Customized Luxury Travel Made Easy

Time-starved travelers look to professional planners to find off the beaten path and authentic experiences.


In today’s environment, busy would-be travelers, particularly those with two careers and kids, are often more flush with cash than time. So when it comes to planning a holiday, with or without family members, a little help is much appreciated.

Sarah Cook, a Phoenix mother of three, recently returned from a two-week trip to Prague and Budapest with her husband and three teenage children. “I knew I didn’t have time to research the different cities I wanted to visit and make all the arrangements,” she explains. “It was important that we visited the ‘must see” landmarks. But I also wanted to spend time doing what the locals do and find activities that would be of interest to the kids.”

Travel Pros to the Rescue

Cook turned to Santa Barbara–based John Robertson, an international travel advisor and member of the Virtuoso network of luxury travel consultants, to create an itinerary that erased her concerns about language and logistics but would still fully immerse the family in the local scene. One solution: A driver picked them up at their hotel and helped them get to museums, markets and local cafés.

Other excursions included biking in the countryside and visiting a local fashion house. Their professional guide also made sure the older kids made it safely to a happening night spot while Cook and her husband enjoyed the luxury of a romantic dinner on their own.  

“Having reliable guides and drivers took the stress out of the trip for all of us,” explains Cook. “It was a perfect holiday.”

How it Works

For some, like Cook, using a travel advisor provides peace of mind, knowing there is someone on hand in case things go awry. Miss a connection? Have a change of heart? There’s a number to dial to fix things on the spot.

“Sometimes things go off without a hitch. Other times, in today’s travel environment, things can go haywire,” explains Misty Ewing, a spokesperson for Virtuoso, a consortium of more than 6,000 travel consultants in 22 countries. “Our clients know they have an advocate throughout their trip no matter what happens along the way. The advisors’ inside connections and established relationships minimize the likelihood of complications and simplifies problem solving.”

Virtuoso clients view their travel consultants much as they do other financial or personal advisors, explains Ewing. “They have become accustomed to paying a fee to access the expertise of professionals who can make their lives run more smoothly.”

According to Ewing and other travel advisors, planning fees vary from $300 to $500 depending on the complexity of the itinerary. Often, the fee will be rolled in to the trip cost. Should the holiday not take place, the advisor is compensated for their research and planning.

Repeat clients are not typically charged a fee. Rather, the advisor relies only on commissions paid by the service providers—hotels, airlines and tour companies—for compensation.

A Custom Experience

“We’re finding that more and more clients—individuals and families—are seeking that unique, one of a kind experience. Something different, yet culturally significant,” explains Bill Bryan, who, along with his wife Pam, has been helping travelers find destinations through his company Off the Beaten Path since 1986.

Based in Bozeman, Mont., the company organizes family and small group excursions to mostly adventure-focused outposts. Yet, a healthy part of its business is in creating custom journeys, designed to result in an entirely personal and memorable experience. Prices vary based upon the locations and specific itinerary. Popular destinations include the Galapogos Islands, Costa Rica, New Zealand and outings centered around national parks in the western United States.

Next year, Off the Beaten Path will offer a small number of clients the opportunity to explore northern New Mexico from a privately-owned ranch. World-class fly-fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing and stargazing on a pristine 10,000 acre spread has the makings of a unforgettable getaway. No doubt it’s a nice place. It belongs to Ted Turner.  

The Experience Economy

Private tours, unique lodging, behind the scenes moments, indigenous experiences and offbeat cafes—all can be integral aspects of culturally rich and meaningful travel. And given our time-starved schedules and eagerness for experience, there’s no shortage of industry professionals who understand the concept and are skilled at delivering on the details.  

Here’s a list of travel resources with expertise in family travel, to help jumpstart your next journey:

Custom Adventures

Off the Beaten Path
Tel. 800-445-2995,

Tel. 866-591-0070,

Tel. 800-GO ACTIVE,

Travel Planners

Robertson International Travel Consultants (Virtuoso)
Tel. 800-969-3220,

Grand Travel
Tel. 800-247-7651,

Brownell Travel (Virtuoso)
Tel. 800-999-3960,

For information and referrals to more than 6,000 luxury travel consultants in 22 countries. Tel. 866-401-7974,

Themes: Family Travel, Luxury Travel, Experiential Travel

Activities: Sightseeing

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