International Travel Destinations this Fall

The busy summer season is coming to a close, but here are a few unforgettable destinations around the world that should be shared! These curated experiences are opportunities to immerse yourself in new cultures, taste new foods, appreciate art, design, history and enjoy time for yourself to rejuvenate.

Photo courtesy of São Lourenço do Barrocal

Wild Terrains — Portugal

As the only travel company leading women-only group trips that partner exclusively with local, female-owned businesses, Wild Terrains has expanded and launched their second destination – Portugal. This new eight-day/seven-night journey takes women travelers to Lisbon, Alentejo, and Porto, where the dynamic history, delicious food, and breathtaking landscapes are just the beginning. Guests stay at stylish women-owned hotels like The Lisboans in Lisbon and Duas Portas Townhouse in Porto. Experience a Lisbon street art tour designed by Vanessa Teodoro, a South African street artist. Enjoy a tasting menu dinner at women-owned Prado with wine pairings by Portugal’s top female winemakers, and so much more!

Other activities:

Foraging with Portuguese mixologist Constança Cordeiro, private mixology lessons, biking through the countryside of Alentejo Visit. Travelers will learn more about Portuguese food history with cooking classes and eating your way through Porto with a food crawl. Another option is to take a day trip to Douro Valley to meet some female winemakers in the region, and so much more!

Photo courtesy of Prado Restaurant                                                                                                                                              Photo courtesy of  The Lisboans

Photo courtesy of Wild Terrains

On Foot Holidays — Catalonia

The hills of Catalonia are perfect for a fall getaway, with the grape harvest in full swing in September. On Foot Holidays’ self-guided hiking vacation will take you through the terraced vineyards of the famed Priorat winemaking region to the town of Porrera, where there are, of course, plenty of opportunities to sample the local wines in celebration of completing your walk. Starting at Montsant, only an hour from Barcelona, the route through quiet hills with magnificent vistas also passes two fine abbeys – Poblet and Escaladei – the former thriving and active, the latter now being restored as an archaeological site of major significance. 

Did you know?

All of On Foot Holidays’ 32 routes throughout Europe are designed by a local – someone who lives near every route and is responsible for the upkeep of the route, hotel liaison and providing telephone support for all walkers during their trip. For this route, the locals recommend a stay in Barcelona at the end (or start) at one of On Foot Holidays’ hand-picked hotels or B&Bs.

Photos courtesy of On Foot Holidays

Les Ilets de la Plage – Saint Barth

The sixth edition of the Saint Barth Gourmet Festival takes place November 6-10, 2019 on the island of Saint Bathélemy. Now considered a major culinary event, the Festival’s cast of participating chefs is once again star-studded and comprises iconic figures of haute French cuisine. The Saint Barth Gourmet Festival is counted as one of the major events in the world of culinary excellence and one of the best gourmet festivals on an international scale. 

In addition: 

The intimate, family-owned beach resort offers 12 private villas with direct access to the white sand beach and azure sea. Secluded yet central, Les Ilets has been a well-kept secret for years, combining the privacy and serenity of a villa with a hotel concierge service at an affordable price. 

Photo courtesy of Pierre Carreau

Photo courtesy of Gerald Tessier

Ignacia Guest House — Mexico City

Stay in the beloved Colonia Roma neighborhood at Ignacia Guest House, a trendy eco-friendly bed and breakfast. Featuring just five unique suites, the hotel’s namesake is Ignacia, the housekeeper who took care of this 1913 colonial mansion for more than 70 years. In celebration of Dia de los Muertos, the chef will bake the traditional holiday bread for breakfast that week – Pan de Muertos or “bread of the dead,” a slightly sweet, brioche-like bread covered with orange blossom water and anise seeds. 

In addition:

Foodies will love Eat Like a Local Mexico City’s special Dia de los Muertos food tour where founder Rocio Vazquez Landeta shares her personal approach to the celebration. Start the day with coffee, sweet bread, and street tacos with a visit to the flower market to enjoy delicious food while shopping for candy skulls, flowers, candles, colorful papers, and more. 

Photo courtesy of Jaime Navarro

The Liming — Bequia 

To Caribbean locals, liming means ‘the art of doing nothing.’ At The Liming Bequia, this leisurely way of passing the time comes with added luxury. Set on the tiny island of Bequia, this boutique hideaway is refreshingly off the beaten track compared to larger islands. With lush gardens, a private marina and views towards Canouan and Mayreau, The Liming instantly rewards you for going that bit further. 

