sustainable travel, travel tips, ultraluxe

49 Expert Travel Tips from Virtuoso Advisors

Worth it: Any spa treatment offered in a jungle canopy.

How to go like a pro? Heed their expert advice.

The benefits of working with a travel advisor are legion: peace of mind, global connections, customized vacations, value, and VIP treatment – plus peerless knowledge gleaned from traveling the world. Whether you’re seeking family-friendly airports, hoping to stave off seasickness, searching for a suite in Capri with stellar views, or wondering where to watch an opera in Santa Fe, chances are your Virtuoso travel advisor knows the score.

Why Work With a Travel Advisor?

“A travel advisor needs to know their clients just as a financial advisor does. Travel is a financial investment, and we make sure it’s right. What is your travel objective? What destinations are on your ten-year plan? What types of travel have you done before – what did you like and what didn’t you like? Share celebratory dates: anniversaries, birthdays, milestones. Anything you can share helps us create that perfect trip and ‘wow’ factor.” – Alfred Volden

“Ask everyone in your travel party for the one activity or attraction that is a must for them, and have your advisor include those in your itinerary. This makes everyone feel invested in and excited about the trip.” – Mary Misinco

“Clients who are up front and honest about what they want to spend help us understand how to tailor travel to them and create the trip they really want. If we can’t reach your every travel aspiration because the budget doesn’t match the request, we can use amenities we have to help us make your budget work, such as food-and-beverage credits, complimentary transfers, and upgrades.”
– Shelby Donley

“Virtuoso travel advisors have relationships at luxury hotels around the world that offer our clients tremendous value.” – Damian McCabe

“Advisors have connections all over the world, and we’ve often worked on complex itineraries with a variety of different properties, resorts, villas, and the like. If you want a certain kind of vacation experience, we can design it for you, and we also know exactly whom to call at the places you’ll be staying and visiting to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Ultimately the goal for everyone – advisor, hotelier, tour operator, cruise director, etc. – is your happiness. Isn’t that a great thing?” – Stacy Hart

“I always try to reconnect with my clients immediately after they return from a trip, not only to share in all of the wonderful experiences they just had, but also to start them thinking about their next dream destination. When my clients are traveling, I often find that they have an experience, such as drinking an exceptional bottle of Tuscan wine or sharing a conversation with someone they met over dinner who mentioned the best trip of their life was to Peru, which makes them want to explore the region where the wine came from or visit Machu Picchu. It’s important to start talking about these ideas while they’re fresh in my clients’ minds, especially trips that take advanced planning in order to get permits, like hiking to Machu Picchu.” – Sarah Halpern

“My longtime clients and I have a continual conversation about their future travel aspirations. One of the benefits of knowing a client’s wish list is that I can be on the lookout for good fares and specials to that destination or on a particular ship. It continues to build that relationship of trust with my clients, knowing that I’m thinking of them and their family experiences, even when they aren’t.” – Lynda Turley Garrett

Before You Go

“The days of having to choose between authentic and luxurious are gone. Consider Aman Resorts, where you’ll have a local, authentic experience in the lap of luxury, or Micato Safaris, who will take you to remote parts of Africa yet still serve you a four-course meal on fine china.” – Jay Johnson

“Don’t plan every minute of every day. Travel is about experiencing the unexpected. Can you really be certain you’ll want to eat a 12-course gourmet French meal six months from this Thursday?” – Linda Munson

“One of my favorite things to do before a trip is to get on Instagram. You can search different hashtags to see current postings from resort guests. For example, the hashtag #FourSeasonsBoraBora pulls up all of the posts pertaining to the resort. It’s a great way to get ideas about what to see, do, and eat while there.” – Laura Crafton

“I use packing cubes; they keep articles of clothing together and stack nicely in luggage. Most cubes have two compartments, so you can put dirty clothes on one side. Also, putting plastic cleaner bags or tissue paper between clothing items minimizes wrinkles.”
– Amy McMurrey

“Make a copy of the first two pages of your passport before leaving on your trip. Travel with your passport on your person, then put the two pages in your checked bag to avoid losing both at the same time. When at your destination, keep the physical copy and the photocopies separate as well. If you lose the physical copy, this can make it much easier to get home in a timely fashion.” – Maggie Condon Campos

You’re going to want to pack a good camera for a trip to the Galápagos Islands.

