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It's a Michelin Star But For Travel, Right?

By: J5Travel

· Travel

In the late 1990's I subscribed my mother to Condé Nast Traveler magazine. She absolutely loved to dream of luxury travel and also experience it whenever she could. I've never known a woman so accomplished at obtaining complimentary upgrades on planes and in hotels. She had it down to a fine art. Her love of travel flowed to me but back then I had no notion of pursuing it as a career.

Well this week, after just over 5 years since founding J5Travel, I was beyond proud and also incredibly excited because I have been named to the global list of Condé Nast Traveler's Top Travel Specialists for 2021.

Click my photo below for proof!

As a naturally humble Brit I still struggle slightly with tooting my own horn, but I have to make an exception here. This is very big news for me. With my brother being a chef I thought a good way of putting this in context was to equate the honor to a Michelin Star. I thought he'd be annoyed but I think I've made him proud as he has me over the years, and I know mother would be too.

Whist I am personally recognized for this honor, I couldn't have made it without the team I have around me. They have been particularly amazing through the last year, and another huge debt of gratitude goes to my host agency, Gifted Travel Network who have guided me perfectly the entire length of my travel entrepreneurial journey.

But there's more...

I want to share with you the details of 3 other Gifted Travel Network advisors who have also received this accolade for 2021, and a colleague who has been a part of their educational programs for several years. I am so grateful to be a part of this network and the community it promotes. If one of these advisors takes your fancy because of their specialty, I will be the first to say book with them. I know them all, and they are fantastic!

Your Top 5 Condé Nast Travel Specialists

1. Me - J5Travel (above)
Just as a side note, it's a striking coincidence that the first 4 listed here all traveled together to Africa in November 2019 in what was a fairly small group. We are all friends, perhaps even more so than colleagues, and I am so happy to be able to feature us all with this achievement.

I am lucky in that Condé Nast have recognized me as a specialist in a few of my favorite destinations including Africa, the Middle East and Asia along with my nerdy passion of finding airline awards for clients who have those pesky loyalty airline miles to spend.
The editors asked us to answer the question - What is one of your all-time favorite experiences you've been able to pull off for guests? and I thought I'd feature this for all 5 of us happy advisors this week.
My answer - Eight clients on a high end trip to Lake Como and Tuscany. They stayed at Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Lake Como and we did mention to them half-jokingly that George and Amal Clooney's villa was nearby and they might see them at dinner one evening. Well, they did and at the next table!

2. Kristin Matthews - KM Travel Design (above)
Kristin is a good friend and we regularly collaborate on several areas of our businesses. Her website is absolutely gorgeous and you should check it out through her Condé Nast profile above. One tip if you ever work with Kristin...don't mention snakes, she really doesn't like them!
I love her specialty, which is knowing her clients.
What is one of your all-time favorite experiences you've been able to pull off for guests?
Kristin's answer - One of my first trips I planned as an advisor, still one of my most favorite, happened to be for me and my family traveling to China for 19 days. We visited five cities, stayed in the most amazing luxury hotels and took bullet trains, a river cruise and private transportation. We had private guides that provided us with in-depth history and insight and allowed us to get behind the scenes of some of the temples and buildings, private boat tours and less touristy areas. Throughout the whole trip, I was so thankful that all the details, the unforeseen changes that arose and the special moments were so well handled.

3. Laney Sachs - Ortensia Blu Travel Adventures (above)
Laney has visited Italy over 25 times and really knows the destination exceptionally well.
I love her travel philosophy: "This is travel that’s perfectly planned, but that leaves room for the unexpected (because that’s often where adventure lies!)" Amen to that.
What is one of your all-time favorite experiences you've been able to pull off for guests?
Laney's answer - I arranged for clients to see the Bottini, underground aqueduct and canals under Siena. It needs to be arranged with a "guy" from the local association who has a key. Difficult to arrange and definitely not part of a normal tour.

4. Sandy Lipkowitz - We Make Travel Easy (above)
Sandy is a whirlwind of travel enthusiasm and an incredible travel advisor. She is a globetrotter and is knowledgeable on just about anywhere you'd ever want to go. Her particular forte is group travel and she has her clients backs every step of the way.
What is one of your all-time favorite experiences you've been able to pull off for guests?
Sandy's answer - We booked a safari experience for a family over Christmas and New Year's. The mother loves elephants and wanted to stay at The Elephant Camp. It was completely booked. However, through our connections and vigilance, we were able to snag a late cancellation. We were also able to secure Christmas dinner and New Year's Eve reservations, at highly coveted restaurants that take reservations only months in advance.

5. Kleon Howe - The Art of Travel (above)
I met Kleon through the educational arm of Gifted Travel Network and he has kindly offered me some well needed advice on just what the Condé Nast designation can mean to my business. He should know as he has been recognized as a Top Travel Specialist for the last 14 years and anything South Pacific is his destination specialty.
What is one of your all-time favorite experiences you've been able to pull off for guests?
Kleon's answer - I had a family with an autistic child. I was able to speak to him to see what it was that would make it a great trip for him. He wanted to fish. He was not good with groups, so I was able to organize a stay at a very remote hotel where the family was pretty much alone and the son could focus on the sharks and dolphins rather than groups of other people.

I love travel and I love travel planning just as much. It took me a very long time to align my career with my undeniable passion for exploring, but now I and the team are here for you. Your personal travel tailors - award reservation and luxury custom itinerary experts.

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