Nola Lopez

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

August 22, 2013

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.

Related: Best Villa Rental Agencies

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.

Related: World's Top Travel Agents for 2012

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.

Icon Key

* 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.

Icon Key

* 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.

Harold C. Jenkins

Top Tip: Only 240 miles separate Sun Valley, Idaho, from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Make the most of the drive by taking the scenic Route 20/I-93 east through the high plains, stopping by Craters of the Moon National Park. Years as agent: 26. Specialties: Western U.S., Alaska, Skiing. Consulting fee: Varies.

Margret Propper

Years as agent: 39. Other specialties: Alaska, European river cruises. Consulting fee: From $100.

Carolyne Brandon

Altour American Express Travel, Cupertino, Calif.
Phone: 650-248-2344
Email: carolyne.brandon@altour.com

Thanks to her close ties with Hawaii’s top hotels and tour outfitters, Brandon is able to book rooms at sold-out properties and secure popular local guides. She has made more than 70 trips to the islands, and is especially good at uncovering activities for adventure-minded travelers who are looking for more than a beach vacation, such as lesser-known rain-forest hikes and education-based tours.

Excited about: The Ka’ana Kitchen restaurant at the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort. Sharp design and sunset views set the stage for locally inspired dishes, many made with produce from Maui’s ONO Organic Farms.

Specialties: Hawaii, Cruising

Back to the A-List 2015 database >>

Darlene Mulkewich

Special Booking: A couple requesting a fun adventure were chauffeured to the top of Haleakala at dawn, and then coasted down on bicycles that had been brought to the summit. They spent the afternoon with a private surf instructor testing out the swells before a beachside dinner at the Four Seasons. Years as agent: 25. Specialties: Riviera Maya, European river cruises, Alaskan cruises. Consulting fee: Varies.

Amy Glass

A travel agent for more than 30 years, Amy Glass specializes in New York City, Costa Rica, and soft adventure travel (think biking, bird-watching and safaris) in the United States. Her unique itineraries, which might include the luxury of the Chatwal hotel and the spice of Spanish Harlem’s Latin-Caribbean food for a New York client, have earned her a spot on the Travel and Leisure website’s A-list Top 129 travel agents for three years straight. Amy works for Protravel, an agency that has been praised by the likes of maestro Kurt Masur and Hillary Rodham Clinton, and, according to Corporate Travel Magazine, offers the best discounts for corporate travelers.

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: 19. Specialties: Western United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Consulting fee: $150.

Mark Hoyer

More than 20 years of experience have provided Mark Hoyer with the know-how to guide travelers through the most beautiful places in the world. His areas of expertise include outdoors adventures and historic cities in Canada, including Quebec City, Montreal, and Vancouver, as well as adventurous Costa Rica. As a member of TAG, Hoyer is also familiar with some of the most gay-friendly travel services around the world in popular destinations like Key West, Paris, Hong Kong, Munich, and Sydney. Consulting fee runs from $125.

Ellen LeCompte

LeCompte Travel, an independent affiliate of Brownell, Richmond, Va.
Phone: 804-510-0608
Email: ellen@lecompte​travel.com

LeCompte—who went to school in England and lives part-time in a 17th-century cottage in the Cotswolds—will satisfy even the most zealous Anglophile. She can book special tours of Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed, arrange tea with prominent members of the aristocracy, and secure box seats at Manchester United games.

Top tip: Green-thumbed travelers shouldn’t miss a trip to the Burford Garden Company in the Cotswolds, which carries over 12,000 plant brands as well as garden décor (wrought-iron benches and handmade French planters). Stop in the café for fresh salads—try the roasted butternut squash with spinach and red onions—and the decadent rhubarb cheesecake.

Specialties: United Kingdom, France

Back to the A-List 2015 database >>

Tammi R. Van Volkinburgh

Years as agent: 21. Specialties: England, India, South Africa. Consulting fee: From $500.

Susie Worthy

NoteWorthy Events, London
Phone: 44-20-3051-5165
Email: susie@noteworthy.co.uk

If it’s high-end and exclusive activities you want, this London-based advisor delivers: lunch and a match at the Guards Polo Club; private boat parties on the Thames; and front-row seats at the Old Vic with backstage passes to meet the actors.

Special booking: For The Imitation Game fans, Worthy can book a guided visit to Bletchley Park, just north of London, where the Enigma code was broken during World War II. 

Specialties: United Kingdom, Paris and northern France

Back to the A-List 2015 database >>

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: 48. Other specialty: Italy, Caribbean, Hawaii, France. Consulting fee: $150.

Elisabeth Landry

In addition to annual trips to her native Germany, Elisabeth Landry travels extensively to other European countries each year, allowing her to offer accurate, first-hand advice in regards to local hotels, restaurants, and tour guides. Landry was also selected to represent Virtuoso on several Silversea, Seabourn, Radisson – Regent Seven Seas, and Crystal Cruises, where she gained valuable information for her clients. She has more than 30 years experience, and her specialties include Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Years as agent 33. Specialties Italy, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Fee from $200.

Kelly Shea

Years as agent: 25. Specialties: Greece, Turkey. Consulting fee: $250.

Christos Stergiou

TrueGreece, Athens
Phone: 800-817-7098
Email: christos@truegreece.com

A champion of experiential travel in off-the-beaten-path areas of Greece, Stergiou has a knack for introducing travelers to small, independent hotels, private farms and wineries, and guides who have a talent for storytelling. Based in a suburb of Athens, Stergiou—who gave a TEDx talk about entrepreneurship and the founding of his company, TrueGreece—makes a point of meeting clients in person when possible.

Special booking: An over-the-top private sailing from Santorini to the island of Spinalonga, off northeastern Crete, with a wine tasting hosted by winemaker Paris Sigalas, a cooking class with a renowned Greek chef, and a barbecue on board. The trip also included a behind-the-scenes tour of the Acropolis Museum while it was closed to the public.

Specialties: Greece, Turkey, Italy, Spain, and France

Back to the A-List 2015 database >>

Nathalie Nagy

Protravel International, New York
Phone: 212-409-9562
Email: nathalie.nagy@protravelinc.com

Fluent in both Hungarian and German, and a part-time resident of Budapest, Nagy shows her clients an insider’s perspective on well-known places like Prague and Vienna. But she also enjoys introducing travelers to off-the-beaten path destinations such as the vineyard-filled Goriška Brda region of Slovenia or Brno in the Czech Republic, where you can tour the Mies van der Rohe–designed Villa Tugendhat.

New favorite: A slew of hotels have opened recently in Budapest. Among the best: Aria, housed in a 19th-century building within walking distance of the Danube’s iconic Chain Bridge. Contemporary art throughout the property’s 49 rooms pays homage to the city’s musical heritage.

Specialties: Central Europe, Western Europe

Back to the A-List 2015 database >>

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: 29. Other specialties: Ireland, Italy, France. Consulting fee: From $100.

Margot Cushing

A member of the FROSCH team, Margot Cushing has been leading patrons on trips throughout Asia, France, Italy, and Spain for more than 30 years. From her Turtle Bay office, she enjoys booking excursions to the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, which allows visitors to explore the less frequented towns of Ravenna and Modena. Past trips have included an “opera tour” of Vienna and Salzburg, which was comprised of live performances and visits to the homes of Mozart and Beethoven. Years as agent 32. Specialty The Mediterranean. Fee from $300.

 

Joyce Falcone

The Italian Concierge, Far Hills, N.J.
Phone: 888-674-3311
Email: info@italian​concierge.com

In the past few years alone, Falcone has hiked her way across Elba, skied the Dolomites, sailed from Sicily to Naples, rented villas in Lake Como and Tuscany, and slept in innumerable boutique hotels—all for the sake of delivering exceptional insights to her clients. The dual American and Italian citizen tailors trips to her clients’ interests (Slow Food, art history, design), but also makes a point of expanding their horizons.

