Bo Lundberg

Whether you’re looking to plan the trip of a lifetime, secure a great guide, or snag a hotel upgrade, booking with an expert beats the click of the mouse any day. T+L evaluated thousands of agents to come up with this highly selective list of the best in the business.

Maria Shollenbarger Clara Sedlak
August 22, 2013

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

Super-Agents

With a wealth of expertise, these power brokers are the most informed and best connected in the travel industry.

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.
Trend Watch: River cruises, which have become popular for Protravel in Europe and are a great way of seeing different parts of the Continent. Viking’s and AmaWaterways’ routes along the Rhine and Danube are especially good values.
Fee: Varies.

Barbara Gallay **
Known For: Deep connections with top hotel general managers across the globe. Now with the reach and clout of global travel company Frosch (which acquired Gallay’s boutique agency Linden Travel in 2009), she is uniquely primed to pull strings, open doors, and find room when many others claim it’s impossible.
Trend Watch: Montenegro on the Adriatic, particularly the new Aman Sveti Stefan. “I’ve received a lot of inquiries about the property for next year,” Gallay says.
Fee: Varies.

Lisa Lindblad
Known For: Her eagle eye in uncovering the truly authentic, cultivated over decades of merging the high-end with the rustic, the undiscovered with the venerated. Lindblad’s background is cultural anthropology, so if it’s the best suzanis in Kazakhstan or finest handwoven ikat silk sinhs in Laos you’re after, Lindblad’s your agent.
Trend Watch: José Ignacio, in Uruguay, where a new Setai hotel is about to make its debut alongside the Fasano, Estancia Vik, and Playa Vik.
Fee: Varies.

Mary Ann Ramsey **
Known For: Tracking down hidden gems and what’s new in hotels, restaurants, boutiques, and cruises. Ramsey spends days at a destination—always with advance reports from ground staff about where to go, from the popular to the under-the-radar spots.
Trend Watch: Southern India. Ramsey encourages clients to visit Kerala or Karnataka to “see a different side of Indian culture.” For those intent on a Rajasthan agenda, she likes to include a soft-adventure excursion to Jaisalmer, where you’ll stay in a tented camp such as the Serai.
Fee: Varies.

Guy Rubin *
Known For: Rubin is the China expert other agents call for recommendations (among those who outsource to him is members-only travel club Nota Bene). His superb coterie of guides—one of whom is carefully matched with each client—dissolve cultural barriers and enhance any experience, whether it’s dinner in the French Concession mansion of a Shanghai socialite or a visit to a local food market in Beijing.
Trend Watch: Lhasa, Tibet, where the recent opening of a St. Regis (and upcoming arrival of the InterContinental Resort Lhasa Paradise) could, Rubin believes, change the way Western travelers perceive this destination.
Fee: $200.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
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Anne Morgan Scully **
Known For: “Travel experiences form a sort of wardrobe,” Scully says. And in this respect, her repeat-trip record with clients makes her their personal shopper. She carefully assesses taste, style, and comfort levels to craft trips that fit to a T. As such, Scully recognizes that often the tried and true trumps the new—to wit: she’s been a champion of London’s Goring hotel for two decades, long before Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (then Kate Middleton) chose to stay there the night before her wedding.
Trend Watch: The rise of knowledgeable tour guides—an increasingly crucial part of almost any trip, Scully says. For her clients, this might mean being matched with a local professor who can put every site into historical context.
Fee: Varies.

Pallavi Shah *
Known For: Her in-depth expertise on India and Italy, with a focus on art. Shah can get access to cultural sites and private collections that aren’t open to the public. She’s fast becoming a master on Turkey as well, and will guide you through the back rooms of Istanbul’s bazaar and to the ruins of Laodicea.
Trend Watch: The Golden Chariot train routes, which traverse the southern Indian state of Karnataka. A few highlights: private tours of the Hoysala complex at Belur and the Jain pilgrim site of Sravanabelagola, as well as visits to organic farms.
Fee: $450.

Jim Strong ** and Nancy Strong
Known For: The Strongs know first impressions count: that’s why in Dallas, where Strong Travel Services is based, their VIP clients are brought to the airport in a customized Mercedes-Benz van decked out with a 32-inch television that plays a personalized video detailing their upcoming trip. Signature suites, top guides, and airport escorts are par for the course, all the product of understanding how to maximize every experience for people with limited time—what Jim Strong calls “sophisticated editing.”
Trend Watch: Laucala, the island resort in Fiji. According to the Strongs, the property outdoes the competition in almost every regard, from the top-notch cuisine (all of the produce is grown organically) to the array of activities on offer, from deep-sea fishing to yoga classes.
Fee: $250.

Valerie Wilson
Known For: Wilson runs one of the country’s most prestigious agencies (which this fall celebrates 30 years in the business), sits on half a dozen corporate travel advisory boards, and just reissued a comprehensive guide to the world’s best hotels (to be published in November and sold on Amazon), but her calling card is still hardworking agent. She’s more than willing to pick up the phone herself to ensure that her clients’ needs are met, whether that means getting a hotel upgrade or snagging a hard-to-book restaurant reservation. trend watch The South Pacific islands are seeing a spike in interest (and not just from honeymooners). Wilson recently booked a family at the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, with on-staff marine biologists for science lessons for the children. She’s equally impressed by Bora-Bora’s St. Regis Resort, where kids can take Polynesian arts-and-crafts lessons.
Fee: $200.

Joel A. Zack *
Known For: Creative and experiential itineraries that get at the heart of the communities that make a destination. South Africa, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and Turkey are the pillars of his company, Heritage Tours Private Travel. Activities run the gamut from cooking lessons at Babylonstoren, in the Cape Winelands, South Africa, to exploring religious architecture in Fez and Essaouira, in Morocco.
Trend Watch: Eastern Turkey—still off the beaten path, Zack says, and Arab culture is far more in evidence here. He flies clients out from Istanbul with East Turkish guides for two- and three-day excursions. For an authentic seaside escape, Zack loves Alaçati, on the Çeşme Peninsula, a less-touristy alternative to Bodrum.
Fee: None.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
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Europe

Czech Republic & Slovakia

Nathalie Nagy
New Favorite: The Kempinski Hotel River Park, in Bratislava, Slovakia. Just a few minutes’ walk from Old Town, it’s an unexpectedly modern property with white leather couches, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a cigar club that doubles as a hip bar at night.
Years as Agent: 15.
Other Specialty: Honeymoons.
Fee: From $150.

