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October 20, 2009

Seeking a Travel Agent for Wheelchair Travel

"Do you have any recommendations of travel specialists for special needs (wheelchair) travel?" asks reader Gary.

The best travel agent I've managed to find for travelers with mobility restrictions is Barbara Jacobson of Flying Wheels Travel. The Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality might have a few more recommendations for you. I'd love to hear directly from readers, though. Does anyone know a terrific travel planner who focuses on travelers with special needs?  If so, please click on  "Comments" below and tell us about him or her.

September 28, 2009

The Right Travel Agent for Spain and Morocco


by Wendy Perrin

It's a question I get often. Readers who rely on my annual list of top travel specialists to pick the perfect travel planner for a specific destination want to know: When you're combining two countries in one trip, which travel agent is the right one to use?  This time, reader Dave Nader wants to know which one person--or two people--to use for a trip to Madrid and Marrakech:

"Hi Wendy.  I have a question for you. First, some background. I have been a Conde Nast Traveler subscriber for many years. I have used two of your travel specialists to plan trips for my family over the past two summers.... "

You can read the rest of Dave's question, as well as my answer, after the jump.

Continue reading "The Right Travel Agent for Spain and Morocco" »

April 13, 2009

When You're Combining Two Countries in One Trip, Which Travel Agent Is the One to Use?

Best_travel_agents by Wendy Perrin

An excellent question has come in from readers Linda and Joe regarding how to use my list of the best travel agents and tour companies who specialize in specific countries. They're planning a trip to Spain and Portugal:

"We notice that you recommend Mario Sacramento for Portugal and Virginia Irurita for Spain. We've always used a single travel agent to make our arrangements and want to better understand the process when working with two agents. We'd appreciate your thoughts on how best to coordinate activities, air and auto rental hand-offs, schedules, etc. In cases such as these, is it customary for the agents to work together to ensure a quality hand-off?  Thank you very much for your assistance." 

It's certainly easier to use one travel agent than two. The big question, when your trip covers multiple countries, is: Should you use multiple travel specialists--the ones listed for all the countries on your itinerary--or only one? And, if only one, then which one?

The answer: There's no formula whatsoever. It all depends on which countries, which travel agents, and how long you're spending in each place. So, if you're stymied, email me. (Please use the address.) I'll be able to tell you pretty quickly who to book through. In the case of Spain and Portugal, for instance, Linda and Joe should book through Virginia, who is accustomed to working with Mario and can be trusted to pull both countries together into one cohesive, hassle-free plan.

If you want to read or post user reviews of the travel specialists, by the way, you can do so here.

March 11, 2009

Which Tour Company Is Right for a Single Woman in her 30s?

by Wendy Perrin

I need your help. How would YOU answer this question from Perrin Post reader TOGirl75?

"I came across your rolodex of travel specialists and was wondering if you could offer some advice. I'm a single woman from Toronto, Canada, in my early 30s. I'd like to go away this summer for about 10 to 14 days. I haven't decided on a destination yet but have been thinking about the south of France or Egypt.

I will most likely be traveling alone, so was thinking about doing a tour, which I've never done.  Would you be able to suggest some reputable tour companies that cater to a slightly younger crowd? I don't want to end up with a bunch of senior citizens :) however I also do not want to be stuck babysitting a crowd of 21-year-olds (e.g., Contiki). I also don't want a backpacking style of tour. Someone suggested Trafalgar or Intrepid??  I'm really uncertain, as I've never traveled with a tour group before, so any advice you could offer would be most appreciated.

Also, would you recommend France or Egypt?  I'm looking for a bit of everything on this trip - culture, entertainment, shopping, leisure time, beaches, etc., and to hopefully make some really good friends."

Continue reading "Which Tour Company Is Right for a Single Woman in her 30s?" »

January 05, 2009

The Right Travel Agent for a Mediterranean Cruise

Me and the fam near Saqqara in Egypt during our eastern Mediterranean cruise last month.

by Wendy Perrin

Happy New Year, everyone! While I was on vacation and blissfully unplugged, a bunch of you wrote in with questions. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to answer all of them this week. First, from reader LeNora:

"Could you recommend a top-notch travel agent for a cruise in the Eastern Mediterranean?"

