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The Perfect Year: Giftable Experiences for 2018

By Samantha Coles |  December 4 2017

This story originally appeared in the November/December 2017 issue of Elite Traveler.

What do you get the person who has everything? Our gift guide has some tempting suggestions from a Graff necklace dripping with diamonds to a Louis XIII Legacy magnum decanter, but how about giving the gift of an unforgettable experience? We’ve curated a list of trips, experiences and tours to suit adventurers, gourmands, academics and motorheads alike, and categorized these once-in-a-lifetime trips by month so you can choose the ideal time to go. We’ve also included a round up of the events to see and be seen at so you can plan your perfect year. The only remaining question is: will this end up being a gift for a loved one or a gift for you?


For budding marine biologists


There is no better place for water babies than the clear, aquamarine Indian Ocean. The warm climate make it an ideal year-round destination, but the monsoon season runs from May to October, so visit in January to bask in the sunshine while everyone else is suffering from the January blues.

Jumeirah Vittaveli is a 20-minute journey from Malé airport (on a deluxe catamaran, of course), eliminating the need for a seaplane journey—perfect if you are traveling with little ones. The newly-opened Royal Residence makes an excellent base for your water adventure and the family-friendly space accommodates up to 14 guests. Within its massive 37,675 sq ft lie the main residence known as the ‘Sanctuary,’ two adjacent guest villas, two plunge pools, sunken lounge with lily pond, gym, private spa room and dedicated restaurant. There is also an additional double-story guesthouse with master bedroom, twin bedroom, rooftop terrace and an L-shaped pool.

Our favorite among the myriad water offerings is the coral planting. Vittaveli’s in-house marine biologist will educate you on the delicate ecosystem of the coral reefs and islands, then you’ll be taken on an underwater excursion to see coral nurseries and plant your own coral—knowing that you are helping to preserve to the fragile underwater ecosystem makes for a remarkable experience for the whole family.

From $35,000 per night in Royal Residence including coral planting. Contact Lilo John, director of reservation and revenue,, +960 664 2020,


Sundance Film Festival, Utah, US, Jan 18–28

Tickets Express pass for first half (Jan 18-23), $3,500; express pass for second half (Jan 24-28), $3,000,
Stay Summit View Penthouse Residence, Montage Deer Valley, from $5,000 per night. Contact Dylan English, director of travel industry sales,, +1 435 604 1300,

St Moritz Snow Polo, St Moritz, Switzerland, Jan 26–28

Tickets VIP ticket Saturday, $676; VIP Gala Saturday evening, $884,
Stay Hans Badrutt suite, Badrutt’s Palace, price on request. Contact Stefanie Nill, reservations manager,, +41 818 371 000,


For ski bunnies


Keen skiers know all too well the frustration of busy ski lifts, crowded slopes and trampled snow. Eagle Point Resort in Utah is one of the only ski resorts in the world that is available for exclusive private rental, so you have all 600 skiable acres, 1,500 vertical feet, 40 runs, five lifts, a terrain park, two lodges and endless backcountry terrain all to yourself. It’s a quick flight away from New York to nearby Cedar City—jump aboard a Gulfstream IVSP and be there in under five hours. The snow in Utah is bountiful and consistent through the ski season, which runs from mid-November to April, but historically, February has had the best snowfall.

The resort can accommodate up to 200 people, making it a unique destination for a milestone celebration (Eagle Point has hosted weddings in the past) or keep the fresh powder to yourself and a few close friends. The resort has an As You Wish program where anything and everything is possible, from fine dining to flying in a DJ for a party.

