A-List 2009: The 129 Top Travel Agents

A-List 2009: The 129 Top Travel Agents

Serge Bloch

<p>Serge Bloch</p>

Serge Bloch

After evaluating thousands of travel agents, T+L has come up with the best in the business.

We know what you’re thinking: with flights and hotels just a click away, it’s never been easier to plan your own trip. But at a moment when your time and money matter more than ever, a trusted expert can take all the hassle out of travel planning—whether you’re looking to snag that seat on a sold-out flight, book that elusive corner room with a view, map out a complicated itinerary, or secure the best guides, upgrades, and (yes!) deals. T+L has evaluated thousands of agents to come up with this highly selective list of the best in the business. Scroll down to see who made the cut. Plus Tips from the experts, great values, travel trends, and what’s on the horizon for 2010.

U.S. and Canada

T+L A-Listers cite the growing appeal of Canada’s Rockies and British Columbia as closer-to-home alternatives to New Zealand or Alpine Europe (B.C.’s Clayoquot Wilderness Resort was a particular favorite). Meanwhile, Alaska is going strong for small luxury cruises.

Alaska

Harold C. Jenkins Years as agent: 21. Other specialty: Skiing. Consulting fee: Varies.

Margret Propper Years as agent: 34. Other specialty: European river cruises. Consulting fee: From $100.

Hawaii

Carolyne Brandon Years as agent: 27. Other specialty: River cruises. Consulting fee: Varies.

Julia Kostenko + Years as agent: 4. Other specialty: Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Consulting fee: From $150.

Darlene Mulkewich Years as agent: 22. Other specialties: European river cruises, Alaskan cruises. Consulting fee: $150.

Las Vegas

Maria Guerrieri Years as agent: 26. Other specialty: Canada. Consulting fee: $100 per person.

New York City

Amy Glass Years as agent: 30. Other specialty: Soft adventure travel in the U.S. Consulting fee: Varies.

Western U.S.

Deborah Trevino Years as agent: 15. Other specialties: Australia and New Zealand. Consulting fee: Varies.

Canada

Mark Hoyer Years as agent: 20. Other specialties: Costa Rica, gay and lesbian travel. Consulting fee: Varies.

Icon Key

* tour operator
+ New to list
** T+L’s travel agent advisory board member, 2009


Europe

The U.K., Poland, and Sicily are seen as great values. Travelers are interested in lesser-known areas such as France’s Périgord region.

England

Ellen LeCompte Years as agent: 20. Other specialties: Western U.S., Canada. Consulting fee: From $250.

Tammi R. Van Volkinburgh Years as agent: 18. Other specialty: India. Consulting fee: From $250.

Susie Worthy * Years as agent: 32. Other specialty: Events and celebrations in London. Consulting fee: From $220.

France

Craig Loupassakis Years as agent: 45. Other specialty: Italy. Consulting fee: From $150.

Clare Seyer Years as agent: 21. Other specialty: Italian countryside. Consulting fee: From $300.

Germany

Elisabeth Landry Years as agent: 31. Other specialty: Cruises. Consulting fee: $150–$200.

Greece

Kelly Shea Years as agent: 22. Other specialty: Turkey. Consulting fee: From $250.

Christos Stergiou + Years as agent: 5. Other specialties: Culinary and cultural tours. Consulting fee: $65.

Hungary

Nathalie Nagy Years as agent: 13. Other specialties: Austria, Germany. Consulting fee: From $150.

Ireland

Carol Cornell Years as agent: 26. Other specialties: Italy, France. Consulting fee: $50–$100.

Italy

Margot Cushing Years as agent: 30. Other specialties: Spain, Southeast Asia. Consulting fee: From $400.

Joyce Falcone * + Years as agent: 14. Other specialty: Culinary tours of 10 Italian regions. Consulting fee: From $100.

Deborah Hyte Years as agent: 30. Other specialty: Western Europe. Consulting fee: $375.

Judy Nussbaum Years as agent: 30. Other specialties: France, luxury cruises. Consulting fee: From $100.

Andrea Sertoli Years as agent: 15. Other specialties: Croatia, France.

Marjorie Shaw + Years as agent: 20. Other specialty: Cultural tours of Italy. Consulting fee: From $395.

Sally Watkins Years as agent: 23. Other specialty: Australia. Consulting fee: From $350.