Did you know?

Reopening after the off-season on November 9th, 2019, The Liming Bequia recently announced a special offer for travelers –

stay for 7 nights, pay only for 5” – so guests can enjoy liming for even longer. 

Photos courtesy of The Liming, Bequia

With panoramic Pacific Ocean views, this exclusive and private compound is nestled in the Hermosa Hillsides in Northwest Pacific Costa Rica. The property spans two lots, each with over one-plus acres. It includes a main villa plus two guesthouses.

“Villa Vista Azul offers privacy, ocean views and flexibility as a family compound or executive or yoga retreat with rental income benefits,” says Linda Ann Gray of Coldwell Banker Coast to Coast Properties, who is listing the property for $1.675 million.

The compound is just 30 minutes to the International Airport in Liberia and a short drive to the full-service beach community of Playas Del Coco.

 

For more information, visit www.coldwellbankercr.com

 

 

This property originally appeared in Homes & Estates Summer Supplement

With the guidance of experts, travelers are able to experience more than simple sightseeing.

Spanning across Africa, Europe and The United States, these expert-led trips — curated by Architectural Adventures — blend world-class vacations with a deep appreciation for culture, history and architecture. Serving as the official travel program of The American Institute of Architects, Architectural Adventures plans each trip alongside knowledgeable architectural experts — unlocking the historical, cultural, and aesthetic significance behind the world’s most notable architecture.

©istockphoto / Daniel_Keuck

©istockphoto / TomasSereda

“In both Barcelona and Rome, we stay in the same city, and each day discover more about it. Staying in one place affords developing a more intimate look at the architecture and culture of the city.”

Sophia Gruzdys

Barcelona, Spain

Whether she’s embracing the local language, indulging in local cuisine, or exploring historic architecture, Sophia Gruzdys — an Architectural Adventures expert since 2017 — brings her own perspective to each tour she plans.

The licensed architect and educator has led tours in Barcelona and Rome, and will lead two Barcelona tours in 2019. “In both Barcelona and Rome, we stay in the same city, and each day discover more about it. Staying in one place affords developing a more intimate look at the architecture and culture of the city,” Gruzdys explains.

In Rome, travelers explore a wide range of architectural styles — including Contemporary, Fascist-style, Art Deco, and Renaissance. Meanwhile in Barcelona, travelers visit Antoni Gaudí’s iconic Sagrada Família and recently opened Casa Vicens, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s famed Bareclona Pavillion, and the modern urbanism of the @22 District. “It’s fascinating to compare the styles that emerged in our culture in different periods of history in different cities,” Gruzdys says.

Gruzdys, who encourages travelers to engage with local languages and embrace local culture, values the importance of hands-on experience. “It’s so rewarding to travel with people who are interested in the architecture — and to share their enjoyment. Each time I visit the sites, I’ll notice something new, and continue to learn from the experiences of others,” she says.

©istockphoto / TomasSereda

“I have traveled all over the world, but traveling back to San Antonio makes me more aware of its architectural history, and its many layers and textures.”

Jane Martin

San Antonio, Texas, United States

First discovered by Spanish explorers in the 1600s, San Antonio’s identity has always been strongly rooted in Mexican culture, history, art and architecture. From exploring the city’s Spanish colonial past at the Alamo and other UNESCO World Heritage Missions to cruising along the San Antonio Riverwalk, those who travel to San Antonio will be deeply immersed in local culture.

Jane Martin — architecture educator, historian and resident of San Antonio — will lead her first trip with Architectural Adventures in 2019 in her hometown. “I have traveled all over the world, but traveling back to San Antonio makes me more aware of its architectural history, and its many layers and textures,” she says. “There is a lot to see in San Antonio, and I am constantly discovering new things. There are a great variety of architectural styles — with everything from Spanish Colonial, all the way to International Modern.”

Travelers will also visit Sir David Adjaye’s cutting-edge Ruby City, the newest of the city’s world-class museums, and learn about historic Pearl Brewery, now a 22-acre complex with housing, retail and fine dining. “I hope this trip helps to bring San Antonio to the world, encourages people to sign up for the tour and enjoy the city,” Martin says.

©istockphoto / Marco_Bonfanti

Milan, Italy

From marveling at Milan Cathedral, touring Santa Maria delle Grazie (home to Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper), to visiting the UniCredit Tower, those who travel to Milan will surely learn a great deal from Architecture Adventures expert David Rifkind.