My pick for any Mediterranean cruise on a small or medium-size luxury ship is Richard Turen of Churchill & Turen. He's an unflinchingly honest and savvy adviser who can separate the real deals from the rip-offs--and these days we're seeing plenty of both. He knows the Med like the palm of his hand and can tell you the pros and cons of each port, help you choose the optimal route, and arrange customized private shore excursions to maximize your time at each stop.

If your goal is a cheap cruise on a giant mass-market ship, however--which is exactly what I needed for a child-friendly eastern Mediterranean sailing last month--then you might want to use the travel agent I used, Linda Allen of Brownell (whom I chose because she is a top producer for the cruise line I was testing and therefore has a lot of clout with that line). Both Richard and Linda are on my list of the best travel agents, updated annually in Conde Nast Traveler, which means I've received rave reviews about them from dozens of our readers. I've also personally booked trips through each and have been thrilled. Bon voyage!

August 06, 2008

So Paris Hilton Reads Conde Nast Traveler

by Wendy Perrin

Unless you've been asleep for the past 20 hours -- and if you have I want to know your secret -- you've seen the hilarious presidential campaign ad shot by Paris Hilton as she sits by a pool reading the August issue of Conde Nast Traveler. The magazine headline you see when she holds up the mag -- "Perfect Trips Every Time!" -- refers to my list of the world's best travel specialists: travel agents who specialize in specific destinations worldwide. Paris says she wants to go to Maui; fortunately, the perfect Maui travel planner is on the list.  I just hope Paris also reads the Travel Specialist User Reviews posted by fellow readers.

I guess I'm now no longer the only site in the blogosphere that's never mentioned Paris Hilton.

July 21, 2008

Question About Trips for Singles

by Wendy Perrin

This one came in from mkrans:

"Hello, Wendy and fellow travelers,
My friend is looking for an organized/group travel experience for singles. He doesn't want to travel alone and is in need of an itinerary, but a flexible one that allows for time away from the group. He's the kind of guy who might want to do his own thing during the day but then have dinner with a group of singles, preferably in their late 30s/early 40s. He's not super-adventurous or into sports, so he's not looking for anything too "off the beaten path". Any ideas for my single friend, desperately in need of a vacation!!?? Does anyone know of any tour operators or travel agents who cater to this kind of travel? All comments/thoughts welcome!"

Do any of you single travelers have a suggestion for mkrans?

Continue reading "Question About Trips for Singles" »

May 30, 2008

Where's Wendy? Drowning in Folders in Times Square

At this time every year, my team and I are busy reading hundreds of applications from travel specialists vying for a spot on my annual World's Top Travel Specialists list in
Conde Nast Traveler's August issue. This pic was shot four years ago in my Times Square office (and boy have I aged).

by Wendy Perrin

Aaaarrrghh!  It KILLS me that I have no time to blog these days!  Sooooo much to say about what's going on in the travel world -- from American Airlines' baggage fees to Silverjet going bust -- and I can't because I'm compiling the most-laborious-to-compile list ever in the history of magazines, a.k.a. "Wendy Perrin's Ninth Annual 130 Top Travel Specialists."  Each August the magazine's cover promises, "PERFECT TRIPS EVERY TIME!  130 TOP TRAVEL GURUS -- AND HOW TO PUT THEM TO WORK FOR YOU."  And it's MY job to make sure every one of those custom-travel planners is THE most qualified in each category, since thousands of Conde Nast Traveler readers will be calling them to book trips.  What are the categories?  Destinations (everything from Alaska to Zanzibar), special interests (from spa getaways to rail trips), cruises (from polar expeditions to yacht charters) and sports and adventure trips (skiing, scuba diving, you name it). So now you understand why you haven't heard much from me lately (with the exception of the "Unraveling Traveling" series I did on WNYC Radio this month, my favorite of which was "How not to be an Ugly American").

So here's the plan: For the next two weeks, in my absence, we're going to be rerunning some of The Perrin Post's greatest hits, for those of you who might have missed our most popular posts from months past. Then I'll be back with a bang on Friday, June 13.  That's when we'll be kicking off the biggest contest The Perrin Post has ever run (and it won't be another Where's Wendy? . . . thank God).  There will be multiple cool prizes, including several Palm Centro smartphones and a trip to The Regent Palms Turks & Caicos!

October 01, 2007

Hiring Guides in Foreign Countries

A hotel concierge can help you find a local English-speaking guide.

