Many of you are thinking ahead this year and booking trips much farther in advance than in the past—which is smart, given the travel rush we saw last year: Many people waited too late and got shut out of the most charming places to stay and less-discovered locales.
These ten travelers are especially on top of things: Their dream trips are already booked and on their calendars. They’ve worked with destination specialists on The WOW List to design their trips, some of which they’ve dreamt of for many years, and all of which they’ll remember for a lifetime. For the rest of us, we hope these trips provide ideas and spark inspiration.
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Puglia: Italy regulars head to a lesser-known region to practice their Italian
Dana Perry and her husband, Charles, have been to Italy many times, where they put the Italian language they are learning to good use—most recently to Sicily with a WOW travel expert. They love slow travel and off-the-beaten-path activities—and are serious foodies. They wanted to head somewhere new to them.
“Italy has a perfect mix of cultural attractions, history and beautiful scenery—we chose Puglia for our 2024 trip because it’s a bit under the radar and got such positive reviews from travelers. I think we keep coming back to Italy due to the mix of attractions and to go deeper. We’ve hit the major cities on previous travels—by getting to some of the less touristy destinations we have more authentic experiences and can slow down the pace. We’re looking forward to a nice mix of historical sites, food and wine tours, cultural things, and relaxation.” —Dana Perry
India: “the people, colors, sounds, and food…”
Ron Klausner and his wife stay home in the summer, where their family joins them by the beach. In the wintertime, they often head to warmer climes. After a trip to Sri Lanka, India sparked their excitement.
“We are hitting the major tourist sites in Northern India: Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur, and Jodhpur. We may also add in Varanasi. After those major sites we are taking a seven-day Brahmaputra river cruise in northeast India. We’re so excited to experience the unique culture—the people, colors, sounds and food. I can’t imagine there is anywhere else in the world quite like it. Anticipation is one third of the joy of travel, the trip itself is a third and the memories are the last third.” —Ron Klausner
Norway and Svalbard: unique scenery, fjords, polar bears, midnight sun…
Tom Redburn, his wife Lisa, and their friends are retired journalists and nature photographers. Prolific travelers, Tom had wonderful memories of hiking in Norway in college and has always wanted to return.
“The trip is to fulfill a long-standing dream for both of us, a return to a place Lisa loved visiting with a close friend (who tragically died a couple of decades ago from breast cancer), and for me, to add to our great outdoors adventures by witnessing the stunning natural landscape of Norway. We’re looking forward to a different way of traveling this time. We’ve never taken a cruise (apart from a small 16-passenger adventure cruise to the Galapagos) and we’re not likely to ever take a conventional cruise. But as we’re getting older (we’re both 73), we found the idea of expedition cruising through a gorgeous remote landscape very appealing and are expecting the adventure-seeking atmosphere on the NatGeo expedition ship.
I’m probably most excited about two aspects of the trip: the spectacular scenery of the fjords and enjoying them both from the deck of our ship and exploring by small boat, kayak, and short hikes; and the chance to see polar bears in their natural environment. I also think it will be very exciting to be traveling to the land of the midnight sun during the very long daylight hours of June.” —Tom Redburn
Scotland: green rolling landscapes, country castles, Scotch tastings…
Sue Paolucci was ready for her third WOW trip after heading to Spain in 2019 and Greece in 2022. Our team helped her and her companions land on Scotland for their next trip, chosen for its unique mix of history, landscapes, and culture.
“My husband and I are recently retired physicians, and worldwide travel has always been on our bucket list. Although admittedly in this age of COVID, and global unrest, leaving the safety of our home base gives us pause. So, we decided to travel intelligently and safely (and this is where you and your colleagues come in!) and decided that our raison d’etre would be as ambassadors of goodwill and peace as we represent our country going forward. We knew we wanted to experience local flavor, not just the usual touristy sites…and if we went to a ‘touristy site,’ we would like to see it from a different, exclusive angle. We are most looking forward to wonderful green rolling landscapes, tasting Scotch, of course, and trying to decipher the Scottish brogue.” —Susan Paolucci
Southern Africa: a bucket-list safari to celebrate a high-school graduation
This family of four—mom, dad, and two boys ages 16 and 18—are celebrating their eldest’s high-school graduation with a trip they’ve long dreamed of.
“South Africa and safari has been on our bucket list for decades. But we just never made it happen—other trips, finances, time, distance from L.A., etc. All sorts of excuses. But with our older son’s high-school graduation this June we realized that if we were going to do it as a family, we needed to finally pull the trigger. And we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate him than to take this dream trip. It will be the first time to Africa for all of us.
Namibia is what we are most excited about. It has been on our list—its isolation, alien beauty, remoteness, uniqueness. We thought that we would have to wait for another trip once we had the traditional safari under our belts. So, we were extremely excited when Julian was able to include Namibia.” —Julie Heimark
Vietnam and Cambodia: Off-the-beaten-path experiences and time with locals
Molly O’Neill-Emmi and her husband, Tom, love to travel. Before the pandemic, they had pushed off many of the bigger trips for later. The pandemic changed their philosophy: “No more thinking ‘one day’ we’ll get there—now‘s the time,” Molly said.
