Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

The WOW List: Trusted Travel Experts

THE WOW LIST is a continually updated collection of the best trip planners around the world, all rigorously vetted and road-tested, based on my own experience as a traveler and journalist and based on feedback from my readers.

HOW IT WORKS
Step 1.  Find the right Trusted Travel Expert below to help plan your trip.
Step 2.  Click the Trusted Travel Expert’s CONTACT button and share the details of your dream trip.  Done!  The travel specialist will reach you directly and quickly.

HOW YOU BENEFIT
When you submit my questionnaire:
•That’s how the trip planner knows that Wendy sent you and how you get VIP treatment.
•I’ll see your trip request too, and that’s how I can advise you and monitor your trip.
•It’s the only way your trip will count toward a WOW Moment.

Can’t find the right person? Go to Ask Wendy and contact me directly. 


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 United States
 Caribbean and Mexico
Canada
Central America
South America
Europe
Asia
Africa and Middle East
Australia and Pacific
Antarctica and Arctic
Cruises
Villa Vacations
Yacht Charters

 


United States

Alaska
Judith Root, Entrée Alaska
Judith has mastered dip-net salmon fishing, camping solo in bear country, and skiing at 40 below.  She can orchestrate complicated itineraries to remote lodges, select the perfect backcountry retreat for a family reunion, set up a rendezvous with an Iditarod champion, or fly you to a glacier for summer sledding. Her outdoor guides specialize in everything from fly fishing to river rafting to kayaking with whales. Note:  She does not book Alaska cruises.  For a small-ship expedition cruise, which is the best way to see the coastline and wildlife, contact Ashton Palmer.  For something more affordable—which means a large ship—contact Tom Baker.
Trips start at $1,000 per day for two travelers.

Contact Judith

Read reviews of Judith. Read her Insider’s Guide to Alaska. Then contact her to maximize your
experience of Alaska.

American West and National Parks
Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Zion, Glacier, Olympic… Our country’s popular national parks entice many travelers to explore the American West. And a national-parks trip can seem straightforward enough—until you realize that every hotel in the parks you want to visit was sold out six months ago, driving distances are vast, and your Internet research turns up the same handful of crowded trails and overrated lookout points that every tour group is headed to. What you need is a national-parks trip-planning specialist who will put you at the iconic sites when the tour buses aren’t there, ensure you drive the most scenic roads, get you into accommodations you didn’t even know exist, match you with the savviest park guides who have special access, and plot out your itinerary so that you can go smoothly from a horseback ride in the morning to a float trip that same afternoon. Who to turn to? Ask us by clicking below.

Ask Wendy

American West (Big Sky Country, the Rockies, and the Southwest)
Caroline Bach Wood
Caroline lives near Yellowstone National Park and spent nearly every summer of her childhood next door to Old Faithful, where her father was (and still is) a naturalist for the Park Service. Her meticulously prepared itineraries include driving directions, restaurant recommendations, hiking suggestions, and more, all intended to keep you off the beaten track—inside and outside the U.S. national parks—and lead you to the region’s best-kept secrets. She has tested the best adventure outfitters (from rafting and snowmobiling to horseback riding and fly fishing) and keeps the managers of her favorite lodges on their toes with her frequent visits.
Trips start at $1,000 per day for two travelers. No activities-only requests, please. 

Contact Caroline

Read reviews of Caroline. Read her Insider’s Guide to Yellowstone National Park and Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons. Then contact her to maximize your
experience of the American West.

Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C.
Emily Izer, Context Travel
Seeking a private guide or a very-small-group tour for an insider’s experience of a city? Emily, herself once a guide at the Louvre and Notre Dame, arranges half-day and day tours with scholars and experts in dozens of cities worldwide who can provide exceptional insight into their home and field of study (be that archaeology, art history, cuisine, urban planning, history, environmental science, or the classics) and can open doors that would otherwise be closed to most travelers. Emily is careful to match host and travelers for each tour, perhaps putting a dynamic storyteller with a family (and adding a treasure hunt) or matching a professional historian with a visiting academic. Hoping for special access to a museum or cultural sight? With Emily and her team’s connections, chances are she can make it happen. NOTE: We recommend Emily for half-day and day tours, plus transportation if you have booked a tour—not for accommodations or full-service multi-day trips.
Expect excursions arranged by Emily to start at $85 per person for joining a two-hour small-group walking tour.

Contact Emily’s Team

Read reviews of Emily and her team. Read her Insider’s Guides to New York City and Washington, D.C. Then contact them to maximize your experience of cultural city tours.

California and Hawaii
Jay and Dani Johnson, Coastline Travel Advisors
Jay and Dani spend six weeks a year in Hawaii, escorting groups of Silicon Valley execs as well as vacationing with their teenaged daughters. Their agency sends so many travelers to Hawaii that it has significant clout with the five-star resorts—which translates into perks for their travelers—but they also book rental homes when that’s the smarter choice for the group. They can arrange anything from multi-generational family reunions to pull-out-all-the-stops honeymoons, from kite-boarding lessons on Maui to private guided hikes on Kauai. Living in Los Angeles and with offices throughout California, they can also orchestrate out-of-the-box itineraries in their own backyard. They can arrange for Los Angeles Angels tickets right behind home plate, V.I.P. access to Disneyland, a cooking lesson with the head chef at Napa’s Michelin-starred Meadowood resort, glamping among the redwoods—or all of the above in one quick, efficient trip.
Trips have a 3-night minimum and start at $500 per day for two travelers. No activities-only requests, please.

Contact Jay and Dani

Read reviews of Jay and Dani. Read their Insider’s Guides to Maui,  Oahu and the Big Island. Then contact them to maximize your experience of California or Hawaii.

California and Pacific Northwest
Sheri Doyle, Pacific Northwest Journeys
Based in Seattle and a former corporate attorney, Sheri brings her legal-eagle eye for detail to the itineraries she crafts all over the Pacific Northwest (in both the United States and Canada) as well as along the northern California coast. Her self-drive itineraries typically run to 20 pages, covering everything from detailed driving directions to activity and restaurant recommendations. Geared to your interests and preferences, each itinerary is a personalized guidebook, and Sheri will have hiked the trails, kayaked the waters, and slurped the oysters she recommends for you. She gets preferred rates at many top properties, which saves her clients a bundle.
Trips start at $300 per day for two travelers.

Contact Sheri

Read reviews of Sheri. Read her Insider’s Guides to Seattle, the San Juan Islands and Olympic Peninsula, and the Perfect California Coast Road Trip. Then contact her to maximize your experience of the Pacific Northwest.

Disney and Orlando
Michelle Allen, Travel Magic
The seemingly infinite array of hotel, activity, and dining options that Walt Disney World offers can overwhelm anyone—and Disney’s in-house agents are focused on selling (and upselling) quickly, so they don’t get to know each family. Michelle, by contrast, designs the perfect Disney vacation by learning the details of your group (which characters you want to meet, how scary a ride your kids can handle), sorting through the veritable banquet of choices, and helping you decide what to put on your plate. She continuously checks all rates to make sure you pay the lowest possible prices, even if a discount appears after you’ve booked—and she maximizes your time at the parks and minimizes hassle by arranging all expedited passes as soon as they’re available (which Disney’s agents won’t do). Whether your plans involve Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Adventures by Disney, Universal Orlando, Aulani (the Disney resort in Hawaii), or Disney Cruise Line, she’s the ticket.
Trips start at $400 per day for two travelers. To get the most from your Disney experience, plan to spend at least four nights.

Contact Michelle

Read reviews of Michelle. Read her Insider’s Guide to Disney World, Orlando. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Disney.

Great American Road Trips
We’re all savvy enough to get off the interstates—but how do you pinpoint the most scenic and interesting backroads? Where do you find the most charming slices of Americana that have defied modernization? And how do you ensure you move along efficiently while also building in enough time for spontaneous adventures?  We have a solution: Let us know which region of the country interests you most, and we can recommend the right expert to map out the most rewarding route, book you into the most delightful places to stay and eat, and introduce you to colorful characters along the way.

Ask Wendy

Ski Vacations in Colorado
Meg Austin
Meg has been skiing in Colorado since she was five, including a stint as an instructor. She lives in Vail and also knows Aspen, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Keystone, and Telluride like the palm of her hand. She will gauge your group’s experience level and use her local connections to put you not just on the right mountain, but in the best hotel room, condo, or house with prime access to the ideal runs. She’s also strategic about squeezing the most value out of expensive lift tickets. Flustered by your family’s complicated mix of ability levels and interests? Her private guides can help you avoid the lines and ski a variety of terrain—and if not everyone is a hardcore skier or snowboarder, Meg also knows where to find the best snowmobiling, cooking classes, and spa treatments.
Trips have a five-night minimum and start at $1,500 per day for two travelers.

Contact Meg

Read reviews of Meg. Read her Insider’s Guide to Skiing the Rocky Mountains. Then contact her to maximize your vacation.

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Caribbean and Mexico

beach of the Jamaica Inn, caribbean islands

The beach at the Jamaica Inn. Photo: Lindsey Epperly Sulek

Cabo
Julie Byrd, CaboVillas.com
With its natural beauty, wide-ranging daytime activities and nightlife, and genuinely hospitable locals, Los Cabos is an easy getaway, made even easier by Julie Byrd. Her deep roots and intimate connections there save you money and spare you headaches. She knows the resorts like the palm of her hand, but she also has a portfolio of rental properties that include 100 luxurious villas and condos suitable for families, couples, and party-hearty groups of friends.  Byrd and her Cabo-based concierge team are available 24/7 and can arrange everything from fishing and yacht charters to destination weddings and other celebrations.
Hotel bookings start at $100/night in low season. Weekly rentals start at $350 per night in low season (July through September).

Contact Julie

Read reviews of Julie. Read her Insider’s Guide to Los Cabos Villa Vacations. Then
contact her to maximize your experience of Cabo.

Caribbean
Lindsey Epperly Sulek, Epperly Travel
Lindsey can save you from costly logistical errors, overbuilt beaches, and cruise day-trippers. She believes that “every island has its own personality” and knows firsthand which are best for unplugging (Turks and Caicos) or adventure (St. Lucia), which appeal to culture and history lovers (the French-Dutch mix of Saint Martin/Sint Maarten), and which deserve a better reputation than they currently have (Jamaica). Thanks to powerful industry connections, she gets perks for her clients at a wide range of four- and five-star hotels, from “Old Caribbean” estates with a colonial feel to hidden-gem romantic retreats to family-friendly all-inclusives.
Trips have a 3-night minimum and start at $400 per day for two travelers. Expect to pay at least $1,000 per room per night over Christmas and New Year’s. There is an additional trip-planning fee of $250.

Contact Lindsey

Read reviews of Lindsey. Read her Insider’s Guides to the Best and Worst Caribbean Islands and the Perfect Caribbean Island Resort. Then contact her to maximize your vacation.

Caribbean and Dive Vacations
Meg Austin
Meg is exceptionally well-connected among the who’s who of the travel world, and she is also an accomplished diver who has scoped out every Caribbean reef and a mom of recent college grads. This combo makes her an invaluable resource for families in need of a first-class beach getaway. Her longstanding friendships on select Caribbean islands—specifically, Anguilla, Antigua, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Nevis, St. Barts, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, and Turks and Caicos—as well as on Mexico’s Riviera Maya (on the Caribbean Sea) translate to special treatment for her travelers there.
Trips have a five-night minimum and start at $1,000 per day for two travelers.

Contact Meg

Read reviews of Meg. Read her Insider’s Guide to the Scuba Diving in the Caribbean and Bahamas. Then contact her to maximize your experience.

Cuba
David Lee, Cultural Cuba
Yes, you can still travel to Cuba. While cruise ships and People to People tour groups are banned, private Support for the Cuban People custom tours are still allowed. The good news is that David doesn’t have to change a thing about the way he operates, and anyone who organized a trip through him (or who wants to in the future) can continue to experience Cuba in a way that the cruise masses and large tour groups never could. David is in Cuba almost every month, nurturing his priceless on-the-ground relationships. He gets you inside the small private restaurants and intimate music venues that big-bus tours cannot access, and into the best hotels in Old Havana—the perpetually sold-out favorites with rooftop pools and 360-degree views. He has tapped into Cuba’s underground art scene, so his trips include visits to renovated mansions-cum-art-galleries, special unadvertised music performances, and private art studios. He selects his guides for their willingness to give an honest assessment of daily life in their native country, and he doesn’t nickel-and-dime you by tacking on additional charges—which means his trips often end up costing the same as other operators’ itineraries that start at a lower price.
Trips can be booked for as few as two travelers. All-inclusive prices start at $3,900 per person, depending on the number of travelers, for 4 nights and include 5-star accommodations; a full-time guide and driver; all activities; museum fees; and daily breakfast. 

Contact David

Read reviews of David. Read his Insider’s Guide to Cuba and information on Cuba travel rules. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Cuba.

Cuba
Jim Berkeley, Destinations and Adventures International
Jim has rooms blocked at two of Havana’s top hotels—the Parque Central and the Meliá Cohiba—and the clout to get you in even when your travel dates don’t align with his allotted inventory. (He won’t arrange villa rentals because the quality is not controllable.) He and his wife, a former editor at Bon Appetit, are working on a TV show about Cuba’s paladares (privately owned restaurants), so he’s got special access at many and knows which serve the freshest Cuban fish stew and the tastiest suckling pig tacos. And, after nine trips to Cuba, he has the contacts to get you the best seats in the house at the Tropicana and the National Ballet. He can also arrange private shore excursions of Havana, from the iconic (a ride along the Malecon in a classic Chevy or Studebaker) to the unusual (a visit to the city’s little-known Chinatown or the private studio of a well-known artist).
Trips can be booked for as few as two travelers. All-inclusive prices start at $4,000 per person, based on a group of 4 to 6, for 4 nights and include 5-star accommodations, all activities with a full-time vehicle and top guide, and the best paladar lunches and dinners.

