Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

What I Mean When I Say WOW: Real Trip Ideas from Real Travelers

by Wendy Perrin | September 9, 2019

Have you heard about my WOW Moments project?  Travelers who contribute reviews of their WOW List trips eventually earn a special surprise that I call a “WOW Moment.”  And the trip reviews I’m getting the biggest kick out of nowadays are those that describe these very surprises. Like the ones below. Remember, I’m not a travel agent. I’m a travel journalist on a mission to ensure you get the best travel experiences that exist out there. May you enjoy a vicarious thrill when you read about these surprises, and may they inspire you to start planning your own wow trips!

“A completely different perspective…”

Cityscape views of one of Europe's most beautiful town- Vienna. Peoples on streets, urban life in Vienna Austria

Vienna’s city streets, Austria. Photo: Shutterstock

We contacted Gwen when a last-minute work trip provided the opportunity for an extended vacation. With 4 weeks to plan Gwen took time to get to know us and provided us with excellent recommendations on ways to enjoy our time in Austria. The guides she selected, the transportation (train, driver and rental car) were all seamless and the hotels were amazing. She was always a pleasure to deal with an even handled a small snafu (our fault) while we were away. Gwen even teamed up with Wendy for our WOW moment at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, which did not disappoint! We love learning about art and Julia’s passion and knowledge were infectious! She was such a pleasure to spend time with and we had an amazing afternoon. A highlight was the time she spent on the Klimt brothers paintings on the walls and ceiling of the museum. Not only did she teach us so much about the history of the works and the artists but she had high resolution photos of the works on her tablet that allowed us to zoom in on the details of the art you cannot see with the naked eye—a completely different perspective and they are even more amazing seeing them through that lens. What a memory! Thanks to Gwen (and Wendy!) we had an amazing trip we will remember for a lifetime. —Jennifer Webb

“We walked up a spectacular set of steps, through increasingly tropical vegetation…”

Long Exposure shot at Deer Waterfall - Serra da Bocaina.Waterfall located in Trail of gold the ancient path used by the Portuguese in the extraction of Gold. Brazilian Highlights. São José do Barreiro. - Image

Deer Waterfall in Serra da Bocaina National Park, Brazil. Photo: Shutterstock

“We were told we’d have lunch at a local restaurant in Paraty. We headed up the mountain in a Jeep, on an increasingly bumpy road, wondering out loud what kind of restaurant could be at the end of such a crazy road. Our guide, Gabriel, just grinned. Upon arrival we walked up a spectacular set of steps, through increasingly tropical vegetation, and arrived at Le Gite d’Indaiatiba. We were greeted by the wife of the Frenchman who envisioned this place, a charming open-air restaurant with tables surrounded by hundreds of books. ‘Go up the mountain and swim in the pool while we prepare your lunch’, she said. So up the mountain, past the helipad for the rich and famous of Brazil, we arrived at the pool and settled into the crisp cold water and surrounding tropical sounds. We were in paradise. Back down to the restaurant we hiked and sat down to a pre-lunch drink and delightful conversation with the owner, as we were serenaded by Grateful Dead music in the background. We had the whole restaurant to ourselves—and what an amazing feast! This is the kind of magic that Martin plans for you in Brazil. We also went piranha fishing on the Rio Negro, made night treks in the Amazon, toured the opera house in Manaus, enjoyed bike rides along the beaches in Rio, learned how to samba, and were treated like royalty every step of the way. Thank you, Wendy, for your WOW recommendation of Martin. And thank you for our WOW Moment helicopter ride over Iguazu Falls. It gave us such great perspective on where we’d been hiking for three days and was quite an adrenaline rush.” —Judy and Robert Rodwell

“Giving us insider access and insights not typically available…”