England

Ellen LeCompte
Insider Clout: Clients who stay at the Ritz, on Piccadilly, in London, get immediate membership to the private Ritz Club. With top Bordeaux-born chef Philippe Vandewalle in the kitchen, it’s one of the hottest seats in town. Added bonus: the gambling is legal and the lounge, unlike almost every other in the city, stays open until 6 a.m.
Years as Agent: 20.
Other Specialty: United States.
Fee: $250.

Tammi R. Van Volkinburgh
New Favorite: Van Volkinburgh praises the Stafford, in London’s St. James’s neighborhood, for its intimacy and perfect location, a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace. The renovated carriage-house rooms and junior suites overlook a cobblestoned courtyard.
Years as Agent: 20.
Other Specialty: Safaris.
Fee: From $300.

Susie Worthy
Insider Clout: Last year, Worthy was granted exclusive access to give tours at Highgrove House, the residence of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, in Gloucestershire. She’ll take you through Prince Charles’s progressive and sustainable English garden, followed by a champagne toast at the estate’s Orchard Room.
Years as Agent: 34.
Other Specialty: France.
Fee: Varies.

France

Craig Loupassakis
Top Tip: “Road trips are a great way to see a country,” says Loupassakis, who touts Auto Europe as the best—and most price-conscious—car-rental agency abroad. In Provence, his favorite day excursion includes a driving tour from Uzès to Pont du Gard to Nîmes.
Years as Agent: 47.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: $150.

Germany

Elisabeth Landry
Top Tip: Don’t miss Berlin’s traditional holiday Christkindlmarkt, when bratwurst stands, glühwein tastings, and vendors selling local crafts take over Gendarmenmarkt Platz, in Mitte.
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: From $200.

Greece

Mina Agnos +
Top Tips: For souvenirs, Agnos loves the gift shop at the Benaki Museum, in Athens, which is filled with ceramics, embroidered stationery, and delicate handmade reproductions of museum artifacts. In Mykonos, her go-to spot is Nammos restaurant, on Psarou Beach, for the freshest sea urchin in the Aegean.
Years as Agent: 10.
Other Specialty: Egypt.
Fee: From $250.

Kelly Shea
New Favorite: The Aegean Suites, in Skiathos, and sister property Skiathos Princess top Shea’s hotel list for their stylish white-on-white décor and proximity to what she calls probably the most beautiful beaches in Greece. And in Vouliagmeni, 10 minutes outside Athens, Shea fell hard for the Arion Resort & Spa, with its chic blue-and-white maritime furnishings and large wooden decks off every room.
Years as Agent: 24.
Other Specialty: Turkey.
Fee: $250.

Christos Stergiou
New Favorite: For culture buffs, Stergiou recommends the Onassis Cultural Center, in Athens, a 195,000-square-foot exhibition and performance complex showcasing emerging dance and theater talents.
Years as Agent: 7.
Other Specialty: Turkey.
Fee: $100.

Ireland

Carol Cornell
Excited About: In County Galway, the 18th-century Ballynahinch Castle is a 420-acre old-school sporting estate. Cornell is especially impressed by the range of activities, from river fishing to skeet shooting.
Years as Agent: 27.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: $100.

Italy

Margot Cushing
Excited About: The growing popularity of the Emilia-Romagna region. Bologna makes an ideal base from which to explore the lesser-known medieval towns of Ravenna and Modena (where the Ferrari HQ is a counterpoint to the Romanesque architecture).
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Mediterranean.
Fee: $300.

Joyce Falcone
New Favorite: In Sicily, the just-opened Foresteria, on the Planeta wine estate—a vineyard, inn, and cooking school. The rooms are stylishly spare, with iron beds and woven cotton rugs. Best asset: chefs take guests on island-wide wine tours.
Years as Agent: 15.
Other Specialty: Italian islands.
Fee: $400.

Andrea Grisdale
Insider Clout: For a writer client researching a novel about World War II–era Italy, Grisdale opened her little black book to arrange meetings with a Venetian countess, the scion of Italy’s oldest silk-weaving company, and a former U.S. military official.
Years as Agent: 21.
Other Specialty: None.
Fee: From $200.

Deborah Hyte
New Favorite: The most recent addition to Sicily’s bustling hotel scene, the contemporary Metropole Taormina Maison d’Hôtes. For nearly 40 years, the 18th-century palace remained closed, until receiving a top-to-bottom makeover in 2010. Most of the 23 now-contemporary, brightly colored suites have views of the Bay of Naxos.
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Western Europe.
Fee: From $400.

Judy Nussbaum
Excited About: The never-waning appeal of Capri. Specifically, Nussbaum cites last year’s merger of the Capri Palace hotel with Il Riccio, the stylish restaurant and exclusive beach club. Her clients who stay at the property get first dibs on the club’s beachside chaise longues and hard-to-book tables.
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: France.
Fee: From $100.

Andrea Sertoli
Excited About: Rome’s revamped Air Terminal at Ostiense Station, where a branch of the gourmet food hall Eataly is set to open next month. Culinary stars attached to the venture include Adriano Baldassarre from Sibilla restaurant, in Tivoli, and Carlo Cracco of Milan’s Ristorante Carlo Cracco.
Years as Agent: 14.
Other Specialty: Croatia.
Fee: From $100.

Marjorie Shaw
New Favorite: Locanda Palazzone, a 14th-century historic villa with an organic vineyard, in Umbria. In keeping with the ethos of Shaw’s company, the property is small (only nine suites) and family-owned.
Years as Agent: 22.
Other Specialty: Food.
Fee: From $395.

Sally Watkins
New Favorite: Watkins recently discovered Villa Le Maschere—a 65-room villa in Barberino di Mugello, just north of Florence. The hotel has been beautifully renovated with mosaic floors and majolica ceramics. For those who want culture, the hotel operates a daily shuttle service into Florence and another to the shopping outlets at Mugello.
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialty: Switzerland.
Fee: From $350.

Russia

Greg Tepper
Excited About: The opening of the contemporary W St. Petersburg, which Tepper believes will attract a younger crowd to the city. He also loves the revamped Cosmonaut Space Museum, in Moscow, which charts the country’s space race from the 1950’s to the present day. “It’s still a real secret.”
Years as Agent: 18.
Other Specialty: Central Europe.
Fee: $200.

Scandinavia

Carol Arklind
Insider Clout: 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: 22.
Other Specialty: United Kingdom.
Fee: From $150.

Tor Jensen
New Favorites: Across Denmark, Jensen has uncovered a host of private castles, some operated as small hotels—among these, he loves Store Restrup Manor House and Santehus Castle Hotel. Jensen can organize private receptions and viewings of the properties.
Years as Agent: 18.
Other Specialty: Thailand.
Fee: From $250.

