What’s your specialty?
Gorny: I create custom trips for clients who do not want a conventional experience or to travel in large groups. My trips range from adventure travel (mountain climbing in Nepal) to escorted group travel (sailing along the Turkish coast in a private gulet).
Dall: I work with busy couples who want a perfect destination wedding or honeymoon but struggle with not knowing the ins/outs of planning one abroad. I help busy couples articulate their dream destination wedding, honeymoon or romantic getaway and then work my magic to make it happen!
Is working with a specialist a luxury?
Dall: Travel agents aren’t a luxury but a necessity in today’s age of overwhelming information without filters. A good travel agent is not an order-taker but a consultant that can provide extra assurance that you have someone who knows the area you are interested in, can advise on the must-sees in a city, and make sure you get the best value for your money at no additional costs. Agents can usually match pricing, but online agencies can never provide the personalized expertise or experience of a good travel agent.
What goes into making a custom itinerary?
Gorny: I work with tour operators that are able to create unusual custom itineraries, and I like family-owned or small tour operators because they can provide the extra touch. However, I’ve never gone wrong with a personal referral from an agent that has experienced personally the efforts of a good tour operator or destination management company in a particular destination.
The best information comes from other travel agents, and we share that freely amongst ourselves through our online forums and groups we are involved in.
What are some current travel hotspots?
Dall: National hot spots include wine and spa trips in Napa Valley, Calif.; Big Island Merrie Monarch Festival in Hawaii; and Disney World still draws the crowds. An international hotspot is definitely Cuba, with the ability to see a country reminiscent of the U.S. in the 50s. All travel to Cuba must include a people-to-people cultural exchange element. Cruises as well as escorted land tours are both options.
Gorny: Due to security concerns that even adventurous women might have, I am now seeing requests for travel in Central and Eastern Europe. Hungary could be fun for women—the beautiful city of Budapest with all its cultural attractions paired with its spa culture. Different than spas in the U.S., spas in Hungary are for health and healing with their mineral water that the country is famous for. It’s also affordable and could be a fun adventure with a group of women.
What is some advice you’d give on being safe while traveling?
Gorny: Using common sense—it’s always surprising to me to see young American women thinking they can be comfortable in the bar scene, for example, without being cautious in their interactions. I’m all for authentic travel experiences, meeting the locals and visiting places off the beaten path, but being careful and never as a single woman traveling alone. I know this isn’t new information, but sometimes when people travel, common sense goes out the window in pursuit of adventure.
Dall: Women traveling should trust their instincts. Make sure room locks are secure, and not at the end of long corridor or accessible from the parking lot. Find out from a tour leader or ask a native whether it’s safe to walk alone in the area. Several cruise companies are now offering studio cabins or waiving their single supplements. Norwegian cruise lines offers a studio cabin lounge where single travelers can meet or sign up to have dinner in a group or take excursions together.
On Rebellious women travelers:
Dall: I have a client who likes to challenge herself to step outside her comfort zone on every trip – whether it’s trying a local dish, taking a mud bath in a volcano, reading to school children at a local school – she is game! I so enjoy hearing her escapades!
Gorny: I have met many women who have been to places that no longer exist in the way they did in the past and have explored in ways that I don’t think many women are able to do anymore. My husband trained as an Anatolian archaeologist (ancient Turkey), which created an interest I have for women in the last century who were quite brave in their adventures. I’ve always admired women who traveled these lands when women rarely did (Gertrude Bell for example. I’m reading the book The Desert Queen). A friend here in Chicago has traveled the world and told me she would be sent places, and if she came back safe, her company would design itineraries for the destination.
(Photo is Sunrise at Bagan, Myanmar by Nhi Dang)