Special booking: In Chianti, Falcone can set up a cooking and butchery class with the locally loved Dario Cecchini, known as the butcher of Panzano.

Specialty: Italy

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Deborah Hyte

A destination specialist for all of Italy, she makes her focus luxury leisure travel to worldwide destinations (particularly Western Europe, South Africa, and Kenya). As an independent consultant with Unique Travel Services at Altour, Hyte has the inside-industry connections necessary to ensure the desired travel outcome. Years as agent 32. Other specialty Western Europe. Fee from $400.

Judy Nussbaum

Years as agent: 31. Specialties: Italy, France, luxury cruises. Consulting fee: From $100.

Andrea Sertoli

Whether you are hoping to hit the “Big 3” (Rome, Florence and Venice) with tots in tow, sample phenomenal wines in the alluring region of Apulia, or indulge in a romantic island vacation beside the sparkling Mediterranean, Andrea Sertoli and his Chicago-based agency, Select Italy, can make it happen. From pre-booked museum tickets to private excursions, Italian-born Sertoli manages every travel detail so you can just relax and enjoy the trip. Years as agent 17. Other specialty Croatia. Fee from $100.

 

Marjorie Shaw

Insider’s Italy, Rome
Phone: 914-470-1612
Email: info@insidersitaly.com

Shaw’s Roman roots can be traced back to her grandfather, who moved to the city from New York in 1919 to take up a post at the American Embassy. Shaw was raised in Rome and lives there now with her husband and two children. Their frequent explorations of Italy have made her an expert in family travel, though honeymoon and group trips are also in her wheelhouse. She can pull strings for private food and wine experiences in Puglia and insider art and history tours in Venice.

Excited about: Italy’s Reggio Emilia region is especially famous for its culinary products—Parma ham, balsamic vinegars, and, of course, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese—but the area also has day-trip-worthy cultural sites such as the Ferrari car factory and museum and the Collezione Maramotti, a modern and contemporary art collection at Max Mara’s headquarters.

Specialty: Italy

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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: 26. Other specialty: Italy, Europe, Australia. Consulting fee: From $375.

Greg Tepper

Exeter International, Tampa, Fla.
Phone: 800-633-1008
Email: greg@exeter​international.com

While Russia isn’t politically popular in the U.S. this year, Tepper notes that the ruble has dropped more than 50 percent against the dollar, making it more affordable than ever. Tepper specializes in the kind of genuine VIP experiences (curator-led tours of St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum, a behind-the-scenes look at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater) that require serious connections, which he has in spades. He founded Exeter while working and living in Russia, and now travels to the country at least six times a year. His guides are among the very best in the country.

New favorite: The new wing at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, dedicated to the museum’s world-famous Impressionist collection.

Specialties: Russia, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and Croatia

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Carol Arklind

Special Booking: For several Texan clients, Arklind orchestrated a classic Scandinavian Christmas holiday, with an airport transfer by dogsled and an arrival greeting from the Finnish Santa Claus, Rovaneimi. They then attended a New Year's Eve dinner in Stockholm. Years as agent: 23. Specialties: Scandinavia, Hawaii, Great Britain. Consulting fee: From $200.

Tor Jensen

Special Booking: 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: 19. Specialties: Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland, and Asian cruises. Consulting fee: From $200.

Claire Schoeder

Century Travel, Atlanta
Phone: 800-533-6336, ext. 4011
Email: claire@centurytvl.com

Schoeder opens doors throughout the country thanks to her network of plugged-in friends and quarterly research trips. Turn to her for private whisky-cellar tours, falcon hunts, and overnights on family estates. Some of her favorite trips, though, are relaxed drives with stops at top restaurants. Visitors with Scottish ancestry should ask about her genealogy and clan-history guide.

Discovery: Hiking the Pass of Killiecrankie, a wooded gorge along the river Garry in Perthshire, Scotland. The walk is especially beautiful in October, when fall colors are at their peak.

Specialties: Scotland, England

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Virginia Irurita

Made for Spain, Madrid
Phone: 34-91-448-7275
Email: virginia@madefor​spain.com

A former banker, Irurita founded the Madrid-based Made for Spain as a way to share her enthusiasm for the country’s history, culture, and laid-back lifestyle. Through her stable of nontraditional guides, including professional architects and writers, she is the consummate insider hostess, arranging tapas crawls in Seville, sherry tastings in Cádiz, and atelier visits in Madrid. Her team is always on call, ready to deal with any missed flight or other travel mishap.

Excited about: A rising interest in hiking around Spain. Irurita’s arsenal of experts includes top trekking guides that can take travelers to destinations ranging from the Basque region’s Oma Forest to Majorca’s cliff-hugging trails.

Specialties: Spain, Food and wine, Portugal

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Judith Wolf

New favorite: The just-renovated Alfonso XIII, a Luxury Collection Hotel, in Seville, with its spacious rooms decorated in Castilian, Andalusian, and Moorish styles. "Don't miss tapas at the hotel's Bodega Alfonso bar," Wolf says. Years as agent: 27. Specialties: Spain, Italy, Turkey, France, European Mediterranean, food and wine. Consulting fee: $200. 

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: 52. Specialties: Turkey, Algeria, Eastern Europe, Austria. Consulting fee: $150.

Maita Barrenechea

Barrenechea is known for helping to cultivate travel to Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. When Argentina had very little travel infrastructure, Barrenechea met with ranchers and encouraged them to convert their estancias into luxury hotels, now common throughout the countryside.Years as Agent: 30. Other Specialty: Chile. Fee: Varies.

Jerry Greenberg

A travel industry veteran of 38 years, Jerry Greenburg of Cassis Travel Services makes leisure travel his particular focus. Recognized within the industry as a top agent, he provides personalized consulting services reflecting his extensive track record as a tour operator. (Brazil, South America, France, and Italy are destination countries he has particular expertise with.) Cassis Travel Services (CTS) is a premier travel management company with offices in London, New York, and Charlotte, NC, in addition to Los Angeles. A Virtuoso member, CTS has direct access to the finest in luxury travel providers.

Rachael Bockoven Colbert

Years as agent: 13. Specialties: Costa Rica, Soft adventure. Consulting fee: None.

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: 16. Specialties: Ecuador, Kenya. Consulting Fee: None.

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: 21. Other specialties: Paris, Mexico. Consulting fee: $100.

Carlos L. Fida

Top Tip: One of Fida's latest discoveries is the Corn Islands, off Nicaragua's northeastern coast. "They have everything-pristine beaches, excellent seafood, and affordable hotels." 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: 15. Specialties: Brazil, Honeymoons, Wine tours. Consulting fee: Varies.

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: 17. Specialties: Galápagos, Cuba, Small-ship cruises. Consulting fee: From $250.

Margie Hand

Andavo Travel, Birmingham, Ala.
Phone: 888-234-0046
Email: margie.hand@andavo​travel.com

Hand has traveled to 15 islands in just the past few years, including Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Nassau, St. Martin. She takes particular interest in planning multigenerational vacations, like a recent trip for a family of 17 in Turks and Caicos. (The men went deep-sea fishing while the women spent a day at the spa.) Hand, an avid scuba diver who first fell in love with the Caribbean on her honeymoon two decades ago, is able to secure room upgrades, private sailing trips and yoga classes, spa credits, and other perks.

New favorite: The Malliouhana, an Auberge Resort, in Anguilla, reopened last November after a three-year renovation. Sitting on a hilltop with 360-degree water views, the 44-room resort now has an Auberge Spa, alfresco cliff-side dining, and a two-tiered infinity pool surrounded by private cabanas.

