kept up with the current political environment in Santiago, and at the last minute changed our hotel destination to keep us safely away from the demonstrations. Our guide Brenda, and our driver Marcos, did an outstanding job. The day trip to Valparaiso was definitely worth it. The Explora lodge in Patagonia is amazing. The scenery is so beautiful that it almost looks fake. Make sure you take advantage of the horseback riding. And the Explora lodge on Easter Island is equally amazing. The food at both locations was great.
India: Golden Triangle, palaces, PhD guide…
SUSAN NETHERO | MARCH 3, 2020
With very short notice—less than 2 weeks—Sanjay orchestrated a very detailed agenda and accommodations in one of a kind palaces, hotels and country retreat. To be sure, we had the trip of a lifetime in the Golden Triangle, he walked us through every step and also recommended activities to match our interests. He also recommended a travel guide who traveled with us 8 days. He was so personable, very knowledgeable about the culture and history of all the areas we visited, and he led us through each step with grace and helpfulness- tipping key people along the way to facilitate our travel and make us feel special. He even bought us insect repellent, supplied drinks and snacks, and made sure we stopped at clean and hygienic restrooms along the travel. We visited a country retreat where they taught us cricket, planned a dinner with cultural dances and we had time to visit with local children at their library. Sanjay orchestrated the agenda and the guide made sure we were treated like maha (kings)! Dinner accommodations at top restaurants and even a book to read to enhance the trip about Jaipur’s royal family! It was an amazing experience! We also had a driver who was terrific and a second guide for one day of touring as we returned to Delhi before our departure home– he was PhD in history of Islamic culture also incredibly knowledgeable about life in India! The travel agency he used in India met with twice for dinner to welcome us in the beginning of our travels and at the end to send us home! They co-ordinated and worked together throughout the trip! A fabulous trip we will always remember! Thank you to Sanjay, Shaitan and Sandeep our guides, the drivers Umi and Ravi, and Anjali, Rajat and Pankaj, who oversaw our entire experience in country!
Silversea cruise in Antarctica just before Covid hit
ROBYN WHITTINGHAM | MARCH 2, 2020
I had a family tragedy occur–a family member was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given max. of a year to live, so I had to postpone my planned 2019 Silverseas Antarctica trip to 2020. I had prepaid for the trip in full, also paying a 25% single supplement as part of the total cost.
Ashton was on it immediately. He assured me that he would do his utmost to move my trip forward by a year, with hopefully minimal financial impact. He contacted Silverseas to start the change process. Even though Silverseas had changed their single supplement policy and were charging a 50% supplement for 2020 cruises, Ashton was able to plead my case and have Silverseas waive the addtl 25% single supplement.
He and his team also worked closely with me to ensure my cabin choice (they guided my process since I’ve never cruised before), and they took meticulous care of the details of my trip, presenting me with a final packet containing all of the details of my cruise.
I had the time of my life, made many new friends, and am still astounded at the otherworldly and amazing experience I had, exploring the Antarctic continent.
Ashton made my trip effortless and truly stepped up in my time of need. Top-notch customer service and responsiveness for this first-time cruiser.
Christmas in London, with a WOW Moment in a WW2 air-raid-shelter-turned-wine-cellar
SUSAN KETCHUM | FEBRUARY 22, 2020
It has become our practice to consult Wendy Perrin’s WOW list whenever we plan a trip. This time our goal was to spend Christmas in London.
Although we have been to London several times, we know that the holidays can be a challenge due to closures on the holiday.
Wendy suggested Jonathan Epstein and he certainly came through for us. We had an initial phone conversation with Jonathan and Nicole, his associate. This is an important step when planning a trip with a WOW advisor. We were able to discuss our previous visits to London and our desire to see and do something new. They asked us a lot of questions, which was beneficial.
We had a hotel in mind that we stayed in on a previous visit. Jonathan, however, strongly advised us to select another hotel, The Stafford. We are so happy we took his advice. It is a much smaller hotel than the one we were thinking of and that proved to be a big factor in feeling like we were “going home’ at the end of each day of touring London. The friendly and efficient staff quickly knew our names and treated us royally. The hotel was first class and it was decorated beautifully for the holidays. There was even a small Christmas tree in our room.
As we had already seen most of the highlights of London on previous visits, Jonathan suggested other tours we would not have thought of. One was a Charles Dickens walking tour. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and entertaining. We understand now how London during Dickens’ time influenced his writing.
Another highlight was a private “Behind the Glass” after hours tour of The Churchill Cabinet War Rooms. We had seen the War Rooms before, however, nothing can compare to actually going into the rooms not accessible to the public in the evening when it is closed. Our guide was passionate about the history of this place and she made it come alive for us with the many stories and facts.
These are tours we would not have discovered on our own.
Jonathan and Nicole executed a WOW Moment for us during our stay. It was a surprise private tour and tasting of the amazing wine cellar at our hotel. It was built in the 17th century and used as an air raid shelter during WWII! The Master Sommelier, Gino, gave us the tour and impressed us with his knowledge. It was very special!
Given the shorter time period of this trip, we feel Jonathan was able to help us plan the perfect amount of activity and also allow time to walk about London and enjoy the beauty of the lights and amazing window displays and decorations everywhere.
Jonathan and Nicole certainly added value to our holiday in London and we would not hesitate to call upon them again.
Costa Rica: flora, fauna, flawless logistics…
JULES GOODMAN | FEBRUARY 21, 2020
We just got back from our 9 day vacation in Costa Rica which was organized by Irene and of course, my husband. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Irene’s people were ALL amazing. Very knowledgeable, courteous, attentive to all details, prompt, pleasant, and everyone made it clear that we were their priority. Transportation went smoothly; guides were excellent (in particular-huge shout out for Gerardo Gutierrez)! He drove carefully and was still able to point out and scope amazing wildlife out of the van and while we were driving. He never compromised safety, but his outstanding understanding and knowledge of the flora and fauna was so impressive! He was able to perfectly explain everything in perfect English. He always made us feel like we were his priority). Irene’s team picked fabulous hotels, restaurants, and arranged amazing excursions. I cannot adequately express how very pleased and satisfied we were with them!
Thoroughly appreciated their planning and attention to detail.
Total positive recommendations and praise for Irene and Selena!
Thanks once again for an outstanding vacation.
Disney cruise to the Bahamas
ANDREA REED | FEBRUARY 19, 2020
We used Michelle and her team to plan a family Disney Cruise trip to the Bahamas. I really appreciated the reminders along the way of deadlines we had to make and when each of our group’s different excursion booking windows opened. When it comes to Disney cruising, little things like this can make a big difference. I felt that the team was available at any point if we needed assist before and during the trip ( we did not luckily) and that afforded piece of mind. Once we got “back in range” after the ship docked, we were promptly contacted to make sure that all was well. I would for sure use Michelle again when planning our next Disney adventure.
Southeast Asia: culture, history, fascinating local people…
MUKI FAIRCHILD AND CHARLIE KEITH | FEBRUARY 12, 2020
April arranged a 24 day journey in Vietnam (Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Saigon), Cambodia (Phnom Penh, Battambang, Siem Reap), and Luang Prabang in Laos for me – aged 73, and my 87 year old husband. She was absolutely invaluable in helping us decide where to go in SE Asia as we had never been there before and what to pass up. We are in good health, and relatively agile, but had several requests: smooth transfers at airports, excellent guides that could assist us in learning about the culture and history of each country, and experiences that would involve our own interests in the arts as well as my husbands in plants and trees and mine in animals.
There is absolutely no way that I, the usual travel planner in the family, could have constructed and developed the trip that April and the excellent ground team in SE Asia (Naida, Narla, et. al.) came up with. From the very beginning, when we were fast tracked and whisked through immigration and passport control in the Hanoi airport after 3 long flights from the U.S., the transfers went perfectly. The activities were amazing: in Vietnam – from a musical evening in Saigon at the home of a world famous mother/son performing duo to crawling into the Cu Chi Tunnels used by the VietCong when no other tourists were around followed by a home cooked dinner at the home of a former North Vietnam war veteran. In Battambang, we rode the bamboo train, and then spent a glorious day relaxing on a private boat taking us along the upper Sanke River to Siem Reap to learn about Angkor Wat, gliding first past the floating villages. My birthday occurred while we were in Siem Reap and April, Naida, and Narla made sure it was properly celebrated. The itinerary already called for a night out Cambodian style, but to that was added drinks, dinner, and a cake and flowers delivered to the hotel room when I returned! The experiences in Laos (a private tour of the botanical garden, giving alms to the monks at sunrise, receiving a baci blessing from the elders of a village, walking with rescued elephants in a sanctuary) were equally memorable.
