Travel Inspiration By A Pro Trip Designer

Why Hire a Trip Planner Anyway?

Friend Of A Friend Consulting


travel-agent-600As the founder of Friend of a Friend Consulting, a luxury trip design firm in Connecticut, I find I get this question (Why hire a Travel Agent/Trip Planner?) a lot. Though, to be honest, not as often as I’d like. If you know me at all, I love to defend a position, especially one I believe in so vehemently.

It’s fair to say, the question is usually put to me after the person has had one or two drinks, allowing them to feel comfortable enough to ask me why, when the internet allows individuals to research and book hotels themselves, do they really need to work with me? A fair point, indeed. And look, I understand. I’m a consumer of travel products, too, and love nothing more than spending hour upon relentless hour researching my way to a destination’s center core. Of course, that’s why I made it my career. But having now been a Trip Designer for the past few years, in addition to an established travel writer and digital content creator for two very popular Online Travel Agencies (Tablet Hotels and Hotel Insider) I am confident that there is no amount of research or savvy internet skills that can match the outcome of utilizing the expertise and perhaps even more compelling, the industry contracts, of a certified travel professional.

Allow me to explain, in just 4 short bullet points, a few advantages to using a Trip Designer or Luxury Hotel Consultant  that you may not have ever considered or known. And if you’re still unsure and need more explanation, by all means: Email me. I will happily chat further.

1.  I can research more efficiently than you, mostly because I am deeply familiar with the sources (having worked for or with most of them.) However, that doesn’t mean I don’t want you to enjoy the pursuit. I know how fun it is to read up on a destination and pour over hotel reviews, and so, in addition to the tailored dossier of hotel suggestions, I also provide my clients with a full reading list of both on and off-line sources.

2. I can almost alway match any rate that you find online, making it moot to hunt for a cheaper deal, and beyond that, I can get you perks on luxury properties that aren’t available to most booking providers. Ever noticed how many of the online travel agencies (Tablet Hotels, SecretEscapes, Jetsetter) will show you the rates from Expedia or as a way of convincing you there is no cheaper option? Well, that’s because there really isn’t. It’s incredibly bad business for hotels to offer cheaper rates to certain providers as ultimately all hotels go into the General Distribution System. AND even more creepy, some of these sites (, expedia) are offering hotel pricing specific to you and your browsing history – yikes !

3. I can liaise with the hotel on your behalf and truth-be-told, they are more inclined to listen to me than you. Nothing personal, just that a travel professional is a business supplier, and you, unless you are a frequent high-flying guest are 1 in 1m. See what The NY TImes reported on the subject in 2012.

4. And more importantly, if the proverbial sh*t ever hits the fan, you definitely want me to help clear it up rather than you. After all, you’re on vacation.





Posted in: Friend Of A Friend Consulting

Published by Meg, Tuesday, October 28, 2014 No Comments

Viceroy Rivieria Maya

Beach, Hotel Reviews


Oh Mexico. It sounds so simple, I just gotta go….

The beach at Viceroy Riviera Maya

The beach at Viceroy Riviera Maya

Heeding the words of that fabulous James Taylor song, “Mexico,” I hopped aboard a Delta flight down to Cancun, Mexico last week for an impromptu 3-day trip of hotel hunting and beachside indulgence. Between checking out hotels in neighboring Mayakoba, Playa del Carmen and Tulum, chatting with the friendly locals and soaking up as much Vitamin D as possible, I found myself rather quickly at ease. No doubt, this was due to the lack of company and tremendously inviting scenery. The majority of pictures below come from my iPhone.

The hammock at La Reve Resort near Cancun

A hammock on the beach near Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Mexico

As a guest at the newly renamed Viceroy Riviera Maya (former Tides property), I was given one of their coveted ocean view villas, which offered a single traveler plenty of space to spread out, plus enough creature comforts to keep loneliness at bay: Free wifi, television, small library of paperback thrillers. Nestled into the surrounding natural jungle, the Viceroy’s 41 villas feel tremendously private despite sharing less than 3 acres of space. This is likely due to the careful staggering of the villas, tucked along winding pathways and the frond-laden landscaping.

Ocean view Villa at Viceroy

Ocean view Villa at Viceroy

In fact, so adept at VolumePills offering seclusion, the Viceroy might as well be a couples-only resort (that, and they don’t accept children under the age of 16.) Nevertheless, as a singleton surrounded by swooning couples, I felt perfectly comfortable in my spacious room, and fell immediately into a welcome routine of spa, yoga, poolside dining and beach walks. I was blissfully unaware of others actions just as they, likely, were unaware of mine. I imagine a celebrity would feel similarly at ease at this resort, since everyone seemed equally invested in the self-absorbed tasks of relaxation and scenery appreciation. Of course, Pepe, one of the beach attendants, encouraged such hedonistic behavior with frequent offerings of piña coladas and daily distribution of a house speciality served in a shot glass.

