Before she became a luxury travel advisor, Shelley Rapp of Rapture Travels was a voracious traveler whose love for travel was nurtured by her parents growing up. Today, she brings a sophisticated and individualized approach to each of her clients' trips and stops at nothing to cull together the perfect recommendations for each of them.
After a career in commercial real estate and starting a family, I decided to reenter the workforce; but, I wanted to do something entrepreneurial that I was passionate about, and travel was a natural choice. My love of travel began as a child when my parents, both teachers, would spend the summer traveling around Europe. This passion bled into adulthood where I enjoyed adventure travel with friends and as a solo traveler, backpacking. As I started my own family, I was convinced that travel was one of the greatest gifts I could give my children. I chose to make travel a central part of our lifestyle as a family. The travel experiences that I have shared with my husband and with our two children have enriched our lives and have allowed us to try new things, see new places and appreciate new cultures and customs.
Rapture Travels was born out of this life-long evolving passion for travel. I saw an opportunity in the market for a boutique firm, one that allowed for a more intimate client/advisor relationship. As a travel advisor, I encourage clients to embrace the region they are traveling within and to seek out the unexpected adventures. I think having some plans of “must do’s” is important, but you also need to allot time to get lost, explore, and eat and drink authentically.
I think the biggest change in luxury travel in the last 5 years has been the shift from wanting to go to a particular destination to wanting to have unique “experiences” in that destination. Luxury is no longer defined by a thread count and a guest to staff ratio, that’s a given. Now, true luxury combines amazing experiences with a luxury hotel. This ties into another major change, the shift from travel agents to travel advisors. Anyone can go online and book a vacation, but advisors bring an elevated element of knowledge, relationships and added perks to each trip they plan. They know experts all over the world that connect clients with personalized and unique experiences. No two itineraries are the same anymore, which makes my career very exciting as I get to learn about each of clients likes/dislikes and make custom-fit itineraries.
The question is: where don’t I go for recommendations? I read a lot of travel magazines, I follow a lot of travel blogs, I listen to many hours of webinars (business perk/necessity), I use Compell’d to gather information from friends and colleagues and I have fantastic partners all over the world who specialize in their region and have their finger on the pulse.
I believe in thorough planning and researching, but leaving myself open to discovery and “getting lost” along the way. I like to always have some tours, with great guides, set up before I arrive at a destination. If it is someplace that I have not been, the first tour is a general overview of the city, the history and the culture. However, the web is an overcrowded place to do this research. Have you ever googled “tours in Rome”? It’s insane. How do you sift through the 1,000’s of options; which are good and, more importantly, which are excellent? That is where I can provide knowledge and connections.
I also love to learn about local cuisine, and an authentic cooking class is great for this. I had clients in Morocco last year with kids between the ages of 7 and 10, and they were able to go into a local chef’s home and learn how to cook multiple types of dishes using the tagine.
Another thing I like to do to get to know a city is to walk as much as possible. This allows me to find interesting stores, restaurants, architecture, coffee shops, etc. and soak in some of the daily life culture.
In regards to dining, I like to have a few restaurants written down that interest me, but I rarely pre-arrange meals, as I like to find little local spots and not feel tied down to set reservations.
"I believe in thorough planning and researching, but leaving myself open to discovery and “getting lost” along the way."
The most memorable trip I have ever taken was the first time I went on safari in Africa. Coming off the plane from New York City, it first felt like the most quiet place on earth. Then, as I adjusted to my surroundings, I started to hear insects, birds, animals and I tuned into the nature around me. The smell of the earth and plants is distinct. Watching animals in their natural habitat and seeing them hunt, care for their young, and seek shelter. Talking to the local people and hearing about their lives opened my mind to interesting ways of thinking about universal issues. This is where the world began...everything and everyone tells a story. You become aware of your surroundings and it makes you realize what a small part of this amazing earth you are... it puts petty problems in perspective and helps you appreciate what you have and the people you love. I fell in love with Africa on that trip and have been back many times, each with new experiences, learning moments and insights.
Slow down! It seems so many people are on a race to cover as many countries in one trip as possible. This is difficult in the best of circumstances, but with kids, impossible. Kids can be unpredictable. I like to advise to double the amount of time in any one city if you have small children with you. There are longer sleeping hours, laundry, naps, tantrums to add into your day. Everyone will be less stressed if there isn’t a need to accomplish too much site seeing each day. I also think you should start near where you live: don’t make Asia your first trip with a child if you're in the US, but rather, go to Europe with an easier time zone adjustment. When you go to Europe from the East Coast, you only need to adjust your kids schedule a few hours by keeping them up late with you and then having everyone sleep in a bit. Start your day at 10am instead of 7am.
Thanks so much for sharing your perspectives with us, Shelley! Your destination lists provide incredible inspiration to our 2020 travel plans.
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