Contact Jim

Read reviews of Jim. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Cuba.

Mexico
Zachary Rabinor and Brady Binstadt, Journey Mexico
Mexico is filled with secret white-sand beaches, charming boutique hotels, award-winning cuisine (and cocktails), delightful colonial towns, world-class cultural opportunities, and much more that most travelers don’t seem to realize is there. An elite guide in Mexico for more than two decades, Zach learned everything about what sophisticated travelers really want there but can’t easily find, then founded his own travel firm to deliver exactly that. With offices in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City, and Cancun, Zach and trusted deputy Brady Binstadt keep up-to-the-minute on the country’s dramatic array of coastlines, resorts (including intimate all-inclusives and historic haciendas), rental villas, wildlife reserves, ancient monuments, inventive kitchens, and thrilling activities (Zach’s a big surfer). Their deep relationships with local hoteliers, communities, and fixers of all kinds translate into room upgrades, special-access visits, and off-the-beaten-path experiences that travelers wouldn’t know about otherwise. Zach and Brady pride themselves on finding exciting new ways to visit even the most overtouristed locales and sneaking a bit of cultural appreciation into family-friendly beach getaways (both have well-traveled young kids).
Prices start at $300 per day for a hotel-only booking, or $800 per day for boutique 4-star accommodations and private daily excursions.

Contact Zachary and Brady

Read reviews of Zach and Brady. Read their Insider’s Guides to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City, and
the Riviera Maya. Then contact them to maximize your experience of Mexico.

St. Barts
Peg Walsh, St. Barth Properties
A vacation on the chic and stunningly beautiful Caribbean island of St. Barts is like a vacation in a sunny, tropical version of France (you get to practice your French, dine on French cuisine, shop for French clothing, pay in euros…). Peg, who lives on St. Barts much of the year (December through May), is friends with every hotelier, every restaurant owner, every boutique manager, every excursion operator—in short, everyone who’s anyone.  And it’s those local French connections that will make all the difference to your trip. So will Peg’s knowledge of every square inch of every beach and cove, as well as every nook and cranny of the 225 private villas she represents, ranging from beachy-casual bungalows to stylish hillside homes and Architectural Digest-worthy estates. Each villa comes with Peg’s itinerary-planning services, airport pick-up, concierge support, and access to the beach at a five-star hotel. Peg knows the managers of all the top hotels, of course—which is how she can also arrange hotel vacations with VIP perks—but, before you assume a hotel room will be less expensive, be sure to calculate the daily cost per person of a multi-bedroom rental villa. It will surprise you, especially in low season. 
In high season (December through April), two-bedroom villas start at $5,950/week, hotel vacations at $850/night.

Contact Peg

Read reviews of Peg. Read her Insider’s Guides to St. Barts Villa Vacations and St. Barts Beach Vacations. Then contact her to maximize your experience of St. Barts.

Yacht Charters
Picture this: sparkling seas, the waves lapping at your boat, a captain and crew who know every hidden cove along your route, beaches and villages to explore by day, fabulously fresh seafood—prepared by your private chef—to enjoy at night…. All that can be yours when you charter your own vessel.  But of the thousands out there, which craft do you choose? And how do you know its crew can make the magic happen? That’s where the right travel specialist comes in. We know yacht-charter experts who spend a good portion of every year inspecting boats and their crews to find the very best. Let us know what you have in mind, and we can match you to the right travel specialist for your specific needs.

Ask Wendy

 

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Canada

Heli-hiking at Kinuseo Falls in Monkman Provincial Park

Heli-hiking at Kinuseo Falls in Monkman Provincial Park, British Columbia. Photo: Hello BC

Alberta and British Columbia
Marc Telio, Entrée Canada
Marc helps travelers discover Canada’s wildest places, most jaw-dropping landscapes, and most thrilling activities. His favorite itineraries combine unusual outdoor excursions (think grizzly-bear sightings and heli-hiking) with character-rich accommodations (think luxury tented camps and sumptuous wilderness lodges). Based in Vancouver, he and his team are like special-ops agents—pros at logistics, taking into account weather patterns, tides, seaplane schedules, and dozens of other details to ensure a hassle-free backcountry experience. Their tight-knit relationships with top outfitters, guides, and hotels translate to V.I.P. treatment for you.  And if you’re looking for kid-friendly adventures, Marc has plenty of ideas up his sleeve—he regularly brings his wife and their two kids on scouting trips.
Trips start at $750 per day for two travelers.

Contact Marc

Read reviews of Marc. Read his Insider’s Guide to British Columbia. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Canada.

Alberta and British Columbia
Sheri Doyle, Pacific Northwest Journeys
Based in Seattle and a former corporate attorney, Sheri brings her legal-eagle eye for detail to the itineraries she crafts all over the Pacific Northwest, including in Western Canada.  Her self-drive itineraries typically run to 20 pages, covering everything from detailed driving directions to activity and restaurant recommendations. Geared to your interests and preferences, each itinerary is a personalized guidebook, and Sheri will have hiked the trails, kayaked the waters, and slurped the oysters she recommends for you. She gets preferred rates at many top properties, which saves her clients a bundle.
Trips start at $300 per day for two travelers.

Contact Sheri

Read reviews of Sheri. Read her Insider’s Guides to the San Juan Islands and Olympic Peninsula and Seattle. Then contact her to maximize your experience of
the Pacific Northwest.

Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island
Jill Curran
Raised in a small fishing community in Newfoundland, Jill knows the secret spots that most people miss throughout the Atlantic Provinces—from the side road with a stunning view to the tiny fishing village where you can chat with the locals over tea.  Her custom culinary itineraries might have you catching Shediac lobsters (and learning how to properly eat them) or digging clams and cooking them on the beach. Her wildlife adventures include hiking through moose and caribou country, kayaking past puffins and gannets, and spotting right whales in the Bay of Fundy.  One of her specialties is a seaside picnic lunch sourced from local ingredients and prepared in the 130-year-old lighthouse where her grandmother was born.
Trips start at $2,000 per person for a six-day self-drive itinerary, including accommodations, car rental, and various activities.

Contact Jill

Read reviews of Jill. Read her Insider’s Guide to Newfoundland and Labrador. Then contact her to maximize your experience of the Maritime Provinces.

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Central America

Monteverde Costa Rica

Monteverde, Costa Rica. Photo: Shutterstock

Belize
Patricia Johnson and Rachael Wilson, Absolute Belize

This Belize-based dream team designs custom-tailored itineraries that capture Belize’s natural and cultural wonders. From scuba diving and sport fishing to Indiana Jones–style cave adventuring, they know how to keep the adrenaline flowing. Patricia spent several years working at some of the country’s luxury resorts, so their travelers get special attention there, and they can orchestrate everything from champagne picnics beside a waterfall to helicopter flyovers of the Great Blue Hole to forays into neighboring Guatemala.
Trips start at $700 per day for two travelers, which includes accommodations, private transportation, and some meals and activities.

Contact Patricia and Rachael

Read reviews of Patricia and Rachael. Read their Belize Insider’s Guide: Azure Waters, Green Jungle. Then contact them to maximize your experience of Belize.

Costa Rica
Irene Edwards, GreenSpot.travel
A native Costa Rican, Irene arranges trips to her homeland that marry sophisticated luxury and ecological sensitivity. She knows which high-design jungle lodges, stylish beach resorts, and adventure outfitters prioritize not just comfort but a commitment to preserving the culture and environment. She is always eager to arrange meaningful, one-on-one experiences with the locals. (You might even get invited to make tortillas by hand with Irene’s mother in her home.) 
Trips start at $450 per day for two travelers in low season .

Contact Irene

Read reviews of Irene. Read her Insider’s Guide to Costa Rica Luxury Eco-Travel. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Costa Rica.

Costa Rica
Priscilla Jimenez, Costa Rica Expeditions
Costa Rica’s wildlife has fueled Priscilla’s own explorations of her homeland, and it’s on display in the itineraries she designs featuring the country’s national parks and volcanoes. While her own family’s trips lean toward active adventures involving mountain biking, hiking, canyoneering, and whitewater rafting (Priscilla’s got two active sons), she is just as fluent in the many options for romance and serenity on blissful beaches and foodie exploration of farms and charming local restaurants. In a place where distances are short but the infrastructure weak, Priscilla is smart about utilizing private drivers, helicopters, and chartered or scheduled flights to make the most of her travelers’ precious vacation time. When Priscilla is in charge, no detail is overlooked, and sustainability and safety are key (she refuses to book most ziplines in the country because they aren’t up to U.S. standards).
Trips start at $400 per day for two travelers.

Contact Priscilla

Read reviews of Priscilla. Read her Insider’s Guide to Costa Rica Adventure. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Costa Rica.

Nicaragua, Panama, and Costa Rica
Pierre Gédéon, Costa Adventures
Pierre, whose adopted home has been Central America for more than 20 years, orchestrates itineraries that maximize efficiency in Panama and Nicaragua—places that are still relatively undeveloped—and in Costa Rica. If you’ve got 10 days or more, he suggests combining countries. Trips can feature adventure activities from soft to strenuous (think river rafting, sandboarding, horseback riding, even volcano hiking); a romantic Caribbean beach escape; bird watching and other wildlife pursuits; visits to archaeological sites, colonial towns, and native villages; a focus on three of the region’s most popular exports—coffee, chocolate, and cigars; or, in many cases, all of the above. The late-model, air-conditioned vehicles that comprise his fleet are helmed by friendly, knowledgeable drivers and guides who love to break up the travel time and show clients the real, authentic sides of these countries, away from the tourist traps.
Trips start at $320 per day for two travelers in Costa Rica, $240 in Nicaragua, $360 in Panama.

Contact Pierre

Read reviews of Pierre. Read his Insider’s Guide to Nicaragua. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Nicaragua.

Panama (and, in South America, Colombia and Ecuador)
Eric Sheets, Latin Excursions
Eric has lived in six Latin American countries, and today he’s based in Miami and Ecuador, arranging everything from custom itineraries that highlight different local cultures to family reunions, exotic honeymoons, and even villa vacations, in Panama and beyond. Travelers have their own private guide and vehicle—to allow maximum spontaneity and flexibility, not to mention rare access to places most travelers don’t see—and stay in top-drawer hotels that share Eric’s commitment to sustainability. 
Trips start at $800 per day for two travelers.

Contact Eric

Read reviews of Eric. Read his Insider’s Guides to Cartagena, Colombia, and Panama. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador.

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South America

Springtime at Machu Picchu Peru

Springtime at Machu Picchu. Photo: Luis Felipa

Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay
Maita Barrenechea, Mai10
Based in Buenos Aires and the daughter of an Argentine ambassador, Maita has superb connections throughout Argentina, Chile, Patagonia, and Uruguay (where she has a second home). She can make pretty much anything happen and is passionate about providing travelers with those authentic, one-of-a-kind encounters that make for the happiest travel memories. She is particularly fussy about hotels: Whether it’s a luxury estancia in the Pampas or an eco-lodge in Tierra del Fuego, she’ll detail all the pros and cons. The planning process can take a long time (she is more focused on her travelers who are departing soon than those whose trips are still months away), so if fast planning is important to you, look below.
Trips start at $500 per day for two travelers. Maita is temporarily unable to accept credit cards because of the unusual currency situation in Argentina.

Contact Maita

Read reviews of Maita. Read her Insider’s Guides to Buenos Aires and Argentina’s Wine Country.  Then contact her to maximize your experience of Argentina.

Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay
Paul Irvine, Dehouche Travel
From his home base in Rio de Janeiro, Paul regularly digs up intel on fabulous new hotels, hidden beaches, and wilderness adventures. His connections across the continent open doors for his travelers—imagine bottling your own blend with a winemaker in Mendoza, or taking a privately owned 50s-era Chevrolet for a road trip in Uruguay—and his relationships at the hottest hotels often translate to upgrades for his clients. His vibrant itineraries incorporate as much nature, sea, and culture as possible, although he also likes to leave flexibility in each trip to allow for those spontaneous moments that are often the most memorable.
Trips start at $800 per day for two travelers to Brazil, $600 for Argentina and Uruguay.

Contact Paul

Read reviews of Paul. Read his Insider’s Guides to Rio de Janeiro and Trancoso. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Brazil.

Argentina, Chile, and Patagonia
Jordan Harvey, Knowmad Adventures
Jordan’s contacts—winemakers, true-blue gauchos, indigenous families—give travelers a deeply authentic experience of southern South America.  He loves juxtaposing the different sides of Chile—the driest desert in the world, the temperate rainforest, the vast Patagonian landscape—and combining awe-inspiring lodges with remote agritourism enterprises.  His background as a wilderness guide gives him an edge in picking the best adventure experiences, from stand-up paddle boarding on blissfully empty lakes to horseback riding past jagged peaks and icy glaciers.
Trips start at $1,000 per day for two travelers in Patagonia ($800 elsewhere in Chile and Argentina) and generally include accommodations, private transportation, and guides and meals when necessary.

Contact Jordan

Read reviews of Jordan. Read his Insider’s Guides to Chile. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Chile and Patagonia.

