Virtuoso Travel Week was definitely the marathon of marathons for anyone in the luxury travel business. I had five days of meetings from sunup to sundown with the owners, general managers and on-the-ground operators of the world’s top travel purveyors. Throughout the week, industry leaders made their pitch to be sure I’m in the know on the best in travel today. I wanted to highlight who impressed me most during my time in Vegas.
And, as I’ve said before, travel depends so much on who is traveling. Each of my clients want something different from their experience, so I’m offering up a little something for everyone.
Want To Ease Into an Exotic Location? Cruise the Amazon Jungle.
I had dinner one night with International Expeditions. They offer a signature Amazon cruise in the Peruvian Rainforest’s most pristine areas, with incredibly knowledgeable, local Amazon guides. You travel deep into the protected Pacaya-Samiria Reserve and explore three different habitats, so you have the best chance of spotting rare wildlife: monkeys, birds, sloths and other mammals, pink and gray dolphins and so much more. You spend the majority of time exploring on smaller excursion boats that let you get to really remote places. The cruise also has a huge cultural element to it, thanks to all that they do with local people in the small villages. This company invests tremendously in local communities, so they, in turn, love to welcome guests. This is a great way to discover the Amazon without the headaches of remote travel.
Where is a Less-Obvious Destination for an Outdoor Adventure? Chile
& Beyond, a great partner for trips to Africa and South America, is opening a new lodge, Vira Vira, in the Lake District of Chile in September. The Lake District is one of my favorite destinations in Chile. The outdoor adventures available in this part of the world are endless: volcanoes, rafting, kayaking, fishing, skiing, and more. Also worth noting is that & Beyond offers amazing small group trips (4 - 10 people) that explore Chile and Argentina - choose between wine country or Patagonian Lakes - South America Overland Journeys
What Destination is Coming Back? Egypt
Tourism is coming back to Egypt, and in-country partners are ramping up and offering really compelling options. Abercrombie & Kent is probably my number one choice because of the incredible reputation they have and the connections they can leverage to create really unique experiences. I met with the head of A&K’s Egypt office and heard first hand how well they can design a custom program or support a small group journey.
What Destination has it perfectly packaged for Tourists? Australia
Australia is a crowd favorite, even though it is such a long distance for us in the United States. The Tourism Board has put together an incredible selection of Signature Experiences of Australia to get you excited about a trip. Whether you're looking for aboriginal experiences, fishing adventures, great walks, wildlife journeys, or ultimate wine and culinary adventures - Australia has it all.
What is an Iconic Property for People to Visit? Gleneagles, Scotland
Make a two week trip to the UK and take the train directly from Kings Cross in London to Edinburgh. The five hour journey will take you across magnificent landscapes. Gleneagles is an 850 acre estate in the heart of Scotland, about an hour from both Edinburgh and Glasgow. It’s great for families and all the activities for adults can be done by kids - including a mini 4x4 for young ones.
Where to Go Now? Bhutan
Bhutan is an isolated Himalayan Kingdom with a wealth of high-altitude experiences, from mountain treks to holistic healing - and now, it also has high-end lodging. Amankora has five lodges scattered across Bhutan and can customize a combination of activities. You can hike to a remote monastic village and have lunch with the monks, or hike along rice fields and forests. This is an incredible cultural adventure that can be done almost year-round. See spectacular landscapes, visit ancient worship houses, go white water rafting, and more. Sample seven-night itinerary
A Client Favorite? Backroads
Every client I book on a backroads trip is initially a bit hesitant on cost, but always comes back ready to book another. They have it down: not only do they offer hiking and walking itineraries, but also multi-adventure options that include hiking, biking and kayaking or other outdoor activities. Each day guests can choose the level they want to do, which makes it perfect for extended families. Their National Parks program is now in 22 parks and gets you away from the crowds. They are also introducing a new active adventure plus Yoga, where guests will have an hour of yoga each day available to them. They have some amazing itineraries such as Venice to Croatia (by bike), multi-sport adventures in Asia, and more.
Where to Take the Family Skiing this Winter? Montage Deer Valley
There are three great things about the experience at Deer Valley and Montage Resort: First, it is incredibly easy to get to, as the resort is just 36 miles from the airport. Second, there are no snowboarders. Third, they limit the number of tickets they sell each day to keep the mountain from getting overrun. The Montage is just what you want for a family ski homebase. There are great variety of runs from green to black diamond, as well as a high-quality children’s program that is a bargain at just $75 for a half day, including a meal.
