Maldives - All
Hello and welcome, my name is Ian Gifford, I live in Chalgrove, near Oxford with my wife Barbara. We have been here for eight years having lived and worked all over the UK. We love this location because of the friendly village community and the fantastic links to the world, with Heathrow only 40 minutes away.
My dad encouraged my passion for travel from a very early age, taking me on exciting day trips to London, although I can still remember being too terrified to climb the ladder at the top of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral!
As a teenager, I just wanted to see the world. I completed cycling tours to the West Country and organised school walking tours that led to running a New Forest Youth Hostel. My early career in hospitality ensured a strong appreciation for food and wine, which included running our own hotel and restaurant, that is why I feel local food and drink is an exciting part of travel.
Customer Service is part of my passion, going the extra mile, delivering the unexpected, when Covid-19 emerged I worked 24/7 to successfully repatriated all my customers from Australia, Vietnam, Philippines, Costa Rica and the Maldives, often needing to re-route and re-book as a result of restrictions that were emerging all the time. However, this is my approach even without CV-19 it is being there on the end of the phone when the customer needs me or resolving a problem before the customer is even aware. On one occasion, at 11pm, I became aware that Yosemite National Park was about to close, due to fires, my family were due to go two days later, I found alternative accommodation and then called the customer, confirming everything whist they stayed by the pool.
Fore my business customers, I have arranged events for companies including elaborate dining in unusual locations, an amazing firework display and made sure guests got to a Champions League match when all flights were cancelled due to an airport closure. However, with business travel it is all about being available to help plan, manage changes and provide solutions so the customer can concentrate on his priorities.
Identifying my favourite destinations is a challenge, however, seeing leaping Mantra Rays off the Pacific coast of Mexico was amazing, and the rustic village restaurant in Pergine Valdarno, Tuscany provided a uniquely warm feeling with other unforgettable experiences such as Samaria Gorge in Crete at dawn, skiing in powder at Verbier, Golf in the Algarve or watching a Grand Prix in Malaysia.
Whether it is advising a restaurant on a client’s food allergies or organising a private tour in Rome, making sure your travel plans are exactly how you want them is vital. It is my responsibility to ensure you have first class service, before, during and following your trip.
I am here to help, at times convenient to you, some of my clients have been in different time zones and I have planned calls at midnight before now, so if it is better for you to talk in the evenings or at weekends, that is fine with me. I look forward to talking with you soon.
Whatever your holiday needs I'm here to help you, so simply give me a call or send me an email with your contact details on and I can get things started for you:-
I absolutely live and breathe travel and I love to write about my experiences! Please take a look through my posts - you might find your own holiday inspiration.
08 June 2020
For many of our clients, we have unintentionally become their own internal corporate Travel Management division. For example, over the last three years, we have been arranging monthly business trips for ten members of the senior team at an Oxfordshire-based engineering firm. They have been growing rapidly and have now expanded their operation across Europe, USA, Asia, and more recently South Africa. So, whether they need a day trip to Valencia, three days visiting their German distributors in Dusseldorf, Munich and Hamburg, a two weeks installation project in Hong Kong or multiple site visits across the East coast of America starting from...
20 November 2019
This case study is all about a family holiday to Egypt. The father serves in the RAF and had previously been posted both to Afghanistan and Iraq and so having a real family holiday was incredibly important to them all. The five of them arrived at Birmingham airport in plenty of time to board their aeroplane only to be told at the desk that, as the passport for their 15-year-old daughter would expire in less than six months, she would be unable to board the plane. The family were understandably distraught and decided they wouldn't holiday without their daughter and reluctantly left...
01 May 2019
Busy entrepreneurs, Lorna and Bryan, both run their own successful businesses and cope with the daily stresses that most directors endure. They both work really hard but also understand the need for a work/life balance and so, whenever possible, they like to play hard too. In 2018, they really fancied a weekend break in Berlin and invited another couple to join them. They asked us to find them a great hotel, some entertainment and all the necessary transfers etc. This is bread and butter to us and so after discussing whether they wanted some night life with dinner and dancing, or...