Bolivia and Peru
Marisol Mosquera, Aracari
A native Peruvian, Marisol specializes in authentic, first-class experiences that support local communities.  From her base in Lima, she works with a network of prominent historians, archaeologists, artists, and dignitaries to deliver privileged access to people and places throughout the region. She and her team craft bespoke journeys for families, culture connoisseurs, adventure seekers, and honeymooners, all of whom get to experience insider status at every destination they visit.
Trips start at $1,200 per day for two travelers.

Contact Marisol

Read reviews of Marisol. Read her Insider’s Guides to Peru for Food Lovers and Bolivia: The Salt Flats Are Just the Beginning. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Peru and Bolivia.

Brazil
Martin Frankenberg, Matueté
A Brazil native who is based in São Paulo with an office in Rio de Janeiro, Martin opens doors in his country that nobody else can—such as to his portfolio of exclusive Rio apartments, snazzy beach villas, and private farmhouses. He orchestrates bespoke itineraries throughout the country but is particularly known for offering the most magnificent custom-tailored experiences of the Amazon in existence.  In addition to cultivating relationships with the region’s top hoteliers and convincing anthropologists and biologists to moonlight as guides, he holds a spare set of keys to many of the finest private yachts in the Amazon, which he regularly charters for his travelers for the ultimate adventure.
Trips start at $1,000 per day for two travelers.

Contact Martin

Read reviews of Martin. Read his Insider’s Guides to Five-Star Brazil: The Best Things to See and Do and the Brazilian Amazon. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Brazil.

Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Patagonia
Tom Damon, Southwind Adventures
An experienced trekker and expedition climber, Tom specializes in outdoor adventures and active family travel throughout South America. He’ll point you to the best hiking trails—for every skill level—at Machu Picchu and in Patagonia, and the most thrilling jungle adventures in the Amazon. Whether you opt for a private expedition or a small group tour, Tom will ensure you’re in the company of highly trained, highly personable English-speaking guides. As for accommodations, he knows the best-of-the-best wilderness lodges and prime camping spots. If you’re looking to cross borders or link multiple regions, Tom is a pro at making the trip seamless, dodging crowds and logistical hassles and making it all run like clockwork.
Trips with all the trimmings start at $900 per day for two travelers in Machu Picchu and $1,250 per day for two travelers in Patagonia.

Contact Tom

Read reviews of Tom. Read his Insider’s Guides to Patagonia and Machu Picchu. Then contact him to maximize your experience of South America.

Colombia
Marc Beale and Boris Seckovic, Amakuna
Based in Medellin, Marc and Boris are constantly traveling the length and breadth of Colombia to develop new opportunities for their travelers, from paragliding in coffee country to stargazing in the desert with an astronomy professor. They can arrange for you to cook alongside a cutting-edge chef, visit an Amazon lodge that works hand-in-hand with the community, explore Bogota’s gallery scene with an art expert, or road-trip between indigenous villages. They are well-connected at the country’s handful of boutique hotels and, for larger parties, have a portfolio of private homes and fincas.
Prices start at $800 per day for two travelers, which includes boutique 4-star accommodations and private excursions with special access.

Contact Marc and Boris

Read reviews of Marc and Boris. Read their Insider’s Guides to Bogotá, Colombia. Then contact them to maximize your experience of Bogotá.

Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama
Eric Sheets, Latin Excursions
Eric has lived in six Latin American countries and today is based in both Miami and Ecuador. He arranges everything from custom itineraries that highlight different local cultures to family reunions, exotic honeymoons, villa vacations, and Galapagos explorations. Travelers have their own private guide and vehicle—to allow maximum spontaneity and flexibility, not to mention rare access to places most travelers don’t see—and stay in top-drawer hotels that share Eric’s commitment to sustainability.
Trips start at $800 per day for two travelers.

Contact Eric

Read reviews of Eric. Read his Insider’s Guides to Cartagena, Colombia, and Panama. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Colombia, Ecuador, or Panama.

The Galapagos Islands and Ecuador
Allie Almario, Premier Tours

As the former executive director of the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association, Allie has a bead on which ships operate sustainably and support local conservation efforts—and which don’t.  She can pinpoint the best luxury ship (or land-based lodge) for your needs and can even acquire a private guide (for a price) if you prefer private shore excursions. 
Trips start at $400 per day for two travelers in mainland Ecuador and $800 per day (including airfare within Ecuador and national park fees) for two travelers in the Galapagos.

Contact Allie

Read reviews of Allie. Read her Insider’s Guides to Quito and the Northern Andes and the Galapagos Islands. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

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Europe

Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre, Italy. Photo: IC Bellagio

Amsterdam, London, Prague, Rome, and other cultural capitals
Emily Izer, Context Travel
Seeking a private guide or a very-small-group tour for an insider’s experience of a city? Emily, herself once a guide at the Louvre and Notre Dame, arranges half-day and day tours with scholars and experts in dozens of cities worldwide who can provide exceptional insight into their home and field of study (be that archaeology, art history, cuisine, urban planning, history, environmental science, or the classics) and can open doors that would otherwise be closed to most travelers. Emily is careful to match host and travelers for each tour, perhaps putting a dynamic storyteller with a family (and adding a treasure hunt) or matching a professional historian with a visiting academic. Hoping for special access to a museum or cultural sight? With Emily and her team’s connections, chances are she can make it happen. NOTE: We recommend Emily for half-day and day tours, plus transportation if you have booked a tour—not for accommodations or full-service multi-day trips.
Expect excursions arranged by Emily to start at $85 per person for joining a two-hour small-group walking tour.

Contact Emily’s Team

Read reviews of Emily and her team. Read her Insider’s Guides to Rome and Amsterdam. Then contact them to maximize your experience of Europe’s cultural capitals.

Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland
Gwen Kozlowski, Exeter International
Gwen has been masterminding custom-tailored trips to Central and Eastern Europe for more than a decade. She’s based in the U.S. but heads to the region at least twice a year to suss out new hotels and restaurants, test driving and train routes, and add to her ever-growing list of local experts—from museum curators to pastry chefs to artisanal vodka makers—who provide access and insights that you could never get otherwise. Unflinchingly honest and obsessively detailed-oriented, she prides herself on knowing exactly where to find the best food—and drink—in every town from Innsbruck to Budapest to Krakow, and she has such strong relationships with local hoteliers that her guests frequently receive preferential rates and VIP treatment at the most atmospheric four- and five-star hotels.
Trips start at $800 per day for two travelers. No lodging-only requests, please.

Contact Gwen

Read reviews of Gwen. Read her Insider’s Guides to Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Eastern Europe.

Croatia
With all the attention it’s received in recent years, Croatia might seem a new addition to the travel pantheon. But its sparkling coastline, Roman ruins, and gastronomical heritage have been luring visitors for more than a century. And today, in summertime, cruise ships are disgorging tens of thousands of people daily. That’s why you need a well-connected insider to strategize around the ships’ comings and goings, and work their hotel connections to find you sought-after rooms in the brand-new properties that bring a level of luxury not seen before in the country. When you’re ready to explore a setting that some liken to Italy two decades past, we know the right fixers.

Ask Wendy

Denmark and the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland
Mads Tange Christensen and Tina Thorman, Nordic Star
Scandinavia travel specialists who are based in Copenhagen, Mads and Tina travel frequently to Iceland to stay abreast of the rapidly evolving scene there. Demand far outstrips supply during Iceland’s high season (two million people visited this nation of 350,000 last year), but Mads and Tina reserve allotments of their favorite rooms at the best hotels so that you don’t have to plan so far in advance; and while service at these properties isn’t quite up to international standards, their relationships spell extra perks for their clients. Adventure is Mads and Tina’s forte—from river rafting to horseback riding to glacier walking—but it can be made soft enough to please grandparents on a multigenerational trip. They work only with driver/guides who own vehicles that can venture off the main roads and into the rugged backcountry, where you might have a picnic and an ATV tour on a black-sand beach or hop into a helicopter for a quick ride to a secret lagoon to soak in solitary bliss. If you prefer to drive a rental car, they will sketch out a seamless, GPS-guided itinerary that gets you to the glaciers before the tour-bus crowds arrive and recommends atmospheric mom-and-pop restaurants along the route. They also know Denmark and its territories (e.g., Greenland and the Faroe Islands) intimately and have the contacts to make magic happen there—like a candlelit dinner inside the Stone Age collection at Copenhagen’s National Museum, or a private cruise aboard a former royal yacht.
In Iceland: Self-driving trips start at $1,200 per day for two travelers; trips with a private driver/guide and specialized vehicle start at $2,000 per day for two travelers. In Denmark: Trips start at $800 per day.

Contact Mads and Tina

Read reviews of Mads and Tina. Read their Insider’s Guides to Off-the-Beaten Path Iceland. Then contact them to maximize your experience of Iceland.

England, Ireland, and Scotland 
Jane and Philip McCrum, In Any Event
Sticklers for charm over flash, Jane and her son Philip—Brits based in London—call on decades’ worth of connections to pull strings all over the U.K. and Ireland.  They can procure prime seats at the British Isles’ most popular events, a private viewing of the Crown Jewels before the Tower of London opens to the public, or field-to-fork days in the wilds of Scotland. Like Mary Poppins, they will ensure that your kids remain engaged—whether through treasure hunts, chocolate-making sessions, or speedboat rides along the Thames—and that you never have to wait in a queue.  They have access to great rates at five-star London hotels but, for something unforgettable, ask them to book you a few nights in the countryside at one of their favorite historic manor homes, each of which has a fascinating family history, incredible collections of paintings or objets d’art, and owners who are happy to personally host you.
Trips start at $800 per day for two travelers.

Contact Jane and Philip

Read reviews of Jane and Philip. Read their Insider’s Guides to London and England’s Castles, Manor Houses, and Gardens. Then contact them to maximize your experience of England, Ireland, and Scotland.

England, Ireland, and Scotland
Jonathan Epstein, Celebrated Experiences
If you want to be filled with wanderlust—and jealousy—follow Jonathan’s Instagram feed. Between the picture-perfect Cotswold cottages and the Michelin-starred Scottish restaurants and the grand Irish castles, you’ll wish you could hide inside Jonathan’s suitcase on his next trip. The next best thing?  Let him arrange your itinerary, including the most scenic drives between all those fairytale properties and otherwise-hard-to-book restaurants. Although he’s based in the U.S., you’ll benefit from his close relationships with colorful hoteliers and star chefs, not to mention their friends all over the U.K. and Ireland—from whiskey distillers to crystal cutters to cashmere-sweater weavers. Of course, they can also snag tickets to special events (including Wimbledon and Premier League Soccer). 
Trips start at $500 per day for two travelers, or $375 for accommodations only.

Contact Jonathan

Read reviews of Jonathan. Read his Insider’s Guides to Killarney and County Kerry, IrelandScotland, and the Cotswolds. Then contact him to maximize your experience of England, Ireland, and Scotland.

England: London Apartment Rentals
Madelyn Byrne, London Perfect
Living in both London and Paris, and with offices in each city, Madelyn chooses only apartments that are in top locations and in excellent condition. Unlike an à la carte listing site with thousands of rentals, she selects apartments for various tastes and preferences. They are furnished with fine amenities: high-thread-count linens, plush towels, modern kitchen appliances, comfortable beds and sofas, and a supply of drinks and snacks to tide you over until you can get to the grocery store. She and her team know their properties inside and out and can answer questions about location, local transport, quality of beds, type of coffee machine, whether guests can control heating, and so on. Each party is met by a greeter who gives a thorough orientation and leaves behind his or her phone number, along with a thick file containing all the local intel a guest could possibly need.
Weekly rentals range from $2,350 to $6,000 during high season (for one to five bedrooms).

Contact Madelyn

Read reviews of Madelyn. Read her Insider’s Guides to London Vacation Rentals and Paris Apartment Rentals. Then contact her to maximize your experience of London.

 

France 
Jack Dancy and Michael Eloy, Trufflepig

Jack, a Brit living in Burgundy’s ancient wine capital of Beaune, and Michael, a Frenchman based in his native Provence, help independent-minded travelers—especially those who want to rent a car and explore on their own—to experience the best of what’s off the beaten track in France and countries nearby. Their in-depth itineraries will ensure that you drive the most scenic roads, sleep in the most charming and unusual accommodations, and dine in the most authentic local eateries, whether you’re wine tasting in Burgundy, chateau-hopping in the Loire Valley, cycling in Corsica (Michael used to be a biking guide, so active trips are a forte of his), hiking in the Dordogne, stepping back in time at WWI and WWII sites, or road tripping through all of it and then on into Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, or Switzerland. 
Trips have a 7-night minimum and range from $800 to $1,600 per day per couple or $1,000+ per day for families. Pricing includes accommodations, regional flights or trains, car rental, visits and guided excursions, and some meals. 

Contact Jack and Michael

Read reviews of Jack and Michael. Read their Insider’s Guides to Paris for Food Lovers and Burgundy. Then contact them to maximize your experience of France.

France, Monaco, Ibiza, London, Rome 
Jennifer Virgilio, Queen of Clubs

Jennifer’s à-la-carte arrangements (you can book just a day or two), her little black book of expert private guides, and her pull with restaurants and hotels have delighted many a traveler. She can make the line at the Eiffel Tower disappear, snag front-row seats for Paris Fashion Week, or get you tickets to the Ferrari pit during the Grand Prix. Her VIP meet-and-greet starts at the aircraft door and includes fast-track entry through immigration and customs to a waiting car. While she is best known for her concierge services in Paris and London (she used to live in both) and in Rome (where she currently lives, married to the general manager of one of the city’s best hotels), her background in the airline and hotel businesses enable her to flawlessly execute elaborate multi-day itineraries in France and Italy as well.
Prices start at $700 for a half-day guided experience, $920 for a full-day transfer in a luxury vehicle with sightseeing stops, and $950 per day for two travelers for custom-tailored trips including accommodations, guides, and all the trimmings. 