Scotland

Claire Schoeder
Excited About: Schoeder’s a fan of the new private-hire properties opening up in Scotland. A favorite is Aldourie Castle, on the bank of Loch Ness, where the staff is at the ready to arrange cooking classes, fishing excursions, and falconry lessons.
Years as Agent: 19.
Other Specialty: England.
Fee: $200.

Spain

Virginia Irurita
Insider Clout: For a client who was curious about the lives of Spanish nuns, Irurita arranged a visit with the abbess at Santa María Real de las Huelgas Monastery, in Burgos, the most prestigious convent in Spain. The abbess spent an hour explaining the daily life of a modern-day nun, then gave Irurita’s client a tour, and even baked her a cake for the occasion.
Years as Agent: 13.
Other Specialty: Food and wine.
Fee: From $150.

Judith Wolf
Excited About: How the W Barcelona, a sail-shaped tower designed by architect Ricardo Bofills, will help rejuvenate the Barceloneta neighborhood with its 26th-floor bar, Bliss spa, and top-notch Catalan restaurant.
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialties: Turkey, Italy.
Fee: From $200.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
+ New to List

Switzerland

Ilene Koenig +
New Favorite: On Koenig’s radar are the revamped lakefront rooms at the Baur au Lac hotel, in Zurich, with their mix of modern and traditional décor and prime views of the Alps.
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialty: Winter sports.
Fee: From $175.

Turkey

Fred Poe
Excited About: As relations improve between Armenia and Turkey, the eastern Kars region, marked by ancient citadels and the ruins of the medieval city state of Ani, will become the next must-see area in the country. Early explorers can stay at the Kars Hotel, a former Russian nobleman’s palace.
Years as Agent: 51.
Other Specialty: Austria.
Fee: From $150.

U.S. & Canada

Alaska

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.
Other Specialty: Hawaii.
Fee: From $150.

Margret Propper
New Favorite: Propper is crazy about the Museum of the North, at the University of Alaska, in Fairbanks. The glacier-shaped structure houses Alaskan art that spans several genres, from garden installations and taxidermy to traditional Inuit stone and beadwork.
Years as Agent: 37.
Other Specialty: River cruises.
Fee: From $100.

Hawaii

Carolyne Brandon
New Favorite: On the Big Island, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel was redone to the tune of $150 million. Brandon’s favorite additions: spacious rooms with soaking tubs overlooking the Pacific and a Balinese-inspired spa.
Years as Agent: 29.
Other Specialty: Cruises.
Fee: Varies.

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: 24.
Other Specialty: Alaskan cruises.
Fee: Varies.

New Orleans

Linda Kibak +
Top Tip: In-the-know locals love Adolfo’s, an intimate two-room restaurant upstairs from the Apple Barrel in the French Quarter. Snag one of the 12-odd tables on the late side when the staff is cheery and order the cannelloni stuffed with crabmeat from the Italian-Creole menu.
Years as Agent: 20.
Other Specialty: Switzerland.
Fee: Varies.

New York City

Amy Glass
Excited About: The Chatwal hotel, which Glass praises for helping to resurrect midtown’s cachet. Leather-lined closets and suede walls, the Kashwére spa, and lobby bar/lounge with serious Mad Men appeal are attracting the city’s jet set.
Years as Agent: 32.
Other Specialty: Costa Rica.
Fee: Varies.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
+ New to List

Western U. S.

Harold 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: 21.
Other Specialty: Skiing.
Fee: Varies.

Deborah Trevino
New Favorite: In Borrego Springs, California, Galleta Meadows is a private estate whose owner commissioned a series of massive steel animal sculptures, which the public can tour via off-road jeep or on foot.
Years as Agent: 18.
Other Specialty: Australia.
Fee: Varies.

Canada

Yaron Yarimi +
New Favorite: The revamped Rosewood Hotel Georgia, in Vancouver. Housed in a 1927 Georgian Revival mansion, the 155-room property reopened in July with contemporary interiors and a new restaurant, the Hawksworth, where chef David Hawksworth whips up regionally inspired dishes.
Years as Agent: 24.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: Varies.

Latin America

Argentina

Maita Barrenechea
Excited About: The continuing evolution of Buenos Aires’s Recoleta district. Two noteworthy new hotels: the oak-walled Mio Buenos Aires and the airy Hotel Serena.
Years as Agent: 29.
Other Specialty: Chile.
Fee: Varies.

Brazil

Martin Frankenberg *
Top Tip: For close-to-undiscovered beaches, make your way to the northeastern Alagoas state. Check in to the eco-chic Kenoa Resort, in Maceio, with 12 beachfront villas and an ocean-view spa.
Years as Agent: 11.
Other Specialty: El Salvador.
Fee: $350.

Chile

Silja Torborg +
Top Tip: Take a road trip from Putre, in the north, to Visviri and back. You’ll traverse the high plains close to the Bolivian border at 12,000 feet.
Years as Agent: 15.
Other Specialty: Soft adventure.
Fee: Varies.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
+ New to List

Costa Rica

Rachael Bockoven Colbert
New Favorite: Los Altos Beach Resort & Spa, in Manuel Antonio, is on Colbert’s radar this year. “It’s a modern condo-rental building perfect for families.”
Years as Agent: 12.
Other Specialty: Patagonia.
Fee: None.

Ecuador

Tatiana Johnston *
Excited About: Quito’s colonial quarter, where another buzz-worthy hotel, Casa Gangotena, is set to open its doors in November.
Years as Agent: 16.
Other Specialty: Peru.
Fee: None.

Galápagos

Brian Morgan +
Excited About: The new eco-conscious cruise regulations, which will help protect the area’s natural wonders. The standards stipulate that no operators may offer tours of longer than 15 days.
Years as Agent: 12.
Other Specialty: Peru.
Fee: $400.

Mexico

Marianne Braly
Top Tip: Despite Mexico’s challenges, Braly asserts that Tulum remains pristine and secure. Her hotel of choice? BeTulum, where guests dine steps from the water.
Years as Agent: 21.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: $100.

Zachary Rabinor
New Favorites: A clutch of family-owned hotels around the country, including Guaycura, in Todos Santos; Xinalani Yoga Retreat, near Puerto Vallarta and reachable only by boat; and Casa de la Real Aduana, in the hills of Michoacán.
Years as Agent: 8.
Other Specialty: Guatemala.
Fee: Varies.