There is only one trip experience that both my husband and I did not enjoy as much as we thought we would. We wanted to spend some time on boats, and for the most part, were happy that we did with the exception of the Halong Bay cruise. It took too long to drive back and forth (2 hours each way) for too little time on board (less than 24 hours) to enjoy the time at sea. We were only interested in the scenery and not the activities on board. Perhaps a day cruise might have been better for us as I think the younger passengers seemed quite happy with the cruise.
Aside from the Halong Bay cruise, we would do it all over again, do and see more, and stay even longer. And of course, have April do all the arranging.
This trip was arranged by a WOW List candidate. Here’s what that means.
Thailand: markets, villages, biking, boating, spectacular hotels…
KATHRYN BARDEN | FEBRUARY 11, 2020
Kae on Dan’s team planned a wonderful adventure for my husband and I. We traveled through Thailand, including Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Yao Noi, and island near Phuket. The trip planning was so easy as right away the hotels and activities fit exactly what we asked for. I tried to give as much info as possible about us and what we like to do and this proved to work well and our expectations were exceeded. Each hotel was an oasis. Our guides were very engaging and so enthusiastic about showing us their cities.
Ms. Ann in Bangkok was a delight. Not only did we see all the major sites but she adjusted on the fly to help us find some intriguing contemporary art galleries. We had a very memorable food and dinner tour through the streets of Bangkok’s Chinatown.
In Chiang Mai, Mr. Ack was equally fun and took us on a bike tour through his village. We saw flower fields and tried our hand at rice planting. As well, he took us to a favorite place for coffee, lunch, foot massages and a super interesting fresh market tour tasting new foods and delicious exotic fruits. In both cities my husband enjoyed some impromptu jam sessions with local pop music enthusiasts. They were so happy to have a guitar-playing visitor. It’s those unexpected moments that make for such a memorable trip.
The Six Senses Yao Noi was a luxurious spot to finish our trip. We had an exciting day boating to the local islands, enjoyed wonderful massages and a cooking class where I was the sole student. The food was delicious and staff so kind.
Thank you Wendy, Dan and Kae!
New Zealand: sheep farms, Maori natives, fishing excursions, helicopters…
CAROL COZEN | FEBRUARY 6, 2020
Our 2019 trip to New Zealand was postponed a full year after a family member accident 4 weeks before our planned departure. Kim on Jean-Michel’s team successfully secured re-bookings for 2020 without any cancellation fees – this was not easy and involved tireless effort on her part.
We couldn’t have been more pleased with our vacation, albeit one year later. It is not easy planning for New Zealand, as there are so many places to go and not nearly enough time. And, of course, it’s not easy to take a trip back due to the long distance involved.
Kim provided excellent guidance so that each stop and property were unique, with varying activities and vistas. Activities included a special hands-on day with a Maori native, a wonderful boat trip in Abel Tasman park, a fabulous ATV excursion to a sheep farm outside of Queenstown and a fishing excursion in Te Anau. When the weather didn’t go our way and our helicopter ride was cancelled (twice) Ahipara was totally connected.
During the planning process (extra long due to the re-scheduling) Kim left on a year-long maternity leave and Lizzy assumed responsibility for our itinerary. Like Kim, she was knowledgeable, responsive and a delight to work with.
India: rural backroads, flower markets, the Taj Mahal at sunset…
SANDRA HODGE | FEBRUARY 5, 2020
We spent 10 days in India with the trip planned by Victoria and her team to celebrate Sandy’s 70th birthday. We greatly appreciated her professional manner, her timely responses to our questions and her suggestions for various routes. It was a wonderful trip. This was our second trip in a year to India, albeit a different route this time. We had a couple of changes in our schedule, such as driving to Rathambore National Park, instead of taking the train (was a great drive!) and some of the things we saw. Flexibility was key and all changes were handled efficiently.
We were met on 2/25 by Vikram and Mr. “Ragu” our guide and driver for the duration. Both turned out to be excellent with respect to their roles. Vikram was a great conversationalist and guide with regard to what we were seeing. He made every attempt to meet our requests and was flexible with our schedule when the need arose. We appreciated his handling tips, logistics and getting things done expeditiously that we are sure we could not have done without him.
OUr driver was the BEST. We always felt safe and his driving was excellent. Driving in India is no small feat!
Highlights of our trip included driving rural backroads, going to small cafes and restaurants off the beaten path, a morning trip to the milk market, flower market and vegetable market in Jaipur, watching the sunset over the Taj Mahal and a FABULOUS 70th birthday picnic on a small lake near Udaipur. What a treat! With Vikram things ran very smoothly and seamlessly.
Israel, from star gazing in the Negev desert to lunch with a Druze family
LAURA LEWIS MANTELL | JANUARY 30, 2020
If you’re thinking of visiting Israel, work with Joe and Jonathan to create a trip of a lifetime. We’ve just returned from two incredible weeks traveling the country with an extraordinary guide. Any high-end tour operation provides a logistically seamless experience and of course we experienced that. But Joe and Jonathan’s operation prides itself on getting to know what you care about – the geopolitical landscape, culinary experiences, ancient history, contemporary history, religion, natural beauty, astronomy, being active – and customizing a trip around your interests. For example, we explored an underground archeological site in Jerusalem not yet open to the public; we toured the market and prepared our dinner with an amazing chef, but more than that, it was an intimate evening with delicious food and conversation about life; We spent an evening star-gazing in the Negev desert, magical and informative; we met with several IDF officers who took us to the borders with Syria and Lebanon, and provided in-depth analyses of the geo-political situation in the Middle East and patiently answered our naive questions; we met with an Arab-Israeli journalist and ate lunch with a Druze family.
Our particular experiences reflect our personal interests but what was clear was that extreme attention to detail had been paid in order to create a carefully planned itinerary that was also flexible. It was further honed to our in-the-moment-preferences by our guide. And that’s the next thing: our guide. Phenomenal. Bena is an archeologist, an expert in Israeli studies, and a former Yeshiva student, so he knows everything you would want to know about where you are traveling and understands perspectives other than his own secular views. Beyond that, he is a joy to travel with; energetic, fun, caring, smart and experienced only begins to describe our experience. Initially we thought he must know everyone in Israel because of the immediate rapport he has with everyone he approaches. But no, he just has that effect on people. He opened lots of doors, literally, for us (including a site that was closed, opened for us). We loved the off-the-beaten-path restaurants he took us to and the unbelievable patience he had.
It was truly sad to leave but we’ll be back.
“Vacation of a lifetime” in Sri Lanka
JAN AND GARY WILLIAMS | JANUARY 29, 2020
Miguel and his team planned our trip to Sri Lanka perfectly. His deputy, Andrea, asked us what we liked to do, what we wanted to see, and helped pick activities that were interesting, exciting, and very special. We met people and experienced activities we wouldn’t have known about or had access to without Andrea’s help. When we decided not to participate in an activity later in our trip, she cancelled it with no problem. Our driver Daminda was friendly, competent, and made us feel safe and confident everywhere we went. It was truly a vacation of a lifetime.
Ecuador’s highlands, including Hacienda Zuleta, and a Galapagos Islands cruise
DEBORAH WENTE | JANUARY 29, 2020
We had a wonderful trip to the highlands of Ecuador, then an 8 day/7 night cruise on Theory, a Relais and Chateaux boat touring the Galapagos. There were no particular problems or issues, but whenever I had a question, no matter how minor, Allie replied within an hour or so! We spent two days in Quito, then two days at Hacienda Zuleta. What a wonderful find! It’s a working dairy farm owned by the family of two former Ecuadorean presidents. The daughter/granddaughter Marguerita joined us both evenings for cocktails and shared stories of growing up on the farm with her family. Our rooms were heated by wood burning stoves with hot water bottles in our beds. Wonderful food, great hiking – it was a wonderful way to spend a couple of days.
Allie was very helpful in choosing the boat for the Galapagos. We were on Theory with no more than 20 guests. Each guide can have a maximum of 16 guests, as a result there were two for the boat making for smaller groups touring the islands. The crew was wonderful! We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Galapagos. Our group was my husband and I, our two adult daughters and their boyfriends. There were a lot of activities, and plenty of space on the boat to relax.
Bhutan: culture, hiking, “first-class adventure”…
FRANK AND CATHY GOLD | JANUARY 28, 2020
Toni and her team did a superb job planning and executing our trip to Bhutan. We pretty much gave them carte blanche and we followed their recommendations based on our likes and dislikes and they gave us a first-class adventure trip. Everything and everyone we interacted with both here and there were first class and everything met and exceeded our expectations. We highly recommend Bhutan as a hiking/adventure/cultural destination and recommend Toni and her team to plan and implement it!
