Bucket List Travel

Travel experts share their bucket list travel dream trips, best ultra-luxury itineraries and dream vacation destinations By: Skye Mayring
Kenya Safari // © 2012 Abercrombie & Kent
Kenya Safari // © 2012 Abercrombie & Kent

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Watching the sun rise over Machu Picchu, cruising the Greek Isles in a private sailboat, exploring Alaska’s glaciers via helicopter, gazing out over Dubai’s skyline from the tallest building on earth. Bucket list trips are often those that inspire us with their promise of the seemingly intangible — exotic lands or world wonders that radically contrast with life back at home. Whether we are lured to forbidden destinations, such as Cuba or North Korea, or determined to trace our ancestry abroad, a trip of a lifetime gives us something grand to look forward to.

Ryan Hansen
Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Bon Voyage Travel
Dream Destinations: France and Denmark

My dream vacation involves tracing my family roots in Denmark and visiting Normandy, France. I’ve been to Europe three times, but I’ve never been to either of these destinations. Normandy is of special importance because my grandfather was a gunner’s mate on a Navy boat on D-Day. Although there aren’t many World War II veterans around these days, my grandfather is still alive. In a perfect world, I would like to get all three generations together and take my grandfather and father with me on this trip. When the journey focuses on your family history, it takes on a deeper meaning. It rings true with most of our clients — they have an emotional connection to particular destinations, and it makes the vacation so much more meaningful.

Mimi Weisband
Vice President of Public Relations, Crystal Cruises
Best Trips Ever: An Asia Cruise and a Caribbean Honeymoon

My husband and I took a cruise on Crystal Symphony from Singapore to Hong Kong. Besides how luxurious it was to sail on the Symphony, visiting Vietnam had particular meaning for us because my husband served in the Vietnam War. It was his first time back since the conflict. Although he was a little nervous to return, we had an amazing time — everyone was so welcoming, warm and embracing that it ended up being a trip of a lifetime for us.

Another luxurious trip that stands out is our five-day honeymoon at Parrot Cay in Turks and Caicos where celebrities, including Donna Karan and Bruce Willis, have homes. Our room was incredible — we had a hammock on our terrace, a white, four-post bed draped with mosquito nets and French doors that let the outside in — and the resort itself was exceptional.

Alison Adam
Manager, Tahiti Travel Mate
Ultra-Luxury Itinerary: Bora Bora and Rangiroa

I had a client, a businessman, who was taking his wife on a vacation, and he was so wound up that, while he was involved in the early stages of organizing, he left the details to his wife in the end. His only request was to go diving and stay on two islands, with a four-night stay at The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort. So after much discussion with his wife, we decided to surprise him with three nights at the Kia Ora Resort & Spa on Rangiroa, including some amazing drift dives, and then three nights at sister resort Kia Ora Sauvage for a real Robinson Crusoe experience. While the St. Regis offered spa treatments, five-star restaurants and impeccable service, the Kia Ora Sauvage simplified the vacation experience — they were staying in one of five beach bungalows with no power, just oil lamps. On their return, I asked how they were affected by the gradual simplification of the experience. They said that the real luxury was being able to regain a sense of self and an appreciation for the simple things in life.

Deborah Deming
Travel Agent, Frosch Classic Cruise and Travel
Most Meaningful Itinerary: Vietnam and Cambodia

A few years back, I planned a family trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. We arranged a lot of philanthropic-based activities for the family so that they were able to give back to the community while they were there. We built in the opportunity to present an impoverished family with a sampan, which is a form of transportation that locals use along the Mekong River to transport rice and livestock. I took a similar trip in which I gave a sampan to a single mother, who worked as a water taxi driver, and presented her little boy with a bicycle. Previously, she had to rent a boat every day. By presenting her with this gift, which cost about $400, I changed her life and made her a business owner.

I always try to put things into perspective when I work with my clients. When I build a customized FIT, I look at ways in which my clients can give back. Including philanthropic components in my itineraries gives my clients extra enrichment. There’s nothing better.

Richard Bangs
Co-Founder, Mountain Travel Sobek
Trip of a Lifetime: North Korea

North Korea is a living alternate reality. It is ultra-luxurious in the richness of the experience. After lobbying the North Korean government for years, I finally got permission to visit this past September. We had to give up our cell phones and passports and surrender to the journey.