Evening View, London, England

Evening view of London. Courtesy Visit Britain

Jane and Philip planned itineraries, both in and outside London, that we simply would not, or in some cases could not, have arranged on our own. Highlights included a visit to a castle dating to the 11th century that is a private home and not open to the public. Jane’s personal connection allowed us to spend several hours as the guests of the owner, with a fascinating tour of the house, grounds, and extraordinary collections of art, antiques, and memorabilia. We also had a terrific WOW Moment: a tour of the Inns of Court with a barrister as a guide, giving us insider access and insights not typically available. All of our arrangements were excellent, with knowledgeable and personable guides and drivers, and there was enough free time in London to allow us to relax and enjoy those unexpected discoveries that are always among the best parts of a trip.” —John Sanders

“Receiving a sacred Tsewang blessing from the high priest…”

building and temple and green mountains in Patan, an ancient city in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal.

Patan, an ancient city in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal. Photo: Shutterstock

“We’ve worked with Wendy’s recommended travel specialists for Ecuador, Norway, Colombia, and Romania—and with other agents for Egypt and Peru—so we feel like we’ve had ample experience to know a good trip from a great one. We just returned from Nepal and Bhutan, and we can tell you that Toni is a WOW travel pro for sure! ‘WOW Moment’ does not even come close to describing the incredible experience we had at the Temple of the Divine Madman in Pukhara. The experience of receiving a sacred Tsewang blessing from the high priest there was truly extraordinary, and we cannot thank Wendy and Toni enough for making that happen. The Buddha of Longevity is with us all now! But the WOW did not stop there. Entering the Royal Suite at Zhiwaling was like walking into a fantasy. We sat inside the altar room in our suite and thanked Toni for making this trip so authentic and so extraordinary.” —Jenn Tabb

“We wanted a mix of history, art, culture, Jewish history, and Game of Thrones—and each of our three guides delivered.”

Aerial view at famous european travel destination in Croatia, Dubrovnik old town.

The old town of Dubrovnik, Croatia. Photo: Shutterstock

“We were traveling over Easter and wanted to maximize our time in Croatia.  We wanted a mix of history, art, culture, Jewish history, and Game of Thrones—and each of our three guides delivered. Our guides and drivers were knowledgeable, connected to their community, friendly, and great hosts. We saw and learned so much more than we could have seen on our own. Our driver Maro was like having a friend showing you around. Gwen was able to help us secure reservations at the restaurants we wanted, including Michelin-starred Restaurant 360 in Dubrovnik. We also loved her suggestions of Restaurant Dubrovnik and Adriatic Graso in Split — we had amazing meals and service. While in Dubrovnik we were surprised with our WOW Moment. We had a private boat ride from the new harbor to the old harbor just outside the Ancient Walls of Dubrovnik. We were served wine and charcuterie. Despite the rough waters, Captain Chris gave us a wonderful tour and a new perspective of Dubrovnik. It was such a treat. Croatia is a magical place, and Gwen and her team are there to roll out the red carpet for you.” —Joellen Shelden

“The views were stunning and provided a perspective we would not have had without Wendy’s WOW…”

seaplane flying over Sydney Harbour with bridge and opera house

A seaplane tour flies over Sydney Harbour.

“We would use Stuart again—our trip was outstanding and everything went off without a hitch. Great properties, people, and experiences!! We also had our first Wendy Perrin WOW Moment, which happened to be a seaplane ride over Sydney Harbor and the Opera House. This is something that we would not have thought to do ourselves—and we would have missed out big-time! An amazing and fun experience. We even happened to get to travel up the coast a bit because the seaplane company needed to drop some passengers at a small resort destination. The views were stunning and provided a perspective we would not have had without Wendy’s WOW. Thank you, Wendy, for such a magnificent addition to an already outstanding adventure.” —Bill Schierl & Sarena Melotte

“It was magnificent and thrilling—and what a surprise!”

