A-List 2010: World's Top Travel Agents

A-List 2010: World's Top Travel Agents

Nola Lopez

<p>Nola Lopez</p>

Nola Lopez

T+L evaluated thousands of travel agents to create this highly selective list just for you.

Super-Agents
Europe
U.S. + Canada
The Caribbean
Latin America
Africa + the Middle East
Asia
Australia, New Zealand, + the South Pacific
Special-Interest

Super-Agents

Among the most informed and well-connected in the business, these 10 power brokers know the travel industry like no one else.

Priscilla Alexander **
Known For: Her hands-on approach and accessibility. President of Protravel, the largest supplier of luxury travel in the U.S., Alexander nimbly hops from actively advising even her most junior agents (on everything from yacht charters and Kilimanjaro climbs to escorted culinary tours) to spending half an hour on the phone with curious potential clients.
Trend Watch: With the dollar gaining strength, Alexander’s seeing a return to the popular destinations of Europe—Tuscany and the south of France, with even higher-end hotels such as Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc heavily booked.
Fee: Varies.

Barbara Gallay **
Known For: Deep connections with her suppliers—a vast global network of the top hotels, spas, guides, and local contacts on the ground—and a memory for the best rooms, suites, views, and even bathrooms.
Trend Watch: Gallay’s love for South Africa is something she expects to see many more travelers sharing post–World Cup, along with an increased interest in all of southern Africa, including Zambia and Malawi.
Fee: Varies.

Diane Hilliard **
Known For: Totally custom itineraries, with a pronounced cultural aspect—architectural, culinary, sociopolitical. Hilliard has lived in Israel, Jordan, and all over Southeast Asia; her understanding of the immersion experience is her secret weapon (as is her large Rolodex of top guides and historians, personal chefs and boutique winemakers, private drivers and pilots, and much more).
Trend Watch: Hilliard is seeing—and encouraging—a move toward the less-sung regions of the current marquee destinations: Simla and Gujarat in India, rather than Rajasthan; the dunes of Natal in Brazil, rather than Rio or Bahia.
Fee: $750.

Lisa Lindblad
Known For: Being on the cutting edge of what’s glamorous and adventurous in travel—two qualities her globe-trotting clientele value. The newest Montenegrin hotel, the sleekest Antarctic ice-hull cruiser, the most in-demand rug seller in the medina: Lindblad probably knows about it before most.
Trend Watch: Lindblad’s betting South America will continue to be big in 2011, especially José Ignacio, in Uruguay. She’s also got her eye on Sri Lanka, which is more accessible (and safer) than ever.
Fee: Varies.

Mary Ann Ramsey **
Known For: Tracking down the newest of the new—in hotels and resorts, cruises and destinations, but also unique experiences. Ramsey spends days at a destination in order to discover the hidden finds and authentic appeal of a place. Her most recent trip was to a Buddhist convent outside Seoul, where she donned traditional sackcloth to pray with the nuns.
Trend Watch: Ramsey is seeing a resurgence in eastern Africa, with the proliferation of top-flight camps. The canniest soft-adventurers are benefiting from her expertise and spending time in the cool jungles of Rwanda watching the gorillas, then repairing to luxurious surroundings in the Serengeti—she’s especially excited about the new Singita Sasakwa Lodge, at Singita Grumeti Reserve.
Fee: $500 per person.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2010
+ New to List


Anne Morgan Scully **
Known For: Taking days, even weeks, to find out exactly what her clients want—and then giving them something they wouldn’t have thought to ask for. “They are really open to new experiences,” she says. Case in point: as a surprise for a musician traveling in Russia, Scully arranged for a visit to the house-museum of Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov—where the client was invited to play the composer’s piano.
Trend Watch: An escalation of requests for privacy: this means villas, villas, villas. Expect rentals in Morocco, South Africa, Thailand, and Brazil to soon be as commonplace as they are in Italy and France.
Fee: Varies.

Pallavi Shah *
Known For: Her knowledge of every corner of the Indian subcontinent. Shah’s connections in India range from the far northern reaches of the Punjab to the backwaters of Kerala and the exquisite Hindu temples of Tamil Nadu. (Italophiles take note, however: Shah is no slouch on the secret pleasures and top luxuries of Italy, either.)
Trend Watch: Shah just returned from Turkey, which she sees becoming more popular as a Mediterranean summer destination. Istanbul, too, is gaining ground—and giving Dubai a run for its money—as a natural stopover en route to India: chic, awash in cultural and culinary attractions, and now serviced by nonstop flights from New York on Turkish Airlines.
Fee: Varies.

Jim Strong ** and Nancy Strong
Known For: Besides their far-reaching connections, the Strongs run their business based on highly attentive service. Not a single itinerary has ever been planned over e-mail, and, Jim says, he or his mother, Nancy, has a conversation with each new client to gauge not just travel habits but lifestyle choices, as well as general interests, before agendas are discussed in any detail.
Trend Watch: While multigenerational travel continues to be a buzzword, the Strongs are seeing the return of a phenomenon that fell decidedly by the wayside at the low point of the recession: luxury travel. Clients are favoring both the U.S. (Napa, New York, southern California) and Mexico (Jim is particularly excited about Imanta Resorts, a new all-villa property on the Riviera Nayarit).
Fee: From $250 per adult.

Valerie Ann Wilson
Known For: Wilson is willing to pick up the phone herself on any client’s behalf and call one of her many contacts to request that above-and-beyond special something, whether a room upgrade, entry visas turned around in a day, or elevator privileges to the top of the Acropolis for a wheelchair-bound traveler.
Trend Watch: Wilson’s clients are starting to head back to Europe—from Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast to Turkey and Greece—but with very private and exclusive agendas: renting villas or booking out small inns, enlisting top private guides and historians, and bringing in well-known local chefs.
Fee: From $200.

