Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

The 2021 WOW List: 95 Top Local Fixers in Countries Worldwide

The WOW List is a collection of exceptionally knowledgeable and well-connected trip planners around the world. They have been rigorously road-tested, based on my decades of experience as a travel journalist and based on the most recent trip reviews from travelers who have used my WOW approach to ensure an extraordinary trip.

PANDEMIC UPDATE: The WOW List was generated pre-pandemic, based on pre-pandemic service levels.  During the pandemic, I have been watching these Trusted Travel Experts like a hawk, closely monitoring our travelers’ pandemic trip reviews and updating The List accordingly.*

HOW IT WORKS
Find the right Trusted Travel Expert below and click their black CONTACT button.  Share the details of your dream trip via my questionnaire. Done!  The travel specialist will reach you directly and quickly.

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• That’s how the trip planner knows that Wendy sent you and is watching, and that you’ll be reviewing your trip here on WendyPerrin.com. That’s how you get VIP treatment and these WOW benefits.
•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 with few other guests, 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
Melissa Ladvala, MT Sobek
Ever since she was a child growing up in Montana with Yellowstone as her playground, Melissa has spent years exploring America’s national parks out West.  She’s sussed out the most eye-popping driving routes, the most efficient logistics, the smartest lodging options all the way from cushy hotels to backcountry base camps, the savviest special-access guides (some PhDs, others former park rangers), and the local characters who bring life to each park and can show you things you’d otherwise never know to look for.  And of course she’ll arrange activities adjusted to each traveler’s ability level, whether that’s a gentle float or Class IV whitewater, an easy hike or a thrilling mountain-bike adventure. 
Trips have a 4-night minimum and start at $800 per day for two travelers.  Melissa cannot help with hotel-only requests, single-day-tour requests, or requests for trips that are less than 45 days out.

Contact Melissa

Read reviews of Melissa. Then contact her to maximize your vacation.

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 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. Living in Los Angeles and with offices throughout California, they can also orchestrate out-of-the-box itineraries in their own backyard.
Trips have a 5-night minimum and start at $700 per day for two travelers in low season (double or triple that in high season). There can be an additional trip-planning fee of $350.

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 the 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 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. Her preferred rates at top properties save clients a bundle.
Trips start at $600 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. Michelle, by contrast, designs the perfect Disney vacation by learning the details of your family (which characters you want to meet, how scary a ride your kids can handle), sorting through the banquet of choices that are currently open to visitors, 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 safely and 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 the U.S. Rockies 
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, Jackson Hole, Keystone, Telluride and other resorts 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 right hotel room, condo, or house with prime access to the ideal runs and Covid protocols in place.  Flustered by your family’s mix of ability levels and interests? Her private guides can help you avoid the lines (which are socially distanced this year) 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, snowshoeing, yoga, and spa treatments.
Trips have a 4-night minimum and start at $1,000 per day for two travelers, which includes stylish, well-located 4-star accommodations and lift tickets.

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 water- and land-based activities, and genuinely hospitable locals, Los Cabos is an easy getaway, made even easier by Julie. 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 private rental properties that include 100 luxurious villas and condos suitable for families, couples, and Covid pods.  Her Cabo-based concierge team is available 24/7 and gets tested for Covid regularly; they can arrange everything from fishing and yacht charters to Covid-tested private chefs and in-villa 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 Guides to Los Cabos Villa Vacations and Los Cabos Beach Vacations. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Cabo.

Caribbean Islands
Lindsey Epperly Sulek, Epperly Travel
When you’re seeking a Caribbean getaway to a 5-star resort, a top boutique hotel, or a luxe all-inclusive, Lindsey can match you to the right island and property—whether you want a nonstop flight and a modern aesthetic, or you are game for a puddle-jumper to reach a far-flung island with an “Old Caribbean” feel. She favors those properties where she can procure upgrades, meal credits, and other perks for her travelers, and where she can ensure first-rate service. Most of Lindsey’s travelers want to spend their vacation relaxing on the beach; for those wishing to sprinkle in a few island or water-based excursions, she’ll work with your resort’s concierge to choose the best local outfitter and ensure that everything runs smoothly. When Lindsey’s not available, travelers speak with her husband and business partner Jeremy, a self-described beach bum at heart with many a favorite toes-in-the-sand island hangout to recommend.
Trips have a 3-night minimum and start at $600 per day for two travelers. Lindsey charges an additional trip-planning fee of $350.