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“I always take extra memory cards for my camera and a storage unit to download photos; otherwise you may be forced to edit your pictures before you get home, and memory cards can be hard to find in certain locations. Also, be sure to bring extra batteries.”
– Michael King

For the Galápagos: “Pack a polarizing filter to prevent washed-out photos, which are often produced in the harsh, equatorial sun. Also consider bringing a waterproof case or camera for underwater shots.” – Lisa Allan

For an African safari: “Pack two camera bodies, three lenses (from 24 to 500mm zoom), a 1.4 teleconverter, two batteries per camera body with battery chargers and an adapter, 64GB memory cards, a hand pump and soft brush to clean the lenses, a microfiber cloth, and a laptop (to download and review images daily).” – Ryan Hilton

Currency and Tipping

“When traveling as a couple, each of you should carry a different credit card. If one is lost or stolen and needs to be canceled during the trip, you’ll still have the other person’s card.” – Brenda Staben

“ATM withdrawals give you the best exchange rate.” – Eric Dahlstrand

“Carry at least $100 in small bills for tipping; having only $20 bills from ATMs can get awkward and expensive.” – Anne Scully

Air Travel

“Be sure to apply for Global Entry. This will not only allow you to sail through customs lines, but it also includes admission into the TSA Precheck program, so you can cut to the front of airport security lines with your shoes on and laptops kept in your carry-on! Thanks to this program, I have made almost impossible connections while traveling, allowing me to get home to my family earlier and proving the $100 application fee for the program is absolutely worth it.”  – Louisa Gehring

For airport shopping: “Relax at Korean Air’s lounge in Seoul, but save time for shopping – Incheon has the best duty-free stores on the planet.” – Michael Holtz

For airport food: “You’ll get a proper taste of the South at Nashville International Airport. Indulge in some pork barbecue from Whitt’s, a beer from a local microbrewery, and a big slice of pecan pie. The food tastes even better when local musicians take the stage throughout the week; you can check out the schedule on the airport’s website.” – Rachel Morrell

For families: “Singapore’s Changi Airport could be a destination in and of itself. It has a movie theater, a kids’ play area, an arcade, a 40-foot slide, and more.” – Katie Schmit

“Always try to book a window seat; you get marginally more space at the side where you can stash a small tote or magazines. I keep a fabric tote packed with a neck pillow, shawl, toiletries, mints, ear buds, and other essentials; it goes in my larger carry-on until I board, and then I store it under the seat in front of me. That way, you keep everything together. I have seen so many things left on planes.” – Pallavi Shah

“To fight jet lag, set your watch to your destination time when you board the plane and act as if you’re already in that time zone. If it’s night there, try to sleep. If it’s day, do your best to stay awake.” – John Oberacker

How to Stay Healthy

“Investigate the area you plan to visit and check for any 5K or 10K runs. Organized runs are a super way to have fun and connect with locals. Walking is exercise too; try to walk as much as possible during your travels – even take laps through the airport.”
– Jeri Donovan

“If you’re prone to seasickness or motion sickness, instead of taking prescription pills or wearing patches, which may make you groggy, take gingerroot tablets.” – Laura Baker

“Before flying, give your immune system an extra boost. Drinking fresh, healthy juices the day before and day of your flight is key, and the more ginger and turmeric, the better! (If you dislike their taste, buy these spices in pill form.)” – Laura Ball

Hotel Insight

“Don’t assume a villa will be more expensive; in fact, it is often a better value, especially if you’re planning to book two or more rooms. Not only do you avoid the stress of having to find connecting rooms (especially during peak season), but you can also save money by preparing meals and snacks.” – Suzette Mack

“Certain hotels, such as Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane, have dedicated lounges specifically created to make travelers comfortable before they check in. In addition, if you’re full of energy and ready to explore your destination when you arrive, some hotels have an on-site car you can use, or even be driven around town in. Your travel advisor can help you find these special hotels and, in many cases, even secure earlier-than-normal check-in.” – Sean McClinton

Cruising Advice

“If there are specific ports you don’t want to miss, look to start or end your cruise in the place you want to see the most. Plan to arrive a day or two early (or stay a day or two longer) to make sure you see it all, and so you can adjust to jet lag and account for possible flight delays. Also: Work with your travel advisor to select a cruise line that remains in port for the longest period – CelebrityAzamara, and Oceania, for example, often stay late or even overnight in very popular ports.” – Alex Yates

For shore excursions: “Figure out your top two or three must-see sites and then determine if you’d rather visit them on a group excursion provided by the cruise line, or if you’d prefer to splurge on a private shore event with one of Virtuoso’s on-site connections. And remember: Sometimes the best shore excursion is staying on board and enjoying the ship, basically to yourself, while everyone else is visiting the sites!” – Kimberly Wilson Wetty

For solo river cruising: “Several of the major river-cruise lines provide single cabins – Viking, for example, offers single staterooms aboard Viking Legend and Viking Prestige, while many AmaWaterways ships feature them – but there are only one or two such cabins available. For this reason, I recommend solo travelers book their river cruises at least a year in advance.” – Ruth Turpin

“The best cabins to book are midship balcony cabins. The more amidships you are, the less motion you will feel, and getting fresh air on your private balcony can help ease any sense of claustrophobia.” – Krista Wissinger

Adventure Travel

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions before signing up for a biking trip. You’ll want to know what the group makeup is, how many miles you’ll log each day, what the altitude gain will be, if there are options for shorter or longer routes, and whether you can upgrade to a different bike model. Look for a trip that dovetails with your interests – be it food and wine in Napa, off-the-beaten-path travel in Bhutan, or challenging biking in the Dolomites.” – David M. Rubin