Contact Jennifer

Read reviews of Jennifer. Read Jennifer’s Insider’s Guide to Paris with Perks. Then contact her to maximize your experience of France.

France: Provence and the south
Philip Haslett, Unique Provence

Philip crafts elegant, bespoke itineraries through the hidden pockets of southern France that, sadly, most travelers miss. The reason he knows so many charming villages, country lanes, waterways, and cowpaths is the many years he spent captaining both hot-air balloons and luxury hotel barges: He frequently ended up in the middle of nowhere in rural France, making unusual discoveries and meeting interesting local characters. An Englishman who has lived in France since 1987, he still personally guides the occasional Hollywood celeb and Forbes Lister, but usually he is too busy running his Provence-based travel firm. He can unlock the Palace of the Popes at night, unlock most doors in Bordeaux, helicopter you in to hike with shepherds in the Pyrenees, or ensconce you in a chic beachside villa whose guest list looks like the Oscars seating chart. From the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, he excels at trips that focus on food and wine or adventure (often a bit of both): enjoying oysters fresh from the sea, wine tasting with world-class sommeliers, canyoning in the Verdon Gorge, or surfing in Biarritz. Bear in mind that some of the sights he’ll recommend are so hidden that you may be better off using one of his English-speaking driver-guides than renting a car and attempting to navigate on your own.
Trips have a 3-night minimum and start at $1,000 per day for two travelers in Provence ($800 per day elsewhere in France), which includes a top hotel, driver-guides with special access, and a custom-tailored itinerary away from the crowds. No hotel-only requests, please.

Contact Philip

Read reviews of Philip. Read Philip’s Insider’s Guide to Provence and the French Riviera. Then contact him to maximize your experience of France.

France: Paris Apartment Rentals
Madelyn Byrne, Paris Perfect
Living in both London and Paris, and with offices in each city, Madelyn chooses only apartments that are in top locations and in excellent condition. Unlike an à la carte listing site with thousands of rentals, she selects apartments for various tastes and preferences. They are furnished with fine amenities: high-thread-count linens, plush towels, modern kitchen appliances, comfortable beds and sofas, and a supply of drinks and snacks to tide you over until you can get to the grocery store. She and her team know their properties inside and out and can answer questions about location, local transport, quality of beds, type of coffee machine, whether guests can control heating, and so on. Each party is met by a greeter who gives a thorough orientation and leaves behind his or her phone number, along with a thick file containing all the local intel a guest could possibly need.
Weekly rentals range from $2,350 to $6,000 during high season (for one to five bedrooms).

Contact Madelyn

Read reviews of Madelyn. Read her Insider’s Guides to London Vacation Rentals and Paris Apartment Rentals. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Paris.

Germany
Claudia Schwenger, Trufflepig
Claudia returns to her native Germany three or four times a year to ensure she’s on top of the latest intel. She specializes in highly detailed self-drive and train itineraries for independent-minded travelers and will map out for you the most scenic driving, hiking, cycling, train, and ferry routes, and even where to bobsled or ski for a couple of days. She can point you to the best castles to sleep in along the Rhine, hire the latest-model Porsche for your tour of the Bavarian Alps, connect you with a World War I historian, or get you past the lines in the Keukenhof Gardens. For trips of less than one week, ask Wendy
Trips have a 7-night minimum and range from $800-1,600 per day per couple or $1000+ per day for families. Pricing typically includes all hotels (or villa/apartment rental), regional flights or trains, private drivers or rental car, visits and guided excursions, and some meals. 

Contact Claudia

Claudia is unavailable to plan trips that start before January. To find another Germany expert, ask Wendy.

 Read reviews of Claudia. Read her Insider’s Guides to Bavaria, Germany Then contact her to maximize your experience of Germany.

Greece
As far as culture goes, few destinations can top Greece. It’s the birthplace of western civilization and home to the Acropolis and many other iconic archaeological sites. Its natural landscapes aren’t too shabby either, with both olive groves and ski slopes packed into a country the size of Alabama, and the vividly blue sea never more than a few hours’ drive away. But that compact size belies the hours—days, even—one can waste trying to get from place to place. With more than 2,000 islands to choose from, each with its own unique character, it can be impossible to figure out which particular pieces will create the perfect trip for you. That’s where the right travel planner comes in, steering you to the most reliable ferry operators, chartering helicopters or boats when public transportation won’t suffice, and building just the right mix of sleepy villages, pulsing nightlife, near-empty beaches, and millennia-old culture.

Ask Wendy

Greece
Jacoline Vinke, Trufflepig
Jacoline, who has lived in Athens for two decades, literally wrote the book on travel in Greece (three of them, in fact, including Jacoline’s Small Hotels in Greece). Her research for those volumes has taken her to every corner of the mainland and just about every one of the country’s 227 inhabited islands. Call on her when it’s your second or third—or twentieth—trip to Greece and you’re ready to leave the tourist crowds behind and focus on the most charming spots that everyone else misses, including the hidden-gem boutique hotels and guesthouses where you’ll be on a first-name basis with the owner. Her local contacts will open windows into contemporary Greek life for you, whether by cycling with you through the countryside or offering a cooking class in a cave house on Santorini. Contact Jacoline only if your trip is a week or longer, and note that her pricing (see below) typically includes all hotels (or rental villa), regional flights or ferries, private drivers or rental car, visits and guided excursions, and some meals. If you’re a first-timer to Greece and don’t need Jacoline’s depth of expertise and connections, or you’re seeking more limited arrangements, ask Wendy.
Trips have a 7-night minimum and range from $800-1,600 per day per couple or $1000+ per day for families, depending on your choices.

Contact Jacoline

Jacoline is unavailable to plan trips that start before November. To find another Greece expert, ask Wendy.

Read reviews of Jacoline. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Greece.

Iceland
Think awesome landscapes so unusual you won’t find them in any other country, and  adventure activities that are just as unusual—volcano diving, puffin spotting, glacier hiking, geothermal-pool-hopping…. The challenge of planning a vacation here is also unusual: First, Iceland is surprisingly expensive. (It’s cheap to fly there, but once you’re there, prices sting.) Second, tourism to Iceland has skyrocketed, causing demand—for accommodations, activities, all-terrain vehicles, glacier adventure guides, etc.—to outpace the supply, creating sell-out conditions and driving prices even higher. Third, the tourism infrastructure is geared to mass-market group package tours. I can point you to those few Iceland specialists who deliver private, custom, WOW experiences—as part of a smart, efficient itinerary enhanced by expert guides who will take you to thrilling places you could never find or access on your own—but be prepared to spend a bare minimum of $1,200 per day for two travelers.

Ask Wendy

Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands
Mads Tange Christensen and Tina Thorman, Nordic Star
Scandinavia travel specialists who are based in Copenhagen, Mads and Tina travel frequently to Iceland to stay abreast of the rapidly evolving scene there. Demand far outstrips supply during Iceland’s high season (two million people visited this nation of 350,000 last year), but Mads and Tina reserve allotments of their favorite rooms at the best hotels so that you don’t have to plan so far in advance; and while service at these properties isn’t quite up to international standards, their relationships spell extra perks for their clients. Adventure is Mads and Tina’s forte—from river rafting to horseback riding to glacier walking—but it can be made soft enough to please grandparents on a multigenerational trip. They work only with driver/guides who own vehicles that can venture off the main roads and into the rugged backcountry, where you might have a picnic and an ATV tour on a black-sand beach or hop into a helicopter for a quick ride to a secret lagoon to soak in solitary bliss. If you prefer to drive a rental car, they will sketch out a seamless, GPS-guided itinerary that gets you to the glaciers before the tour-bus crowds arrive and recommends atmospheric mom-and-pop restaurants along the route. They also know Denmark and its territories (e.g., Greenland and the Faroe Islands) intimately and have the contacts to make magic happen there—like a candlelit dinner inside the Stone Age collection at Copenhagen’s National Museum, or a private cruise aboard a former royal yacht.
In Iceland: Self-driving trips start at $1,200 per day for two travelers; trips with a private driver/guide and specialized vehicle start at $2,000 per day for two travelers. In Denmark: Trips start at $800 per day.

Contact Mads and Tina

Read reviews of Mads and Tina. Then contact them to maximize your experience of Iceland.

Italy
Andrea Grisdale, IC Bellagio
Andrea, who is based on Lake Como, can open doors that are closed to most people. A bilingual former guide, she knows all the time-saving tricks for exploring the most popular sites while also squeezing in the hidden gems.  Be sure to speak with her personally, as she interviews travelers in depth to gain a thorough understanding of their travel fantasies, preferences, and pet peeves, then uses that knowledge to custom-tailor the perfect itinerary. She has the clout to pull strings and ask for favors at Italy’s best hotels, and her team has a track record of coming to the rescue 24/7 should the need arise.  
Trips start at 1,000 euros per day per couple—twice that for trips that include 5-star hotels, private transport, and guided experiences on the Amalfi Coast in peak season. In addition, Andrea charges a trip-planning fee of 200 euros per person that is non-refundable in case of cancellation.

Contact Andrea

Read reviews of Andrea. Read her Insider’s Guides to the Amalfi Coast and Italy’s Lakes Region. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Italy.

Italy and Switzerland
Brian Dore and Maria Gabriella Landers, CIU Travel
Opera singers who divide their time between Italy and the United States, this husband-and-wife team design imaginative itineraries throughout Italy that focus primarily on gastronomy, art, architecture, archaeology, and history, and they can tack on delightful side trips to Switzerland’s cultural capitals and charming mountainside villages. Maria Gabriella, who has a background in art history, is an ambassador of Italian culture for Perugia’s Università per Stranieri, and Brian is also an enthusiastic hiker and skier who’s tested out many slopes and trails in the Alps. Together with their team of terrifically knowledgeable and charismatic guides and drivers, they deliver a charming and intimate trip every time.
Trips start at $1,000 per day for two travelers in low season or $1,500 in high season, with a three-night minimum.

Contact Brian and Maria

Read reviews of Brian and Maria. Read their Insider’s Guides to VeniceFlorenceUmbria and Tuscany. Then contact them to maximize your experience of Italy.

Italy: Sicily and the Aeolian Islands
Marcello Baglioni, Agave Travel Creative

While running a school for Americans studying in Sicily, Marcello found himself planning trips for the students’ visiting families—and thus his new profession was born. His own fascination with Sicily derives from the island’s important historic location at the crossroads of numerous Mediterranean cultures (Roman, Arabic, Spanish, Norman, to name a few), all of which left their mark on the region’s unique food, wine, culture, and language. He excels at forging deep personal connections and can arrange a hike up Mt. Etna with a volcanologist, a market tour and cooking class with a chef, a visit to Greek ruins with an archaeologist, a private lunch at an herb farm, or a tour on a lovingly restored sailboat, all hosted by passionate locals whom Marcello considers family.  
Trips start at $900 per day for two travelers. 

Contact Marcello

 Read reviews of Marcello. Read his Insider’s Guide to Sicily. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Sicily.

Italy: Ultimate Villa Vacations
Mara Solomon, Homebase Abroad
For two decades Mara has been hand-picking the most atmospheric and magical estates in Italy, inspecting them seasonally, and using her fluent Italian to strengthen her close relationships with the property owners. It’s those relationships that translate into special entrée and experiences for you. With a focus on large families and groups, Mara crafts one-of-a-kind villa vacations based on a property matched to your group’s unique set of interests, preferences, and energy levels. Mara’s homes have at least four bedrooms, ensuite baths, a private pool or descent to the sea (or both), and local staff included or available.  If you’re seeking a smaller homebase in Italy, write to Ask Wendy.
Weekly rentals start at $13,000 in high season, including itinerary-planning services and concierge support during your trip.

Contact Mara

Read reviews of Mara. Read her Insider’s Guide to Italy Villa Vacations. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Italy.

Malta
Jason and Damon Camilleri Allan, Exclusively Malta

From accessing the private quarters of the current resident Knight of Malta to shopping with a famed chef in the local markets, brothers Jason and Damon can unlock doors in Malta that you couldn’t find on your own and probably didn’t even realize exist. Both citizens of Malta (where their mother was born), Damon is based on the islands and Jason lives in Canada—so you can reach one or the other of them at just about any hour of the day or night. They’re equally skilled at making the most of a one-day shore excursion, adding a few nights in Malta onto a trip elsewhere in Europe, or custom-tailoring a weeklong exploration of the islands’ deep history. And they work with a range of accommodations, from luxury hotels to locally run boutique properties and classic Mediterranean palazzos that you can have all to yourself (with private maid, butler, and chef service, if you like).
Trips start at $450 for a shore excursion for two travelers, or $700 per day for a multi-day custom itinerary for two.

Ask Jason and Damon

Read reviews of Jason and Damon. Read their Insider’s Guide to Malta. Then contact them to maximize your experience of Malta.

Montenegro
As landscapes go, Montenegro’s has a flair for the dramatic, with craggy mountains spilling into the azure waters of the Adriatic. Many of the country’s fortified ports date to the Middle Ages, and one, Kotor, is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But Montenegro’s topography is challenging to navigate, and its lack of roads can lead to serious traffic snarls. Enter an in-the-know local expert, who might hire a boat instead to whisk you from your seafront hotel to dinner in style. Click below to get our advice on the right Montenegro specialist for the trip you have in mind.