Super-Agent Picks: Spas

Our 10 agents agree: it’s now a given that the best hotels have top-flight spas. “And those that don’t are adding them,” Priscilla Alexander says. Meanwhile, some of the best new destination spas are in the Middle East—Kempinski Hotel Aqaba Red Sea, in Jordan; Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa, in Dubai; and Banyan Tree Al Wadi, set in a wilderness reserve near the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2010
+ New to List


Europe

Czech Republic

Nathalie Nagy
Special Booking: For a family visiting Prague, Nagy arranged a private tour of the studio of contemporary Czech sculptor Antonin Manto, then closed down the rooftop Koda restaurant for an exclusive dinner.
Years as Agent: 14.
Other Specialty: Honeymoons.
Fee: From $150.

England

Ellen LeCompte
New Favorite: At Isis Ceramics, outside Oxford, owner Deborah Sears, a collector of 17th-century English delftware, has resuscitated the art of hand-painted tin-glaze patterns.
Years as Agent: 20.
Other Specialty: Western U.S.
Fee: $250.

Tammi R. Van Volkinburgh
New Favorite: After two decades of being totally off the radar, London’s Silver Vaults—the city’s largest retailer of antique silver—is getting buzz again thanks to the unique shops that have opened there, including Beige and French’s Diary, along Chancery Lane.
Years as Agent: 19.
Other Specialty: India.
Fee: From $250.

Susie Worthy
Insider Clout: This summer, Worthy arranged for clients to tour the gardens at Highgrove, the Prince of Wales’s estate in Gloucestershire, complete with a private cocktail reception.
Years as Agent: 33.
Other Specialties: Anniversaries, reunions.
Fee: Varies.

France

Craig Loupassakis
Insider Clout: Loupassakis arranges tours of World War II sites for clients staying at Le Manoir du Quesnay, in Normandy, owned by the family of a French Resistance leader.
Years as Agent: 46.
Other Specialties: Caribbean, Hawaii.
Fee: $150.

Germany

Elisabeth Landry
New Favorite: Landry is impressed by Le Méridien Munich for its marriage of old-world hospitality and cutting-edge interiors (top-flight woods and fabrics, floor-to-ceiling windows, and sleek contemporary furnishings).
Years as Agent: 32.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: $200.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2010
+ New to List


Greece

Kelly Shea
New Favorite: Hydra—just over an hour by hydrofoil from the mainland—is on Shea’s radar. It’s east of Spetses and part of the Saronic Islands, with several charming small hotels, including the longtime favorite Phaedra and the newly renovated Hydra.
Years as Agent: 23.
Other Specialty: Turkey.
Fee: $250.

Christos Stergiou
New Favorite: Costa Navarino, on the Peloponnese peninsula, where two Starwood hotels have just opened—the Westin Resort and the Romanos, a Luxury Collection property.
Years as Agent: 6.
Other Specialty: Turkey.
Fee: $43 per person.

Ireland

Carol Cornell
Special Booking: For a group of women on a china- and silver-shopping excursion, the table at their private villa was set with different patterns, which were listed on the menu along with the food.
Years as Agent: 28.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: From $50.

Italy

Margot Cushing
New Favorite: Lesser-known Alghero, on Sardinia’s northwestern coast, has a historic center with trattorias, churches, and a 14th-century fort.
Years as Agent: 30-plus.
Other Specialties: France, Southeast Asia.
Fee: From $300.

Joyce Falcone
Insider Clout: For a family of seven who needed to travel from Venice to Liguria, Falcone arranged a transfer by boat to a driver waiting to take them to lunch and then along scenic byways to the Ligurian coast, arriving at Sestri Levante in time for dinner.
Years as Agent: 15.
Other Specialties: Culinary and walking tours.
Fee: From $300.

Andrea Grisdale +
Insider Clout: Grisdale orchestrated an entire reconnaissance mission for a client interested in the famous bistecca alla fiorentina—from visits to Tuscan farms to private cooking demonstrations with top chefs.
Years as Agent: 10.
Fee: $186 per person.

Deborah Hyte
New Favorite: Casta Diva Resort, a new hotel on the shores of Lake Como that was recently opened in an early-19th-century palace. Staying at Casta Diva is like being in your second home—from the impeccably furnished salons to the bedrooms, each with a balcony. Two docks afford access to watersports, and there’s a full-service, 14,000-square-foot spa offering Natura Bissé treatments.
Years as Agent: 31.
Other Specialty: Western Europe.
Fee: From $400.

Judy Nussbaum
New Favorite: In the hills south of Montalcino, the 14 rooms and suites at Castello Banfi Il Borgo are Nussbaum’s new standard for understated, authentic Tuscan luxury. The hotel was decorated by Italian designer Federico Forquet and overlooks the vineyards of Brunello.
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialties: France, luxury cruising.
Fee: Varies.

Andrea Sertoli
New Favorite: In Florence, Sertoli is impressed by the Palazzo Vecchietti, on the Via Strozzi, with 12 rooms and suites and two apartments—all flawlessly furnished with a mix of Tuscan antiques, contemporary art, and chic striped dhurries.
Years as Agent: 13.
Other Specialty: Croatia.
Fee: From $100.

Marjorie Shaw
Insider Clout: Shaw has dedicated guides on whom she can call in every major city in Italy and across all regions—from chefs and cultural historians in Lucca to a private gondolier in Venice.
Years as Agent: 21.
Other Specialties: Culinary and historical travel.
Fee: From $395.

Sally Watkins
Insider Clout: For a Caravaggio enthusiast, Watkins enlisted an art historian guide to escort the client to three churches in Rome to admire seminal Caravaggio works, followed by a visit to one of the artist’s former studios, just off the Piazza Fontanella Borghese.
Years as Agent: 24.
Other Specialty: Europe.
Fee: From $350.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2010
+ New to List


Russia

Greg Tepper
New Favorite: At Moscow’s Museum of Contemporary History, visitors follow the story of Russia from the end of Romanov rule through present times; it also contains an extraordinary Soviet-era porcelain collection, personal items from Lenin, Stalin, and Brezhnev, re-created Soviet apartments, and entire rooms full of World War II artifacts.
Years as Agent: 17.
Other Specialties: Eastern and Central Europe.
Fee: From $200.

