Cake, candles, and Champagne—typically, these things are indicators of milestone birthdays, romantic occasions, career achievements, and rites of passage. And although a tasteful watch or a diamond ring is a customary gesture to mark a momentous occasion, items of a material nature rarely match the significance of the events they’re meant to honor. The gift of travel—on the other hand—engraves the memory of life’s greatest moments on the heart and soul.
There are a few aspects to keep in mind when planning this kind of grand gesture or celebratory trip. “Planning far enough in advance is the biggest and best piece of advice I can give,” says Extraordinary Journeys’ head of sales Jamie Mehrotra. “For such a special trip, you want to make sure that you’re able to get exactly what you want without making compromises based on availability.” Our preferred signature boutique properties host only a handful of guests at a time, and if you are traveling with a group of family or friends, certain lodges can be booked on an exclusive-use basis.
When it comes to surprise trips, it’s important to maintain sight of the wishes of the person you’re celebrating. “Let them be your guiding star and know what would be special for them,” says Jamie. This can translate in several different ways. Jamie recalls planning a family trip in celebration of a bat mitzvah. Instead of the child receiving a monetary gift, the family visited local villages in Kenya and invested in the upliftment of the local community.
“It’s also about connecting with clients and learning what’s important to them,” says Jamie. Whether it’s a candlelit dinner under a canopy of stars or a sundowner at a breathtaking viewpoint on your game drive, the small details are just as important as the grand ones.
Lastly, leave room for spontaneity. While planning is important, allowing the journey to unfold naturally often leads to serendipitous experiences.
To help you celebrate what was, what is, and what will be, we’ve rounded up the most extraordinary destinations, unique experiences, and transformative encounters that will inspire to plan for your nearest and dearest.
Although we consider all birthdays special, certain ones stand out from the rest and remind us of the wisdom we’ve gained over the years. If you’d like to celebrate with a grand gathering of loved ones, consider the exclusive-use villas of La Clé des Montagnes. The villas, which accommodate between four and 20 guests, give you the privacy to enjoy yourself against the backdrop of the picturesque Franschhoek Valley. Spend sunny afternoons in your tranquil private garden by the swimming pool or hop on the Wine Tram and sample the produce of the surrounding wine farms. By night you can ramble your way along the village restaurants or head back to the villa for a traditional braai (barbeque) hosted by the staff—a South African favorite for birthday celebrations.
Graduation is a time of joy and pride for every graduate and parent. After spending several years with noses buried in books in the pursuit of knowledge, consider gifting your graduate (and your family) an experience they’ll carry with them into their next chapter. Ol Malo, set in the heart of Kenya‘s Samburuland, will allow your grad to let their hair down and enjoy a well-deserved break while connecting with everything around them. Learn to throw a spear like a Samburu Warrior, ride horseback through the savannah, or get an aerial view of the far reaches of the Suguta valley on a chopper—a stay at Ol Malo provides a blank page to write your next adventure.
A proposal marks the start of your new life together, grounded in shared dreams and devotion. But choosing how and where to ask your partner for their hand in marriage is a decision that can shape the course of your lives together. If you’re looking to create an original, memorable, and romantic proposal, consider bending a knee on the floating deck at DumaTau at sunset. The luxurious safari camp in Botswana is positioned right on the riverbank and is nestled between two busy elephant corridors, giving you a front-row seat to the animals that journey across the water and a space to reflect on your own future adventures together.
For your first trip abroad as a married couple, we recommend winding down over a glass of full-bodied Malbec in Argentina‘s most respected wine region of Mendoza. Entre Cielos is a luxury wine hotel and spa overlooking 20 acres of vineyards with views of the Andes mountains. When you’re not touring the many wineries in the area, rid your body of any remaining wedding stress at the property’s authentic Turkish hammam. The spa’s grape-based skin treatments will ensure your entire body benefits from the fruit-bearing terroir. If you’re looking for a room with a view, the unique Loft Suite built on stilts provides elevated views over the vineyards and added privacy away from the main hotel.
If you’re a couple who enjoys the crunch of gravel beneath your hiking boots or taking time out to reconnect in nature’s stillness, consider bookmarking Tierra Patagonia for your next anniversary trip. Bordering Torres del Paine in southern Chile, the luxury eco-lodge offers a bespoke menu of ways to explore the national park’s iconic peaks and dramatic landscapes, from gentle to intense activities. “Patagonia is one of those epic, once-in-a-lifetime trips, and Tierra offers a world-class lodge and spa experience in the middle of the remote Patagonian landscape,” says Emma Fritz, head of South America sales. When you’re not exploring the park on foot or horseback, absorb the glacier views from the hotel’s glass-encased heated pool while you rediscover the beauty of your relationship.
Renewing your vows is a poetic expression of the connection you share and your love for each other. Recommit to your partner with a Maasai-led blessing ceremony at Chem Chem Lodge within Tarangire National Park. The traditional celebration can be arranged on the banks of Tanzania’s Lake Manyara in the company of family and friends or can simply be a private moment observed in the presence of Maasai warriors. The celebration doesn’t end there, though. Spend the next few days admiring the serene landscape from above—hold tight as you fly over the Ngorongoro Crater in a chopper or stand quietly alongside each other as your hot air balloon catches the early morning sunlight over the savannah.
You’ve spent the last 40-plus years forging a professional legacy. Now the time has come to look back on your accomplishments and sail into an exciting new chapter. Dip your toes into a slower pace of life by touring the Nile on a Dahabiya with Nour El Nil. This six-day journey on an authentic Egyptian vessel from Esna, south of Luxor, to Aswan allows you to experience both modern and ancient Egypt. Along the way, you’ll dock at quieter sites reserved for smaller vessels like those of Nour El Nil—visit temples and tombs decorated in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and stone-age inscriptions and stroll through villages selling beautiful textiles and exotic goods. On board, you can also expect traditional Egyptian cuisine like baba ghanoush, using fresh ingredients sourced daily from merchants along the Nile.
Whether you’re celebrating a special birthday, an anniversary, or a significant achievement, travel allows you to connect with the world and those around you in a unique and meaningful way. So, step out of your comfort zone with Extraordinary Journeys and let the magic of travel take you on an unforgettable journey of reflection and celebration.