Instagram snap of my daily indulgence

Instagram snap of my daily indulgence

The staff at the Viceroy were another pleasant highlight, incredibly generous with their recommendations, local knowledge and quick to smile. Eating by yourself can get tiresome quickly, yet at the Viceroy I never minded, always satiated by the staff’s conversational abilities and the stunning view. Although the Viceroy was truly a standout property, I must reconcile my positive review with my deep need to unplug. Nevertheless, the Viceroy delivered and event went above in its nourishment of my depleted energy. I highly recommend it for a quick getaway, whether its with your significant other or not.

Posted in: Beach, Hotel Reviews

Published by Meg, Wednesday, October 31, 2012 No Comments

Trading Greenwich(es) From CT to NYC

Hotel Reviews


The Greenwich Hotel

Tribeca, New York City

The Greenwich Hotel

The Greenwich Hotel

For an upcoming story on where to eat Italian in New York City, I spent the night at Robert De Niro’s fantastic Tribeca hotel; The Greenwich Hotel. Having heard only good things from friends and colleagues, I was looking forward to finally spending the night in a place that has earned such consistent rave reviews. I was also excited to finally eat at the equally vaulted Locanda Verde, the hotel’s tangential restaurant run by Andrew Carmellini.

The guestrooms at The Greenwich

The guestrooms at The Greenwich

Usually when expectations are set high, end results are lackluster. I am happy to report that this was firmly not the case. Both my overnight at The Greenwich Hotel and my dinner at Locanda Verde were excellent. From the warm, personalized check-in to the buzzing energy at the restaurant (one of the few times a 30 minute wait wasn’t a major irritant), I was delighted the entire time. (This may have something to do with the fact I was spending the night in the city on a school night.) The staff played a big part of my sense of contentment. The woman who checked me in was sweet without being overly so. She noted my clear proficiency with televisions and light fixtures and didn’t dawdle over silly explanations. She also likely noted my big smile when she mentioned everything in the minibar was complimentary. What can I say? Free Minibars are truly one of the best hotel perks (besides Wifi) I can think of. Then there was the woman at breakfast, who sensed my short time frame and brought a cappuccino – perfectly frothed with foam floret and all – in under 2 minutes and then followed up with equally swift service of my eggs dish. I enjoyed my breakfast fireside in the hotel’s cossetting library while thumbing the NYTimes and feeling particularly spoiled with such a decadent start to the morning. Note to self – get up earlier next time to enjoy cappuccino number 2. It’s well worth the loss of sleep.

Fireside Coffee - what's better than that?

Fireside Coffee – what’s better than that?

A few things of particular note about the Greenwich that put it firmly in the must-return category: There’s a distinct aroma in the hallway of the guest rooms that has an earthy, woodsy (likely due to the wood door frames) appeal. It is such an unexpected scent in the depths of NYC that it was instantly intoxicating. Then, my guest room (room 303) was surprisingly cozy despite rather masculine details such as an exposed wood plank wall, iron grate shower door, low-slung mahogany bed, leather settee and simple white linens. Usually a sucker for an abundance of pillows and soft billowing drapes, I was surprised to find how immediately comfortable I felt in the room. Perhaps it had something to do with the free minibar.

Side-note: I know this whole minibar discussion is making me sound like all I want to do is eat candy and drink mini rum bottles, but I do think there’s something intrinsically offputting about sleeping alongside forbidden fruit, which is what the minibar is when it’s so costly for a juice in the morning or a late night chocolate nibble. So, having that issue removed made me feel increasingly more at home.

As with all top-seeded hotels in my book, the bathroom is a focal point that can either make or break its review. Here, the bathroom earned points for being proportionally spaced and having perhaps the strongest water pressure – from an overhead rain shower – to be felt in a long time. The all marble clad bath also featured a small sign boasting that the bath fills in 60-seconds flat – the ferrari of tubs, so it would seem. The bath products are signature to the spa and carry a similar mixed scent of woodsy, orange blossom and ginger tones. You can’t help but smell Asian influences (which are clearly intended given the spa is Japanese). The lack of window in the bathroom was a detriment, but easily overlooked given the thoughtful details like iron windowpane door frames on the shower door.

The marble bathroom in my guestroom

The marble bathroom in my guestroom

Though I’m fortunate to visit hotels often and it’s a professional goal and imperative to stay somewhere different each time – I must admit, I can’t wait to return to The Greenwich.

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Posted in: Hotel Reviews

Published by Meg, Monday, October 15, 2012 No Comments

about meg

About Meg


Meg is the founder of luxury travel consulting company, Friend of a Friend Consulting. Her three books, Italian Hideaways, Caribbean Hideaways and England's Hideaways are published by Rizzoli. Passionate about travel, hotels and wine, she continues to write freelance travel pieces and is currently pursuing a Masters in Wine through the WSET.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are solely my own and do not reflect separate business relationships with the subject. Whenever posts are supported financially, they are designated as such.