Provence dream trip, including Baumaniere Les Baux and WOW breakfasts
GREG BROUGHTON | JANUARY 26, 2020
Luxury, luxury, luxury. That’s all I need to say about Philip Haslett and his team’s approach to our trip to France. It was amazing from start to finish. Everything we did and everywhere we went in our week in Paris and Provence was characterized by luxury. The Baumaniere in Les Baux de Provence was one of the finest hotels at which we’ve ever stayed (the breakfasts alone will WOW you) and even little details like S-class Mercedes transfers were the epitome of French luxury. Cheers, Phillip!
Paris: food tours, cooking class, a WOW Moment in the city’s oldest wine shop…
TINA SARAFA | JANUARY 20, 2020
Jennifer and her team are magical! Jennifer and I communicated a ton prior to the trip and she had a great feel for what kind of trip my husband and I desired. We wanted a boutique hotel that was charming, intimate and quiet. She gave us numerous ideas and helped us select the perfect hotel for our needs. We wanted a combination of expected sites in Paris and then more off the beaten path activities. Our guide to the Louvre for the Da Vinci exhibit was A plus! One of the most informative and knowledgable guides ever. Equally outstanding was our guide to Versaille. Personally I didn’t want to go back to Versaille as I was there 2 years ago, but my husband had not been. Jennifer was aware of that and chose for us with the most outstanding guide who made the day so pleasurable and ultra informative. We learned some fun facts and it felt totally new to me. We had an incredible food tour in St Germaine and a private cooking class with a chef that taught us how to prepare the most amazing duck recipes per our request He also took us food shopping prior to the class and seeing all of the little stores in Paris for bread, wine, cheese, our duck and vegetables was a treat! . All of our guides for our tours and experiences were informative, interesting, personable and really a joy to be with. In addition she was able to secure some very hard to get dinner reservations and we were able to dine every where on my wish list. Each day her team checked in with updates, and any time we needed anything at all they came through. Last minute we wanted to add a tour in Montmartre and again they came through with one of our previous guides we loved and transportation even though the strike was going on. Jennifer and her team are amazing and very deserving to be on your list!
Lastly, thank you for an incredible WOW Moment! It exceeded our imaginations. Jennifer knew how much we love food and wine and our WOW Moment was at the oldest wine shop in Paris. First the shop is beautiful! And in the most charming area. We were guided to a private room and the sommelier said he was opening bottles he was actually never able to taste himself as they were that rare. He was thrilled with our WOW Moment too! Thank you Wendy for making it possible. The wine, setting, and getting to share this on a special trip with my husband made for some wonderful memories.
Colombia: boutique haciendas, country hikes, birdwatching, street art, private boats…
JARVIS WELD | JANUARY 15, 2020
My family of two adults and three teens, ages 12 to 18, traveled to Colombia over New Year’s, spending seven days in country. We visited Bogotá, Quindío (the coffee region), and Cartagena. As we were completely unfamiliar with South America, we planned guides, drivers, and activities for most of every day. We have not traveled with so much support in the past, and it was extremely helpful and rewarding. Emily and a few other associates from Marc and Boris’ office were a fantastic help, both during the planning and the trip. They made great choices about which regions we should visit and for how long, what activities we should do, and where we should stay. They even got us into a wonderful boutique hacienda in the coffee region at a very busy time of year. Each of our guides was friendly and attentive, and very knowledgeable about their area. We had Juliana, an artist, in Bogotá share her perspective on museums and the graffiti district. Camilo, a biologist and ornithologist, took us on a hike in the countryside and helped my husband with his birdwatching. Tavo is a musician, and gave us a great perspective on Cartagena. All the tours and activities were fabulous, and the lodging and dining reservations the team set up were perfect for us. We ran into some flight delays on one of our internal flights, and Marc and Boris’ office was very helpful and supportive. Also, the guides mentioned that the company was checking in with them regularly each day, which was so supportive in such an unobtrusive manner. We did so many wonderful activities, but a big highlight was our last day, when we took a private boat trip out to the Rosario Islands and spent some time at a beach club. The kids got so much out of every day of the trip, and continue to rave about it to everyone, a real accomplishment with teens, and the parents accomplished our goal of family time and exposing everyone to a new continent. We want to thank Wendy Perrin for suggesting Columbia as a destination in the first place, based on our parameters, and setting us up with this team. We also would like to thank Marc and Boris’ team for helping us through some initial qualms about the political situation and supporting us splendidly through the planning and the whole trip. It was definitely a trip to remember for a lifetime. In addition, we all plan to return to Columbia, and are evangelizing it as a destination for other Americans.
Abu Dhabi and Oman, two days after a drone strike killed Soleimani
PRISCILLA EAKELEY | JANUARY 13, 2020
We never could have done this trip on our own. The guides in both Abu Dhabi and Oman provided an excellent overview of the regions past and present, and we saw way more of each country than did independent travelers we met along the way. Even more important, we had complete confidence that the ground operators would ensure our safety if the conflict between the U.S. and Iran (we arrived in Abu Dhabi two days before a drone strike killed Soleimani) spiraled out of control. Not surprising that George W. Bush used them to set up his trip to Oman back in October.
Norway: northern lights, dog mushing, ice fishing, snowmobiling…
LOIS CHESS | JANUARY 11, 2020
We contacted Jan almost too late to put a trip together that would include the Northern Lights over the Christmas New Year’s holiday, but he put it all together seamlessly! Everything was like clockwork. All flowed together to visit three locations — Oslo and Alta in Norway’s Arctic Circle, and Stockholm. All hotels, restaurants, guides and drivers in the cities were spot on. Our experience in Alta was way beyond what we expected. Jan told us that in 30 years if his clients stayed in the Arctic Circle four nights, 100% of them saw the Lights. We saw the Lights 3 of the 4 nights, and the experience was illuminating! But we also had wonderful experiences during the day. Dog mushing was a highlight, as was snowshoeing and ice fishing and snowmobiling. Every person we dealt with was kind, warm, and made us feel relaxed and refreshed as we experienced these new to us activities. They all knew Jan and praised him highly. Jan is terrific.
Cambodia and Vietnam: a milestone birthday trip for a small group of friends
DAVIS BERGMANN AND RON PEDERSON | JANUARY 10, 2020
We have recently returned from our first trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. Traveling as a small group of friends (one celebrating a milestone birthday), having never been to either country, we knew we needed assistance in planning and executing a great trip. We worked with Josh on Andy’s team for several months in advance of our trip as he carefully listened and guided us through the planning stages (not always an easy task getting consensus from a group of seasoned travelers). Josh was extremely patient and informative throughout and ultimately came up with an itinerary that suited us perfectly.
These countries are amazing on their own, but we soon realized that many of the excursions on our itinerary included experiences we simply would have never known about or been able to arrange on our own: a Hanoi food tour that got us behind the storefront and into the “real” local experience, a sunset cycling tour in HoiAn through rice paddies and organic farms featuring a visit with a local family who prepared the most beautiful, fresh food, a private recital of traditional Vietnamese music followed by dinner in the stunning riverside home of a classically trained vocalist and her husband in Hue, a sunset boat ride on the moat of Angkor Thom in Siem Reap where we were serenaded by gondoliers (?) with the most brilliant red sunset as our backdrop, and a very memorable ride on the back of an oxcart through the beautiful Cambodian countryside to the private villa owned by Andy’s company, where we were treated to an amazing evening with local food accompanied by local musicians. I honestly believe we would never have had these enriching additions without the help of Josh and his colleagues.
The level of service and expertise of our guides and drivers who met us at every point were beyond compare. They made every transfer, pickup, excursion, so effortless and easy and were very open to our special requests or last-minute changes we might have made. All of our guides were not only extremely knowledgeable, but also funny, engaging and people you actually WANT to spend the day with. Every one of them went above and beyond the standard explanations of “tourism” and were open to sharing insight into the local culture and contemporary lives of the people.
Finally, every accommodation was perfectly suited to what we were looking for. I attribute much of this to Josh’s intuition and in guiding us towards the best places where he knew we would be comfortable hanging out either after a full day of touring or a day off. We truly appreciated that.
I would highly recommend Josh for anyone planning a trip to this part of the world. A trip we will forever remember.
This trip was arranged by a WOW List candidate. Here’s what that means.