Specialties: The Caribbean, Destination weddings

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Janet McLaughlin

Provident Travel, Cincinnati
Phone: 513-533-7867
Email: jmclaugh​lin@provident​travel.com

McLaughlin has friends in all the right places: hotel managers, gallery owners, chefs, private-yacht captains, you name it. She can arrange a camel safari in Jamaica, swimming with wild island pigs on the Bahamian island of Big Major Cay, and private diving trips on Curaçao. And McLaughlin has also been known to pull off miracles, including booking a group of clients into a resort in St. Bart’s that was listed everywhere as sold out.

Special Booking: For travelers looking for an off-the-grid island experience, McLaughlin can plan a trip to the seven-square-mile Grand Turk Island, where the locals (who are less inundated by tourists) are especially friendly. “Getting to the outer islands by small boat is fun, and the white sand beaches are practically deserted.” It’s also known for its stellar diving.

Specialties: The Caribbean, Italy

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Catharina Apodac

Years as agent: 23. Specialties: Australia, New Zealand. Consulting fee: $150.

Cassandra Bookholder

Camelback Odyssey Travel, San Diego
Phone: 602-889-5902
Email: cassandra​b@camelbacktravel.com

Bookholder visits her native country two or three times a year, always on the lookout for up-and-coming destinations and new ways to explore old favorites such as Sydney and Melbourne. A few recent discoveries: Ningaloo Reef, in Western Australia, where travelers can snorkel right off the beach, and new pop-up cafés and boutique wineries in the farmlands outside Sydney.

New Favorite: Crystalbrook Lodge, located on a lake in northern Queensland, is a perfect complement to a Great Barrier Reef trip, Bookholder says. The plush 10-person property sets up only-in-the-outback activities such as fishing for barramundi, bird-watching (look out for red-collared jabirus and dainty lotus birds), and excursions to local caves to see Aboriginal rock art.

Specialties: Australia, New Zealand

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Terry Coffey

Special booking: For a horse-racing enthusiast, Coffey created a customized tour with seats at key Australian tracks such as Belmont Park, in Perth, and Elwick, in Tasmania.Years as agent: 33. Specialties: Australia, Philippines, New Zealand. Consulting fee: From $200.

Suzy Mercien-Ferol

Touring Treasures, Brighton, Australia
Phone: 800-536-5328
Email: suzy.mercien@touringtreasures.com

Mercien-Ferol creates each itinerary from scratch, often with off-the-beaten-path surprises, such as stops at her favorite cafés along Queensland’s Sunshine Coast or a rain-forest trek followed by a champagne lunch. She also favors independent boutique hotels and lodges over international chain hotels.

Excited about: The Thala Beach Nature Reserve, on the coast of northern Queensland. Formerly known as the Thala Beach Lodge, the reborn property has upped its eco ante with sustainably built timber bungalows and tree cabins set high on stilts. There’s also a renewed focus on nature-based activities—ranger-led hikes and sea-kayak tours—in the surrounding unesco World Heritage–listed reefs and rain forest.

Specialties: Australia, New Zealand

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Susanne Hamer

TravelStore, Los Angeles
Phone: 310-689-5411
Email: susanne.h@travelstore.com

Vacations to the South Pacific can feel packaged—unless you get someone creative like Hamer involved. On biannual trips, she seeks out the best overwater bungalows for views and privacy and scouts off-the-radar finds (pearl shops, restaurants, and airport-layover detours) for travelers looking to explore beyond the hotel.

Excited about: Fine dining finally arriving on Moorea with the recent opening of Le Coco’s. Set high on a hill overlooking the island, the contemporary French restaurant serves up dishes such as shrimp on saffron risotto and duck breast with black currants.

Specialties: French Polynesia, The Maldives, and the Seychelles

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Robin Turner

For decades American Express Travel Insider Robin Turner has been a foremost expert on Hawaii, and while her personal interests include gardening and snorkeling, she is a pro at taking each customer’s passions and translating them into an unforgettable itinerary. Guided by Turner’s insider knowledge, customers can hike the famous Diamond Head crater, indulge in luxurious spa treatments, zip line through lush rainforests, or picnic on Hawaii’s most romantic, secluded beaches. Other areas of expertise include Southeast Asia and Fiji, and her consulting fee varies.

Donna Thomas

New Zealand Travel, Langhorne, Pa.
Phone: 800-367-5494
Email: nztravel@aol.com

Thomas has explored every corner of the North and South Islands on her 70-plus visits and always jots down places and ideas—waterfalls where fur-seal pups play, roadside sandwich shops, golfing tips—to incorporate into her detailed itineraries. She’s particularly savvy about staying within her clients’ budgets, a difficult task in this once-in-a-lifetime destination.

Discovery: While most New Zealand–bound travelers know that you can hike around Punakaiki’s Pancake Rocks, few realize that you can also horseback ride on the beach alongside the limestone cliffs. Thomas can also arrange evening astronomy tours for travelers who want to get to know the Southern Hemisphere’s major constellations.

Specialty: Australia, New Zealand

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Karin Hansen

Years as agent: 35. Specialties: Scandinavia, Southeast Asia, China, Thailand. Consulting fee: From $200.

Guy Rubin

Imperial Tours, Beijing
Phone: 888-888-1970
Email: guy@imperialtours.net

When Rubin moved to China, in 1994, he was surprised to find a dearth of resources for discerning travelers in a country so rich in cultural heritage and natural beauty. He and his wife and partner, Nancy Kim, set out to change that, and they now lead China’s most sophisticated luxury tour operator. To keep up with the country’s rapid transformation, Rubin is constantly inspecting new hotels—Chengdu has recently seen the arrival of the Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, Temple House, and Six Senses—and planning new excursions. In Hangzhou, he can set up a visit to a pharmacy with a practitioner of Chinese medicine; in Shanghai, he’ll arrange a nightlife tour that explores the jazz scene.

Trend watch: Long favored by backpackers, the city of Lijiang in southwestern China, at the Himalayan foothills, is now attracting high-end hotels such as the new Amandayan. The property incorporates Yunnan’s indigenous Nakhi design and has panoramic views thanks to its hilltop location. Lijiang’s tourism bureau understands the city’s potential as well. Rubin notes, “There are strict rules about architecture—what can and cannot be built—and they have bike lanes.”

Guy Rubin is a Super Agent and specializes in China.

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Mei Zhang

WildChina, Beijing
Phone: 888-902-8808
Email: mei.zhang@wildchina.com

Based in Beijing, Zhang formed WildChina with a mission to take travelers away from the beaten path, showing off the hidden sides of Shanghai and Beijing and introducing them to destinations such as Xiahe in Northwest China, known for its Tibetan culture, and Ruili, a merchant town that shares a border with Myanmar, located in her native Yunnan region. She is especially adept at getting people out into the countryside to explore some of China’s stunning national parks, like Zhangjiajie, the landscape inspiration behind the movie Avatar.

Special booking: Zhang can arrange a tour of Caochangdi, Beijing’s Ai Wei Wei–designed arts district, which includes stops at galleries such as Platform China, White Space Beijing, and the photography-focused Three Shadows, where travelers can meet founder Rong Rong.

Other specialties: China, Tibet, Bhutan, Myanmar, and North Korea.

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Laura Woo

West University Travel, Houston
Phone: 281-497-8820
Email: woo@hal-pc.org

Raised in Hong Kong, Woo returns often to her hometown to uncover new shops, restaurants, and hotels. She’s also very familiar with the city’s outskirts, from the residential New Territories to outlying islands such as Cheung Chau, where travelers can see ancient rock carvings and relax on white-sand beaches. She’s skilled at advising travelers on transportation and knows the ins and outs of the city’s ferries, trains, funiculars, and buses.

