My travel tastes, likes/dislikes, and wish-list of destinations and experiences has greatly evolved in my adult years. Whereas 20 years ago I would have been fine to book a “bargain” trip inclusive of air, hotel, and transfers – now I spend much more time and effort making sure our family trips are hassle-free, comfortable, and memorable.
I’ve come to rely on not only my own research, but also the help of high-end travel experts. Meredith Broder more than fits this description! A “Luxury Travel Designer,” Meredith and her team work with her loyal clients to create memorable, bespoke travel experiences – and I was lucky enough to chat with her. Read on!
FO40: Meredith, tell us how you found yourself in the Travel & Leisure business?
Meredith Broder: I’ve been in the business since college, when a friend asked if I could help sell space on spring break trips! The following year I was chartering planes for students at 6 different universities- but I don’t think that was my “spark.” My professional career actually began as a publicist. After 15 years of press releases and pitches, I realized I was happiest and most engaged when plotting travel adventures for friends and family. I remember precisely the day my career shifted. I was hosting a fitness retreat for 60 active ladies, and one guest asked me if I could help her plan her next family ski trip to Colorado. I told her that I wasn’t a travel agent, but I knew nearly every run, as well as the best accommodations in the vicinity. Then, over lunch, and with enthusiasm, we planned the whole thing – right down to the best order to ski the runs as to avoid lunch crowds and stay in the sun-softened snow! I shared tips on getting free lift tickets, and gave her a suggested dining list (something I always keep up to date). That very same day I became affiliated with a travel agency that could support and validate my years of travel knowledge, and subsequently help me develop as a leader in the luxury travel industry.
In hindsight, a key skill I learned as a publicist- the art of creating news hooks to fit specific media outlets- segued perfectly into my passion as a travel designer. The task is somewhat similar – really knowing your client and thoughtfully placing them in meaningful environments. I approach an opportunity to create an itinerary with passion and finely-tuned communication skills. When coupled with industry relationships and inside access, each bespoke adventure has the ingredients for a successful experience.
FO40: You have great passion for putting together memorable experiences for your clients. What elevates a decent trip into a great adventure?
MB: I love the opportunity to impress the most discerning travelers. This is beyond arranging upgrades, amenities and VIP welcomes – in fact some of these extras have become pretty standard. It is the carefully woven “wow” factors that make the difference. Some of our clients have “stumbled upon” live music performances in Patagonia — or “slid down a rabbit hole” to find a gourmet candle-lit underground lunch while trekking across a lava field in Iceland. We’ve hired photographers to spontaneously trail couples through exotic cities, and we’ve identified the most magical tooth fairies in the most remote locations.
FO40: What are some of the best trips you have arranged for clients?
MB: It really depends on what people are looking for- adventure? luxury? access? For instance, some dear clients (turned dear friends) just returned from a month in Asia on a private jet adventure with stops at insane properties along the way. They renewed their wedding vows in Bhutan and celebrated in authentic, customary dress. Following the ceremony, the monks chanted on their behalf for the entire day. I’m pretty sure the memories of this journey will be with them all their lives.
FO40: What was your most recent “big trip” and what made it special?
MB: My biggest trip of 2016 was to Indonesia (although seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland was also a highlight of the year). Visiting Yogyakarta during Ramadan was quite special. Just before sunrise, we visited the Buddhist temple, Borobudur, then traveled by elephant to enjoy the beauty of nature and surrounding villages. From Java we visited Bali, then onto the most magical, exotic island of Sumba. Sumba is remarkably rich in culture, natural rainforests, endless white sand beaches and most notably the unique Marapu religion.
Our experiences at Nihiwatu remain unrivaled for now. Hiking to aquamarine waterfalls, riding bareback on horses into the Indian Ocean and enjoying a walking safari to an all-day wilderness spa were incomparable experiences. Locals gave us privileged insight and access to their unique homes and customs.
FO40: What are your Five favorite trips?
MB: One of my most remarkable adventures was in my 20’s- I decided to join an Outward Bound program in Queensland, Australia. I returned home three months later, having depleting my savings exploring the continent. While I spent every last dollar in my wallet, I returned with an incredible sense of intrinsic value and achievement.
From that day forward, anything with culture, adventure and good food, ranks high on my list. Five trips that all seemed to capture these core themes for me include Peru, Morocco, South Africa, Indochina and Indonesia. I’m quite obsessed with Asia right now!
FO40: What is next on your list?
MB: I’ve just started pondering the annual exotic trip for 2017, as my current wish list presents some scheduling issues! I just vacationed with my family and our dear friends in Cabo for winter break. I am currently exploring Cuba to catch a piece of history and enjoy the art and music scene. I make a clear distinction between travel and vacation. When I travel, I’m a dry sponge, eager for saturation by every imaginable experience, delicacy, lesson and adventure. When I vacation, I’m already saturated, and eager to unwind. I was lucky to have some “down” time planned, and then embarked on our Cuban excursion with gusto.
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