Balinese dancer Dewi Aryani performs for travelers during a special presentation

Balinese dancer Dewi Aryani performs for travelers during a special WOW Moment. Photo: Edith Netter

“The WOW Moment that Diane arranged for us in Bali was magnificent and thrilling —and what a surprise! Four days into our trip (so we were still jet lagged), we were invited to a private area of our beautiful hotel to watch something riveting. We quickly forgot our jet lag. It was contemporary Balinese dancing at our doorstep. Dewi Aryani danced for us, and Rucina Ballinger responded to our many questions. We shared stories and learned about Balinese dancing. Dewi even got the two of us on our feet and dancing. Any dances we saw later in the trip could in no way approximate our experience with them. I should add that we had a lovely Balinese ‘tea,’ but the star of the show was Dewi .” —Edy Netter

“If there is one aspect of the trip that deserves special mention…”

Belize

The Lerner family in Belize

“We worked with Patricia to plan a special vacation to Belize with our adult children and a girlfriend. We loved literally every minute but, if there is one aspect of the trip that deserves special mention, it is our WOW Moment at Naia Resort in Placencia, on the Caribbean coast. We really didn’t know what to expect as we were escorted down to the beach… until we could hear the beating of the drums and see the flaming bonfire awaiting us at sunset. Richard and his family taught us about the indigenous Garifuna people and their very interesting history and culture. The many dances, including the ‘Go Mommy’ chant for my wife Julie’s birthday, were so much fun. The entire resort came out to watch and dance with us.” —Stephen and Julie Lerner

“Our girls are still talking about…”

The Gill family WOW Moment.

The Gill family WOW Moment.

“Our family of four (teenagers, ages 19 and 16) spent a memorable week in Southern California thanks to some great last-minute planning from trusted travel expert, Sheri Doyle. Sheri was very helpful in recommending and organizing hotel stays at both the new hipster Pendry Hotel in San Diego and the luxurious Pelican Hill Resort outside of Newport Beach.

We initially had a little misunderstanding with the resort regarding our room location at Pelican Hill, but after a short conversation with Sheri, we were quickly upgraded to a room with a much better view (thanks Sheri). THIS type of personalized service is the reason we plan most of our trips using Wendy Perrin’s trusted travel experts.

Since I only had a few ideas of fun activities and restaurants we wanted to visit, I appreciated the list of suggestions that Sheri provided during the planning process (she also has the option for her to plan your entire itinerary if you so choose).

Our girls are still talking about how much fun it was to para-glide over the beaches/golf course at Torrey Pines. We wrapped up our family trip with a memorable beach bbq at Crystal Cove State Park while watching the sunset with our toes in the sand.

Since this was our third qualifying trip with a Wendy Perrin travel specialist, she surprised us with a complimentary WOW moment which included a day of adventure on charming Coronado Island. Our guide for the day picked us up at our hotel for a short ferry ride over to the historical island. We spent the day riding electric bikes around the quaint residential areas of the island and then kayaked out into the bay with very knowledge local guides. Thanks Wendy for a very memorable day for all of us!

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the services of both Sheri Doyle and Wendy’s list of travel specialists to “amp up” your next trip! We certainly will!”—Janette Gill

“We arrived at a spot in the middle of nowhere and were led by flashlight…”

Atacama desert, Andes, Chile

Atacama desert, Andes, Chile. Photo: Shutterstock

Maita planned a flawless trip for us to Chile. At the end of long days of hiking we had beautiful meals and fine Chilean wines to celebrate. The Explora lodges in the Atacama Desert and on Easter Island were amazing. And Wendy gave us a WOW Moment in the Atacama. We were picked up at 17:30 by our guide and told to bring a windbreaker and blanket. Then we traveled on gravel roads for what seemed like an hour. Our guide kept us in suspense until the last minute, when we arrived at a spot in the middle of nowhere and were led by flashlight to a table set for two. I felt like we were on the set of a Hollywood movie. We were on the Moon Crater in the Atacama Desert, having a gourmet dinner under the stars. This does not happen in the real world. After a lovely dinner we were treated to an hour of stargazing. The laser point was the only thing that made us feel like we were connected to the 21st century. It was an amazing evening and one we will never forget. Thank you, Wendy.” —Jeanne Lee