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 Islands 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 socially distanced, first-class beach getaway at a resort that is taking Covid protocols seriously. 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 expert knowledge of how to handle various entry requirements and special treatment for her travelers.
Trips have a 5-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.

Mexico
Zachary Rabinor, Journey Mexico
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. The New York City native lives in Puerto Vallarta with his wife and two young sons but travels regularly all over Mexico to cement his insider connections, and keep up-to-the-minute on smart Covid-era travel across the country’s wide array of coastlines, Colonial cities, wildlife reserves, beach resorts, historic haciendas, private rental villas, ancient monuments, award-winning kitchens, and thrilling activities (he’s a big surfer). His 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.
Prices start at $500 per day for a resort-only booking, or $800 per day for boutique 4-star accommodations and private daily excursions.

Contact Zachary

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

St. Barts
Peg Walsh, St. Barth Properties
A vacation on 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, is friends with every hotelier, restaurant owner, boutique manager, 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 245 private villas she represents, ranging from beachy-casual bungalows to stylish hillside homes and Architectural Digest-worthy estates.  
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
Mary Crowley, Ocean Voyages

A lifelong sailor and advocate for ocean conservation, Mary sets herself apart by knowing a huge range of watercraft around the Caribbean, from 40-foot sailing vessels to 300-foot tall ships, and from simple catamarans to ultra-luxurious mega-yachts equipped with all manner of water toys. Equally important, she personally knows—and handpicks—the captains, crews, and shoreside guides who will ensure a delightful itinerary and craft each day’s activities to suit your mood.
Charters orchestrated by Mary start at $3,500 per week for two travelers.

Contact Mary

Read reviews of Mary. Then contact her to maximize your yacht charter experience.

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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 relationships with top outfitters, guides, and hotels translate to V.I.P. treatment for you.
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.

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 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, with their travelers’ health and safety always a top priority. 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 socially distanced private-yacht charters to champagne picnics beside a waterfall to helicopter flyovers of the Great Blue Hole.
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 and are ideally suited for social distancing. She is eager to arrange meaningful, one-on-one experiences with the locals as safely as possible, and her private guides can be Covid-tested before your trip. 
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 her itineraries featuring the country’s national parks—many of which are in areas that have seen few Covid cases—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 options for romance and serenity on blissful beaches. 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 your time.
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
Central America has been Pierre’s adopted home for more than 20 years, and if you’ve got 10 days or more, he suggests combining countries. Such a combo trip can feature adventure activities (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 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 the region.

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. These days, he can also help navigate entry requirements and Covid protocols from place to place. 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, Patagonia, 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.
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, Chile, 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.

Brazil and beyond
Paul Irvine, Dehouche Travel
Paul’s vibrant itineraries incorporate as much nature, sea, and culture as possible; from his home base in Rio, he 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 properties often translate to upgrades for his clients. 
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.

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. Wherever you’re headed, he’ll ensure you’re in the company of highly trained, highly personable English-speaking guides.  If you’re looking to cross borders or link multiple regions, he’s a pro at making the trip seamless, dodging 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 gauge Covid protocols and 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, 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. These days, he can also help navigate entry requirements and Covid protocols from place to place. 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.

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’s also fluent in the measures being taken to minimize travelers’ health risks, from Covid testing to sharing kayaks. 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. 
Galapagos cruises start at $500 per person per day, while trips in mainland Ecuador start at $300 per person per day (all based on double occupancy).

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.

Peru and Bolivia
Marisol Mosquera, Aracari
A native Peruvian, Marisol chucked a career in the financial world to become a pioneer in experiential travel to Peru and Bolivia; she also plans trips that combine the Galapagos with either country. Her network of prominent historians, photographers, chefs, museum directors, and fashion designers delivers privileged access to people and places throughout the region. Sustainability is part of her bottom line; she seeks out experiences that enhance the lives of locals, and she’s a strong supporter of woman-owned enterprises. Call on her if you want to explore the hidden pockets that most travelers miss, from the oldest city in the Americas to a little-known protected reserve next to Bolivia’s Uyuni salt flats.
Trips start at $1,200 per day for two travelers.