17 April 2019
You are only 50 years old once and so we are delighted to tell the story of an amazing husband who wanted to celebrate his wife’s significant birthday in true style. Our client knew that you could ride a train through the Canadian Rockies and so approached us and asked us to arrange a magical experience for them both. Their holiday of a lifetime started off in Calgary, Alberta where they headed off on a self-drive along the TransCanada Highway that winds its way through the Canadian Rockies towards the famous Banff National Park. They stopped at the Banff Sightseeing...
12 December 2018
Another success story features a family of four, who were flying to the UK from New Zealand. For starters, we had already saved them $5,000 on the cost of the flights and had also booked them a lovely apartment in London - perfect for seeing the capital's sites. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, the London accommodation provider had had to switch the apartment location at the last minute. In fact, this happened whilst the family were in the air and on their way! Knowing that the family didn't know London at all and were arriving at 9pm at night on a cold...
07 July 2018
A major aspect of our work is booking regular business travel for many of our corporate clients. Take Charles Greening for example. He was travelling on business from the UK to Los Angeles, then on to visit another client in North Carolina, with a final flight to New York before returning to the UK in time for the weekend. This wasn't the first time that Charles had made this trip but on this occasion a major storm hit New York and his flight from Greensborough, North Carolina, was cancelled. Within thirty minutes of notification, we had rebooked Charles onto another flight...
16 November 2017
This case study really is in two parts. Firstly, we want to give you a flavour of another amazing bespoke trip that we arranged for a group of friends around South America. The second part of this story shows how working with us and the Travel Counsellors' team prevented an unfortunate event from ruining their trip. A group of friends asked us to organise a 28 day trip to South America taking in some of the most amazing sites and experiences of the area. Some of the highlights of this amazing holiday included: a trip to the best ranches in Mar de...
Sent in by Claire Priest
Wantage, 14 January 2021
We have been booking our holidays with you for the past 3 years now and every Holiday we always come back saying how are you going to top this one. From African Dancing on the beaches of Gambia to Climbing the steep steps in the Colosseum in Rome, Drift Diving off the Coral Reefs in Mexico and Snorkelling on a Private beach on the Greek island of Corfu! - Every Holiday has been a one we will never forget. Ian every time you book us to a new destination you put your heart and sole into your research to make sure you match all of our requirements. Your professionalism and your communication makes us feel reassured that we are in the right hands. You think of every little detail to take the stress away. At the beginning of last year you had planned our 2020 Christmas break to Thailand which we were very excited about but unfortunately due tfrom this holidayo COVID that stopped us from travelling, however we need not have worried as you had a back up plan B which was our recent holiday to St Lucia. With everything that was going on in the world we really did not know what to expect again with all of your research and looking out for our safety you really did achieve above and beyond . Not only did you send us to a COVID safe country our resort was very private and safe with all of its high standards and regulations. W. We had a private boat ride to see the Pitons, bathed in the volcanic mud baths, even saw Santa on water Skis! Scuba dives around Shipwrecks. paddle boarding to kayaking and even Zip Lining through the rainforests, this was definitely our dream holiday and there was never a dull moment! The Holiday as a whole was exceptional. You were always at hand any time of day and managed to upgrade our apartments and made sure we got back to the UK safely. ,How on earth will you top this one? Here’s to our next adventure!
Sent in by Kieran O'Leary
Abingdon, 11 November 2020
When the lockdown eased in the summer I asked Ian from Travel Counsellors to help with booking a UK holiday. I was conscious that I wasn’t asking to book a multi-destination three month world tour and would have completely understood if Ian wasn’t too excited about arranging a few nights in a market town in England… but I could not have been more pleasantly surprised. Ian was genuinely interested in my family, what we liked doing, what was a sensible journey time given we have a three year old and if there were any special requirements. Within 24 hours I had a list of three options, all bang on the brief and after another brief chat, I made a choice and the holiday was booked. Simple. Needless to say, we had a great time on holiday and it was everything we asked for… but not just everything we asked for. It was more. And I’ve spoken to too many people who’ve used Ian and Barbara of Travel Counsellors to book holidays for themselves, friends and family to now know that this wasn’t just luck. Two bedrooms: check, spacious living space: check, indoor pool: check, 14 acres of woods with trails on the doorstep: check, short drive to market town with good fish and chips: check, and the icing on the cake… walking distance from an ice-cream parlour with individual COVID safe bouncy castles: check. So whenever you’re looking for a holiday and you’re not sure where to go but just like the idea of having someone research it, book it, call you the day before to wish you a good time and make sure all your questions are answered and quite simply if you want to have a better holiday than what you’ve asked for call Ian of Travel Counsellors.
