Annie’s Top Custom Travel Picks for 2015

Everyone asks me “Hey, where are you going this year?”  and I begin reeling off my custom travel plans. Some of them are family trips, some are small groups, and some are just for me — to explore and research and discover.  Here are some of my ideas for traveling this coming year.  They are sorted by special interests, destinations, and accommodations.  All of these trips are designed for the independent custom traveler unless otherwise noted.

  • Special Interests: CUBA Small Group or Independent Travelers: Cuba has been on my list forever. I spent several years there as a young child (my dad was stationed at Guantanemo) and of course, I always want to go to the off-limit places. To add another layer, one of my special interests is art; creating, collecting, observing, and meeting artists.  Now I am working with a fabulous company, and together we have a trip with a total art focus and I can’t wait.  Land +air from Miami. $5,100./pp
  • Special Interests: ITALY Independent Travelers: When I think of the culinary arts my mind jumps to Italy.  It is the food and wine capital of the world; some would agree and others would challenge.  However, with the connections I have nurtured over all these years, the custom itinerary will be rich and yummy.  This trip will focus on 3 key regions: (1) Emilia Romagna/Tuscany–to include Bologna, Parma, Lucca, Florence, Modena (2) Lazio/Rome–here you will find the best chefs and teachers from chic to local (3) Campania–in this region, we will focus on the famous pizzas from Naples, salade Caprese from Capri and olive oils and lemons from Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast–ahhh…limoncello, I can taste it in my mind. Each trip is customized.  Trip price ranges from $3,150./pp plus airfare
  • Accommodations: PORTUGAL Independent Travelers: Portugal is the perfect place to “pousada hop.”  Pousadas are properties, castles, monasteries, abbeys, convents, villas or grand estates, that have been restored into lovely hotels–each unique.  Portugal is littered with pousadas which makes it the perfect country to explore independently.  Dramatic landscapes, beautiful inns, best fish in the world washed down with a nice glass of wine and finished with fado and port.  Just say, ahhh…This is a fully customized itinerary.    Trip price ranges from $2,229./pp plus airfare
  • Destinations: SPAINIndependent Travelers: Spain has two intriguing cultures in the north: Catalonia & Basque–each has a very marked culture and distinct language.  This trip begins in Barcelona, takes in all the architectural wonders inspired by Gaudi, includes a tapas tour, and a bike tour of the city, and some free time for roaming the Ramblas.  Then moving up through Costa Brava on to Girona and Figueres.  From there you turn west to Basque Country — here you visit the Rioja wine region and San Sebastian.  Ending your trip in Bilbao. This is a fully customized itinerary.    Trip price ranges from $2,550./pp plus airfare
  • Special Interests: CHRISTMAS MARKETSSmall Group or Independent Travelers:  Christmas Markets began over 500 years ago when farmers and folks from the countryside would bring their goods to the town square during the Advent season–the four weeks in December.  The tradition is strong throughout Europe.  This trip highlights two of the best:  Prague and Munich.  I am arranging a small group to begin the magical holiday season in this winter wonderland.  The custom group tour will be the first week of December, however, the trip can easily be adapted for independent travelers and any dates of their choice. Trip price $1,920./pp plus airfare 
  • Accommodations: BALI Independent Travelers: Unlike the Maldives, Bali is surprisingly affordable, and has those iconic South Pacific accommodations, overwater bungalows, and beachfront cabanas, that everyone drools over.  It is not just a beautiful place to sleep, but Bali is also home to spectacular mountain vistas. gorgeous beaches, friendly people, and a rich and vibrant culture to include temples, talented artists, music, dance, and culinary discoveries.  In 2009 Travel + Leisure said Bali was the world’s best island.  I expect not much has changed and, you too will agree. This is a fully customized itinerary.    Trip price ranges from $2,100./pp plus airfare 
  • Accommodations: FRANCE Independent Travelers: When it comes to places to stay I love to look at France.  Here you have choices, like a chateau, relais, auberge or country inn.  In France, you can sleep in a 13th-century castle/chateau that sits along a river with lush gardens to wander, or a chateau that is the heart of a beautiful vineyard for wine lovers.  A relais is a luxury hotel that often offers spa services.  An auberge can be a small hotel and/or a restaurant.  The country inn is similar — they both would be a charming country home that gives you a more local experience.  These types of accommodations are speckled throughout France and a nicely designed trip would include some of each.  After all, it is not always about where you go but more about where you stay. This is a fully customized itinerary. Trip price ranges from $3,200./pp 
  • Special Interests: ALSACE TRAIL, FRANCE Independent Travelers: This is the perfect trip for people who love to drive and discover castles, charming towns, wineries, and cheese factories–on their own.  The Alsace Trail runs over 100 miles north to south along the French and German borders through 70 wine-growing villages.  Those who visit between April and October will be a part of the many wine & harvest celebrations.  Each village holds its own festival, and wine cellars open their doors for visitors to taste the very best wines. “Alsace, where wine becomes a journey.”  This is a fully customized itinerary.    Trip price ranges from $2,490./pp plus airfare
  • Destinations: BELIZE Independent Travelers: Custom travel to Belize can be approached in two ways,  The Quick Get Away and The Longer Adventure/Beach Combo.  If you are looking for a 4-5 day retreat from winter or work then we have an ideal resort with the oceanview cabanas and a nice menu of activities available–reasonable and easy to get to. For the longer trip of say 7-10 days we recommend you begin your trip in the heart of Bocawina National Park where you can enjoy cave tubing and zip-lining one day, take a trip to Tikal to see the Mayan ruins the next.  After your jungle adventure, you will end your trip on Ambergris Caye for some beach time, snorkeling and sailing if you choose. This is a fully customized itinerary.    Trip price ranges from $1,920./pp plus airfare
  • Accommodations: CRUISE–COZUMEL, BELIZE & ROATAN Independent Travelers: It is hard to beat a Royal Caribbean cruise for that quick escape for a sweet price. This cruise departs from Galveston and includes 3 ports to explore: Cozumel, Belize, and Roatan. Cozumel offers jeep safari adventure, snorkel the reefs, speed boat island tour, play with dolphins, or just bury your toes in the white sand beach.  While at Belize you can visit the Baboon sanctuary, explore the underwater world and take in its unique coral structures, caves, and marine life, tour the Altan Ha pyramid or stroll the markets of Belize City. Finally, Roatan, where you can go deep-sea fishing, explore the Preservation Park where you will see parrots, iguana, and monkeys that live in the wild. Take a dive to discover Roatan’s shipwrecks, and aquatic life: sea turtles and whales. There are still adventures to be had while at sea: zip lining, rock wall climbing, learn to surf, and/or scuba. Cruises can be arranged from many ports besides Galveston and range from $478./pp 

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