Christmas trip to Fiji despite a tropical cyclone
JULIE HEIMARK | JANUARY 8, 2020
Working with Lynette on our trip to Fiji was very easy and her recommendation — Savasi Island Resort — was fantastic. We loved Savasi Island and are already contemplating our return visit. But what catapults Lynette to the top of our list was her support and responsiveness when our trip was derailed by Tropical Cyclone Sarai. Tropical Cyclone Sarai was not on our radar at all. And then it was all over the radar! As we sat at home and obsessively followed the hour to hour meteorological reports to see if our holiday would still happen (a Christmas surprise to our kids), Lynette worked through the Christmas holiday and the cyclone to keep us informed. The airline eventually canceled our flight to Fiji at the last minute and told us they couldn’t rebook us for at least another 5 days. Lynette, however, and her fabulous team (thanks Linda!) got us on one of the first flights out once the planes were flying to Fiji again, thereby saving our vacation. And she was able to keep our group together and secured us seats on the transfer to Savusavu. This was only possible due to her relationships. If we had not used Lynette, there is no way we would have made it. Highly recommend Lynette and Im looking forward to our next trip with her.
A safe, spectacular time in Jordan
LAUREN GREEN | JANUARY 7, 2020
Our trip to Jordan was planned with Dan on Jonny’s team. He was available immediately during the entire planning stage and was responsive to all my concerns and requests. He knew I was a bit concerned about the issues in the Middle East and right before the trip suggested we have the same guide during the entire trip. This was a perfect solution and ended up being really important when my husband got sick while we were beginning our hike at Dana.
Our guide, Tehar and driver, George were phenomenal and we consider them our friends and hope to visit them again.
They were both so knowledgeable and answered all our questions about the country, the people etc. We found Jordan and the people to be warm., welcoming and every part of the trip was spectacular.
Family of 10 in Costa Rica for the grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary
KRISTEN EBNER | JANUARY 6, 2020
I can’t say enough about the trip Priscilla helped me plan for my parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary. We were traveling with 10 people, 4 active, teenagers who are up for any adventure and my Father who has PSP (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy) a neurological brain disease. My father did not want his disability to stop the adventure or fun for his Grandchildren. Priscilla found us the perfect home, Stu Casa located in Las Catalinas located on an amazing beach where we could watch the sunset daily, take day trips scuba diving, surfing and fishing. After 5 days, we moved to The Monteverde Cloud Forest staying at Hotel Senda where we explored the sky walk, did zip lining and went on endless hikes.
The house, hotel, restaurants and activities were amazing, but what really made this trip special for us was the planning that Priscilla did in finding us the perfect Naturalist/Guide (Eddie R) and Physical Therapist (Alonso V.) to travel with us for the 10 days we were away. Alonso provided my father with the best care possible and had the knowledge and ability to help my father do things he has not been able to do like taking short walks on the beach, and working with him in the pool. Having Alonso with us allowed my mom to get the vacation she so needed and allowed my Dad to enjoy himself and took all the daily stress away from PSP.
Eddie, the Naturalist Guide was so knowledgeable and personable. From the moment we met him at the airport the kids were engaged and interested in learning about Costa Rica. Eddie made sure everything was just perfect all week and when we were out hiking he not only helped us find the monkeys, Quetzals and sloth but educated the kids on the Cloud Forest and environment.
Thank you again for helping us plan such an amazing trip!
Mainland Greece in low season (late November, early December)
JAMES LOUGHHEAD | DECEMBER 23, 2019
Jacoline prepared a wonderful itinerary of the mainland of Greece over 2 weeks for us in late November and December. We travelled with 2 of our young adult children. The itinerary that Jacoline prepared for us was a great reflection of the discussions we had leading up to our trip, from the tour guides through to the accommodation, suggestions for where to eat and places of interest.
The entire holiday went smoothly and we felt very comfortable with the way that the itinerary worked and the timing for the activities.
A particular highlight for us was the quality of the guides and their personal attention as well as the opportunity to share in the lives of Greek families and individuals during our time who we found to be the most generous hosts.
Our time in Greece has left a with great memories and experiences that were made possible because of Jacoline’s planning of our trip.
Switzerland, from e-biking to absinthe tasting
STAN FRY AND JAY SISCO | DECEMBER 12, 2019
We couldn’t have asked for a better Swiss holiday after working with Nina and David. Nina kicked off the planning by initially asking about our travel preferences (both likes and dislikes). David fine-tuned them and suggested multiple and varied itineraries that hit upon our requested combination of 5-star and Swiss-charm accommodations; top tourist and off the beaten path towns–and all at our chosen slow-ish pace. Neuchatel (e-biking around the lake and a private Absinthe distillery tasting with the owner) and Ascona (Bavona Valley guided walking tour and two surprise birthday celebrations, one on the lake and the other a mountainside 4-course lunch were beyond memorable) stand out. David is the ultimate listener and logistics master. Everything ran like clockwork and we took great comfort knowing he was working his magic–sometimes in the foreground (securing a reservation at a top restaurant on short notice), but mostly in the background. And we never would have predicted how much we would learn from and bond with the private guides he selected for us. They were extremely knowledgeable, flexible and friendly. This was our first custom trip and it was well worth it. We experienced Switzerland like we never would have on our own. David spoiled us and we are grateful!
Morocco to the max
RUTH ANNE LAWSON | DECEMBER 6, 2019
Our Moroccan adventure was incredible. It was perfectly planned: the hotels and riads were destinations in and of themselves and the restaurants Michael chose for us were fabulous. Michael even handled our dinner reservations. Every experience and place visited was well thought out: we never felt that a moment was wasted. Michael was very accommodating of our requests for changes, even working out a change I asked him to make less than a week before we left home! Our guide and driver were just great and we learned so much from them about their culture. Michael arranged experiences that put us in touch with many wonderful people in the country. That is so very important to us because we want our travel to mean something on a personal level. We are not going just for push pins in a map. We want to connect with people when we travel.
I think that many people might assume that using a travel planner like Michael is too expensive, but we found that our time and travel dollars were maximized by not making a bunch of blunders as we surely would have done if we had planned this trip ourselves. Michael has a wealth of knowledge about the country and he made every minute count. Looking back, it is hard to believe how much we squeezed into our time there. Sounds crazy, but I feel sorry for anyone who goes to Morocco without Michael’s guidance.
Insider’s China, from cooking in a traditional courtyard home to tai chi class at the Temple of Heaven
KATIE BUSH | DECEMBER 4, 2019
Mei and her team provided an unforgettable view into both ancient and modern China from the Ancient Terracotta Warriors of XiAn to the Olympic Green and 798 Art District in Beijing. Upon our request, Mei arranged for a very special Chinese cooking class in a traditional courtyard home inside one of Beijing’s surviving hutongs with a local chef and a very special local foodie and entrepreneur. Each of the experiences were truly tailored to our interests, but gave us an authentic view into the culture, traditions and history of a quickly evolving country. With Mei’s help, we traveled to the ancient city of XiAn, the Longmen Grottos of Louyong, and spent many days in Beijing. Highlights of the trip included lunch in the shadows of the Great Wall, a private taiji lesson on the grounds of the Temple of Heaven and tea at the Aman in the Summer Palace. My only advice would be to ensure you speak with your guide about local customs and restrictions (for example, on technology use, VPNs, etc.) prior to your trip.
Italian villa vacation with a dedicated concierge
RICHARD KOFKOFF | DECEMBER 2, 2019
My siblings and our spouses decided to plan a trip to Italy but I was at some loss as to where to turn to plan the trip. Fortunately, I was introduced to the WOW list and contacted Mara. She and her team were very responsive to my initial inquiry and it was obvious during our first phone call, which lasted perhaps one hour, and subsequent calls, that not only did Mara know her stuff but she cared deeply that she understand our desires and priorities. Her knowledge of Italy is encyclopedic and she has a feel for the intangibles such as the best rhythm for a relaxing and rewarding villa vacation. Mara’s entire team is very professional and the attention to detail is outstanding. Mara knows the best tour guides and makes sure the staff at the villa is talented and professional. She also has a concierge on the ground in Italy to help with any problems (there were none) and to handle any last minute change in plans that we wanted to make (restaurant reservations, etc.). I was particularly impressed by the scheduled “debriefing” phone call after we returned to hear about our experience and to hear if we had any suggestions for future travelers. I would definitely utilize the talents of Mara, Kristen and Anne again when planning an Italian villa vacation.
