Bespoke and Luxury Travel in Vancouver: Personalizing Your West Coast Adventures

Photo: Entrée Destinations

Vancouver has it all: spectacular nature; amazing shopping, dining, and retail in the city; and memorable places to visit and experience. Because navigating the array of options can be daunting, specialized companies can help by curating itineraries tailored to guests’ needs and interests.

Entrée Destinations crafts luxury experiences for clients wanting something that transcends ordinary travel. President/Owner Marc Telio says that the definition of luxury has shifted so that it’s not just about high-end hotels and white glove service. “Nowadays it’s more about access,” he says, emphasizing that bespoke travel allows guests to realize their vacation dreams, whether that be chartering a seaplane to fly into a rainforest, enjoying an exclusive dinner at a private chef’s table, or meeting a talented West Coast artist.

Telio feels that Vancouver is well suited to luxury travel. First of all, he says, “It’s a stunning city,” which is a year-round destination. Vancouver also has the amenities that a luxury traveler would want, including the best hotels and top-notch restaurants.

Telio says that Vancouver’s proximity to breathtaking natural settings makes for unforgettable travel. “The city itself is beautiful but it’s also the access to everything around it: beautiful locations, beautiful lodges,” he says. In addition, Telio highlights the Indigenous cultures in Vancouver that make for a rich learning experience.

Photo: Entrée Destinations

With Entrée Destinations, every crafted travel experience begins with a conversation, with staff asking the right questions to find out details such as who’s traveling, what their budget is, and information related to needs, preferences, and desires. Entrée then uses their expertise and connections to various suppliers to orchestrate the ultimate trip.

For example, if a family of four was visiting Vancouver, they might want to see some wildlife as well as soak up what the city has to offer. “What we like to offer includes a multitude of environments and ecosystems,” Telio says. Entrée might arrange for the family to be picked up at the airport by a private driver and then taken along the Sea-to-Sky Highway, stopping at the Gondola on the way to Whistler. There, they might stay at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler or the Four Seasons, enjoying everything from ziplining to mountain biking.

From there, a seaplane would be chartered to take them to Sonora Resort, a luxurious wilderness lodge on Sonora Island from which they could go whale watching, salmon fishing, or grizzly bear watching. And then, after being flown back to Vancouver, the family would spend their last days in the city, embarking on a host of different activities, such as biking in Stanley Park; going on an Indigenous-led tour, including of the Museum of Anthropology (reopening late 2023) and the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art; or even renting a boat from Sewell’s Marina to visit the sea colony or to stop off for lunch at Bowen Island. “Mountains, ocean, and city. You’ve got all three of those landscapes,” Telio says of this sample curated itinerary.

Photo: Entrée Destinations

Bespoke Experiences is another travel company that customizes travel experiences, including in Vancouver, for their clients. While most general tours have fixed schedules and routes, travel with Bespoke is luxurious because it is personalized. CEO Jennifer Simpson says, “The fact that people are privileged enough to create their own experience on their own terms on their own schedule— accommodating their own special interests and needs—is absolutely a luxury.” For example, some clients who are new to Vancouver might want to see all the major landmarks in a compressed amount of time, while others who have visited Vancouver before might want to acquaint themselves with specific neighbourhoods or learn more about Indigenous art.

And while each of Bespoke Experiences’ clients is unique, they all see value in having a travel expert plan and orchestrate the perfect trip for them versus them investing countless hours doing it themselves.

Simpson is passionate about curating Vancouver experiences due the city’s cultures, nature, as well as its urban life. She says, “What’s so great about Vancouver is its diversity. We can head south and get into Richmond and really delve into the Asian community and how important that is to the city. We can go north and really delve into the Pacific Mountain range and be more adventuresome. We can stay in the core and focus more on smaller art galleries and introduce the guests to artists and artisans.” Simpson is particularly enthusiastic about Vancouver’s food scene, raving about its access to seafood and other fresh ingredients, as well as multi-cultures that contribute to its culinary options. And because Vancouver is such a vibrant and organically evolving city, there are always new things to discover.

Photo: Richmond Night Market

Simpson says that each travel experience that Bespoke crafts in Vancouver is different because each client comes with their own specific requests. For example, someone could be a sports enthusiast and want a whole trip that centres on the BC Lions; another might love gardens, so Bespoke would arrange for them to visit a private home garden in addition to Queen Elizabeth Park and Victoria’s Butchart Gardens for a compare-and-contrast tour. Or, another might want to be introduced to Squamish and Whistler before hopping on a Rocky Mountaineer train through the Rocky Mountains. She says, “The whole fun of doing what we do is when a client calls and says, ‘We want to customize our time there.’” Once the client shares who they are, what they’re interested in, and how they want to experience Vancouver, Bespoke Experiences can get to work. Sometimes they’ll curate a whole trip, or other times, they’ll fill in gaps in a client’s existing itinerary.

Quarry Gardens at Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver

Quarry Gardens at Queen Elizabeth Park. Photo: Destination Vancouver / Nelson Mouellic

Bespoke prides itself on its attentive customer service and genuine hospitality. Simpson emphasizes that personalized travel in Vancouver appeals to clients who are interested in getting to know a place beyond the superficial. They will come to Bespoke, saying, “I want a real experience. I want a real conversation. I want to see how you actually live.” And that could mean visiting locations off-the-beaten path or getting to know all the best local coffee shops.

Alfred Esmeijer, owner and host of A.E. Vancouver Private Tours, started his company more than two decades ago when he recognized a need for customized tours. “I’m the pioneer for starting the first private sightseeing company in Vancouver,” he says. Esmeijer, who is originally from Holland, speaks four languages (English, French, German, and Dutch), and prides himself on the personalized connections he forms with his guests. “As soon as people come into my vehicle, I create a relationship with them,” he says.

Esmeijer offers short bespoke tours of Vancouver (e.g., for people here on a cruise stop-off), or can curate longer itineraries that include places such as Whistler, Vancouver Island (e.g., Victoria and Tofino), and other regions of B.C.

As a Vancouver insider, Esmeijer shares his enthusiasm for the city and the province, along with his knowledge of its people, cultures, and places. All his restaurant bookings are for establishments, such as The Teahouse in Stanley Park, Blue Water Café, and Cioppino’s, that he personally likes and thinks are of high quality. He particularly enjoys taking guests to specific neighbourhoods in the city so that they can live like locals. For example, they might go to Mount Pleasant and get to know the area’s unique character, visiting spots like 49th Parallel Café or Le Marché St. George. “They can walk away with a real sense of what Vancouver is about,” he says.

Photo: The Teahouse in Stanley Park

For longer tours of six to seven hours, he might take guests along the Sea to Sky Highway, stopping off at Horseshoe Bay and Shannon Falls before arriving in Squamish. There, they’ll have a drink at Howe Sound Brewing and perhaps a dessert at the Sunflower Bakery Café.

He says that while on some other tours, people can feel like a number, he provides a personalized experience of Vancouver without being intrusive. For instance, if guests wish to visit Granville Island, he can drop them off and let them explore on their own, potentially booking lunch for them at a restaurant like The Sandbar, Bridges, or Dockside and then picking them up to return them to their hotels when they’re done.

Photo: Dockside

Entrée Destinations, Bespoke Experiences, and Vancouver Private Tours have a shared commitment to ensuring their clients have the best possible time in Vancouver—on their own terms. People share with them who they are and what they like, and these companies draw from the city’s natural and urban landscapes to craft long-lasting tailored memories.

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