I recently interviewed luxury travel specialist Gwen Books, who I've known for years.
As we were catching up, Gwen described a recent trip to Morocco she'd planned. It sounded amazing, involving planes and helicopters, private luxury tents in the desert and camels for transport, so it was duly expensive.
What are the best big budget places to visit during 2016?
For the summer, a yacht charter is great. Cruise the Mediterranean coast and avoid the traffic snarls associated with the usual summer crush! Cruising Croatia has replaced the picturesque coast of Turkey due to the political landscape. Our guides meet you in port and offer exclusive touring.
I also recommend taking a safari in Africa, which should be curated at least six months prior to departure. We work with an exceptional ground team in Africa and one of our favorite lodges is Ol Jogi, which is the height of luxury and can easily accommodate a large group. We can organize day trips by helicopter and hot air balloon besides luxury transport for game viewing. Our local team is deeply involved in the The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and we can curate a visit to the location where orphaned elephants are released into the wild, an exclusive experience. We also arrange visits with Samburu and Maasai tribes, even visits to their homes to learn about their families.
I love Italian villas, fully staffed including chef. Sightsee and mosey back to your villa to relax by the pool. In France we have an assortment of exclusive chateaux; properties that are not on the usual online radar.
Both private and non-private islands are very popular now. If you need to disconnect from the world, The Brando on the private island of Tetiaroa is the ultimate destination! I love the Aman resorts, which excel in sharing a marvelous sense of place. And I love Six Senses for their indulgent spas and dedication to sustainable resources.
For winter, escape to New Zealand, which offers an abundance of activities: outstanding golf, diving, wine tasting, gourmet cuisine, and excellent five star resorts. It's best to book early as the most luxurious reserve months in advance.
tell me about your favorite vendors for international travel right now.
I am smitten with Emirates Air and go out of my way to travel their routes. First Class is over the top, however Business Class is exceptional, especially in comparison to all other airlines. Unequaled service, comfort and amenities. If you don't fly private, Emirates is my first choice.
Hotels. Hmm, just like each fingerprint is unique, each traveler has a particular personality. We recommend hotel properties we think are best suited to each individual traveler. Thus, we use a combination of handpicked brands depending on the client. Here are some favorites, not in any particular order. We love Dorchester properties, which are always very elegant and have a marvelous sense of place. In Peru, Belmond is the best choice. In Paris, the elegance of Plaza Athenee is difficult to resist, but we have also discovered the La Reserve hotel and La Reserve apartments, luxury but on a smaller scale property. The Four Seasons excel at keeping families beyond entertained and the service level is unparalleled. In big cities, Peninsula Hotels are frequently requested. I love Rocco Forte properties in Rome and Berlin. Many Relais & Chateaux properties offer intimate inns and in Japan, they have delightful authentic Ryokans. Leading Hotels tops the list as well in particular locations. We have stayed in most of the properties we recommend and work directly with hotel managers, GMs and their local reps. We expect upgrades, amenities and a personal greeting on arrival! Our close relationships guarantee royal treatment for our clients.
Regarding ground transport, we have a private car service in every part of the world. Otherwise, I would rely on a hotel to provide car service. In the States, we work with Music Express and have dedicated drivers in some areas if a client frequently visits a city or a child is in college, guaranteeing that a driver has a vested interest in watching out for the client's teen.
What mobile apps and websites do you use?
I use Flight Tracker for keeping on top of changes on my flights, and I also have each and every airline website on my phone and laptop in case of last minute changes and easy online check in.
Although we reserve flights for our clients, I frequently use SeatGuru for seat warnings.
GoGoAir is loaded on my phone and laptop for easy Wi-Fi access on planes.
And I use the LoungeBuddy app for unplanned layovers. I generally know where all the American Express and airline lounges are in airports, but if there is a delay, this is a helpful app.
I store my passport, credit cards details and logins with 1password. Essential when I travel.
I use the Google Translate app by scanning my phone over text or speaking into the phone for a fairly accurate translation.
For currency conversion I use the XE Currency conversion app.
And last but not least, Instagram for posting all of my delectable dining photos!
Thanks to Gwen Books for this terrific advice. Visit her website to read her blog or contact her.
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