Sicily: market tours, cooking classes, cycling, boating…
JASON COVIENSKY | NOVEMBER 27, 2019
We worked with Matteo to plan a mini honeymoon in Eastern Sicily following our wedding in Canada the week prior. I really appreciated his honest recommendations and approach to travel while in the planning stages. Exactly our approach to touring – he made sure we avoided the most “touristy” areas and were able to experience some really special and unique places. We stayed in Siracusa for 4 nights and on Mt. Etna for 2, with activities planned with guides each day. It was a good pace – we felt busy the whole time, but never exhausted. The guides were all excellent with good English and different personalities. We were never rushed and everybody worked around our timeline; they were flexible too as we were running late, or wanted to extend certain portions. We particularly liked the market tour and cooking class with Maurizio, our cycling day to the nature reserve, and our sunset boat cruise. We met Matteo in Syracusa and he showed us some of his favourite shops; he checked in throughout the trip and we heard from our guides that he was in constant communication with them making sure everything went smoothly. Food recommendations were excellent throughout. Communication was prompt and easy. The hotels were amazing; in Siracusa we stayed at the Musciara – the photos really don’t do it justice at all. I’m used to planning and organizing all of our trips, so it was a really special treat here where Matteo was on top of everything and we didn’t have to worry at all, and were pampered throughout.
A “perfect” month in Italy
DAVID HALE AND JIM MORI | NOVEMBER 22, 2019
Maria certainly warrants a very high place on the WOW List ! In a word, in addition to WOW!, our trip was perfect. We were in Italy for the month of October, extending into the first week of November, Maria and her team worked out a great itinerary for us, incorporating a week in the middle of the month for an event previously planned by my university in Veneto. After our week in Venice and Vicenza, we resumed our itinerary prepared by Maria. To help explain how impressive Maria’s team is, I will start at the outset of our trip. They have a monitoring service (called Cranky Concierge) which assisted us throughout the trip when we needed it. For example, Cranky Concierge arranged for our airline to give us limousine service upon arrival at Heathrow Airport to transfer us to another terminal at Heathrow for our connecting flight to Milan. It was a short connection time so the special attention was much appreciated when the British Airways Customer Services representative came to our seat on the airplane to arrange for the special transportation. It was this type of accommodation that we enjoyed throughout the trip. Guides met us at every new city. Transportation from the airport to our hotel as well as transportation from city to city was always punctual and the drivers could all speak English. Another impressive fact in this regard is the beauty of the vehicles transporting us throughout our tour. We always felt very special (if not regal) being transported in those big black beautiful vehicles. I could go on and on with details about the perfection of the itinerary, but I will not make this review too lengthy. Some of the most memorable parts of the trip were the knowledge and communications of the guides Maria provided us, the unusual events she planned, the cities she chose for us to experience, the quality of the hotels where we stayed, and the excellent weather she provided for us ! I want to underscore my comment about our guides. Every one of our guides was very impressive in their knowledge of the area and their ability to communicate. They all spoke very good English and they were all very charming. This is the second trip that we have taken following recommendations of Wendy Perrin (with the first one being with Marisol’s team in Peru) and we now look forward to getting recommendations for another part of the world soon.
Costa Rica: “a balanced mix of real relaxation and interesting activities”
JULIE BUYON | NOVEMBER 18, 2019
We had a wonderful 7 night trip in Costa Rica planned by Pierre and his team. They really listened to what we wanted and delivered! Our goal was to have a balanced mix of real relaxation and interesting activities. The two resorts recommended, Tabacon Thermal Resort and Spa near the Arenal Volcano and Hotel Arenas del Mar in Manuel Antonia were both superb choices for us – among the best hotels I have stayed in. All three of the excursions arranged by Pierre were also top notch in every way. All of our drivers were prompt, knowledgable and friendly. I would not hesitate to recommend Pierre to anyone contemplating a trip to Costa Rica. Pierre’s team checked in with us throughout the trip to make sure all was well and to remind us when we had an upcoming excursion. There was a lovely gift bag filled with Costa Rican candies, cocoa and coffee in our first hotel to welcome us, along with an extra copy of our itinerary. So thoughtful and appreciated! The only downside to our trip was the amount of travel time involved, because the places we visited were at least 3 hours from the international airports in Liberia and San Jose, and there was a 6 hour drive from Arenal Volcano area to the gorgeous beach at Manuel Antonio. Consequently, our 7 day trip really included 2 complete days of travel (12 hours going and 16 hours returning as we had to change planes in Miami) plus a half day’s travel between our two hotels. If you are uncomfortable during a long car ride or traveling with children, I suggest exploring all the options with Pierre to ensure that everyone is comfortable.
Russia with “exclusive experiences” and “magic moments”
CATHLEEN GLENN | NOVEMBER 17, 2019
We’re grateful to Greg for a memorable trip to ever-fascinating Russia. There were too many highlights, exclusive experiences, and magic moments to recount.
We’d end each day thinking it couldn’t get any better only to have our expectations surpassed.
Our carefully curated itinerary together with our personable, expert guides gave us the historic and cultural context to see the heart and soul of Russia.
We leave with a deep affection for Russia.
Thank you, Greg and Stella, for an unforgettable trip!
A month in Japan that was “worth every cent”
LINDA AND JOE ROTHMAN | NOVEMBER 6, 2019
We read the fabulous reviews Scott received and wondered whether we would have the same experience. The short answer is an unequivocal “yes.” We have enjoyed using many (over 15 at last count) of Wendy’s TTEs over the years but this experience has to rate at or close to the top of our “trips of a lifetime.” Thank you Wendy and team.
Scott listened to our interests and the items we wished to downplay or avoid. He quickly outlined a fabulous 4 week itinerary that enabled us to experience many of the highlights in Japan. Expensive? Yes, but worth every cent. Scott booked us into excellent hotels situated in outstanding locations. He secured a wonderful guide (Emiko Sakaoka) who ensured we saw and did everything worth doing. She answered our questions which helped us to learn a great deal about the Japanese culture. While we aren’t fans of sushi we managed to eat very well. Every restaurant recommendation recognized our food interests and the special birthday dinner for Linda was a real treat.
We are grateful to Philip (the firm’s co-founder and located in Japan) for altering our itinerary to avoid the impact of Typhoon Hagibis. As the storm shut down the Tokyo airport and headed north Philip quickly and seamlessly arranged for us to travel south via the train. Alternate accommodations were excellent and the touring continued without skipping a beat.
As for trip highlights there are many. They include the friendly & interesting people we met, the exciting food markets we toured, the beautiful parks &/gardens we walked through, the huge castles we toured, the inspiring temples & shrines we visited, the many and varied museums we saw, the efficient transportation system we used, the peacefulness of a stay in a ryokan or a Buddhist Temple we experienced. Yes, we loved the private dinner with the geishas, the private tour and/discussion with the multi-generational lacquerware owner and the kimono maker, a private origami-making session, the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery Tour, the Mt. Koya cemetery walk/experience and the Sumo practice session. However, our lasting memory will be of the marvelous and unusual Japanese culture and the gracious people we met.
Our thanks to Scott, Philip, Miho, Emiko and the many folks behind the scenes who made our memorable trip possible….Linda & Joe Rothman – Stamford, Ct.
Danube River cruise, with extra time in Budapest and Prague
ANNETTE STANFORD | NOVEMBER 1, 2019
We decided to plan a river cruise for our 30th anniversary. I read so many great reviews of Wendy and her WOW team, so I decided to reach out for planning help. We were NOT disappointed! Tom did an outstanding job guiding us and planning our cruise on Viking down the Danube. This was our first river cruise, but will definitely not be our last.
The cruise was an amazing experience, but we also decided to spend additional time in Budapest before the cruise, and in Prague after the cruise. Tom encouraged us to do this because these two cities require additional touring time. And he was right! Tom recommended two fabulous hotels in Budapest and Prague. He also set up personal tour guides in each city. Both guides were knowledgeable and a joy to spend time with, exploring their beloved cities.
We have planned trips on our own, but the service Tom provided far exceeded any planning we could have accomplished. A big thanks, and we look forward to planning more cruises with you.
