There is more to the world besides Bedford – No, really

February 22, 2023

We all love Bedford. It’s a great place to live and work. Sometimes, though, you need a change of scenery, to get out and explore the world.  

We are fortunate to have two companies in Bedford that can help you plan that trip of a lifetime. 

Planning for a trip has changed a lot. In the good old days, you would go to a travel agent and tell them what you might be thinking about, and they would suggest ideas and book it for you. Now with VRBOs, Kayak, Expedia, Yelp, Travelocity, TripAdvisor, and other review sites, it’s possible to book a vacation on your own. In fact, most people do just that.  

Still, wouldn’t it be nice to have an expert who has actually “been there – done that!” In a good way. Not to make a plan based on some anonymous random review and then try to figure out if it’s real, or if even relevant to me, etc.  

Meet Bedford’s own two travel experts, Pat from Italy Perfect and Valentina from Incognito Global Travel.

First Up: ItalyPerfect.com – Pat Byrne


Pat Byrne in Rome

Pat Byrne grew up in Italy. Her father was an Air Force officer and then with General Electric in Europe so she spent a good part of her childhood there.  

Pat’s part of the family business, VacationPerfect.com, that specializes in luxury vacation rentals.  It’s a business that she and her sisters have run together for more than 20 years. VacationPerfect.com manages apartments for short term rentals in Paris, London, and Italy. Pat concentrates on ItalyPerfect.com. She loves the country and is passionate about it. 

How did Vacations Perfect get their start? From their website.

What is Italy Perfect? 

Italy Perfect brings their knowledge and experience together to help clients book apartments and villas throughout Italy. They represent hundreds of properties. All their properties have been personally visited and vetted by their team. Recently they’ve invested in a new venture; fractional ownership in Florence, Italy, and Paris, France. It works sort of like a timeshare where you own a month or more of a particular property.    

Paris Perfect and London Perfect were founded in the late 1990s by Madelyn Byrne and Philippe Willems, starting with a single apartment they owned in Paris. Within a few years, Madelyn’s sister Lisa started Italy Perfect, and then recruited sister Pat to join the Italy management team. The company was born out of the Byrne sisters’ love of travel, having traveled extensively while growing up as part of a large Air Force family with frequent overseas assignments.

During my conversation with Pat, we talked about her love of Italy. The people, the pace of life. We also talked about the difference in finding properties in Italy vs. the U.S.  

“Vacation rental properties often are family properties that, by custom, pass from one generation to the next for centuries. To know when they become available, you need to be part of the network. We have spent years building that network.” 

Pat went on to say a number of their owners belong to the old nobility and are renting, through us, apartments and villas in their family buildings that are 600+ years old. Knowing the culture and having the contacts is important, both in finding properties, but also in renovating them. 

For those who’ve read “A Year in Provence,” or “Under the Tuscan Sun,” you understand that working with contractors is a different experience in Europe than here in the states. You need to know how to find them and how to work with them.   

Pat and the team have those connections to get things done. She goes to Italy three or four times a year, searching for new properties, overseeing renovations, making those connections. And eating pasta, drinking a little vino, and finding new, wonderful sights and shops.

This is how Pat describes her job: “This is such a great job because my clients are happy – they are going on vacation AND on the other end, I’m working with Italians who are respectful, helpful, sometimes funny and nice!”

For more information visit www.VacationPerfect.com 

————————

Next up: Incognito Global Travel – Valentina O’Kane

Incognito Global Travel is owned by relatively new Bedford resident Valentina O’Kane. Valentina arrived in Bedford in the fall of 2019 with her husband and two sons. Her husband, who is in the Air Force, is stationed at Hanscom. This is her husband’s last assignment before he retires from the Air Force. They love Bedford and plan on making it their permanent home.  

Valentina started the business in 2019 out of her home and recently moved to her retail space on The Great Road this past fall.

She grew up in Slovenia, and developed her love of travel by being in close proximity to exciting places throughout Europe. She often took advantage of being within a short flight away from Paris, London, and Stockholm among other cities and this led to her love of travel.

Valentina earned a degree in hospitality management and a graduate degree in international relations, then spent years working in some of the world’s leading luxury hotels — including the fabled Pebble Beach Resort in California.

The Pebble Beach Resort introduced Valentina to the world of luxury travel. When she decided to start her own business, she was invited to join the Virtuoso Consortia and has become a Virtuoso Travel Advisor.  

What Is Virtuoso? (how they describe themselves) 

Virtuoso is the leading global network of agencies specializing in luxury and experiential travel, with more than 20,000 advisors. We partner with over 2,200 of the world’s best companies such as hotels, cruise lines, tour operators, and more. Our advisors use their personal connections and firsthand expertise to craft bespoke trips for clients, including unique experiences, special values, complimentary perks, VIP treatment and rare access.

Being a Virtuoso Travel Advisor gives Valentina access to what she describes as the little black book of luxury hotel managers. She has direct contact with the managers of all the world’s best hotels. Her network also allows her to book special tours, museums after hours, and other special perks. Here’s how Valentina describes why people should consider using a travel advisor:

I recommend destinations and properties I’ve personally vetted myself, or my travel professional colleagues did. If I haven’t been there, I have the network (in-country partners) to call to get all the answers I need.  

Time saved – It takes hours and hours to properly research and vet a destination, hotel or resort, especially with all of the conflicting information on the internet. Twenty seven tabs open, anyone? I save my clients the time, headache, and stress of having to do it all on their own.

All great trips start with a great plan. Valentina has the knowledge, experience and the contacts to plan that great trip.  Unlike travel agents of old, Valentina is the point person if trouble should arise when you’re away.  

I asked her about the name Incognito Global Travel? “I chose the name for multiple reasons. First, I focus on finding off-the-beaten path (‘incognito’) luxury destinations for her clients. True luxury escapes are best experienced where you least expect, can relax, are not overcrowded, and can experience the local culture without feeling like you are part of a ‘tourist trap.’ Secondly, many high net worth clients want an incognito experience where they can relax and be themselves without the trappings of being noticed. The benefit of both is the discovery of amazing luxury escapes all over the world, ’incognito‘ global travel experiences. Thus, the origins of my company name!”

For more information visit www.incognitoglobaltravel.com

So, If you’re looking to get out of here, you have options.

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Brenda Kelly
March 7, 2023 4:25 pm

Pat Byrne, ItalyPerfect, helped with our trip to Italy before the pandemic. She made excellent suggestions that fit our interests. The trip was better than if we’d planned on our own. Valentina O’Kane, Incognito Global Travel, sounds great too. It’s nice we have two knowledgeable advisors in town.

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