Ask Wendy

Multi-Country Europe
Jill Taylor, Jetset World Travel

After a study-abroad experience in France and a stint living in northern Italy, Jill found herself planning so many pan-Western-European itineraries for family and friends that she decided to go into the travel business. Now living in Chicago, she enjoys coordinating trips that combine several countries, utilizing small, local, Europe-based travel firms for the arrangements in each spot. Contact her when you prefer using one point person who is based in the U.S.—someone who will handle everything from transatlantic airfare to travel insurance—to using a different on-site destination specialist for every country on your itinerary. In other words, reach out if it’s your first trip to Europe and you’re not sure where you want to go, or you’re trying to combine three or four countries and can’t figure out the smartest way, or you’ve got multiple travel companions arriving from multiple cities and you need someone to mastermind the whole thing. Or, if what you really want is a group tour, she can point you to the best for your particular needs.
Trips start at $1,000 per day for two people. There is an additional trip-planning fee of $400 for two travelers or $550 for a family.

Contact Jill

 Read reviews of Jill. Read her Insider’s Guide to the Italian and Swiss Alps. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Europe.

The Netherlands
Everybody knows Amsterdam is a strong dose of fun and culture, but to experience the best of the Netherlands, you need to dig further. Rotterdam, the capital’s hipper cousin, is a world leader in cutting-edge architecture and design, and Utrecht is home to the country’s largest collection of medieval art—just to give you two examples of the many other cities worth visiting. Then there’s all that gorgeous countryside, with its acres of tulips, timeless fishing villages, and miles of cycling paths. To make the most of your time in the Netherlands, you need someone who can design a smart itinerary and arrange the local encounters that make a trip really special. How to find the right Netherlands trip designer? Ask Wendy.

Ask Wendy

Norway and Scandinavia (including Iceland)
Jan Sortland, Norwegian Adventures
From his home base in Oslo and additional offices Stockholm, Jan specializes in custom-tailored adventures into the lesser-known regions of Norway and beyond. His imaginative itineraries often involve seeing the Northern Lights or sampling the best Nordic cuisine, but he can also arrange activities you may not have known were possible, from sea kayaking in glacial lakes to spending the day with reindeer herders to fishing in the Arctic Ocean to building your own snow cave—and sleeping in it. In Iceland, he can have you join locals on traditional hunting trips, meet with experts in Icelandic Saga literature, and stay in private villas. In Denmark, he can orchestrate a public audience with the queen; and in Sweden he can get travelers onboard the famous 17th-century ship the Vasa—an honor usually reserved for royalty and heads of state. His expert team of drivers and guides go to great lengths to ensure you get a fulfilling and authentic experience.
Trips start at $1,600 per day for two travelers on a self-drive itinerary; that price includes accommodations, transportation, and some private guiding. Minimum booking requirement of $7,000.

Contact Jan

Read reviews of Jan. Read his Insider’s Guide to Norway. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Norway and the rest of Scandinavia.

Norway and Scandinavia (not including Iceland)
Leigh Landis, Exeter International
Scandinavia is one of the world’s most shockingly expensive regions, but Leigh has tricks for making a luxury trip there affordable (relatively speaking). She’ll juggle train and ferry schedules for a capital-hopping itinerary, and she’s adept at organizing family trips (she’s taken her 11-year-old daughter to Scandinavia several times), keeping everyone happy while kayaking through breathtaking fjords and learning about Viking culture. Her guides can get you backstage at national theaters and opera houses, and into the kitchens of some of Scandinavia’s most famous restaurants. Leigh is willing to arrange private shore excursions for Baltic cruises—but fair warning: Local rates for private drivers and guides make these extremely expensive.
Trips start at $1,000 per day per couple, or $1,500 per day for families, and typically include 4-star hotel, public transport (trains, ferries) or rental car, private guided excursions, and more. No home rental.

Contact Leigh

Read reviews of Leigh. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland.

Portugal
Gonçalo Correia, Tours for You
Gonçalo, who lives in Lisbon, knows every nook and cranny of Portugal the way only a native who’s spent years guiding travelers around the country can. He brings that level of detail to his custom itineraries, specializing in the hidden gems—the wineries with excellent bottles for less than $10, the seaside villages that aren’t crowded with day-trippers. He is happy to book a wide range of accommodations, from small-town B&Bs to five-star palaces to rental villas and apartments. The special-access arrangements he can make—say, visits to famous monuments after they’re closed for the day and the crowds are gone, or a cooking class with the owner of an Alentejo manor house—enhance a trip without adding too much to its cost.
Trips start at $850 per day for two travelers.

Contact Gonçalo

Read reviews of Gonçalo. Read his Insider Secrets of Portugal. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Portugal.

River Cruises
Tom Baker, Cruise Center

From the Rhine and the Rhone to the Danube and the Seine, Tom has studied firsthand the vessels, cabins, and itineraries available to river cruisers all across Europe. He’s equally adept at guiding first-timers toward the right ship for their interests, or helping die-hards find another corner of the continent to explore via its waterways. Tom has a network of on-the-ground contacts in Europe, so he’s a one-stop shop for pre- and post-cruise extensions as well. Meanwhile, his relationships within the cruise industry spell excellent value for his travelers, last-minute availability when things appear to be booked solid, and a strong advocate on your side should anything go wrong. 
River cruises start at $300 per person per day, based on double occupancy.

Contact Tom

Read reviews of Tom. Read his Insider’s Guides to Alaska Cruises and Mediterranean Cruises. Then contact him to maximize your cruise experience.

Romania
Raluca Spiac, Beyond Dracula

In Raluca’s hands, you’ll gain a full appreciation of her native country’s beautiful landscapes and its culture charmingly stuck in an earlier era, when people organized their lives around the seasons. Assisted by her trusted deputy Laura Boldovici, Raluca will show you the best of the Carpathians’ forested peaks, ideally seen on foot or horseback; Bucharest’s curious combination of Art Nouveau and brutalist architecture; the Danube Delta’s rich avian and aquatic life; and 13th-century UNESCO World Heritage-recognized villages and churches. You can even spend time with some of the many traditional village craftspeople whom Raluca and Laura have befriended, likely ending up in their attic looking through old photographs. Pioneers in the country’s burgeoning tourism industry, Raluca and Laura constantly keep tabs on which places are still free of tour buses and crowds. Their preferred accommodations range from the country’s few true luxury hotels to hidden-gem guesthouses serving home-cooked meals with produce from their garden. 
Trips start at $575 per day for two travelers, including accommodations, guiding, transportation, some entrance fees, and breakfast every day.

Contact Raluca

 Read reviews of Raluca. Read her Insider’s Guide to Romania.Then contact her to maximize your experience of Romania.

Russia
Greg Tepper, Exeter International

Soon after the collapse of the Iron Curtain, Greg established himself as a leader in high-end, hassle-free travel to Russia and Eastern Europe. Today he has offices in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev, Prague, and Dubrovnik. He and his team troubleshoot everything for you—they even pre-book all museum visits so you can skip the lines—and negotiate upgrades and other perks at the best hotels in the country. Thanks to his extensive connections on the ground and friends in high places, he can also get you inside Russia’s most exclusive venues that are off-limits to the general public. Think the Grand Kremlin Palace, where Russia’s president entertains visiting heads of state, and the Hermitage’s storerooms, which contain four-fifths of the museum’s possessions, including not-to-be-missed imperial carriages and Romanov treasures. 
Trips start at $1,000 per day for two travelers, which includes accommodations, breakfast, guide and vehicle services as necessary, and entrance fees to museums. .

Contact Greg

 Read reviews of Greg. Read his Insider’s Guides to St. Petersburg and Moscow. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Russia.

Slovenia
Nestled in the crook of the Adriatic (but with just a smidge of coastline), Slovenia deftly melds the best of its neighbors: Italy’s delectable cuisine, Austria’s alpine landscapes, and Croatia’s picturesque medieval towns. From people-watching at Ljubljana’s charming riverside cafes to adventuring in the mountains to reveling in the tasty and ubiquitous local pumpkin seed oil, there are options here to suit just about any traveler. But while it’s the most western of the former Yugoslav republics—both in geography and mindset—Slovenia is full of secrets that can slip up the DIY traveler; that’s where the right travel specialist comes in, to smooth your way through one of the most unexpectedly delightful destinations on earth. Click below for our latest intel.

Ask Wendy

Spain and Portugal
Pablo Calvo and Gonçalo Correia, Tours for You
Pablo was born in Spain, studied art at university there, and worked in museums until he realized that he wanted to help travelers craft their entire trips, not just a single stop along the way. He has explored all 17 regions and 52 provinces of Spain and maintains a network of connections that ensures he can reserve tables at the most sought-after restaurants in San Sebastian, arrange private Spanish guitar or Flamenco lessons in Madrid, or get you into the best wineries in La Rioja. Rather than the fanciest hotels, Pablo prefers the charming, one-of-a-kind four-stars with a great location—and, in the countryside, a location that’s easy to find in a rental car. For trips that include Portugal, he works with his Lisbon-based colleague Goncalo Correia, WOW List specialist for Portugal. Pablo covers mainland Spain only, so if you’re headed to the Balearic Islands (e.g., Mallorca and Ibiza), the Canary Islands, or Gibraltar, write to Ask Wendy.
Trips start at $850 per day for two travelers, which includes 4-star boutique hotel accommodations, private guiding, and a tailor-made self-drive itinerary. No villa rental.

Contact Pablo and Gonçalo

Read reviews of Pablo and Gonçalo. Read their Insider’s Guides to Spain’s Basque Country and Portugal. Then contact them to maximize your experience of Spain and Portugal.

Spain and Portugal
Virginia Irurita, Made for Spain and Portugal
Born in Spain and based in Madrid, Virginia ditched a decade-long career in banking 20 years ago to go into the travel business and share her love of Spain. Her little black book is thick with the names of a fascinating variety of local experts and noteworthy characters—museum curators, chefs, architects, flamenco dancers, picadors, sommeliers, landed nobility…. She has a particularly keen interest in wine and winemaking—so keen, in fact, that she bought herself a vineyard on the banks of the Duero River. She recently expanded to include Portugal—a natural fit, given that she speaks Portuñol (a mix of Spanish and Portuguese)—and she covers the islands of Mallorca and Ibiza too. In recent years, as her company has grown big fast, so have its prices. You’ll get value when you use her firm for complete on-the-ground arrangements from A to Z (not just a few trip components) and when you elect to hire her savvy local drivers (as opposed to renting a car). If you’re planning a corporate retreat in the wine country or a cultural tour for museum benefactors, look no further. If you need smaller or more flexible arrangements, write to  Ask Wendy.
Trips have a 7-night minimum and start at $1,000 per day for two travelers, with an additional trip-planning fee of 250 euros. No villa rentals.

Contact Virginia

Read reviews of Virginia. Read her Insider’s Guides to MadridBarcelonaAndalusia, and The Algarve, Portugal. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Spain and Portugal.

Switzerland and Road Trips through the Alps
Nina Müller, Cosa Travel
This Swiss native’s network of connections runs deep. She can arrange dinner in a castle, tickets to exclusive music and film festivals, and entrée to personal art collections. In the Alps, she plans trips that include hikes with Saint Bernard dogs and introductions to how cowbells are made and traditional Appenzell costumes embroidered; elsewhere she adds plenty of iconic Swiss elements, such as chocolate- and watch-making workshops, or even a romantic dinner of raclette warmed over a candle inside a cave. Overnight accommodations on her itineraries range from family-run inns and alpine farms—where you can help milk the cows—to private chalets and five-star grande dames.
Trips start at $1,000 per day for two travelers; this includes 4- or 5-star accommodations, breakfast, and some guided experiences.

Contact Nina

Read reviews of Nina. Read her Insider’s Guide to the Secrets of Switzerland. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Switzerland.

Turkey
Karen Fedorko Sefer, Sea Song Tours
Based in Istanbul and with offices across Turkey, Karen has the connections—from museum directors to star restaurateurs to powerful hoteliers to the country’s culture ministry—to gain all manner of special access. She’ll have shop owners show you their special wares not displayed to the public, and she can create one-of-a-kind experiences (private meal at Topkapi Palace, anyone?).  She is the go-to for cruise shore excursions (she can make the crowds at Ephesus disappear) and gulet charters too.
Trips start at $400 per day for two travelers in Istanbul and $1,200 for two on the Aegean Coast.

Contact Karen

Read reviews of Karen. Read her Insider’s Guides to Istanbul and Turkey’s Aegean Coast. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Turkey.

Turkey
Earl Starkey, Sophisticated-Travel
Earl lives half the year in Istanbul but is constantly criss-crossing the country to stay abreast of the latest hotel, restaurant, and gallery openings and to collect even more uniquely Turkish experiences that other travel firms don’t offer—say, a private cooking lesson in the home of a noted chef or access to a normally off-limits ancient ruin. Earl knows that a guide can make or break a trip, and he is known for handpicking only the savviest, all of them highly educated, personable, and accomplished in their own right.
Trips start at $600 per day for two travelers in Cappadocia and $800 for two in Istanbul.

Contact Earl

Read reviews of Earl. Read his Insider’s Guides to Istanbul and Cappadocia. Then contact him to maximize your experience of the U.S.