Scandinavia

Carol Arklind
Special Booking: For four couples visiting remote areas of Scandinavia in a private jet, Arklind put together itineraries, organized landing permits, and booked a flight crew. First stop: Spitsbergen, in Norway’s northernmost Alta region, to see the midnight sun.
Years as Agent: 20.
Other Specialty: Hawaii.
Fee: From $150.

Tor Jensen
Special Bookings:
Jensen creates itineraries such as tours of Greenland’s northernmost reaches above the Arctic Circle by private helicopter and dogsled, or cruises up the Ilulissat ice fjords in expedition-caliber ships.
Years as Agent: 17.
Other Specialty: Asian cruises.
Fee: Varies.

Scotland

Claire Schoeder
New Favorites:
Just outside of Nairn, the Boath House Hotel is one of Schoeder’s personal favorites, as is Cringletie House, in Peebles, in the Scottish Borders region, which Schoeder recommends for fly-fishing or day trips to Traquair House.
Years as Agent: 20.
Other Specialty: England.
Fee: From $150.

Spain

Virginia Irurita
Insider Clout: A client bound for Madrid was bringing her daughter, who was intrigued by the book The Spy Wore Red, written by an American expat and secret agent in the 1940’s. Irurita arranged for the pair to have tea with the now-eightysomething author.
Years as Agent: 11.
Other Specialty: Food and wine tours.
Fee: $124 per person.

Judith Wolf
New Favorite: In the Rioja, the Baigorri winery, designed by Basque architect Iñaki Aspiazu, is one of Wolf’s must-see spots.
Years as Agent: 25.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: $200.

Turkey

Fred Poe
Insider Clout: Poe’s reach in Turkey is evinced by his many years on this list—and the full-service office he maintains in Istanbul—but his latest coup is beyond its borders: last year he secured visas for an entire group of rank-and-file (i.e., non–diplomatic corps) Americans to travel extensively throughout North Korea.
Years as Agent: 51.
Other Specialty: Algeria.
Fee: $150 per hour.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2010
+ New to List


U.S. + Canada

Alaska

Harold Jenkins
New Favorite: Set more than 100 miles away from the nearest road, in the heart of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the Ultima Thule Lodge is one of the most authentic, and adventure-centric, in the 49th state. The owners—three generations of the Claus family—give their guests once-in-a-lifetime experiences. This means flying to the coast to beachcomb, searching the high mountains for mastodon ivory, and scaling the summit of Mount Elias.
Years as Agent: 22.
Other Specialty: Skiing.
Fee: Varies.

Margret Propper
New Favorite: Tutka Bay Lodge, on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. Reached via seaplane or boat, it has five private chalets and cabins and specializes in so-close-you-can-touch-it wilderness experiences. The food alone is worth the trip: local fishermen stop by several times a week with loads of salmon and oysters.
Years as Agent: 37.
Other Specialty: European river cruises.
Fee: From $50.

Hawaii

Carolyne Brandon
New Favorites: A longtime fan of up-country Maui, Brandon has the scoop on the best wineries (Tedeschi, for its Ulupalakua red), dairy farms (Surfing Goat, known for its chèvre), shops (Kula Marketplace, filled with boutiques), and sites (Alii Chang’s lavender farm, on the slopes of Haleakala volcano).
Years as Agent: 28.
Other Specialties: Australia, cruising.
Fee: Varies.

Darlene Mulkewich
Special Booking: For an adventurous couple, Mulkewich put together a no-holds-barred Maui itinerary that included ziplining along the slopes of a volcano, surfing lessons, snorkeling on Molokini, helicopter tours over active lava flows, and a sunset luau.
Years as Agent: 24.
Other Specialty: Riviera Maya, Mexico.
Fee: Varies.

Edward Phillips ** +
New Favorite: Phillips, who has logged over 40 trips to Hawaii, is crazy about the local dishes at Honolulu’s Side Street Inn.
Years as Agent: 19.
Other Specialty: Europe.
Fee: Varies.

New York City

Amy Glass
New Favorite: The culinary scene in Spanish Harlem: from French-Mexican fusion temple Itzocan Bistro to Don Pedro’s, for authentic Latin-Caribbean food (and live flamenco).
Years as Agent: 31.
Other Specialty: Costa Rica.
Fee: Varies.

Western U.S.

Deborah Trevino
Special Booking: A tour de force from Sundance to Santa Monica, passing through Jackson Hole and Yellowstone, driving along the Oregon and California coasts to Napa and Big Sur—with fly-fishing, hiking, and yoga at hotels such as Amangani, in Jackson, Wyoming, and Tu Tu’ Tun Lodge, in Gold Beach, Oregon.
Years as Agent: 16.
Other Specialties: Australia, New Zealand.
Fee: Varies.

Canada

Mark Hoyer
New Favorite: A three-hour drive from Calgary, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge sits in the middle of a pristine national park that’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Elk, caribou, and wolf sightings are not uncommon here.
Years as Agent: 22.
Other Specialty: Costa Rica.
Fee: From $250.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2010
+ New to List


The Caribbean

Margie Hand
New Favorite: On St. Lucia, Hand directs clients looking for an extra-authentic, slightly quirky take on the island to Fabian Philip, owner of Fabian’s Tours—he’ll show you everything from the best homemade coconut cookies (at a friend’s bakery) to staggering views of the Pitons seen from back roads.
Years as Agent: 15.
Other Specialty: Destination weddings.
Fee: Varies.

Janet McLaughlin
New Favorite: Secrets Sanctuary Cap Cana, in the Dominican Republic, was redone late last year. It has a state-of-the-art spa overlooking the beach, access to two Jack Nicklaus–designed golf courses, and spare, cool décor (Zen-inspired beds; stone or wood-paneled walls).
Years as Agent: 22.
Other Specialties: Luxury safaris, East and South Africa.
Fee: $125–200.

Latin America

Argentina

Maita Barrenechea
New Favorite: In Buenos Aires, Barrenechea is crazy about Mansion Vitraux, a sleek new boutique hotel in the San Telmo district.
Years as Agent: 28.
Other Specialty: South America.
Fee: Varies.