Contact Marisol

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

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Europe

Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre, Italy. Photo: IC Bellagio

Austria, Croatia, 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 frequently 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 you could never get otherwise. She knows where to find the best food—and drink—in every town from Innsbruck to Budapest to Krakow, and 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
Ala Osmond, Exeter International
Thanks to frequent trips to the former republics of Yugoslavia during the nearly two decades she spent in the hotel industry in Europe, Ala excels at crafting itineraries that combine the coastal must-sees (think Dubrovnik and Kotor) with historic gems (think Sarajevo and Split) and the picturesque countryside in between—all while avoiding tourist traps, navigating travelers around the cruise-ship crowds that plague the coastal cities, and wisely negotiating border crossings. Food and wine are a priority for most of her travelers (and for them she can arrange truffle hunts, in-home cooking classes, and workshops with local artisans). Charming 5-star and 4-star hotels are a focus for her: She’s always up on the latest openings and will warn you away from the more run-down boutiques.
Trips start at $900 per day for a self-drive trip for two travelers in Croatia ($750 in Montenegro, Slovenia, Bosnia). That price includes a top hotel, some meals, a rental car, pre-programmed GPS, and the savviest private guides. No villa rental.

Contact Ala

Read reviews of Ala. Read her Insider’s Guide to Croatia. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Eastern Europe.

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. 
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, Ireland, and Scotland 
Philip McCrum, Extraordinary Britain
Designing custom-tailored itineraries in the U.K. and Ireland is a McCrum family tradition: Philip’s mother, Jane, started the business decades ago. Philip’s connections to private homes—from country estates in the Cotswolds to castles in Scotland to charming cottages in Cornwall—are particularly useful these days, as travelers seek out creative ways to socially distance or even quarantine (most visitors to the British Isles must self-isolate for 14 days). In non-pandemic times, Philip can also arrange after-hours and behind-the-scenes access, such as a private viewing of the Crown Jewels before the Tower of London opens to the public or a visit to a royal palace that is normally off limits. And he’s particularly adept at handling multigenerational journeys complete with movie-making experiences and treasure hunts by speedboat.
Trips start at $800 per day for two travelers.

Contact Philip

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

France 
Michael Eloy and Alex Zglinski, Trufflepig

Michael and Alex grew up in France’s famed regions of Provence and Burgundy, respectively, alongside the next generation of winemakers, restaurateurs, and farmers. Today, still living near their hometowns, they sprinkle these local connections throughout their itineraries, helping 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. 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. Use them for wine tasting in Burgundy, chateau-hopping in the Loire Valley, hiking in the Dordogne, cycling in Corsica (Michael used to be a biking guide), 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, Italy, 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 Michael and Alex

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

France
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—not just in Provence but throughout the country—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, 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. Bear in mind that many of the sights he’ll recommend are so hidden that you’re 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, Italy, and England
Jennifer Virgilio, Queen of Clubs

When you need something special for a trip to France, especially if it includes Italy and/or England—Jennifer waves her magic wand, et voilà. Currently based in Rome, where she is married to the general manager of one of the city’s most illustrious hotels and raising a young daughter, she has been traveling in Italy and France as Covid measures have allowed, in order to stay up-to-date on the changing safety scene and social-distancing protocols. She has also lived in both Paris and London, where she developed the outstanding connections that have given her pull with charming boutique hotels and hard-to-get-into restaurants, as well as a little black book of expert private guides. She is also a private-jet broker, expert at flying travelers privately within Europe. Most of her clients fly commercially, though, and her VIP meet-and-greet starts at the aircraft door (or the train car if you’re arriving in London or Paris on the Eurostar) and includes fast-track entry through immigration and customs to a waiting car.
Trips start at $950 per day for two travelers, including accommodations and activities.  Jennifer is willing to book hotels only, excursions only, or events only.  

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.

