John Laurie
Travel + Leisure
August 10, 2017

The A-List is Travel + Leisure's annual selection of the world's best travel agents and destination specialists, as chosen by the editors. Rely on these industry experts to plan the perfect trip to Oceania. For more about our methodology and how to apply, read How We Choose the Travel Agents for T+L’s A-List.

Australia

Cassandra Bookholder

During her twice-a-year visits to her native country, Bookholder is always on the lookout for emerging destinations (recently, the Mornington Peninsula outside Melbourne, for its up-and-coming food-and-wine scene) and inventive ways to explore old favorites such as Sydney and the Gold Coast.

Best for: foodies/epicurean travelers, multigenerational families, adventurers

Extras: Bookholder is thrilled when clients opt for a focused visit to one destination rather than country-hopping. In addition to allowing for a deeper experience, it also means she can build in plenty of open leisure time.

Other expertise: New Zealand

Minimum daily spend: $500 per group

602-889-5902; cassandrab@camelbacktravel.com; camelbacktravel.com


Australia and New Zealand

Suzy Mercien-Ferol

This A-List veteran has a loyal clientele thanks to her made-from-scratch bespoke itineraries that tap into Australia and New Zealand’s cosmopolitan draws as well as their bush-luxury options.

Best for: luxury seekers, foodies/epicurean travelers, couples/honeymooners

Extras: Call Mercien-Ferol if you want an ultraexclusive experience like a heli-hike on a New Zealand glacier that incorporates martinis and caviar.

Other expertise: Tahiti, Fiji

Minimum daily spend: $700

800-536-5328; suzy.mercien@touringtreasures.com; touringtreasures.com


French Polynesia

Robin Turner

This French- and German-speaking American Express advisor acknowledges that her area of expertise involves a splurge for most clients, so she makes it her mission to uncover value options at the islands’ top properties. She’s also loves setting a scene (private picnics on tiny uninhabited islands) and ramping up the romance (helicopter rides to the heart-shaped Tupai atoll).

Best for: couples/honeymooners, luxury seekers, adventurers

Extras: Turner enriches island itineraries with shopping trips to local boutiques owned by friends, where her clients get special treatment. One favorite is Moorea’s Ma Robe à Moi, which sells hand-painted pareus and dresses.

Other expertise: Maldives

Minimum daily spend: $2,000 per group

877-407-4566, ext. 83207; robin.l.turner@aexp.com; travel.americanexpress.com

Christina Turrini

Turrini travels annually to Tahiti and knows the right people to make any dream-vacation request a reality, whether it be a videographer to film a marriage proposal, a local fisherman to share his secret angling spots, or even a top Tahitian tattoo artist.

Best for: luxury seekers, adventurers, foodies/epicurean travelers

Extras: When two of Turrini’s clients returned to Tahiti to re-create their honeymoon, she surprised them with a breakfast delivered in a raft outfitted with traditional wedding chairs.

Other expertise: Italy

Minimum daily spend: $500

415-532-8664; christina.turrini@frosch.com; frosch.com


French Polynesia and Fiji

Susanne Hamer

Vacations to the South Pacific can feel packaged, unless you get someone creative like Hamer involved. On annual trips, she charts out the best beach and overwater bungalows for views and privacy, and scouts out new shops, romantic restaurants, and experiences.

Best for: couples/honeymooners, luxury seekers, families

Extras: On private boat tours around Bora-Bora, Hamer likes to add a professional photographer to the crew to document the experience. She also sends couples off with champagne—served in a coconut.

Other expertise: Maldives and the Seychelles

Minimum daily spend: $500

310-689-5411; susanne.h@travelstore.com; travelstore.com


New Zealand

Jean-Michel Jefferson

It’s hard to have a conversation with Jefferson and resist the urge to jump on the next flight to New Zealand. No request is off-limits for the South Island–based travel advisor, who counts professional photographers, fly-fishing guides, chefs, and farmers among the friends he can tap on behalf of his clients.

Best for: families, foodies/epicurean travelers, adventurers

Extras: For clients interested in Maori culture, Jefferson sets them up with a Maori chef and outdoorsman who leads an excursion in the Kaimanawa Range for a day of hunting, gathering, cooking, and hiking.

Minimum daily spend: $1,500 per couple

64-3-447-3558; jean-michel@ahipara.com; ahipara.com

Donna Thomas

Reading her detailed itineraries, it’s clear that Thomas has explored almost every corner of New Zealand’s North and South Islands. She sends bird-watching enthusiasts to secluded beaches to see the endangered yellow-eyed penguin and arranges for avid trekkers to take guided hikes to a waterfall on a secluded beach in Paparoa National Park.

Best for: luxury seekers, couples/honeymooners, families

Extras: Thomas’s itineraries are packed with insider tips such as scenic road-trip detours and cruises to less-visited Tauranga, which is blossoming with new activities and charming accommodations.

Other expertise: Australia

Minimum daily spend: $300 per group

215-741-5155; nztravel@aol.com; newzealandtravel.org

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