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Asia

Beng Melea monks, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Beng Melea monks, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Photo: ABOUTAsia Travel

Bali and Indonesia
Diane Embree, Michael’s Travel Centre/Bali Barong Tours
Diane’s Bali itineraries typically combine beach time with sightseeing and, if you like, can also include the island’s best hiking, snorkeling, river rafting, or other adventure activities. Her greatest pleasure, though, comes from arranging for travelers to meet with locals—medicine men, artisans, rice farmers—and to participate in traditional Balinese ceremonies that most visitors can’t access on their own. Diane is a pro with the rest of Indonesia too—in case you’re looking to see Borneo’s orangutans or Komodo dragons, visit the Toraja ethnic group in Sulawesi, explore ancient relics at Lake Toba in Sumatra, or make a side trip to Borobudur on Java—as well as with stopovers in Asian gateway cities en route to and from Indonesia.  For travel in Malaysia or Malaysian Borneo, click to Borneo, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
Trips start at $500 per day for two travelers.

Contact Diane

Read reviews of Diane. Read her Insider’s Guide to Bali. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Bali.

Bhutan, Myanmar, and Nepal
Antonia Neubauer, Myths and Mountains
Antonia (“Toni”) has spent the past 30 years exploring Asia, focusing on its people, culture, crafts, religions, and natural environments, and forging close relationships with communities. Her vast network of loyal friends and experts on the ground means you get an especially warm welcome as well as unique, meaningful experiences far from where other tourists go. Whether you want to plan a Burmese wedding or learn how to make a mandala in Bhutan, you’re guaranteed an imaginative and immersive experience. Toni is dedicated to making a positive contribution to the countries where she operates; READ Global, the renowned nonprofit she founded, has built more than 100 libraries in Nepal, Bhutan, and India.
Trip prices per day for two travelers start at $350 in Nepal, $750 in Bhutan, and $840 in Myanmar.

Contact Antonia

Read reviews of Antonia. Read her Insider’s Guides to Bhutan, Myanmar, and Nepal. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Bhutan, Myanmar, and Nepal.

Borneo, Indonesia, and Malaysia
Indonesia and Malaysia share much more than just the world’s third largest island, Borneo (which is governed by Indonesia in the south, and by Malaysia and Brunei in the north). They are also places of tremendous ethnic diversity, with each group having its own fascinating customs, religions, and cultures. The two countries offer far-out wildlife too (we all know about Borneo’s famous orangutans, but have you ever heard of a pygmy elephant?), as well as lush rainforest, rarely visited islands, and the kind of cuisine that professional chefs cross oceans for. Try to plan a trip yourself, though, and you could easily waste half your vacation in transit, confuse arrival dates while corresponding with hotels in the local dialect, and find yourself snorkeling amid a tour bus’ worth of foreigners instead of all alone on a pristine reef (the latter being exactly what the local experts we know can arrange). Curious about the possibilities in Indonesia and Malaysia? Ask us, and we’ll match you with the right fixer to create just the trip for you.

Ask Wendy

Central Asia, the Silk Road, and Uzbekistan
Zulya Rajabova, Silk Road Treasure Tours
Zulya grew up in Uzbekistan (her hometown, Bukhara, is one of the legendary cities of the Silk Road trading route) and has lived in the U.S. since 2003, making her well suited to introduce foreigners to the stunning landscapes and ancient sites of Central Asia, including all five “Stans.” Her expertise with languages (in addition to Uzbeki and English, Zulya speaks German, Russian, and Farsi) set her on a path in tourism: She started out as an interpreter and guide for journalists, diplomats, and heads of state visiting Uzbekistan. Her personal contacts at museums, exhibition sites, and performance companies translate to exclusive access for her clients, and the encounters that she orchestrates with artisans and businesspeople help bring alive aspects of the culture both ancient and contemporary.
Trips start at $500 per day for two travelers.

Contact Zulya

Read reviews of Zulya. Read her Insider’s Guide to Uzbekistan. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Uzbekistan and the Silk Road.

China
Mei Zhang, WildChina
Sharing her homeland’s hidden gems has been Mei Zhang’s lifelong passion, interrupted only by the years she spent earning her Harvard MBA and working for McKinsey. No matter the occasion—family trip to her native Yunnan province or 50th birthday celebration in Beijing—Mei can filter the seemingly endless options to craft an experience that’s just right, and her close relationships with hoteliers ensure her clients get the red-carpet treatment. Her guides and drivers are the best in the business, opening the doors to authentic Chinese culture and steering travelers away from the crowds, the expected, and all things touristy.
Trips start at $800 per day for two travelers.

Contact Mei

Read reviews of Mei. Read her Insider’s Guides to Beijing, Yunnan Province, and China’s Big Cities and Small Villages. Then contact her to maximize your experience of China.

India
Sanjay Saxena, Nomadic Expeditions
The son of a brigadier general in the Indian Army, Sanjay was born in New Delhi and grew up living in numerous places throughout India. He began mountaineering and rock climbing in the high Himalayas at age 15, and since 1979 has led groups on trekking, climbing, touring, and safari trips not only in India but in Tibet, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bhutan. Committed to running trips that are ecologically responsible and culturally sensitive, Sanjay has been named an “Unsung Hero of Compassion” and recognized by the Dalai Lama for the community projects he has created in South Asia.
Trips start at $600 per day for two travelers, utilizing 4-star hotels, a private car and driver, and local guides.

Contact Sanjay

Read reviews of Sanjay. Read his Insider’s Guides to Agra and the Taj MahalDelhi and Secrets of India. Then contact him to maximize your experience of India.

India
Bertie and Victoria Dyer, India Beat
While living for ten years in Jaipur—where they were married and had their first child—Bertie and Victoria introduced so many visiting friends to their favorite places and people in Rajasthan that it turned into a travel business.  They plan unique trips tailored to individual interests—a type of travel experience that is rare in India, where most tours emphasize ticking off as many main sites as possible. Bertie’s areas of expertise include Moghul architecture, wildlife photography, and Indian history. Victoria’s passions include yoga, Indian cooking, and textile design, and she is known for her popular Jaipur bazaar crawl. They returned to England to have their second child, but their Jaipur office is run by a dedicated team of local employees who have been with the company from the beginning.
Trips utilizing 4-star hotels, a private car and driver, and local guides start at $600 per day for two travelers.

Contact Bertie and Victoria

Read reviews of Bertie and Victoria. Read their Insider’s Guide to Rajasthan and Mumbai. Then contact them to maximize your experience of Rajasthan and Mumbai.

Japan
Who isn’t curious about the land that gave us sushi, samurai swords, and Hello Kitty handbags? Japan is cherry blossoms, ancient temples, high design, square watermelons, white-gloved bus drivers, shockproof high-rises, and tea ceremonies in which nearly every hand movement is prescribed. It is also otherworldly in the extreme. Japanese society relies heavily on personal connections to unlock doors. Without them, your experience of Japan is guaranteed to skim the surface. Japan is also bracingly expensive, with many of the loveliest ryokans and guest houses costing upwards of $1,000 per night (although that does include an extravagant dinner). And because the number of savvy guides with exceptional access is limited, they can command high fees. If you are seeking the right bespoke trip-planning specialist who can deliver the best that Japan has to offer, and if you fill out your wish list below, I can point you toward your smartest options. All information you provide is private; it will be seen only by me and the travel expert I recommend for you.

Ask Wendy

Japan
Scott Gilman, JapanQuest Journeys

After seven years living in Japan working for Goldman Sachs—and raising three children there—Scott launched his own firm focused on delivering five-star-only journeys into the soul of Japan, peppered with the sorts of experiences that are normally very difficult for travelers to access.  He has spent decades cultivating local relationships, hand-picking the savviest guides, and uncovering unusual opportunities that unlock the mysteries of Japan.  He and his son Jason, who now works alongside him, orchestrate trips for visitors of every age, from children fascinated by samurai swords and manga comics to romantic couples in pursuit of exquisite ryokans with secluded hot springs. Based in Washington, D.C., and Tokyo, they custom-tailor itineraries to your interests and can fill them with up-close-and-personal encounters with experts in pottery, textiles, kendo, taiko drumming, and more. They can even deliver a practice session at a sumo training stable where you are seated a few feet from the wrestlers or a dinner with geisha entertainment at a teahouse open only to invited guests.
Unique experiences with one of the best guides in Japan start at $2,000 per day for two travelers. Five-star accommodations and private transportation are additional.

Contact Scott

Read reviews of Scott. Read his Insider’s Guide to Classic Japan. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Japan.

The Maldives and the Seychelles
Lindsey Wallace, Linara Travel
Lindsey expertly matches travelers to the Indian Ocean with the specific island, resort, and overwater bungalow—even with the specific dive instructor or massage therapist—that best suit their needs, and then on top of that masterminds unique experiences such as seaplane jaunts to idyllic desert islands for surprise marriage proposals. Given how many people fly to the Indian Ocean via Dubai, he’s become an expert on the United Arab Emirates too (see Dubai and Abu Dhabi) and, with help from friends in high places, carves out exclusive perks so you can live like a sheikh in these otherwise pricey places. Lindsey is based in the U.S. but visits these countries about six times a year, forging and cementing the relationships that enable him to work magic on behalf of his travelers.
Trips have a 3-night minimum and start at $800 per day for two travelers.

Contact Lindsey

Read reviews of Lindsey. Read his Insider’s Guides to the the Maldives and the Seychelles. Then contact him to maximize your experience of the Maldives and the Seychelles.

Mongolia
Jalsa Urubshurow, Nomadic Expeditions
A Mongolian-American who splits his time between the U.S. and Mongolia, Jalsa was among the first to offer highly customized trips to his homeland, and he also created one of the country’s original guide training programs. He pairs travelers with experts—including historians, scientists, artists, and photographers—who provide a comprehensive understanding of the country’s history, culture, and traditions. He has been an advisor to all seven of Mongolia’s prime ministers and two of its presidents, a role in which he champions sustainable, eco-friendly travel as a viable alternative to Mongolia’s mining-based economy.
Trips start at $800 per day for two travelers.

Contact Jalsa

Read reviews of Jalsa. Read his Insider’s Guide to Mongolia. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Mongolia.

Multi-Country Asia
Most people making the long haul to Asia hope to combine two or three (or more) countries in one trip. But the logistics can be complicated, and if you’re not careful you’ll end up spending more time waiting in airports and driving on bumpy dirt roads than doing the things you’ve traveled all that way to do. Good news: We know the savviest Asia travel specialists—those who can make all lines and crowds disappear, spare you the tourist traps, get you inside that impossible-to-get-into wat during morning prayers or into that best little pho shop in Saigon that only the locals know about, and save you countless pitfalls. Tell us about the trip you have in mind, and we can point you to the best travel specialist for it.

Ask Wendy

Sri Lanka
Miguel Cunat, Sri Lanka in Style
Miguel, who has been living with his wife and three kids in Sri Lanka for 17 years, founded his company to provide travelers with insightful, engaging experiences in his adopted homeland—an enchanting but logistically very tricky place.  He and his delightful deputy, Andrea Goonesekera, who was born and raised in Sri Lanka but has lived in Canada twice, plan tailor-made itineraries that get you off the beaten path without sacrificing comfort or charm and introduce you to colorful local characters who provide a real sense of place (authors, architects, even the Leopard Man).
Trips start at $500 per day for two travelers.

Contact Miguel

Read reviews of Miguel. Read his Insider’s Guide to Sri Lanka. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Sri Lanka.

Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam
Andy Booth, ABOUTAsia Travel
An Oxford-trained scientist, Andy Booth traded London for Siem Reap almost 15 years ago, intending to improve Cambodia’s educational system; the best way to earn funds to do so, he decided, was via the country’s burgeoning tourism industry. Approaching travel planning scientifically, he began doing surveys to measure minute-by-minute tourist flow around the Angkorian ruins, using the data to calculate the timing and routing that would make for the least congested experience. Today, his Siem-Reap-based company has delivered crowd-free experiences to thousands of travelers, and 100% of profits are plowed into local education. When Andy is away from the office sussing out the hidden pockets of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam in order to create imaginative new itineraries for travelers, his deputy, Joshua Clayton, can ensure that travelers sent by Wendy receive the deeply authentic experiences they crave. Andy and Josh help travelers connect not just with friendly locals but also with prominent academics and scientists who are leading excavations in the area. Andy also holds the post of British Honorary Consul and wrote the well-regarded Angkor Guidebook, a coffee-table-worthy tome.
Trips start at $400 per day for two travelers.

Contact Andy

Read reviews of Andy. Read his Insider’s Guide to Ankgor Wat and Siem Reap without the crowds. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asia: Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos
Sandy Ferguson, Asia Desk
Sandy grew up in Southeast Asia while his father was serving in the Vietnam war. Eventually he formed his own tour company, with offices in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Today, living in both Atlanta and Saigon, he and his son Jackson (whose mother started one of the first private tour companies in her home country of Vietnam) craft tailor-made itineraries that make the most of your precious time. Sandy has a vast network of powerful contacts in the hotel industry—where Jackson worked for a decade—which translates into status for you, and he maintains complete control of every detail of a trip, right down to handpicking every guide—all charismatic locals whom Sandy considers family. These hosts are the ultimate well-connected experts in their destinations, ensuring you get a trip of a lifetime.
Trips start at $600 per day for two travelers, including accommodations, transportation, private guiding, and some meals; minimum booking requirement of $5,000 for land arrangements for two or more people.

Contact Sandy

Read reviews of Sandy. Read his Insider’s Guides to ThailandSoutheast Asia, and Bangkok. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos
Andrea Ross and April Cole, Wild Frontiers
During the ten years she lived in Cambodia, Andrea founded a nonprofit that operates education and poverty relief initiatives in the region. Though now living stateside, the network that she and colleague April have developed in Southeast Asia keeps them up-to-date on the newest can’t-miss accommodations, restaurants, and experiences, and their close relationships with the region’s hotels ensure that travelers get the best rates and the best care. Andrea specializes in family travel, while April is the beach and island expert—and a master at crafting extravagant yet affordable honeymoons. Both women are committed to philanthropic travel, weaving volunteer work into many itineraries.
Trips start at $400 per day for two travelers.

