What Exactly Goes into Making an Insight Tour, with Trip Planner Jen Hirtle

by | 10 Apr 2024

The guest experience is constantly on my mind, even when I’m watching TV

Desirable destinations, iconic sights, knowledgeable experts and one-of-a-kind experiences – along with 24/7 service, 5- and 4-star hand-picked hotels and delicious dining, these are all hallmarks of a journey with Insight Vacations. But you may be wondering just how are our ‘Business Class’ Tours put together?

To get the insider track, we spoke to Jen Hirtle, Insight Vacations’ Head of Travel Experiences EMEA, to understand more about what goes into putting together our premium journeys.

Portrait photo of Jen Hirtle

Travel is always on my mind

A trip planner for almost 15 years, Jen Hirtle now sits at the helm of Travel Experiences for Insight Vacations, along with sister brands at The Travel Corporation. “I work with a passionate team who take real joy in creating unforgettable tours,” she tells us. “Travel is what we do, it’s in our blood.

“For me the guest experience is constantly on my mind. Even when I’m watching TV, if I see a stunning filming location or restaurant that would be the perfect fit for Insight, I’ll be immediately researching all the details to see whether we can make it part of a tour!

‘Business Class’ Tours

“Insight Vacations is different from other brands out there because it’s an elevated experience – just like how flying business class is different from economy. Along with 5- and 4-star hotels and premium dining, it’s about extra special experiences that open up the world for the curious traveler.”

“At Insight we offer over 160 premium tours,” says Jen. “Each journey is like a jigsaw puzzle, with many pieces carefully fitted together to create the overall desired experience. So, with everything we do we keep the bigger picture in mind. With everything included, the experiences, hotels and dining all fit with the cadence of the tour.”

For travel Inspiration: check out our Insight filled itineraries spanning 54 destinations 

Premium Experiences

“Each journey features our Premium Experiences,” Jen says. “Created especially for the curious traveler and all included in your tour, these really set Insight Vacations apart.”

Wherever your destination, you’ll see the famous landmarks for which it is known. As Jen explains, “We build each tour around the icons, these are very important. But at Insight Vacations, we ensure that the experiences on all our journeys offer something more.

“This could be exploring Spain’s famous Prado Museum under the expert guidance of an art historian – we employ some of the most knowledgeable Local Experts to share the insights.

Or enjoying insider access to Machiavelli’s home in Tuscany. While others may visit these sights, our guests enjoy a private tour with a special opening of his private office where he wrote ‘The Prince.'”

Read next: Insighftul, Inspiring: How We Bring You the Full Story Behind Each Destination

A story to be found everywhere

“I’m always on the lookout for new experiences. We look for opportunities for guests to meet people and hear their story,” says Jen. “One of our favorites is in Turkey, where guests join a Cappadocian local who has lived in the city for decades. You’re taken on a tour of their intriguing cave house, a privileged opportunity to learn more about this unique way of life.

“Another of my favorites is in England, where guests take a walk through Dartmoor park with local specialist Emma. She offers a powerful connection with Mother Nature through the plants and wildlife of Dartmoor. Her passion, knowledge and lived experience is infectious.

“It is this expertise and connection that brings everything to life. Even the most modest building becomes intriguing when it’s true history is revealed. The goal with Insight is to bring forward information you don’t know was there.”

You may also enjoy reading: 7 ways Insight brings the world’s iconic travel experiences to life



“Our tours also feature MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experiences,” says Jen. “Driven by our sustainability strategy, these experiences ensure that we give something back and make appositive impact on the places, people and wildlife we encounter. From learning an artisan trade to supporting wildlife conservation, they really connect you to your destination, and are also a lot of fun.”

Bookmark for later: MAKE TRAVEL MATTER®: Why developing meaningful travel experiences has never been more important

a close up shot of a brown bear’s face, with shaggy brown fur

Handpicked hotels

With our collection of handpicked 4- and 5-star hotels, where you stay with Insight Vacations extends the narrative of your tour.

“When initially selecting hotels, we look for comfort, excellent service, rooms with a view and 24-hour room service,” says Jen. “Then, for each night of a tour we have to think what we want our hotels to represent. With a city hotel you want a great location, but in the country, you want a great view.

“The choice of hotels offers a unique opportunity to show off the different sides to your destination. So, we look for a mix of heritage properties, boutique hotels, country retreats and modern establishments.”

“The length of stay is also relevant. If we have a three-night stay and relaxed starts, then we would want a pool and spa. But if we check in at 5pm, have dinner and leave early in the morning then location and restaurant are more important.”

You may enjoy reading: This is the absolute best hotel to stay in, according to our travel experts



Premium dining

“The culinary story of every tour is finely curated,” explains Jen. “Dining with Insight is premium, both in terms of choice and quality. Through food, we offer guests a chance to further explore the places we visit and indulge in unique recipes and dishes.

“Each tour features a welcome dinner when its starts and a celebration dinner, both of which are showstoppers. We also feature least one signature dinner – either a Farm to Table, a home hosted dinner or a dine around evening where guest can choose from a selection of restaurants.

“We also source and include dining experiences that explore the history and traditions of destinations. This may be through live music or entertainment, visiting specific buildings, or through a hands-on cooking class with a local chef.”

Logistics matter

“When planning dining, we consider both included meals and also all the time guests are free to choose their own options,” says Jen. “First and foremost, it must work logistically. Restaurants have to be close and accessible and able to accommodate us.

“We also ensure that the menus on an Insight Vacations trip have variety – in some regions you will see the same dishes again and again – and include a quality vegetarian dish. Again, we always have an eye on the bigger picture, for example how tired or adventurous guests may feel after the day’s activities.”

Dine at home – finding the perfect fit

“Our home hosted dinners are a huge favorite,” says Jen. “Great home cooked food, fascinating conversation and many laughs, what’s not to love? But can you fit 40 people in your house?

“We have to look for grander estates and bigger homes, with a good story to tell. Often, we’re reaching out to people who have not done this before, finding a unique, authentic experience, perhaps on a cider farm, or a historic mansion.

“My team and I are always on the lookout with Insight guests in mind and have been known to just knock on people’s doors when they pass an ideal property!” One of my favorite home hosted dinners is at Thirsk Hall in the UK. Here you join Daisy and her family and learn all about this amazing house that was built in 1720. It’s a real intimate insight into the lives of others, plus you’ll enjoy delicious food.”

Learn more about Daisy and Thirsk Hall: Mixing business and pleasure: meet 3 couples proving it can work

a close up shot of a brown bear’s face, with shaggy brown fur

The experts that bring it all together

“We’re very proud of our Travel Directors at Insight Vacations,” says Jen. “The icing on the cake, they’re the conductors making your journey seamless and stress free. They take care of every little detail and provided a premium service 24/7, but it’s also more than that.

“Our Travel Directors are both destination experts and people experts, and just love what they do. It’s like having a friendly local to show you the best places and the stories behind them. While at the same time someone taking care of all check-ins, reservations and logistics. Your entrance tickets are waiting for you, as is your luggage – all part of the service on our ‘Business Class’ Tours for curious travelers.”

Read more: 5 benefits of travelling on an Insight small group tour


Always looking ahead

“In terms of our timeline, I’m planning tours for 2026,” Jen tells us. “Always looking out for trends, new ideas and how to enhance our experience even further, the future is always exciting in travel.”

I'm a writer, editor and interview specialist with a lifetime's love of travel. There’s nothing more inspiring to me than meeting, and writing about, the world's leading destination experts and travel industry insiders. The thing I love most about writing for Insightful is that I'm always learning something new.