Germany
Claudia Schwenger, Trufflepig
Claudia returns to her native Germany regularly 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

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

Greece
Mina Agnos and Faye Mantzari, Travelive
Childhood trips back to the homeland with her Greek-American family gave Mina a passion for Greece; now based in Athens, she regularly road-tests a dizzying array of islands, experiences, and places to stay. Her deputy Faye—who worked for a decade on Santorini as a hotel manager—keeps things running in the office. They are great for first-timers to Greece who want to navigate the country’s tricky logistics as easily as possible and ensure they take in many of the country’s highlights. Their knowledge of reliably good places to stay extends to rental villas, yacht charters, and an organic agritourism farm in the Peloponnese where you can pick olives, stomp grapes, and make pastries with the village ladies. Mina and Faye each have two kids (from teens to toddlers), so they are especially helpful to families and even create scavenger hunts.
Trips start at $600 per day for two travelers from October through mid-June, or $800 from mid-June through September.

Contact Mina and Faye

Read reviews of Mina and Faye. Read their Insider’s Guide to the Ionian Islands Then contact them to maximize your experience of Greece.

Greece
Jacoline Vinke, Trufflepig
Jacoline, who has lived in Athens for more than 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 inhabited islands. Call on her when it’s your second or third—or tenth—trip to Greece and you’re ready to 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.  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 and/or ferries; private drivers or rental car; activities, visits, and guided excursions; and some meals. 
Trips have a 7-night minimum and, depending on the season and destination, start at $800 per day per couple or $1000+ per day for families.

Contact Jacoline

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

Iceland
The awesome landscapes are so unusual you won’t find them in any other country. The adventure activities are unusual too, from volcano diving to geothermal-pool hopping.  Just as unusual is the challenge of planning a vacation here:  First, Iceland is surprisingly expensive. (It’s cheap to fly to, but once you’re there, prices sting.)  Second, the tourism infrastructure has been built to suit mass-market group package tours. We can point you to those few Iceland trip-planning specialists who deliver private, custom experiences that are worth the price, but be prepared to spend a bare minimum of $800 per day for two travelers.

Ask Wendy

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 well-known 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.  
Private, tailor-made trips start at $1,200 per day per couple. Andrea charges an additional $300 planning fee and usually a 30% advance deposit.  In case of cancellation, the fee and deposit are non-refundable but may be credited toward a future trip. 

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, France, and England
Jennifer Virgilio, Queen of Clubs

When you need something special for a trip to Italy, Jennifer waves her magic wand, et voilà. Currently based in Rome, where she is married to the general manager of one of the city’s most illustrious hotels and raising a young daughter, she has been traveling all over Italy as Covid measures have allowed, in order to stay up-to-date on the changing safety scene and social-distancing protocols. She has lived in both Paris and London, where she developed the outstanding connections that have given her pull with charming boutique hotels and hard-to-get-into restaurants, as well as a little black book of expert private guides. She is also a private-jet broker, expert at flying travelers privately within Europe. Most of her clients fly commercially, though, and her VIP meet-and-greet starts at the aircraft door (or the train car if you’re arriving in London or Paris on the Eurostar) and includes fast-track entry through immigration and customs to a waiting car.
Private, tailor-made trips start at $950 per day for two travelers, including accommodations and activities.  Jennifer is willing to book hotels only, excursions only, or events only.

Contact Jennifer

Read reviews of Jennifer. Then contact her to maximize your experience of France.

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 local guides and drivers, they deliver a charming and intimate trip every time.
Private, tailor-made trips start at $1,000 per day for two travelers in low season, with a three-night minimum. No self-drive trips or excursion-only requests, please. 

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 and Matteo Rota, 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 travel business was born. His 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. Matteo, meanwhile, has hospitality in his blood: Raised in his family’s restaurant in St. Moritz, he’s been known to moonlight upon occasion—when restaurateur friends need a break—in the front-of-the-house and show off his food-and-wine cred.  Together they can arrange anything from a hike or donkey ride on Mt. Etna with a volcanologist to a market tour and cooking class with a chef, a visit to Greek ruins with an archaeologist, or a tour on a lovingly restored sailboat, all hosted by passionate locals whom they consider family. 
Trips start at $900 per day for two travelers. 

Contact Marcello and Matteo

 Read reviews of Marcello and Matteo. Read their Insider’s Guide to Sicily. Then contact them to maximize your experience of Sicily.

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.