Brazil

Martin Frankenberg * +
New Favorite: Over the past year, Frankenberg has been sending clients to Lençóis Maranhenses, in the northernmost reaches of Brazil. There, desert sand dunes are dotted with thousands of freshwater lagoons.
Years as Agent: 10.
Other Specialty: Amazon River cruises.
Fee: Varies.

Jerry Greenberg **
Dream Trip:
A romantic escape to the pristine beaches of Ponta dos Ganchos, an all-bungalow resort on a privately owned peninsula in southern Brazil.
Years as Agent: 38.
Other Specialties: South America, Italy.
Fee: $200.

Costa Rica

Rachael Bockoven Colbert
New Favorite: Puerto Viejo, on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. It has easy access to Cahuita National Park and Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, as well as Le Caméléon, a stylish new hotel.
Years as Agent: 11.
Other Specialty: Soft adventure.
Fee: None.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2010
+ New to List


Ecuador

Tatiana Johnston *
Insider Clout: Johnston sends clients to the Antisana Reserve, in central Ecuador, for a once-in-a-lifetime experience: seeing condors in the wild.
Years as Agent: 15.
Other Specialty: Africa.
Fee: None.

Mexico

Marianne Braly
Insider Clout: Braly books clients an unadvertised private tour of Río Secreto, one of Mexico’s cenotes (underground rivers), including a hike to some remote swimming holes, followed by lunch.
Years as Agent: 20.
Other Specialty: Paris.
Fee: $150.

Zachary Rabinor +
New Favorite: Rabinor is sending clients to Hacienda San Gabriel de las Palmas, outside of Cuernavaca, a 1529 conquistador’s mansion turned ultra-luxe hotel.
Years as Agent: 7.
Other Specialties: Guatemala, Belize.
Fee: Varies.

Peru

Marisol Mosquera +
New Favorite: Ticllabamba Maison d’Hôtes, a three-bedroom guesthouse in the village of Yucay, in the Sacred Valley.
Years as Agent: 14.
Other Specialties:
Bolivia, Ecuador, Galápagos.
Fee: Varies.

South America

Carlos L. Fida *
Insider Clout: A longtime proponent of Lima’s culinary scene, Fida keeps a list of favorites, including reliable stalwarts such as Astrid & Gastón as well as lesser-known local haunts such as the innovative haute deli T’Anta.
Years as Agent: 31.
Other Specialties: Brazil, honeymoons.
Fee: $350.

Eric Sheets *
Special Booking: A surprise two-day excursion as part of a Brazilian honeymoon, involving a private helicopter tour of Angra dos Reis followed by a transfer via yacht to one of the archipelago’s private islands.
Years as Agent: 16.
Other Specialty: Galápagos.
Fee: From $150.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2010
+ New to List


Africa + the Middle East

Africa

Bob Berghaier *
New Favorite: South Africa’s Balule Game Reserve—35,000 acres of former farmland traversed by the Olifants River. Here, there are excellent, service-oriented lodges, including Pondoro, with chalets designed by local architects, and Toko Yaka, whose six large suites come with hardwood floors, antique English canopied beds, and private decks.
Years as Agent: 10.
Other Specialty: Wildlife travel.
Fee: Varies.

Katie Cadar
Special Booking: Cadar orchestrated a southern African odyssey for a family of five that involved game tracking in South Africa, a flight to Malawi for a day of volunteering with children from the local community, overnights in an English manor, a tented camp in the Serengeti, and scuba diving on a small private island off Zanzibar.
Years as Agent: 24.
Other Specialty: French Polynesia.
Fee: From $100 per person.

Phoebe Weinberg
Insider Clout: She recently arranged for a group of friends on a stopover in Cairo to have after-hours access to the Egyptian Museum, where they toured its antiquities galleries for two hours with a guide.
Years as Agent: 40.
Other Specialties: Southeast Asia, India.
Fee: Varies.

Dana Welch
New Favorite: A new full-service cruiser, the Zambezi Queen, that makes two- and three-night excursions along the Chobe River through some of northern Botswana’s most picturesque countryside. The ship’s airy, contemporary suites (with private balconies) are complemented by its eco-creds—co-owner Tony Stern, a former engineer, constructed the boat to strict efficiency standards.
Years as Agent: 18.
Other Specialty: Adventure travel.
Fee: From $100.

East Africa

Sandy Cunningham *
Insider Clout: Because of Cunningham’s amazing contacts, she can arrange for clients to see Africa’s “sardine run”—in which hundreds of thousands of migrating fish form massive shoals in the waters off Transkei—from the comfort of a live-on catamaran.
Years as Agent: 15.
Other Specialty: New Mexico.
Fee: Varies.

Jeanie Fundora *
Insider Clout: With just a couple of days’ notice, Fundora secured eight permits to track mountain gorillas in Rwanda for a group of VIP clients who arrived in their private G5.
Years as Agent: 11.
Other Specialty: Indian Ocean islands.
Fee: None.

Egypt

Malaka Hilton
Special Booking: For a private celebration for 80 guests, Hilton organized a tent at the foot of the Pyramids with chef Roy Yamaguchi, who served a meal with wines from the Ferragamos’ Il Borro Tuscan estate—poured by members of the Ferragamo family.
Years as Agent: 16.
Other Specialty: Africa.
Fee: $250 per person.

Israel

Rachel Epstein *
New Favorites:
Israel has a new cultural icon—the Design Museum Holon, created by Ron Arad and home to a rotating exhibition of international furniture, product, and industrial designs. Epstein also cites the Conegliano Synagogue & Museum, in Jerusalem, which she calls “the heart and soul of the Italian Jewish community.”
Years as Agent: 28.
Other Specialty: Spain.
Fee: Varies.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2010
+ New to List


Middle East

Janet Moore *
New Favorites:
Damascus has a lot of buzz and development at the moment. Moore notes the opening in June of Beit Al Wali boutique hotel—20 opulent rooms in a former merchant’s house in the old center. She’s also been taking clients to Ayyam Gallery, a showcase for contemporary Syrian artists, and to the atelier of jeweler Peter Farah.
Years as Agent: 25.
Other Specialty: India.
Fee: None.

