Our new Q&A series with travel advisors serves up lessons learned from trip planning and inspiration for those future adventures, whenever they may be.
Steve Harris, a travel advisor based in Dallas, Texas, appreciates everything about luxury travel, having experienced his share of no-frills transportation and lodging in his previous career as a drummer, traveling in bands and playing polka, jazz, country, blues, soul, and classical music.
He has been in the travel industry for 32 years, starting out booking for members of a credit card travel club; Harris now runs his own luxury travel business, Travel Provocateur, as an affiliate of Strong Travel Services. He has “never met a stranger,” he says, and is known by his clients and peers as “the Social Mayor” or “Man About Town” for his connections around the world.
If you’re dreaming of travel for later, or now, get inspired with these tips.
Why should someone book with a travel advisor, if they haven’t before?
The relationship with a travel advisor is personal and not transactional, which is what you get when you attempt to book on your own or use a credit card company’s travel desk. We provide value in our relationships, experiences, network of contacts, and knowledge of our industry.
What are a few of the most memorable trips you’ve planned, things that someone couldn’t just book on their own or through a travel site?
A private helicopter trip, flying from Napa to Sonoma and the Pacific Coast and historic redwoods. You land at a hilltop vineyard and meet a master sommelier who takes you to some of the most exclusive wineries, which are not available for public tastings. A private chef prepares you dinner at that vineyard, before departing in your aerial chariot back to your evening accommodations. These areas can’t be accessed without the right connections.
For the history buff, [I’ve planned] a ride in a vintage WWII tank right on the site of the landing battlefields or flights in vintage aircrafts used during wartime.
[What else?] Accessing the workshops of the French president’s furniture, which is not open to the public. Visit the facility that provides furnishings for the official palaces of France and various presidential residences. In this workshop, carpet, tapestries, and other design pieces are created.
Perhaps purchasing that highly sought-after designer bag, but even better, getting to watch it manufactured before your eyes every step of the way.
I know it is hard to pick, but what are some of your favorite hotels around the world?
This is a tough one, but here are three.
- The Mandrake Hotel in London: This property in Fitzrovia is seductive, mysterious, and full of mischief.
- The Silo in Cape Town: It is architecturally brilliant and visually stunning, using creative concepts.
- The Grand Hotel Tremezzo on Lake Como: Best lake views and the warmest, family-owned hospitality.
[Watch our interview with owner Valentina DeSantis.]
If someone has already done the typical European tour of London, Paris, and Florence, where do you recommend they go next?
I would recommend something like Cascais or Sistelo, both in Portugal. Or flying into Naples, renting a vintage convertible, and driving to Bari. But on the way, take a slight detour to Bernalda and stop at the Coppola resort Palazzo Margherita for lunch, or to stay. Or, in that same direction, stop in Matera to join a local expert guide and follow the twists, turns, and alleys navigated by James Bond in the upcoming film No Time to Die.
Do you specialize in a type of trip or traveler? What if a client wants to book somewhere that you’ve never been?
I offer my services for any trip worldwide. Although I arrange many family trips, some might say I excel with adult small groups or couples’ experiences.
If a client is interested in a destination I haven’t personally experienced, I don’t view that as a challenge, but as an opportunity to utilize the vast network of partners and other advisors in the industry. We all support each other by sharing information to assist in planning the best experience for the client.
Do you have any words of wisdom for someone who is desperately missing the ability to travel freely during COVID?
Be patient, open a nice bottle of wine, get a world map and highlighter. Then make a list of experiences you want to have and places you want to visit in the next 3, 5, or 10 years. Once you have a smile on your face from reviewing that list, send me an email and let’s get planning!
Contact Steve Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org