Contact 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.

Multi-Country Europe
Jill Taylor, Jetset World Travel

After a study-abroad experience in France and a stint in northern Italy, Jill found herself planning so many pan-Western-European itineraries for 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 based in the U.S. 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 travel companions arriving from multiple cities and you need someone to mastermind the whole thing.
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 office in 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.
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.

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 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.  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 $700 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 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.

Spain and Portugal
Pablo Calvo and Gonçalo Correia, Tours for You
Pablo was born in Spain, studied art history 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 of Spain and maintains a network of connections that ensures he can help reserve tables at the most sought-after restaurants in San Sebastian, arrange private Flamenco lessons in Madrid, or get you into the hidden-gem 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 and raised in Spain, Virginia left a decade-long career in banking in London and Madrid to found her boutique trip-planning firm in 1999. By popular demand, she later expanded her scope to include Portugal too—a natural fit, given that she speaks Portuñol (a mix of Spanish and Portuguese). She has a little black book thick with the names of local experts—museum curators, architects, chefs, flamenco dancers—eager to show you their corners of the Iberian peninsula. Her bespoke itineraries extend to the Balearic Islands, the Azores, and Madeira too. Virginia 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—and she is especially well-connected in the foodie world. So, if you’re planning a corporate retreat in the wine country or a cultural tour for museum benefactors, look no further. Virginia’s savvy local drivers and clever guides will save you considerable time and hassle. If you prefer to rent a car and drive yourself, or you’re seeking more limited arrangements, click to Ask Wendy for a different recommendation.
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
Karen has lived and worked in Istanbul for more than 20 years and has offices across Turkey. Even before the country’s borders reopened last fall, she was strategizing ways for her travelers to visit safely, from private dinners in wine cellars to road trips through the countryside. Her local connections—from museum directors to star restaurateurs to powerful hoteliers to the country’s culture ministry—enable her to gain all manner of special access. She can introduce you to shop owners who can show you their special wares not displayed to the public and create one-of-a-kind experiences. When you’ve got limited time—and who doesn’t?—her intimate knowledge of the country helps you make the smartest use of it, and she is on the ground and on-call to answer questions and fulfill special requests. If you would like to charter a gulet on the Turkish coast, she’s the expert.
Trips start at $750 per day for two travelers in most of Turkey 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
From his home in Istanbul, Earl has been keeping careful tabs on Turkey’s Covid situation and planning trips that maximize time outdoors. In normal years, he would be 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, accomplished in their own right, and attentive to their charges’ safety.
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.

Yacht Charters
Mary Crowley, Ocean Voyages

A lifelong sailor and advocate for ocean conservation, Mary sets herself apart by knowing a huge range of watercraft around the globe, from 40-foot sailing vessels to 300-foot tall ships, and from simple catamarans to ultra-luxurious mega-yachts equipped with all manner of water toys. Equally important, she personally knows—and handpicks—the captains, crews, and shoreside guides who will ensure a delightful itinerary and craft each day’s activities to suit your mood. For instance, she knows which captains in Croatia and Greece will sail you to the undiscovered tiny islands of your dreams and put you on the best hiking trail once you’re there.
Charters orchestrated by Mary start at $3,500 per week for two travelers.

Contact Mary

Read reviews of Mary. Then contact her to maximize your yacht charter experience.

 

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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, India, Nepal, Myanmar
Antonia Neubauer, Myths and Mountains
Antonia “Toni” Neubauer has spent the past 30-plus years exploring Nepal, Bhutan, India, and beyond, focusing on the people, culture, crafts, religions, and natural environments of the small communities she visits. Her renowned nonprofit, READ Global, has built 112 libraries in rural villages in Nepal, Bhutan, and India, and as a result Toni has garnered tremendous goodwill and close relationships among the local people, which is why those villages are extra welcoming and hospitable to her travelers. She and colleague Shalmali Rao Paterson, who grew up in the Indian Himalayan region—from which was born her lifelong love of wildlife and the mountains—have developed a vast network of loyal friends and experts who can deliver unique experiences far from where other tourists go. Together they can guarantee an imaginative and immersive experience that might include anything from creating a mandala with Buddhist monks to discussing Gross National Happiness with a Bhutanese politician.
Trip prices per day for two travelers start at $500.