Morocco

Michael Diamond *
Special Booking: Diamond arranged for a private tented camp to be set up in southern Morocco’s Sahara Desert, complete with generators and air-conditioning units from a film studio.
Years as Agent: 9.
Other Specialty: Turkey.
Fee: None.

Safaris

Norman Pieters *
Special Booking: For a high-profile client’s safari, Pieters worked with a worldwide security company and orchestrated a soup-to-nuts custom trip, arranging for restaurants to be closed to the public, providing magicians and ostrich-egg painters to entertain the children, and making himself available 24/7.
Years as Agent: 38.
Other Specialty: India.
Fee: From $250.

Southern Africa

Julian Harrison *
Insider Clout: In Limpopo, Harrison arranges access to the 19th hole at Legend Golf & Safari Resort—the longest, as well as the highest, par three on the planet. The tee, standing a full 1,300 feet above the green at Hanglip Mountain, must be reached by helicopter.
Years as Agent: 24.
Other Specialties: East and central Africa.
Fee: From $250.

Judy Udwin *
Special Booking: Udwin planned a destination wedding for 25 people in the bush; it included several days and nights of catered festivities, commandeering three bands (including two very popular local ones), and a two-day luxury safari for the entire group—plus, the whole affair was broadcast on South African television.
Years as Agent: 29.
Other Specialties: Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe.
Fee: $150 per person.

Joel Zack *
New Favorite: Zack is interested in South Africa’s booming art scene and the unexpected ways it’s being brought to the public—particularly, the new contemporary gallery at Cape Town’s Ellerman House, built into the bluff below the hotel’s swimming pool.
Years as Agent: 15.
Other Specialties: Morocco, Spain, Turkey.
Fee: None.

United Arab Emirates

Lindsey Wallace *
New Favorite: Wallace knows Dubai inside out and has stayed at every five-star property multiple times, so when she says she can’t wait to see Armani Hotel Dubai, clients can infer she’s on to something special.
Years as Agent: 14.
Other Specialties: Maldives, Seychelles.
Fee: Varies.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2010
+ New to List


Asia

China

Karin Hansen
New Favorite: Hansen recommends the village of Dali, in the far western corner of Yunnan province—at the crossroads to Burma and Tibet; the indigenous Bai tribe wear traditional costumes characterized by extravagant headdresses and red-ribboned, black-lacquer shoes.
Years as Agent: 32.
Other Specialties: Scandinavia, Southeast Asia.
Fee: From $200.

Guy Rubin
Special Booking: For a polo-playing client visiting Beijing, Rubin organized an informal practice match three hours north of the city, in Inner Mongolia. Ponies were transported up, along with all necessary equipment—the client’s sons needed to be fitted with boots, helmets, and mallets—and volunteers to comprise two teams.
Years as Agent: 11.
Other Specialty: Hong Kong.
Fee: $100.

Mei Zhang *
New Favorite: Weishan, in Yunnan province in southwest China, a barely known town whose history and foundations date back to its eighth-century inception as seat of the Nanzhao Kingdom, contemporaries of the T’ang dynasty. Residents still read public announcements in the square in front of a bulletin board on which only hand-calligraphied notes may be posted. It’s also one of the largest wild-orchid suppliers to Japan in all of China.
Years as Agent: 11.
Other Specialty: Custom luxury itineraries.
Fee: $500.

Hong Kong

Laura Woo
New Favorite: Chi Lin Vegetarian, a restaurant inside the Chi Lin nunnery in Nan Lian garden, a stunning Buddhist temple complex in Kowloon; its isolation has allowed it to develop a unique school of contemporary vegetarian Cantonese food. Its new garden restaurant abuts the Silver Strand waterfalls.
Years as Agent: 28.
Other Specialties: Hawaii, China.
Fee: $200.

India/Sri Lanka

Ellison Poe
New Favorite: A handful of new boutique hotels in Sri Lanka, following on the heels of Wilpattu National Park’s reopening in February: Villa Bentota, a Geoffrey Bawa–designed villa complex reimagined as a stylish redoubt along the Bentota coast; and Ulagalla Resort, a 54-acre jungle retreat powered by solar panels and dotted with airy pavilions with plunge pools.
Years as Agent: 28.
Other Specialties: East Africa, Syria.
Fee: $150 an hour.

Ashish Sanghrajka *
Special Booking: Escorted clients on a pilgrimage to the Gujarati holy site of Palitana, in northwestern India. They climbed 4,000 steps to the temples and participated in the aartis (prayer ceremonies). He then took his clients to be blessed by the very priest who had blessed him as a child on his first visit.
Years as Agent: 12.
Other Specialty: Burma.
Fee: $500.

Japan

Noriko Townsend *
New Favorites:
In Kyoto, Townsend adores Eventail, a new restaurant specializing in all-organic fare, and Gion Hatanaka teahouse, which offers an excellent maiko show and dinner (in which apprentice geishas perform and serve) for intimate groups. And in Himeji, Koko Gardens—smaller than other more renowned ones—is best for those looking to avoid crowds.
Years as Agent: 14.
Other Specialties: Vietnam, Cambodia, China.
Fee: $150.

Southeast Asia

Darlene Ravin
New Favorite: Six Senses Soneva Kiri, on the pristine Thai island of Ko Kut—an all-villa property (the only one on the island) that made its debut in late January with dedicated butlers, massive private pools, and its own airstrip.
Years as Agent: 13.
Other Specialties: Custom luxury itineraries, northern Africa.
Fee: From $100.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2010
+ New to List


Australia, New Zealand, + the South Pacific

Australia

Catharina Apodac
New Favorite: She raves about a bistro in the Tasmanian capital of Hobart called Blue Skies Dining, which serves straightforward local food that’s as popular with natives as it is with those who’ve traveled thousands of miles for the island’s revered salmon and beef.
Years as Agent: 20.
Other Specialty: New Zealand.
Fee: From $150.

Cassandra Bookholder
New Favorite: From Melbourne, Bookholder will send clients by helicopter to the Royal Mail Hotel & Restaurant, set in Grampians National Park, famous for its picturesque mountains and Aboriginal relics. The property grows more than 150 fruits and vegetables in its kitchen gardens and the cellar is one of Australia’s most comprehensive, including over a dozen regional Rieslings.
Years as Agent: 4.
Other Specialty: South Pacific.
Fee: From $250.