Peru

Marisol Mosquera
Excited About: Lima’s thriving culinary scene. Mosquera’s go-to restaurants in the city are Mercado, which serves classic Peruvian dishes, and Maido sushi bar.
Years as Agent: 15.
Other Specialty: Bolivia.
Fee: $250.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
+ New to List

South America

Emmanuel Burgio
Excited About: The new Pousada Club Del Mar, in José Ignacio, Uruguay. The property is a private club turned hotel with six light-filled suites facing the beach.
Years as Agent: 8.
Other Specialty: Adventure.

Carlos 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.”
Years as Agent: 33.
Other Specialty: Brazil.
Fee: From $350.

Jerry Greenberg **
Top Tip: Book a boat trip along the Tigre River with Sturla Viajes, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. “It’s a great way to see the area’s traditional stilt houses.”
Years as Agent: 38.
Other Specialty: Italian lakes.
Fee: $200.

Eric Sheets *
New Favorite: Isla Suasi, on Puno, in Peru—a solar-powered eco-lodge on Lake Titicaca’s only private island. Sheets books his clients into the Andean Cottage, a two-bedroom suite with its own dock.
Years as Agent: 17.
Other Specialty: Ecuador.
Fee: From $250.

The Caribbean

Margie Hand
New Favorite: In the Dutch West Indies, Curaçao is celebrating a year of independence from Holland and has a new 36-year-old president, Gerrit Schotte, who’s intent on turning the island into an eco-conscious and high-end destination. Hand loves the Asian-inspired Baoase Luxury Resort—a sleek, mostly villa property, where guests can picnic on the beach by torchlight with their own waiter.
Years as Agent: 16.
Other Specialty: Weddings.
Fee: Varies.

Janet McLaughlin
Excited About: Set at the foot of El Yunque rain forest in Puerto Rico, the new St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort is perfect for both nature lovers and culture aficionados. The property sits on a powdery stretch of sand bordered by lush jungle, and is just 30 minutes from Old San Juan.
Years as Agent: 25.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: From $150.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
+ New to List

Africa & the Middle East

Africa

Bob 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.
Other Specialty: Wildlife tours.
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: 25.
Other Specialty: French Polynesia.
Fee: $100.

Sandy Cunningham *
New Favorite: Campi Ya Kanzi’s Ithumba Camp and Elephant Sanctuary, at the foot of the Chyulu Hills, in Kenya, where guests can adopt and bottle-feed foster elephants and witness their reintroduction into the wild.
Years as Agent: 17.
Other Specialty: New Mexico.
Fee: None.

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.
Other Specialty: India.
Fee: Varies.

Dana Welch
Special Booking: For a small group on a monthlong journey through Africa, Welch arranged a climbing expedition on Mount Kilimanjaro, a safari in the Serengeti, and scuba diving off Zanzibar.
Years as Agent: 19.
Other Specialty: Adventure.
Fee: From $100.

Botswana

Craig Beal +
Special Booking: It helps to have entertained the GM’s of many of Southern Africa’s top hotels and camps in your own house. Beal recently organized a 30-day African honeymoon with stays at Nairobi’s Giraffe Manor; Botswana’s Mombo Camp; Azura Beach Lodge, on the Bazaruto Archipelago, in Mozambique; and Cape Grace, in Cape Town.
Years as Agent: 6.
Other Specialty: Zimbabwe.
Fee: Varies.

East Africa

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.
Other Specialty: Indian Ocean islands.
Fee: None.

Egypt

Malaka Hilton
Excited About: Post-revolution Egypt and what it means for her clients—incredible value, fewer crowds, and access to new sites. Thanks to Hilton’s connections, she can set up meetings with key revolutionary figures.
Years as Agent: 17.
Other Specialty: Jordan.
Fee: From $250.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
+ New to List

Israel

Rachel Epstein *
New Favorite: The just-opened Beresheet hotel, high above the Ramon Crater, in the southern Negev region. Epstein got a sneak preview before its late-April opening and is already booking clients into the slick, stone-walled suites (many with private pools).
Years as Agent: 29.
Other Specialty: Spain.
Fee: Varies.

Middle East

Janet Moore *
Insider Find: Beirut has a lot of buzz at the moment—one of Moore’s favorite spots is Tawlet – Souk el Tayeb, the city’s first restaurant with an open kitchen, where every day a different chef prepares lunch. In the evening, classic Lebanese dishes are served in a separate dining room (reservations required).
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialty: Asia.
Fee: None.

Morocco

Michael Diamond *
Special Booking: For a couple requesting a romantic night out, Diamond organized to fly them by helicopter from Marrakesh to a restored casbah surrounded by olive groves in the desert. Twenty drummers sounded their arrival, and live music accompanied their multicourse dinner.
Years as Agent: 10.
Other Specialty: Turkey.
Fee: None.

Safaris

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: 25.
Other Specialty: Egypt.
Fee: None.

Norman Pieters *
New Favorite: Pieters spends, on average, one month every year in Africa. His latest discovery? Mara Plains Camp, in the Olare Orok private conservancy bordering the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Aside from top-notch service, its excellent location within a private conservancy allows guests to have a first-rate East African wildlife experience without the burden of heavy vehicle congestion.
Years as Agent: 39.
Other Specialty: India.
Fee: $250.

Southern Africa

Julian Harrison *
New Favorite: In Zambia, Harrison loves the new Kalamu Lagoon Star-Bed Camp, in South Luangwa National Park, a rustic hotel set 10 feet off the ground with twin beds swathed in mosquito nets and the night sky as your roof.
Years as Agent: 25.
Other Specialty: Kenya.
Fee: None.

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.
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Honeymoons.
Fee: From $150.

United Arab Emirates

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: 15.
Other Specialty: The Maldives.
Fee: None.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
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Asia

Bali

Diane Embree
New Favorite: Long a fan of the Tugu Bali for its laid-back take on luxury, she now also recommends the nearby Tugu Lombok, which faces a private stretch of Sire beach.
Years as Agent: 34.
Other Specialty: Southeast Asia.
Fee: Varies.

Burma

Rebecca Mazzaro
Top Tip: Don’t miss the Taunggyi Balloon Festival, in Shan state, when villagers convene on the November full moon to display handmade paper balloons.
Years as Agent: 12.
Other Specialty: India.
Fee: None.

Darlene Ravin
Best Bite: In the middle of Inle Lake, in southern Burma, Nam Pan restaurant serves delicious fish and looks out onto the traditional Nam Pan village, which is built on stilts.
Years as Agent: 13.
Other Specialty: Cruises.
Fee: From $100.

China

Karin Hansen
Excited About: Lijiang, in Yunnan province, where the new Pullman Lijiang Resort & Spa is giving the Banyan Tree a run for its money.
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Thailand.
Fee: From $200.