“Unexpected surprise experiences along the way…”

woman toasting with wine on Easter Island

A WOW Moment on Easter Island

“I wanted to organize a surprise birthday trip for my husband to Easter Island, along with stopovers on the Chilean mainland at a Casablanca Valley vineyard and in Valparaiso. Since it was a rather last-minute trip, I was concerned that what I was asking for would not be possible because of availability. However, Jordan—and Krista on his team—were brilliant: They gave me lots of great options and ensured that this was an incredibly easy and stress-free trip to organize. My husband was both surprised and delighted. Highlights of the trip included meeting the people who looked after us—all very warm, friendly and knowledgeable—and the unexpected surprise experiences along the way, such as the graffiti lesson in Valparaiso and Wendy’s fabulous WOW Moment on Easter Island. It began with a private guided walk through fields, caves, and coastline, and it ended with music, pisco sours, delicious bites, a presentation of a book on Rapa Nui, birthday cake, and a sunset overlooking the moai and the ocean. It could not have been more perfect!” —Eva Strasburger

“We were in a dinghy on our way to go snorkeling when…”

aerial shot of Belize ocean with sailboat

Explore Belize on the water or in the jungle. Photo: Absolute Belize

“Without Patricia’s input, I would never have thought of chartering a catamaran for our trip to Belize. We very much enjoyed traveling along the reef in the boat and loved the snorkeling. The food was delicious! And being able to fish off the back of the boat was an unexpected bonus. And then we could eat what we caught! The stars at night were spectacular. Our WOW Moment was really cool too. We were in a dinghy on our way to go snorkeling when we saw a plastic bottle floating in the water. I asked if we were going to pick it up, and Captain Dan said no, we’re going lobster hunting! Those who wanted to went freediving with a spear and shot lobsters (it took me five tries). Then Kainie made ceviche and served it with all the fixings and a bottle of Prosecco. It was a really great experience that I’ve been sharing with friends and family.” —Deborah Wente

“Our WOW Moment was a private, behind-the-scenes tour…”

interior view of the stage at Palais Garnier, Opera National de Paris France

Palais Garnier, Opera National de Paris. Photo: Shutterstock

“Our trip to France arranged by Jennifer was wonderful. The surprise for my daughter’s birthday on a Seine river cruise was spectacular, and my daughter and grandchildren were shocked—and pleased. Our guided tour of the Eiffel Tower was superb. Our WOW Moment was a private, behind-the-scenes tour of the Palais Garnier, the Beaux-Arts Paris opera house—and it was very special for all of us. Jennifer also arranged for a rental car, all hotels, and recommended events and restaurants as we drove from Paris to Strasbourg, Colmar, Dijon, Burgundy and back to Paris. Each hotel she chose was extremely well located. When I return to France, I will be more than happy to have Jennifer make all arrangements.” —Richard Goldin

“Two famous photographers, Ramses Batista and Alex Castro, talked about their work…”

Learning to shoot photos in Cuba.

“From the time we landed until our departure, every moment was a wow moment. We felt very safe in Cuba. David put together an itinerary that was fun, informative, and relevant. Our tour guide, Aniel, was so fabulous and loved by my entire family. Our driver, John, was also great. We met with several important Cubans who each gave us insight into Cuba’s history, present issues, and their hope for the future. David’s access in Cuba is amazing, which enabled us to have such a fascinating trip. The WOW Moment he planned was exceptional. Two famous photographers, Ramses Batista and Alex Castro, talked about their work, as well as took us on a walk through their neighborhood, giving tips on how to shoot photos that tell a story.  Aniel told us the first day that Cuba is a country to be understood, not just seen.  Well put, Aniel, and well done, David!!!  Cuba with David is not to be missed.” —Michele Krapf

“For our WOW Moment, Lindsey’s team arranged for us to enjoy…”

Pelican Hill resort in California, an aerial photo of the resort with the ocean in the distance