Terry Coffey
New Favorite: In the Philippines, Coffey’s secondary area of expertise, the capital’s Manila Hotel, with its embroidered linens, ornately carved teak beds, original brass chandeliers, and black-and-white floor tiles, reflects the antithesis of the sleek design aesthetic that pervades much of Southeast Asia.
Years as Agent: 27.
Other Specialty: The Philippines.
Fee: From $200.

Suzy Mercien-Ferol
New Favorite: Arkaba Station, a luxe, full-service cattle station and the sister resort of Bamurru Plains, with all the attendant ranch activities, including riding and herding.
Years as Agent: 16.
Other Specialties: New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti.
Fee: From $150.

French Polynesia

Susanne Hamer
Insider Clout: On Bora-Bora, Hamer’s name opens doors: in the past year, she has secured everything from exclusive after-hours appointments with Olsen Teriimarama (a.k.a. Marama), the island’s premier tattoo artist, to entrée at the gallery of Alain Despert, usually open only to serious collectors of South Seas art.
Years as Agent: 16.
Other Specialties: New Zealand, the Cook Islands.
Fee: From $200.

Robin Turner
New Favorite: Bora Bora Nui is a “Polynesian charmer” with a stunning new two-bedroom family villa as well as fresh talent in the kitchen—chef Daniel Echasseriau (formerly of La Samanna).
Years as Agent: 25.
Other Specialty: Hawaii.
Fee: Varies.

New Zealand

Donna Thomas *
Insider Clout: Besides having her own exclusive golf concierge, who has every blue-chip course from the Pacific coast to the southern alps on speed dial, Thomas has arranged for over-the-top wedding proposals in spots reached via helicopter: a picnic atop a volcano as well as one on a glacier.
Years as Agent: 37.
Other Specialty: Australia.
Fee: None.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2010
+ New to List


Special-Interest

Cruises

Claudia Gordon
Insider Clout: For clients on a stopover in London, Gordon organized a private dinner cruise for two couples aboard the Queen’s Launch—the official royal barge.
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Space travel.
Fee: Varies.

Lois Moran
New Favorite: Moran loves the markets of Goa, India, especially Ingo’s bazaar, the Saturday night shopping-and-eating fest on the site of the historic Anjuna flea market.
Years as Agent: 37.
Other Specialty: Private-jet tours.
Fee: Varies.

Betsy Patton
New Favorite: On a cruise in the Caribbean, Patton spent a day exploring the less-blingy side of St. Bart’s. Among her discoveries: bistro Le Grain de Sel, at Grand Saline Beach.
Years as Agent: 32.
Other Specialty: Milestone celebrations.
Fee: Varies.

Liz Sutton **
New Favorite: On Mexico’s Riviera Maya, Paraíso de la Bonita: a small, all-suite haven with a 5,000-bottle wine cellar and a thalassotherapy spa—and the area’s best snorkeling.
Years as Agent: 33.
Other Specialty: Motivational travel.
Fee: Varies.

Ruth Turpin
New Favorite: Turpin is crazy for the cobblestoned alleys of Villefranche-sur-Mer, France, a popular stop on Celebrity and Crystal itineraries. She arranges walks through the mazelike 16th-century citadel and lunch at her favorite restaurant, Carpaccio.
Years as Agent: 32.
Other Specialty: Family cruising.
Fee: Varies.

Family

Fontaine Gatti
New Favorite: Belfast—especially for families tracing Irish roots. Gatti sends clients to stay at Culloden, a former monastery on the outskirts of town with a world-class spa.
Years as Agent: 40.
Other Specialty: Adventure travel.
Fee: $100.

Kathy Hannon
New Favorite: Hannon says you can’t beat the new Capella Telluride, in Colorado, or New Sheridan Hotel, a gold-rush era inn with a stellar restaurant.
Years as Agent: 25.
Other Specialty: Family cruises.
Fee: Varies.

Paul Largay *
Special Booking: In Marrakesh, Largay arranged a medina excursion with a personal shopper. The client selected caftan fabric, beads for jewelry, and leather for sandals.
Years as Agent: 27.
Other Specialty: Soft adventure worldwide.
Fee: $100 per person.

Kay Merrill
Dream Trip: A week at Jabulani, a camp in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, where the new 4,600-square-foot Zindoga Villa is perfect for large families.
Years as Agent: 16.
Other Specialties: Southern Africa, South America.
Fee: From $250.

Ana Maria Pickens +
New Favorite: La Bobadilla, a resort in Granada, in southern Spain, with a comprehensive range of kid-friendly activities: pony riding; mountain biking; falconry with local experts.
Years as Agent: 18.
Other Specialties: China, Australia.
Fee: None.

Kathryn Sudeikis **
New Favorite: The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa’s private villa, Casa Elar, made for families—from layout (five bedrooms across two wings) to features (indoor-outdoor fireplaces).
Years as Agent: 42.
Other Specialty: India.
Fee: From $150.

Kimberly Wilson Wetty **
Dream Trip: One she just completed—a week in Istanbul with her children. Wetty stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel at Sultanahmet and explored the spice market with her kids in the company of one of the city’s most seasoned guides.
Years as Agent: 15.
Other Specialty: Short leisure trips.
Fee: $150 per person.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2010
+ New to List


Business Travel

Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg
Insider Clout: Wilson-Buttigieg recently arranged a ride for a client on the British Airways Boeing 747 flight simulator at Heathrow with a senior BA pilot.
Years as Agent: 19.
Other Specialty: Multigenerational travel.
Fee: From $75.

Hotels

Manny Beauregard
New Favorite: Santiago, Chile, has added a host of new properties, including the Aubrey, a Beaux-Arts mansion in the trendy Bellavista district.
Years as Agent: 38.
Other Specialty: Small-ship cruises.
Fee: $250.

Bobby Zur +
New Favorite: Nihiwatu, a boutique resort on the remote Indonesian island of Sumba.
Years as Agent: 10.
Other Specialty: Southern Africa.
Fee: From $500.