Contact Andrea and April

Read reviews of Andrea and April. Read Andrea’s Insider’s Guides to Cambodia, Angkor WatVietnam and Laos. Then contact her and April to maximize your experience of Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asia: Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam
Daniel Fraser, Smiling Albino
A celebrity in Thailand as the host of several TV shows there, this Thai-speaking Canadian got his start in Asia working for the Thai royal family more than 20 years ago. With that celebrity comes the ability to open all sorts of doors in the country that others can’t (private lunches in the homes of famous architects and designers, exclusive tours of Bangkok’s underground art scene), either as a stand-alone half-day excursion or as part of a soup-to-nuts multi-day itinerary. In a region where tourism is booming, Daniel has a variety of tricks up his sleeve to keep travelers far from the hordes—whether that’s getting a private monk blessing in Wat Pho and entry to famous landmarks before they are open to the public, or visiting artisans’ workshops that are accessible only by boat.  He has offices in Cambodia and Vietnam and is equally adept at delivering authentic local experiences there too. 
Trips start at $600 per day for two travelers, which includes accommodations, transport, and custom-tailored experiences. Daniel also arranges single-day tours starting at $300.

Contact Daniel

Read reviews of Daniel. Read Daniel’s Insider’s Guides to Thailand Like You’ve Never Seen. Then contact him to maximize your experience Thailand.

 

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Africa and the Middle East

Elephants tussle in Botswana. Photo: Wilderness Safaris/Caroline Culbert

Elephants tussle in Botswana. Photo: Wilderness Safaris/Caroline Culbert

Egypt
Jim Berkeley, Destinations & Adventures International
Jim, who lived in Cairo for five years while heading up Abercrombie & Kent’s regional office, jokes that he’s a frustrated Indiana Jones, which is why he’s spent much of his career scrambling around the ancient temples and pyramids of Egypt. His customized itineraries combine luxury and adventure—he’ll have you sailing down the Nile one day, lounging by the pool at the Old Cataract the next.  Most important, Jim and his team are meticulous about keeping their travelers away from crowds and out of harm’s way. Jim’s also the right choice if you want to add time in neighboring Jordan to your trip.
Trips start at $650 per day for two travelers.

Contact Jim

Read reviews of Jim. Read his Insider’s Guide to Egypt. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Egypt.

Iran, Jordan, Oman
Jonny Bealby, Wild Frontiers
“Beaten paths” are few and far between on Jonny’s trips. Based in the U.K., but with decades of adventures in the Middle East and Central Asia under his belt, Jonny has even written books about his epic journeys, including through war-torn Afghanistan and by horse along the Silk Road to the Caspian Sea. He and trusted deputies Nigel Fisher and Dan Waters—who have also traveled extensively in the Middle East and Asia—will get you under the skin of the world’s exotic frontiers, while of course ensuring your safety throughout. They are eager to immerse you in the local culture via overnights in village homes or desert camps, but are also well-acquainted with the most magnificent five-star properties.
Trips have a 5-night minimum and start at $700 per day for two travelers.

Contact Jonny

Read reviews of Jonny. Read his Insider’s Guide to Oman. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Iran, Jordan, Oman.

Israel
Joe Yudin and Jonathan Rose, Touring Israel
After graduating from Boston University, Joe moved to Israel and served as a paratrooper in the Israeli Defense Forces, then gained his travel chops by working as a guide, quickly becoming one of Israel’s best. After learning what sophisticated travelers to Israel really want that wasn’t being offered, he then founded his own travel firm, hiring his fellow guides who are Israel’s most charismatic and in-the-know. He also hired his army buddy Jonathan Rose, who works alongside Joe sketching out itineraries for their travelers. They break down Israel’s complicated politics and history by introducing travelers to locals from varied backgrounds, including Muslim and Jewish journalists, famous chefs, local graffiti artists, even an expert on the Tel Aviv fashion scene. They can arrange all manner of special-access experiences (our favorite is the chance to take part in the excavation of 5,000-year-old ruins), as well as side trips to Petra, Wadi Rum, and other iconic sites in neighboring Jordan.
Prices start at $600 for a private guided full-day walking tour of Jerusalem’s Old City, or $850 per day for touring with a special-access guide in a private 6-passenger van. Boutique accommodations add an additional $250 or more per night.

Contact Joe and Jonathan

Read reviews of Joe and Jonathan. Read their Insider’s Guides to Jerusalem and Israel. Then contact them to maximize your experience of Israel.

Morocco
Morocco has shot up the travel charts, becoming the exotic-yet-doable-within-9-days destination of the moment. It’s got a direct flight from the U.S., over-the-top hotels that far exceed a luxury traveler’s standards, and ancient cities that have undergone rapid transformations into cosmopolitan metropolises. But that’s not to say that travel in Morocco is easily D.I.Y.-ed. Logistics are tricky: Domestic air routes are limited, and the Sahara isn’t a place you navigate by yourself. Logistics are especially tricky if, like so many travelers, you want to combine Morocco with nearby Spain and Portugal. Tell us about the trip you have in mind, and we can suggest the right fixer to make your sightseeing exponentially more efficient (while still allowing time for you to lose yourself in the medina), lead you to the most colorful secret souks and boutiques, and/or introduce you to traditional local families in the countryside.

Ask Wendy

Morocco
Michael Diamond, Cobblestone Private Travel
Thanks to 16 years’ experience planning trips to Morocco, Michael designs seamless itineraries utilizing the savviest logistics and most atmospheric luxury riads.  His handpicked special-access guides can steer you to the hidden ateliers where you’ll find the highest-quality designs and products at the lowest prices—whether it’s leather goods, hand-woven textiles, or traditional tiles—and when it comes to foodie experiences, he can arrange anything from casual cooking workshops to multi-day dives into the culinary history of Fez.
Trips have a 4-night minimum and start at $840 per day for two travelers, including accommodations, breakfasts, guiding, entrance fees, transportation, and VIP airport service.

Contact Michael

Michael is not accepting any more requests for trips during the 2019 Christmas/New Year’s holidays. To find another Morocco expert, ask Wendy.

Read reviews of Michael. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Morocco.

Oman and the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi and Dubai)
Lindsey Wallace, Linara Travel
Lindsey is based in the U.S. but visits these countries about six times a year to negotiate special perks and access, so you can live like a sheikh in the over-the-top resorts that have been popping up here. He can arrange entry into Dubai’s exclusive clubs, unusual desert adventures and safaris, and unique experiences that enable you to live out your Lawrence of Arabia fantasies without putting too huge a dent in your wallet. Lindsey is also a WOW List travel specialist in the Indian Ocean islands (see his Insider’s Guides to the Maldives and the Seychelles).
Trips have a 3-night minimum and start at $700 per day for two travelers.

Contact Lindsey

Read reviews of Lindsey. Read his Insider’s Guide to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Then contact him to maximize your experience of the United Arab Emirates.

Safaris: East Africa
Linda Friedman, Custom Safaris
Based in Maryland, and with an office in Kenya, Linda goes to Africa four times a year and even speaks Swahili. Whether you choose to track gorillas in Rwanda or follow the annual Great Migration in the Masai Mara or the Serengeti, she will make sure that you optimize your time and resources. She knows which over-the-top camps have antiques and rainfall showers, which tents have the best views, even the names of the tent stewards who see to guests’ needs. Her particular passion is the nomadic traditions of the Maasai; she has been interviewing Maasai elders for more than ten years, and loves to arrange authentic cultural interactions. Each year, a portion of Custom Safaris’ profit is allocated to educational scholarships for students in East Africa.
Trips start at $1,500 per day for two travelers in East Africa and $2,000 in Rwanda and Uganda (not including the gorilla permit, which costs $1,500 per person in Rwanda and $600 per person in Uganda).

Contact Linda

Read reviews of Linda. Read her Insider’s Guides to The Great Migration in Kenya & Tanzania and Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda and Uganda. Then contact her to maximize your experience of East Africa.

Safaris: East Africa and South Africa
Nina Wennersten and Dan Saperstein, Hippo Creek Safaris
Nina and her son and business partner, Dan, draw on their decades of knowledge and vast network of connections to ensure that each safari really is the trip of a lifetime and that each traveler gets the most rewarding safari experience possible for their travel dollar. Based in the New York City area, they are always on call and always making sure their clients are treated like royalty at every lodge and camp.  Parents and grandparents wanting to take young children on safari, do yourself a favor and have an honest conversation with Nina about which countries and parks are truly the most child-friendly.  
Trips start at $1,400 per day for two travelers in East Africa ($1,600 in South Africa).

Contact Nina and Dan

Read reviews of Nina and Dan. Read their Insider’s Guides to South Africa Safaris and East Africa Safaris. Then contact them to maximize your experience of East Africa and South Africa.

Safaris: Southern and Central Africa, Ethiopia, Madagascar
Cherri Briggs, Explore, Inc.
Cherri—who splits her time between homes in Zambia and Colorado—has spent the past 25 years combing the African continent to create unique travel experiences: canoeing the Zambezi; galloping on horseback with zebra and giraffe across the Okavango Delta; scuba diving off Mozambique; and exploring the remote corners of Ethiopia, Gabon, Madagascar, Cameroon, and the Congo Basin. Her obsession with all things safari ensures that her clients (both private travelers and groups) enjoy excellent value and a smart selection of lodges and camps in Southern and East Africa. Cherri serves on the boards of several African conservation organizations, and she selects lodges that support local communities and invest in conservation. In 2013 she was appointed Honorary Consul to the USA by the Zambian government, and in 2014 she became the first non-citizen appointed to the Botswana Tourism Organization.
Trips start at $1,200 per day for two travelers in low season ($1,600 in high season).

Contact Cherri

Read reviews of Cherri. Read her Insider’s Guides to Namibia Adventures, ZimbabweZambia, and Madagascar. Then contact her to maximize your experience of African safaris.

Safaris: Southern and East Africa
Julian Harrison, Premier Tours
Fluent in Afrikaans and Zulu, Julian was born and raised in South Africa, where he spent the early part of his career establishing his safari bona fides by working as a ranger in KwaZulu-Natal and cohosting a weekly radio program about wildlife conservation. Later, he coauthored Fodor’s African Safari, giving him the chance to show off his extensive knowledge of every park, lodge, and safari camp in southern Africa. He knows exactly where to go—and when to go—to make the most of your time and money, and takes great pleasure in introducing his clients to the lesser-known corners of the continent, such as the wilds of the Congo rain forest (“The Jungle Book come to life,” as he calls it).
Trips for two travelers start at $800 per day in South Africa and $1,800 per day in Botswana.

Contact Julian

Read reviews of Julian. Read his Insider’s Guides to Botswana’s Small Safari Camps and Cape Town and South Africa’s Winelands. Then contact him to maximize your experience of African safaris.

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Australia and Pacific

overwater bungalows in French Polynesia at the Conrad Hilton Bora Bora

Bora Bora, French Polynesia. Photo: Conrad Hilton Bora Bora

Australia
Australia feels deceptively familiar but holds a wealth of surprises: The wildlife bounces. The landscape ranges from sere red desert to lush rainforest (and just about everything in between). And while we may share a common language, Australians hold a distinctly different view of the world. But even two weeks isn’t enough to cover the entirety of the country, so how do you pick and choose and ensure efficient logistics and time wisely spent? A first-rate trip designer can help you focus in on the least crowded destinations and activities that align with your interests, and the smartest ways to cover the distances (often considerable) between them. Tell us what facets of Australia interest you most—and whether or not you’re looking for an awesome discount on first- or business-class airfare—and we’ll connect you with the right expert.

Ask Wendy

Australia
Stuart Rigg, Southern Crossings

From his homebase in Sydney, Stuart plans tailor-made travel to Australia, covering the length and breadth of the continent. He has personally tested nearly every property, heli-tour, yacht charter, and waterfront restaurant that he recommends. He can arrange access to private homes, golf courses, and art collections, and will offer careful guidance on everything from self-drive itineraries through the Margaret River wine region to sailing trips around the Whitsundays. As for the Great Barrier Reef, Stuart has failsafe strategies for steering clear of the masses, and he knows exactly which island properties are best for hyperactive families, spa-loving hedonists, or Robinson Crusoe fantasists. If you’d like to combine Australia with New Zealand, his Auckland team will take good care of you. He does not arrange airline travel to Australia, so if you’re looking for a complete package including airfare, click to Ask Wendy.  
Trips start at $750 per day for two travelers.

Contact Stuart

Stuart is currently unavailable. To find the right Australia expert, Ask Wendy.

Read reviews of Stuart. Read his Insider’s Guides to Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Australia.

Fiji and Papua New Guinea
Lynette Wilson, Destination World
Lynette has been traveling to Fiji for more than 35 years. She even moved there ten years ago and now carries Fijian citizenship. As a resident, she knows how to add all sorts of local color to your trip, as well as which resorts, small-ship cruises, or private villas will best suit your wishes—and she loves to pair old-fashioned beachside R&R with scuba diving and snorkeling, river rafting, mountain biking, surfing, and other adventures. She also arranges trips to her native Australia, plus New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga.
Trips start at $700 per day for two travelers in Fiji and $1,000 per day for two in Papua New Guinea.

