Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

Understanding How Much a WOW Trip Costs

by Wendy Perrin | October 4, 2022

Wendy answers your Frequently Asked Questions about what the price of a WOW trip includes:

1. Does it cost more to use a WOW List trip planner than if I book the trip on my own?

It depends on the destination and type of trip. WOW List trip planners can save you money via reduced rates that they negotiate with hotels and other travel suppliers at their destinations. They negotiate special benefits and amenities too (e.g., early check-in, upgrades, complimentary meals). At the same time, their arrangements can cost more because they employ the best local private guides whom they have personally vetted, they use the newest cars and safest drivers who know all the shortcuts, they pay to eliminate time-consuming hassles such as lines and crowds, etc. Their trips include special touches and perks that you would not be able to procure on your own—and most of these special touches you won’t know about, or appreciate the value of, until you’re actually taking the trip. Their prices also include the local infrastructure to be able to come to the rescue in an emergency. So, typically, you’ll pay more than if you booked on your own, but you’ll end up with a more rewarding trip in the end. If a WOW Lister doesn’t convince you that the value they will add to your particular trip will be worth the higher cost, don’t book through that planner. Feel free to reach out to me at Ask Wendy, and I can try to suggest someone else.

2. Do WOW Listers charge trip-planning fees?

It depends on the type of trip, the destination, and how much work and time are required. If the trip is a cruise or a five-star resort stay with no customized components, usually the travel supplier pays a large enough commission, and not much work is required on the trip planner’s part, so there is no fee. If the trip is a custom-tailored itinerary, often there is a fee. Ask the trip planner to explain what their fee is and everything you get for that fee.

3. Is the fee a deposit toward the cost of the trip, or is it an additional charge?

Sometimes it’s a deposit—this protects the trip planner in case they do a ton of work on your behalf and then you cancel—and sometimes it’s an additional charge. Often the fee takes the form of a mark-up that’s incorporated into the total trip price you’re quoted. In such cases, you may be quoted a lump-sum price for your itinerary, with no breakdown of the prices for its different components. This lack of transparency, which is standard practice in the luxury travel-planning world, can be frustrating for prospective travelers. But the fact is that the local hotels and other businesses that provide the WOW Listers with exclusive reduced rates do so on the condition that the planners not reveal those rates. Sometimes a planner is able to provide a partial breakdown, either by day or by type of expense (e.g., accommodations, private guides, transportation). If you’re presented with a lump-sum price and need to cut costs, explain that you’d feel more comfortable investing X thousand dollars in this trip, and ask the planner how they would suggest that you reach that figure.

4. What’s in the price that the trip planner will quote me?

The price almost always includes more than just accommodations. (It’s easy to book hotels on your own, after all—although, unless you’re using an expensive credit card with serious hotel benefits, you won’t get the same preferred treatment.)  The price quoted by the trip planner will likely include private and exclusive travel experiences and transportation that may cost more than generic sightseeing tours. So, when coming up with your estimated daily budget for a trip, don’t factor in only the price of accommodations.

5. If I find a lower price on the Internet than the price a WOW Lister has quoted me, what should I do?

You should let the trip planner know this and request an explanation as to why their price is higher. Often, if it’s a hotel, the planner’s price includes extras (e.g., taxes, service fees, daily breakfast, early check-in, an upgrade) that are not included in the price you see on the Internet. If it’s an activity or excursion, the experience that the planner is recommending is probably not the same experience that you’re finding on the Internet. And remember that Internet rates often come with surprise charges. So be sure you’re comparing apples with apples.

6. I have a question that hasn’t been answered above.

Ask it here so I can answer and add it to these FAQs.


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    I always enjoyed reading your column in Conde Nast and always felt confident in the information you shared. I’m so glad I can use your expertise on future travel.

  2. Connie Streitz

    So excited to find your site. Followed your articles, suggestions of tour guides etc. from Conde Nast Traveler

  3. Doug Havely

    We have utilized Earl Starkey for a trip to Turkey, Donna Thomas for a trip to New Zealand and Wanda Radetti for aCroatia/Slovenia trip. All of them did an outstanding job planning extraordinary trips. They were easy to work with and absolutely brought a lot of value. Earl even stopped by a hotel we were staying at in Bodrum to say hello as he was on a business trip. This was totally unexpected but was a nice touch.

  4. Janet Sacks

    Thanks so much for all this information. My sister and husband have booked trips through you and IC Bellagio 4 times now.

  5. Armando D. Guerra

    Thank you! I appreciate the FAQ’s. Being that it’s my wife’s 50th birthday and we have some “picky” travelers. I want her trip to be “perfect”.

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