Spas

Karen Benson
New Favorite: Peuma Hue Carre Lauquen, a 500-acre estate and spa in Argentine Patagonia. Guests ride horses around the lake then return for a traditional barbecue.
Years as Agent: 27.
Other Specialty: Fitness/adventure travel.
Fee: From $250.

Maureen “Mo” Smith
New Favorite: Smith just returned from a tour of the Riviera Maya, Mexico, and fell in love with the thalassotherapy spa at the Hotel Villa Rolandi, on Isla Mujeres.
Years as Agent: 33.
Other Specialties: Adventure, culinary tours.
Fee: From $100.

Adventure

Betty Jo Currie
Special Booking: A Kenyan safari for 75 people. The weeklong journey went from sacred mountains and forest tree houses to the open plains of the bush.
Years as Agent: 17.
Other Specialties: India, Chile, Peru.
Fee: From $250.

Culture/Education

Emmanuel Burgio
Insider Clout: Arranged for clients to explore South America’s Beagle Channel via kayak with Norbert Mendez, an Olympian on Argentina’s kayaking team.
Years as Agent: 8.
Other Specialty: Adventure travel.
Fee: Varies.

Margery Hunter
Insider Clout: For two expert horticulturists with one day to explore Cornwall, England, Hunter organized a tour of the botanical garden at Tregothnan, which is not open to the public.
Years as Agent: 27.
Other Specialty: South America.
Fee: Varies.

Paul Niskanen * **
Special Bookings:
He’s set up lunch for a client with the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand as well as a Fourth of July picnic in the Botswanan bush.
Years as Agent: 37.
Other Specialty: Southern Africa.
Fee: $350.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2010
+ New to List


Diving

Gene Lashley
New Favorite: The Oberoi Sahl Hasheesh, on Egypt’s Red Sea coast, has 84 suites set at the edge of a marine park with some of the best diving in the Middle East.
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialty: Adventure travel.
Fee: From $200.

Food/Wine

Bonnie Brayham +
Special Booking: For a chef, Brayham created a two-week itinerary that included lessons on meat curing, harvesting olives at a Tuscan farm, and wine tastings on the estates of boutique producers.
Years as Agent: 2.
Other Specialty: Experiential tours.
Fee: $1,220 per trip.

Lynda Turley Garrett
New Favorite: Saffire Freycinet, a luxe resort and restaurant opening this fall near Freycinet National Park in Tasmania, with 20 private suites facing the Tasman Sea.
Years as Agent: 31.
Other Specialties: Australia, New Zealand.
Fee: From $200.

Katie McCormack Krinkie
New Favorite: At Chalk Hill Winery, in Sonoma, a two-hour private tour that culminates in a tasting on the pavilion terrace overlooking the Furth equestrian estate.
Years as Agent: 15.
Other Specialties: Luxury cruising, California.
Fee: Varies.

Gay/Lesbian

David Rubin *
New Favorite: An adventure-cruise outfitter in the Mekong Delta—Jayavarman Cruises—caught Rubin’s eye this year. It offers a combination of river cruising and biking.
Years as Agent: 14.
Other Specialty: Special-event travel.
Fee: From $250.

Golf

Susan Dischner
Special Booking: For clients golfing in New Zealand, Dischner arranged for a trip to the Otago Peninsula to see endangered yellow-eyed penguins in their natural habitat.
Years as Agent: 45.
Other Specialty: Luxury cruising.
Fee: From $100.

Jani Miller **
New Favorite: Miller loves Pennsylvania’s Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, with 36 holes of championship golf and extensive facilities for children.
Years as Agent: 33.
Other Specialty: Africa.
Fee: From $100.

Hiking/Walking

Doris White
New Favorite: Rifugio, a stone-walled mountain hut in the Italian Dolomites with a full-time housekeeper and chef.
Years as Agent: 24.
Other Specialty: Barge cruises.
Fee: $250.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2010
+ New to List


Honeymoons

Georgia Morgan Johnson
Insider Clout: For opera lovers honeymooning in Austria with one night in Vienna, Johnson found last-minute tickets to a gala performance at Schönbrunn Palace—the only show of the evening in the city.
Years as Agent: 6.
Other Specialties: Italy, Tahiti.
Fee: From $250.

Peter Lloyd
New Favorite: Lloyd recently sent newlyweds to Portugal’s Douro Valley, the oldest demarcated wine region in Europe, which he predicts will give Tuscany and the south of France a run for their money in the coming years.
Years as Agent: 20.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: From $200.

Fishing/Hunting

Betsy Donley * **
Favorite Find:
Montana’s Ranch at Rock Creek has five miles of private fly-fishing, with a healthy population of rainbow and brown trout.
Years as Agent: 20.
Other Specialty: South America.
Fee: From $100.

Mollie Fitzgerald *
New Favorite: Desroches Island, Seychelles—an all-suite and -villa resort south of Mahé. For deep-sea fishermen, there’s a Riviera 36 on hand to take them to try their luck with marlin, tuna, and shark.
Years as Agent: 25.
Other Specialties: India, Southeast Asia.
Fee: From $250.

Photography

Janie Bullard
Special Booking: For photographer clients, a 1920’s-style walking safari in the far reaches of the Selous Reserve, in southern Tanzania, with two of the country’s top guides.
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialty: High-profile travel.
Fee: Varies.

Mark Nolting
New Favorite: Sayari Camp, in eastern Tanzania—opened in 2005, it was recently given an extravagant makeover and is now one of the top five-star camps in the remote northern Serengeti.
Years as Agent: 24.
Other Specialties: Egypt, Jordan.
Fee: None.

Yachts/Villas

Sara Ryan Duffy
Insider Clout: For clients attending the Cannes Film Festival in May, Duffy chartered the Deja Too—a yacht that calls in France, Italy, and Sardinia. Besides its formidably opulent design (think Empire goes sailing) and vast aft terrace space, the Deja Too’s four equal-size suite cabins can be converted into two VIP suites, or one master suite and two standard cabins.
Years as Agent: 18.
Other Specialties: Custom luxury travel, private jets.
Fee: Varies.