From $10,000 per day for private ski slope. Contact Shane Gadbaw, CEO,, +1 435 438 3634,
$65,000 for Gulfstream IVSP to Cedar City. Contact Chris Tofts, CEO,, +44 203 651 5665,


Vienna Opera Ball, Vienna State Opera, Austria, Feb 8

Tickets Circle box $24,179 for 12 people,
Stay Presidential suite, Palais Hansen Kempinski, Vienna, $10,000 per night. Contact Sonja Orth, reservations manager,,
+43 123 610 00,

Miami Boat Show 30th Anniversary, Miami, US, Feb 15-19

Tickets Five-day pass, $100,
Stay Faena Suite, Faena Hotel, Miami Beach, $20,000 per night. Contact Melody Miller, reservations manager,, +1 305 534 8800,


For perfume lovers


Of all our senses, smell is the one most associated with memory—how many times have certain scents transported you back to a time or place, or reminded you of a person? Floris London is an expert in this field and has a fully bespoke perfume program so you can bottle your memories and create your own signature scent. As the UK’s oldest perfumery, Floris was founded by Juan Floris in 1730 and is still run by his descendants to this day. During Floris’s three centuries of expert perfume making, it has created scents for Marilyn Monroe,Winston Churchill and Ian Fleming’s James Bond, and holds two royal warrants.

Truly Experiences has created a package with Floris that offers you the chance to create your own perfume over a six-month period. Following an initial consultation with ninth-generation descendant Edward Bodenham (also known as the ‘nose of the perfumery’) you’ll establish your perfume profile and create an entirely unique scent that you can then reorder or pass on to future generations—knowing that your perfume is truly one of a kind.

It is only right to visit London in March when the blooming spring flowers will inspire budding perfumers.We recommend staying in the nearby Ritz hotel—the Royal Suite is our suite of choice and is as regal as it sounds. Be sure to pop in The Wosley for breakfast and Fortnum & Mason for some retail therapy.

$5,771 for bespoke Floris perfume experience, $4,520 per night for the Royal Suite at The Ritz hotel. Contact Sal Gowili, general manager,, +44 207 300 2222,


Dubai World Cup, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, March 31

Tickets Grandstand suite ticket, from $1,837,
Stay Royal Two-Bedroom Suite, Burj al Arab, Dubai, $9,000 per night. Contact Margaret Paul, general manager,, +971 4301 7777,


For gourmands


Inspired by its best-selling constellation chocolate collection, a box of 21 confections that each represent a chef’s individual style, If Only has created a fine-dining trip from New York to San Francisco Bay. Flying by private jet (with in-flight champagne and chocolate tasting), visit esteemed restaurants with VIP dinners specially prepared by featured chefs and meet the industry’s culinary experts.

The San Francisco itinerary includes dinners at Gary Danko, Michael Mina and Quince (a new entry in Elite Traveler’s Top 100 Restaurants), lunch at Chez Panisse in the company of Michael Bauer, restaurant reviewer at the San Francisco Chronicle, and chocolate tasting and wine pairing with Alice Medrich (also known as ‘The First Lady of Chocolate’) and Debbie Zachareas, Ferry Plaza’s resident wine expert.

In New York, have dinner at Barbuto and Gato, and enjoy a lunch at Le Bernardin (voted ninth in our Top 100 Restaurants) with editor-in-chief of Saveur, Adam Sachs. You’ll stay in luxury hotels in both locations and fondly remember the trip for the rest of the year thanks to a monthly subscription of curated chocolates.

A portion of this trip will be donated to the James Beard Foundation, which champions diverse programs to encourage chefs, including scholarships for culinary students, chef advocacy training and educational initiatives.

$100,000. Contact Julie Chuanroong, guest experience associate,, +1 415 376 4640,


US Masters Tournament, Augusta National Golf Club, Georgia, US, April 4-8

Stay Chef’s Cottage, The Willcox, from $800 per night. Contact Tina McCarthy, general manager,, +1 803 648 1898,

Met Gala, New York, US, April 30

Tickets from $30,000 per person,
Stay Five-Bedroom Terrace suite, The Mark, from $45,000 per night. Contact Rebecca Soloff, director of sales and marketing,,
+1 212 744 4300,


For adrenaline junkies


An unforgettable experience for daredevil aviation enthusiasts, MiGFlug organizes fighter jet flights where you are the pilot. As managing partner Philipp Schaer explains, “being a fighter pilot is a great dream for many. Since only very few lucky ones are selected, for most, it remains a dream.We’re here to change that.” No previous flight experience is necessary, as you’ll be fully prepared for flight with training and demonstrations from MiGFlug’s expert flight instructors.

