Limited time.Comprehensive must-sees.
A couple of overwhelmed and inexperienced travelers contacted me with a list of must-sees and a limited timeframe. The intended destination? Great Britain — a group of islands and countries that one could explore for a lifetime and yet still not see all. I wondered initially if a guided tour would be best for them. Yet, during our discussions I realized that although they were nervous about independent travel, they wanted the freedom to make their own way and see sights that they might miss during a completely guided tour.
I created an itinerary for them to take in London, York, Edinburgh and the Scottish Highlands. I devised and provided them a route for a self-driven tour of the rolling hills of the Cotswolds. A high tea service in Edinburgh became an enchanting delight during their stay in Edinburgh. A visit to Doune Castle proved a particular surprise — an opportunity to see the setting of Monty Python and The Holy Grail while also connecting to the castle’s rich history.
HOW THIS TRIP WAS PLANNED: Through discussions of their preferences and travel style, I helped them prioritize their explorations for the best possible experience. Together, we wove a travel story that is a treasured memory.
“We didn’t need to think of everything, because they did.” “Do we rent a car for the whole trip or just part of the trip? What are considered a reasonable amount of stops? The questions were never-ending, and the trip was quickly becoming overwhelming. That’s when Gerken Getaways stepped in. Thank goodness! Neither my husband or I had worked with a travel agent before, so we weren’t sure what to expect. What would they help with? Everything? Some things? Turns out, they will take care of even the smallest details."
Dietary restrictions.A master’s celebrated work of art.
My vegan client wanted three weeks of travel, including a river cruise through Italy. Although there are cruises around the Po River in Venice, the client envisioned an adventure that more closely resembled Rhine, Danube and Seine River cruises.
I knitted several experiences together to accommodate the client’s vision. A week-long river cruise along the Rhine River was followed by two weeks touring Italy. Bridging these two adventures was a 24-hour side trip — a guided tour of the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, fulfilling their dream of seeing Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper.
The client was worried that dietary restrictions might become a limiting factor during their travels. I eased and mitigated these concerns by contacting the vendors, ensuring that all dietary needs were met during the tours, the cruise and on airplanes. The client returned pleased with their trip, and reported to me that they were well-fed on land and ship.
“Kathryn Gerken of Gerken Getaways is a phenomenal travel agent.” “Having done a fair amount of travel and having worked with several travel agents, we can definitely say she is the most thorough, detail-oriented agent we’ve worked with. She helped us plan an extended 18-day Europe trip, including a river cruise, land tour and train transportation. These were a lot of details to manage, and she did an impeccable job facilitating all of this. In addition, her experience traveling to these areas was so incredibly valuable in giving us tips and advice on what to do and how to do it. Having worked with Kathryn, I can't even imagine trying to plan something like this on my own. She is the real deal — a great professional!"
A location both sacred and remote.Last-minute travel.
Permits and gear rentals.
A family of three were looking forward to an independent tour of Ireland and Scotland. During our consultation, I learned that the Titanic Museum in Belfast was an important must-see, and that fishing in Scotland was an important must-do. The family hoped to include a tour of the remote and sacred Iona Abbey, located on a small island near the Isle of Mull off the west coast of Scotland. Adding to the complexity - this was a last-minute trip over the Easter holiday.
I researched and successfully customized their travel, providing the family with off-the-beaten path adventures. I mapped their entire course with stopovers in Belfast and Giant’s Causeway in Ireland and stays near the Isle of Iona and in The Trossachs National Park in Scotland. I arranged ferry tickets to Isle of Iona — a busy pilgrimage site during the Easter season. I secured lodging close to fishing spots and located fishing gear rentals along their route. I also provided the rules, restrictions and permitting requirements for fishing within the Loch Lomond area and The Trossachs National Park. They returned and reported a flawless trip and an enjoyment of their adventures.
Fàilte gu Alba.Welcome to Scotland.
The Neolithic strength of the Callanish Stones, bearing their millennia-old rock faces to Loch Roag. The view of the North Sea and Cruden Bay from the ruins of Slains Castle. Conversations with locals as they prepared to vote on independence. The warmth of our cottage after a day of hiking rugged hills on the Isle of Islay. Tasting a smoky dram while overlooking a tidal bay.
My affinity for Scotland grows each time I visit. The history — with settlements spanning thousands of years — has engrossed me, pulling me back time and again to explore. The sounds of the North Sea, relentlessly pounding and carving the coastline. Stories of invaders, settlers, more invaders, monasteries, forgotten peoples: these real and yet mysterious peoples who have contributed to the majesty that makes up the northernmost area of the British Isles.
“For these stories, I travel. For these stories, I listen. For these stories, I return.” — Kathryn Gerken