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.

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. This makes 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 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, we can point you toward your smartest options.

Ask Wendy

Japan
Scott Gilman, JapanQuest Journeys

After living in Japan working for Goldman Sachs, Scott launched his own firm to deliver 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 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 can arrange encounters with experts in pottery, textiles, kendo, taiko drumming, and more. They can even deliver a practice session at a sumo training stable or a dinner with geisha entertainment at a teahouse open only to invited guests.
Trips start at $2,000 per day for two travelers for unique experiences with one of Japan’s best English-speaking guides. The cost of accommodations and transportation is additional, and Scott uses only five-star hotels.

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
Justin Parkinson, Linara Travel
Justin’s frequent trips to the Indian Ocean over the past 14 years make him uniquely qualified to match you with the specific island, resort, and overwater bungalow—even with the specific dive instructor or massage therapist—that best suit your needs. This is especially crucial in the Maldives, where you’re likely to spend all of your time at a single, private-island resort, and there are new properties opening regularly. In the Seychelles, Justin can help you rent a car to go exploring and point you to the best beaches and hiking trails. Given how many people fly to the Indian Ocean via Dubai, he has become an expert on the United Arab Emirates too and can help you save money there so you can splurge in the islands. When he’s not exploring these exotic locales, you’ll find Justin at home in either Australia or L.A.
Trips have a 3-night minimum and start at $500 per day for two travelers.

Contact Justin

Read reviews of Justin. 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 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: Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos
Sandy Ferguson, Asia Desk
Sandy grew up in Southeast Asia, graduating from the International School of Bangkok in 1969 while his father was serving in the Vietnam war. Eventually he formed his own tour company, with offices in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Sandy now splits his time between Atlanta and Saigon; he and deputy Ethan Crowley (who was raised in Cambodia, is fluent in Khmer, and now lives in South Carolina) craft tailor-made itineraries that cater to individual tastes and interests and make the most of your precious time. Sandy knows what works best for travelers, and, just as important, what doesn’t. He has a vast network of powerful contacts in the hotel industry, 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 (some of them really are!). 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: 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 came the ability to open all sorts of doors that others can’t (private lunches in the homes of famous architects and designers, exclusive tours of Bangkok’s underground art scene). Daniel has a variety of tricks up his sleeve to keep travelers far off the beaten path—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 Guide to Thailand Like You’ve Never Seen It. 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 socially distanced and out of harm’s way. If you want to combine your time in Egypt with a stop in Jordan, Israel, or Lebanon, Jim can make it happen in the smartest possible way.
Trips have a 4-night minimum and start at $800 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 and Dan Waters, Wild Frontiers
Jonny has spent decades adventuring in the Middle East and Central Asia—he’s even written books about his epic journeys through war-torn Afghanistan and by horse along the Silk Road. His right hand, Dan, has traveled extensively in Jordan, Oman, Iran, Israel, and Palestine. Now based in the U.K., they craft itineraries that get you off the beaten path and 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. Whatever your preferred nightly accommodations, Jonny and Dan will ensure you spend your days authentically: In Oman, they’ll get you to the tallest dunes in the Empty Quarter at sunset. In Jordan, they’ll introduce you to semi-nomadic families of shepherds and their goats. In Iran, they’ll get you into the closed-to-the-public Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art so you can see one of the world’s most impressive collections of modern art—we’re talking Pollocks, Manets, Gauguins—in the most surprising of places.
Trips have a 5-night minimum and start at $600 per day for two travelers.

Contact Jonny and Dan

Read reviews of Jonny and Dan. Read their Insider’s Guide to Oman. Then contact them 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 $650 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
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. He encourages travelers to slow down to match the pace of local life, whether by lingering over a late-afternoon mint tea and people-watching in a bustling Marrakech square or staying up late around the fire at your Sahara encampment while the African stars dazzle above you. 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

Read reviews of Michael.
Read his Insider’s Guide to Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains, Morocco.
Then contact him to maximize your experience of Morocco.