New favorite: The New World Millennium Hong Kong Hotel is ideally located by Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district. The property has five restaurants, a rooftop pool, and a 15th floor bar with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the harbor. “The deluxe Victoria Harbour View rooms, starting at 376 square feet, are the ones to book, for their water and skyline vistas.”

Other specialties: Hong Kong, Hawaii and Macao.

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Ellison Poe

Poe Travel, Little Rock, Ark.
Phone: 800-727-1960
Email: epoe@poe​travel.com

Central Europe is a second home to Poe, who grew up in Vienna and travels regularly to Austria and neighboring countries. Thanks to a lifetime spent in the travel industry (her parents founded Poe Travel 55 years ago), she has numerous tricks up her sleeve for scoring last-minute tickets to the Vienna State Opera or planning a private dinner at a 14th-century castle outside Prague.

Top tip: When visiting Vienna, don’t miss a trip to the Essl Museum, just 20 minutes outside the city in Klosterneuburg. The private collection, housed in a building designed by Heinz Tesar, includes contemporary and 20th-century Austrian art.

Specialties: Central Europe, India, and Western Europe.

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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. Specialties: India, Sri Lanka, Kenya. Fee: $500.

Noriko Townsend

Altour American Express Travel/ Japan In Style, Fort Collins, Colo.
Phone: 855-678-1512
Email: noriko.townsend@altour.com

At least two trips a year allow Townsend, an Aomori native, to explore Japan’s popular cities and small villages. She’s always finding new hotels and uncovering new experiences that appeal to her clients’ interests. When travelers want to learn more about Japanese Buddhism, she might arrange for them to meditate with a monk at dawn on a mountaintop temple in Koyasan. For families with teens, she recommends J-pop concerts or the Ghibli Museum, known for its anime exhibits.

New favorite: The Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills, occupying the top six floors of the 52-story Toranomon Hills Tower, has a spa and a 66-foot pool as well as 164 rooms stocked with yukata robes, deep soaking tubs, and complimentary snacks and drinks. Best of all, floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the skyline or Mount Fuji.

Other specialty: Japan and Southeast Asia.

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Darlene Ravin

Years as agent: 14. Other specialties: Southeast Asia, North Africa, Luxury, Cruises. Consulting fee: From $100.

Robert Berghaier

Insider Clout: Berghaier, a wildlife specialist before becoming a travel consultant, has been following the Great Migration for more than three decades. He'll examine your travel dates and budget to book you the best possible camp for seeing it. Years as agent: 11. Specialties: Africa, Wildlife Travel, Cultural tours. Consulting fee: Varies.

Katie Cadar

Special booking: Cadar recently sent two couples to Rwanda for gorilla tracking at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge; then to the Serengeti in Tanzania to ride horses with zebras, followed by a hot-air-balloon ride at Singita Sasakwa; and ended the trip with a stay at the Palms Zanzibar.Years as agent: 26. Specialties: Africa, French Polynesia. Consulting fee: $100.

Dana Welch

The Travel Society, Denver
Phone: 303-563-6225
Email: dana@travel​society.com

A former trekking guide in Nepal and lodge manager in Zambia, Welch is the go-to advisor for adventure-minded travelers looking to go on safari and spot wildlife. She partners with a very select group of operators and guides to create itineraries like flying safaris across Namibia, hiking treks up Mount Kilimanjaro, and walking trips across Zambia.

New favorite: The beautifully designed, five-suite Marataba Trails Lodge in South Africa, which offers daily guided walks through its 56,000-acre reserve. The area has all of the big game you bank on seeing (elephants, rhinos, and cats), as well as a large variety of birds, including the largest colony of Cape vultures in South Africa.

Specialty: Africa

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Joel A. Zack

Heritage Tours Private Travel, New York City
Phone: 800-378-4555
Email: joel@htprivatetravel.com

Concentrating on a small piece of the world—Portugal, Morocco, South Africa, Spain, and Turkey—and knowing these destinations inside and out gives Zack his edge. A dedicated team and network of well-connected locals sustain the business, which grew out of Zack’s own curiosity and expertise as an architect and historic preservationist. “We focus on people perhaps even more than place,” he says of his guides. They can open doors to experiences ranging from late-night jam sessions with musicians in Seville’s local bars to after-hours tours of Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul.

Trend watch: The Alentejo is becoming Portugal’s must-visit region for its low-key vibe, history-rich towns, and olive-orchard-filled landscapes. There are a handful of new contemporary hotels, such as the 19-room Torre de Palma, housed on a vineyard with horse stables and hiking trails, and the striking Villa Extramuros, where rooms have Midcentury Modern furnishings, floor-to-ceiling windows, and private patios.

Joel A. Zack is a Super Agent and specializes in Spain and Portugal.

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Sandy Cunningham

Outside GO, Santa Fe, N. Mex.
Phone: 888-870-0903
Email: sandy@outsidego.com

Cunningham, who was raised in both Zimbabwe and South Africa, has worked on both sides of the safari industry, having run camps in Kenya with her husband for six years before settling in the United States to plan bespoke journeys. She takes time to discuss the importance of conservation with clients, and can help them see it in action on, for example, a private rhino-tracking safari that spans three camps in South Africa.

Special booking: Cunningham designed the ultimate conservation safari, an itinerary that highlights how tourist dollars can help save wildlife and aid in the war against poaching. Travelers visit the Maasai Mara Conservancies; the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, which raises critically endangered black rhinos; and Sheldrick’s elephant orphanage, which cares for young animals whose families have been poached.

Specialties: Africa, Luxury and family travel

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Jeanie Fundora

Insider clout: For VIP American clients in need of top security for a trip to East Africa, Fundora arranged to charter the private helicopter of a prominent politician in Rwanda for their use. "It's the best one in the country," she explains. Years as agent: 12. Specialties: Indian Ocean islands, Southern Africa. Consulting fee: None.

Malaka Hilton

Admiral Travel International, Sarasota, Fla.
Phone: 888-722-3401
Email: malaka@admiraltravel.com

Hilton, whose father was born in Egypt, has an extensive network of friends and family throughout the country, which translates into insider experiences such as meals in local homes, golf at exclusive courses, and private-yacht rentals. She once organized a dinner at the foot of the Pyramids.

Insider Clout: Hilton’s clients can be some of the first to see the remains of Woseribre Senebkay, a previously unknown pharaoh who lived more than 3,600 years ago. His tomb was discovered last January in Abydos, just off of the central Nile River; Hilton can arrange an archaeologist-led tour of the excavation site.

Specialties: Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates

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Rachel Epstein

Frosch, New York City
Phone: 800-866-1623
Email: rachel.​epstein@frosch.com

At a time when travelers have a lot of questions about travel to Israel, Epstein serves as an invaluable resource. She travels to the country about five times a year and knows it from every angle: adventure, cultural, faith-based, and political. She leads many of her own trips, and has planned bar- and bat mitzvah celebrations, private masses and baptisms, wedding-vow renewals, and history-focused vacations.

New Favorite: The Market House hotel in Tel Aviv, ideally located next to the Jaffa Clock Tower and flea market. Some of the 44 rooms have balconies and deep soaking tubs, and you can see the remains of a Byzantine chapel through the lobby’s glass floor. 

Specialties: Israel, Spain and group travel

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Janet Moore

Years as agent: 27. Specialties: Middle East, India, Bali, Asia. Consulting fee: None.

Michael Diamond

Heritage Tours Private Travel, New York City
Phone: 800-378-4555
Email: michael@htprivatetravel.com

With a keen interest in cultural and experiential travel, Diamond plans everything from cooking classes in a Fez riad to hikes and horseback rides through the country’s scenic southern deserts. One special touch: all of his clients are given cell phones during the trip so that they can call guides, drivers, and the Marrakesh office of his company at any time.

