How to Find The Very Best Specialists to Guide You Through Your Travel

The December issue of Conde’ Nast Traveler carries their annual list of the world’s top travel specialists. Online travel agencies have revolutionized the way that travel is booked, certainly something is lost in the process but for the median airline ticket it’s overkill to pay a human to do things for you.

For higher end trips, for complicated trips, for experiences there’s little that can replace an expert with local knowledge, contacts, and an understanding of how to deliver more than a mass product. And several individuals are recognized in the magazine for their ability to consistently deliver on those things for clients.

I’ve been honored to be selected for the list for the work I do as part of my award booking service, for the third year in a row.

Wendy Perrin curates the list and here’s how she describes it.

The travel planners collected here represent the best blend of destination knowledge, insider connections, user-friendliness, and value for your dollar that I’ve found in more than two decades of scrutinizing the travel industry for this magazine. They have almost all been road-tested by Condé Nast Traveler readers, editors, or both. Of the more than 10,000 travel agents and tour operators who have tried to break onto this list since its inception 13 years ago, only a tiny fraction have made the grade—this year, 150 specialists. Getting into this group is, statistically speaking, tougher than getting into Harvard. Staying on it is tougher still: It requires not only an absence of valid reader complaints but also ongoing positive assessments from readers.

Here’s the article (.pdf).

Some readers will know Cranky Flier, he is on the list for the second time for his irregular operations assistance, I think it’s a fantastic service to offer help to folks whose travels are disrupted, an expert can do a whole lot more for you than being at the mercy of the vagaries of the agents in the customer service lines.

A travel specialist isn’t for every trip, but there’s a huge difference between booking a tour online and booking one through an expert. I sat on a panel of Conde’ Nast specialists two years ago in Las Vegas, alongside a China specialist who really can make things happen there. I wasn’t going to be her client, I’m a do-it-yourselfer and I use points rather than paying for top-shelf accommodations. But she was able to put me to someone on the ground who could deliver outstanding guided tours.

And for the very best folks in their fields, it would be hard to do better than find one on this list.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. You are the Bluebird to our Vanilla!!! Congrats Gary and thanks for all your insight and expertise. You rule!!

  2. oh sure, if u are related to or bribe all the top officials in many countries from china to italy you too can get exclusive access to many “closed” facilities or behind the door locations.

  3. Congrats Gary–I was just reading that article tonight. However, some of those specialists are pretty spendy—any advice for the budget traveler? Perhaps Wendy can also do an article highlighting tips/specialists for the budget traveler….you know, the 47% hehehe

  4. I think Gary does a good job catering to the aspirational upper end of the market without taking luxury for granted and lapsing into #firstworldproblems (as Lucky is sometimes prone to do, but usually gets away with due to his self-depreciating humour). Let’s face it, most people don’t consider flying Business Class to be slumming it.

    I’ve had plenty of arguments with Gary over the years (not blog related!), but I find that he is probably the most “sensible” and “normal” author that I follow in the blogosphere. He appreciates that most people do have “day jobs” and the tips and services he provides are catered more towards maximising the mileage opportunities that come up in the course of life, rather than making the miles themselves his raison d’etre.

    Keep it up Gary. Well deserved recognition.

  5. As one who has happily used your professional services in the past, as well as been the beneficiary of your helpful advice on other travels, which I should add you thoughtfully declined to charge me for, I think the selection is very well-deserved! I recently tried another well-known blogger whose services paled in comparison — I will not make that mistake again.

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