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A lifelong globetrotter, Elena grew up revisiting her Sicilian roots every summer and that taste for travel eventually morphed into her career. Over two decades later, her passion for sitting with clients and designing custom trips from a blank canvas is what fuels her business.
After studying fashion in Manhattan, it was actually a month-long vacation in her beloved town of Diamante (Italy), that was the lightbulb moment for Elena. Despite just receiving her degree in a completely different industry, she decided to pursue her true passion and enter the travel industry. After years of experience working with large travel companies, Elena joined SmartFlyer in May of 2003 with the mission of assisting her clients in creating vacations as memorable as the many trips that she has been fortunate enough to enjoy.
Elena’s strengths lie in executing detail-oriented, completely customized itineraries. Her clients return year after year because she truly listens and gets to know their unique tastes and what makes them tick. Through her decades of testing out these hotspots first-hand, her product knowledge of beach destinations, Europe and even African safaris, she is well-versed to take on creating a trip in practically any corner of the world.
First and foremost, I specialize in my clients. I refuse to start working on an itinerary without either an in-person meeting or phone consultation as it’s one of the most important steps (involving skills that takes years to develop and refine). To know where I’m going to send my clients is to know where they have gone; without knowing their takeaways from past travels, it’s impossible to give direction. Also, as a trip designer, the challenge is always how to elevate their experience and depending on the client, it could be something minor or could be something grand. This is why developing rapport is so critical to getting it right! It’s not uncommon that a honeymooner or even family may come into my office with one destination in mind and up booking an entirely different place than they initially had in mind.
But in terms of destinations, Italy is where I’m most connected and have deep-rooted first-hand knowledge. I’m passionate about designing food and wine-driven itineraries specifically for each client. After we nail the logistics and hotels, then we go into the second phase covering what type of culinary experiences they are looking for so I can do a food and wine sketch. I do this with other countries, too, but my strength is really in Italy.
I could sit with you for hours talking about all my travel experiences! These memories begin in early childhood; both my parents had the travel bug and they took us literally everywhere. But if I had to pick one, I think it was my time in Cambodia where I crafted an entire day just for me. It started with a massage by a blind person (hands down the best), followed by shopping, but not your ordinary shopping…I went to various homes got to meet local artists – there is nothing more intimate than stepping into someone’s home when you’re in an unfamiliar place. I ended my day with a monk blessing which was about a 15-minute ceremony where the monk was chanting and pouring flower-infused water over me to cleanse my spirit which left me entirely at peace; while I’ve had numerous monk blessings, this by far was the most authentic and the most beautiful. I firmly believe that experiences like this one are what really transform a good itinerary into one you’ll never forget.
There was a point in time that I was running through life and not allowing myself to be present. After learning how much we can miss when we're rushing, a travel tip I tell my clients is to stop, practice gratitude and take it all in. Even if it's only for a few minutes, stopping and allowing yourself to slow down even allows you come away with a deeper appreciation for our beautiful world.