Excited about: New museums in Marrakesh. The Musée Boucharouite, housed in a small riad in the medina, exhibits rare folk art and rugs made in remote Moroccan villages. The Musée Douiria de Mouassine showcases the restoration of a traditional 16th-century guest apartment.

Specialties: Morocco, Turkey

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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: 40. Specialties: Safaris, India, Botswana. Consulting fee: From $250.

Julian Harrison

Premier Tours, Philadelphia
Phone: 800-545-1910
Email: julianh@premiertours.com

Born and raised in South Africa, this former game ranger and co-author of Fodor’s African Safari knows when to visit certain destinations to maximize wildlife viewing, keeping factors such as rain, migratory patterns, and vegetation in mind. Over the past few years, Harrison—who can arrange home visits with scientists and conservationists—has boated the Okavango Delta, gone gorilla trekking in the Republic of the Congo, canoed the Zambezi River, and fished in Malawi. 

Insider Clout: At the Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp in Namibia, Harrison can arrange a presentation by Dr. Flip Stander, a scientist who has dedicated his life to researching the lions found in this region. Travelers might also be able to assist his center with research activities.

Specialties: Southern Africa, East and central Africa and the Indian Ocean islands

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Judy Udwin

Insider clout: For a couple’s seven-year-old twins, Udwin organized a separate safari itinerary that included a private chef (who whipped up pizza in the bush) and guides for kid-centric activities on land and water. She finished things off, with the grown-ups in mind, at a fully staffed, exclusive villa on the beach in Mozambique. 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: 30. Specialties: Mozambique, East Africa, Honeymoons. Consulting fee: From $150.

Phoebe Weinberg

Insider clout: Weinberg's connections reach far across South Africa. Examples: on Robben Island, she can arrange a meeting with a former ANC official who was incarcerated during the same period as Nelson Mandela; and at Le Quartier Français hotel, in the Cape Winelands, she'll set up a private cooking lesson with the hotel's renowned chef, Margot Janse. Years as agent: 40. Specialties: India, East Africa. Consulting fee: Varies.

Lindsey Wallace

Top tip: Camel’s milk is the ingredient of the moment in Dubai, finding its way into high-end specialty shops and dishes at some of the city’s top restaurants, Wallace says. While there, check in to his favorite spot: the new Ottoman-inspired Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, with views of the sea. Years as agent: 16. Specialties: United Arab Emirates, Maldives, Seychelles. Consulting fee: None.

Betsy Patton

Hurley Direct Travel, Naples, Fla.
Phone: 800-874-1743
Email: bpatton@dt.com

No matter the ship, Patton can recommend the best quiet corners for reading, where to watch the sunset over particular ports, and the top tables to book for a romantic dinner. Worried about getting a good night’s rest? She can even tell you which rooms have hard beds, and how to remedy the problem (ask the ship to provide egg-crate pads!). Since clients are now booking pre- and post-cruise trips, Patton has also become an expert in creating seamless land-and-water combination packages.

Top Tip: When picking an ocean-liner cabin, keep in mind that there are more noises to consider than when booking a hotel room. You not only want to stay away from elevators and stairs, but also take note of where the anchor drops and where the gym and pool are located.

Specialties: Small ships, luxury cruising and celebrations

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Liz Sutton

Insider clout: For a small group on a cruise, Sutton arranged for their ship to be greeted by the staff of the hotel Cove Atlantis.Years as agent: 35. Specialties: Cruises, Motivational travel, Multigenerational travel. Consulting fee: Varies.

T+L's Travel Advisory Board Member, 2011

Ruth Turpin

Cruises Etc., Fort Worth, Tex.
Phone: 817-732-6991
Email: ruth@cruisesetctravel.com

Since founding her luxury-cruise-focused agency some 36 years ago, Turpin has taken more than 180 ocean voyages, giving her a strong understanding of the crucial differences among ships and lines. And when clients come to her with no idea of what they’re looking for, she has a knack for matching them with just the right cruise.

New Favorite: Crystal Serenity’s Tastes Restaurant. Located on the Lido deck near the top of the ship, you can pair lovely views with tapas such as a California street tacos or ahi-tuna poke.

Specialty: Luxury cruising

Claudia Gordon

Insider clout: For clients on a luxury Mediterranean cruise, Gordon set up a rendezvous with a top Tuscan winemaker who created a special batch of wine for them.Years as agent: 32. Specialties: Cruising, Africa, space travel. Consulting fee: Varies.

Lois Moran

Top tip: The little-visited port city of Khasab, near Dubai, is almost unchanged from a century ago: You can still spot men hauling in their catch with handmade nets.Years as agent: 39. Specialties: Cruising, Private jet trips. Consulting fee: Varies.

Fontaine Deanna Gatti

Years as agent: 41. Other specialties: Family, Adventure travel, Africa, China. Consulting fee: $100.

Kay Merrill

Years as agent: 18.  Specialties: Southern Africa, South America, Family. Consulting fee: $250.

Kimberly Wilson Wetty

Valerie Wilson Travel, New York City
Phone: 212-592-1218
Email: kimberlyww@vwti.com

The copresident of Valerie Wilson Travel has clients who have relied on her expertise for two decades. She logs their travel history, understands their goals, and keeps track of their interests so that she can make the right suggestion, whether it’s a relaxed Caribbean getaway, a culture-focused European trip, or an adventurous vacation in Australia.

Top tip: When traveling to the Mayan Riviera, book a half-day trip with Paradise Catamarans, which hosts sunset sails and half-day snorkeling trips. The service on the 46-foot vessel is top-notch, and safety is a prior- ity. As for family-friendly places to stay, Wetty recommends the Rosewood Mayakoba and Grand Velas Riviera Maya resorts.

Other specialty: Family travel, Cruises

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Kathryn Sudeikis

Acendas, Mission, Kans.
Phone: 913- 671-7700, ext. 325
Email: ksudeikis@acendas.com

Sudeikis uses her own extended family (65 strong) as her test group, and is a master at choos- ing hotels and restaurants that deliver on all counts. She’s also skilled at planning reunions, offering families everything from cruises and safaris to dude ranches and Disney. As she puts it, they “aren’t just for backyards anymore.”

New favorite: The Art Deco–inspired WestHouse Hotel New York, in Manhattan, is a great location for families—close to Central Park and Broadway— and resort fees include room snacks and Wi-Fi plus wine, cheese, and charcuterie in the lounge, and cookies and milk in the 23rd-floor terrace. The 172 rooms, designed by Jeffrey Beers International, are also large and full of light.

Other specialty: Family travel, India

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Paul Largay

Special booking: 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: 30. Other specialty: Adventure, Family. Consulting fee: From $100.

Kathy Hannon

With more than 25 years of experience, American Express Travel agent Kathy Hannon specializes in both ski trips and family travel. She has in-depth knowledge of kids' programs throughout the United States, Caribbean, and Mexico, and she is a graduate of Disney's College of Knowledge, designed to develop agents' expertise in Disney parks and resorts. Hannon also plans ski vacations to the Western United States and Canada, organizing everything from accommodations and airfare to ski lift tickets and spa appointments. She was named a Travel + Leisure A-List agent in 2009, 2010, and 2011. Fees start at $50.

Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg

Valerie Wilson Travel, New York City
Phone: 212-592-1210
Email: jenniferwb@vwti.com

Wilson-Buttigieg is praised for her persistence on behalf of her clients, as well as her discreet service—and she intimately understands the pressures and priorities of travelers who visit three cities in three days or who are away two weeks a month. A self-described road warrior, she plans destination board meetings and executive-education programs in addition to working with individual travelers.

New Favorite: The Shangri-La Hotel, at the Shard, London, has stunning city views and six restaurants, many of which have private dining spaces that are ideal for lunch meetings.

