The Best Special-Interest Travel Agents
  1. T+L
  2. A-List

The Best Special-Interest Travel Agents

A List 2016
 Jesse Chehak


Betty Jo Currie

Currie’s mission is to connect people to far-flung destinations, whether that means flying in an open-door helicopter over Norway’s Lofoten Islands, fishing in remote rivers in New Zealand, or dining in the bush in Botswana.

Best for adventure, thrill seekers, multigenerational families 404-254-5677;

Brooke Garnett

Garnett, a former dive master in the Andaman Sea, creates trips that combine light adventure with traditional comforts—say, a stay in a tent in the Australian outback followed by a stint at the Park Hyatt Sydney.

Best for adventure, millennials 212-627-1950;

Susan Sparks

About 70 percent of Sparks’s trips include biking and hiking, so she makes sure to map out paths in advance, noting distance, altitude, and incline to prepare her clients for journeys to Vietnam and Nepal.

Best for active travel, honeymooners 970-925-1482;

Air Travel

Michael Holtz

Holtz has access to airline inventory that doesn’t show up on Kayak or Expedia (at discounts as deep as 40 percent on firstand business-class fares), and knows how to get the most luxurious options, like Etihad’s Airbus 380 residence.

Best for luxury seekers 212-268-9088;

Business Travel

Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg Have a last-minute meeting or less than 12 hours between an executive retreat and family vacation? WilsonButtigieg knows the pressures of timestretched travelers and manages behind-thescenes details like visa procurement and group expense management.

Best for C-level clients, last-minute trips, multigenerational families 212-592-1210;

Culture and Education

Lisa Lindblad

Lindblad approaches destinations through the context of their people and traditions while building in time for spontaneity. Her local connections— writers, architects, chefs—are unmatched.

Best for history lovers, curious travelers, foodies 212-876-2554;

Andrea Malis

Malis often presents trip ideas as a visual storyboard for those who travel to learn, connect, and dive in to a destination. She also has a sixth sense for under-the-radar finds, like hidden restaurants in Tokyo or wilderness guides in Vancouver.

Best for educational trips, luxury seekers 520-360-7843;

Destination Celebrations

Jody Bear

Bear treats planning a milestone vacation as an opportunity to create an over-the-top itinerary—previous trips have involved everything from a birthday lunch on an Icelandic glacier to a family Christmas in South Africa.

Best for honeymooners, destination weddings, families 212-340-0301;

John Clifford

Three decades’ worth of contacts all over the world allow Clifford to organize extravagant group trips, from a weeklong wedding celebration in Lecce, Italy, to a private-island takeover in the Bahamas for an activity-packed reunion.

Best for fashion and art lovers, luxury seekers, multigenerational families, LGBT travelers 619-299-2359;


Robert Becker

Becker’s connections in marine-research circles produce oneof-a-kind trip opportunities (recently, a biodiversity-research expedition in Kiribati). He also goes out of his way to work with outfitters that support local economies and protect the oceans.

Best for adventure, thrill seekers 212-409-9527;


Mollie Fitzgerald

Annual visits to emerging and bucketlist angler destinations like Russia, Iceland, and Norway make Fitzgerald an expert on when and where to cast a line. She also knows all the tricks, like a bait shop in Iceland that offers guided trips that include transportation from Reykjavík.

Best for multigenerational families 724-935-1577;

Food and Wine

Lynda Turley Garrett

Garrett believes restaurants are the cornerstone of every trip and plans entire vacations around food and drink (Tasmanian vineyard tours, cooking classes in India), making a point to scope out littleknown spots.

Best for multigenerational families, honeymooners, LGBT travelers 831-708-4030;

Keith Waldon

Waldon is the owner of Departure Lounge, a high-tech coffee and wine bar in Austin, Texas, that doubles as a travel agency, and is best known for his innovative methods of helping clients find extraordinary food experiences, like special access to wineries in the Dijon and Vandenesse regions of France.

Best for curious travelers, families, honeymooners 512-322-9399;


Chad Clark

Clark has played at hundreds of courses in over 30 countries and can get clients on exclusive greens around the globe—not to mention securing après-golf activities (like oysters at Berckmans Place during the Masters).

Best for adventure, sports 602-228-2928;

LGBT Travel

David M. Rubin

Rubin ensures that his clients are warmly received wherever they travel, even in countries with less-tolerant governments, and doesn’t shy away from advising guides and hotel staff on cultural sensitivities and communication practices.

Best for luxury seekers, culture buffs 949-427-0199;


Judy Stein

Stein is a door opener with a team skilled in honeymoon planning: not only do they have a detailed database of the best rooms for a romantic getaway but they also have incredible pull, including once convincing a chef to open his Michelinstarred restaurant on a day it’s typically closed.

Best for honeymooners, luxury seekers 212-329-7396;

Stacy Small

Adept at working with the time constraints of busy couples, Small travels more than half the year to ensure that she experiences every hotel, hard-to-find shop, and non-touristy neighborhood before planning a romantic trip for her clients.

Best for honeymooners, luxury seekers 310-826-2939;

Spas and Wellness

Karen Benson

Benson, who plans around 70 spa-themed trips a year, is your resource for a girls’ weekend at a spa, an intensive monthlong retreat, or blessing and healing ceremonies in places like Cambodia and Bhutan, where she can arrange private meetings with a monk.

Best for adventure, couples 480-477-6400;

Sylvia Betesh Lebovitch

This registered dietitian plans trips that combine her passions for health and nutrition—spa vacations, fitness camps, yoga retreats— and makes cards listing allergies in the local language to take the stress out of dining abroad.

Best for foodies, sybarites, families 212-329-7294;

Weddings and Honeymoons

Josh Alexander

He’s only been in the business six years, but Alexander is already making a name for himself by planning honeymoons with highly detailed and complicated logistics, whether that’s a multicountry African safari or island-hopping escapes in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.

Best for multicountry trips 212-651-2110;

Jim Augerinos

Augerinos has taken his family business to a new level thanks to on-the-ball communication and a tech-savvy approach—required when working with millennials. He also constantly visits new hotels instead of relying on old standbys.

Best for millennials 703-748-3000;

Harlan deBell & Kara Bebell

This brother-and-sister team specializes in destination-wedding planning. They have a long list of industry contacts (caterers, florists, bands) in the Caribbean, Europe, and beyond, and tons of practical tips, like how to bring your pet along.

Best for destination weddings, international pet travel 877-471-0489; and

Peter Lloyd

Working with Lloyd is like consulting a travel-savvy friend: his honeymoon itineraries are filled with personal suggestions, from his favorite romantic restaurants on a Caribbean island to the best neighborhood strolls in a big city.

Best for adventure, foodies 404-324-4019;

Kristen Pike

Pike’s bespoke itineraries—like a multi-stop journey through the Middle East, Zanzibar, and mainland Tanzania she recently planned— are constantly reevaluated and perfected.

Best for mini-moons, trips of a lifetime 404-458-6800;

More from T+L