The Resort at Pelican Hill Newport Beach, California. Courtesy: Pelican Hill

“For our 40th anniversary celebration, Lindsey found us just the right place. She recommended The Resort at Pelican Hill, in southern California, and arranged for an oceanview room with a wonderful outdoor seating area that we enjoyed in the early mornings and most afternoons, watching the sun sparkle off the ocean, dotted with sailboats and with Catalina Island in the distance. For our WOW Moment, Lindsey’s team arranged for us to enjoy a Duffy Electric Boat in Newport Beach Harbor. The boat was stocked with an incredible antipasto tray and bottles of vodka, gin, and our favorite martini ingredients, with all the compliments. For two hours we cruised around the harbor. It was so much fun. The antipasto tray was so generous that we took it back to our room and enjoyed it with martinis for dinner that evening on our patio while watching the sunset. It was so perfect.” —John Arndt

“She got permission for us to enter the ‘not for the public’ sites in the palace…”

aerial view of Famous palace Versailles with beautiful gardens and fountains in France

Versailles palace gardens, France. Photo: Shutterstock

“In Paris, it was all about special access, skip the line, and going to the private areas not accessible to the public. Our excellent guide to Versailles, Marie-Ange, is one of a kind. She knows the history and the palace very well, and she got permission for us to enter the “not for the public” sites in the palace.  At the Louvre, Jennifer managed to arrange an amazing tour with one of the curators, followed by a secret food adventure—part of our WOW Moment—with a young chef who brought us to the best specialty shops for meat, seafood, chocolate, jam, puff pastry, and macarons. We managed to taste them all in two hours, then go to the Eiffel Tower for another skip-the-line service. Despite the packed itinerary in Paris, we still had a whole day for shopping on our last day. One last thing: They arranged a meet-and-greet service at the airport that was very helpful for us. The greeter handled our luggage, VAT refund, check-in, immigration, etc., with no hassle at all.” —Suryo Wibowo

“Cheri planned a WOW Moment for us that was simply spectacular…”

Unique to New Zealand, the yellow-eyed (hoiho) penguin is one of the world's rarest penguin species. Photo: New Zealand Tourism

Unique to New Zealand, the yellow-eyed (hoiho) penguin is one of the world’s rarest penguin species. Photo: New Zealand Tourism

“Cheri on Mary Jean’s team has helped me plan several cruise voyages. There is typically an 11- to 12-hour time difference between where I live and where she is located, but she is incredibly responsive to my emailed questions throughout the process. During our most recent cruise from Sydney to Auckland, Cheri planned a WOW Moment for us that was simply spectacular. A driver in a private Jaguar sedan took my wife and me for a tour of Dunedin, New Zealand, out to a protected yellow-eyed penguin hatchery and finally to the Royal Albatross Centre.” —Kurt Brown

“The boat ride on the Yarra River gave us an amazing perspective of the city.”

Stuart put together a wonderful month-long visit to Australia for my husband and me, with a great balance of programmed activity and free time. We had a variety of activities—a sailing trip; driving the Great Ocean Road; wonderful, knowledgeable guides for our hikes—but we also had ample time to walk and hike on our own in the national parks and the cities. The biggest hurdle we had was that, once the itinerary was set, I had to postpone the trip by a few weeks. Stuart didn’t skip a beat—all was done with no worries. I wholeheartedly recommend him. I also want to thank Wendy for our WOW Moment in Melbourne. The boat ride on the Yarra River gave us an amazing perspective of the city. It was a very enjoyable addition to our 53rd wedding-anniversary day. Thank you!”  —Sandra Southwick