We visited the Rungrado May First Stadium, the largest in the world by capacity, to see the Arirang Mass Games. The Games — there is no competition, just spectacle — are a jaw-dropping 90-minute gymnastic extravaganza, with meticulously choreographed dancers, acrobats, trapeze artists, giant puppets and huge mosaic pictures created by more than 30,000 disciplined schoolchildren holding up colored cards. One hundred thousand performers in every candy color of the spectrum cavort, whirl, leap and caper in perfectly choreographed unison. After the Games, we chartered a flight to the far north to Mount Paektu, sometimes called the ‘Sublime Hill,’ which is highly celebrated in North Korea. From the caldera rim, we looked down to a beautiful blue crater lake and across the lip to Manchuria. There, we saw Chinese tourists waving back at us. This is also the spot where Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il stood, with backs to the caldera, looking commandingly at the camera. The image is recreated in vivid posters all over the country, so it was a delight to be here and it felt like visiting the setting of an epic film.

Seema Prakash
Destination Manager, India and the Subcontinent, Cox & Kings
Ultra-Luxury Itinerary: Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan

I developed an itinerary with Muggsy Hildreth of Bon Voyage Travel, whose clients wished to book a tour incorporating Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. The clients had done a lot of research and were very specific in their requests, so we used that as a starting point. Halfway into the planning, I suggested incorporating our signature journey called Nepal: Himalayan Helicopter Safari instead of doing just the standard visit — and they agreed. The helicopter trip is so special because guests have the opportunity to view the highest mountain peaks in the world up close with a summiteer as their guide. We were very lucky to secure Tashi Norgay — the grandson of Tenzing Norgay who, along with Sir Edmund Hillary, was the first to climb Mount Everest — as their tour guide for Nepal. Later, they told us that the tour with Norgay, coupled with all of their other experiences, made this trip of a lifetime magical and utterly unforgettable.

Barbara Howard
Entertainment Travel Consultant, Protravel International
Best Trip Ever: South Africa

In 2008, I flew to South Africa. My first stop on my two-week trip was Cape Town with a stay at the Cape Grace hotel, right on the water overlooking the marina. My trip was packed with adventure as I visited a township to interact with some of the local people and hear about the challenges facing their daily lives. I also ascended the cable car to the top of Table Mountain to enjoy the panoramic views of the city and visited Warwick Wine Estates in Stellenbosch for a tasting of its highly rated red wines. To top it off, I flew to Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls by helicopter and went on a safari at Samara Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape, which was like staying at someone’s personal home with a private game reserve right outside of your door.

Vikram Madhok
Managing Director, Abercrombie & Kent India Ltd.
Ultra-Luxury Itinerary: India

India is a very spiritual country, and a trip to the holy Ganges River and Varanasi is extremely experiential. Varanasi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and the oldest in India. Last month, we made arrangements for a celebrity and his guests to visit Varanasi. The theme of their visit was ‘spirituality,’ and they loved the experience. They dined at the 200-year-old heritage mansion — Amrit Rao Peshwa Haveli, on the banks of the Ganges — where they were received by Brahmin reciting Vedic chants. The entire Haveli, with the adjoining temple complex, was illuminated and aesthetically decorated with lights, flowers and earthen diyas (butter lamps). In addition, thousands of diyas were set afloat on the river to welcome the group. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience of spiritual and traditional Varanasi.

Alex Sharpe
Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President, Signature Travel Network
Trip of a Lifetime: Kenya With the Kids

My dream trip is to go back to Kenya but to take my children with me this time. A couple of years ago, I went to Kenya on my own as part of a pseudo-work-play-trip for all of the reasons people go to Kenya — to see the unbelievable wildlife, such as lions, cheetah and elephants — and I want to go back because I want my kids to meet the Maasai people in the Mara, visit orphanages in Nairobi and absorb the Kenyan culture. My children will want to go for the safari, but they will fall in love with the people.

My Kenya trip was one of the biggest game-changers of my life. It really gave me unbelievable perspective. The beauty of that experience is that, because I’ve seen a lot of Kenya, the next time I go I can focus on watching my kids experience the country. I think that in itself is going to be a truly amazing experience.

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