Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

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

by Wendy Perrin | February 25, 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!

“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

 

“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

“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 France we visited Lourdes, Lyon, and Paris.  Jennifer provided us with excellent guides. The first, Gabrielle, brought us to Gavarnie, a beautiful place a one-hour drive from Lourdes that was not included in the itinerary.  Thumbs up!  In Lyon, we did a great food tour with a young gastronomist and, being foodies, we were happy when she brought us to Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, where she brought us to taste great chocolate from the specialist, charcuterie, cheese and wine.  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

“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

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