Specialties: Business travel, family travel

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Manny Beauregard

Although Valerie Wilson closed its Atlanta office, Manny Beauregard is still based in Atlanta working for the company. A member of the American Society of Travel Agents, Beauregard began working as an agent in 1972. He specializes in hotels and small ship cruises. In fact, he was named a Travel + Leisure A-List agent for hotels in 2010 and 2011. Currently, his favorite hotel recommendations include the Aubrey, a Beaux-Arts mansion in Santiago, Chile, and the Leela Palace Kempinski in New Delhi, which features a two-story Espa spa with a private suite overlooking the city. Beauregard’s fees start at $250.

Karen Benson

Camelback Odyssey Travel, Phoenix
Phone: 480-477-6400
Email: karenb@travelxperts.com

Whether you’re looking for a restorative retreat or just a little pampering, Benson knows where to turn. She has planned ayurveda getaways to India, hikes in Bhutan, and cultural and spiritual experiences in Arizona. She knows not only which treatments to book but also the best practitioners.

Excited about: The 28,000-​square-foot spa at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Kaupulehu has an Apothecary Mud and Clay Mosaic Treatment that uses volcanic mud and deep-sea clay sourced on the island.

Specialties: Spas and wellness, adventure

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Maureen “Mo” Smith

Years as agent: 33. Specialties: Adventure, Spa, Hiking, Culinary. Consulting fee: From $100.

Betty Jo Currie

Currie & Co. Travels Unlimited, Atlanta
Phone: 404-254-5677
Email: bettyjo@curriecotravels.com

Currie focuses on maintaining personal networks and strategic partnerships around the globe, which translates into superior service for her clients, wherever they choose to travel. Her mission is to connect people to far-flung destinations through adventure, whether that means hiking the Peruvian Andes, boating the backwaters of Kerala, India, or observing the immense scale of Tanzania’s Great Migration via helicopter.

Special booking: For photographers, Currie can arrange an open-door helicopter ride over Norway’s Lofoten Islands, known for their postcard-worthy jagged peaks, or a private boat tour up the 21-mile Hjørundfjord, flanked by steep rock walls and green meadows.

Specialties: Adventure, Africa

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Emmanuel Burgio

Blue Parallel, Potomac, Md.
Phone: 301/263-6670
Email: emmanuel@blue​parallel.com

Burgio’s travel company, Blue Parallel, specializes in top-of-the-line bespoke getaways that combine luxury and adventure. It also has a collection of private villas, staffed by members of his team. All the itineraries—from solo ice treks through Argentina’s Perito Moreno glacier to family-friendly polo lessons on a private estancia—come with 24/7 concierge service that keeps VIP needs and time constraints in mind.

Special booking: In Colombia, Burgio’s clients can stay on a private estate overlooking the rolling hills of the Coffee Triangle. The property has a freshwater pool, outdoor yoga studio, and a personal chef who welcomes guests with a traditional barbecue—complete with live folk music.

Specialties: Central and South America, The Mediterranean

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Margery Hunter

Rudi Steele Travel, Dallas
Phone: 214-522-2782
Email: margery@rudisteele.com

In the past five years alone, Hunter has visited more than two dozen countries—always on the lookout for new ways to incorporate history and culture into her itineraries in subtle, meaningful ways. In southern Germany, she’ll add a night in the university town of Tübingen, where Hegel and Kepler studied. In Rome, she’ll not only direct clients to Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa but also give them just the right reading material to bring the magnificent statue to life.

Excited about: Auberge du Jeu de Paume, a Relais & Châteaux property on the grounds of Prince of Condé’s castle at the historic Château de Chantilly, is home to the prince’s extensive art collection.

Specialties: Culture/education, Europe

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Paul Niskanen

Cruise Masters/Concierge Travel Advisors, Portland, Ore.
Phone: 800-848-7120
Email: pauln@finevoyages.com

Niskanen excels at advising travelers who believe the main attraction is the destination, rather than the ship. He is well acquainted with hundreds of port cities in Europe, Asia, and South America, and can recommend excursions, restaurants, shops, and private or self-guided tours in each one. He’s also traveled along the Nile and the Yangtze as well as every major river system in Europe.

Insider find: The medieval hilltop village of Les Baux-de-Provence is a lovely shore excursion from Marseilles. You can tour the limestone caverns of Carrières de Lumières, and, in St.-Rémy-de-Provence, stop in to visit chocolatier Jöel Durand.

Specialty: Cruising, Southern Africa

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Gene Lashley

Gene Lashley believes that to truly know a destination, you should see it for yourself. Specializing in luxury cruises and adventure travel, the founder and CEO of Century Travel employs first-hand knowledge while planning individualized tours and vacations. Lashley has taken more than 75 cruises, and he uses this eye-witness experience to place clients on the ideal vessel. Listed as a diving specialist in the 2011 Travel + Leisure A-List, Lashley is also adept at arranging under-the-boat excursions to prime scuba spots such as Tahiti and Moyo Island. Fees start at $200.

Betsy Donley

Camelback Odyssey Travel, Phoenix
Phone: 602/-889-5909
Email: betsyd@camelbacktravel.com

Donley’s adventures began in childhood, when she accompanied her plant pathologist father to postings throughout Central and South America, picking up Spanish and Portuguese along the way. Today, the 20-year fly-fishing veteran explores the world through its rivers, leading expeditions and planning private trips to Montana, Belize, Zambia, and beyond.

Insider clout: In New Zealand, Donley knows a helicopter crew that will dive for fresh lobsters while you’re fly-fishing on a remote river. They’ll pick you up, crustaceans in tow, for a champagne lunch on a mountaintop.

Specialty: Fly-fishing, adventure

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Lynda Turley Garrett

Alpine Travel of Saratoga, Saratoga, Calif.
Phone: 831/708-4030
Email: lyndat@alpine-travel.com

To Garrett, dining experiences are the cornerstone of every trip. She plans entire journeys around meals—not to mention food festivals, cooking classes, market tours, and wine and spirit tastings. In each destination she visits (recently Napa, Paris, Melbourne, and northern India), Garrett makes it a priority to try everything from Michelin-starred restaurants to neighborhood joints. And she’s never used the same itinerary twice.

Excited about: Tasmania, known for its oysters and southern bluefin tuna, also has more than a hundred wineries, fisheries, and family-run dairy farms, where you can sample cheddar and Camembert cheeses.

Specialties: Food and wine, Australia, and New Zealand

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Katie McCormack Krinkie

Years as agent: 15. Other specialties: Culinary travel, California, Europe. Consulting fee: Varies.

David Rubin

DavidTravel, Corona del Mar, Calif.
Phone: 949-427-0199
Email: david@davidtravel.com

Rubin left a successful law practice to found DavidTravel, and he still draws on his legal background: he listens to clients with an analytic ear, is an expert at negotiating rates, and has a knack for anticipating—and heading off—problems. He frequently arranges dinners with prominent members of gay communities, even in less tolerant countries such as Kenya and Egypt.

New Favorite: The Peninsula Paris, housed in a 19th-century Haussmannian building, has a rooftop bar with Eiffel Tower views and thoughtfully designed rooms (ample closet space, U.S.-compatible electric outlets, and total blackout curtains). There’s also a large spa with eight treatment rooms and an indoor pool.

Specialties: LGBT travel, destination celebrations

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Susan Dischner

Top tip: While China and Japan have blue-chip courses, they’re usually accompanied by hefty greens fees. Malaysia, surprisingly, has more than 200 mostly affordable blue-chip courses.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: 46. Specialties: Golf,  Luxury cruises. Consulting fee: From $100.

Jani Miller

Central Travel, Toledo, Ohio
Phone: 800-633-5577
Email: jani@centraltravel.com

An avid golfer who has played all over the world, Miller has firsthand knowledge of courses and resorts from Ireland to China. Thanks to concierge and private-club connections, she is able to score coveted reservations at milestone greens like the Old Course at St. Andrews, in Scotland, and Diamante Cabo San Lucas, in Mexico. She’s also adept at tailoring trips to suit the occasion, whether it’s a couples retreat, a guys’ weekend, or a girlfriend getaway.