Russia

Greg Tepper * Years as agent: 17. Consulting fee: From $250.

Scandinavia

Carol Arklind Years as agent: 20. Other specialty: Great Britain. Consulting fee: From $150.

Tor Jensen + Years as agent: 16. Other specialty: Southeast Asia. Consulting fee: From $200.

Scotland

F. Peter Herff II Years as agent: 35. Other specialties: Italy, the Iberian Peninsula. Consulting fee: From $350.

Claire Schoeder Years as agent: 19. Other specialty: England. Consulting fee: From $150.

Spain

Virginia Irurita + Years as agent: 10. Consulting fee: From $130 per person.

Judith Wolf Years as agent: 22. Other specialties: Italy, food and wine. Consulting fee: From $200.

Turkey

Fred Poe Years as agent: 48. Other specialties: Eastern Europe, Austria. Consulting fee: $200.

Icon Key

* tour operator
+ New to list
** T+L’s travel agent advisory board member, 2009


Latin America

Our agents report that Argentina, Chile, and Peru topped clients’ wish lists. The region as a whole is remarkably diverse—Patagonian vineyards; Peruvian rain forests; endless Brazilian beaches.

Argentina

Maita Barrenechea Years as agent: 26. Other specialty: Uruguay. Consulting fee: From $200.

Belize

Katie Nelson Years as agent: 7. Other specialties: Costa Rica, Guatemala. Consulting fee: Varies.

Brazil

Robert Betenson Years as agent: 8. Other specialty: Family reunions. Consulting fee: $50 a day, not above $500 total.

Jerry Greenberg ** Years as agent: 37. Other specialties: Italy, France. Consulting fee: $200.

Costa Rica

Rachel Bockoven * + Years as agent: 10. Other specialty: Soft adventure. Consulting fee: Varies.

Ecuador

Tatiana Johnston * Years as agent: 14. Other specialty: Africa, specifically Kenya. Consulting Fee: Varies.

Mexico

Marianne Braly Years as agent: 17. Other specialty: France. Consulting fee: $100.

South America

Carlos L. Fida * Years as agent: 30. Other specialty: Wine tours. Consulting fee: From $200.

Eric Sheets * Years as agent: 15. Other specialty: Small-ship cruises. Consulting fee: From $250.

Caribbean

Bookings in the islands are moving at a slower pace lately, which means plenty of deals for travelers right now.

Margie Hand Years as agent: 14. Other specialties: Destination weddings, luxury family vacations. Consulting fee: Varies.

Janet McLaughlin Years as agent: 21. Other specialty: Southern Africa. Consulting fee: From $150.

Susan Shevlin Years as agent: 28. Other specialty: South Pacific. Consulting fee: From $100.

Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific

Travelers to this part of the world are booking soft adventure with stays at luxe camps. And for Polynesian bliss, the new Four Seasons Bora Bora.

Australia

Catharina Apodac Years as agent: 20. Other specialty: New Zealand. Consulting fee: $150.

Cassandra Bookholder + Years as agent: 3. Other specialty: French Polynesia. Consulting fee: From $250.

Terry Coffey Years as agent: 30. Other specialty: Philippines. Consulting fee: From $200.

Suzy Mercien-Ferol + Years as agent: 16. Other specialties: Fiji, Tahiti. Consulting fee: None.

French Polynesia

Susanne Hamer Years as agent: 15. Other specialties: Australia, New Zealand. Consulting fee: $200.

Robin Turner Years as agent: 25. Other specialty: Southeast Asia. Consulting fee: Varies.

New Zealand

Donna Thomas * Years as agent: 38. Consulting fee: None.

Icon Key

* tour operator
+ New to list
** T+L’s travel agent advisory board member, 2009


Asia

In China, Shanghai and Yunnan are top-rated.

China

Karin Hansen Years as agent: 30. Other specialty: Southeast Asia. Consulting fee: From $200.

Guy Rubin * Years as agent: 10. Other specialty: Hong Kong. Consulting Fee: From $100.

Mei Zhang + Years as agent: 10. Consulting fee: None.

Hong Kong

Laura Woo Years as agent: 27. Other specialty: Hawaii. Consulting fee: Varies.

India/Sri Lanka

Ellison Poe Years as agent: 24. Other specialty: Syria. Consulting fee: From $150.