“A photographer gave us a personal tour of several waterfalls…”

aerial view of Sonora Resort in the Discovery Islands, British Columbia

Sonora Resort in the Discovery Islands, British Columbia. Photo: Tim Baker

“My husband and I and our two teenage daughters wanted to go to British Columbia, but to avoid any really crowded areas. Marc suggested we spend a few days in Whistler, then a few days on Sonora Island, and end in Vancouver. He set us up for fun activities in Whistler—RZR cars, white-water rafting, zip lining—and we were treated to a WOW Moment: A photographer gave us a personal tour of several waterfalls, giving us photography tips along the way and taking family photos; although I am the photography buff in the family, he was able to engage the whole family and everyone really enjoyed the experience (thank you, Wendy!). We then took a seaplane to Sonora Resort, which the entire family agreed was heavenly. So remote, with beautiful scenery and gourmet food. On our eco-adventure tour we were lucky enough to be in the middle of a pod of about 100 dolphins. The food at Sonora Resort was so delicious that on the first night at dinner our daughter said, ‘Thank you for bringing me here.’ Finally, in Vancouver, Marc suggested the Fairmont Pacific Rim for us, which also was in a fabulous location. Since we are foodies, he planned a food tour at Granville Island, where there are so many booths that it was helpful to have an expert direct us; the tour allowed us to sample more items in small quantities than we could have done on our own. Although I was very involved with the details of our trip, I didn’t have to figure out where to go or how to get there or worry about logistics during my vacation. That made it a true vacation for me.” —Nancy Wolf

“A not-to-be-missed helicopter ride over Uluru and Kata Tjuta…”

Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park

Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park. Photo Tourism Australia

“My husband and I spent five weeks in Australia in September–October 2017 on a spectacular trip planned and executed by Stuart and Debbie. We had long wanted to visit our seventh continent but quickly realized that even with five weeks we couldn’t see the entire country. My top priority was to see The Kimberley, a remote area in northwestern Australia that even many Australians never get to. There is no way we could have planned this trip ourselves—it encompassed 18 flights and 14 places to stay, many of them among the country’s most unique. We could not have had a better trip. That it was topped by one of Wendy’s WOW Moments—a not-to-be-missed helicopter ride over Uluru and Kata Tjuta—is just one more reason why Wendy Perrin’s experts are the best. Wendy’s experts (and we’ve used a lot of them) all share two essential traits—attention to detail in planning and careful execution of arrangements. Where they—and Stuart—are unmatched is in their ability to intuit what their clients want, need and, most important, will delight in. Kudos.” —Jan Heininger

“An experience we would have never known existed…”

The Bund at Night, Shanghai, China

The Bund at night, Shanghai, China

“My wife and I’s trip to China (Beijing & Shanghai) was outstanding! Mei and her team (specifically Fang) provided excellent options and directions when planning our travels. Responding quickly and fully to several email inquiries. We wanted to focus our experience on just the two cities at a leisurely pace. Their planning allowed for flexibility which was perfect since once we got there several of our interests changed…they accommodated beautifully. Our specific request for “local” hotels exceeded our expectations in areas with few other foreigners. Our hotel in Shanghai, The Capella, was an amazing property!

We also found we wanted to take a food tour since the food was so accessible. Our on the ground guide arranged the entire thing and it became one of our most memorable evenings. Eating locally was a pleasure and cultural plus. It was obvious that Mei and her colleagues are well connected to make for a memorable experience!

While in Shanghai, we had the pleasure to experience a WOW moment…a motorcycle sidecar tour of the area near the Bund. An experience we would have never known existed #1 much less would have thought would have been so cool unless you experience it. The champagne toast on the bridge overlooking the amazing Shanghai skyline was a superb touch.

When we return to China our first call will be to Mei and her team.” —Bill Schierl & Sarena Melotte

 

Wendy Wants To Amp Up Your Trip!

On every third qualifying trip, Wendy will add to your itinerary a surprise WOW Moment. A WOW Moment is an exclusive insider experience that helps make a trip extraordinary. Each WOW Moment is totally different. They vary depending on a huge range of factors, including the country you’re headed to, the timing of your trip, logistics, availability, and more. You can read a sampling of the more over-the-top WOW Moments (those most conducive to editorial coverage) here. Learn which trips qualify, and how the process works, here: Wendy Wants To Amp Up Your Trip!

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