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Worry Free Wanderlust

Modern Travel Agents Make a Comeback



The signature royal blue hues and tall palms surround Le Jardin Majorelle at the Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Morocco. A market dazzles in Marrakech.

Photo by Elisa Brown Travel

There was a time when you wouldn’t dare book a vacation without a travel agent. Fast forward 30 years and times have changed. Now everyone is his own expert and we’re relying on complete strangers to tell us where to vacation.

If you’ve ever been burned booking a trip online, you know the value of doing your research on top of what anyone tells you. That’s why people are seeking help from local experts like Elisa Carbone Brown, a Weston resident and a luxury travel expert for Passported, a boutique agency based in Tribeca. “Anyone can book a hotel online,” explains Brown, who also writes content for her agency’s web site, passported.com. “Where we add value is through ‘destination insight’ and our access to insider perks like food, beverage and spa credits, upgrades, and complimentary breakfast.”

Insider tips, coupled with the strong relationships agents have with hoteliers and tour operators, are each travel agent’s proverbial “special sauce.” It’s this information that can transform a vacation into an unforgettable experience—and is certainly not something one can glean from an online travel Website.

These days, travel agents get paid by hotels, cruises and tour operators. Rather than charge a flat fee, most agents bill clients for certain “concierge” levels of service. If the client requests an itinerary outlining daily activities, tours and restaurant reservations, for example, that’s an additional cost.

During our interview, Brown attended to client requests. She booked a private boat ride on Lake Powell at Utah’s sought after property Amangiri, and secured a room at Nobu Ryokan, an exclusive oceanfront boutique hotel in Malibu, right next door to its namesake sushi restaurant. “You might not be able to get a reservation at the hottest new hotel or restaurant, but there’s a good chance I can make it happen,” explains Brown. “I don’t give up easily.”

Brown’s Instagram feed would make anyone envious. Already in 2018, she’s “glamped” in the Moroccan desert, swam with the Swimming Pigs in the Bahamas, and taken a dip in Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon. Trips to Greece, Italy, Japan, and Vietnam are in the works. 

While outsiders might think a travel agent’s life is all fun and games, the reality is that it’s a full-time job and then some.

“I’m working around the clock scouting new hotels, restaurants, spas, shops, local landmarks and epic adventures to compile location-specific insider tips,” explains Brown. “I’m away from my family for days at a time, which is difficult, but I am passionate about my work and wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Finding Something for Everyone on Vacation

Another woman who knows a thing or two about travel is Lauren Raps, a Fairfield mother to three boys under twelve. Raps recently traded her 15 plus year career to start her own company, Travel Prospect.

A former NBC News executive, she routinely traveled the globe for work. Raps would spend three weeks on the ground in Olympic host cities, ingraining herself in the local community. Here she identified trusted “on-the-ground” contacts—a huge advantage for obvious reasons. Her travel experience, coupled with the influence of her mother who was also a travel agent, fueled the switch. “I thought I knew everything, but the job involves constant training and research,” explains Raps. “You’re constantly learning and evolving for the next generation of travelers.”

While Raps has planned everything from honeymoons in Hawaii to “friendsgivings” in Maine, planning family vacations are her favorite challenge. Sometimes destinations that cater to kids can leave parents feeling underwhelmed. However, Raps believes that everyone can have an amazing experience.

“Luxury doesn’t always mean money,” believes Raps. “It’s all about authentic experiences that are tailor made for your family.”

Most recently, she took her family to Nicaragua to see if it’s the hotspot everyone has been buzzing about. According to Raps, Nicaragua is what Costa Rica used to be. “The people are lovely, it’s extremely safe and full of adventures—all at a great price point.”

Raps’ honesty about traveling with toddlers is refreshing. She truly understands that meltdowns are possible and promises to have you covered. “Consider me your family travel guardian angel,” offers Raps. “I pride myself on knowing the best family-friendly resorts and kids clubs for any age or interest.”

Recently, she planned a surprise trip for her client’s daughters to London, complete with exclusive Harry Potter activities and a behind-the-scenes changing of the guard tour— an experience only Raps can book.