Contact Lynette

Read reviews of Lynette. Read her Insider’s Guides to Fiji and Papua New Guinea. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

French Polynesia (Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea) and the Cook Islands
Kleon Howe, The Art of Travel 
When Kleon first sailed to French Polynesia more than thirty years ago, he fell in love with the island’s people and their culture. He goes back several times a year—both to the more famous islands that attract first-timers and the lesser-known gems for his intrepid repeat clients—each time bolstering his vast array of contacts and experiences.  Since he books directly with companies in Tahiti—leaving out the U.S.-based wholesalers—his prices are competitive, and his clients get free services and amenities at virtually every hotel. As an experienced sailor and diver, Kleon knows the best locations and outfitters for those activities too.
Trips start at $650 per couple per day in the Cook Islands, and $940 per couple per day in French Polynesia.

Contact Kleon

Read reviews of Kleon. Read his Insider’s Guide to Bora Bora, Tahiti and French Polynesia. Then contact him to maximize your experience of French Polynesia and the Cook Islands.

New Zealand
Jean-Michel Jefferson, Ahipara
Jean-Michel and his wife, Karen, moved to her native New Zealand 15 years ago to start their family and, shortly thereafter, a travel firm that enables people to “go further, deeper, and see things others do not see.”  Following in-depth consultations with travelers to discuss their timeframes, budgets, objectives and interests, Jean-Michel draws on his encyclopedic knowledge of New Zealand and his network of hundreds of guides, hoteliers, restaurateurs, private pilots, ship captains, and others to create  itineraries that not only exceed expectations but leave clients wanting to come back for more. He prides himself on being able to modify an itinerary on the fly to work around uncooperative weather conditions. 
Trips start at $1,000 per day for two travelers and generally include accommodations, special-access guides, private vehicles, special meals, and unique experiences.

Contact Jean-Michel

Read reviews of Jean-Michel. Read his Insider’s Guides to Active New Zealand and Queenstown. Then contact him to maximize your experience of New Zealand.

New Zealand
Donna Thomas, New Zealand Travel Inc.
Donna designs itineraries with such attention to detail that, in almost 40 years of doing so for thousands of travelers, she has never replicated an itinerary. While many of her clients like to rent cars and take time to explore the country on their own, they also appreciate Donna’s energetic local guides who can take them hiking, kayaking, wine tasting, and even into a Maori village. She and daughter Kori Clark have developed such close relationships with the country’s small hoteliers and B&B hosts that they treat Donna and Kori’s travelers like family, offering extra attention, upgrades, and other perks. For their many road-tripping clients, Donna and Kori preload a GPS with waypoints throughout the itinerary.
Trips start at $500 per day for two travelers.

Contact Donna

Read reviews of Donna. Read her Insider’s Guides to Affordable New Zealand and Bay of Islands. Then contact her to maximize your experience of New Zealand.

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Antarctica and the Arctic

Antarctica and the Arctic
Ashton Palmer, ExpeditionTrips
Ashton spent nearly a decade as an expedition leader, guide, naturalist, conservationist, Zodiac driver, avid bird-watcher, and photographer in the last wild places—Antarctica and the Arctic, as well as the Russian Far East, the Galapagos, the Amazon, and the South Pacific.  Realizing that travelers desperately needed unbiased guidance on every expedition line and ship, he founded a travel firm in order to provide just this. Now, he and his staff work tirelessly to match travelers with the right small-ship expedition trips, and he has traveled to Antarctica more than 50 times and spent a collective of three months in the Arctic.  He’ll be the first to tell you when a two-week trip to the Arctic may not be your cup of tea, and when a specific ship or cabin just isn’t worth the extra expense. And because of his relationships with the top cruise lines and tour operators, he often secures preferred rates or other perks.
Trips start at $650 per person per day (based on double occupancy).

Contact Ashton

Read reviews of Ashton. Read his Insider’s Guides to Antarctica Cruises,  Arctic Cruises, and Small-Ship Alaska Cruises. Then contact him to maximize your experience of small-ship expedition cruises.

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Cruises

European Canal Barge Trips
Ellen Sack, Barge Lady Cruises

Ellen represents more than fifty vessels that ply the canals and smaller rivers of France, England, Ireland, Scotland, Holland, and Germany. She knows each of these barges and waterways down to the smallest details—the crew, the cuisine, the sightseeing excursions—and is honest about the pros and cons of every itinerary. The warm welcome that her travelers receive onboard is testament to her personal relationships with all the vessels’ owners. Overseeing these travelers’ trips from beginning to end, Ellen also books city hotels and train tickets. For multigenerational and other large groups, Ellen can arrange a barge charter, with activities customized to individual interests.
Trips start at $675 per person per day (based on double occupancy).

Contact Ellen

Read reviews of Ellen. Read her Insider’s Guide to European Canal Barge Cruises. Then contact her to maximize your experience of European canal barge trips.

Expedition Cruises
Ashton Palmer, ExpeditionTrips
Ashton spent nearly a decade as an expedition leader, guide, naturalist, conservationist, Zodiac driver, avid bird-watcher, and photographer in the last great wild places: the Arctic, Antarctica, the Amazon, and the South Pacific. Realizing that travelers desperately needed unbiased guidance on every expedition line and ship, he founded a travel firm in order to provide just this. Now he and his staff work tirelessly to match travelers with the right small-ship expedition trips everywhere from the Galapagos to Papua New Guinea to the Russian Far East, and of course, the two poles. He’ll be the first to tell you when a two-week trip to the Arctic may not be your cup of tea, and when a specific ship or cabin just isn’t worth the extra expense. And because of his relationships with the top cruise lines and tour operators, he often secures preferred rates or other perks (such as shipboard credits or a bottle of wine). He’s also a big proponent of independent exploration and will give you all the tools to help you find your own way whenever possible.
Trips start at $650 per person per day (based on double occupancy).

Contact Ashton

Read reviews of Ashton. Read his Insider’s Guides to Antarctica Cruises,  Arctic Cruises, and Small-Ship Alaska Cruises. Then contact him to maximize your experience of small-ship expedition cruises.

Higher-End Ships
Mary Jean Tully, Cruise Professionals by Tully Luxury Travel
Mary Jean sends an enormous amount of business to high-end cruise lines—Crystal, Cunard, Holland America, Oceania, Princess, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, Silversea, and Windstar among them—and thus is able to secure the best cabins (often as an upgrade) and procure generous onboard credits for her clients. She has plenty of pull with, and access to deals at, five-star hotels too, which comes in handy when she’s making pre-and post-cruise land arrangements. When she’s offline in Africa—she is seriously committed to wildlife preservation—or sailing on the coolest new ships in remotest Asia, ask to speak with her trusted deputy Cheri Ozimac.
Trips start at $300 per person per day (based on double occupancy).

Contact Mary Jean

Read reviews of Mary Jean. Read her Insider’s Guides to Asia Cruises and Africa Cruises. Then contact her to maximize your cruise experience.

Large, Affordable Ships and River Cruises
Tom Baker, Cruise Center

Tom Baker has sailed on more than 250 ships in over 50 years. From Alaska to French Polynesia to the Panama Canal, from the Douro to the Rhine to the Danube, if an ocean or river ship docks there, chances are he’s been—more than once!  First Tom helps each traveler pinpoint the right ship, cabin, and itinerary (his encyclopedic knowledge of the pros and cons of different cabin types on different vessels will astound you). Then he advises on which private guides, group shore excursions, and flights will best suit your needs.  He has particular clout with river lines AmaWaterways, Amadeus, Scenic, Tauck River, Crystal River Cruises, Uniworld, and Viking, and with ocean lines Celebrity, Crystal, Holland America, MSC, Norwegian, Oceania, Royal Caribbean, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, and Windstar.
Ocean cruises start at $150 per person per day; river cruises start at $300 per person per day (both based on double occupancy).

Contact Tom

Read reviews of Tom. Read his Insider’s Guides to Alaska Cruises and Mediterranean Cruises. Then contact him to maximize your cruise experience.

Luxury Small Ships
Leslie Fambrini, Personalized Travel Consultants
A 30-year veteran of the cruise industry—she started out working for Royal Viking Cruise Line—Leslie has seen most corners of the world while aboard more than 125 (and counting) ocean and river sailings. She personally matches each of her discerning clients to the right ship, cabin, and shore excursions—the latter often private tours that involve special access, such as a photo op with Pope Francis. The volume of business she does with deluxe lines such as Crystal, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea, Sea Dream, and Cunard means that she has contacts who can “pull a magic rabbit out of a hat” just for her travelers.
Trips start at $700 per person per day, based on double occupancy; Leslie only works with travelers based in the U.S. and Canada.

Contact Leslie

Read reviews of Leslie. Read her Insider’s Guide to European Luxury Cruises. Then contact her to maximize your experience of luxury cruises.

Yacht Charters
Picture this: sparkling seas, the waves lapping at your boat, a captain and crew who know every hidden cove along your route, quaint villages to explore by day, fabulously fresh seafood—prepared by your private chef—to enjoy at night…. All that can be yours when you charter your own vessel. Maybe it’s a sailboat on the Dalmatian Coast, a catamaran in Tahiti, a bareboat charter in the Caribbean, or a mega-yacht on the Great Barrier Reef. But of the thousands out there, which craft do you choose? And how do you know its crew can make the magic happen? That’s where the right travel specialist comes in. We know yacht-charter experts who spend a good portion of every year inspecting boats and their crews to find the very best. Let us know what you have in mind, and we can match you to the right travel specialist for your specific needs.

Ask Wendy

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Villa Vacations and Rentals

Poolside and deck view. Ca di Pesa Italy villa

You want to be sitting here in the summer? Then you need to know the right time to book your Italy villa vacation. Photo: Homebase Abroad

Cabo Villa Vacations
Julie Byrd, CaboVillas.com
With its natural beauty, wide-ranging daytime activities and nightlife, and genuinely hospitable locals, Los Cabos is an easy getaway, made even easier by Julie Byrd. Her deep roots and intimate connections there save you money and spare you headaches. She knows the resorts like the palm of her hand, but she also has a portfolio of rental properties that include 100 luxurious villas and condos suitable for families, couples, and party-hearty groups of friends.  Byrd and her Cabo-based concierge team are available 24/7 and can arrange everything from fishing and yacht charters to destination weddings and other celebrations.
Hotel bookings start at $100/night in low season. Weekly rentals start at $350 per night in low season (July through September).

Contact Julie

Read reviews of Julie. Read her Insider’s Guide to Los Cabos Villa Vacations and Los Cabos Beach Vacations. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Cabo.

Italy Villa Vacations
Mara Solomon, Homebase Abroad
For two decades Mara has been hand-picking the most atmospheric and magical estates in Italy, inspecting them seasonally, and using her fluent Italian to strengthen her close relationships with the property owners. It’s those relationships that translate into special entrée and experiences for you. With a focus on large families and groups, Mara crafts one-of-a-kind villa vacations based on a property matched to your group’s unique set of interests, preferences, and energy levels. Mara’s homes have at least four bedrooms, ensuite baths, a private pool or descent to the sea (or both), and local staff included or available.  If you’re seeking a smaller homebase in Italy, write to Ask Wendy.
Weekly rentals start at $13,000 in high season, including itinerary-planning services and concierge support during your trip.

Contact Mara

Read reviews of Mara. Read her Insider’s Guide to Italy Villa Vacations. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Italy.

St. Barts Villa Vacations
Peg Walsh, St. Barth Properties
A vacation on the chic and stunningly beautiful Caribbean island of St. Barts is like a vacation in a sunny, tropical version of France (you get to practice your French, dine on French cuisine, shop for French clothing, pay in euros…). Peg, who lives on St. Barts much of the year (December through May), is friends with every hotelier, every restaurant owner, every boutique manager, every excursion operator—in short, everyone who’s anyone.  And it’s those local French connections that will make all the difference to your trip. So will Peg’s knowledge of every square inch of every beach and cove, as well as every nook and cranny of the 225 private villas she represents, ranging from beachy-casual bungalows to stylish hillside homes and Architectural Digest-worthy estates. Each villa comes with Peg’s itinerary-planning services, airport pick-up, concierge support, and access to the beach at a five-star hotel. Peg knows the managers of all the top hotels, of course—which is how she can also arrange hotel vacations with VIP perks—but, before you assume a hotel room will be less expensive, be sure to calculate the daily cost per person of a multi-bedroom rental villa. It will surprise you, especially in low season.
In high season (December through April), two-bedroom villas start at $5,950/week, hotel vacations at $850/night.

Contact Peg

Read reviews of Peg. Read her Insider’s Guide to St. Barts Villa Vacations and St. Barts Beach Vacations. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Italy.

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Yacht Charters

Yacht Charters
Picture this: sparkling seas, the waves lapping at your boat, a captain and crew who know every hidden cove along your route, quaint villages to explore by day, fabulously fresh seafood—prepared by your private chef—to enjoy at night…. All that can be yours when you charter your own vessel. Maybe it’s a sailboat on the Dalmatian Coast, a catamaran in Tahiti, a bareboat charter in the Caribbean, or a mega-yacht on the Great Barrier Reef. But of the thousands out there, which craft do you choose? And how do you know its crew can make the magic happen? That’s where the right travel specialist comes in. We know yacht-charter experts who spend a good portion of every year inspecting boats and their crews to find the very best. Let us know what you have in mind, and we can match you to the right travel specialist for your specific needs.

Ask Wendy

 

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*While these Trusted Travel Experts are road-tested and well-respected, and I have known them for years, I don’t make any representation as to their financial stability or the suitability of their arrangements. I am connecting travelers with travel planners, and can help during the travel-planning process, but I cannot be held responsible or accept any liability for what happens after that. As always, to protect yourself, pay with a credit card and buy third-party travel insurance.

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