Leading a nine-day tour in 2019, the architectural history professor and practicing architect will explore the city’s range of historic architecture, as well as its recent cultural renaissance — which led to the creation of new museums, sustainable architecture, and Contemporary art exhibits. “I was surprised to learn that architects tend to be very interested in Contemporary architecture,” notes Rifkind, who also finds that non-architects tend to be more interested in historic structures.

Rifkind’s trip to Milan will bring together a unique group of travelers, consisting of both architects and non-architects from around the globe. “The dynamic of the people on the trip really does impact the experience in a really positive way,” Rifkind says. “Experiencing architecture first-hand is a unique pleasure, and alongside a group of diverse people who share your passion is truly magical. It has been rewarding to learn how travelers experience places that I thought I understood.”

While Rifkind understands the importance of an informative lecture, he also highly values hands-on learning. “It is really fascinating when a relatively small group of people experience a city together,” says Rifkind, who made unique contributions for this trip to contrast classroom learning.

“Experiencing architecture first-hand is a unique pleasure, and alongside a group of diverse people who share your passion is truly magical.”

David Rifkind

©istockphoto / Daniel_Keuck

“Although my studies will be very helpful, leading an Architectural Adventures tour will be a new experience for me. It will be very interesting to give tours to travelers who are already immersed in architecture.”

Stanley Ira
Hallet

Morocco

From volunteering in Tunisia for the Peace Corp to lecturing at the University of Kabul in Afghanistan, Architectural Adventures expert Stanley Ira Hallet’s range of cultural experiences has prepared him to lead a tour throughout Morocco in 2019.

“Although my studies will be very helpful, leading an Architectural Adventures tour will be a new experience for me. It will be very interesting to give tours to travelers who are already immersed in architecture,” says Hallet. The trip will include visits to the Hassan II Mosque, the French-designed Habous Quarter, and the Majorelle Garden (a two-and-a-half-acre botanical garden).

Whether travelers are exploring the ancient capital of Mauretania, Volubilis, visiting the medieval school of Bouanania (which was built in the 1300s), or marveling at the Sahara Desert, Hallet says they will partake in a “completely different urban experience.”

Hallet, who also has a passion for photography, hopes the trip will offer travelers a more complete story of Morocco.

Bruce T. Martin uses photographs as words to create a vivid story about the culture and history of Mayan caves and cenotes of the Yucatan and more.

Photography by Bruce T. Martin

“In 1975, my father gave me a Pentad Spotomatic 35 mm camera, that I still have today,” says Bruce T. Martin, an American Fine Arts photographer. Even early on Martin didn’t pursue other careers or jobs outside of photography. Initially, his interest in cameras and capturing moments sparked when he was studying abroad in Europe 1976 and he’s been studying the art form ever since. Now, Martin explains that he takes a literary approach to his photography. “Images combine like words do in a sentence to tell a story,” he says. “My motivation is to use photography to document our world, explore our perceptions and question our viewpoints. ”

 

Martin grew up in Chautauqua County in western New York where he studied at Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University. His connection to photography continued to grow even building a darkroom in his parent’s basement and later began apprenticing for Irving Penn in New York City. “That experience opened my thinking to a whole new world of possibilities,” says Martin. Although the young photographer already had an affinity to landscape photography, his job at the Chautauqua County Office of Planning and Development led to a deep appreciation for architectural structures. One responsibility of Martin’s new job was to “contact the owners of interesting and important architectural structures in the community to secure permission to photograph their homes and buildings.”

 

Gruata Milenio, Yucatán 2012

In terms of style, the photographer has “tried to combine the excellence of many photographers such as the technical mastery of Ansel Adams, the unique viewpoints of Andres Kertesz and the eloquence of Irving Penn, to name a few,” says Martin. However, from a technical point of view, Martin describes his approach as direct. “Positioning my camera in a place where I believe will reveal what I feel is most important to the image … then waiting for or creating the lighting that best reveals the detail and color to express the emotion and purpose of the image.”

As an artist, Martin is always working on a number of projects such as a larger portfolio of Boston cityscape and architecture. A series called “Fragment Landscape” is also in the works and involves overlapping images gathered in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. However, there has been one persisting project that Martin has been expanding on since 1987.

“I have been working on a project on the Maya of Central America, using historical documents, academic research, and current events in conjunction with my photography and recordings from the field,” according to Martin. The first phase of the project resulted in the book and exhibit, “Look Close See Far, A Cultural Portrait of Maya”, and has now progressed into the next component. “Seeking Sacred Landscapes, Maya Caves and Cenotes of the Yucatan”. Martin describes the project as, “beautiful, mysterious, and compelling.”

