Discover New Destinations
New technology offers travelers more luxury experiences, authentic adventures
How new digital services are enhancing the luxury travel experience
Today's traveler has more information than ever—as we plan our vacations and at our fingertips once we touch down. Destination Approaching is your guide to the innovations helping travelers create authentic and memorable experiences. The series, found here and distributed through the Conde Nast Media Network, celebrates the launch of Chase Sapphire Reserve. With premium travel benefits designed to keep up with the way you travel, this card is your partner in international adventures.
What's on your Barcelona travel itinerary? Touring an architectural marvel like the Sagrada Familia cathedral? Eating Spanish cuisine on Las Ramblas? Caitlin Zaino, CEO of the concierge travel website and app, Porter and Sail, wants you to do more. She wants you to "hop on a Vespa and go to a secret, underground art gallery—to do something that no one you know has ever done."
To that end, Porter and Sail taps tastemakers like musician Moby for hidden gems in global travel destinations.
"There is this badge of authenticity to finding unique experiences wherever you go," Zaino says. "We take a lot of the grunt work out of uncovering cool things."
In this way, Porter and Sail exemplifies the recent explosion of high-tech, worry-free travel planning. It's not just about booking your own flight, or comparing hotel reviews side-by-side. Next-level sites and apps add value in the form of a voyage that is utterly one's own, giving travelers access to luxury experiences once out of reach.
Fly in style
Since most every trip begins and ends with a flight, securing the best experience in the air is crucial. JetSmarter, offers trips on private jet charters and group shuttles that can be easily booked via a smartphone. Sergey Petrossov, founder and CEO, explains how his service goes beyond simplifying booking, and improves personal experiences.
"Members flying on our JetShuttles have access to other like-minded individuals: " says Petrossov.
Outsource the logistics
Travel planning doesn't stop once your flight and hotel room are booked. Once the voyage begins, it can be a constant stream of confirmation numbers, delays and other logistical headaches. In this respect, even traditional travel agents are taking advantage of digital tools to create ease for customers. Kara Bebell, one half of the New York City-based Travel Siblings, uses the app Umapped for her clients. It creates a personalized hub for flight information, hotel and restaurant reservations, tours and whatever else makes your itinerary unique. Throughout the trip, the app sends push notifications about time changes and upcoming reservations. Umapped also helps with organizing your trip memories—especially those experiences you want to repeat—with its photo-and-text journal function.
Pack with a pro
When you have a big vacation coming up, it's easy to find yourself too busy tying up loose ends at work to pack a bag. And who likes the chore of unpacking and dealing with laundry? That's why Bebell says the most revolutionary-yet-simple travel app is DUFL.
"This is a luxury packing app, and, in my opinion, it's just the best for business travelers," the travel pro says.
After filling a suitcase DUFL provides with clothes you use primarily for business travel or vacation, schedule a pick up. Your items will be stored in a warehouse and you'll have access to a picture of each piece in your wardrobe on the app. Select the clothes you want, and they are delivered in a complementary bag to your hotel destination. You can arrange for your travel duds to be picked up, cleaned and returned to storage for your next trip—a big plus for pleasure travelers planning trips that are gear-intensive or have strict weight limits. Think safaris or golf, surf and ski getaways.
If your travels include multiple stops, you can carry your bag throughout the trip and schedule a pick up at your final destination; you can have a different bag meet you at each location, or DUFL can overnight your bag from one hotel to the next.
Stay somewhere singular
For the most immersive travel experience, travel pros agree there's nothing better than staying in a local home. And if the accommodations on millennial-beloved sharing economy sites aren't luxe enough? Try Le Collectionist, a private-villa rental company.
"Our founders were disappointed by the experience offered by classic house-sharing companies: both the houses and the service around it," Hélène Rousset, content manager of Le Collectionist says. "They loved the idea of the freedom of a private home and wanted to offer their clients a guarantee of outstanding houses and services as well as providing access to hidden jewels; private places you always admire from afar when on vacation."
Their jaw-droppingly gorgeous spots include international gems like the Malaïka Lodge, the only villa located in the Kamala Game Reserve in Kenya. It features two infinity pools with stunning views of the savanna and Bruintjieshoogte and Boschberg mountain ranges, a housekeeping staff and a chef. For those who seek a Caribbean escape, there's Sir Richard Branson's private Necker Island. It's set on a wild, 74-acre island, and included in the cost are spa treatments, an oceanside hot tub, and an expansive outdoor terrace outfitted with plenty of hammocks and couches for you and 29 of your closest friends.
Live like a local
One little-discussed aspect of luxury travel is the network. It's not just the ocean-side bedroom you're getting when you crash at a friend's Newport, Rhode Island, home. It's also the free cliff-side walking tour they give you, and their knowledge of the best local lobster fisherman. This is where the Los Angeles, California-based company FlyingYak comes in.
"Instead of taking a group tour of a Paris church," says co-founder David Carter, "we'll arrange an intimate nighttime visit with a local who will take you to the basement to see the catacombs."
In addition to hooking clients up to unique experiences, FlyingYak also connects them to other travelers. You can post about an upcoming trip, then coordinate with like-minded travelers for everything from coffee, to excursions, to booking a house together.
Travel by sea
Nothing elevates a beach vacation like sailing. If you don't want the hassle of maintaining a boat—and don't want to wait for an invitation from a friend—Sailing Collective is an option. Its founder and director, Dayyan Armstrong, plans the trips he would want to go on and then shares the experience with clients.
"Everyone is interested in authentic experiences, " he says. "On our trips it doesn't matter what your background is."
Sailing Collective aims to use technology to help clients find, discover, and book experiences that will ultimately allow them to disconnect from technology.
"We believe it's not all about sharing your experiences online," Armstrong says. "We pride ourselves on providing an atmosphere that encourages our guests to be there in that moment, to focus on the people and the beauty around you."
For instance, Sailing Collective's journey to Thailand's Phuket Bay enables guests to wake up to the turquoise Andaman Sea below them and towering limestone rock formations all around them, rising castle-like into the clear blue sky.
The ultimate travel luxury is the time to explore and enjoy your destination. Taking advantage of technology can ensure that precious moments aren't wasted wrangling reservations, mapping your course, packing, and scouring guidebooks and web sites for up-to-date intel. Instead, savor the hours skiing flawless snow at the back bowls in Vail, or shopping for the perfect bag at Florence's San Lorenzo leather goods market. Harness the power of thousands of experts and fellow voyagers, with the help of an algorithm or two, to make your travels unequivocally enriching and authentic.
Laura Vogel is a Chase News contributor. Her work has appeared on Condé Nast Traveler's website, in Travel + Leisure, Four Seasons Magazine, Elle, and In Style.