Travel inspires. Writers wax poetic about adventures, either real or imagined, songwriters croon about places that remain in their hearts, and artists paint images captured in their minds’ eyes while exploring our world.

Two local travel advisors, Ann Owens of Travel Service (on right), and Alexa Scott of SmartFlyer, have good answers for people planning their next adventures whether those trips take them to a faraway land or few states away.

Specializing in luxury travel means that none of Owens’ trips are too strenuous, but that doesn’t mean her travelers miss out on the good stuff.

Owens’ recommendations for adventure include Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, where she recently took a group of people, the majority of them from St. Simons Island.

Highlights included:

• Sub-zero temperatures that ranged from a low of -39 to a “heat wave” of -8 Fahrenheit.

• Snowmobiling, dog sledding, ice fishing and seeing the Northern Lights.

People travel all over the world to get a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), but nowhere in the Western Hemisphere are they more frequently visible than in the area around Yellowknife.

“If you stay three nights, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see them,” Owens said. “We saw them twice while we were there.”

Owens said she and her clients want to see wildlife and nature, not museums and cathedrals. They are seeking authentic experiences.

Trips Owens highly recommends:

• Costa Rica for its tons of outdoor activities

• Belize for diving and hiking

• Yellowstone National Park in winter because of its hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobiling trails, and its proximity to Big Sky, Mont., for skiing.

• Borneo for orangutans

• Nepal for snow leopards

• Vietnam and Cambodia.

Trips on her radar include:

Returning to Africa, and building new trips to Madagascar and

the Amazon.

Owens is well-known for her expeditions to Africa, and has been visiting the Sub-Saharan portion of the continent for the past 14 years, including Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. She’s also made trips to Egypt and Morocco, which have a decidedly more Arabic/Islamic flavor that countries to their south.

Owens has her own place in Kenya, in the Masa Mara, on the Mara River, where the epic wildebeest migration takes place every year.

Africa, she says, is a “religious experience.”

Advantages of a trip to Africa are infinite.

“The indigenous Africans, in general, are the nicest, kindest people you will ever meet.”

Other perks, according to Owens, include:

• The best family experience for people from 6 to 106.

• Everyone loves to watch lions

•  Kids will voluntarily put down their cell phones

• Safety – There is no need to worry about children, because Africans are such nurturing, loving, giving people

• Vacationing in the “bush” means flying into airports with dirt runways and the pilot sometimes “buzzing” it to clear giraffes, buffalo, zebras and lions from the path.

• Safaris in vehicles or on horseback, or walking safaris with camels carrying the goods.

• The temperate climate. Owens says it’s never really hot in East Africa; the weather follows more of a wet season/dry season pattern as opposed to summer/winter, because it sits on the Equator.

“The Mara is at 5,000 feet elevation, which is equivalent to Denver,” she said. “It’s very mild – low to mid-50s at night, and 70s during the day. Lower elevations are hotter.”


Scott has been a partner of SmartFlyer, a full-service travel agency based in New York, for the past six years. Luxury travel is her specialty.

She has all sorts of tips and hints for travelers in the Golden Isles, including popular trips, destinations on the horizon, services travel agents provide, and how she tailors a trip to her customers’ interests.

Popular vacation destinations for Golden Islanders in 2019 included:

• Tokyo, Malibu, India, Buenos Aires, Italy, the Bahamas, New York, Vietnam, Africa, Barbados and Iceland.

“One of the things that I love most about the Golden Isles is that it is such a melting pot of people from all over who have come to live in this beautiful area,” she said. “So many have adventurous spirits and a bit of wanderlust, and are always ready for their next adventure.”

On the radar destinations:

• Iceland because of its closeness to the U.S., and the availability of adventure, spas, boutique hotels and unique experiences, including snowmobiling on glaciers, snorkeling through plate tectonics and relaxing at a geothermal spa.

• Morocco. Scott says she plans a town and country option with her clients spending several nights in a riad in Marrakech, visiting in the markets and taking a tangine cooking class before transitioning to the Atlas Mountains for hiking, camel interactions and hot air balloon rides.

Scott has strong opinions on why people should hire a travel agent when planning their trips.

“Today, anyone with an internet connection can book a flight and piece together an itinerary, right,” she said. “Wrong.”

Today’s travel agents:

• Assist with seeking new, under-the-radar places and experiences that match clients’ wants and needs.

•  Possess first-hand knowledge of airlines, destinations and travel logistics that can’t be matched by a web algorithm.

• Scott provides a detailed itinerary to her clients which not only includes accommodations and services booked through her, but information from the U.S. Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pertaining to their destinations, where applicable.

• Act as a resource for information about passport requirements, vaccinations, visas, etc.

Scott has strong opinions on why people should hire a travel agent when planning their trips.

“Today, anyone with an internet connection can book a flight and piece together an itinerary, right,” she said. “Wrong.”

“My work on a client’s trip is not complete until they are safely home and bags are unpacked. The reason you hire an expert is not only for their in-depth knowledge and incredible partnerships around the globe, but also to take the worry out of travel.”

Ultimately, building a relationship is the key to working with a travel advisor.

“Remember that agents aren’t mind readers, so be sure to tell me what you love and don’t about your itinerary,” Scott said. “The sooner you catch a flaw, the quicker I can learn your preferences and adjust course!”