The series “Seeking Sacred Landscapes” is a combination of images of the Yucatan’s caves and cenotes with archeological, historical, and environmental essays by established authorities, according to the experienced photographer. Martin’s images compel you to look closer at the detail that has formed over the years within nature.

It’s hard to imagine what being in those types of caves would be like, but Martin describes it as a time full of anticipation. “Knowing that I will experience and learn something new each time fills my mind as I begin the descent into these underground chambers.” This experience has been building over the years. When the project first began Martin became interested in many of the Mayan’s core mythology concepts, which later led to his deeper understanding of the culture. “Harmony in life is a daily struggle. With the rapid development of recent years, many contrasting and violent viewpoints have been introduced, so that the Maya and their environment are being overwhelmed,” says Martin. “Surviving these disruptive influences and maintaining their cultural dignity is the challenge for an uncertain future that the Maya now face.”

The series “Seeking Sacred Landscapes” is a combination of images of the Yucatan’s caves and cenotes with archeological, historical, and environmental essays by established authorities, according to the experienced photographer. Martin’s images compel you to look closer at the detail that has formed over the years within nature.  

It’s hard to imagine what being in those types of caves would be like, but Martin describes it as a time full of anticipation. “Knowing that I will experience and learn something new each time fills my mind as I begin the descent into these underground chambers.” This experience has been building over the years. When the project first began Martin became interested in many of the Mayan’s core mythology concepts, which later led to his deeper understanding of the culture. “Harmony in life is a daily struggle. With the rapid development of recent years, many contrasting and violent viewpoints have been introduced, so that the Maya and their environment are being overwhelmed,” says Martin. “Surviving these disruptive influences and maintaining their cultural dignity is the challenge for an uncertain future that the Maya now face.”

Through images that help to shape and tell a story, Martin is hoping that the series “Seeking Sacred Landscapes” will attract some attention to these struggles. “With a greater awareness of their issues, a more productive dialogue on the Maya and their land can begin, which will promote cultural diversity, protect their environment and respect for their fading traditions.”

Each part of Martin’s experience pushes him further and enhances his ability as an artist. A journey from architectural to landscape photography has proved there is more than what originally meets the eye, which can be seen in the details of his photos. According to Martin, “Each of these naturally-occurring, organic caverns and cenotes are unique yet similar architectural spaces that overwhelm your perceptions and preconceived notions of the world we live in.”

Cenote Ik kil, Yucatán, 2016.

This editorial originally appeared in The High End Spring 2019.

Artist, illustrator, and cartographer at Cornelia Carpenter Studio

 

Cherish your travels, trips, adventures and more with these hand-crafted, custom maps and illustrations. Each map is unique and individually designed based on your experiences.

This is a unique idea, how did you come up with it? What is the inspiration behind your company?

 

I have always loved maps. They are a wonderful way to explore the world, and for me evoke a sense of adventure and wonder. I created my first illustrated map while studying abroad in Nicaragua as an undergraduate student. I majored in Geography and Studio Art, so this was a natural blend of my two interests. Since then, I have created custom illustrated maps of countries around the world. The most rewarding part of my job is the excitement of my clients when they receive the final map documenting their special and unique adventures.

 

What are some of the biggest challenges when creating these products?

 

Getting my work out there! I have relied on word-of-mouth and social media to get my work out into the world, and I’m beginning to feel like my presence is growing. In addition, I am committed to accuracy and sometimes the research can be quite time-consuming. For example, I will spend hours studying a particular building or the cuisine of an area down to the traditional serveware and drinking glasses. I’m all about making my maps look and feel as authentic as possible!

What is your favorite step of the process when creating maps? 

 

I love working with people and learning about their adventures. When I create a personal map I ask for photos, personal stories, inside jokes, favorite foods, and random events that make each place special. Some of the trips are truly awesome and it’s quite fun to study exotic corners of the world that I otherwise would not know about.  

 

Please explain why your company stands out among others?

 

Maps are very “in” right now and there is a growing competitive market, but I strive on the details of my work. I make maps so my clients can revisit their favorite places. As a lifelong student of geography, accuracy is so important to me. Although my illustrated maps can’t always be physically exact, I always make sure landmarks, locations, and the topography are placed thoughtfully. The same goes for buildings, food, flora, fauna, activities, and the culture of each place. I like to think my maps have an extra bit of attention and love.