Morocco
Hicham Mhammedi Alaoui and Radia Tehitahe, Experience Morocco
After earning an MBA from Harvard, Hicham returned to his native Morocco to fulfill his dream of introducing travelers to the best of his homeland beyond the typical tourist routes. Radia is his trusted deputy in their Casablanca office (he also has staff in Marrakech) who will listen carefully to your interests and hobbies and craft a custom itinerary that brings Morocco to life. She can arrange everything from a family-friendly scavenger hunt through Marrakech’s souks to a cooking class in a Berber village to a workshop in metal welding or book binding, and she loves to place travelers in the most atmospheric 4- and 5-star riads that ooze Moroccan charm. Hicham’s and Radia’s English-speaking drivers will stay with you throughout your journey, ready to change up your itinerary on the fly (and saving you the hassle of negotiating with Moroccan cabbies). Their private guides, whose specialties range from shopping to Jewish heritage, are all trained to ensure that same-sex couples feel comfortable in their country.
Trips have a 3-night minimum and start at $700 per day for two travelers in low season; that includes 4-star accommodations, some meals and private guiding, and a car and driver for your entire trip.

Contact Hicham and Radia

Read reviews of Hicham and Radia. Read their Insider’s Guide to the Sahara Desert.
Then contact them to maximize your experience of Morocco.

United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi and Dubai)
Justin Parkinson, Linara Travel
Justin visits the U.A.E. regularly, checking out both over-the-top resorts and five-star hotels that won’t break the bank. He can arrange entry into Dubai’s exclusive clubs, unusual desert adventures and safaris, and private access to the Louvre Abu Dhabi before it opens to the public. Justin is on The WOW List for the Indian Ocean islands as well (scroll up to The Maldives and the Seychelles). When he’s not exploring these exotic locales, you’ll find him at home in either Australia or L.A.
Trips have a 3-night minimum and start at $500 per day for two travelers.

Contact Justin

Read reviews of Justin. 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 Africa.

Safaris: Southern and Central Africa, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mauritius
Cherri Briggs, Explore, Inc.
Cherri—who splits her time between homes in Mauritius, 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. She and her trusted deputy, Katie McDonough, ensure that 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 African safari.

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’s traveled to Africa several times during the pandemic, observing the Covid protocols at airports, in safari camps, and on game drives. 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 African safari.

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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
Stuart Rigg, Southern Crossings

Stuart has personally tested nearly every lodge, heli-tour, yacht charter, and waterfront restaurant that he recommends. Based in Sydney, he can arrange access to private homes, golf courses, and art collections, and will offer careful guidance on everything from drives through the Margaret River wine region to sailing trips around the Whitsundays. Stuart will point you to the sections of the Great Barrier Reef that are the least visited and most spectacular, 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

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. On his many trips since then, he’s explored both the more famous islands that attract first-timers and the lesser-known gems his intrepid repeat clients want to visit—all the while bolstering his vast array of contacts and experiences. Tahiti’s entry rules are strict, and Kleon will help you find the Covid test you need before your trip, and arrange for you to get tested in the islands before your return to the U.S. as well. Since he books directly with companies in Tahiti—leaving out the U.S.-based wholesalers—his prices are competitive, and his travelers 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 Jefferson moved to New Zealand in 1998, after a decade-long career with Price Waterhouse, and founded a travel firm to cater to people who want to “go further, deeper, and see things others do not see.” He draws on his encyclopedic knowledge of New Zealand and network of hundreds of guides, hoteliers, restaurateurs, private pilots, ship captains, and noteworthy experts to create itineraries that translate travelers’ wishes into reality—experiences that in many cases you could not possibly arrange on your own. His team can modify an itinerary on the fly to work around uncooperative weather conditions or to satisfy a traveler’s spontaneous desire to either add another location or slow down the pace. He creates imaginative days, and even corporate events, based on a group’s unusual interests. He has even helped people with immigration, including interviewing principals at selected schools. (One client asked for a business briefing and “bumped” into someone around a campfire one night who is now the Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.)
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 and Australia
Sarah Farag, Southern Crossings
A native New Zealander based in Auckland, Sarah works her superb connections—from sheep farmers to helicopter pilots—to open doors for her travelers. She can set you up with a driving itinerary and rental car with stops for scenic hikes, wine tastings, and whatever else you might enjoy, but for those times when you’d prefer not to worry about driving on the left-hand side of the road and to be able to lose your eyes in the country’s countless glorious vistas and navigate to its most charming hidden corners without having to keep your eyes on the road, she has the savviest private drivers at her beck and call. Sarah has pull not just with the country’s top luxury lodges, but also with its guesthouses and even private homes with chefs. And, as a mom of two sons (17 and 13), she is especially tuned in to what families enjoy most. For those wanting to see more of the region, Sarah can add beach stops in Fiji and other South Pacific islands, or coordinate with Sydney-based colleague and fellow WOW Lister Stuart Rigg to include time in Australia.
Trips start at $750 per day for two travelers.