Mei Zhang *
Excited About: A lack of infrastructure had slowed travel to Diqing, in Yunnan province, but a road completed last spring is already creating a spike in tourism to its newly unesco-designated Three Rivers region.
Years as Agent: 11.
Other Specialty: Tibet.
Fee: From $400.

Hong Kong

Laura Woo
Insider Find: Sai Kung, in the New Territories, is morphing from a snoozy fishing village into a popular seaside escape thanks to handy ferry connections and a thriving street-food scene.
Years as Agent: 29.
Other Specialty: Hawaii.
Fee: Varies.

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** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
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India/Sri Lanka

Jonny Bealby +
Insider Tip: The Chandrabhaga Cattle & Camel Fair near Jhalawar, India, happens on the same full moon as the Pushkar festival; it easily attracts as many Rabari tribespeople, but is far less touristy.
Years as Agent: 13.
Other Specialty: Pakistan.
Fee: Varies.

Carole Cambata +
Top Tip: Don’t miss early morning prayers at the Thiksey monastery, near Leh, in northern India. “When the prayers end, the younger monks suddenly run outside laughing to play. It’s a wonderful spectacle.”
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Asia.
Fee: Varies.

Sandee Litwin
Special Booking: Litwin organized a wedding in Jaipur, India, complete with camels and Bollywood-style dancers.
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Europe.
Fee: $150.

Ellison Poe
Excited About: For the ultimate culture fix, head to the Festival of the Tooth, in Kandy, Sri Lanka, a celebration in July that commences with the planting of a jack tree and ends with the firing of cannons.
Years as Agent: 29.
Other Specialty: East Africa.
Fee: From $150.

Ashish Sanghrajka *
New Favorites: Bordering the Nagarhole forest in Karnataka, India, the sustainable Orange County Resort is a must-see; and in Nairobi, Kenya, he’s crazy about Sankara, a boutique property with a 1,000-bottle wine cellar.
Years as Agent: 12.
Other Specialty: Kenya.
Fee: $500.

Japan

Noriko Townsend *
New Favorites: The old Nakasendo Road between Magome and Tsumago runs into thick forest where soft adventurers can spot boars, black bears, and serows.
Years as Agent: 16.
Other Specialty: China.
Fee: $150.

Duff Trimble +
Excited About: The rise of Japanese single-malt whiskeys. Trimble will put together a tour of the country’s best producers, including Yamazaki, outside Kyoto.
Years as Agent: 9.
Fee: Varies.

Southeast Asia

Wido Schaefer **
Excited About: Singapore, particularly the Fullerton Bay Hotel and new Marina Bay Sands resort.
Years as Agent: 35.
Other Specialty: Argentina.
Fee: From $100.

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** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
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Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific

Australia

Catharina Apodac
New Favorite: The $200 million Museum of Old and New Art, in Hobart, Tasmania, has singlehandedly revitalized the city, Apodac says. Its impressive permanent ranges from Egyptian artifacts to contemporary art.
Years as Agent: 22.
Other Specialty: New Zealand.
Fee: From $150.

Cassandra Bookholder
New Favorite: In the Aussie bush, about 60 miles north of Sydney, Bookholder loves the modern glass-and-wood Pretty Beach House hotel. You’ll dine on fresh fish while watching kookaburras at play.
Years as Agent: 5.
Other Specialty: New Zealand.
Fee: From $150.

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.
Other Specialty: New Zealand.
Fee: From $200.

Suzy Mercien-Ferol
New Favorite: Mercien-Ferol describes the 20-room Saffire Freycinet, in Tasmania, as a place where travelers seeking both natural beauty and 1,000-thread-count sheets will be happy. Its restaurant has one of the most comprehensive wine lists in the Pacific region.
Years as Agent: 17.
Other Specialty: New Zealand.
Fee: From $150.

French Polynesia

Susanne Hamer
Insider Clout: For a couple looking to have a unique wedding, Hamer arranged an underwater ceremony in the Pacific Ocean. They then enjoyed a private dinner at La Villa Mahana in Bora-Bora.
Years as Agent: 18.
Other Specialty: Fiji.
Fee: From $200.

Mark Hoyer
New Favorite: The Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, Hoyer’s go-to hotel for clients. “At night, the open-air restaurant serves some of the best sushi I’ve ever tasted.”
Years as Agent: 24.
Other Specialty: Costa Rica.
Fee: From $125.

Robin Turner
New Favorite: When planning vacations for VIP clients, Turner suggests a stay at Motu Teta, a sophisticated villa complex on a private island just an hour’s boat ride from Rangiroa Airport. The place stands out for its highly personable staff and remote location.
Years as Agent: 25.
Other Specialty: Fiji.
Fee: Varies.

New Zealand

Donna Thomas *
Excited About: Thomas recently developed a nature tour, following Maori sacred paths in the northern Rotorua region; the journey includes a visit to the holy Hinehopu’s Tree.
Years as Agent: 38.
Other Specialty: Australia.
Fee: From $100.

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** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
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Special Interest

Cruises

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: 31.
Other Specialty: Space travel.
Fee: Varies.

Scott Kertes +
Excited About: The new Oceania Marina, which takes the cruise dining experience to a new level, according to Kertes. “If you’re a foodie, you won’t be disappointed.”
Years as Agent: 21
Other Specialty: Small-ship cruises.
Fee: None.

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: 38.
Other Specialty: Private-jet travel.
Fee: Varies.

Betsy Patton
New Favorite: Patton just returned from a preview of the new Seabourn Quest. What impressed her most? The Winter Garden suites, each with a private, glass-walled solarium.
Years as Agent: 33.
Other Specialty: Celebrations.
Fee: Varies.

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: 34.
Other Specialty: Family.
Fee: From $150.

Ruth Turpin
Excited About: The growing popularity of river cruises in Southeast Asia, in particular AmaWaterways, with two ships on the Mekong River.
Years as Agent: 33.
Other Specialty: Family.
Fee: Varies.

Ecotourism

Joan Weber +
New Favorite: On a recent trip to Guatemala, Weber loved the six-room Laguna Lodge Eco-Resort & Nature Reserve, overlooking Lake Atitlan.
Years as Agent: 33.
Other Specialty: Educational.
Fee: Varies.

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** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
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Family

Fontaine Gatti
New Favorite: The Baja cruise with Lindblad Expeditions. Kids come face-to-face with whales, sea turtles, and dolphins.
Years as Agent: 41.
Other Specialty: China.
Fee: $100.

Kathy Hannon
New Favorite: Hotel Madeline, in Telluride, Colorado, for its ski-valet service. Staffers take your family’s skis at check-in and have them waiting for you every morning at the mountain’s base.
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialty: Skiing.
Fee: From $50.