Ashish Sanghrajka * + Years as agent: 11. Consulting fee: $500.

Japan

Noriko Townsend Years as agent: 13. Other specialty: China. Consulting fee: $150.

Southeast Asia

Diane Embree Years as agent: 33. Consulting fee: Varies.

Sandee Litwin Years as agent: 28. Consulting fee: $150.

Darlene Ravin Years as agent: 12. Other specialty: North Africa. Consulting fee: From $100.

Africa and the Middle East

With all the deals out there, T+L agents say now is the time to book a safari or a trip to Madagascar.

Africa

Robert Berghaier * Years as agent: 9. Other specialty: Cultural tours. Consulting fee: Varies.

Katie Cadar Years as agent: 23. Other specialty: French Polynesia. Consulting fee: From $100.

Dana Welch Years as agent: 17. Other specialty: Adventure. Consulting fee: From $100.

Joel Zack Years as agent: 14. Other specialty: Spain. Consulting fee: None.

East Africa

Sandy Cunningham * + Years as agent: 17. Consulting fee: None.

Jeanie Fundora * + Years as agent: 10. Other specialty: Southern Africa. Consulting fee: From $250.

Egypt

Malaka Hilton Years as agent: 15. Other specialty: Celebrity travel. Consulting fee: From $500.

Israel

Rachel Epstein * + Years as agent: 27. Other specialty: Group tours. Consulting fee: Varies.

Middle East

Janet Moore * Years as agent: 25. Other specialties: India, Bali. Consulting fee: None.

Morocco

Laurette de Moro Years as agent: 15. Other specialty: France. Consulting fee: Varies.

Michael Diamond * + Years as agent: 8. Consulting fee: Varies.

Safaris

Norman Pieters * Years as agent: 37. Other specialty: Botswana. Consulting fee: From $250.

Southern Africa

Julian Harrison * Years as agent: 23. Other specialty: Tanzania. Consulting fee: None.

Robert Malmberg Years as agent: 45. Other specialty: Yacht charters. Consulting fee: From $500 deposit plus 25 percent of net cost.

Judy Udwin * Years as agent: 25. Other specialty: Mozambique. Consulting fee: From $150.

Phoebe Weinberg + Years as agent: 38. Other specialties: India, East Africa. Consulting fee: Varies.

United Arab Emirates

Lindsey Wallace * Years as agent: 13. Other specialties: Maldives, Seychelles. Consulting fee: Varies.

Icon Key

* tour operator
+ New to list
** T+L’s travel agent advisory board member, 2009


Special Interest

From cruises to adventure, travelers want authentic experiences.

Cruises

 

Kathy Falkensammer ** Years as agent: 30. Other specialty: Europe. Consulting fee: Varies.

Betsy Patton Years as agent: 31. Other specialty: Milestone celebrations. Consulting fee: Varies.

Anne Halsey Smith Years as agent: 28. Other specialty: India. Consulting fee: From $500.

Liz Sutton ** Years as agent: 32. Other specialty: Multigenerationaltravel. Consulting fee: From $150.

Ruth Turpin Years as agent: 31. Other specialty: Riverboat cruises. Consulting fee: Varies.

Residential Cruises

Claudia Gordon + Years as agent: 29. Other specialty: Africa. Consulting fee: Varies.

World Cruises

Lois Moran Years as agent: 36. Other specialty: Private jet trips. Consulting fee: Varies.

Family/Active

Fontaine Denna Gatti Years as agent: 39. Other specialty: Africa. Consulting fee: None.

Kay Merrill Years as agent: 15. Consulting fee: $250.

Family/Hotels & Resorts

Kimberly Wilson Wetty ** Years as agent: 15. Other specialty: Family cruises. Consulting fee: From $150 per person.

Family/Multigenerational

Kathryn Sudeikis ** Years as agent: 40. Other specialty: India. Consulting fee: $50 per hour; three-hour minimum.

Family/Safaris

Paul Largay * Years as agent: 26. Other specialty: Rafting. consulting fee: From $100.

Family/Skiing

Kathy Hannon Years as agent: 24. Other specialty: Cruises. Consulting fee: From $150.

Business Travel

Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg Years as agent: 18. Consulting fee: From $750.

Hotels

Manny Beauregard Years as agent: 37. Other specialty: Small-ship cruises. Consulting fee: From $250.

