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These special-interest experts are the best agents for planning adventure and sporting vacations, destination celebrations, and romantic getaways.

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 special-interest trip. For more about our methodology and how to apply, read How We Choose the Travel Agents for T+L’s A-List.

Adventure

Betty Jo Currie

Currie has a mission to connect people with far-flung destinations through adventure travel, whether that means flying in an open-door helicopter over Norway’s Lofoten Islands, fishing in remote rivers on New Zealand’s South Island, or dining in the bush on a Botswana safari. Her company stands apart for its 24/7 service and collection of devoted guides.

Best for: adventurers, luxury seekers, families

Extras: Currie’s clients rave about her personal attention. “I coordinate as though my own family were going, with an emphasis on pushing the envelope, incorporating philanthropy and conservation whenever possible, and educating my travelers on what to expect.”

Other expertise: Safaris

Minimum daily spend: $500

404-254-5677; bettyjo@curriecotravels.com; curriecotravels.com

Brooke Garnett

Garnett, who once worked as a dive master on Koh Phi Phi Don, a tiny Thai island in the Andaman Sea, has been a travel addict ever since. She works best with adventurous types who can handle a rigorous hike but also enjoy their creature comforts.

Best for: adventurers, luxury seekers, culture buffs

Extras: Garnett’s itineraries always include immersive learning experiences. A recent client trekked through the Amazon rain forest with a Peruvian farmer who pointed out plants’ medicinal properties.

Other expertise: Africa, Australia, South America

Minimum daily spend: $1,000

914-275-8820; brooke@mayamayatravel.com; mayamayatravel.com

Tom Marchant

If you’ve already experienced a Tanzanian safari or Burmese river cruise, Marchant can help take your next trip to another level. Thanks to enviable local connections, he can pull off such feats as sundowners on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater with Masai warriors or a yacht trip around the little-visited Mergui Archipelago off the coast of Myanmar.

Best for: multigenerational families, foodies/epicurean travelers, culture buffs

Extras: Marchant can arrange to have a videographer document your trip by drone.

Other expertise: Adventure

Minimum daily spend: $1,000

646-558-3644; tom@blacktomato.com; blacktomato.com

Susan Sparks

About 80 percent of the trips Sparks plans include biking and hiking. Recent itineraries she’s put together include a trekking and cycling trip in northern Thailand and Laos along the Mekong River and a biking trip along the Argentina/Chile border, from Salta to Atacama.

Best for: honeymoons, art and architecture lovers, epicurean travelers

Extras: Sparks makes sure her clients, whether expert hikers or beginner bikers, are well prepared with GPS devices and itineraries that note route length, altitude, and incline.

Other expertise: Asia

Minimum daily spend: $500

970-925-5855; susan@poitraveler.com; pointsofinteresttravel.com


Air Travel

Paul Tumpowsky

Not a fan of flying? This airplane enthusiast just might change your mind. Thanks to insider contacts at airlines ranging from American to Emirates, Tumpowsky can secure unbeatable value tickets for clients flying first and business class, especially on long-haul flights.

Best for: luxury seekers, foodies/epicurean travelers

Extras: Additional amenities, such as access to premium airline clubs and expedited check-in and screening, are often part of Tumpowsky’s elite package deals.

Minimum daily spend: None

212-759-5275; p@skylark.com; skylark.com


Business Travel

Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg

Wilson-Buttigieg is a business-travel powerhouse. She understands the pressures and priorities of time-stretched travelers who have a last-minute board meeting or have less than 12 hours between an executive retreat and a family vacation.

Best for: C-suite clients, multigenerational families, luxury seekers

Extras: Wilson-Buttigieg’s ultraprecise itineraries are literally broken down by the minute, i.e., “7:45 p.m.: Meet in the lobby of the hotel to walk to dinner (approx. two minutes).”

Other expertise: Europe, Paris, London, and Scotland

Minimum daily spend: $1,000 per couple

212-592-1210; jenniferwb@vwti.com; valeriewilsontravel.com


Culture & Education

Lisa Lindblad

When Lindblad talks about travel, you can’t help being inspired. She studied anthropology, so she approaches destinations through the lens of their people and traditions. She also takes care to build into an itinerary time for serendipity and spontaneity, something that, she notes, is increasingly overlooked in travel today.

Extras: Even when her clients aren’t actively planning a trip, Lindblad gets in touch to share news about openings and events in destinations they love. She also hosts salon evenings—sometimes catered by a visiting international chef—at her home in New York City.

Other expertise: Africa, Middle East

Minimum daily spend: None

212-876-2554; lisa@lisalindblad.com; lisalindblad.com

Andrea Malis

Malis, who manages Camelback Odyssey Travel’s private-client division, selects travelers who aim to learn about, connect with, and immerse themselves in a destination. She often presents trip ideas to clients as a visual storyboard and has a sixth sense when it comes to under-the-radar finds.

Best for: multigenerational families, luxury seekers

Extras: Even when time is short, as during a cruise’s port stop, Malis manages to squeeze in insider stops like an ice bar in Stockholm or a fish market in Kristiansand, Norway.

Other expertise: Family travel

Minimum daily spend: $500

520-360-7843; amalis@odysseyluxe.com; camelbacktravel.com


Destination Celebrations

Jody Bear

Bear’s clients are typically celebrating milestone events, a planning pressure she uses as motivation for her over-the-top itineraries, such as high-end, personalized trips to Cuba (no easy feat with the island’s limited hotels and restaurants) and food tours of Tokyo.

Best for: luxury seekers, couples/honeymoons, multigenerational families

Extras: Bear is a special-access queen. In Cuba, she gets clients inside Hemingway’s house (rather than peering in from the outside like most tourists).

Other expertise: Family travel

Minimum daily spend: $5,000 per couple

212-340-0301; jodyb@beartvl.com; bearandbear.travel

John Clifford

Clifford’s address book of prime contacts has been built over more than three decades. Obsessed with the “most secret, best run, and brightest,” he’s the type of advisor who can just as expertly plan a luxurious mountain, river, and beach trip through Nicaragua as a weeklong wedding celebration in Lecce, Italy.

Best for: fashion and art lovers, luxury seekers, multigenerational families

Extras: Often invited to preview under-the-radar properties, Clifford is known for finding glass-slipper fits for clients, whether an emerging bed-and-breakfast or a high-design urban hotel.

Other expertise: LGBT travel

Minimum daily spend: $500

619-299-2359; john@internationaltravelmanagement.com; internationaltravelmanagement.com

Jack Ezon

Ezon plans nearly 45 celebrations around the world every year, a feat he accomplishes thanks to his party-planning department’s unparalleled global connections. Trips range from low-key family weekends in historic Maryland (think lawn games and s’mores) to flashy birthdays in Florence, where guests might race in exotic cars and design their own Ferragamo shoes.

Best for: multigenerational families, couples/honeymoons, foodies/epicurean travelers

Extras: A former lawyer, Ezon is an expert at negotiating the best prices on behalf of his clients.

Other expertise: Family travel

Minimum daily spend: $500

212-329-7350; jezon@ovationtravel.com; ovationvacations.com


Scuba Diving

Robert Becker

Because of his connections in marine-research circles, Becker gets tipped off to excursions that don’t come across the average agent’s desk. Recently, one of his clients joined a biodiversity research expedition in the remote Phoenix Islands Protected Area, in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati. He also makes a point of working with outfitters who support local economies and are focused on conservation.

Best for: adventurers, thrill seekers

Extras: Becker’s concierge services handle all equipment, and he and his team of PADI Divemasters will escort clients on private diving excursions.

Other expertise: Adventure travel

Minimum daily spend: $300

212-409-9527; robert.becker@protravelinc.com; beckersphere.com


Fly-Fishing

Betsy Donley

Donley has fished from Chile to the Seychelles and is in touch with some of the world’s top fly-fishing outfitters and guides. She doesn’t shy away from being honest about trip advantages and drawbacks and the level of expertise required.

Best for: multigenerational families, adventurers

Extras: Donley always keeps non-fishing partners in mind and creates itineraries with alternative activities, from guided hikes to spa treatments.

Other expertise: family travel

Minimum daily spend: $500

800-445-6527; betsyd@camelbacktravel.com; camelbacktravel.com

Mollie Fitzgerald

Annual trips to emerging and bucket-list angler destinations such as Chile, Iceland, and Mongolia make Fitzgerald a leading expert on when and where to cast a line.