Inside the T+L A-List

Some agents work for agencies owned by or affiliated with American Express, the parent company of this magazine. Fourteen are members of T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board (TAAB); we have noted this in their entries. Nominations: If you know of an agent who should be considered for T+L’s 2011 A-List, send an e-mail with a brief description of the agent’s qualifications, as well as contact information, to tlalist@aexp.com.


In an in-depth survey of our agents, we asked them to predict where travelers will be heading in the coming year and uncovered some genuine surprises.

India

Super-agent and India authority Pallavi Shah is keen to send clients to Kerala, where a handful of new boutique hotels and backwater houseboats are launching, and is seeing increased interest in Hyderabad, especially in Taj’s extraordinary Falaknuma Palace, with its sweeping views of the Old City. Diane Hilliard, meanwhile, is enthusiastic about trekking in the western Himalayas.

Sicily

This won the “Where are you most excited to go?” contest by a significant margin among super-agents and hotel and culture specialists. Priscilla Alexander expects Rocco Forte’s Verdura Resort—on the island’s antiquities-rich southwestern coast—to “change the whole game, to open up this destination to a different kind of traveler.” Two new Orient-Express properties in Taormina also debuted last year.

Turkey and Morocco

These two countries have an increasing number of high-quality guides and stylish hotels—beyond Marrakesh and Istanbul. Joel Zack and Michael Diamond of Heritage Tours, Morocco and Turkey specialists, will be sending clients into the difficult-to-reach southern deserts of Morocco and to cultural sites in Turkey such as the Sumela monastery, in Trabzon, known for its incredible mosaics.

Western U.S.

Several agents cited the American West, thanks to the arrival of a few hotels. The St. Regis Deer Crest Resort and Amangiri, in Utah, and the Ranch at Rock Creek, in Montana, have established a new paradigm, with top-flight nature and adventure experiences—from falconry lessons and white-water rafting to fly-fishing and running with wild horses—combined with service-focused pampering.


Italy and Croatia

Several agents on our list noted the rise of Puglia, Italy, where beaches and azure water, Greco-Roman culture, and a burgeoning local food scene converge. Croatia was a close second, christened “the cost-conscious traveler’s Italy” by one A-Lister—though a still-pronounced dearth of good hotels means it’s a good idea to seek the help of an agent before going.

Honolulu

Hawaii is on the rebound, with the focus on Honolulu, where world-class dining and shopping, a busily changing Waikiki Beach hotel strip, and, of course, Obamamania, have produced a mix of aloha-style hospitality and genuine glamour.

South America

In South America, A-Listers are seeing clients moving beyond capitals and traditional sites to less-explored areas: Brazil’s Pantanal Wetlands and Fernando de Noronha; Colombia, specifically the ever-more-alluring scene in Cartagena; and Peru’s northern reaches, rich in archaeological interest.

Egypt

This African country is “the new Italy,” with its endless supply of culture and increasing number of excellent hotels, such as the new Kempinski Nile.


Smaller, more intimate ships are enabling travelers to experience previously inaccessible destinations without compromising on luxury. Here are the routes our A-List agents are recommending in the coming year.

Antarctica

This is the white-hot itinerary for both families and couples. Cruise specialist Ruth Turpin matches the ship to the guest: for top-flight adventure, nonpareil Antarctica experts Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Explorer, with itineraries accompanied by conservationists as well as professional explorers and photographers. For no-holds-barred luxury with Zodiac excursions and ice walks, she’s booking Abercrombie & Kent’s new Le Boreal. And for the first-timer looking for a few days of cruising in South America, Turpin recommends the Crystal Symphony, which stops in Buenos Aires and Valparaiso, Chile, and includes a day trip to Antarctica.

Black Sea

“There is a slew of great new ships exploring this region,” super-agent Priscilla Alexander notes. Itineraries combine exploring ports of call with newly minted cachet—Sochi, Russia’s answer to the French Riviera, and the suddenly glamorous Azerbaijani capital of Baku—along with Yalta and Odessa, Ukraine, for sociopolitical interest. A perfect example: Silversea’s World Leader Symposium Black Sea cruise—which recently featured guest speakers Condoleezza Rice and Mikhail Gorbachev.

Scandinavia

“We’re seeing some great things, along the Norwegian coast in particular,” says T+L super-agent Diane Hilliard. Both Seabourn and Crystal have extensive itineraries along the North Sea coast and into the Arctic Circle, as well as small-ship Baltic explorations calling at Tallinn, Estonia, and Riga, Latvia, plus bigger ports (Stockholm, St. Petersburg).


According to several travel super-agents and specialists, children’s interests—and their studies—are increasingly dictating the agenda when it comes to family vacations. Here are the top destinations our agents think families will target in 2011.

China

T+L TAAB agent and family-travel specialist Kimberly Wilson Wetty says, “Children are hearing in school about China’s growing role in the world. What better way to learn than firsthand?” Travelers seeking adventure can go beyond the requisite tours of Beijing and Shanghai to the pristine villages of the Yunnan province, in southern China, or to Hangzhou, one of the nation’s seven ancient cultural capitals (newly invigorated with the arrival of Amanfayun, a full-service Amanresort).

Egypt

“This is a huge family destination,” says super-agent Pallavi Shah, who not only has the right hotels and boats but gives specific recommendations in each category for young families. Several Nile cruisers—among them Oberoi’s Zahra, whose seven-day itinerary overnights in Luxor—let families control the quality of accommodations while accessing all the highlights.

South Africa

The vote was unanimous and enthusiastic: in the wake of a successful World Cup, this nation’s myriad attractions—culinary, cultural, and wilderness-centric—are a bigger draw than ever. (The dollar’s robustness doesn’t hurt, either.) But particularly appealing are the carefully thought-out family programs at some of the country’s top camps and lodges, from Londolozi (where kids can whittle their own arrows) to Camp Jabulani, near Kruger National Park (don’t miss the friendly resident elephant family), and Samara Private Game Reserve, in the Karoo, where two private houses have been remade as family villas with access to thousands of acres of wilderness and dedicated guides.

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