 

What kind of customers do you expect to buy your products?

 

I think everyone needs a custom map. Whether it’s of your neighborhood or far-away adventures, maps have the ability to spark conversation and evoke curiosity. I create mini-maps that are 5” x 5” to massive worldwide adventure maps. To me, maps are the perfect way to document the things that make life special and are worth remembering and smiling about. It doesn’t matter if it’s an everyday occurrence or a once-in-a-lifetime experience, maps are the perfect way to display life.

 

How is your business different from your original expectations?

 

Last year I decided to go all in, but before that creating maps were a side gig. Because my business is still so young, I’m not sure what to expect. Ultimately, I hope that people find joy in my work and they can relive their happy memories through these maps.

 

Do you have plans/hopes to expand your company?

Yes! If I could imagine the perfect job, it would be making maps every day, all day. I do offer custom illustrated wedding invitations (including maps), personalized travel maps, and other illustrated projects. Right now, I am focused on offering unique one-of-a-kind products.

Photos courtesy of Cornelia Carpenter Studio 2019. Find more at www.CorneliaCarpenter.com or on Instagram @CorneliaCarpenter_Studio 

Alexandra Jimenez at Women’s Travel Fest 2019. Photo by Melissa Holtz.

For avid globetrotters, one of the biggest hurdles is trying to fit all the essentials into suitcases and bags that are manageable to carry from place to place. After leaving the corporate landscape and catching the travel bug, Alexandra Jimenez, founder of the Travel Fashion Girl blog and Compass Rose Travel Accessories, found herself trekking to India in 2008 and has been traveling and blogging ever since. Living out of a single carry-on suitcase, Jimenez’s nomadic style of travel combines with her fashion/business background and has helped her shape her best tips and tricks to travel with just a carry-on — whether the trip lasts a week or a year. Below are several key points to remember when packing light.

Keep in mind possible specific details about the destination and time

These factors can range from an assortment of situations and questions. What will the weather be during the time you are traveling? Keep an eye on the forecast. Are there any local customs or traditions that are present in that part of the region? Perhaps the destination has a more conservative culture, so more lengthy and less transparent pieces are necessary. Will you have somewhere you can do laundry? Plan for that by bringing at least 1 week of clothing.

 

Consider your fabrics

The most important factor, Jimenez stresses, is choosing the right fabrics. Not only do the clothes you pack affect your outfit choices, they also affect what other essentials you’ll need based on their weight. She says to weigh each garment in your hands to determine if it will add unnecessary weight to your luggage. Not only that, but for organizational reasons it is good to fold and roll the garments beforehand to determine if they will be too bulging to pack effectively.

One fabric Jimenez raves about is merino wool, available in an assortment of styles and individual pieces. Not only is the fabric lightweight, it also wicks away moisture and helps you stay warm during cold weather.

 

Create your perfect capsule wardrobe

A great way to first get a grasp on exactly what to pack is to pick pieces that make a complete capsule wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe is a sampling of outfits composed of between eight and 15 pieces, everything from tops and bottoms to dresses and pantsuits. These pieces should be interchangeable with each other, another key factor, in order to maximize your outfit options.

 

To help, Jimenez notes to choose a color story to stick to when planning outfits, pieces that are in similar or complementary shades.

 

Finalizing this capsule wardrobe also requires you to “choose pieces that you love and feel good about yourself,” Jimenez says. A fun way she recommends planning outfits is to take time beforehand to try on outfits and take pictures in front of a mirror. Not only does this help you plan outfits you love and decide what pieces will work together, but can also help you on trips on days when you don’t want to think about what to wear.

 

To further complete the perfect capsule wardrobe, key factors to keep in mind are your planned activities. This affects choices like which shoes to bring, what accessories to wear, etc. For shoes, she stresses to pick 3 types: comfort for activities like walking or sightseeing, function in case of more active adventuring, and a wild card for more formal or weather-permitting instances.

Image courtesy of G-RO.

 

Once everything is assembled, the best way to fit everything into a carry-on, Jimenez recommends, is using packing cubes. Not only do these essential make it easy to fit as much into one suitcase, they also help with organization. Jimenez’s travel accessory company features packing cubes to help travelers achieve carry-on status.

Photo courtesy Jack Oughton.