“We didn’t want to limit ourselves to just one region in Vietnam, so Sandy provided expert guidance and recommendations for a comprehensive and diverse itinerary. We’ll start in Hanoi, travel to Hue and Hoi An in central Vietnam, and then spend time in the Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam. From there, we fly to Siem Reap to explore Angkor Wat and temples off-the-beaten-tourist-path, as well as engage in hands-on experiences with locals.
There are so many elements of this trip that have us excited. True hands-on experiences with locals, including spending a day gaining insight into elements of rural Vietnamese life, such as planting rice, paddling a bamboo basket boat, etc. Exploring a war-time tunnel complex and a secret bunker. Meeting a former North Vietnam fighter pilot. Attending sunrise meditation with monks. The list goes on and on.” —Molly O’Neill-Emmi
The Galapagos Islands for giant tortoises, playful sea lions, and scuba diving
Andrea’ Phillips’ family of four—two adults and two teenage daughters—wanted to see and interact with as many sea lions, sharks, turtles, and penguins as possible. They learned that securing a Galapagos trip a year in advance is crucial to ensuring that their preferences are met.
“We are most excited about the extraordinary wildlife, breathtaking landscapes, and unique ecosystems. We love nature and creating unforgettable experiences, so to have the opportunity to meet giant tortoises, interact with playful sea lions, and dive alongside hammerhead sharks in crystal-clear waters is nothing short of a dream come true for us! In fact, we’ve arranged a trip to the Philippines this April, also planned by a Wendy-Perrin-recommended expert, specifically to prepare for scuba diving before our Galapagos adventure.” —Andrea Phillips
France: biking, hiking, cooking lessons, exploring with grandkids…
Karen Dalfen planned this trip with the intention of sharing fun and lifelong memories with her grandkids, ages 13 and 16. They love being active and have limited patience for museums and historical sites.
“I usually plan a vacation many months ahead as I want particular rooms, restaurants, entrance tickets and plane seating. This becomes particularly important when traveling alone with grandchildren. It’s important that plane seats are close by, that rooms are either next to each other or a family suite, that meal times are spaced properly. Given that Paris is an extremely busy city, planning way in advance is a must.
We will spend half our time in Paris, and the other in the region of Aix-en-Provence. There will be cooking lessons, site seeing, craft visiting, some hiking and biking, a food tasting day, and my favorite, a night at Versailles. I have discovered that it is not important to see everything on a vacation. In fact, this can be exhausting. The deeper and richer the experience is, will in turn help to create the long-lasting memories.” —Karen Dalfen
Argentina and Chile: meticulously preserved nature in Patagonia and legendary wine estates
“Patagonia, as well as both Argentina’s wine country/Mendoza and Chilean wine country, has been on my wife’s and my bucket list for a long time. We love nature and we love wine. Patagonia is one of the most preserved places on the planet with incredibly dramatic natural scenery. With man’s impact on earth, we’re concerned our natural wonders are being adversely affected and want to visit these places sooner than later. As for wine, Argentina and Chile produce some of the most iconic wines anywhere in the world. We’re looking forward to visiting the estates of some of our favorite wines that we’ve been drinking for decades, including but not limited to Catena Zapata, Viña Cobos, and Clos Apalta. As my wife and I enter our 60s and with the pandemic behind us, our life approach is ‘If not now, then when?” —Andy Shapiro
Belize: snorkeling with stingrays, watching manatees, sailing with young kids…
For Kim Segal and her family, Belize—where they can fly direct from their hometown—seemed a great international travel option with young children, ages 4 and 7, without the challenge of jet lag. They planned highlights for the whole family, including a night walk to look for nocturnal creatures and creepy-crawly bugs and spiders.
“I can’t wait to introduce my older son to great snorkeling. He was so excited to see fish in the ocean when we were in Croatia last year, but those fish were pretty boring compared to what we will see in Belize! I hope that my kids enjoy all the activities, and I really hope they like Shark Ray Alley. Watching them experience all these cool places and things—it’s as fun as experiencing them myself. I’m excited to watch them play on the beach; they spent hours doing that in Croatia and they just had a blast. Also, they got super into shell collecting in Croatia and in Cabo San Lucas, so hopefully they can do some beachcombing as well in Belize. Mainly, though, I’m just excited because travel allows me to focus solely on enjoying time with my family, something that is harder to do at home when I have a household to run and we all have busy and hectic lives. I set my email on out-of-office, let the organization I volunteer with know I’m unavailable, and I focus on having fun times together as a family.
Personally, I’m also hoping to see a manatee (haven’t seen one of those yet in the wild!), and I’m looking forward to cruising around on a catamaran checking out the views, maybe lounging on the trampoline of the boat with a good book and a glass of wine in hand, and of course I’m looking forward to a week of sunshine in the middle of winter!” —Kim Segal
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