5 Ways These Travel Experts Craft Experiences You Can’t Find Elsewhere
Three-hundred miles off the Brazilian shoreline lies the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, considered to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. While its remoteness is part of its charm, it also makes it a difficult destination to plan a trip to, especially for those who have never set foot on the “rainbow island.”
One Boston-based travel company took on the challenge, sending their product team to the islands to do extensive field research and take in the destination like a local, something many in the travel industry aspire to, but few actually achieve. Because of their teams’ invaluable in-country expertise, Audley Travel clients can now experience the archipelago, or any other of Audley’s bespoke excursions, as part of a full itinerary to more than 80 destinations, stress-free. From guided overnight treks to hidden caves in Vietnam to kayaking over underwater ruins in Greece (Audley’s newest offering launching this month), Audley’s travel experts spend weeks in-country seeking out excursions no one else can offer.
Tired of the same old trip ideas splattered across your friends’ Facebook profiles? Here are 5 ways the Audley team translates their firsthand experiences into one-of-a-kind travel experiences tailored just for you.
Getting Expert Tips from the Real Experts
Audley’s travel experts know that a destination’s most hidden gems and best-kept secrets — like which side of the train has the best view and which food stalls have received Michelin-star ratings — can only be revealed by the people who live there, though there’s often a language barrier in the way. That wasn’t an issue for Audley product manager Suzanne McGrory, whose fluency in Italian helped her discover one of the company’s best-rated Italian excursions on one research trip. She says that a tip from a local friend led her to a cooking class taught by her friend’s mother-in-law, the first woman in Italy to be trained by a Michelin-star chef.
“All of my clients invite her for dinner back in the U.S. They love her,” says McGrory, adding that the class is just one example of the many unique excursions she’s discovered while exploring the region.
Some Audley experts are even former locals themselves, like France product manager Isabel Norman-Butler, who grew up in the country. She says one of her favorite activities as a kid was to kayak along the Dordogne River in the south of France. After joining Audley, she started researching fun outdoor activities in the region fit for the whole family. Thanks to her years living in the region, all it took was another paddle down her favorite waterway to know it was a perfect fit for Audley.
“We’re gathering info on the ground that is trustworthy and up to date,” she says. “We get under the skin of the country and really become an expert instead of relying on online reviews.”
Looking Beyond the Typical Tourist Attractions
Every destination has their top 10 Yelp lists of things to do and see, but Audley’s experts look beyond the guidebook to discover experiences off-the-beaten-path. When McGrory was designing excursions for Greece, Audley’s newest destination, she says she wanted to take her clients beyond big tourist attractions, so she sought out Greek cultural tours with an adventurous twist, like an electric bike tour past monasteries up to giant rock formations with spectacular sunset views.
“We don’t want clients to return from their trips saying, ‘We wish we would have done this,’” says McGrory. “We also have to look for a range of these immersive activities so that we have something that fits everyone.”
Mapping Out Logistics So You Don’t Have To
Google Maps is pretty reliable in the U.S., but out in the remotest areas of northern Vietnam, an inaccurate route can turn a drive through the rolling rice fields and stunning, unspoiled landscapes of Ha Giang into hours spent navigating not exploring. Southeast Asia product executive Lauren Coppola knows the struggle — she’s been there — and says while other travel agencies may be able to offer Ha Giang as a destination, few have made the efforts to go themselves and make sure their itineraries are even possible.
“It’s just impossible to know without going,” she says, adding that she discovered on her research trips that towns in the region can be up to seven hours apart with only homestays for accommodation. “To be on the ground is invaluable, and I know Audley is the company that does this best.”
Ensuring Safe, Stress-Free, and Responsible Experiences
As an increasing number of travelers consider not just what they’ll gain during their trip, but what they’ll leave behind, Audley’s team has made it a priority to craft responsible excursions that holistically benefit the traveler and the communities they visit. Coppola says Audley’s focus on responsible travel has also led to a relaunch of Myanmar as a destination for travelers interested in engaging with communities.
“We want experiences that are community-based, ethical, and give money back to the local people in Myanmar,” she says.
During research trips, the Audley team also doggedly tests out every activity, hotel and beyond to ensure they match their rigorous safety standards and aren’t just a pretty picture online.
“When we do any tour that could be deemed as dangerous, we have a checklist that includes insurance, hotel audits, and more,” says McGrory. “If it doesn’t pass, then we won’t use it.”
Finding Local Guides That Makes Excursions Come Alive
To ensure you get the most out of your experience, Audley’s experts seek out the most knowledgeable and friendly guides to enrich excursions with historical background and local flavor. That’s why Latin America product executive Matt Nilsson says he tested out various Machu Picchu tours and guides during his research trips to find ones that could take clients beyond the breathtaking views to tell the human story of the Incan civilization whose footsteps you walk in as you ascend.
“You hear the human history of incredible people and their stories that you can’t get going out on your own,” he says. “You get to experience the country from a local’s perspective.”
No matter your destination, the product team echoes that it’s their extensive time spent in-country that allows them to design transformative experiences for clients available nowhere else.
“We have lived and worked and traveled through these places and we keep going back,” says Nilsson. “You’re working with people who have done it and so sincerely want you to experience these countries in the way that is most meaningful to you.”
For more information and to plan your own trip with the specialists at Audley Travel, visit audleytravel.com/us.This is a paid partnership between Audley Travel and Boston Magazine