Received Itinerary, Will Travel

Grand Exploration Travel Makes It Easy to Explore

When Rene Prasad worked for a tech firm, the Chicago-based businesswoman spent a lot of time traveling for work.

In Europe? To the Far East? Try nondescript convention centers in tired downtowns up and down the Eastern seaboard.

“I spent a lot of downtime in hotel rooms and not in the greatest spots,” says Rene, who has called Westport home for the last four years.

While scrolling around for ways to pass the time on the hotel TV or her laptop, she stumbled across online programs that would help a creative, adventurous sort like herself become a travel expert.

“You can become a specialist in Italy or Mexico or anywhere else. It sounded like fun,” she says. “And I was in a place in my life where I could do something like that.”

So she started surfing the web and training herself in the fine art of well-planned, savvy travel. Pair her newfound expertise with a lifelong love of new experiences and both a passion and a profession were born. Rene is now the founder and driving force behind Grand Explorations Travel, a boutique agency designing luxury and personalized travel for those who want to build one-of-a-kind journeys of their own.

“What do I love about it?” Rene says, a wide smile blossoming across her face. “I love how new experiences open people’s eyes. Seeing a new perspective, traditions, cultures – it changes you as a person.”

And if the daunting task of planning a trip is not your idea of an excellent adventure, Rene may become your best friend. In addition to having researched everything from some of the most picturesque locales in popular Italy to the dos and don’ts of Dubai, she specializes in tailoring trips to her clients.

She has plenty of advice for those hoping to dip a toe in the post-COVID travel pool.

  • Read the small print. The good news is the world is opening up with each passing month, but make sure you know just what you’re getting into. Keep tabs on oft-changing restrictions and precautions for your transport, accommodations, and itinerary. Better yet, let a trusted advisor keep tabs for you.

  • Consider incorporating your hobbies into your trip. When she meets with clients, Rene asks a slew of questions. Recently she found out a couple enjoyed motorcycling and found a way for them to rev up their Hawaiian adventure with some exhilarating sightseeing rides.

  • Not all cruises are created equal. Considering a cruise, but don’t want to spend a week listing to starboard? Try a gentler, more intimate journey down a river. While the port of call for a huge, ocean-going ship can be a half-hour or more from your destination, smaller river boats often drop anchor near the bustling center of town.

  • Where is everybody? Want to be where the action is in August? Snag a beach house – a summertime respite before the school year begins anew. January blues? You’re likely to find post-holiday “wave season” deals on cruises for people who want to get away from the winter blahs.

  • Join the big leagues. The Ladies’ Travel League, that is. As we move past the pandemic, Rene is hoping to reinvigorate her idea for a  women’s group travel option to places like Morocco, where local guides help bring the culture alive. Travel mates don’t have to be the spouse and kids.

While travel always has a few unexpected surprises up its sleeve, Rene said she adores her career and the fact that she will have visited six of the seven continents after an upcoming trip to Antarctica. She’s hoping to plan a jaunt to Australia to finish the list soon.

What makes it all so memorable?

“The people,” she says without hesitation. “Most of my clients have been really lovely people.”


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