Do you have a habit of repeatedly visiting the same vacation locations? Are your family adventures beginning to feel a little less than adventurous? Would you like to break out of your travel rut and explore more of the world—maybe even a less accessible destination? If so, it may be time for you to consider working with the professional travel planners at GeoEx.
Alice Howell, GeoEx’s director of user experience and collaboration, recently spoke to RewardExpert about the inspiration behind the high-end adventure travel company, its current offerings, and her top five destination suggestions for this year’s summer vacation.
A History of Firsts
Founded as InnerAsia by Jo Sanders in 1982, GeoEx was inspired by a group trip to the Tibetan side of Mount Everest which had taken place the previous year. At the time, usage permits were hard to get, and fewer than 300 Westerners had been allowed to make the journey.
“Jo was a great negotiator and was able to secure the permits from the Chinese government,” Howell explained. “The group encouraged her to start a business and put her skills to work helping other travelers get the permits necessary to access hard to visit places.”
A few years later, Sanders partnered with Al Read, a pioneer in the adventure travel business, and George Doubleday.
“George is still the chairman of the board and in the office most days of the week,” Howell added. “I think it speaks volumes to have a 35-year-old company and still have so many people who have been here for more than 25 years. It’s a wonderful place to work, and we’re all really committed to helping people appreciate this beautiful planet that we are on.”
Since its founding, GeoEx has paved the way for adventure travelers to experience places many could only dream of before. “We were the first company to do a whole lot of things,” Howell said. “This started with the first American guided trek to the Kangshung Face of Everest and continued with far western China, the mountains of northern Myanmar, and more.”
They continue to add exciting destinations to their portfolio. “Next year, we’re starting a trip to Chad,” Howell said. “It’s very difficult to get permits to go there. But we have three departures planned which are all full. We’re hoping to be able to do some the following year as well.”
More than 100 Destinations Around the Globe
At any given time, GeoEx customers can choose from over 100 destinations in the Americas, Africa, Asia, Middle East, Central Asia, Iceland and more. Not all available destinations are listed on the website, as Howell says the list tends to fluctuate due to travel restrictions and other considerations.
Custom travel itineraries as well as small-group trips are available. “We generally have about 50 small-group trips in our portfolio,” Howell explained. “And we can plan custom trips for any time of year, any length of trip and any number of people. It’s completely flexible.”
Every trip arranged through GeoEx—whether you want to explore Himalayan kingdoms, visit untamed Patagonia, observe the mountain gorillas of Uganda, or eat your way through Istanbul—is all-inclusive in nature and carefully planned by the company’s destination experts.
“We design the entire experience, from the time you arrive in the country until the time you depart,” Howell said. “When you get your itinerary, it will include suggested flight options to get you there. From there, we’ll have planned all of your transportation, hotels, guides and activities for each day, down to the meals that are included and where you are going to eat.”
Understandably, prices per day vary by trip and are influenced by the destination, group size and how creative the travelers wish to be in their activities. However, every trip—regardless of price—includes GeoEx’s flight-booking services, round-the-clock safety network, and emergency medical evacuation, medical advisory services, and secondary medical expense insurance.
Consider These for Summer 2017
Choosing her five top destinations for a summer vacation was difficult for Howell given GeoEx’s wide array of options. However, upon consultation with a few of the company’s destination experts, she was able to settle on a range of locations to suit a variety of travelers.
An archipelago of 115 islands off the coast of East Africa, Howell chose the Seychelles for its beaches and opportunities for relaxation. “It’s a beautiful, secluded place,” she said, “and a little bit harder to get to than places like the Caribbean.”
An enormous island nation off the southeast coast of Africa, Howell says Madagascar has gorgeous beaches but is also one of the best safari destinations. It’s home to thousands of animal species—such as lemurs—that you’ll find nowhere else on Earth.
Mongolia is bordered by China and Russia, and while most visitors go there during the summer, a few hearty travelers have visited during the winter months as well, said Howell. “It’s culturally very rich,” she said. “In the summertime, they have festivals called naadams in which you’ll see horseracing and wrestling along with other traditional pastimes.”
Located in Southeast Asia’s Malay Archipelago, Howell said Borneo is rich in wildlife. “It’s also a little bit off the main radar for travel,” she added. “You can go on walking excursions and river cruises.”
5. British Columbia
Canada’s westernmost province, British Columbia is a popular destination with GeoEx travelers who want a location that is easier to get to and is also known as very safe. “It’s a beautiful, pristine environment,” Howell concluded. “The lodges we use up there are very luxurious and high touch. You can go kayaking, fishing, whale watching and even stand-up paddle boarding with dolphins.”