DUE TO THE EVER-CHANGING MOOD OF HIGH-END DINERS, HOTEL MANAGEMENT CONTINUES TO ADAPT TO NEW AND EXCITING CHALLENGES WITHIN THE FOOD AND BEVERAGE SECTOR OF LUXURY TRAVEL. IN A RECENT POST BY TEXAS MEETINGS + EVENTS, EXECUTIVE CHEFS AND MANAGEMENT MEMBERS DISCUSS TRENDS WITHIN THE WESTERN REGION OF US THAT ARE BECOMING UNIVERSALLY SEEN IN HOTELS ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

LOCAL SOURCING & AUTHENTICITY

 

“Traveling is all about experiencing a new culture, and that includes fare from the region guests are visiting,” says James Morin, executive chef at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa located in San Antonio.

 

“We see a lot of guests enthralled by the culture of our Lone Star State, and they want to experience that unique Texas flavor in authentic cuisine.”

 

Showcasing the sourcing of ingredients and partnerships with local suppliers is a shift from previous priorities. The George R. Brown Convention Center also works to showcase its local partners by prominently featuring their branding in restaurant and café experiences, according to Chris Bupp, general manager of Levy, the exclusive food and beverage provider for the convention center.

Photo by Jack Oughton.

One example of this is the convention center’s relationship with local company Java Pura as a coffee vendor. “In telling people about it, it’s roasted down the street and it’s available across Texas,” Bupp says. “What a great story to tell, and consumers love hearing about it.”

Photo by Vishnuvardan.

HEALTHY ALTERNATIVES & DIETARY RESTRICTIONS

 

Chefs at multiple hotels and resorts spoke about an increased desire to develop menus with healthy options for attendees. For breakfast, often groups are looking for healthy options and “light action stations,” as they “want to see how the food is prepared,” says Christof Syré, executive chef at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas.

 

In regards to particular ingredients, grains such as quinoa, farro and sorghum have gained a new spotlight, as well as cold oatmeal and avocado toast topped with smoked salmon or a poached egg. Salmon has been a strong ingredient for Ruffy Sulaiman, executive chef at Hilton Americas-Houston.

“When we do a lot of tastings, each time we have salmon in the tasting, salmon always wins,” Sulaiman says. He credits the interest in salmon because it’s loaded with Omega 3 and appeals to most health-conscious eaters.

 

Coinciding healthy options are dietary restrictions, a complicated but rewarding challenge that the hotel industry finds itself constantly working toward accommodating, says Sulaiman. “It allows us to be as creative as possible to make sure that we take care of those folks.”

GOODBYE BUFFETS, HELLO POP-UP EXPERIENCES

 

Long buffet lines are going by the wayside, according to Sulaiman, as event planners are now sticking with smaller plates to continue the “less is more” trend. Sulaiman has developed different pop-up food experiences that highlight various cultures represented in Houston, including an Indian station with chicken Marsala and lamb shashlik and a pho station to represent Vietnamese culture.

 

To learn more from these inspired experts from the Lone Star state, visit Texas Meeting + Events’ post!

Photo courtesy Swastiverma.

The Internet may have killed the travel agent, but increasing demand for customized and curated experiences has created a new niche.

To some, “travel agent” may be a term of the past. Replaced in part by technological strides and the rise of the internet, travel agents have been in decline in recent years and that trend is set to continue over the next decade. Yet, a new class of travel experts altogether are gaining traction — travel designers, who offer high-end curated trips based on their own personal travel expertise.

“People spending a great deal of money on their vacations don’t just want a cookie-cutter experience. They want something really tailored to them, planned specifically for their likes and interests,” says Lia Batkin, co-founder of In The Know Experiences, a luxury travel and lifestyle agency in New York City.

 

Batkin and her husband and partner Seth Kaplan were inspired to enter the travel industry in 2007 after a disastrous trip to Argentina. “We enlisted someone to help plan a trip for us and that did not go so well. I realized it’s hard to rely on various recommendations and things you come across while planning on the web when you were truly looking for an elevated experience,” says Batkin. 

 

“For higher-end clientele, it’s not about the money — it’s about the time. This led us to believe that there was a gap in the market at the time,” says Batkin.

“Travel agents primarily sell based on either client instruction or on pricing. And often, they are booking things they haven’t seen,” says Doug Easton of Clelestielle, a Traveller Made-certified agency. “Travel designers, by contrast, are most assuredly getting the same benefits as agents, combined with an advanced degree of personal experience.