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

Extras: Not only does Fitzgerald provide her clients with comprehensive pre-trip information to ensure they are properly informed but Frontiers Travel also has a team of gear specialists to advise clients on topics like the best camera to durable hiking boots.

Other expertise: bird hunting

Minimum daily spend: $400

800-245-1950; mollie@frontierstravel.com; frontierstravel.com


Food & Wine

Lynda Turley

Many agents still consider dining an add-on experience—some even charge extra to make restaurant reservations—but Turley makes food the cornerstone of every trip. She builds itineraries around meals at Michelin-starred restaurants, adding on activities like vineyard tours. To stay abreast of the latest culinary trends and chef news, Turley regularly attends wine seminars, spirits tastings, and cooking competitions.

Best for: multigenerational families, honeymooners, adventurers

Other expertise: Australia and New Zealand

Minimum daily spend: $500

831-708-4030; lyndat@alpine-travel.com; alpine-travel.com


Golfing

Chad Clark

After a career in ad sales, Clark launched a company that combines his two great passions: travel and golf. His expertise comes from playing hundreds of courses in more than 30 countries, and, thanks to his own private club memberships, he can get his clients on exclusive greens around the globe.

Best for: adventurers, sports enthusiasts, luxury seekers

Extras: Clark is equally skilled at planning après-golf activities. Recent itineraries have included hikes—followed by spa treatments—at the Farm at Cape Kidnappers, in New Zealand, and tacos and live music at local favorite Gordo LeLe’s, in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Other expertise: Adventure travel

Minimum daily spend: $2,000

602-266-4000; cclark@chadclarktravel.com; chadclarktravel.com

Jani Miller

Miller has toted her clubs all over the world, and has firsthand knowledge of courses and golf resorts from Portugal to Argentina. She also regularly circles the globe herself on adventure trips to places like Antarctica.

Best for: couples/honeymooners, girlfriend trips, adventurers

Extras: Miller is particularly adept at tailoring a golf trip to suit the occasion, whether a couples retreat (recently clients disembarked from an Azamara Club Cruise in New Zealand to play 18 holes) or a girlfriend getaway (at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, in Farmington, Pennsylvania, a group of women played the Mystic Rock course before indulging in spa treatments).

Other expertise: Adventure travel

Minimum daily spend: $700

800-633-5577; jani@centraltravel.com; centraltravel.com


LGBT Travel

David Rubin

Rubin ensures that his gay clients are warmly received and respected wherever they travel, even in less-tolerant countries such as Egypt and Myanmar. Recent itineraries include a three-month African trip for a couple who traveled to Morocco, Egypt, South Africa, Botswana, and Mozambique.

Best for: luxury seekers, culture buffs, multigenerational families

Extras: Rubin takes time to advise guides and hotel staff on best communication practices with LGBT travelers.

Other expertise: Destination celebrations

Minimum daily spend: $500

949-427-0199; david@davidtravel.com; davidtravel.com


Spa & Wellness

Karen Benson

Benson has been on T+L’s A-List for 15 years—and for good reason: the veteran agent, who plans around 70 spa-themed trips a year, can advise clients on everything from a fun-filled spa weekend in Phoenix to an intensive monthlong wellness retreat in Cambodia.

Best for: spas, adventurers, luxury seekers

Extras: Benson keeps close tabs on wellness-industry trends, including off-the-grid spas. Recent clients have traveled to luxury tree-house lodges and casitas located deep in the jungle for traditional treatments and healing ceremonies.

Other expertise: Adventure

Minimum daily spend: $500

480-477-6400; karenb@travelxperts.com; travel-xperts.com

Sylvia Betesh Lebovitch

Lebovitch was pursuing a career in heath and nutrition at New York-Presbyterian Hospital when a job with Ovation fell into her lap. The registered dietitian now plans wellness trips to spas, yoga retreats, and fitness camps.

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

Extras: For travelers with allergies and other dietary restrictions, Lebovitch makes cards explaining the issue in the local language to take the stress of out of dining abroad. For travelers taking wellness vacations, Lebovitch provides research-backed eating and drinking recommendations.