Sent in by Mary Thomas
Faringdon, 23 October 2020
We have a motto in our house – ‘Don’t go on holiday without Ian’. Ian and Barbara have organised the last 4 holidays for myself and my husband – 3 outside the UK and 1 in Cornwall and have organised holidays for both my children. Why book with Ian? It’s a no brainer….. I could talk about his knowledge, the way he goes the extra mile to find the best holiday, the advice he offers, the time he saves me having to look for flights, hotels etc., the best deals he finds, but I think this story sums it up. We were in Costa Rica at the start of lockdown in March. Cutting a very long story short, 2 days into our organised tour everything was cancelled and we were told to get flights home. Within 5 hours of contacting Ian (at 10pm uk time), he had booked us onto flights home. When those flights were cancelled the following day, he was already on the case to find us other flights. Not as easy as it sounds when airlines were shutting down around us and we weren’t allowed to fly back through the US. Not only did he manage to get us on new flights but was with us every step of the way to calm us down and give us the best advice. Not sure whether we or Ian were more relieved when the flight touched down in London….. and imagine how many Ian’s other of clients were also trapped at the same time who he helped. If you think that was a one-off, we were caught up in an internal country riot in a previous holiday and were told by the foreign office to leave. The only reason Ian didn’t have to help was that we were scheduled to leave that day anyway. It’s quite simple ‘Don’t go on holiday without Ian’
Sent in by Andrew Garland
Highworth, 31 July 2020
Dear Ian, My wife and I recently had you arrange travel for us to Thailand and New Zealand. You delivered us a brilliant package, that met all our needs and we had so much fun. You listened carefully to what we were looking for and you delivered in a very competitive manner. We even received a massive hotel upgrade, we were in total luxury. However, the absolute bonus is having you create and organise our itinerary was the comfort of knowing, if anything went wrong you were there ready to help. Yes things did go wrong, no visa to get into New Zealand of all places (with my New Zealand passport still in the UK). Quite a complicated story but suffice to say I was stuck in Thailand and unable to travel to New Zealand, this tested both Tina and I to out limits, especially as we had family celebrations awaiting us. You were there on the end of the phone and message, you went out of your way ringing all manner of people to solve our situation. You were very calm and kept us sane as the clock worked its way down to the flight departure time and the prospect of Tina travelling and me being stuck. Thank you for your support, the problem solved, I can only say if one does not use you to organise and assist with travel then they would be crazy. The internet is OK but the personalised service you provide is simply unbeatable.
Sent in by Stefanie Calleja-Gera
Cheltenham, 17 June 2019
As a commercial photographer, I’m used to dealing with a wide range of clients and working under different levels of pressure so it was important to me when I booked a surprise 40th birthday holiday for my husband and 6 of our friends, that not only was it fabulous but that should anything go wrong that I wouldn’t be left to deal with it on my own and having heard such amazing reviews of Ian’s service at Travel Counsellors I knew I’d be in safe hands. Boy did you deliver! Firstly, and most importantly, the villa you found for us on the banks of Lago De Maggiore with it’s own private beach & spectacular views of the Swiss mountains was just stunning. Now, you hope nothing will go wrong, but of course, sometimes things just happen and after a superb weekend, we decided to take a trip across the boarder to Switzerland when smoke started pouring in from the engine of our hire car – EEK. I called, you answered immediately, you informed the car company and were literally there with me every step of the way and helped me deal with some very non responsive Italians who not only got the address of our breakdown wrong despite you sending it to them via email, but also told me their hire recover vehicle had a flat tire – I mean you couldn’t write this stuff! But despite things outside our control, you were not only incredibly professional and a fantastically calming influence, but with the weight of the Travel Counsellors behind you, you were like a dog with a bone, problem solving at every turn and always there to support me, so much so that by the end of the trip all our friends were saying “Everyone needs an Ian”. I will never book a holiday again without the help and support of Travel Counsellors as I know you’re always in my corner so of course I’d have no hesitation in recommending you to other businesses, clients & colleagues.