Contact Sarah

Read reviews of Sarah. Read her Insider’s Guide to New Zealand and Australia. Then contact her to maximize your experience of New Zealand and Australia.

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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 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

Barge cruising is slow travel at its best: luxurious boats plying centuries-old canals through the bucolic European countryside, covering just a few miles a day between excursions to villages, chateaux, markets, and local artisans’ studios. With many dozens of such trips between them, Ellen and daughter Caroline Klein will level with you about the pros and cons of each itinerary—most of which are in France, with a few options in England, Ireland, Scotland, Holland, Belgium, Germany, and Italy—as well as the crew, cuisine, and sightseeing possibilities on offer for each vessel. The warm welcome their travelers receive on board is testament to Ellen and Caroline’s close personal relationships with all the vessels’ owners. For multigenerational families and other groups of up to 12, they can arrange a private 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, Regent, Seabourn, Silversea, Oceania, Viking, Azamara, Cunard, Holland America, Celebrity, Ritz Carlton Yacht Collection, Ponant, Scenic, and Aqua Expeditions 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. She has a stable of top tour guides in every port of call for private shore excursions that are more imaginative than the cruise lines’ offerings. 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.

Yacht Charters
Mary Crowley, Ocean Voyages

A lifelong sailor and advocate for ocean conservation, Mary sets herself apart by knowing a huge range of watercraft around the globe, from 40-foot sailing vessels to 300-foot tall ships, and from simple catamarans to ultra-luxurious mega-yachts equipped with all manner of water toys. Equally important, she personally knows—and handpicks—the captains, crews, and shoreside guides who will ensure a delightful itinerary and craft each day’s activities to suit your mood. For instance, she knows the captains in Croatia and Greece who will sail you to the undiscovered tiny islands of your dreams and put you on the best hiking trail once you’re there. After 23 trips to the Galapagos, she knows the most plugged-in guides there too—and she often has vessels available during peak weeks when everybody else is sold out.
Charters orchestrated by Mary start at $3,500 per week for two travelers.

Contact Mary

Read reviews of Mary. Then contact her to maximize your yacht charter experience.

 

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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 water- and land-based activities, 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 Covid pods.  Byrd and her Cabo-based concierge team—who get Covid-tested regularly—are available 24/7 and can arrange everything from fishing and yacht charters to Covid-tested private chefs and in-villa 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.

St. Barts Villa Vacations
Peg Walsh, St. Barth Properties
A vacation on 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, is friends with every hotelier, restaurant owner, boutique manager, 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 245 private villas she represents, ranging from beachy-casual bungalows to stylish hillside homes and Architectural Digest-worthy estates.
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
Mary Crowley, Ocean Voyages

A lifelong sailor and advocate for ocean conservation, Mary sets herself apart by knowing a huge range of watercraft around the globe, from 40-foot sailing vessels to 300-foot tall ships, and from simple catamarans to ultra-luxurious mega-yachts equipped with all manner of water toys. Equally important, she personally knows—and handpicks—the captains, crews, and shoreside guides who will ensure a delightful itinerary and craft each day’s activities to suit your mood. For instance, she knows the captains in Croatia and Greece who will sail you to the undiscovered tiny islands of your dreams and put you on the best hiking trail once you’re there. After 23 trips to the Galapagos, she knows the most plugged-in guides there too—and she often has vessels available during peak weeks when everybody else is sold out.
Charters orchestrated by Mary start at $3,500 per week for two travelers.

Contact Mary

Read reviews of Mary. Then contact her to maximize your yacht charter experience.

 

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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 trip 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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