Other expertise: multigenerational travel

Minimum daily spend: $1,000

212-329-7294; slebovitch@ovationtravel.com; ovationvacations.com


Luxury Travel

David Lowy

Lowy is known for putting together extraordinary experiences for travelers with sky-high spends. He can secure premium tee times at the world’s best golf courses and around-the-world trips in private jets.

Best for: luxury seekers

Extras: Want a private viewing of Michelangelo’s David, in Florence? Planning on island-hopping in Greece on a mega-yacht? Industry veterans will point you to Lowy.

Other expertise: Private-jet travel

Minimum daily spend: $1,000

604-733-1010; dlowy@renshawtravel.com; renshawtravel.com


Honeymoons, Romance, and Weddings

Josh Alexander

While he’s only been in the business for eight years, Alexander is already a go-to advisor for romance travel. The former attorney loves planning trips with complicated logistics: a self-driving trip through Scotland, say, or a multi-country Asian food tour.

Best for: luxury seekers, couples/honeymoons, multigenerational families

Extras: If conservation and sustainability are important to you, Alexander will hunt for eco-minded hotels, light-footprint tours, and voluntourism experiences, no matter your destination.

Other expertise: Caribbean

Minimum daily spend: $400

212-651-2110; josh.alexander@protravelinc.com; protravelinc.com

Jim Augerinos

Since Augerinos took over his mother’s family business, which launched in 1989, he’s taken it to a new level, thanks to a tech-savvy approach that’s essential for working with millennials. He’s also constantly checking out new hotels—about 85 in 2016 alone—instead of relying on old standbys.

Best for: millennials, luxury seekers, adventurers

Extras: The über-connected Augerinos makes himself available 24/7 via e-mail, text, Skype, and phone.

Other expertise: Babymoons

Minimum daily spend: $1,000

800-320-7373; jim@perfecthoneymoons.com; perfecthoneymoons.com

Harlan deBell & Kara Bebell

This brother-and-sister team has an addictive energy that gets you excited about what could otherwise be stressful: planning a destination wedding. The duo, part of the Tzell Travel Group, has coveted industry contacts—caterers, florists, and bands—in the Caribbean, Europe, and beyond, and they are often on site for big events.

Best for: couples/honeymooners, luxury seekers, adventurers

Extras: Is Fido your ring bearer? The siblings are also experts with pet travel and can plan dog-friendly itineraries (with plush pet-hotel amenities) and work with airlines for the best in pet care.

Minimum daily spend: $500

212-340-0316; harland@tzell.com and karab@tzell.com; thetravelsiblings.com

Peter Lloyd

Working with Lloyd is like consulting a travel-savvy friend: his itineraries are always filled with his personal suggestions, whether his top restaurants on a Caribbean island or a romantic stroll through a favorite neighborhood in a big city.

Best for: romance, adventurers, culture buffs

Extras: Thanks to Lloyd’s decades-old connections, his clients often receive complimentary room upgrades, late checkouts, and resort and spa credits.

Other expertise: Family travel

Minimum daily spend: $500

404-324-4019; peter@centurytvl.com; centurytvl.com

Kristen Pike

Since founding KK Travels Worldwide four years ago, Pike has developed a dedicated clientele—including many thirtysomethings—who turn to her for bespoke itineraries that are constantly reevaluated and updated. She’s planned everything from newly popular “mini-moons” and volunteer-based honeymoons to once-in-a-lifetime trips.

Best for: romance, foodies/epicurean travelers, culture buffs

Other expertise: Middle East

Minimum daily spend: $500

404-458-6800; kristen@kktww.com; kktww.com

Judy Stein

Stein maintains a detailed database of the hotels she stays in, the restaurants she dines at, and the tours she goes on, always noting the best rooms for a romantic getaway and the top secluded tables. Her team of agents at Ovation Travel add another dimension to her services, especially when it comes to honeymoon planning.

Best for: couples/honeymoons; luxury seekers; foodies/epicurean travelers

Extras: Stein arranged for one client, who is passionate about music, to play a few sets with a local Japanese band at a club on his birthday trip to Tokyo.

Other expertise: Family travel

Minimum daily spend: $1,500

212-329-7396; jstein@ovationtravel.com; ovationvacations.com

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