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Bespoke Adventures: An Interview With a Custom Trip Designer

By Millie Earle-Wright
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Behind The Scenes With Lizzie Zawinski

We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with one of our expert custom trip designers, Lizzie Zawinski, to discuss her many insights and her wealth of experience in designing and creating the perfect bespoke adventures for our clients. Join us as we delve into the world of custom trip design and discover what it takes to transform a vacation into a truly extraordinary experience.

How do you tailor each bespoke trip to fit the specific interests of your clients?

We understand that everyone’s idea of a perfect adventure is different, which is why we listen and learn as much about our travellers as possible – every little note is helpful! Getting a sense of their priorities is paramount, whether it’s visiting specific destinations (such as the Isle of Skye, the Lake District or Edinburgh), enjoying authentic experiences by meeting local people, or learning more about folklore or history. Once we have a clear sense of what’s important to them and what makes them happy, we can start putting it all together: locations, accommodations, unique experiences, meetings, and so forth!

What’s the first thing you consider when designing a custom trip?

The client. A bespoke trip is built around them, and ideally, goes beyond their expectations. The lovely part about my job is that I have the key to many fantastic experiences and unbelievable places to stay so I can craft something really special. The more logistical answer to your question is availability of accommodation. Because we visit beautiful places that are often quite rural, options can be limited, so gorgeous places book up fast! A trip’s overall ‘feel’ is an intrinsic part of its magic, so ensuring we have a good lead in time to secure perfect accommodations is essential.

Do you have a favourite type of trip to design?

I love connecting my travellers with local creatives who are as proud of their homes as we are. This could be anything from a storyteller specialising in Scottish legends to a coastal painter inspired by the ever-changing Cornish seascape. Their passion for their craft and the place they love always shines through, creating a truly special and memorable experience.

Is there a unique experience you’ve curated for your clients that you’re particularly proud of?

Years later, I still get messages from a group of travellers that we surprised with a bagpipe serenade and impromptu ceilidh in a remote location at the end of a challenging hiking day. Learning the steps made everyone laugh, and the ‘Slainte!’ to finish will never be forgotten. It’s experiences like this that are a pleasure to create and organise. Curating such memorable events for clients is exciting because I get to be creative and imaginative, as well as it being very rewarding when you hear everyone has enjoyed it so much.

What elements of your role do you most enjoy and why?

It’s very satisfying to combine all the pieces of the puzzle – beautiful locations, exceptional accommodations and carefully tailored experiences – to create a seamless itinerary. Taking care of all the logistical challenges and creating magical moments for clients is very enjoyable, and of course, I absolutely love hearing the feedback afterwards, as everyone has such different highlights.

What would you say are the top three unmissable destinations in the UK and Ireland?

There is no such thing! We pride ourselves on super personalised custom trips, so the top three locations will be very different for every group of travellers. Some people will enjoy exclusive, high-end dining in a bustling, elegant city. In contrast, others will delight in knowing that they’re the only ones for miles around enjoying a picnic in an old stalker’s bothy in the middle of a remote, heathery hillside. As well as the iconic, must-see destinations, there are so many beautiful places that appeal to different people for different reasons – come and visit, and I’ll show you!

It’s great to see travellers starting to consider environmental and local community concerns and thinking deeply about their impact on the areas they visit. This awareness, among other things, has translated into many clients choosing to spend longer in destinations and really getting under the skin of a place – rather than just dropping by and taking the ‘been here’ photo everyone else has.

Staying for longer means having a more significant, positive impact on communities. Also, it provides the opportunity to connect with local people, whether staying in independent accommodations, meeting musicians, craftspeople, brewers or farmers, or simply having a lovely conversation in a bakery, cafe or pub.

Here at Wilderness, we’ve spent years prioritising local partnerships and protecting our gorgeous landscapes and communities, so it’s wonderful to see this coming to the forefront of travellers’ minds.


How do you balance incorporating iconic sites with off-the-beaten-path experiences for a well-rounded itinerary?

Wherever possible, we always give travellers a minimum of two nights in any location, so those days can be flexible for visiting popular sites at quieter times and for exploring hidden gems. There are many different ways to see or experience ‘ iconic sights’, and this is where our fabulous and experienced guiding team come into their own. We specialise in fully guided trips and carefully match the right guide to each group of travellers to ensure the guide can deliver seamless days which are personalised to highlight the travellers specific interests.

Can you share examples of themed trips you’ve designed, like culinary tours, retreats, or adventure expeditions?

I’ve done a few! Some of the best ones that come to mind are a Family Scavenger Adventure across Scotland and a Magical Harry Potter Trip. Of course, our custom trips are for everyone – whether you’re an extended family looking to spend quality time together, a newlywed couple or a group of friends. I also remember a certain West Coast Whisky Adventure, which involved fat bikes on beaches and some unique behind-the-scenes tours. We’ve got so much up our sleeve at Wilderness because we’ve been operating for over 20 years and have a large, passionate team that are either sharing their knowledge or out exploring themselves!

Meet the Author: Millie Earle-Wright

I grew up and studied in the UK. Itchy feet led to time spent in New Zealand embracing the seasonaire lifestyle and travelling in South East Asia. The last couple of years I’ve spent in British Columbia, an amazing place to chase adrenaline.

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