Jude Vargas

Travel Designer & Founder of Art of Voyage

Jude Vargas

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Love for adventure and a quest to experience the extraordinary in every place took Jude Vargas to found Art of Voyage, a bespoke travel design service “making the impossible happen,” she says. Curating exclusive experiences, from hidden gems only the locals know to private islands, Jude unlocks the best a destination has to offer and wants her clients to be savvy, thoughtful, future-forward travelers. From her multicultural background and memorable trips to unexpected requests and advice to those stepping into the industry, we sat down with Jude for a fun, inspiring chat.

What do you do, and how did you get here?

I tell people I herd cats for a living, but really I design travel experiences. I’ve lived all over the world, from San Francisco to Sydney. I ended up in this industry because, one day, in Milan, a friend told me I should start a travel agency as I was the go-to person for so many already. She couldn’t have been more right. 

Why do you love your job?

I’m obsessed with travel, food, new things popping up, learning about cool places to stay, and discovering hidden gems. I love that I get to make dreams come true for clients, which is incredibly fulfilling and fun. From the coolest Japanese Whiskey bar in Niseko, where you walk through a freezer door to get inside, to the best vintage shop in Paris, I create in-depth maps when clients go to places I know and love. I’m lucky that work is play, and play is work!

Read more below… And find a perk for A Hotel Life readers!

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What does a good day at work look like? 

My team and I solving whatever problems come our direction without clients ever knowing. Also, receiving a message from clients saying thank you for what our team put together.

Where did you get your sense of travel and hospitality? 

My mom is from South Korea, and my dad is a Portuguese man born in California, so I grew up in a multicultural household. We would visit family abroad every year, and I fell in love with traveling at an early age, appreciating different cultures and customs. Staying in hotels allowed me to develop a discerning eye. I remember questioning things and developing high standards.

Why is it important to work with a travel designer? What are the main perks and benefits?

You don’t know what you don’t know! We find and curate rare experiences, which otherwise would go unknown, and open doors to the ordinarily inaccessible. We work with partners all over the world who are on the ground to ensure clients are in good hands throughout their trip.

"You don't know what you don't know! We find and curate rare experiences, which otherwise would go unknown, and open doors to the ordinarily inaccessible."

Jude is one of our Nine Women Reshaping Travel & Creative Hospitality. Click here to read more and discover the other female leaders breaking the mold in the industry!

Jude at Bai San Ho, Vietnam
Jude at Bai San Ho, Vietnam
Jude at COMO Cocoa in Maldives. Read her review for AHL here

With the world at our fingertips with smartphones and all, how can a travel designer stay relevant?

Lately, it’s been good to have a travel designer in your back pocket when dealing with flight-related things. When a flight gets delayed or canceled, everything is affected. It can ruin a trip if you have to deal with this yourself.

What main differences do you see in travel today compared to when you started?

Social media. Our job is to scout what is still authentic, and it’s becoming harder and harder to find the cool, hip, or untouched spots around the world. But I’ve been told I am like a dog with a bone. 

How do you create a trustful relationship with your clients?

I listen to my clients, ask questions, repeat their responses to them, so nothing is missed or overlooked, and then deliver. Also, by making sure either myself or someone from my team is readily available!

If you could change anything in your industry, what would it be?

Travel apps! There is so much room for disruption.

Jude working on Nour el Nil cruising down the Nile in Egypt
Jude working on Nour el Nil cruising down the Nile in Egypt
Working with a travel designer gets you exclusive access from Greece to Vietnam
Working with a travel designer gets you exclusive access from Greece to Vietnam

What advice would you give to someone starting their career today?

Shadow someone in the industry that you respect and want to learn from. There is so much to know about being a good travel designer and solving problems smoothly.

If you could give travelers one piece of advice for their stay — and for life — what would it be?

Always be open. Going with the flow is key for so many things in life and travel. 

Can you tell us about the most memorable trip you’ve ever had?

I loved sailing down the Nile River in Egypt on Nour el Nil in 2022. Egypt had been on my bucket list since I was a kid learning about the seven wonders of the ancient world. I was impressed by the beauty of the Nile and lucky that we had chosen a boat that could dock in places that the larger boats could not — we got access to spots not everyone gets to visit. Having a private tour guide, an Egyptologist, and one that is not boring is also key!

Jude at La Isla, with celebrity chef and owner, Francis Mallmann. Read her review for AHL here
Jude at Patina Maldives. Read her review for AHL here

"Always be open. Going with the flow is key for so many things in life and travel."

What has been the most unexpected thing that has ever happened to you at work?

A client once requested a piano in a month-long villa rental on an island in Italy. I made it happen without a scratch. I still need to remember to ask if any new songs came to life on that trip! 

What excites you the most these days?

When clients make it to their destination without flight issues, seriously. On the fun side, it is being given full creative direction on designing a trip and coming up with something that has a wow factor. And sharing something with a local they didn’t know about in their hometown that I discovered.

If you could choose a hotel to stay in anywhere in the world, which one would it be?

Dimora delle Balze in Noto, Sicily 

If you were a hotel or destination, which one would you be and why?

Sri Lanka. I have a sweet spot for that country. The food, the culture, the people, the safaris — it’s a long list of reasons.

Orient Express Silenseas launching 2026
Orient Express Silenseas launching 2026

What property are you excited about opening this year?

I am excited about the Orient Express cruise ship that will launch in 2026. I love the Belmond Orient Express trains — the level of detail with everything is something else. 

Anything else you’d like to add?

Travel keeps us young, moving, learning, pushing our boundaries, expanding our minds, and raising awareness of the world.

A Hotel Life readers get 15% off Jude’s travel design fee with the code AHL15AOV. Travel on!


Check out Jude Vargas’ reviews for A Hotel Life

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