The flight instructor will take off with you in the two-seater fighter jet, and if you’re feeling brave you can control the jet yourself and perform maneuvers like loops, rolls, Immelmann turns and split-s. There’s a huge selection of jets available, including the legendary MiG-29 (edge-of-space flights available), the T-33 (the first military jet trainer), the ‘Hawker Hunter’ (used as a ground attack aircraft) and the Zero-G, which provides real weightlessness without venturing into space.

MiFlug arranges flights in locations all over the world including California, Canada, England, Florida, Germany, New York, Russia and Switzerland.

From $2,399, depending on aircraft, location and flight time.
Contact Philipp Schaer, managing partner,, +1 813 384 3191,


Cannes Film Festival, Cannes, France, May 9-20

Stay Croisette penthouse, $140,000 per week ($9.8m to purchase). Contact Luke McCormick, founder & CEO,, +1 646 918 8230,

Monaco Grand Prix, Monaco, May 24-27
Tickets Hôtel de Paris package,
Stay Charles Garnier Diamond Suite, Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, $6,520 per person for Saturday & Sunday. Contact, +1 877 242 5176,


For literary buffs


As 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s most celebrated work, One Hundred Years of Solitude, boutique tour operator Amakuna is celebrating the occasion with a literary pilgrimage through the author’s treasured homeland to explore the inspirations that shaped his works.

The literary adventure begins in Bogota, where Márquez was educated, before heading to Barranquilla (home of the legendary club of writers known as the Barranquilla group) and continuing to La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino (see the spot where Colombia’s liberator Simon Bolivar was shot dead, as depicted in Márquez’s scandalous The General and His Labryrinth). You’ll go on a guided hike in
Tayrona through the lush rainforest and coastal lagoons, searching for the elusive Kogi tribe whose supernatural powers are described in many of Márquez’s novels.

Your journey will continue to Aracataca and Mompós before reaching your final destination, the Colombian city of Cartagena, which served as the metaphoric setting for Love in the Time of Cholera. Go on a guided tour with a Márquez expert through the winding streets, check in to apartment 201 at Casa Pombo (the same one that actor Javier Bardem stayed in during the film adaptation of Love in the Time of Cholera) and finally, enjoy a private recital of Márquez’s favorite genre of music, Vallenato.

From $5,152 per person for 10 nights. Contact Marc Beale, co-founder,, +1 646 736 7582,


Art Basel, Switzerland, June 14-17

Tickets apply at or contact Michèle Sandoz, global head of VIP relations,
Stay Deluxe River Suite, Baur Au Lac, from $4,000 per night. Contact Matthias Köhler, front office manager,, +41 442 205 020,

Royal Ascot, Ascot, UK, June 19-23

Tickets the royal enclosure is reserved for members and their guests, non-members apply via
Stay Opus Suite, The Berkeley, from $14,000 per night. Contact Saakshee Gahlawat, front of house manager,, +44 207 235


For explorers


Offering some of the most breathtaking landscapes on earth, British Columbia has plenty to offer all year round but we recommend visiting in July when you can enjoy the warmer climes and minimal rainfall.

Compass Heli Tours’ Fire and Ice trip is a unique way to experience the diverse terrain and combines the best of both worlds. The tour begins in Abbotsford with a scenic helicopter trip through the spectacular landscape up into the gargantuan Cascade mountains. Land at the foot of a glacier and step inside a secret ice cave for a one-of-a-kind picnic before flying over a subglacial volcano.

The volcano is unnamed and can’t be found on a map. Nick Drader, pilot and guide at Compass Heli Tours, discovered it in October 2015 and sent samples to the University of British Columbia, which estimated it to be less than 200,000 years old, and it is only accessible by helicopter. Nick currently visits two different ice caves and explains that “one is a nearly perfectly symmetrical tunnel and the other twists and turns as it follows a creek down the glacier to the lake below. Estimated length of the larger cave is over 1,000ft. Except for the first 200ft, the cave remains largely unexplored. The striking turquoise blue hue is a result of extremely dense ice from years of compression. The weight of the glacier forces out the tiny air pockets between the crystals, which means the ice absorbs a small amount of red light, leaving a stunning blue tint.”

