The travel equivalent of standing on the Olympic podium? Travel + Leisure’s A-List. Brooke was just named to the list for the fourth consecutive year.
It’s rare to find travel advice this honest and helpful. Brooke isn’t swayed by the latest trends, yet knows the just-open hotels and “world’s best” experiences worth your time. Her knack for finding out why you want to go somewhere, not just where you want to go, translates into insightful suggestions that lead to the trip you really want. She’ll even tell you when it’s not worth it to work with her. This is bold, and part of why her travelers are so loyal.
When everyone else is swarming the next hotspot for that Instagram-worthy view and wondering why it just doesn’t look the same in real life (photo apps work wonders), Brooke’s clients are two steps ahead: beating the crowds, exploring the uncharted, not wasting a single moment thinking “this isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”
So, what makes her travel intel so impressive? A lot. Her expert tips will have you skipping Google and picking up the phone instead. Here’s Brooke–
Where has 2016 taken you so far?
Australia is always on the books, but this year has included some completely new destinations for me as well like Cuba, wilderness exploration in British Columbia’s Tofino and Nimmo Bay, a farm-to-table Caribbean getaway at Belle Mont Farm in St. Kitts, a helicopter adventure through the Scottish Highlands, gorilla trekking in Rwanda, wineland touring in South Africa, and a luxury safari at Singita Pamushana in Zimbabwe.
I had the chance to return to some old favorites in Australia and find out what’s new in Sydney, Tasmania, Lizard Island and Daintree Rainforest.
Right now I’m unpacking my bags from two weeks in Provence and Corsica, and will be in Marrakech and hiking the Dolomites this fall.
Why are these trips so important to your skills as a travel consultant?
I’ve been with Absolute Travel for nearly eleven years and have been on countless trips in that time. No matter where I go and how many trips I take there are a few things that never change: travel is logistically tricky, guidebooks only tell half the story, insider experiences require person-to-person connections, and no matter how carefully you plan there will inevitably be a curveball.
Experiencing a destination firsthand means I can provide honest, unbiased recommendations to clients—from which hotel may be the right fit based on their individual preferences and style rather than defaulting to which one is trending in the press, to which iconic sites are worth their time and which can be missed.
And then there are the insider connections and guides. A great guide can make a trip. When I travel I personally spend time with the guides and make connections with local experts so I can be thoughtful about connecting my clients with their ideal match.
Tell us how your own trips impact the way you plan your clients’ adventures.
I can provide comparisons between radically different destinations, say, Peru vs. Thailand vs. Namibia. I can help clients assess what they’re really hoping to get out of their vacation and put each destination through this filter. This means they end up taking a trip they love rather than just checking a destination box.
One of the least glamorous and most challenging parts of travel is getting place to place. Efficiency and comfort is key, but unless you’ve done the drive or taken the flight it’s hard to know exactly what it may be like. A drive may appear to be two hours on Google Maps but factor in city traffic or a bumpy road and suddenly it’s a whole different ball game. I’ve been there myself, and can detail whether a private car may actually be more enjoyable than a flight, and whether or not a flight is worth the upgrade to business or first class.
This is also true of the pace and sequence of a trip. A client may want to see and do it all. I understand this—I can relate! But having done it myself I can advise when and where some relaxation time should be factored in, and when to pack it all in. Over the years I’ve learned a trip is a careful composition of many details; I can now organize a trip so each stop builds on the last and ends with something amazing. This is the key to an unforgettable trip.
Why are travel planners still relevant?
For all of the reasons above and then some. There is so much information out there it can be overwhelming, conflicting and even misleading. It can be such a relief to have a trusted source decode everything you’ve heard and tell you exactly what it’s like, then put it altogether for you.
Being on the ground can also be unpredictable. Working with a travel planner means 24/7 support no matter the circumstances or time difference. This peace of mind is invaluable.
Often travelers are wary of the added cost of working with a travel planner. The reality is the price difference can be minimal and the benefits exponential. The investment you make on a trip when working with a travel planner is a good investment: we know when it’s worth it to splurge and are always honest about when to put your funds towards something better.
Just as my clients want to take an amazing trip, I want to provide them with one. I am always realistic about what is possible and am candid about steering travelers in the right direction. Sometimes travelers have a destination in mind, but it doesn’t work with their dates (whether too cold, too hot, rainy season…), or they have read an article about where they need to go ASAP, but from experience I know it’s not quite what it has been made out to be, or they’re just totally overwhelmed by the countless options. If this is the case, I listen to why they want to go somewhere, and then suggest alternatives that are also fantastic or even more enticing. It doesn’t benefit anyone to work on a trip where I can’t add value to the experience or attempt to create a trip that doesn’t make sense.
You’re almost as well known for your photos as your trip planning skills! Any photogenic places you’d recommend to get that winning shot?
Last year I was crazy about the wide-open spaces of Namibia and the remote architecture of Fogo Island. This year I was lucky enough to travel above Scotland’s highlands by helicopter, where mid-summer’s “magic hour” lasts several hours and creeps over the green hills like liquid. I was totally captivated shooting the rugged coastline of British Columbia—towering trees, ragged cliffs, grizzlies and orcas. Botswana is also fantastic for photographers. If you go, invest in a big lens. It’s worth it. Unlike many safari destinations, Botswana avoids the cluster effect (when multiple vehicles circle around a wildlife sighting) so you have the potential to capture totally unique, uncompromised images.
Any travel trends or places you’re particularly interested in these days?
Japan. It’s a hot destination for us. I haven’t been yet, but I sit next to Brian Lonergan on our team who creates Japan trips better than anyone I know. Most clients go in the spring or the fall, but I’m craving a winter trip filled with backcountry skiing and onsens.
Puglia, Italy, is also on my mind. Martina Reznick, who sits on the other side of me in the office, creates Italy trips nonstop. Puglia is her favorite region, which says a lot! I’m excited to check it out in September. I’ll be hiking in the Dolomites, exploring the architecture of Venice and waking up at the new Aman Venice, and will end with a few nights in Puglia.
Absolute’s Sasha Lehman was in Antarctica earlier this year, which is more accessible than ever with the option to cross the notorious Drake Passage by plane rather than by boat. Everyone I know who has been is filled with awe and confirms it is unlike anywhere else and you must go now! It’s a life-changing trip.
An amazing hotel can take a trip to the next level. Any favorites this year?
Killiehuntly. I was the second guest to stay at this charming farmhouse in the Scottish Highlands. With only four bedrooms it is ideal for small group vacations as you can book it out and have the place to yourself. The staff was fantastic and I was immediately taken with every interior detail thoughtfully composed by the Danish designer, Anne Storm Pedersen. I’ve already purchased their black stainless steel cutlery by Nicholas Vahé for my Brooklyn apartment and am still researching how to get their signature Meraki bathroom products in the USA. That kitchen!
Parting thought: 3 key pieces of travel advice that make all the difference?
1. Carry-on only! I’m guilty of not doing this, but it’s always worth it when I do.
Questions for Brooke?
2. Invest in a good camera.
3. Exercise the day you fly and the day after you land and drink lots of Balance Water—it’s infused with natural flowers that will help you get over jet lag.
Get in touch and let’s start planning your trip.
212 627 1950