Principals of experiential travel company, Celestielle — Doug Easton and John Ziegler — personally visit each destination and stay at each hotel or property before they recommend it to their clients. Pictured here at Sala’s Camp in Kenya.

 

 

When it comes to experience, Easton and his partner John Ziegler are at the forefront, with visits to hundreds of countries and counting. “We started our company 13 years ago. Because we don’t have things that anchor us at home, we can be mobile for the whole year. It’s a crazy, nomadic life, but it pays off for our clients,” says Easton. “Our model is that we will sell anything that is luxury-based on client instruction. Yet, we would never propose to the client something that we’ve never seen. Anything we propose to the client is something we’ve visited or are in love with.”

 

Easton and Ziegler go on what they call “scouting trips” where they visit locations and hotels to inform their expertise. “We can see about 100 to 120 hotels in a year around the world. We keep something called the ‘to-visit list’ that has about 3,600 hotels on it,” he says. “You don’t want to buy anything from someone who doesn’t know what they’re selling. How can I plan a trip for you to a country without ever going there?”

A combination of personal experience and decision-making is what urges clients to seek out luxury travel designers to send them on a wonderful journey. Yet, it’s not always about the nicest hotel or the most luxurious place to stay, but rather the off-beaten path.

 

“It’s about traveling with intention, not just to share on social media,” says Michael Bennett, executive vice president of Nomad Hill, a Houston-based travel design company. “It’s about acquiring a perspective shift. The only reliable source of action is how to see the world, and travel can shift the way you see it.”

Michael Bennett, Executive Vice President of Houston-based travel design company Nomad Hill exploring in Alaska.

 

Bennett, who completed his doctorate concerning travel studies, helped establish the term “transformational travel” and utilizes his knowledge while crafting trips for his clients. “I explored people who had self-changing travel experiences and analyzed them and stories to see if there were things in common, and there were.”

 

Beyond location, travel designers also understand the mechanics of what makes trips memorable. Bennett seeks to bring variation to his custom itineraries, seeing the importance of fantastic on-the-ground guides, food and opportunities to meet people.

 

“We want to make sure that clients are getting to see what they want, but we also want to make sure they get out and explore,” he says. “So we intentionally craft spots that provide a good challenge.” This may include an engaging activity such as shark-cage diving, followed by a relaxing wine dinner. “Another thing I always try to bring in for my clients is to make sure they have ample down time. Time for reflection, journaling or prayer. Making sure that their days are exciting but not overly packed.”

 

“Everything is seamless down to the car service for you,” says Batkin. “Service also includes a dedicated person while you’re away 24-7. At times we get alerts that connections to flights were cancelled, so we go ahead and handle that mid-flight, change their hotel and give them a full brief when they land.”

 

“A lot of it is also managing expectations,” adds Easton. “For instance, if you’re visiting Jordan, there may be only okay places to stay, yet the areas are magnificent and completely justify the visit. And we let you know that.”

But in the end, it truly is about curating a life-changing experience for clients. “Research says that there is a peak/end model, in that essentially people will remember trips by one to two things that happened. But also, how it ends is important,” says Bennett. “You can have an amazing trip, but if something goes wrong on the last day, subconsciously it’s going to color your impression when you think about it a week, a month or a decade later. It’s really our job to make sure we don’t leave anything hanging in the end.”

Photos courtesy of Celestielle & Micahel Bennett

The following article originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of ERA Real Estate Distinctive Properties Magazine.

From healthy food and exercise to spa treatments and spiritual guidance, wellness tourism is putting health and well-being at the center of travel.

By Alyssa Gautieri

Photo courtesy of The James Hotels

Whether a hotel, resort or apartment complex, health and wellness amenities are in higher demand than ever from tourists seeking to enhance themselves physically, psychologically and spiritually.

 

According to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), a non-profit organization for the wellness industry, the wellness economy grew by 10.6 percent between 2013 and 2015. Wellness tourists spent about $563 billion in 2015, and the GWI predicts the total expenditure of wellness tourists will grow by another 43 percent between 2015 and 2020.

 

Curated exclusively for guests of The James Hotels, Four Bodies Wellness perfectly embodies the idea of wellness tourism. The in-room wellness program was designed to help balance all four bodies — physical, mental, spiritual and emotional.

Photo courtesy of The James Hotels

Whether guests feel stressed, disconnected or lacking inspiration, the four partners of the Four Bodies Wellness have curated offerings specifically catered to each area of the body.

