- Insider spoke with travel industry experts who book vacations for celebrities and the ultra-rich.
- Five luxury travel planners shared the most surprising parts of their jobs.
- Demands range from closing the Taj Mahal to the public to ensuring sunlight in hotel rooms.
For the ultra-rich, travel is different from that for the common person.
Their vacations often involve dining at the world’s finest restaurants, private tours of the Taj Mahal, or contracts stipulating a certain ambient temperature in five-star hotel rooms.
Insider spoke with five luxury travel experts who help wealthy clients book vacations ranging from $15,000 to a few million dollars. This is what surprises them the most about their work.
Even after 11 years, a Disney trip planner is still shocked that money is never an issue
Greg Antonelle, chief executive of Mickey Travels, told Insider that his team of 250 travel agents have helped plan Disney trips for professional athletes, actors and actresses and royalty.
They go on “luxury” vacations, which often involve a Disney VIP tour guide that costs $850 an hour and $5,000 a night in hotel suites, and can cost between $15,000 and $100,000, Antonelle said.
Although he’s booked these trips countless times, Antonelle said he’s still shocked at how easy it is for customers to say yes to expensive itineraries.
“There’s really no deliberation. They just say, ‘OK. Let’s do it,'” he said. “They want to do everything they can to make it special and memorable.”
Not all celebrities insist on booking the best suite
Alternatively, Antonelle said a VIP tour guide might be worth $30,000 to a client, but the same client might not care as much about dinner reservations or which hotel they were staying at.
For example, Antonelle said her team helped coordinate a vacation last December for a well-known singer and actor who booked a basic room at a Disney World resort.
“We’ve booked some clients that you think will go all out and spend incredible amounts of money,” Antonelle said. “But they don’t.”
Planning trips for celebrities sometimes involves some weird requests
Celebrities are likely to have specific accommodation requests, experts tell us.
Jason Couvillion, a partner at Bruvion, a travel agency that works with famous musicians, comedians and actors, estimates his leisure travel clients spend an average of $20,000 per trip, though budgets vary. He’s currently helping an ultra-wealthy family book a week’s $600,000 vacation.
Couvillion said many of its clients have riders, which are contracts that outline hotel and backstage requests.
As Marie Claire reports, riders can sometimes include extravagant requests like how Mariah Carey allegedly asked for a bottle of Cristal champagne with bendable straws while on tour, Britney Spears wanted a framed photo of Princess Diana in her dressing room and Rihanna asked for a big fur rug.
Couvillion said the runners were part of the job and said he had responded to requests such as setting a specific room temperature, storing a
with a certain brand of water, or guaranteeing the amount of sunlight that comes through the window.
But what surprises him the most is that some celebrities don’t want all of their weird requests. “We have people throwing stuff in the jumper,” he said. “Not because these are things they specifically want, it’s because they just want to know that the hotel actually read the whole thing.”
For example, Couvillion said they worked with an artist who needed a specific Diptyque candle in each hotel room while on tour. In the end, the musician had plenty of candles but left the request in his jumper just to “make sure the hotel was paying attention to everything else”.
Planning a celebrity trip sometimes requires some hands-on
Couvillion said his customers are great but sometimes aren’t used to doing “everyday things” or adapting when the trip goes wrong, whether it’s a missed flight or failure to show up at the airport.
“Sometimes you’d think walking through the airport is the hardest thing in the world for them,” he said.
Some travel agents did not expect to create and form lasting bonds with customers
Catherine Heald, co-founder and CEO of Remote Lands, a luxury travel agency that books trips across Asia, and Meg Shepro, travel consultant at luxury tour operator Scott Dunn Private, said relationships are the part most unexpected job in the luxury travel industry.
Heald told Insider that she often connects her ultra-wealthy clients, who spend between $25,000 and $500,000 on vacations, with famous artists, politicians, royalty and architects around the world. Those connections often last longer than the intended trip, she said.
“We’ll set up someone with a local archaeologist in Siem Reap at Angkor Wat, and they’ll end up staying in touch with that person for years,” she said. “It’s really the human connections that are the most rewarding at the end of the day.”
Shepro agreed and said she and her colleagues worked with the same client multiple times. They can help a client book an African safari one year and a villa in the Maldives the next. The average trip for Scott Dunn’s private travelers is $50,000, but Shepro said at least once a month they receive requests for trips costing more than $100,000.
Over time, travel counselors form friendships with their clients, she said.
“They know things about our lives that are happening and we know things about their lives,” she said. “It’s less transactional.”
For some industry experts, the most surprising thing is that the requests stop being surprising
Jaclyn Sienna India, the founder of luxury lifestyle company Sienna Charles, told Insider that after working with clients worth $500 million or more, no inquiries, no trips, and no tasks cannot confuse her.
She said she had closed world landmarks like the Taj Mahal in India and the Colosseum in Italy, as well as reserved tickets for the 50-meter Superbowl the day before the event.
“Nothing is surprising because everything is so normal,” she said. “We really can do anything, it always depends on how much you’re willing to spend.”