“To truly experience Alaska’s grandeur, you must feel the spray of ice from a calving glacier while gliding past on a kayak or small boat, hear the cries of hundreds of seabirds overhead, or have an unexpected wildlife encounter while hiking in the woods. Small-ship adventure voyages such as those offered by UnCruise Adventures or Lindblad Expeditions provide all of that in an intimate setting for those seeking an off-the-beaten-path experience.” – Russ DiTusa

Family Travel

“Once you’ve got the destination and agenda determined, make sure that your child is the centerpiece of the vacation. This includes the itinerary, travel times, tours, transportation, and so on. With two kids of my own, and having planned countless family and multigenerational trips, I’ve learned that this focus definitely has a strong effect on the end results.” – Jesse Taylor

“One of my favorite programs is Kids for All Seasons from Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. Activities vary based on the local environment, history, and culture. So children might, say, learn about sea turtles on Nevis, build sand sculptures along Hawaii’s Kona Kohala Coast, or plant herbs in the garden in Santa Barbara. Many programs are complimentary; the maximum age is usually 12, but most locations offer activities for teens, as well. Before arrival, have your travel advisor forward your children’s ages – the staff will be ready with a VIP welcome and child-size bathrobes.” – Monika Dysart

For multigenerational travel: “Some smaller ships such as Silversea Cruises’ Silver Explorer or SeaDream Yacht Club’s SeaDream I and II allow guests to book an entire deck, offering a greater sense of togetherness and privacy. The itineraries are varied, with a mix of soft adventure and sophisticated tours. Begin or end in a port like Rome (Civitavecchia), so the grandchildren can experience the history they study in school.” – Mary Ann Ramsey

Sustainable Travel

“Voluntourism blends traditional touring and sightseeing with community service. Virtuoso advisors can often customize vacations to include, say, visits to a local community, school, or orphanage. In China, for instance, we can connect travelers with one of our on-site tour operators that’s working to enrich the lives of orphaned children. And for anyone who might call a day’s visit simply a ‘token’ of good will: Having seen the smiles of children that my colleagues and I have visited in Africa, I know that any time a person gives these kids is time well spent and well received.” – Barbara King

Find classic Greek food in Athens’ old town.

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Culinary Travel

“You can’t go to Peru and miss out on its fusion cuisine, Nikkei, a mash-up of Japanese (or Chinese) and Peruvian. For some of the best, head to Maido in Lima’s Miraflores district. Have one person order the Nikkei tasting menu and another the Japanese tasting menu. Both are 15 courses (dishes are on the smaller side, but you can share), authentic to Peru, and superb.” – Ben Price

“A short walk from Athens’ iconic Hotel Grande Bretagne, you’ll find a wonderful little restaurant named Tzitzikas kai Mermigas, which translates to the ‘Cricket and the Ant’ (fear not, the restaurant serves neither). Frequented mostly by locals, the unassuming venue offers wonderful, simple Greek food with a twist.” – Kelly Shea

Insider Intel

Rome: “Italian-gelato-ordering protocol: Pay first, get your receipt, then go to the counter and order. And practice your best Italian accent – it helps.” – Josh Friedman

New Zealand: “I always recommend visiting North Island’s Coromandel Peninsula. Less touristy and off the beaten path, it’s where the locals holiday. Don’t miss Hot Water Beach, named for the underwater spring that filters through the sand at low tide, where you can dig your own hot tub. Feeling adventurous? Head out after dark with a flashlight on one of its well-marked trails. You’ll have the beach all to yourself, along with some incredible stargazing.” – Natasha Rhodes

Chile: “Often overlooked, Chiloé Island is a must-see – and easily accessible on itineraries featuring Chile’s Lake District and the southern city of Puerto Montt. The locals are known for their hospitality, and the island’s rich culture includes a mix of indigenous mythology and Catholicism. The Jesuits and, later, Franciscans left their mark here, building elegant wooden churches; many still stand from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and are UNESCO World Heritage sites.” – Jamo Ladd

“Spa Botánico at Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Puerto Rico is a tropical sanctuary. Be pampered with a Citrus Soufflé exfoliation, wrap, and hydration, then meander to the Tree House for a hammock massage in the jungle canopy.” – Valerie Wilson

Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts features a full men’s spa menu, making it a great choice for couples. Activities include everything from mountain biking and canoe trips to a zip-lining course.” – Kay Merrill

“The 30,000-square-foot spa at Four Seasons Hotel Toronto exudes luxury with a choice of music, faux-fur-covered massage tables, and a variety of vegan aromatherapy oils. I succumbed to a sublime facial; it was the best I’ve ever had.” – Phoebe Weinberg

“The two-bedroom (and two-pool) Gwyneth Paltrow Suite at the Capri Palace features a ceiling window that opens above the bed so you can admire the night skies.” – Jack Ezon

“The rooms at Québec City’s Auberge Saint-Antoine are to die for. My favorite: the 750-square-foot Panorama Suite, which offers spectacular views of the Saint Lawrence River.” – Arlene Feen