Paul Largay *
Excited About: The influx of resorts on Zanzibar—including Baraza, the Matemwe Retreat, and the Zamani Retreat Kempinski—which are helping position the island as a destination for the après-safari set.
Years as Agent: 28.
Other Specialty: Adventure.
Fee: From $100.

Kay Merrill
New Favorite: Merrill is crazy about the revamped accommodations at Londolozi, in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. The spacious Granite suites are ideal for couples with young children.
Years as Agent: 17.
Other Specialty: Africa.
Fee: $250.

Ana Maria Pickens
Excited About: The just-launched guided cultural tours for children at the Rijksmuseum, in Amsterdam.
Years as Agent: 19.
Other Specialty: Australia.
Fee: None.

Kathryn Sudeikis **
Top Tip: For families with small children, head to Beaches Turks & Caicos, an upscale, all-inclusive resort perfect for multigenerational groups. “The kids program is one of the best in the Caribbean.”
Years as Agent: 43.
Other Specialty: India.
Fee: From $150.

Kimberly Wilson Wetty **
New Favorite: Rosewood Mayakoba, on the Riviera Maya, offers an amazing kids-only tour through the mangroves. Learn all about local birds, the ecosystem, and ways to preserve the environment.
Years as Agent: 16.
Other Specialty: Cruises.
Fee: From $150.

Business Travel

Jennifer Wilson Buttigieg
New Favorite: The Villa Cortez at the One&Only Palmilla, in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico—a four-bedroom private house with large dining areas that are perfect for meetings.
Years as Agent: 20.
Other Specialties: Meetings, incentive travel.
Fee: From $100.

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** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
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Hotels

Manny Beauregard
New Favorite: Beauregard is enthusiastic about the just-opened Leela Palace Kempinksi, in New Delhi. “The hotel’s two-story Espa spa has seven spacious treatment rooms and a private suite overlooking the city.”
Years as Agent: 39.
Other Specialty: Cruises.
Fee: From $250.

Bobby Zur
New Favorites: Noctiluca, a seaside estate in Punta Mita, Mexico, available for weekly rentals, and Fiji’s Laucala, where travelers can rent the entire private island.
Years as Agent: 11.
Other Specialty: Southern Africa.
Fee: From $500.

Spas

Karen Benson
Special Booking: Benson planned a spa vacation in India with bespoke and ayurvedic treatments at Oberoi Amarvilas, in Agra, and Amanbagh, near Jaipur.
Years as Agent: 28.
Other Specialty: Adventure.
Fee: From $200.

Maureen “Mo” Smith
Top Tip: Smith recommends the new Rejuvenating Waters treatment at Canyon Ranch Tucson, a mix of deep-water hydrotherapy and full-body massage.
Years as Agent: 33.
Other Specialty: Adventure.
Fee: From $100.

Culture/Education

Margery Hunter
New Favorite: Cultural tours that take clients around Rome by Vespa.
Years as Agent: 30.
Other Specialty: Asia.
Fee: From $100.

Paul Niskanen * **
Insider Clout: Niskanen recently set up a meeting in New Delhi with leading academics to discuss Indian politics.
Years as Agent: 38.
Other Specialty: Europe.
Fee: From $350.

Destination Celebrations

Jack S. Ezon **
Insider Clout: A birthday get-together in Florence included a dinner set around Michelangelo’s David and a private viewing at the Uffizi.
Years as Agent: 11.
Other Specialty: Honeymoons.
Fee: From $250.

Diane Hilliard
Excited About: The Seychelles. The breadth of nature and growing number of luxury resorts make it a destination to satisfy many agendas.
Years as Agent: 39.
Other Specialty: Cultural.
Fee: $750.

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* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
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Diving

Gene Lashley
Top Tip: Guests staying at Amanwana, on Moyo Island, can charter the hotel’s 105-foot cruiser Amanikan, with its own dive instructor.
Years as Agent: 27.
Other Specialty: Adventure.
Fee: From $200.

Food/Wine

Bonnie Brayham
Insider Clout: For a couple’s anniversary in Tuscany, Brayham sourced top vintages from the year they were married and served them at a surprise dinner.
Years as Agent: 3.
Other Specialty: Experiential.
Fee: Varies.

Lynda Turley Garrett
Top Tip: In Hobart, Tasmania, she suggests a visit to the Salamanca market, where more than 300 producers peddle artisanal foods.
Years as Agent: 32.
Other Specialty: Australia.
Fee: $200.

Gay/Lesbian

David Rubin
Insider Clout: Rubin’s connections open cultural doors: in Cairo, his clients were hosted for dinner by prominent gay (but closeted) Egyptians.
Years as Agent: 15.
Other Specialty: Celebrations.
Fee: From $250.

Golf

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.
Years as Agent: 46.
Other Specialty: Luxury cruises.
Fee: From $100.

Jani Miller * **
New Favorite: Guests staying at Marival Residences, on Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, have unlimited access to the area’s two courses, Vista Vallarta and Marina Vallarta.
Years as Agent: 34.
Other Specialty: Fitness.
Fee: From $100.

Hiking/Walking

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.
Other Specialties: Food and wine.
Fee: From $250.

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** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
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Honeymoons

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.
Other Specialty: Italy.
Fee: $250.

Peter Lloyd
New Favorites: The First Light villa at Eagle’s Nest, in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands, with floor-to-ceiling glass walls and sea views.
Years as Agent: 21.
Other Specialty: Family.
Fee: From $200.

Adventure

Michelle Bemis +
Excited About: Two new trips by Orion Expedition Cruises: one to Borneo, in the South China Sea, and the other to the Kimberly region, in Australia’s northwest.
Years as Agent: 18.
Other Specialty: Group travel.
Fee: Varies.

Betty Jo Currie
Excited About: Since the government is stabilizing, Currie’s hoping Zimbabwe can regain its place as a top African adventure destinations.
Years as Agent: 18.
Other Specialty: Africa.
Fee: From $250.

Betsy Donley **
Top Tip: To find the elusive tiger fish, Donley sends her clients to Chiawa Camp, in Zambia. After casting with top guides, guests return for gourmet meals.
Years as Agent: 21.
Other Specialty: Africa.
Fee: From $100.

Mollie Fitzgerald
Special Booking: Fitzgerald planned an around-the-world trip that included camping in Antarctica and gorilla trekking in Uganda.
Years as Agent: 26.
Other Specialty: India.
Fee: From $250.

