These Private Travel Clubs Are Exclusive — and Affordable

If unrivaled access and seamless planning sound like your style, perhaps it’s time to sign up for a private travel group.

Photos showing exclusive experiences available from Prior travel club, including a curated trip to India, and a tour of Modena with chef Massimo Bottura
From left: Travel club Prior arranged a members-only visit to India, including the town of Maheshwar; Massimo Bottura, who led Prior members through his hometown of Modena, Italy. Photo: Courtesy of Prior Club

Andria Gutierrez is a marketing executive in Lake Tahoe, California, who loves to travel — but doesn't love the time suck of researching vacations. "When I was younger, I planned all my own trips," she says. "But now that I own a business, I just don't have the spare hours anymore."

That's why she recently joined Allcall, which offers personalized itineraries and exclusive deals to members. She's already taken three Allcall trips, including a multi-state ski trip and a vacation in Baja California, Mexico. "The team is incredibly helpful and responsive," Gutierrez says. "They make the planning process so efficient."

While some established outfits like Exclusive Resorts and Wheels Up have catered to the ultra-wealthy for years, a number of new clubs are opening their doors. One reason is, of course, a new obsession with safety.

"Health has become the paramount concern of our members," says Melissa Biggs Bradley, founder of Indagare, which plans and books trips for its members. "We have a ton of information on COVID protocols, and the team takes care of understanding those, even as they change all the time."

There are other factors at play. "I'd traveled independently for decades," says Suzy Kellems Dominik, an artist from New York City. But hearing about an opportunity to visit Modena, Italy, with acclaimed chef Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana was enough to convince her to join Prior, a company that started in 2019.

A table set for dinner at a resort in Tuscany, Italy
Dinner at Monte Rotundo, a Tuscan villa open to Exclusive Resorts members. Courtesy of Exclusive Resorts

"What's so interesting is that they have this access," Kellems Dominik says. "It's intellectual and emotional travel — the imagination is just endless — and they curated a group of very interesting people who were all like-minded around food."

That ability to open doors is also drawing travelers who don't normally think of themselves as joiners. Around half of all millennials are now considering signing up for some form of travel club, according to one industry survey, outpacing the interest from Gen Xers and baby boomers. Even Exclusive Resorts, which charges an extra hefty fee per day for trips on top of the cost of membership, has seen a surge of interest from young families. In 2020, the company notched its best December in nine years, despite the pandemic.

So which of these clubs is right for you? It all depends on what you're looking for — and how much you're ready to invest.

For Upscale Private Stays

Exclusive Resorts has a portfolio of over 400 vacation homes, plus members-only cruises and expeditions. Inspirato has the keys to villas in over 180 locations; members can also jump aboard cruises arranged by the company. A more affordable choice is Koala, which allows travelers to book one-off stays in timeshares all over the globe.

For a Like-Minded Community

El Camino began as a small-group-trip operator focused on helping women to travel to new places, but has since unveiled El Camino Travel Clubhouse, a platform that allows members to participate in virtual events and chats about upcoming trips. Manifest, which debuted in August 2020, has chapters in cities across the United States. "We create a social aspect, with people getting to know each other outside of just traveling together," founder Jeff Potter says.

A group of four paddle boards on the Rio Grande river
Paddleboarding the Rio Grande on a trip organized by Manifest. Heritage Inspirations/Courtesy of Manifest

For Feel-good Trips

The upstart wellness website and app MyLifeWell went live in 2020 with virtual fitness classes and a selection of workout gear. Now it connects subscribers with travel advisors who specialize in booking wellness retreats at Canyon Ranch properties, among others.

For the Commitment-phobic

The high cost of clubs has historically been a barrier to signing up. But in the spring of 2020, Prior lowered its price tag in an effort to draw together a more diverse group of adventurers. "I don't want a club in the sense of shutting people out," founder David Prior says. Travel + Leisure Co. launched its own affordable subscription club, promising preferential rates and insider experiences around the world.

A version of this story first appeared in the June 2020 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline Join the Club.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles