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Condé Nast Traveler: 128 World’s Top Travel Specialists

by Wendy Perrin


Josh Taitelbaum, Off the Beaten Path,
Bozeman, Montana



Email Josh: josht@offthebeatenpath.com

Taitelbaum, who lived in Santa Fe until he moved to Bozeman two years ago, has visited nearly every city, park, and monument in the Southwest, including many that, he says, "have no names." He likes to bring luxury to the middle of nowhere: His camping guides, for instance, create plush accommodations (canvas-walled tents with queen beds and private bathrooms) at the base of 1,000-foot sandstone walls (800-445-2995, ext. 103; josht@offthebeatenpath.com; $400).

Wendy Perrin's Ninth Annual 128 World's Top Travel Specialists


Think of it as an investment in travel treasure. You want a truly memorable trip, and you want it to be flawless. In other words, you want maximum return on your money. Who can deliver? These super travel planners, with their unrivaled connections and destination savvy. For customized excellence, no online site can match them

Over the past nine years, as online travel-planning tools have gotten better, our standards for the travel specialists on this list have gotten higher. To earn a spot, after all, you must be able to do for travelers what they cannot do for themselves. The travel planners on the following pages all have on-the-ground experience that is both extensive and recent—making their advice more timely than what you'll find on a lot of Web sites—and also have insider connections and special access that no site can duplicate.

Some online tools now claim to provide services similar to what these specialists offer. They promise to design your itinerary, find the most suitable accommodations and activities, match you to English-speaking guides. No automated tool can, of course, replicate the value that the right travel planner can add to an itinerary—someone who is your local fixer, thanks to relationships nurtured over many years with the hoteliers, restaurateurs, and activity providers who will most influence your trip. On the other hand, in most cases that person will be a lot more expensive. So the question becomes: How do you determine whether the value that a travel specialist can add to your trip is worth the extra cost?

To illustrate what you gain by using a good planner, as well as what it will cost you, I asked my colleague Brook Wilkinson—a globetrotter who typically does not use a travel agent but appreciates the benefits that expert guidance can bring to a trip—to put one of these specialists to the test. I chose Costa Rica, because do-it-yourselfers can arrange trips to this destination relatively easily, yet sophisticates intent on experiencing the best the country has to offer in their limited vacation time would likely seek help from an expert. My instructions to Wilkinson—who had never been to Costa Rica—were to go on two weeklong trips through the country. Itinerary number one had to be planned on her own, using the Internet tools at any traveler's fingertips. Itinerary number two had to be arranged by a Costa Rica travel expert. For the latter, Wilkinson chose to work with Richard Edwards of Green Spot, who has been on our list of travel specialists for Costa Rica for the past three years, and whose eco-conscious focus suited some of Wilkinson's own priorities. The goal? To compare the pros and cons—and the costs—of each experience.

Reading Wilkinson's evaluation of her two trips should help you decide whether or not to entrust your next itinerary to one of the travel planners listed here. If you opt for a specialist, heed both her advice and mine on how to collaborate with him or her to your best advantage.

Click here to see the rest of Wendy Perrin’s Ninth Annual 128 World’s Top Travel Specialists picks on-line