For Raps, traveling solo with her children is a total luxury. Last summer, she took her middle son to Europe to research a new cruise experience on the Danube River, which she is now offering exclusively to her clients.

“Travel is an investment I don’t take lightly,” suggests Raps. “Clients share intimate information with me about budget and their family’s personal preferences. It’s a fun and collaborative process.”

Raps is currently packing her bags for spring break in Sicily, then to Bermuda and a cruise up the Rhine with her eldest son this summer.

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Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

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Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
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Cost: $50-$360

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A series of graphic novel-style panels designed by illustrator Kirk Manley tells the dramatic story of the spy ring that operated between New York City, Long Island, and Fairfield during the...

Cost: Members: Free; Adults: $5; Seniors & Students: $3; children 5 and under: Free.

Where:
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370 Beach Rd
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View map »


Website »

More information

On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
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View map »


Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

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Cost: $50-$360

Where:
Waveny Park
70 Pine St.
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free Admission

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Christine's Garden
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
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View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Nadia Martinez
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free and open to the public.

Where:
Pequot Library
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View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 120-325-9034615
Contact Name: Tracy Steneken
Website »

More information

The Bruce Museum spotlights the creative energy and vitality of fine art created by regional high school students in the 8th annual iCreate exhibition. Opening on June 9 and continuing...

Cost: Adults $10; Students and Seniors $8; Members and Children Under 5 Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
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View map »


Telephone: 203.413.6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Burn Baby Burn”, a group exhibition featuring works by Kathleen Kucka, Dennis...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
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View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
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More information

Show More...
Show Less...

A series of graphic novel-style panels designed by illustrator Kirk Manley tells the dramatic story of the spy ring that operated between New York City, Long Island, and Fairfield during the...

Cost: Members: Free; Adults: $5; Seniors & Students: $3; children 5 and under: Free.

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View map »


Website »

More information

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More information

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Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

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Cost: $50-$360

Where:
Waveny Park
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View map »


Website »

More information

An irreverent, fast-paced romp through the Bard’s plays, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) was London’s longest-running comedy having clocked a very palpable nine...

Cost: Free Admission

Where:
Christine's Garden
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Starting at $52

Where:
Webster Bank Arena (Bridgeport)
, CT


Website »

More information

Nature is on display in “A Reverence For Nature” with pieces that reflect the artists’ admiration of nature or the environment in a multitude of ways. Exhibiting artists include...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
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View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Nadia Martinez
Website »

More information

Garden Menagerie Exhibition on view through August 25, 2018 during regular library hours Garden Menagerie, features a variety of works by Alex Sax and a selection of nineteenth-century books...

Cost: Free and open to the public.

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 120-325-9034615
Contact Name: Tracy Steneken
Website »

More information

The Bruce Museum spotlights the creative energy and vitality of fine art created by regional high school students in the 8th annual iCreate exhibition. Opening on June 9 and continuing...

Cost: Adults $10; Students and Seniors $8; Members and Children Under 5 Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Telephone: 203.413.6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Burn Baby Burn”, a group exhibition featuring works by Kathleen Kucka, Dennis...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
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View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

A series of graphic novel-style panels designed by illustrator Kirk Manley tells the dramatic story of the spy ring that operated between New York City, Long Island, and Fairfield during the...

Cost: Members: Free; Adults: $5; Seniors & Students: $3; children 5 and under: Free.

Where:
Fairfield Museum
370 Beach Rd
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Sponsor: Grace Farms Foundation
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More information

On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Egotistical leading man, director, and producer Fred Graham is reunited with his ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi, when the two are forced to play opposite one another in a new production of...

Cost: $50-$360

Where:
Waveny Park
70 Pine St.
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Website »

More information

An irreverent, fast-paced romp through the Bard’s plays, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) was London’s longest-running comedy having clocked a very palpable nine...

