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5 Travel Companies Changing the Jetset Game

Bespoke Approaches to Planning Your Next Adventure
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I know we’re in the midst of all of the holiday craziness, but I always get a wanderlust itch this time of year.  I amount it to the cold weather; after Christmas and NYE, I’m usually dying to see the electric blue water somewhere tropical instead.  

Thanks to my travel bug, I recently found myself poking around on Instagram (as I laid down to fall asleep probably), falling down a rabbit hole as I discovered a few intriguing travel startup companies.  Of course, I know the routine with these travel startups though; a lot of the unique, bespoke approaches to traveling almost seem to good to be true.  Some, too, sound like they’re mainly geared to millenials, and I have my doubts if they’ll be around forever. BUT, that said, I can’t help but be intrigued with some of these offerings. 

As I read about several of these travel companies and travel startups’ missions, I realized that the common thread was obvious: they’re all putting the control back in the traveler’s hands to create truly memorable trips in the most authentic way.  No, seriously.  With customized itineraries, unique and intimate experiences and chances to find the true hidden gems and hang with locals, you can finally say hello to the trip you’ve always dreamed of. 

El Camino Travel, for example, got my attention a few months ago.  They send a professional photographer with a group of 12 (max) to Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua or Trinidad and Tobago.  Sounds silly at first, but get this…you can leave your phone at the hotel and truly experience the authentic side of the countries with extensively planned itineraries by the pros.  I mean it IS a little intriguing, isn’t it?!

So if you’ve got the travel bug like I do, check out the five companies below.  I’d love to know what you think…are they too good to be true?!  Too out-there for you?!  I don’t know if I’d be brave enough for Night Swapping.  Regardless, I’m rooting for them to be everything they say they are…and I’m saving up for my next adventure in the meantime.  Cheers, Kat

P.S. If you’ve got a trip on the books (lucky duck!), check out these 11 tips to travel like a pro, and don’t miss the best airport outfit you can wear. xo 

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El Camino Travel

"Be a traveler, not a tourist"

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El Camino Travel‘s philosophy is for “curated travel, unique experiences.” With extensively planned itineraries that focus on making a memorable trip that truly discovers the gems of the destination. All itineraries are planned by El Camino Travel’s founder, who has traveled to all of the countries available for your trip. 

What’s more: each group is accompanied by a talented photographer with a creative eye ready to capture the whole experience. That’s right, you can leave your phone at the door and live in the moment.  Every morning, the photog shares 20+ images of the group so you can share on Instagram for all your friends back home to swoon over. 

Another great part about El Camino Travel is that a percentage of the profits of each trip go to a local social entrepreneur who is radically changing the face of their country. The group will meet this inspiring individual, and partake in an intimate dinner or activity with the social entrepreneur to get a unique and personal perspective of the current surroundings. You’ll also be able to support local vendors and businesses throughout the many aspects of the trip, ensuring that your tourism dollars go directly back into the local economy.

Finally! The chance to see a country the way it should be seen, without the tourist traps and wrong turns. All groups are capped at 12 travelers, so you know you’ll have an intimate experience. Not to mention, it’s a great chance to meet some awesome new friends if you’re planning to travel solo. 

Book your trip now to: Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, or Trinadad and Tobago. 

Absolute Travel

One-of-a-kind luxury travel experiences

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Absolute Travel should be a household name for a true jetsetter.  The company has won countless awards and gained recognition by Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, National Geographic Traveler & More for being a top world tour operator. 

Absolute Travel is perfect for the experienced traveler who is past packaged trips and set dates.  Instead, the trips are designed and scheduled around your interests and needs, with a customized luxury itinerary just for you.

You come to them with a broad idea, and Absolute Travel will build your trip and shape it by suggesting additional destinations and sites and ensuring you only stay in the most incredible hotels. They arrange unique luxury travel experiences based around your interests, and connect you with chefs, yoga gurus, expert guides, and gallery owners so you have a truly personalized and enriching luxury travel experience. 

WithLocals

Connecting people & cultures through food & unique experiences

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Imagine joining an intimate dinner in a family’s home, or going on a mountain hike to hidden places or even trying your hand at a traditional stone-carving workshop. 

Through WithLocals, you can book food experiences and things-to-do experiences in countries like Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, India and more. 

To admit their approach to travel is novel to me would be an understatement, as they focus directly on Asian locals that have something to offer travelers in terms of knowledge and culture, rather than on the consumer-driven tourism industry. They cut out the “middle man” or the booking/travel agency, and connect hosts and locals for truly authentic and memorable experiences. It’s also a great way to encourage sustainable income to the local communities that we want to preserve. 

You can apply to be a host or traveler on their website here

Nightswapping

"Swap nights, not money"

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Nightswapping is another unique idea; it’s a community of people that host each other to travel for free. This new, friendlier way to travel involves no money exchanged between members, and guests can therefore experience a truly authentic look at your city.  

Here’s how it works: whenever you host members in your guest room or entire home, you earn Nights credits that you can then use to travel later on. 

Nightswapping moderates every listing, they verify members and then collect review by guests.  They also cover your home up to a certain amount with an international insurance company. 

They suggest trying the program as a traveler first, before hosting someone in your home.  To do so, you’ll simply buy Nights directly from the website for a low cost, no matter how many travelers and whatever the destination.

Boutique Travel

"Expert Advice...At No Extra Cost"

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Boutique Travel is another company that is putting the power in the travelers’ hands. With professional custom designed itineraries offered by their friendly, specialist consultants, your luxury travel desires can come true. 

Boutique Travel lists destinations like Argentina, Tahiti, the Caribbean, New Zealand and so many more places that are on my bucket list. The testimonials make it sound like they really know their stuff, too. When it comes to a lot of the nitty-gritty logistical details of a major trip, Boutique Travel would definitely come in handy. 

I’m bookmarking them on my list for hopeful honeymoon adventures! 

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