Photo: Stephanie Pfriender Stylander, Conde Nast Traveler

By Wendy Perrin

It was nice to see Saturday's New York Times highlight four of the top airline travel tips that I shared in Conde Nast Traveler's 20th Anniversary issue (as well as here on The Perrin Post a coupla weeks ago: click for Airline Tips, Part 1 and Part 2).  Now, here are some key post-flight tips I compiled for the same issue.

If you've landed in a challenging country and find you need the best human travel assistance available, here are steps to take:

*Use the concierge at a top hotel even if you're not staying there.
Most concierges benefit from the extra business and can arrange for cars and drivers, make priceless sightseeing suggestions, and procure hard-to-get tickets. Be up front about the fact that you're not a guest, and tip if the concierge is not earning a commission.

*Consider hiring an English-speaking guide on the spot.
Say you're at a byzantine souk or ancient ruin, and a guide whose caliber you don't know offers his services. If he quotes $10 an hour, propose $5 for half an hour. If you're disappointed, you can get rid of him with no hurt feelings. If you're pleased, ask him to spend more time with you.

Of course, you can also guarantee yourself 24/7 human assistance and arrange for guides by booking your trip through a tour firm that plans out everything in advance and creates a customized itinerary for you.  Here's some advice for when you do decide to use such a travel planner:

Continue reading "Hiring Guides in Foreign Countries" »

June 05, 2007

Booking The Perfect Trip To Croatia

A cafe inside Diocletian's Palace -- a 1,700-year-old remnant of the Roman empire -- in Split, Croatia. Photo: Photographer's Choice, Getty Images

by Wendy Perrin

Question from reader LeonMalkin:

"We are looking to spend the month of September in Croatia. Do you have a travel agent in your "Rolodex" who specializes in travel to that country?"

Boy, am I jealous.  An entire month in Croatia!  I had only four nights there -- IF you include the night on the overnight ferry from Split to Ancona, Italy -- and, of course, it wasn't nearly enough.  Plus you've picked a gorgeous time to go.  I was there in September too, and it was delightfully uncrowded. (Of course, that was back in '98, when virtually the only tourists were Germans.)  Don't miss Diocletian's Palace in Split, and be sure to spend at least one night on the enchanted island of Hvar.

But I digress. To answer your question, the Croatia travel specialist you want is Wanda Radetti of Tasteful Croatian Journeys (800-828-0345;  Tell her I say hello!  And have a fabulous trip.

April 06, 2007

Finding Hard-To-Find Frequent-Flier Seats (Or: LaDonna Epler Is Back!)

Mileage_guru_randy_petersen_2 by Wendy Perrin

Several of you have asked who you can turn to for help finding available award seats to the destinations you want on the dates you want, now that the premier human source for this, AwardPlanner, is no more. Since AwardPlanner was the answer to many a Conde Nast Traveler reader's prayers, I've been exceedingly concerned about its disappearance.  I asked Webflyer and FlyerTalk founder Randy Petersen (pictured to the left), who started AwardPlanner 20 years ago, why he decided to shut it down and where on earth consumers can get help in its absence.  Randy's answer highlights the frequent-flier seat scarcity I warned you about the other day:

"When we first started helping people cash in their miles and points back in 1987, we could get awards 97% to 100% of the time. Today the percentage is in the low 80s. I can argue that it is not our fault if the airlines and others don't have seats and rooms available, but I do hate to hear any of my employees tell a customer 'No.'  With patience, knowledge, and some elbow grease, we can still find seats for our members, but what took 1 to 2 hours in the past is now taking 3 to 5 hours, and that affects the cost of providing the service."

Continue reading "Finding Hard-To-Find Frequent-Flier Seats (Or: LaDonna Epler Is Back!)" »

December 23, 2006

Planning South American Travel

By Wendy Perrin

Question from reader drtomdixon:

"I'd like the name of a South America travel specialist or tour company that is not as high-end as Blue Parallel.  We're traveling to Brazil, Argentina, and Chile in September. Companies like Abercrombie & Kent and Travcoa are asking $500 to $600 per person per day. Seems awfully high. We want small-group or independent travel with 4- or 5-star lodgings."

A more affordable option for the three countries you mention is Ladatco Tours, and the person to talk to there is Michele Shelburne.

Continue reading "Planning South American Travel" »