Brazil: wildlife, waterfalls, diving, helicopters…
AMY EVERS | OCTOBER 30, 2019
Our trip to Brazil was fantastic! Bobby did an incredible job putting it all together and making it run smoothly. Miraculously, even all of our flights went on time for the entire trip! Our goal for the trip was wildlife focused with some adventure as well. They came through! We really, really wanted to see jaguars and we didn’t want to be one of many boats watching them on the side of a river! The suggestion to stay at Caiman Ecological Refuge and spend 3 days with the Oncafari team was spot on! It was everything we’d hoped…jaguars! We actually saw 8 different jaguars and some of them we saw more than once. The wildlife viewing in the Pantanal in general was incredible! We saw way too many birds to count. We saw tapirs, many capybara, lots of caiman, and many other animals. The only thing we didn’t see was an anteater, which our driver to the airport in Campo Grande helped us with the last morning, when we saw several! This amazing experience happened even though there was a massive fire on the Caiman property just a few weeks before. We were moved to a different accommodation but everything was great. Our guide, Joao and driver, Chipa were fun, informative, and excellent at spotting animals! We also visited an under the radar place called Bonito where we enjoyed wildlife with snorkeling in the crystal clear water amongst the many fish and visited the macaw hole where I was on a mission to get the perfect shot. We also had some real adventure by repelling 72 meters into a cave and SCUBA diving to see the giant columns- so much fun! We ate great food and were well cared for by Marcos, who was also a wealth of knowledge. With the help of Marcos, Marc even discovered the local craft beer scene which he loved. Wow… Iguassu Falls! We had so much fun and what surprises! We had a WOW moment from Wendy here, a helicopter ride over the falls! This was fabulous not only because getting a bird’s eye view over Iguassu Falls is incredible, but also because it was our first time in a helicopter! What a treat! Seeing the falls by foot on both the Argentinian and Brazilian side was also beautiful. Who knew one could see something from so many vantage points. We are so glad we stuck with the suggestion of staying at the Belmond because if we didn’t we wouldn’t have been able to see the Brazilian side before the park opened which allowed us to see it practically alone. This was significant because there are massive numbers of tourists at this site. One of the evenings we had a surprise Cachaca tasting from Bobby’s team. I was hesitant because I’m not one who can typically “taste” hard alcohol, but this was really good and so informative. Marc and I each had a different favorite. We loved it and of course we brought some home! Alex was an amazing guide! Yet again, we were so well cared for and he was also a wealth of knowledge! We were also able to get a late check out at the Belmond, which was very convenient! Though we organized our time in Rio on our own, Bobby’s staff took care of our transfers and chose our hotel. I was hoping to save some money here so requested down grades in the hotel. The chosen hotel was not on the beach, which we didn’t care about, but instead had a spectacular view of Sugar Loaf from our room! Our stay in the Amazon was very relaxing! We learned a lot about this important ecosystem. We saw quite a lot of pink dolphins as well as a few giant otters! The plane ride back to Manaus was worth it to see the meeting of the waters! In Manaus we had a short time with another excellent guide to see a few sites. Bobby’s staff also made dinner reservations at an amazing restaurant here before our departure home. All in all, this was one of the smoothest run trips we’ve ever been on. No doubt some of this was luck, but clearly Bobby did his job and did it very well! We would without question, use them again and recommend them to others.
This trip was arranged by a WOW List candidate. Here’s what that means.
Prague, Austria, and Germany, from historic museums to alpine trails
PAT HUGGINS | OCTOBER 30, 2019
My husband and I recently traveled to Prague, Austria, and southern Germany for 24 days using Gwen’s services. I reached out to Gwen over a year before we planned to go after winning an auction for a short stay at a Munich hotel. We used that as a starting point. After extensive email interaction we got to know each other well enough to really nail the itinerary and come up with a wonderful experience.
Part of the excitement of any trip I take comes from reading and learning about the places I intend to visit. With a year of potential planning time I came up with quite a dream list. It included renown museums and historic sites, but also alpine trails we wanted to hike and restaurants we wanted to dine at. Gwen had her own list of special activities, led by guides with unique knowledge, to add to the mix. Some sounded very familiar – a Food Tour or Wine Tour. I admit to being reluctant to spend time on these since we have taken dozens of such tours. She assured me they were special, tailored to our particular interests, and encouraged me to give them a try. They turned out to be some of our most memorable activities. We really learned invaluable information that helped navigate restaurant menus and wine lists throughout our trip.
All of the private guides we used were outstanding. Without exception they were knowledgeable, friendly, punctual and flexible, answering all of our questions and providing local insight into the places we visited. I most likely would never have found them without working with Gwen. Her professional relationship with these guides, the transfer/driving companies, and local support people was the significant difference from any trip I planned on my own. The logistics were flawless and the management of our time, having full days but not overwhelming ones, very much was due to her assistance. I also appreciated Exeter’s ability to expedite access to several venues.
You asked to comment on any local support we had while traveling. Because of bad weather we at one point considered changing hotels and reworking the itinerary. The local Exeter representatives helped run the numbers and provide alternatives. In addition, my husband needed a quick trip to a local ear, nose, and throat doctor. Our guide helped negotiate everything and he was able to enjoy the following days. This medical visit would have been much more difficult on our own.
One more general thought – I have used several of your recommended specialists. Gwen was one of the easiest to work with. She gave me choices among hotels including a range of styles and price points. I consider us to be pretty independent when traveling. We have lived both in Europe and Asia. We often chose to use public transportation and eliminate a private car and driver to hold down costs. She was fine with this. I appreciated her flexibility and willingness to accommodate.
Bali: traditional villages, music and dancing, cooking lessons, authentic resorts…
MARTHA LAZARAKIS | OCTOBER 27, 2019
Diane found us a wonderful guide (Ngoorah) and driver (Agus) to usher us around the island of Bali. Our week included a small village where we visited a family temple and compound, and listened to a musical performance by the village’s traditional Gamelan orchestra. We were even able to play the instruments with the musicians, and try the dancing. It was a unique invitation into their community. We also enjoyed a cooking lesson in a traditional outdoor kitchen, cooking over an open fire, where we prepared a lavish lunch. Our accommodations were at resorts which embraced the Balinese culture and design and included outstanding food, full service spas, and incredible service.
A jam-packed three weeks in Spain and Portugal that “never felt rushed”
JOE LYLE | OCTOBER 27, 2019
Virginia’s team organized a great introduction to the Iberian Peninsula for my wife and I. In three weeks we visited Madrid, Toledo, Cordoba, Seville, and Granada in Spain, then Evora, Lisbon, Sintra, Estoril, Obidos and Porto in Portugal. After Porto, we went to La Rioja wine region, then Barcelona and back to Madrid. There was a lot to see and do, but we never felt rushed. With the exception of Estoril, we were able to stay three nights per hotel to limit hotel hopping. All the guides were knowledgable, helpful, concerned and fun people to be with for several hours. The drivers were also excellent and good company. All transfers and in-county travel (by car, train and plane) went smoothly as planned. We liked all the hotels except one, but thanks to Paloma in Customer Care, we were able to quickly change to another, much better, hotel the same day. Also, thanks to Paloma for the last minute difficulties with some of the restaurant reservations (which apparently were caused by the restaurants).
As I mentioned, all the guides were great and knowledgeable, but two experiences really stood out for us. On the first night our guide provided a tapas experience, hopping from tapas bar to tapas bar to taste the best tapas, wine and vermouth that Madrid has to offer. We were made to feel like locals out on a night. The other experience was seeing Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in the late afternoon. Our guide knew exactly when to take us when the light helped to make the Sagrada Familia truly awe-inspiring.
Romania’s medieval towns, plus a WOW Moment in Bran Castle
DAVID LUSIGNAN | OCTOBER 24, 2019
Ralucagave us invaluable assistance in the development of our 2 week trip to visit 3 regions of Romania…Bucovina, Maramures and Transylvania. Our objective was to see the beautiful country-side, visit small villages/medieval towns and meet/engage with the local people and their daily life/customs. Raluca was always responsive and worked collaboratively and patiently with us to iterate a final itinerary that met these desires and the trip did not disappoint! Our stay in 3 small village guest houses provided direct interaction with the owner families over home cooked(and delicious) breakfasts and dinners; the boutique hotels recommended in the old towns of Cluj, Sibiu and Brasov provided exemplary service and gave us quick and direct access to the historic centers(and, again, delicious breakfasts!). Our guide/driver for the entire trip(Ilona) was terrific! Ilona was pleasant always and patient as we juggled each day’s travel; and her extensive knowledge of Romanian history coupled with her art history background provided excellent insights to all we did. Ilona had also cultivated personal relationships with many of the people we met throughout our journey which greatly enhanced our experiences These people were genuinely pleased to see her and meet us. We had our WOW moment on this trip as well. An after hours visit with private guide of Bran Castle with access to the tower was superb…..no crowds, no rush, unlimited photo opportunities and personal attention from an excellent guide. Raluca’s team produced 2 other surprises as well. They were able to arrange access for us to William Blacker’s Transylvanian village house which is not open to tourists. William left the UK and spent several years living in this village in the late 1990s with a local family which he chronicled in his book “Along the Enchanted Way”. Since we had read his book before we left, this was a special connection for us. They also arranged a birthday surprise for me while we were in the village of Breb…. our dinner host baked me a cake and, with her niece/nephew dressed in traditional garb, sang me happy birthday. Thoughtful and special. So a 5 out of 5 for Raluca and her team from planning, to delivery, to choice of guide and accommodations!