Sent in by Marc Kavanagh
Bicester, 18 December 2018
As an independent mortgage adviser I spend a lot of my time listening to clients needs and designing solutions for them, so it was great to find that you took the same approach to our holiday requirements. We gave you a budget, a brief of what the four of us wanted from our trip to America and left you to come up with the holiday. Well, you blew us away with your attention to detail. The options came with advice on the best routes to fly, the days to travel, the trips to go on, cost comparisons on flight in country compared to travel by car, a personal view on the pros and cons of out choice and so much more. My wife also received a birthday card, which arrived before mine! But it is the same things that show you really are more than just a guy that arranges holidays. We will, without doubt use you again for our future trips and will have no hesitation in recommending you to our family and friends. Thanks again, Ian.
Sent in by Helen Lawrence
Witney, 18 December 2018
At Morgen HR we pride ourselves in helping our clients, managing their expectations and delivering a high quality service. We have high standards and so do our clients and we expect the same from others with whom we do business. With that in mind I really felt I had to write and sing your praises over my recent trip to Iceland, the magic started when we arrived at Heathrow and were met at check-in by a lovely man, wheelchair in hand, who proceeded to whisk us through security. He even helped us remove shoes, jackets and watches to speed up the process. He left us to have our breakfast and then re-joined us just as they announced out flight, helped us on board and wished us well. When we arrived in Iceland we were met by their assistance service who escorted us and helped with immigration and collecting our luggage before seeing us to our taxi. On arrival at our hotel the mobility scooter we had ordered was waiting in our room. Every aspect of our trip had been carefully thought out by you and both Paul and I felt supported throughout our trip. The return journey was no different with assistance being provided from arrival at the airport right the way through to us collecting our car at the other end. I can't believe you went to so much trouble on our behalf to make sure that the journey was stress free as possible. Thank again to you and Barbara for sorting all this out for me and I will be recommending you to all my family and friends. Helen and Paul Lawrence Morgen HR Consultants 8th March 2018
Sent in by Maryam Rowhani
Doha, Qatar, 15 February 2017
We received Excellent services from Ian. Ian was very patient with me when planning my two week last minute holiday with my husband, and is very diligent at his work. He was highly responsive and available for questions, and very attentive to my needs and last minutes changes of plan as well. It always seems he works around the clock - which is something to greatly appreciate! Another crucial point is that he is very conscious of cost, which is rare to find. Thank you for a fantastic holiday!
Sent in by Joanne Smith
Wallingford, 12 September 2016
As a family business it's often a challenge to balance work and home life. When our daughter Mabel decided that a 'once in a lifetime' trip to Costa Rica and the USA would be the highlight of her gap year, we wanted to help her with her plans, but quite honestly didn't know where to start. This is where your advice and excellent knowledge and network in the travel industry has proved to be invaluable; both to reassure me, as a parent, and also to give Mabel the confidence to explore parts of the world she had only ever dreamed of visiting. Your contacts in Central America gave her real confidence that she was choosing the right destinations, your negotiating skills and knowledge of available deals meant that you were able to deliver more for the budget than she expected or thought possible. She was particularly impressed with how quickly you came back to her with suggestions and deals and also how accommodating you were in finding time to discuss or explain them - often in the evening or over the weekend. You were also extremely thorough in your research and the level of detail you provided. Finally, the personal service and care you took to explain your suggestions both in detail on email, but also over the phone, made a great impression and helped her immensely in making some big decisions. We are all really excited about her trip and confident that it will be a great success. Thanks for all your help and Iwould not hesitate to recommend you to friends, family and colleagues.
Sent in by Suellen West
Washington D.C., 12 April 2016
Ian Gifford was fantastic to work with. I am located in the US. Ian was available, had fabulous follow up, and was very knowledgeable about the US & European travel. I felt like I was his only client! I will certainly use Ian & Travel Counsellors in the future
From the pristine white-sand beaches of Thailand’s idyllic islands to the sprawling wide-open roads of the USA; the historic and breathtakingly beautiful architecture of India to the crystal-clear turquoise waters of the Maldives – there’s a world of wonder out there and it’s just waiting to be explored.
Contact me on 01865987310