 

From in-room TV Kundalini Yoga sessions, one-on-one sessions with intuitive counselors to in-room TV workout sessions, collaboration among the four partners has led to the creation of a holistic experience. “To feel really well, we need to think about all of the different areas of our well-being,” says Ruby Warrington, the curator of the emotional program.

Photo courtesy of QT Hotels & Resorts

According to Warrington, wellness tourists are increasingly using travel as a way to recharge. “Time alone in a hotel can be very valuable,” she says. “We can really use that time as a way to reconnect ourselves.”

 

Fulfilling a similar need, QT Hotels & Resorts has introduced “Yoga in the Sky,” a pop-up rooftop yoga series, at QT Melbourne.

 

The series is an “opportunity for people to connect both with themselves and with others,” according to Lee Davey, general manager at QT Melbourne. “The great ambiance on our rooftop, paired with guidance from professional yoga instructors, the energy of a live DJ and the breathtaking skyline views, all combine to create an absolutely one-of-a-kind experience.”

From Chicago to Australia, wellness tourists are emerging as “people are realizing the importance of taking a moment to pause during the day and re-center,” Davey says. “It’s important to escape for a moment and focus your energy on body, mind and soul,” and wellness tourism allows for just that.

Curating week-long luxury sailing trips and organizing custom winery experiences in the Dalmatian Islands, Wind & Wine Croatia — an innovative adventure travel company — is putting a new twist on travel.

 

Whether it’s taking in the views of the Adriatic Sea, visiting military tunnels on the island of Vis, or touring a state-of-the-art winery in the Dingač appellation, Wind & Wine Croatia is embracing all the islands have to offer.

In the summer of 2017, seasoned wine professional Lizann Grupalo was sailing the pristine waters of Croatia’s Adriatic coast when she met sailor and certified yacht master Ivan “Pale” Paškvan. Little did the two realize that this would be the start of a life changing partnership. Over a glass of Pošip, a Croatian white wine, the two began discussing their two passions — wine and sailing — and ways in which they could share these passions with others.

 

The two later came up with the innovative idea for Wind & Wine Croatia, which now curates unique trips that allow travelers to sail on modern yachts, visit hand-selected wineries and explore historic islands and towns. We spoke with Grupalo, who shares a behind-the-scenes look into the success of her partnership with Pale and what inspired their collaboration — all while expressing her passion for Croatia and its wine.

 Photos courtesy of Marin Tironi

What has made Wind & Wine Croatia successful?

 

At the core, Pale and I are aligned in our vision, values, work ethic and desire to create a business platform with an intent to serve others — our clients as well as the community. We also clearly recognize each other’s talents and skill sets and work to capitalize on those strengths and rely on one another for our respective areas of expertise. There is also a candidness to our dialogue which is so refreshing and honest. Pale has many gifts but I most respect his entrepreneurial spirit and passion for sailing and desire to share it with others.

 

What is your favorite thing about your partnership with Pale?

 

One of my favorite things about my partnership with Pale is how naturally and organically it has evolved. Our serendipitous meeting while sailing on a yacht in the Dalmatian Islands was so random and it happened at a time when I least expected it. I just love seeing the natural progression of Wind & Wine Croatia and I attribute this to our strong collaborative work ethic.

What inspired Wind & Wine Croatia?

 

Full credit must be given to Pale for the idea to create Wind & Wine Croatia. Apparently, he had the idea for quite some time but hadn’t yet connected with someone who had the supplementary skills to partner with. While I don’t really know what inspired Pale to mention the idea of creating a “wind and wine” program to me that day sailing to Vis, I can only guess that he saw a kindred entrepreneurial spirit. … The opportunity presented itself and I just couldn’t resist partnering with Pale on a new venture that included all the things that I love — wine, sailing, travel and Croatia.

Co-Founder of Wind & Wine Croatia Lizann Grupalo

Why should travelers experience Croatia?

 

Croatia should be on everyone’s list to visit. It really is that spectacular! Wind & Wine Croatia promises an incomparable experience and what we feel is the best way to experience Croatia — from the sea. It provides an incredible perspective and one of the most breathtaking views is approaching each island and city or town from the comfort of your sailing yacht or catamaran.

 

Combining the best of our talents, Pale and I have crafted these trips as the professionals and experts in our respective fields. Thus, a new experience has been created — tailored to what we do best — sailing the Adriatic Sea and discovering both world-class wines and the hidden-gem locales where these wines are born.

Style Selector
Select the layout
Choose the theme
Preset colors
No Preset
Select the pattern