Prepare yourselves for a first-class journey behind the golden curtain of luxury travel. Today, we’re spilling the beans on what makes the very best travel experiences tick, with none other than the Da Vinci of dream vacations, Kimberlee Evans of An Extraordinary Traveler.
Brace yourselves for an unforgettable exploration of the world of luxury travel from an insider.
What inspired you to become a luxury travel advisor?
A trip to London and Paris. I had a travel advisor create the most beautiful itinerary for myself and a girlfriend. Through the process, she invited me to join her agency. To be honest, I thought she was a bit crazy. However, once I went on my trip and understood the value of her input and creativity, I realized that maybe it was the perfect fit for me.
After 9 days in Europe, I came home and called her up to say, “Sign me up, I’m in. If I can provide for other people, what you provided for me, when do I start?” That was May 2014 and I haven’t looked back.
What’s the best part of your job?
Creating amazing travel experiences for my clients. There is simply nothing as fulfilling as getting a call regarding a dream vacation and making it a reality.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
After I get up, I go for a nice walk to start my day and then I sit down at my desk to start responding to emails and messages. Normally, I’m working on anywhere from 3-10 trips at one time.
My phone rings off the hook, the emails come in like crazy and I’m usually pretty busy. I’m grateful, but it’s constant motion. I send clients literally all over the world. So, I’m speaking to suppliers, tour operators and destination management companies. I’m working with clients to share options and opportunities – there is always so much going on.
What is your favorite destination to send your clients to and why?
This is such a tough question. There are so many destinations and they are all favorites for different reasons.
Africa is simply life changing; sending a couple or family to the bush to have close encounters with the big 5 is unexplainable.
The water on the Adriatic Sea off of Split, Croatia is stunning and watching people cliff dive in Dubrovnik is breathtaking.
Paris is another favorite. I love to start my clients’ stay in Paris in an antique car ride at night. The city is abuzz, all lit up. Travelers get to see all of the hot spots by night and get the lay of the land from day one.
As a luxury travel advisor, you must have seen and experienced some incredible destinations. What’s your #1, favorite travel experience to date?
Tanzania. East Africa is like nowhere else in the world. The experience of being on safari is awe inspiring. You truly experience the circle of life and you get so close to the animals, you feel like you could reach out and touch them. You travel through vast lands to see the most amazing creatures in their natural habitats and they barely acknowledge your presence. Plus the locals are happy, welcoming and thoughtful, the food is delicious, and the accommodations are incredible. It’s such a diverse and meaningful trip.
Could you share a behind-the-scenes moment where you went above and beyond to make your client’s dream trip come true?
I just had a mother and daughter 60th birthday trip in Greece. There were so many moving parts, but I made sure that everything on their list was included. We had a special birthday dinner arranged for Mom and we included quite a bit of island hopping and some amazing accommodations and tours. The message I received when they got back was that it was “One of my favorite trips I’ve been on in my 60 years on the planet.”
Making people feel special and heard is a true gift.
In your experience, what are some of the most important things to consider in creating a memorable and personalized travel experience?
My top three are:
- Details, knowing what the client wants and needs to make it as pleasant and seamless as possible.
- Having relationships with the companies I use to plan their vacations.
- Adding special touches when I can. Nothing beats walking into an upgraded room at a beautiful hotel that you didn’t expect.
What do you consider most important in the travel business: price, product or communication?
For me, everything is relationship focused. Getting to know the people I’m working with, learning their style, and understanding their needs. That is what makes a trip special and unique.
Anyone can create a vacation, but, making sure it meets the needs of my clients is my #1 priority. Nine times out of 10, the budget is unrealistic. Once we chat and I have a true understanding of what they want, we create an itinerary that gets as close to their ideal budget as possible.
What is your favorite travel tip that you want to share with readers?
Go with an open mind.
Don’t try to control every step and every experience.
Look around every corner for something special and unique.
Let’s end with a fun one: what’s a luxury experience that readers with not super deep pockets can get surprisingly, for less?
The Maldives. It’s such a bucket list destination and although it isn’t inexpensive, I think clients are so often surprised by the affordability of it. It can be a long trip distance-wise, but once there, everything is included in your stay and it’s much more affordable than the Seychelles or Tahiti, for example.