Excited about: Portugal has upped its golf game in recent years, as evidenced by properties like the recently opened Oitavos Dunes Resort outside Lisbon. A pool overlooks the 18-hole course; there’s also an equestrian center and chic, whitewashed rooms with ocean views.

Specialties: Golf, adventure

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Doris White

Excited about: Portugal as a soft-adventure destination. White’s a fan of the Vicentine Coast Natural Park, with easy hiking and biking paths.Years as agent: 25. Specialties: Barge cruises, Food + Drink, Europe, Hiking/Walking. Consulting Fee: From $250.

Georgia Morgan Johnson

Insider clout: For a couple with a layover in California, Johnson arranged a last-minute dinner at French Laundry, in Yountville. Years as agent: 6. Specialities: Italy, Tahiti, New Zealand, Honeymoons. Consulting fee: $250.

Peter Lloyd

Century Travel, Atlanta
Phone: 800-533-6336
Email: peter@centurytvl.com

The president of Century Travel, Lloyd left a career in software sales to dedicate himself to travel planning. He pays close attention to details whether he’s working with a huge budget or a small one, and always incorporates surprises into his itineraries. Lloyd is a problem solver who’s quick on his feet—once arranging last-minute transport for a wedding cake to a celebration in St. Martin.

Special booking: On Italy’s Lake Como, Lloyd can book a trip on a Tullio Abbate, a classic mahogany speedboat made by a famous shipbuilding family in the region. Honeymooners will sip Bellavista Franciacorta while taking in sights such as the gardens of Villa Serbelloni.

Specialties: Weddings and honeymoons, Italy, and cruises

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Mollie Fitzgerald

Frontiers International Travel, Gibsonia, Pa.
Phone: 724-935-1577
Email: mollie@frontierstravel.com

Annual trips to emerging and bucket-list angler destinations such as Russia, Iceland, and Norway make Fitzgerald an expert on when and where to fish. She also provides packing tips that are unique to the sport, like bringing an electric bug swatter and making sure you have the best flies for the any river. She’s especially excited about how many women she now sees casting a line.

New Favorite: The Limay River Lodge, on the border of the Argentine provinces of Neuquén and Río Negro, is outfitted with a cozy central fireplace and well-stocked wine cellar. It’s the only lodge on the banks of the Limay River, where anglers are likely to see larger-than-average rainbow and brown trout.

Specialties: Fly-fishing, India

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Janie Bullard

Insider clout: Bullard secured a 24-hour private permit for clients to photograph lava flow from Hawaii’s Mount Kilauea. 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: 28. Specialties: Photography, Adventure. Consulting fee: Varies.

Mark Nolting

Insider find: A roster of local guides across Africa, including in the Zambezi River Valley, in Zimbabwe, and in Hwange National Park, near the Botswana border. Their walking and canoeing expeditions bring clients face-to-face with bull elephants, rhinos, and lions. Years as agent: 26. Specialites: Photography, Egypt, Jordan, Safaris, Multigenerational travel. Consulting fee: None.

Sara Ryan Duffy

Special booking: In 2010, Duffy planned a vacation to the Mediterranean that included a cruise on a 300-foot yacht stocked with 10 pounds of caviar. 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: Yachts, villas, private jets, celebrity travel. Consulting fee: Varies.

Priscilla Alexander

Known for: Her ability to match clients to the right agent among her hundreds of employees—a relationship she firmly believes determines the success of a trip. Alexander listens carefully to what you’re saying (and what you’re not saying) to determine who’ll work best with you to create the ultimate travel experience. Consulting fee: Varies Email: priscilla@protravelinc.com.

T+L's Travel Advisory Board Member, 2011

Barbara Gallay

The travel agent of choice for a who's who of notables, including Fortune 100 companies, members of European royalty, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are all clients, Barbara Gallay has a four-decade legacy in the travel industry that's put her on a first-name basis with top hotel general managers worldwide. (When the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company needs advice on its hotels, it's this travel insider they call.) She can get upgrades at the most sought-after properties, secure spots on popular excursions, and book top guides in situations where few can. Trend watch Sri Lanka is back on travelers’ radars thanks to new hotels (Shangri-La and Six Senses are building here) and culture-rich locations. Fee Varies.

Diane Hilliard

Excited about: The Seychelles. The breadth of nature and growing number of luxury resorts make it a destination to satisfy many agendas. 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). Years as agent: 40. Specialties: Asia, South Pacific. Consulting fee: $750.

T+L's Travel Advisory Board Member, 2010

Lisa Lindblad

Lisa Lindblad Travel Design, New York City
Phone: 212-876-2554
Email: lisa@lisalindblad.com

Lindblad’s background in anthropology comes through in her itineraries, which frequently include tours led by historians and experiences usually only available to in-the-know locals. Her recommendations are based on in-depth research, conducted with specific clients in mind. In anticipation of a trip to Iceland, Lindblad went with a team to Reykjavík to vet the country’s transportation options—snowmobiles, Zodiacs, and helicopters—and experience cave and glacier hikes firsthand. She sees every journey as an opportunity for cultural exchange and personal development.

Trend watch: Lindblad is noticing a new level of personalized service available to high-net-worth clients. Luxury hotels, private villas, and yacht companies are regularly bringing in meditation experts, hiking guides, massage therapists, and yoga instructors, depending on guests’ interests.

Lisa Lindblad is a Super Agent and specializes in Africa.

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Mary Ann Ramsey

Betty Maclean Travel, Naples, Fla.
Phone: 800-865-8111
Email: maryann@bettymacleantravel.com

Ramsey, who celebrates her 40th year in the travel industry this year, approaches her work with the mind-set of a financial planner, meeting with clients to discuss their long-term travel objectives and develop an execution strategy. She maintains a master list of their goals and dream trips, and uses her frequent travels to vet destinations and experiences. Ramsey cruises regularly, and creating personalized shore excursions is one of her specialties. She also makes a point of flying various airlines to stay on top of new cabin layouts and designs.

Trend watch: 2016 is going to be an exciting year for cruising, Ramsey says. The Regent Seven Seas Explorer debuts in July with a maiden voyage (from Monte Carlo to Venice) that’s already sold out, and Seabourn is set to launch two new ships, the Encore and Ovation.

Mary Ann Ramsey is a Super Agent and specializes in cruising.

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Anne Morgan Scully

McCabe World Travel, McLean, Va.
Phone: 703-762-5055
Email: anne@mccabeworld.com

Scully’s clients can expect seamless trips that are full of welcome surprises, from airport transfers in luxury cars to thoughtful extras such as personalized shopping suggestions and freshly cut flowers in hotel rooms. She stresses the importance of well-educated guides who are fantastic storytellers and local tastemakers who can enrich a trip with their insider knowledge. Having watched the cruise industry develop over the past 30 years, Scully is also an expert on luxury ships, from ocean liners and riverboats to private yachts. She’s the godmother to the Ingvi, a recently launched Viking River Cruise ship.

Trend watch: In the past, Scully’s clients would tack New Zealand onto an Australia vacation as an afterthought, but now they’re thinking of it as a solo destination. “They’re lingering to explore the North Island’s Maori culture, the South’s Milford Sound and black-sand beaches, and cities in between, like Christchurch and Queenstown,” Scully says.

Anne Morgan Scully is a Super Agent and specializes in Western Europe.