40th wedding anniversary on Italy’s Amalfi Coast
CARRIE HADDEN | OCTOBER 23, 2019
Andrea fulfilled our wishes beyond our expectations. Starting with the introductory phone call. She listened carefully to the things we said we enjoyed and we had no specific things we wanted to do. When we got the packet we were so pleased with the itinerary, but we had no idea how perfect the trip would become. Every driver and guide were so professional yet personable and were on time. They all mention Andrea’s team and you could tell the respect that they hold in the area.
We had two standout experiences. The first being an entire day on the sea to cruise the Amalfi coast. We did not know what to expect when we went to the wharf, there were so many tour boats. We were a little confused when a very large beautiful yacht pulled up. I was joking with my husband and told him that would be amazing, my husband said you should have seen your face when they held up a sign with our name on it. Captain Beni and his hand Salvatori gave us an experience we will never forget. We stopped at a restaurant high above sea only accessible by boat and had a delicious meal with great staff. Perfect day!
The second amazing experience was with our driver taking us from Positano to Ravello. We had a 3 hour stopover in the town of Amalfi but it was grey drizzly day and he asked us if we would rather go to his friend’s winery. The owner gave a very personal tour and the joined us for lunch that his wife had prepared. It was so unexpected and right out of a romance movie.
Her staff was right on top of things. We needed to change the dated of our Rome guide (my error) and they worked hard to accommodate us. We loved the hotel in Rome.
They stuck to our budget. That being said we did not like our hotel Villa Marie in Ravello and wish we could of upgraded to nicer hotel but the view was amazing. They also let people know that it was our 40th wedding anniversary and we were greeted with Prosecco at the Palazzo Murat. This was the best and most detailed trip we have taken using your WOW list.
That you very much.
Mongolia for the Golden Eagle Festival
JONATHAN TSAI | OCTOBER 22, 2019
The trip provided a diversity of experiences although we were mainly there for the Golden Eagle Festival. Jalsa has a great team working with him, from the administrative staff, ground crew to guides – they all gave their best so we could have the full Mongolian experience (from sights, cuisine to traffic!). The team who supported our group were responsive and adaptive, we also had access to many wonderful cultural performances and Chai Murat himself at the festival! One thing to consider is a visit to the Khustain National Park – there is more wildlife to see and seemed to be less touristy (some on our group had an extension there); on our itinerary was instead Gorkhi-Terelj National Park which is highly touristy and we encountered no wildlife during our visit. Regardless, Jalsa’s passion for Mongolia was clearly articulated during our trip – his company makes great lengths to help develop and also preserve the real Mongolia and this is another reason we use a WOW List specialist.
A Baltic cruise with “outstanding local tour guides”
DIANA PUSCH | OCTOBER 16, 2019
1. Preplanning with Mary Jean’s team was fabulous. We worked with teleconferences to include other travelers, their (outstanding) land specialist Ralph & cruise specialist Cheri.
2. We did have a tour guide problem which we worked to solve as it was an immediate issue (a substituted tour guide in Germany spoke Spanish, so we used my daughter as translator that day). Ralph was on it when we notified him, and he was proactive in making sure remaining destinations were well coordinated & had no problems.
3. Cheri did an outstanding job with our cruise rooms, meeting the individual needs of each traveler. I brag about her work and have recommended her to my friends looking to create a cruise experience.
4. This team was responsive to each of our questions, desires in the trip, provided outstanding local tour guides who enhanced our knowledge & enjoyment of each city and were a pleasure to work with.
Portugal and Spain for travelers who have been there and done that
LEN AND CINDY BOGORAD | OCTOBER 10, 2019
Gonçalo and Joana planned and executed a fabulous trip for us to central and northern Portugal, along with Santiago de Compostela and Salamanca in NW Spain. They listened carefully to what we were interested in, taking account of our previous travels in Portugal and Spain. For example, when Gonçalo heard that we were interested in prehistoric art, he suggested that we visit the Coa Valley, accompanied on a private tour conducted by a fascinating archeologist, which turned out to be a highlight of the trip.
Each of the private guides that Gonçalo and Joana arranged for eight tours (in the Coa Valley, in each of the cities we visited, and on Madeira) was fabulous. This contributed tremendously to the success of the trip. It was great to have the full attention of each of the guides, given all of the questions that we have, and because of health constraints one of us had (walking up stairs or steep slopes was very difficult) it was invaluable to have guides who were totally flexible about adapting the itineraries and pace appropriately.
The hotels Gonçalo and Joana selected for us were excellent, and in particular were interesting in their own ways. Hotel breakfasts were wonderful throughout.
70th-birthday blowout in Cape Town and a South African safari
ROBIN & JOEL GLOBUS | OCTOBER 2, 2019
We wanted this trip to be special as it was our 70th Birthdays. We wanted it to be “a trip of a lifetime”. Nina and Dan far exceeded our expectations in South Africa.
Nina and Dan planned our trip after discussing what we would like to see and do. We wanted to go to Cape Town and a safari to see Leopards and hopefully the Big Five.
It’s difficult to put into words how fantastic our trip was. We had asked for a special room at The Silo hotel and they made sure we got it! The two Safari camps also exceeded our expectations.
The people at all of the places we went were so fabulous. We were hugged and fussed over and made to feel so at home at all three accommodations. We did see all of the animals and witnessed a lion kill which was extremely rare. The guides and trackers that we spent 6 hours a day with are now friends. They were amazing as well. We will have these wonderful memories for our lifetime and yes, it was “a trip of a lifetime ” thanks to Nina and Dan and Wendy Perrin’s WOW List.
Barge trip in France with a group of friends
KIMBERLY PRATER | SEPTEMBER 30, 2019
Ellen and Lori helped our group pick the ideal barge for our group- The Gran Cru. This phenomenal barge is only in its second season, has a fantastic staff that works well together and created a very convivial atmosphere- as well as lots of wonderful food and wine. A Gran Cru wine and 3 cheeses were served at every meal and Chef Joe was outstanding. In addition to cooking our meals, he held a couple of cooking classes for us. Boat manager, guide and wine expert Anna- superb! Without the input of Ellen and Lori we likely would have chosen another barge and not had the same experience.
I also appreciated the heads up from Ellen that because of no rain, we would not be on canals but rather on the Saône. In reality it mattered little as our itinerary remained the same and the scenery remained beautiful. This is our second barge trip through Ellen and I will use her again for future trips.
Canada: backcountry lodges in British Columbia
JIM VAHEY | SEPTEMBER 30, 2019
We wanted a vacation with a focus on the outdoors. We came across a number of interesting options in British Columbia and contacted Marc to help us sort it out. Marc personally gave us much time helping us plan our trip to British Columbia. He provided thoughtful advice on the pros and cons of the various lodges and resorts we were interested in and worked to keep us within our budget. Marc and his staff remained in touch with us before we had left and during our trip: answering questions, making additional reservations and handling glitches as they arose. Marc and his staff’s advice was spot on and we had a fantastic time.
Malta, from its private palaces to a WOW Moment in St. Johns Co-Cathedral
KATHERINE MONTGOMERY | SEPTEMBER 28, 2019
Jason and Damon made our trip extraordinary!!!! Every tour and recommendation was beyond our expectations… we had a fabulous day cooking with Chef George Borg in Gozo, private palace tours with warm and welcoming royalty, delicious meals and knowledge, personable guides!
Our WOW Moment was a private tour of St Johns Cathedral…… breathtaking decor and up close viewing of the Caravaggios! Every detail was perfect and we were treated like VIPs. I can not recommend them highly enough!! Delightful to deal with!! Can’t wait to return!
Nova Scotia and the Canadian Maritimes, plus a WOW Moment oyster feast
SONJA & BRIAN HAGGERT | SEPTEMBER 20, 2019
I’m not sure I even know where to start telling you about Jill. She planned a fabulous trip, taking our likes into consideration and even including some daring adventures that we absolutely loved. We were in the Canadian Maritimes during Hurricane Dorian, which landed on their shores. She called us on a Friday night to check on us and had made arrangements for us to stay in our hotel if we didn’t want to risk heading out to our next destination, This was indicative of the entire trip. She was always there, checking up on us and our itinerary without being overbearing. We knew we were well taken care of right from the start.