Cost: Free Admission

Where:
Christine's Garden
151 Main Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Website »

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Join Grace Farms Foundation for an inspired conversation about how religion is portrayed in the media today. Journalists Wajahat Ali (New York Times and CNN contributor) and Michelle Boorstein (The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Grace Farms
365 Lukes Wood Road
New Canaan, CT  06897
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Sponsor: Grace Farms Foundation
Telephone: 203-920-1702
Contact Name: Regan Hayes
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Corteo, one of Cirque du Soleil’s most successful shows on record, comes to Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport for seven shows from July 18-22, 2018. Corteo, which means cortege in Italian, is...

Cost: Starting at $52

Where:
Webster Bank Arena (Bridgeport)
, CT


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Nature is on display in “A Reverence For Nature” with pieces that reflect the artists’ admiration of nature or the environment in a multitude of ways. Exhibiting artists include...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
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Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Nadia Martinez
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Garden Menagerie Exhibition on view through August 25, 2018 during regular library hours Garden Menagerie, features a variety of works by Alex Sax and a selection of nineteenth-century books...

Cost: Free and open to the public.

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
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Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 120-325-9034615
Contact Name: Tracy Steneken
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The Bruce Museum spotlights the creative energy and vitality of fine art created by regional high school students in the 8th annual iCreate exhibition. Opening on June 9 and continuing...

Cost: Adults $10; Students and Seniors $8; Members and Children Under 5 Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
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Telephone: 203.413.6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
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Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Burn Baby Burn”, a group exhibition featuring works by Kathleen Kucka, Dennis...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
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Fairfield Sidewalk Sale & Street Fair Saturday, July 21, 2018 10:00am-4:00pm, Rain or Shine First Selectman Mike Tetreau announced today that the Town of Fairfield and Fairfield...

Cost: free

Where:
Downtown Fairfield
Post Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Sponsor: Town of Fairfield & Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 203-256-3120
Contact Name: Mark Barnhart
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A series of graphic novel-style panels designed by illustrator Kirk Manley tells the dramatic story of the spy ring that operated between New York City, Long Island, and Fairfield during the...

Cost: Members: Free; Adults: $5; Seniors & Students: $3; children 5 and under: Free.

Where:
Fairfield Museum
370 Beach Rd
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Mock Stock is going Metal in a nod to AC/DC, Guns N Roses, and Metallica.  Halfway to HELL (Tribute to AC/DC)- Halfway to HELL- AC/DC Tribute features a High energy stage show with two...

Cost: Tickets $20 in advance, $30 at the door.

Where:
Ives Concert Park
43 Lake Ave Ext
Danbury, CT  06811
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Sponsor: Ives Concert Park and Promotions in Motion
Telephone: 203-837-9227
Contact Name: Phyllis Cortese
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On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
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Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
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The Magpie Salute brings together the reunited guitar team of Rich Robinson and Marc Ford from the Black Crowes, bassist Sven Pipien (also from the Crowes) along with lead...

Cost: $48

Where:
Fairfield Theatre Company in The Warehouse
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Egotistical leading man, director, and producer Fred Graham is reunited with his ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi, when the two are forced to play opposite one another in a new production of...

Cost: $50-$360

Where:
Waveny Park
70 Pine St.
New Canaan, CT  06840
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An irreverent, fast-paced romp through the Bard’s plays, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) was London’s longest-running comedy having clocked a very palpable nine...

Cost: Free Admission

Where:
Christine's Garden
151 Main Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Corteo, one of Cirque du Soleil’s most successful shows on record, comes to Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport for seven shows from July 18-22, 2018. Corteo, which means cortege in Italian, is...

Cost: Starting at $52

Where:
Webster Bank Arena (Bridgeport)
, CT


Website »

More information

Garden Menagerie Exhibition on view through August 25, 2018 during regular library hours Garden Menagerie, features a variety of works by Alex Sax and a selection of nineteenth-century books...

Cost: Free and open to the public.

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 120-325-9034615
Contact Name: Tracy Steneken
Website »

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Hiking and practicing yoga outside in the fresh air leaves you feeling uplifted, centered, and peaceful! In warm weather months, we meet regularly in various parks and trails. Each event starts...

Cost: Three and Five Class Packages (3 times for $33, 5 times for $42)

Where:
Vary with each class
, CT


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Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Burn Baby Burn”, a group exhibition featuring works by Kathleen Kucka, Dennis...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

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