T+L's A-List: The Official Travel Advisory Board
  1. T+L
  2. A-List

T+L's A-List: The Official Travel Advisory Board

A List 2016
 Ambroise Tézenas

A helicopter hike on a New Zealand glacier. Witnessing priestled rituals in an Indian Hindu temple. Attending a calligraphy lesson in Japan. Some of the most extraordinary experiences can be had only with the help of a well-connected travel agent. In Travel + Leisure's 15th annual A-List, we showcase the 137 best specialists in the business—destination authorities, honeymoon planners, family-reunion whizzes, cruise experts—to help take your trip to the next level.

How Travel-Agent Fees Work

For the most part, agents make their money on commissions paid to them by the travel companies they book with. Some also charge clients a fee (separate from trip expenses) as a security deposit that’s either returned to you at the end of the planning process or, more commonly, applied to the cost of the trip itself. In other cases, agents charge for services like booking airline tickets, making hard-to-get restaurant reservations, or securing rooms in smaller independent hotels that, unlike large international chains, don’t pay commissions to agents. When in doubt, though, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for clarification.

Travel + Leisure's Travel Advisory Board

The Travel + Leisure TAB is a select group of owners and operators of the country’s most important agencies. They share with T+L their expert opinions on the latest developments in the travel industry and their read on ever-evolving consumer trends. They are ultimate travel planners (typically for high rollers only) and can refer you to one of the many top-notch specialists they’ve trained.

Marcus Barlow

The vice president of sales for American Express Travel & Lifestyle Services oversees a team of some 1,500 counselors across North America who provide bespoke travel-concierge services and help card members get the most out of their rewards points. 602-537-4245; marcus.c.barlow@aexp.com

Betsy Donley

This 22-year industry veteran’s agency, Camelback Odyssey Travel, is a specialist for clients seeking exotic adventure experiences such as fly-fishing in the Seychelles or the Andes, and even space travel with Virgin Galactic. 602-889-5909; betsyd@camelbacktravel.com

Julia P. Douglas

Douglas, who founded Jet Set World Travel in 2005, has road tested countless hotels, resorts, and villas with her two children in tow. Her agency excels at planning honeymoons and experiential family travel. 312-574-1181; julia@jetsetworldtravel.com

Jack S. Ezon

Ezon, who is an advisor for brands like Fairmont and Sofitel, has an eye for new talent, which has helped his company, Ovation Vacations, meet the demands of younger luxury travelers when organizing destination celebrations and group travel. 212-329-7237; jezon@ovationtravel.com

Gail Grimmett

Grimmett leads a team of 1,500 agents in 70 branches across the U.S. and U.K. as head of the Travel Leaders Group Elite Travel Division, composed of the Protravel International and Tzell Travel Group brands—both known for their deep relationships with top hotels, airlines, and cruise lines. 212-651-2103; gail.grimmett@travelleaders.com

Marc Kazlauskas

As president of Frosch’s leisure division and U.S. branches, Kazlauskas, formerly of Tauck, fosters relationships with airlines, cruise lines, and rail services in order to craft seamless itineraries for business and pleasure trips. 212-784-0383; marc.kazlauskas@frosch.com

David Lowy

Those with sky-high budgets trust Lowy and his Vancouver-based team at Renshaw Travel to deliver extraordinary experiences like private jets and hard-to-get tee times at the world’s finest golf courses. 604-733-1010; dlowy@renshawtravel.com

Tom Marchant

Marchant is the co-founder of the Black Tomato Group, a London-based collection of travel and lifestyle brands known for bringing bespoke adventure trips up a notch through immersive activities. 646-558-3644; tom@blacktomato.com

Jani Miller

On T+L’s A-List since 2004, this golf-loving CEO has firsthand knowledge of courses, resorts, and fitness experiences around the world. She regularly circles the globe herself on adventure trips to places like Antarctica. 800-633-5577; jani@centraltravel.com

Steve Orens

Because Orens has more than 25 years of industry experience and serves on boards for some of the biggest luxury hotel brands, he and his agency, Plaza Travel, can get their predominantly business-travel clients special treatment anytime. 818-990-4053; steve@plazatravel.com

Shawna Huffman Owen

Owen, who manages offices in Dayton and Chicago in partnership with her father, Tony Huffman, shines at planning educational family vacations, romantic getaways for couples, and celebration trips for groups. 312-257-2988; shawna@huffmantravel.com

Mary Ann Ramsey

Cruising is among the many specialties of this former ASTA Agent of the Year and president of Betty Maclean Travel, which treats clients like lifelong partners by addressing long-range travel goals. 800-865-8111; maryann@bettymacleantravel.com

Sandy Schadler

Schadler is the marketing strategist for Travelink, an agency whose partnership with American Express Travel allows its network of advisors to provide the best rates and packages for clients. 615-367-4900; sandy.schadler@travelink.com

Wido Schaefer

The employee-owned TravelStore, begun by Schaefer in 1975, is now California’s largest independent travel agency. He also sits on the advisory boards of hotel companies like Four Seasons. 800-343-9779; wido.s@travelstore.com

Anne Morgan Scully

President of McCabe World Travel and an expert in hotels and cruise lines, Scully leads her team in creating one-of-a-kind itineraries packed with thoughtful gestures. 703-762-5055; ggrimmett@travelleaders.com

Jim Strong

Accessibility, attention to detail—especially in hotel selection—and an unabashed penchant for luxury are what drives Strong, who, together with his mother, Nancy Strong, customizes trips that focus on cruising and five-star stays. 214-361-0027; jim@strongtravel.com

Kathryn Sudeikis

Voted among the “100 Most Powerful Women in Travel” by Travel Agent magazine, Sudeikis and her team at Acendas are pros at organizing large family reunions. 913-671-7700; ksudeikis@acendas.com

Liz Sadie Sutton

President of Alabama World Travel and an advisor to companies including Royal Caribbean International, this cruising expert knows about everything from the comfort of the beds to the best excursions in various ports of call. 334-260-2482; liz@suttonplanning.com

Kimberly Wilson Wetty

The copresident of Valerie Wilson Travel, one of the largest privately owned full-service travel consulting firms in the U.S., Wetty puts a heavy focus on families and top-shelf hotels. 212-592-1218; kimberlyww@vwti.com

The complete list of A-List experts, right this way. >>

More from T+L