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** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011
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Photography

Janie Bullard
Insider Clout: Bullard secured a 24-hour private permit for clients to photograph lava flow from Hawaii’s Mount Kilauea.
Years as Agent: 27.
Other Specialty: Custom travel.
Fee: Varies.

Yachts/Villas

Sara Ryan Duffy
Special Booking: Last year, Duffy planned a vacation to the Mediterranean that included a cruise on a 300-foot yacht stocked with 10 pounds of caviar.
Years as Agent: 19.
Other Specialty: Food.
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. Fifteen 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 2012 A-List, send an e-mail with a brief description of the agent’s qualifications, as well as contact information, to tlalist@aexp.com.

Just west of Rome, the small island of Ponza is still untouched by mass tourism and retains an authentic feel. I would stop for a dinner of fresh fish at La Lanterna da Silverio before exploring Ponza’s hidden beaches. For the night, check in to the Villa Laetitia, a restored Art Nouveau bed-and-breakfast designed by Anna Fendi overlooking the harbor. —Andrea Sertoli, Select Italy

In Alaska, drive to Homer, on the Kenai Peninsula, and take a 40-minute boat ride to Katchemak Bay Wilderness Lodge. For lunch, harvest mussels off the beach—the lodge’s chef will steam them for you—and dine on the open-air deck overlooking Katchemak Bay. —Margret Propper, Brownell Travel

For a little-known beach escape, head to Fernando de Noronha, an archipelago of 21 islands off the Brazilian coast. Relax by the crystal-blue water, eat freshly caught fish, and try your hand at “planasubbing,” a favorite activity that involves snorkeling while being towed by a boat at low speed. —Emmanuel Burgio, Blue Parallel

Spend a couple of nights in Buenos Aires, then continue north to the Salta province, known for its rich wines. Cross over to the Atacama Desert and far south to Torres del Paine National Park, in Chile, and explore the glaciers of southern Patagonia. —Maita Barrenechea, Mai10

In Dubai, a stay at the Armani Hotel, where Ambassador suites overlook the Dubai Fountains, and, for dinner, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Dubai’s first Anatolian restaurant. And you won’t want to miss a seaplane tour of the city—the views of the Palms and the World are breathtaking. —Lindsey Wallace, Linara Travel

Start your New Zealand journey at Blanket Bay, a remote lodge outside Queenstown overlooking a glacier lake. From there, make your way to Cape Kidnappers, in Hawke’s Bay, where you can tour the region’s best wineries and meet local Maori people. —Peter Lloyd, Century Travel

A great trip for families is an adventure tour through Churchill, in Canada, with Natural Habitat Adventures. You’ll spot polar bears from a tundra bus, go dog sledding in the forest, and take a helicopter ride over the region. —Paul Largay, Largay Travel

Our specialists waxed enthusiastic about the rehabilitation of Montenegro’s port on the Adriatic. Full docking facilities are part of the development; the arrival of the Amanresort at Sveti Stefan last April sealed the deal.

Bhutan is in the spotlight this year, thanks to relaxed travel restrictions for Americans. There’s also buzz about a second domestic airline, by Tashi, launching this year, and new hotels, including Christina Ong’s 11-room lodge Uma Punakha, in central Bhutan, set to open in April 2012.

Peru’s white-hot culinary scene and sleek new hotels, including Starwood’s Tambo del Inka, in Urubamba, and Orient-Express’s soon-to-open Palacio Nazarenas, in Cuzco, are attracting well-deserved attention to the South American country.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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Diane Embree

Years as agent: 36. Specialties: Indonesia. Consulting fee: Varies.

Sandee Litwin

Travel agency owner Sandee Litwin has nearly three decades of experience in the travel industry. With particular expertise in upscale luxury cruise lines, she has escorted 29 travel groups and sailed on upwards of 90 cruises. Owner of Litwin Travel in Westwood, Litwin personally responds to every inquiry submitted through her website, and her company is a member of Virtuoso, an exclusive consortium admitting just 1% of agents worldwide and granting agencies access to the finest in luxury providers.

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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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.

Jack S. Ezon

Ovation Vacations, New York City
Phone: 800-977-5893
Email: jezon@ovationtravel.com

Along with bespoke trips for individuals, Ezon plans nearly 45 celebrations around the world every year. To pull off these events, he has a party-planning department with unparalleled global connections, though Ezon himself remains heavily involved in the details, from selecting bar mitzvah bands in St. Bart’s to picking out the best St.-Tropez beach clubs for honeymooners. A former lawyer, he is an expert at negotiating on behalf of his clients and keeping up with the demanding—and often last-minute—pace of today’s traveler.

Trend watch: River cruising in Southeast Asia has taken off. On the Irrawaddy, in Myanmar, travelers now have options like the 50-person Orcaella from Belmond and the Burmese-built Sanctuary Ananda. On the Mekong, new boats include the 18-stateroom Avalon Siem Reap and Pandaw River Expeditions, which will travel through Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The star is the 40-passenger Aqua Mekong, outfitted with stylish furnishings and equipped with a pool at its bow.

Jack S. Ezon is a Super Agent and specializes in destination celebrations.

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Mina Agnos

Travelive, Bloomfield, N.J.
Phone: 888-377-5483, ext. 1004
Email: mina@travelive.com

Agnos, who spends six to eight months a year in Greece, builds her trips with an exacting eye for detail. She makes both scheduled and incognito visits to preferred hotels (updating her list of go-to rooms, plus those to avoid) and meets with her hand-selected guides and drivers. Agnos even hangs out at regional airports to ensure that the pickup process runs smoothly. Her staff also experience it all firsthand so they can share everything with clients, “down to the views, sounds, and smells.” Recently, she traveled extensively through northern Greece, the Ionian Islands, the Saronic Coast, and the Peloponnese, where new and renovated hotels (Amanzoe and Nikki Beach in Porto Heli, Grace Hotels’ upcoming property in Kalamata) are fueling demand.

Special booking: Agnos can arrange a day of Greek beer tasting—flights are served with plenty of traditional meze—in Athens. “Greece is not known internationally for its beer but it has many fantastic craft varieties that aren’t yet exported.”

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

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Ilene Koenig

Let’s Travel (a division of Plaza Travel), Santa Monica, Calif.
Phone: 800-458-7477
Email: ilene@letstravel-sm.com

Switzerland is a notoriously expensive destination, but Koenig is skilled at finding great deals and working within a range of budgets. As a ski enthusiast, she knows the local slopes inside and out, including ritzy Zermatt; the more low-key town of Andermatt, high up in the Gotthard pass; and Wengen, a car-free village accessible only by train.

