I’m so pleased to kick off YouMustBeTrippin’s new interview series, “4 Questions,” with one of America’s best-known (and beloved!) travel experts, Wendy Perrin. She is the founder of WendyPerrin.com, a website that ensures travelers get extraordinary trips, as well as TripAdvisor’s first-ever Travel Advocate. She also spent many years as the consumer news director for Conde Nast Traveler magazine. So Wendy knows what she’s talking about. She’s a frequent and avid international traveler…as a matter of fact, we worked on this interview together as she sailed through the Caribbean with her husband and two boys on the Star Breeze, a cruise ship to which Wendy was named godmother!
Like many Americans, you are probably making plans for summer trips right now…and you are likely wondering if this is the summer to head overseas. Here’s what Wendy has to say about that:
1) Name one or two places you’ve been overseas that you’d like to visit again and again. Why?
I love visiting places for a second or third—or even seventh—time because you’ve already seen the iconic sights and now you have the freedom to meander off the beaten path, get lost, waste time in parks and cafés, and do what the locals do. I’ve been to Paris and Istanbul many times and, despite recent attacks, would go back in a nanosecond; there’s so much more to explore in both. I’m taking my kids to London (where I’ve also been many times) this summer because the exchange rate is great, the museums are free, and any destination is new again when you see it through children’s eyes.
2) How do you expect summer travel to Europe by Americans will be affected by recent attacks in Brussels, Paris and Istanbul?
I think the attacks may keep away some first-timers—if you’ve waited this long to see Europe, you probably feel you can wait longer—but I don’t think it will affect many repeat travelers to Europe. I think they realize that unexpected incidents of intense violence are just as likely in the United States as in Europe. The more you travel internationally, the more you know that there really is no reason to be scared off by the attacks; I personally know dozens of people who are bound for France, Belgium, and Turkey this summer. I think the effect of the attacks on some parts of Europe—the big cities in particular—will be tighter security in transportation hubs and longer lines at certain tourist sites. I would advise people to leave extra time for getting through airports and train stations, and also to avoid crowds and lines at iconic monuments and museums via these strategies
3) How will the strong dollar affect Americans’ willingness to travel abroad this year?
I think many people, when deciding whether to take a trip, do a risk-benefit analysis. They weigh the risks of a trip (e.g., the risk of a terrorist act) against the potential rewards (e.g., saving money by going now instead of waiting). I’ve noticed that the more money people can save, the faster they get over their apprehensions. I think the strong dollar will have a bigger effect if it’s accompanied by airfare sales, since high airfare is what prevents so many Americans from going to Europe in summertime.
4) When should you use a travel agent for help with an international trip? When should you do it on your own?
When your overriding goal is the lowest price, do it yourself. When you’ve got more time than money and don’t mind spending hours trying to rectify logistical snafus, do it yourself. By contrast, when your goal is the most rewarding and hassle-free trip possible, maximizing your precious time in a destination, use a rigorously vetted and road-tested destination specialist such as those on my WOW List.
If Wendy’s answers have not convinced you to take a trip overseas, don’t forget that you can get a truly international experience much closer to home in Canada or Mexico this year. Plus the U.S. dollar has made similar gains against currencies in both countries, which means a better travel bargain for you.
Chris McGinnis is Best Western’s travel trends expert and business travel blogger on www.youmustbetrippin.com.