Enjoy guided walks at both the ice cave and the volcano, but to make the experience truly extraordinary, go kayaking in the crater lake and glide through the crisp, clear waters as you take in the epic scenery from another vantage point.

$3,500 per group for Fire and Ice tour. Contact Nick Drader, pilot and guide,, +1 778 242 1145,


Wimbledon, London, UK, July 2-15

Tickets $9,513 for two people on Fri 13, center court, Men’s semi finals,
Stay Royal Suite, InterContinental Park Lane, from $15,525 per night. Contact  Steven Sheridan, director of sales,, +44 207 409 3131,


For motorheads


The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance has been exhibiting the finest showcars in the world since 1950, and celebrates the craftsmanship of beautiful, vintage cars. The 2017 event saw a number of sensational restorations, but the 1929 Mercedes Benz won Best of Show. The owner, Bruce R McCaw, was up against his brother John McCaw in the final circle, competing with his 1957 Ferrari 315 S Scaglietti Spyder. The 2018 Concours will take place on Sunday, August 26 and with 200 prized collector cars, as well as some of the most anticipated concept cars and new car debuts.

The championed elegance of the cars is matched by the polished appearance of attendees—chic hats and statement fascinators are favored. We recommend the Chairman’s Hospitality Luxury Package, which allows for early admission to the Concours show field for Dawn Patrol and VIP Lodge Access.

Tickets available from mid-November 2017. Contact Sue Hammer,, +1 831 622 1700,


Burning Man, Black Rock City, US, Aug 26–Sept 3

Tickets from $450,
Stay In the desert!

US Open Tennis, New York, US, Aug 27–Sept 9

Tickets from $695 for courtside,
Stay Royal Suite, The Plaza, from $30,000 per night. Book online at, +1 212 759 3000


For oenophiles


With an abundance of world-class wineries, top dining, luxury hotels and a whole host of wine-related activities, Napa Valley has more than earned its nickname of “Wine Disneyland.” September marks Napa’s harvest season, and the region has around 400 wineries with tasting rooms to choose from—even more if you consider the wine producers who don’t have an actual tasting room. With so many to choose from, you’d be hard pressed to squeeze them all in, that is unless you hop on board the Napa Valley Wine Train, which can create fully customizable experiences (including curated proposals and company parties) so you can visit the vineyards you want aboard a luxury train that echoes the glory days of rail travel. A selection of faithfully restored vintage trains are available, including a beautifully renovated 1915 Pullman railcar.

From $8,500-$35,000 for exclusive use, depending on train. Contact Denise Perkins, director of sales and marketing,, +1 707 251 5205,


Goodwood Revival, Chichester, UK

Ticket request 2018 ticket alerts at
Stay Goodwood Suites, The Goodwood Hotel, $412 per night. Contact Brian Cook, general manager,, +44 124 377 5537,

Rolex Big Boat Series, California, US, Sept 12

Ticket request ticket information at
Stay Presidential Suite, Four Seasons San Francisco, $8,000 per night. Contact Doug Housley, general manager,, +1 415 633 3494,


For fashionistas


If you plan on attending New York Fashion Week for spring/summer 2019 in September and think the runway looks will have you yearning to update your wardrobe, channel that inspiration and create your own gown with the help of a highly sought-after designer. Jason Wu created several dresses for Michelle Obama, including those she wore during her husband Barack Obama’s first and second presidential inaugurations, and another she wore on the cover of Vogue.

The renowned fashion designer and St. Regis connoisseur will design a gown  tailored to your exact specifications in order to create your one-of-a-kind dress. You’ll be chauffeured from The St. Regis in a Bentley to Wu’s New York showroom, where the walls are completely covered with the pink pages of the New York Observer. Here, you’ll have a private consultation with the fashion designer to create the gown of your dreams.

