- 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 job.
- Requests range from closing the Taj Mahal to the public to guaranteeing sunlight in hotel rooms.
For the ultra-rich, travel looks different than it does for the everyday person.
Their vacations often involve dining at the world’s grandest restaurants, private tours of the Taj Mahal, or contracts that stipulate a certain room temperature in five-star hotel rooms.
Insider spoke with five luxury travel experts who help high-net-worth clients book vacations that cost anywhere from $15,000 to a few million dollars. Here’s what surprises them the most about their jobs.
Even after 11 years, one Disney travel planner is still shocked that money is never an issue
Greg Antone lle, the managing director of Mickey Travels, told Insider that his team of 250 travel agents has helped plan Disney trips for professional athletes, actors and actresses, and members of royalty.
They go on “deluxe” vacations, which often involve a VIP Disney tour guide that costs $850 an hour and $5,000-a-night hotel suites, and can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $100,000, Antonelle said.
While he’s booked these trips countless times, Antonelle said he’s still shocked by how easy it is for clients to say yes to pricey itineraries.
“There’s really no deliberations. They just say, ‘OK. Let’s do it,'” he said. “They want to do anything that they can to make it special and memorable.”
Not every celebrity insists on booking the nicest suite
Alternatively, Antonelle said while a VIP tour guide might be worth $30,000 to a client, the same client might not care as much about the dinner reservations or the hotel they stay in.
For example, Antonelle said his 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 certain clients that you would think go all out and spend incredible amounts of money,” Antonelle said. “But they don’t.”
Planning trips for celebrities sometimes involves odd requests
Celebrities are likely to have specific requests when it comes to lodging, experts told us.
Jason Couvillion, a partner at Bruvion, a travel firm that works with famous musicians, comedians, and actors, estimates that his leisure travel clients spend an average of $20,000 on a trip, though budgets vary. He’s currently helping an ultra-wealthy family book a $600,000 weeklong vacation.
Couvillion said many of his 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 reportedly requested a bottle of Cristal champagne with bendy straws on a tour, Britney Spears wanted a framed photo of Princess Diana in her dressing room, and Rihanna asked for a large fur rug.
Couvillion said that riders are part of the job and said he has fulfilled requests like setting a specific room temperature, stocking a mini fridge with a certain brand of water, or guaranteeing how much sunlight comes through the window.
But what surprises him the most is that some celebrities don’t actually want all of their odd requests. “We have people that just throw stuff in the rider,” he said. “Not because it’s stuff that they want specifically, it’s because they just want to know that the hotel actually read the whole thing.”
For example, Couvillion said he worked with one artist who required a specific Diptyque candle in every hotel room of a tour. By the end, the musician had plenty of candles but left the request in their rider just to “make sure the hotel paid attention to everything else.”
Planning celebrity travel sometimes requires some hand-holding
Couvillion said that his clients are great but are sometimes not used to doing “everyday things” or adapting when travel goes awry, whether it be a missed flight or an airport greeter no-show.
“Sometimes you’d think that walking through the airport was the hardest thing in the world for them to do by themselves,” he said.
Some travel agents didn’t expect to create and form lasting connections with clients
Both Catherine Heald, the co-founder and CEO of Remote Lands, a luxury travel company that books trips across Asia, and Meg Shepro, a travel consultant with luxury tour operator Scott Dunn Private, said that relationships are the most unexpected part of working in the luxury travel industry.
Heald told Insider that she’s often connecting her ultra-rich clients, who spend anywhere between $25,000 to $500,000 on a vacation, to famous artists, politicians, royalty, and architects around the world. Those connections often last longer than the scheduled trip, she said.
“We’ll set somebody up with a local archaeologist in Siem Reap in 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 gratifying at the end of the day.”
Shepro agreed and said that she and her coworkers work with the same client multiple times. They might 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 get requests for trips that cost more than $100,000.
Over time, the travel consultants form friendships with their clients, she said.
“They know things about our lives that are going on and we know things about their lives,” she said. “It’s less transactional.”
For some industry experts, the most surprising thing is that requests stop being surprising
Jaclyn Sienna India, the founder of the Sienna Charles luxury lifestyle company, told Insider that after working with clients who are worth $500 million or more, no request, no trip, and no task can faze her.
She said she’s closed down world monuments like the Taj Mahal in India and the Colosseum in Italy as well as reserved 50-yard-line Superbowl tickets the day before the event.
“Nothing is surprising because it’s all so normal,” she said. “We really can get anything done, it always comes down to how much you’re willing to spend.”