Condé Nast Traveler
By Wendy Perrin
November 12, 2013
You’re planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip. You need everything to be perfect. You’ve scoured dozens of Web sites and travel forums, but you’re still not sure what’s the right itinerary or how to guarantee flawless logistics and VIP treatment. You usually book your trips yourself, but this time you need someone with the local expertise and clout to get you the rooms with the best views, the savviestEnglish-speaking guides, the free upgrades, and special access. In short, you need a clever advocate who will produce the maximum experience for your travel dollar.
Sound like you? Then you’re in luck, because the travel planners collected here represent the best blend of destination knowledge, insider connections, userfriendliness, and value for your dollar that I’ve found in more than two decades of scrutinizing the travel industry for this magazine. They have almost all been road-tested by Condé Nast Traveler readers, editors, or both. Of the more than 10,000 travel agents and tour operators who have tried to break onto this list since its inception 13 years ago, only a tiny fraction have made the grade—this year, 150 specialists. Getting into this group is, statistically speaking, tougher than getting into Harvard. Staying on it is tougher still: It requires not only an absence of valid reader complaints but also ongoing positive assessments from readers.
Of the more than 10,000 travel agents and tour operators who have tried to break onto this list since its inception 13 years ago, only a tiny fraction have made the grade—this year, 150 specialists.
We invite you to peruse the reviews of these travel specialists—posted by your fellow Condé Nast Traveler readers returning from trips booked through them. Find a full list of specialists at condenasttraveler.com/travel-specialists, and click through to their individual profile pages to read the critiques. We hope you’ll want to help your fellow readers by posting your own review once you return from a trip one of them has arranged. If you’d rather comment privately, or if you’d like to nominate someone new for consideration, e-mail me at email@example.com. And e-mail me if you’re planning a trip to multiple destinations and are not sure which travel specialist to use. Bon voyage!
Todd Smith, AdventureSmith Explorations
A former expedition leader aboard small ships in Alaska and Mexico, Smith arranges adventure cruising on 150-passenger (or fewer) vessels in nature-rich locations (Alaska, Central America, the Galápagos). He can spell out your range of options—including boats you’ve never heard of where the emphasis is on exploring far from overbuilt ports and busloads of tourists. Your days will be active—think hiking, canoeing, paddleboarding—and there’s no formal dining or nighttime entertainment, but that doesn’t mean giving up all creature comforts: You might still get hot chocolate and warm cookies delivered to your kayak in Antarctica (minimum price per day for two people: $250).