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Pallavi Shah

Our Personal Guest, New York City
Phone: 646-284-2454
Email: opgny@ourpersonalguest.com

When Shah evaluates a destination, she goes beyond simply checking out hotels and restaurants. She dives into historical context and cultural background. She is especially drawn to experiences that connect travelers with locals. In India, for example, she asks her favorite designers and craftspeople to open up their houses and studios and show guests the artistic process behind their textiles, clothes, and jewelry. Her clients have also taken part in temple ceremonies and learned to play traditional musical instruments.

Trend watch: Shah is seeing more boutique hotels in remote regions of India. One of her favorites is Jawai, a tented camp where travelers can go on game drives to see Rajasthan’s leopards. At the fortlike Mihir Garh, located in a scrub desert outside of Jodhpur, ground-floor suites have plunge pools and private courtyards, while first-floor suites have jacuzzis and private terraces. And close to the medieval town of Jaisalmer, the Serai has 21 tents and a pool modeled after a Rajasthani stepwell.

Pallavi Shah is a Super Agent and specializes in India.

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Jim Strong & Nancy Strong

Strong Travel Services, Dallas
Phone: 214-361-0027
Email: jim@strongtravel.com and nstrong@strongtravel.com

Attention to detail from the first meeting, accessibility (as a rule, their phone is answered on the first ring), and a contagious passion for travel define this mother-and-son team. They arm clients with both paper and digital copies of itineraries that are loaded with confirmation numbers and contacts for round-the-clock assistance. And they also provide an on-the-ground host, who can help with everything from emergencies (like picking up medicine at a local pharmacy) to securing the best table at a restaurant.

Trend watch: Time-starved vacationers are looking to the homeland for long-weekend breaks. From Houston, travelers can helicopter over to the Inn at Dos Brisas, a hacienda-style ranch with horseback-riding trails, wine tastings, and cooking classes. Near Yosemite National Park, the Strongs put clients up in Château du Sureau and arrange for a private guide to take them to the valley’s major waterfalls and rock formations.

Jim Strong & Nancy Strong are Super Agents and specialize in Western Europe.

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Valerie Ann Wilson

Valerie Wilson Travel, New York City
Phone: 212-532-3400
Email: valeriew@vwti.com

Wilson is an industry influencer with 16 offices around the United States and more than 30 years of experience. She’s chairman emeritus of Virtuoso’s advisory board and a valued advisor for half a dozen luxury hotels and travel brands. She’s also written two travel books and is on the road for more than a third of every year. Wilson and the staff of her top-notch agency (now also under the leadership of her daughters, A-Listers Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg and Kimberly Wilson Wetty) are well-traveled and highly organized. But they still enjoy the collaborative nature of planning trips with clients. “Part of the fun is hearing their ideas and vicariously traveling through our customers,” Wilson says.

Trend watch: Egypt is on the verge of making its return. She’s especially excited about the Nile Ritz-Carlton, scheduled to open in Cairo this year. She’s also a fan of the country’s river cruises, such as Abercrombie & Kent’s Art Deco–style Sanctuary Sun Boat IV, where excursions include a tour of the temple of Dendera and private access to Queen Nefertari’s Tomb.

Valerie Ann Wilson is a Super Agent and specializes in hotels.

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Andrea Grisdale

IC Bellagio, Bellagio, Italy
Phone: 39-031-952-059
Email: andrea@icbellagio.com

“Anyone can book a Ferrari, helicopter ride, or yacht,” the Lake Como–based Grisdale says. Thanks to a knack for innovation and a keen sense of what’s new, she goes one step further, finding novel ways to personalize and enrich her itineraries, from offering a behind-the-scenes look at the historic Palio horse race in Siena to planning a tour of the islands off the Amalfi Coast by kayak. Grisdale also developed her own app so that clients can easily access their evolving schedules.

New favorite: The Art Nouveau Excelsior Hotel Gallia in Milan has a convenient location near Milano Centrale train station as well as Liberty-style interiors, private terraces, a 10,700-square-foot spa, and crackerjack staff.

Specialty: Italy

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Edward Phillips

Excited About: The hip new microbreweries popping up across Alaska. Phillips can organize a tour of his favorite spots, including Denali Brewing Company, in Talkeetna. Years as agent: 22. Specialties: Hawaii, Europe. Fee: From $300.

T+L's Travel Advisory Board Member, 2011

Martin Frankenberg

Matueté, São Paulo, Brazil
Phone: 866-709-5952
Email: martin@matuete.com

Frankenberg and his staff at Matueté spare no expense when evaluating hotels and experiences, and unlike much of his competition, he doesn’t outsource any of his services (guides, drivers, etc.) to local operators. While Frankenberg, a São Paulo resident, can easily secure ocean-view suites at the Belmond Copacabana Palace or Hotel Fasano during peak season, he’ll also recommend Brazil’s lesser-known corners, including Chapada dos Veadeiros, a trekking paradise in central Brazil, or the shores of the Tapajós River, known as the Caribbean of the Amazon for its white-sand beaches.

Special booking: A World Cup fan attended eight games but never spent the night in a city. After each match, Frankenberg arranged transfers to rural regions of Brazil, including an overnight on a farm in the Pantanal, a trek through Chapada Diamantina National Park, and a private yacht sail on the Amazon.

Specialty: Brazil

Zachary Rabinor

Journey Mexico, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Phone: 800-513-1587
Email: zach@journey​mexico.com

The Puerto Vallarta–based founder of Journey Mexico worked his way up the industry ladder—he’s been a tour leader, driver, guide, and logistician—which gives him an inside perspective on the planning process. He collaborates with the country’s best hotels on everything from wellness-focused Tulum getaways to culture-filled stays in San Miguel de Allende. His coordinators personally check in with clients at least three times per trip.

Discovery: Guzina Oaxaca, in Mexico City’s upscale Polanco neighborhood, is an outpost of chef Alejandro Ruíz’s famous Casa Oaxaca restaurant. “Snag a wooden table in the cheerful space and order the duck tostadas,” he says.

Specialties: Mexico, Central America

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Marisol Mosquera

Aracari Travel, Lima, Peru
Phone: 51-1-651-2424
Email: marisol@aracari.com

A Peruvian native living in Lima, Mosquera creates authentic local experiences for clients. It could be cooking classes in a chef’s home; a homestay on the shores of Lake Titicaca; or guided fly-fishing excursions in a remote lagoon in the Peruvian Andes.

Special booking: After a number of clients requested get-togethers with Peruvian residents, Mosquera began arranging “Go Local” excursions. Travelers will meet with one of her friends for a themed city tour or just for a chat over coffee to learn about life in Lima.

Specialties: Peru and Bolivia, Galápagos

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Ana Maria Pickens

Years as agent: 20. Specialties: China, Australia, Family travel. Consultation fee: None.

Bobby Zur

Travel Artistry, Franklin Lakes, N.J.
Phone: 201-848-4113
Email: bobby@travelartistry.com

Zur, who founded Travel Artistry 14 years ago, regularly travels the world to inspect properties and connect with hotelier friends—and he’s always up to date on room layouts, amenities, pricing, and activities. Clients fill out extensive surveys before Zur pairs them with destinations and resorts; honeymooning couples complete them separately.

New favorite: Angama Mara in Kenya. The brainchild of Steve and Nicky Fitzgreald of &Beyond fame, this luxury tented safari lodge perfectly combines chic, fresh interiors with its natural setting. “It has authentic wow-factor in the Masai Mara,” he says.

Specialties: Hotels, Southern Africa

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Bonnie Brayham Herman

Based in Paris, Bonnie Brayham’s Purple Truffle is a travel design company that specializes in “authentic and extraordinary experiences” in the Franco-Italian region of Europe. After assessing her client’s interests, passions, and past travel experience, Brayham designs an itinerary that pools her relationships with the region’s hoteliers, vintners, artisans, chefs, and guides, which sometimes includes special perks and discounts. Consulting and itinerary design fees vary and can go up to a few thousand for longer, more intricate services.

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