Experientialism is the catalyst for a new wave of travel that has opened doors to “destination specialists” and “distinctive experiences.” According to Virtuoso, a tour operator specializing in luxury travel, the “value for travelers is determined by the experiences received” has raised the bar on several levels. A recent itinerary created for a father/son graduation trip to Africa gets a five-star rating for the ultimate in service and attention to details, from being met upon arrival in Johannesburg to personalized guides for visits to Ngala Game Reserve, Victoria Falls, Kilimanjaro, Ngorongoro, Serengeti and Nairobi to name a few of the places on this rather lavish seven-page itinerary. The cost per person for this hand-crafted independent tour is approximately $15,000, with airfare additional. Shane Pacquette of En Route Travel (www.Virtuoso.com), based in Pacific Palisades, said these fine-tuned tours go beyond standard tours, bumping up daily programs with side trips, such as, in this case, the “game drive of the day,” and provides exact limits on weight restrictions for luggage, which doesn’t seem like much but can be catastrophic if you arrive for a flight to Tanzania with a stuffed suitcase only to learn at the last minute the luggage restriction for a light aircraft means you cannot take more than 33 pounds and it has to be packed “in soft sided bags.”
Destinations & Adventures International (www.DAITRAVEL.com), based in Beverly Hills, carries this concept even further, specializing in impeccable attention to detail and a commitment to please their clients’ every desire. Their tour planners have a hand- picked staff of local experts at each destination whether it is India and Bhutan or New Zealand, and can arrange a myriad of events, from candlelit dinners under the stars to private jets, helicopters and yachts. James R. Berkeley, president of the company, is an expert traveler and plans these trips around his clients, so don’t expect a rigid itinerary.
Some with wanderlust will find smaller cruise lines, such as Travel Dynamics International (www.traveldyamicsinternational), a source of speakers that bring much more to a ship than a midnight buffet. Case in point is their Ancient Cities of North Africa and Andalusia (Nov. 20-Dec. 1) featuring Bill Moyers of Public Affairs Television as a special guest lecturer. It all takes place on the Corinthian II, limited to 114 guests, 57 suites and rates that range from $7,995 to $13,995 per person.
If you want to forget the intellectual aspects of travel and simply “bike, eat, drink and sleep,” check out DuVine Adventures (www.duvine.com) for a fine bike tour, with “no windshields to obstruct the views.” Private groups can be themed for groups of eight or more and can be designed for your family or friends. Going one step further, they can customize a tour for two as well, whether you want to wander by road on a wine tour in Burgundy France or a sip your way on a trip through Oregon’s wine route.
Taking the uber customized tour to an even more intense level is Select Italy (www.selectItaly.com). Their experts recently designed a tour for 10 wine aficionados at a private villa in Chianti, Italy for the Vendemia, a seasonal wine festival, this October.
I write this column as my two travel pals just left without me for a rather regal ball thrown by the great, great-grandson of Leo Tolstoy to be held at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. The tour operator (www.specialinteresttravel), a guru for promoting global charity balls, suggested they ship their designer gowns directly to the Palace Hotel in St. Petersburg, thus avoiding any luggage disaster en route.
Enhancing the travel experience is Geographic Expeditions (www.geoex.com). They can make it happen whether you plan to swoop over Africa in a small aircraft exploring the places Isak Dinesen (remember the film “Out of Africa”?) loved or explore the eighth continent, the island of Madagascar, home to 5 per cent of the earth’s plant and animal species.
The day of the regimented tour has turned the corner now that travel is all about you.
Pamela Price is the co author of the soon to be published “Day Trips from Los Angeles.”