Virtuoso Advisors Share 59 Top Travel Tips

Pearls Of Wisdom

Virtuoso advisors have been all over the world. They know properties. They know experiences. And right here? They share some of those tips.


Originally appeared in June 2015 issue of Virtuoso Traveler
By Various Virtuoso Advisors

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 advisor knows the score.

How To Work With An Advisor

1. “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, Albuquerque, New Mexico

2. “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, Macon, Georgia

3. “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, Phoenix, Arizona

Expertise And Value

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

5. “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, Jupiter, Florida

Don’t Forget

6. “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, Garden Grove, California

7. “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, Beverly Hills, Michigan

8. “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, Atlanta, Georgia

If these tips interest you and you'd like to connect with a Virtuoso advisor on your next trip(s), click below to get started.

Making the Case

9. “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, Dallas, Texas

10. “Check out, which offers a video on how to pack a carry-on – including sufficient clothing, toiletries, and other various sundries – so that everything completely fits, in about four to five minutes.”
– Sheila Gallant-Halloran, Toronto, Canada


11. “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, Leawood, Kansas

12. 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, Sydney, Australia

13. 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, Sarasota, Florida

If these tips interest you and you'd like to connect with a Virtuoso advisor on your next trip(s), click below to get started.

There’s an App for That

14. “TripLingo provides phrase guides, translations, and audio pronunciations for more than 20 countries, customized to your interests, such as shopping, dining, nightlife, sports, or meeting people.”
– Haisley Smith, Birmingham, Alabama
15. “I love TripAdvisor’s city guides. They cover 80 major cities around the globe and provide offline maps that work in conjunction with your phone’s GPS, so you never get charged for roaming abroad and never get lost. Self-guided tours and points of interest come preloaded with each map.”
– Justin Harrison, New York City

16. “GateGuru gives real-time flight updates based on your itinerary and keeps airport amenities at your fingertips by showing restaurants, coffee shops, and the like located nearby. The app works for both domestic and international airports, and even tracks your travels through ‘Your Travel Stats.’ ”
– Judy Perl, New York City


17. “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, Naperville, Illinois

18. “ATM withdrawals give you the best exchange rate.”
– Eric Dahlstrand, Erie, Pennsylvania


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

Staying Healthy

20. “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, Lincoln, California

21. “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, Nashville, Tennessee

22. “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, New York City
(For 50 reasons the Virtuoso network loves hotels, click here.)

23. “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, San Jose, California

24. “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, Los Angeles, CA

If these tips interest you and you'd like to connect with a Virtuoso advisor on your next trip(s), click below to get started.


25. “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, Spokane, Washington

(For 23 reasons the Virtuoso network loves cruising, click here.)

26. “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 – Celebrity, Azamara, and Oceania, for example, often stay late or even overnight in very popular ports.”
– Alex Yates, Victoria, Canada

27. 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 ex- cursion 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, New York City

28. 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 all of the newer 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, Fort Worth, Texas

Ditch the Lines

29. “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, Cincinnati, Ohio

All Airports Are Not Created Equal

30. For 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, New York City

31. For 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, Brentwood, TN

32. 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, Kuna, Idaho

In the Air

33. “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, New York City

Don’t Lag Behind

34. “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, Long Beach, California

If these tips interest you and you'd like to connect with a Virtuoso advisor on your next trip(s), click below to get started.

(To learn more about VAST, Virtuoso's adventure-driven travel program, click here.)

35. “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, Corona del Mar, California

36. “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 Un-Cruise Adventures or Lindblad Expeditions provide all of that in an intimate setting for those seeking an off-the-beaten-path experience.”
– Russ DiTusa, Wheaton, Illinois

Traveling with Kids
(For more on family travel, click here.)

37. “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, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
38. “Norwegian Cruise Line offers Cirque du Jour, where kids can take part in circus activities such as juggling and tumbling, then perform in a ‘big top at sea.’ Teens can join a theater or fashion workshop, and it’s hard to beat the Aqua Park – complete with multistory waterslides and Nickelodeon characters – aboard the Norwegian Getaway.”
– Patty Perry, Rockville, Maryland

39. “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, Ballwin, Missouri

All in the Family

40. 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, Naples, Florida


41. “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, Leawood, Kansas

42. “Crystal Cruises’ voluntourism shore excursions are a great way to give back without having to overcommit for an extended period of time. They’re also a nice alternative for travelers who have visited a port of call before and want to make good use of their return visit.”
– Leah Bergner, Garden Grove, Californi

If these tips interest you and you'd like to connect with a Virtuoso advisor on your next trip(s), click below to get started.

When In Rome (or Santa Fe or...)

43. 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, San Francisco, California

44. Santa Fe: “I highly suggest seeing a performance at The Santa Fe Opera House and staying at The Inn and Spa at Loretto. During the summer months, ask the inn to prepare one of its great picnic lunches to take on a visit to the nearby Estrella Del Norte Vineyard.”
– Trish Mercer, Columbus, Georgia

45. 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, Calgary, Canada

46. 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, Villanova, Pennsylvania

Wine & Dine

47. “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 the 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, Jacksonville, Florida

48. “South Africa is known for safaris and wine, so why not combine the two? Stellenbosch’s Waterford Estate takes visitors into the hills in its Land Rover to taste wines right in the vineyard. Stop for a boerebraai (barbecue) lunch at the Middelvlei Wine Estate, also in Stellenbosch. They still use traditional wine-making methods and let you stomp the grapes yourself! For dinner, I recommend The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français in Franschhoek, ranked among the world’s top restaurants.”
– Dean Horvath, Vancouver, Canada

49. “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, Carmel, Indiana

At Sea
(For more on some of the best cruise suites in the world, click here.)

50. “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, Dayton, Ohio

51. “Book a Horizon Suite on Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Mariner and you’ll feel like you’re on your own private yacht. I also love the Penthouse Suite with its expansive living room – perfect for entertaining guests before dinner. Both suites have very large private balconies.”
– Kelli Surdell, Novato, California

If these tips interest you and you'd like to connect with a Virtuoso advisor on your next trip(s), click below to get started.

Spa Retreats

52. “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, New York City

53. “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, Larkspur, California

54. “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, Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan

Suite Spots

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

56. “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, Miami, Florida

Making Memories

57. “Why wait until you return to upload your pictures on Instagram? Instant sharing is the new black. Just as long as you know when to put the phone down!”
– Kristen Twitty, Birmingham, Alabama

Where Next?

58. “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, New York City

Mapping Out Your Future Travels

59. “My longtime clients and I have a continual conversation about their future travel aspi-rations. 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, Saratoga, California

If these tips interest you and you'd like to connect with a Virtuoso advisor on your next trip(s), click below to get started.

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