There are so many great parts of the trip to point out-Wofville and eating at Le Caveau. You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten Brant Beef. Staying at a Distillery (Glenmore) and meeting Jill’s other travelers, having dinner overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at Panorama at the Cabot Links Golf Course. Of course the piece-de-resistance was our WOW Moment. Jill recommended The Inn at Bay Fortune as a dining EXPERIENCE and it truly was. A farmer who regaled us with their farm and some of what we would be eating, a feast of oysters (my husband LOVES oysters and a meal that lasted the entire evening. Everything was cooked over an open flame and it was terrific! Wendy was kind enough to make this unbelievable meal our WOW Moment. Little did she know there would be another WOW Moment the next morning when we met the Chef, Michael Smith, carving up a 322 pound tuna in the kitchen.
You will not find a more caring, lovely person to deal with on a trip. We are looking forward to having her plan another trip, probably to her home province of Newfoundland so we can meet.
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, including a local family wedding in Bukhara
SHARON NATHAN | SEPTEMBER 9, 2019
Zulya was with me every step of the way in planning my trip and her sister Dilia in Bukhara was there with me once I arrived in the Stans. I consider guides the most important part of any trip because I am even more interested in life in the places I visit than I am in the sights, and Zulya found me great ones in both Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Not only did they speak excellent English and know all about the monuments we visited; they were also open about their own experiences. Certainly the highlight of the trip was attending a family wedding in Bukhara; the openness and generosity of Zulya’s family was above and beyond.
Scotland and London for opera and history buffs
AMY KALES | AUGUST 31, 2019
Philip is a good listener. The itinerary he planned for my husband, Arthur, and me who are opera lovers and history buffs in Edinburgh, the Highlands and London filled our hearts’ delight.
The centerpiece of our trip was a performance of Rusalka at the Glyndebourne Opera festival. Philip was able to procure the best seats, train tickets to Lewes and a dinner reservation, which despite the rain, made the evening easy and memorable. He also reserved excellent seats at plays and concerts of our choice at the Edinburgh International Festival as well as the Royal Tattoo. We could not have enjoyed ourselves more.
Philip also planned a sightseeing itinerary which focused on Churchill and World War II. All of our guides , who were Blue Badge guides, were knowledgeable and personable. We spent two memorable days with Mark King discovering the Churchill and the Imperial War Museums. A highlight was the privately guided tour of the Churchill War Rooms before opening hours arranged by Philip. In addition, Mark took us on a tour of the historic East End where he the shared experiences of Jewish and other immigrants to the area as well as his parents during World War II. We could not have asked for a more in depth program.
Arthur and I can recommend Phillip to anyone visiting the U.K. The hotels he chose, the guides he selected and the itinerary, which took our interests into account, was excellent. We plan to use another travel specialist on Wendy’s WOW list for our next trip
Spain: beaches, farmland, “amazing meals”
AMANDA MANDEL | JULY 24, 2019
Pablo was very responsive and flexible during the process of planning our trip. He listened well to what we wanted (an adult trip with lots of time to wander on our own), and booked us a lovely small hotel in Barcelona (The Mercer) and at the amazing Torrent del Mas in Costa Brava. All logistics went very smoothly, and Pablo was quick to answer the few questions we had during our trip. They gave us good restaurant choices in Barcelona (Bar Canete is a must go) and in Costa Brava (Pais del Mas). We can’t say enough positive things about Costa Brava – gorgeous beaches and farmland, amazing meals everywhere, not overly touristy…and Torrent del Mas was one of the most beautiful hotels we have been to. It was a bit challenging to leave each day to go sightseeing! We would go back to these parts of Spain in a heartbeat, and would definitely recommend Pablo as a travel planner.
Soaking up the art and culture of Istanbul
LEE SAMUELS | JUNE 25, 2019
Beginning with the Istanbul-based tour managers, Ugur, Merve, Ekin and, of course, Karen Fedeorko Sefer, and extending to our professional guide, Esin, our excellent driver, and our evening “chaperone,” Mary, Karen’s group provided a carefully planned and flexible custom itinerary. I found the staff was prompt in returning emails and I received exemplary advice. Their arranged services were fairly priced and included a centrally located boutique hotel (House Hotel Karakoy) and cutting edge restaurants (must go-to: Mikla Restaurant). Representatives readily made themselves available during the initial travel planning phase, our arrival into Istanbul International Airport, tour throughout Istanbul and our departure from Turkey. Arrival and departure customs, passport and luggage handling were expedited at the new Istanbul International Airport via the company’s arranged transfer service.
For us, the face of Karen’s team was our professional guide, driver and other assigned attendants. At no time did we ever feel endangered (although Istanbul drivers and pedestrians should be “commended” for synchronized on-road gymnastics/ choreography). Esin is a gem: an incredible asset/representative for both Karen and Turkey. At once, a valuable resource and fount of insider information and worldly anecdotes, she always maintained a vital, kind, warm and very human (sincere and humanistic) side that she freely exhibited. Esin is so very passionate about Istanbul and its citizens, the attractions visited, its present, past and future. As a world traveler, I felt as though I experienced cosmopolitan Istanbul on an intimate human scale coming away with an appreciation for its history, culture, and, most of all, its people. As a former high school art instructor, I was beyond thrilled when Esin arranged a most special one-on-one meeting with internationally renowned Turkish artist, Ms. Gulay Semercioglu whose artworks have been acquired by the Museum of Modern Art (NYC) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC). This would not have been possible without Esin as our guide. I am eternally grateful.
Thank you for creating a journey of a lifetime.
Italy and Greece in 16 days…with a teenager
PAUL MYERS | JUNE 24, 2019
My wife, my 13-year-old daughter and I just returned from 16 days in Italy and Greece. We had a wonderful trip. Jill, our travel specialist, picked the perfect hotels for us, lined up the best local tour guides and coordinated a good mix of sightseeing and down time. We were blown away that she thought of every detail. We were greeted at every transfer location by a nicely dressed, English-speaking professional who helped us with baggage, navigating customs and transfer to our next destination. Jill was patient with all my questions, which were many, and she knew each destination because she had personally visited each location. She, and her colleague, Peter, made sure we were able to relax and enjoy. (They even gave me a great tip on the best shoes to wear while touring Rome – Allbirds. So helpful!)
If we could have done anything different, I would have taken Jill’s advice and only visited one country this trip. She warned me that the additional travel to go from one country to another would take time away from relaxing. She was more than right! I will heed that advice going forward!
All-in-all, it was a wonderful trip in large measure because of Jill and Peter’s careful planning and thoughtful itinerary design!
Thank you, Jill and thank you, Peter!
Paris and Normandy’s Landing Beaches for the 75th Commemoration of D-Day
CHRISTINA NESTER | JUNE 12, 2019
Our trip of a lifetime to France and to attend the 75th Commemoration of D-Day was a spectacular, mind-blowing experience and one we will never forget. Jack, Michael, and the team designed an outstanding travel itinerary that met every request we made for our trip and then went beyond.
First, the places we stayed in Paris and Normandy were exceptional. The hotels in Paris, the Grand Hotel du Palais Royal and the Hotel Relais Christine were beautiful, well located and very welcoming. Our very favorite was a charming find, Les Lilas de Bellefontaine. A charming B&B located in Bayeaux. The owners, Catherine and Serge were so very welcoming, gracious and generous that it was hard to leave because they became family.
The guides arranged for us in Paris, and Normandy were so valuable to showing us around and maximizing our experience with their incredible knowledge and insights that brought every experience more life and color. Caroline is a treasure and felt like family when she saw us off to Honfleur. Damien showed us a wonderful time as we sampled Camembert cheese and Calvedos wines. The true highlight was Vanessa and Geert who toured us the landing beaches, especially Omaha Beach. Gerrt took the time to add his research of my father’s movements on June 6th, 1944 adding color and dimension to the facts.
I want to add that we were not notified until June 5th that we had tickets to attend the 75th Commemoration and I emailed Marcello and a driver was arranged with a pick up time to get us to the shuttle pick up area the very next morning.
Michael and Marcello listened to what we wanted from the trip, listened to our feedback as the trip took form and went well beyond our expectations to create a purely magical and moving experience that we will never forget. Gratitude beyond measure to them. And thank you for the flower to welcome us home. Gratitude and respect to each of you for creating a trip of a lifetime.
50th birthday celebration on St. Barts
LILLIAN CHUNG | JUNE 4, 2019
Peg and Julia were excellent in every way! Their professionalism and genuine care helped to make planning a very memorable 50th birthday celebration! We had people flying into St. Barth’s from NYC, Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles, so it was quite a complicated process! There were so many highlights…a private chef dinner, hike to the natural pools, numerous gourmet restaurants….everyone in the party was already calling it the “trip of a lifetime”. Thank you so much for this amazing memory!
* 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.