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Using a Travel Concierge

Whether planning for a trip full of adventure or relaxation, a travel concierge service can take the hassle out of travelling and ensure your every wish is fulfilled.

Think of a travel concierge as a hybrid between a travel agent and personal assistant, says Koy Grant, brand manager at Elle a Luxury, a full-service concierge, event and luxury lifestyle management service in Los Angeles.

While working with a travel concierge service isn't common, it is a growing trend. "I imagine as the luxury population grows, requests for accompanying guides will increase," says Karen Kane, a Paris travel guide and owner of Paris by Design, a specialized travel consultancy in East Montpelier, Vt.

“A client’s young girls expressed an interest in fashion, so we gave them a behind-the-scenes look, exposing them to the real fashion industry in Paris.”

— Mollie Fitzgerald, co-owner of Frontiers Elegant Journeys

Guides are travel experts who troubleshoot challenges, accommodate personal requests and create a custom travel itinerary. For Kane that has meant everything from explaining to security officers why a client with a pacemaker can't go through a metal detector to guiding five clients to the best booths in a Parisian flea market.  

What Can a Guide Do?

Having a travel guide means getting expert knowledge that goes beyond the basics. "A travel guide or concierge will add structure to the day, and enrichment, interpretation and education to the trip," says Mollie Fitzgerald, co-owner of Frontiers Elegant Journeys, a custom luxury leisure travel agency in Wexford, Pa.

"Often clients will indulge in an accompanying guide when they or their children have a specific interest," Fitzgerald says. "A client's young girls expressed an interest in fashion, so we gave them a behind-the-scenes look, exposing them to the real fashion industry in Paris."

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On a separate occasion, Fitzgerald paired a client with an archaeology expert on a trip through Indonesia. "The expert escort is there for the learning and interpretation," she explains, "but they also organize logistics from transportation to a monument to gaining private access to something not open for public viewing, like an after-hours tour of a museum or meeting a soccer team."

The cost of working with a travel expert or concierge service varies depending on the concierge's credentials. "A Ph.D. art historian specializing in Renaissance harps, for instance, is a narrow category," Fitzgerald says. "That level of expertise is more costly than an archeology expert who's already in Paris."

Daily fees usually range between $800 and $3,000 plus expenses, she says, which include things like tickets to shows, food costs and hotel accommodations.

Using a trusted online foreign exchange service allows travelers to make these foreign payments on their laptops, tablets or smartphones, even while waiting in an airport VIP lounge. And having access to 24/7 customer service is an added convenience when making foreign payments on the go.

Finding the Right Guide

When individuals search for a travel concierge service, it's important that they ask for recommendations first. Because it's a niche industry, many concierges rely on client referrals to find new business.

If they can't find a referral, Kane recommends individuals reach out to travel experts in the Virtuoso network, a global network of elite travel agencies and advisors. "They have access to excellent people and services around the world, and are accustomed to customizing," she says.

Another resource is Travel + Leisure's annual "A-List" of the world's top travel agents, which breaks down agents by expertise, including super agents, special interests and specific locations.[1]

A concierge can help people make the most of their travels, whether they're visiting a country for the first time or seeking a new perspective on a favorite vacation spot. Ultimately, it's about creating a stress-free, personalized experience from start to finish.

[1] "A-List: World's Top Travel Agents 2012," October 2012, Travel + Leisure

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