Travel wields incredible power, offering countless opportunities, myriad perspectives and lifelong memories. It’s also one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. That’s becoming truer and truer every day as more Americans are opting for luxury vacations that are more about the experience.
“Travel is evolving,” says Kristin Chambers, CTC, owner of DA Luxury Travel (formerly Destination Affairs,) a full-service travel agency specializing in providing customized journeys for discerning travelers. A 15-year travel industry veteran, Chambers refers to herself and her team as “travel designers” who create one-of-a-kind itineraries for clients. “People define luxury travel differently,” she says. “Sometimes it’s having a posh hotel room and private access to museums, and sometimes it’s having everything so forward thinking that you don’t have to think.”
To design the perfect trip, Chambers says she must first know what makes the client tick. Her key question is: If you could describe the perfectly planned day with no restrictions, what would it be? “I get to know their style and can get an idea of what level of social activity they like,” she adds, “or would they opt for something different?”
For example, she had clients who were planning their two-week honeymoon, the type of vacation that gave Chambers her start in the business. The groom to be had studied at a cooking school in Lucerne, and his fiancée loved Riesling wine. Each planned a week of their European trip. “We set them up at this romantic boutique property on the Alsatian wine route,” Chambers said. The woman’s father, who passed away a year earlier, had loved restored foreign cars. Chambers arranged for a surprise the morning after the pair arrived. “We hired a gentleman about an hour away who had an old, restored English cab,” she says. He arrived at the property in the car with a “Just Married” sign and drove them to a private scenic spot to enjoy a glass of Riesling. “That really was special, and it didn’t break the bank, either.”
“The luxury client tends to gravitate toward the appreciation of details and the thoughtful nuances that we add in,” she says. She spoke of a family trip to the Maldives that she designed for a client and his family. Chambers had ordered a couple of photos of his family framed and waiting for them after their long journey and prepared a traditional Maldivian welcome. “It’s the details that add to the experience,” she says.
Details are something people who use online travel agencies (OTAs) are hard pressed to get, yet the popularity of OTAs is forcing some travel agencies to shut down left and right. Instead, Chambers has seen tremendous growth. She tries to make OTAs work for her. “Some travel websites are huge tools for me because I’ll look for consistencies that I can use as insight,” she says. “It’s just one of many resources to aid us and help clients make final decisions.”
“I’m not necessarily competing with online,” she adds. “A lot of our clients have already been there, done that.” One client didn’t want to burden her with a simple flight and hotel in Key Biscayne that would have been easy to book online. Chambers and her team didn’t mind. DA Luxury Travel is a member of Virtuoso, a discerning powerhouse network of the world’s most prestigious hotel partners, travel advisors, airlines, boards of tourism and local on-sites. “It really gives you added value, and clients are placed with being at the top of hoteliers’ VIP lists,” she says.
Chambers managed to get her Key Biscayne clients a personal welcome by the general manager, an upgrade at the hotel, and a $200 spa credit. That’s the benefit of using a travel designer. Without the connections, the average traveler could probably not arrange lunch with an earl in Ireland or get an invitation to private vineyard dinners with the most sought-after winemakers during harvest time in Napa. DA Luxury Travel has done both. “These exclusive opportunities are endless. We can make it happen, even if you’re on the other side of the world,” says Chambers.
People invest a lot of money in the travel experience, and today’s traveler wants more than just a generic vacation. Chambers and her team know that and are committed to personalizing the travel experience. “You want people to be working for you to get you what you want,” she says. “You want that moment and that feel-good reward for being able to take that trip. We protect that investment in that way.”
Check out the new DA Luxury Travel website and give yourself the gift of customized travel.
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