Special booking: Koenig can arrange a night in an igloo, a quirky, fun experience that’s available in Switzerland from mid-December until mid-April in locations such as Zermatt, St. Moritz, Gstaad, and Engelberg. Some ice-house villages even have saunas and outdoor whirlpools.

Specialties: Switzerland, Winter sports

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Linda Kibak

Years as Agent: 18. Specialties: New Orleans, Switzerland. Fee: Varies.

Yaron Yarimi

New Favorite: The revamped Rosewood Hotel Georgia, in Vancouver. Housed in a 1927 Georgian Revival mansion, the 155-room property reopened in July with contemporary interiors and a new restaurant, the Hawksworth, where chef David Hawksworth whips up regionally inspired dishes.  Years as agent: 26. Specialties: Canada, Italy. Fee: From $200.

Silja Torborg

Top Tip: Take a road trip from Putre, in the north, to Visviri and back. You’ll traverse the high plains close to the Bolivian border at 12,000 feet. Years as Agent: 16. Specialties: Soft adventure, Chile. Fee: None

Brian Morgan

Adventure Life, Missoula, Mont.
Phone: 800-344-6118
Email: go-galapagos@adventure-life.com

Due to constantly changing park regulations, the Galápagos can be a difficult destination to navigate—but Morgan and his staff of 23 do it with ease, arranging everything from scuba diving to boat transfers between islands. He has in-depth knowledge of the region’s land accommodations and 50-plus small ships and luxury cruise lines, including each vessel’s comfort level, activity options, and routes.

New Favorite: The 76-acre Pikaia Lodge on Santa Cruz Island, an eco-minded property with 14 spacious rooms and its own yacht—a first for Galápagos land options. Guests can take day trips to the frigate-bird rookery on North Seymour Island or the lava fields of Santiago.

Specialties: Galápagos Islands, Ecuador and Peru

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Craig Beal

Travel Beyond, Wayzata, Minn.
Phone: 800-876-3131
Email: craigb@travel​beyond.com

A former nuclear engineer and submarine officer, Beal knows how to pay close attention to detail. His South African–born mother founded Travel Beyond, taking him on his first safari at age four. He’s adept at navigating the complicated logistics of getting clients to and from remote safari destinations, and he briefs them beforehand on any backup plans. When he isn’t in Africa—staying at new lodges and meeting top guides—he’s talking about it at conferences as a cofounder of Safari Pros or in online forums such as TripAdvisor and FlyerTalk.

New Favorite: Zimbabwe’s game-rich Hwange National Park finally has a top-tier lodge: the nine-tent Linkwasha Camp. Located on a private concession in the park, off-road game drives are private and away from the crowds. The reserve is also one of the most diverse in Africa, with an ecosystem that transitions from the Kalahari Desert to the woodlands of northern Zimbabwe.

Specialties: Southern Africa, Rwanda and Kenya

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Rebecca Mazzaro

Asia Transpacific Journeys, Boulder, Colo.
Phone: 800-642-2742
Email: rebecca@asiatranspacific.com

Mazzaro has traveled extensively through this increasingly popular, though still relatively undeveloped, destination. She knows where to find Myanmar’s secluded corners and can get clients the best rooms at top hotels, thanks to personal relationships with on-site managers. She can set up a hot-air-balloon ride over Bagan, a guided longboat tour of Inle Lake, or a biking trip through the scenic Shan state.

New favorite: Sanctuary Retreats’ Sanctuary Ananda river cruise makes four-night trips on the Irrawaddy from Bagan to Mandalay. The boat, built by a pair of Burmese brothers, has only has 21 staterooms, all with private balconies and pieces that celebrate Burmese artistic traditions: hand-loomed silk pillows, teak accents, and lacquerware. Private guides take you to Bagan’s top temples and through Sin Kyun, a small peanut-farming village.

Other specialties: Myanmar and India.

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Jonny Bealby

Wild Frontiers, London
Phone: 44-20-7736-3968
Email: jonny@wildfrontiers.co.uk

This former travel journalist is a pro at pairing India’s most popular destinations—Agra, Jaipur, Delhi, and Mumbai— with less-frequented rural areas, his point of passion. He’ll put travelers in grand palace hotels, but can just as easily open doors at private-house hotels for a look at the countryside today. His knowledge of northern Indian locales—Leh, in the Indus Valley, and the Nubra Valley—is unparalleled.

Discovery: Bealby’s clients can not only attend the Saffron Festival in Kashmir, which takes place every October, but also help Indian farmers harvest the flowers for the festivities.

Other specialties: India, Central Asia.

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Carole Cambata

Top tip: Don’t miss early morning prayers at the Thiksey monastery, near Leh, in northern India. “When the prayers end, the younger monks suddenly run outside laughing to play. It’s a wonderful spectacle.” Years as agent: 31. Specialties: India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Asia. Fee: Varies.

Duff Trimble

Wabi-Sabi Japan, Singhampton, Ont.
Phone: 647-477-1711
Email: duff@wabi-sabijapan.com

In an effort to introduce guests to authentic traditions in what he calls the “lost Japan,” Trimble invests considerable time and resources on scouting trips to areas that foreigners seldom visit. He takes the same approach in Tokyo and Kyoto, mapping out hidden finds and planning get-togethers with sake brewers, artists, and designers.

Excited about: Kyushu, in western Japan, is perfect for travelers who have already visited Kyoto and Tokyo and want to go farther afield. It has hundreds of hot springs, well-appointed ryokans, delicious regional cuisine (Hakata ramen; mizutaki chicken hot pot) and easy access to the outdoors.

Other specialty: Japan

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Wido Schaefer

Years as agent: 35. Other specialty: Argentina. Fee: From $100.

T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2011

Scott Kertes

Vacations by Design @ Hartford Holidays Travel, Garden City, N.Y.
Phone: 800-828-4813
Email: scott@hartfordholidays.com

Kertes has sailed on every major cruise line, allowing him to give clients a comprehensive analysis of boats, itineraries, rooms, activities, and more. He’s especially good at explaining the fine print behind all-inclusives: he’ll tell you how much that “free” pre-cruise hotel night really costs. Along with vacations for couples and families, Kertes designs group and themed cruises, such as a classical-music trip to the Baltics, Scandinavia, and Russia organized in conjunction with the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS charity.

Excited about: There’s an increase in Alaskan cruise bookings as baby boomers cross the destination off their bucket lists. Kertes recommends the Regent Seven Seas Navigator, an all-suites vessel complete with marble bathrooms (and most with private balconies), and the Regatta from Oceania Cruises, which is fresh from a multimillion-dollar renovation.

Specialties: Luxury cruising, Group cruising

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