Bob Watson Years as agent: 24. Other specialty: Small luxury cruises. Consulting fee: $500.

Spas

Karen Benson Years as agent: 26. Other specialties: Skiing, adventure. Consulting fee: $150 per person.

Maureen “Mo” Smith Years as agent: 32. Other specialties: Hiking, culinary. Consulting fee: From $100.

Adventure

Betty Jo Currie Years as agent: 16. Other specialty: India. Consulting fee: From $250.

Culture & Education

Emmanuel Burgio + Years as agent: 7. Consulting fee: Varies.

Margery Hunter Years as agent: 26. Other specialties: Chile, New Zealand. Consulting fee: $75 per hour.

Paul Niskanen ** Years as agent: 36. Other specialties: Cruises, African safaris. Consulting fee: $350.

Diving

Gene Lashley Years as agent: 25. Other specialty: Adventure. Consulting fee: $150.

Fly-Fishing

Betsy Donley ** Years as agent: 19. Other specialties: Western U.S. and Canada, South America. Consulting fee: $100.

Food/Wine

Lynda Turley Garrett Years as agent: 30. Other specialties: Australia, New Zealand. Consulting fee: From $100.

Katie McCormack Krinkie Years as agent: 14. Other specialty: Europe. Consulting fee: Varies.

Gay/Lesbian

David Rubin Years as agent: 13. Other specialty: Milestone trips. Consulting fee: From $250.

Golf

Susan Dischner Years as agent: 44. Other specialty: Luxury cruises. Consulting fee: $100.

Jani Miller ** Years as agent: 32. Other specialty: Adventure. Consulting fee: From $50.

Hiking/Walking

Doris White Years as agent: 23. Other specialty: Barge cruises. Consulting Fee: From $250.

Honeymoons

Georgia Johnson + Years as agent: 5. Consulting fee: Varies.

Peter Lloyd Years as agent: 20. Other specialty: Group travel. Consulting fee: From $100.

Hunting/Fishing

Mollie Fitzgerald Years as agent: 24. Other specialty: India. Consulting fee: From $250.

Photography

Janie Bullard Years as agent: 25. Other specialty: Adventure. Consulting fee: Varies.

Mark Nolting * + Years as agent: 23. Consulting fee: None.

Private-Jet Tours

Donna Christensen Years as agent: 15. Other specialty: Small-ship cruises. Consulting fee: Varies.

Yachts/Villas

Sara Ryan Duffy + Years as agent: 17. Other specialty: Celebrity travel. Consulting fee: Varies.

Icon Key

* tour operator
+ New to list
** T+L’s travel agent advisory board member, 2009


Priscilla Alexander ** Known for: Her unparalleled black book of hotel, tour, and VIP contacts that span the globe. Consulting fee: Varies.

Barbara Gallay ** Known for: Her encyclopedic knowledge of the world’s finest hotels, and ability to match them to her clients. Consulting fee: Varies.

Diane Hilliard ** Known for: Smart themed itineraries that take full advantage of a destination’s culinary, architectural, and historic attractions. Consulting fee: $750.

Lisa Lindblad Known for: An eye for undiscovered hotels and sights—a skill guaranteed to garner been-there-first bragging rights. Consulting fee: $3,000.

Mary Ann Ramsey ** Known for: a constantly evolving roster of intrepid finds, from favored hotel suites to must-visit stalls at exotic markets. Consulting fee: From $500.

Anne Morgan Scully ** Known for: Her connections at the world’s top hotels and resorts, where her clients are invariably extended a personal greeting by top management. Consulting fee: Varies.

Pallavi Shah * Known for: An insider’s knowledge of South Asia and Italy, and a Rolodex bursting with equally insider contacts: jewelry designers, vintners, first-rate historians. Consulting fee: $350.

Jim Strong + Nancy Strong ** Known for: Keeping the focus on über-luxury. This mother-son team has a carefully refined list of the best rental villas, yachts, and private jets. Consulting fee: From $250 per person.

Valerie Ann Wilson Known for: Being one of the travel profession’s undisputed hotel mavens. Wilson is also the mother of Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg and TAAB agent Kimberly Wilson Wetty, co-presidents of the company she founded (both are on the A-List). Consulting fee: Varies.

Did you enjoy this article?

Share it.

Explore More