$50,000 including two nights at the St. Regis New York. Contact Kaitlyn Ferrara, global brand marketing,, +1 646 768 2764,


Frieze Art Fair London, UK, invitation-only preview, Oct 4

Ticket from $78, tickets available from mid 2018,
Stay Royal Penthouse, Corinthia Hotel London, from $28,000 per night. Contact Trevor Owen, director of sales and marketing,, +44 207 930 8181,


For jewelry lovers


Van Cleef & Arpels has been creating exquisite high jewelry since 1906. Championing the craftsmanship of jewelry making, the L’École des Arts Joailliers was founded in 2012 with the support of Van Cleef & Arpels and is dedicated entirely to jewelry. Step into the school’s wonderfully creative world, set in an 18th-century mansion that embodies the classic French style in the epicenter of Parisian jewelry making—the Place Vendôme.

The school focuses on three main themes: art history of jewelry, savoir-faire and the universe of gemstones. The school offers a number of workshops with something to suit all interests; students can learn gouache paint techniques, attend a gemology workshop, a lacquerwork and enameling watchmaking workshop, or visit a library filled with jewelry and gemology. Our favorite is Experience the Universe of Van Cleef & Arpels — follow each stage of the design process by visiting Van Cleef & Arpels’ High Jewelry workshop to meet the skilled craftsmen, the ‘Mains d’Or’, and the creative team.

Stay in the biggest suite in Paris, the Royal Suite at Hôtel Plaza Athénée, where the balcony overlooks the Eiffel Tower and Avenue Montaigne.

From $2,873 for exclusive four-hour workshop for six people. Contact Anne-Laure Battistelli, development and communication project manager at L’ École Van Cleef & Arpels,, +33 170 703 600, The Royal Suite from$30,745 per night, contact Eve Paget, director of reservations,, +33 153 676 466,


Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, Florida, US, Nov 3-7

Tickets $46.50 for prime time preview,
Stay Bungalow Penthouse, The Miami Beach Edition, from $10,000 per night. Contact Mathew Pargament, general manager,, +1 786 257 4500,


For adventurers


Explore the Antarctic’s otherworldly terrain during the festive season for a one-of-a-kind Christmas vacation. High-end travel specialist Henry Cookson Adventures creates bespoke itineraries in extraordinary locations, and has only recently gone public—previously, the company operated by word of mouth. The enterprise began when Henry Cookson left Goldman Sachs to explore the world (and break a few world records in the process), leading to his friends asking him to organize trips for them, and so Henry Cookson Adventures was born. Henry is particularly passionate about the Antarctic: “Of all the numerous magical places on the planet one has been privileged to visit, Antarctica still remains the most alien, most awe-inspiring and just downright majestic. Given its sheer volume and range of wildlife, the Antarctic Peninsular for me is the Serengeti of the polar regions.”

A luxury superyacht will be your vessel through the Antarctic and is customized depending on your needs. December is the best time to spot frolicking penguin chicks and seal pups, as well as penguin colonies numbering in the millions, breaching humpback whales, elegant leopard seals meandering among ice flows and colossal three-ton elephant seals battling for primacy—all of this occurring against a backdrop of giant carving glaciers and cathedral-esque icebergs.

Get up close to the wildlife by kayaking through the Fish Islands, or scuba dive to see their underwater kingdom. If the icy waters don’t appeal, delve beneath the surface by submersible to see the semi-submerged icebergs and wildlife. If you would prefer to explore from above, a helicopter ride can be arranged, or to really get a feel for the rugged terrain, scale the ice cliffs with expert ice climbers.

From $110,000 per person for a customized seven-day experience. Contact Fran Wimborne, client services,, +44 207 736 0452,


Opening night of La Scala opera season, Milan, Italy, Dec 7

Tickets From $167, available from Oct 9, 2017,
Stay Bulgari Suite, The Bulgari Hotel Milan, from $7,200 per night. Contact Attilio Marro, general manager,, +39 028 058 051,

New Year’s Eve in St Barts, French West Indies, 31 Dec

Stay Villa Ginger, Wimco Villas, $95,000 per week during New Years. Contact Laurent Edery, director,, +1 888 749 8459,

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