Today’s luxury traveler is faced with a dizzying array of destinations, itineraries and activities, but a few simple planning rules remain constant.
- You’re always better off working with travel professionals who have been there before, because they can make better decisions for you.
- Secondly, it’s always worth the extra effort to find a truly special hideaway.
- And if you’re traveling with family, experts can help keep the transport logistics to a minimum.
Here are a few other things to consider when planning a successful luxury vacation...
Work with a travel agent. While travel publications and the Internet are invaluable resources for travel planning, there is still no substitute for an experienced travel professional with an in-depth knowledge of your destination and the properties you will be visiting. Good travel agents know which rooms to stay in, which routes to take between destinations, the best restaurants to visit and which attractions are truly worth a look. They know this because they’ve been there. They can arrange unique, intimate experiences for you and your family: cooking classes, private museum tours, meals with local artists or dignitaries. They can also respond to situations that may arise during your vacation.
Have your agent create a parallel staff travel itinerary. When you are traveling with staff, it is obviously very important to address privacy and proximity issues beforehand: adjoining rooms vs. separate floors, transport arrangements, meal times, etc. It is also helpful if personal attendants and nannies contact their hotel counterparts ahead of time to coordinate efforts.
Find a local guide. While spending a quiet afternoon ambling along cobblestone streets with your family certainly has its merits, there is nothing like experiencing a city with a friendly, knowledgeable local who can give you a little history, get you up to speed on the community political gossip, let you drop in on a private gallery, or point you to a favorite bistro. The best guides are winning conversationalists who genuinely enjoy sharing their homes with inquisitive visitors, and offer much more than the average docent experience. Your travel agent should know their names.
Consider flying privately. The dismal state of commercial air travel, particularly in this country, needs no further dwelling upon. While previous business models of private jet travel involved extensive ownership commitments, today’s programs are remarkably simple hourly plans. At an average rate of $4,500 an hour, the cost of a three-hour trip for a family of five is commensurate with first-class airfare, and the logistical and time-saving benefits are enormous. Our travel partner Marquis Jets offers a very popular 25-hour card, with a reduced option of 12.5 hours for Andrew Harper members.
Travel safely. Many travel insurance plans are notoriously hazy when it comes to evacuation costs, covering them only when deemed "medically necessary." We think very highly of a supplementary program called MedJet Assist. If you are ever hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, MedJet Assist will send a medically equipped and staffed aircraft to transport you to the hospital of your choice. MedJet Assist has successfully evacuated more than three dozen Harper members from harm's way thus far!"
Contact the concierge. It is vital that your staff coordinate with the hotel concierge ahead of time to meet needs such as adjoining rooms, child-friendly dining options, pet care and special celebrations. The Capella Castlemarytr in Ireland, for instance, can configure its suites to better accommodate families. Though concierges pride themselves on their ability to turn adversity into opportunity at the drop of a hat, most of these arrangements don’t need to be harried last-minute affairs.
Look for family-friendly properties. Some hotels are well-known as being particularly welcoming to families, and take justifiable pride in their children’s programs and group-oriented activities such as bonfires, picnics and good old-fashioned hay rides. In the United States, these would include The Resort at Paws Up in Montana, The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Enchantment Resort in Sedona and The Cloister at Sea Island. In the Caribbean, the list would include Malliouhana Hotel & Spa on Anguilla, Carlisle Bay on Antigua and Peter Island Resort in the British Virgin Islands.
Consider the villa. Villas provide a sense of space and warmth that even the most intimate hotels cannot achieve, especially if you’re traveling with extended family. And certain locales, such as Tuscany and Provence, offer a wealth of villa options. A proper villa should include separate quarters for your staff, and at least one local contact who can coordinate shopping trips and the like. Destination clubs have also become an increasingly popular way of securing access to number of singular villas, city apartments and private homes around the world. The best resource we’ve found for this rapidly growing industry is Halogen Guides.
Above all, stay somewhere special. It is entirely possible to have a warm, personable stay in a name-brand city hotel (Four Seasons, St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton, etc.) or luxury resort, and I certainly have. But I have also spent the better part of 30 years searching for smaller, unique properties that share a special sense of place and tranquility. Many of these are family-owned operations, some have unique histories, and all are full of personality: Abbaye de la Bussière in Burgundy, J.K. Place in Capri, Minmore House in Scotland, Little Ongava in Namibia, Gora Kadan in Japan. These are the kinds of places I like to visit, and I am pleased to report that I am constantly finding wonderful new discoveries.