A Classic Overlooked Destination? Switzerland
Did you know Switzerland has the densest public transportation network in the world? It also has one of the highest concentrations of Virtuoso hotels (read: luxury). Mix these beautiful accommodations with spectacular hiking at all levels and truly experience a getaway. This is a great destination in both summer and winter.
A Group Tour for those Not Into Group Tours? Butterfield and Robinson
For those clients who enjoy a guided tour but want it done without buses and a bit more sophistication, Butterfield and Robinson’s new walking tour from Puglia to Matera in Italy is a great one to consider. Why go with a tour? Guides arrive at the destination three days prior to guests and review all aspects of a trip, including rain plans and alternative options for all activities. Puglia is a beautiful, less popular area of Italy that is just starting to blow up.
A Different River Cruise Destination? Pacific Northwest
UnCruise may be another client favorite. These small ships are all about adventure. They do Alaska better than most, but I learned they also have a great trip on the Columbia and Snake Rivers in Oregon. Experience Pacific Northwest wine regions, dozens of varietals, chef demonstrations, and an onboard sommelier. Plus handcrafted meals and pairings, exclusive brewery and winery tours, on-foot exploration, and a week of relaxation on the sweeping landscape of the Columbia and Snake Rivers —an oenophile and foodie’s dream.
Best Multigenerational Family Trip? Alaska by Land
Imagine pristine wilderness with tons of wildlife adventures. This summer I had so many clients thrilled with the experience of Alaska. It works for small children and teenagers and the activities are amazing: dog sledding on a glacier, whale watching, white water rafting, salmon fishing, the list goes on and on. It is the sort of old school vacation that harkens back to a simpler time - enjoying nature with lots of time together as a family.
Favorite Hotel from the Week? The Ellerman in Cape Town
The Ellerman House sits perched on the slopes of Lion’s Head in the prestigious Bantry Bay residential area of Cape Town. The elegant Cape Edwardian mansion is known for having one of the most beautiful ocean views in South Africa. The art collection spans over two centuries and the hotel has its own art guide - Talita - who is also happy to take guests on a tour of galleries in Cape Town. The hotel has only 11 rooms, 2 suites, and 2 villas. Sample the 7500-strong collection of South African wines representing both established and emerging labels in a complimentary daily wine tasting.
Major European City to Build a Trip Around? Amsterdam
I met with a great partner from The Netherlands who helped me see that there is so much to do beyond Amsterdam that I had never considered. I spent a week in Amsterdam this summer and felt terrible I never made it outside the city. You can do amazing beer tours in Belgium, visit The Hague to see world renowned art (including Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring), and visit Maastricht, the oldest city in Holland with amazing hotels, vineyards and the American War Cemetery. I was so intrigued by all the options.
Best Destination for Any Time of Year? Japan
There is something to see every single month in Japan: skiing in winter, beautiful leaf viewing in the fall, and cherry blossoms in the spring. Depending on the part of Japan you visit, you can really take advantage of the season. The rich culture of Japan is also enchanting, with its combination of history, tradition, modern technology, and of course... the food. While Japan can be expensive, the hospitality is extraordinary and there are ways to do small group tours to bring the cost down. I will recommend Japan over and over.
Want to See National Parks in the US Without the Crowds? Epic Private Journeys
There is so much to explore in North America’s National Parks, from monumental landscapes in the Canyonlands to kayaking and hiking expeditions on Catalina Island on the West Coast. Epic Private Journeys offers exclusive National Park experiences, like luxury camping on the north rim of the Grand Canyon or taking advantage of shoulder season in Lake Powell. These guys will tailor-make the most amazing outdoor trip. Sample itinerary in the Southwest
Most Consistent Destination on Everyone’s Bucket List? Africa
Africa is a magical destination - and rightfully so. An African Safari will be life changing. And with so many regions to visit, the distance to travel, and the investment in cost, it is a trip that can really benefit from careful and advanced planning. The biggest thing everyone is talking about in Africa now is seeing the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda or Uganda. There are only 900 gorillas left in the world and the opportunity to see these creatures face-to-face is the opportunity of a lifetime. It is certainly on my bucket list!
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