Entertainment

Inside the Lavish, Secret Vacations Celebrities Are Taking During COVID-19

Luxury travel agents told us just how opulent—and expensive—their ultra high-profile clients' trips have been during the pandemic.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
August 27, 2020, 11:00am
The Maldives
The One&Only Reethi Rah in the Maldives. Photo courtesy of the One&Only

While all of us lowly plebes have spent the past six months whiling away our simple, monotonous, and altogether depressing lives at home, Timothée Chalamet escaped to Cabo San Lucas with his "apparent new flame" Eiza González; Drake took a small army of his friends to Barbados on his private jet; and Hailey Bieber and Bella Hadid chartered a yacht off the coast of Sardinia. These celebrities enjoying lavish vacations during the pandemic are among a handful of prominent bajillionaires who have publicly flaunted their responsibility to just stay home amid COVID-19—but the celebrities we know have been traveling are far from the only ones doing it. 

According to three luxury travel agents who specialize in booking trips for the rich and famous, countless other celebrities are vacationing out of the public eye, spending inconceivable amounts of money on private getaways the press has no chance of detecting. The agents VICE spoke to—Catherine Heald, the co-founder and CEO of Remote Lands, which organizes high-end trips to Asia; Jason Couvillion, the co-founder of Bruvion, a luxury travel agency based in LA; and Annie Davis, president of the luxury firm Palm Beach Travel—wouldn’t reveal the names of the celebrities they’ve sent across the country and the world over the past few months. But they did share the details of just how opulent their clients’ trips have been.

Heald said she recently organized a two-week trip to South Korea for a "very high-profile Korean-American" family of four. They bought out the entirety of a first-class cabin on a commercial flight to Seoul; when they arrived, they were met at the plane by a private car, which whisked them away to a private COVID-19 testing facility, allowing them to comply with South Korea’s travel regulations without having to mingle with any normies. Then they romped across the country on a "culinary and cultural" tour in complete secrecy. Heald also recently booked a two-week trip for a "minor celebrity" and their partner to the Maldives, which they’ll be flying to on a private jet. They’ll stay at a resort called the One&Only Reethi Rah, which describes itself as such:

A place where turquoise clear waters meet cloudless azure skies. Where Indian Ocean breezes sway lush palms. A tropical paradise fringed with 12 pristine beaches. Your very own private island escape.

Heald said the couple is staying in a villa that juts out over the ocean, but also has its own pool, somehow. They’ll be treated to "every kind of water sport you can possibly imagine," she said, along with experiences like a chocolate-making class—and a complete break from concerns about COVID-19.

One&Only in the maldives

The One&Only Reethi Rah in the Maldives

"In a place like the Maldives, you don't even have to leave your private villa unless you get on your private yacht and go scuba diving," Heald said. "So all of those things are keeping us socially distanced. Basically everything can be a buy-out."

Heald, Couvillion, and Davis said more celebrities are flying private than ever before to alleviate concerns about COVID-19, and buying out entire villas, islands, and yachts to ensure they don’t come in contact with anyone outside their bubbles. For Davis, yacht charters have been a major part of her business during the past few months. A truly high-end trip on one for her clients—which include tennis legend Chris Evert, former Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers, and a number of current NBA players whose names she wouldn't disclose—begins on St. Thomas, which they reach by private jet. They embark on a pleasure cruise aboard a 92-foot boat with a captain, a five-person crew, and a personal chef. Each morning, they wake up to a Champagne breakfast, port at a nearby island, and either spend the day snorkeling or exploring the land on a Jeep. They return to the yacht for lunch while their bathing suits are laundered for them and their captain steers them to yet another port. As twilight approaches, a dinghy whisks them onto the shore for a sunset dinner of lobster and conch, paired with as many bottles of their favorite wine as they can drink. After about seven days of sailing, they’ll wrap up their trip by buying out a private island, and spending a week there in a villa before taking yet another private jet home. The price tag? According to Davis, somewhere between $350,000 and $500,000.

"I’ve done a lot of yachts—a lot," Davis said. "It’s all about low touch points and luxury. Private villas, private yachts, private jets."

As opposed to getaways in the Caribbean, Couvillion said a number of his celebrity clients have opted for trips to remote outposts in Colorado, New Mexico, California, and Montana, often staying in "super luxury" homes on private ranches. These, too, are complete with staffs that attend to your every need and private chefs to prepare your meals—but the focus is on experiencing an extravagant version of the great outdoors, with every detail taken care of by an "activities coordinator." 

"I think it's just nature that's drawing them to these places," Couvillion said. "They were stuck at home for so long and couldn't really go anywhere—stuck in a big city—and it was that appeal of being out in the countryside. You've got horseback riding, and hiking, and shooting, and fishing—it’s almost like adult summer camp. [But] it’s still luxury: You’ve got a beautiful house out in the gorgeous countryside in Montana."

Couvillion said that one such trip he recently booked—a ten-day vacation that included private flights and a buyout of an entire resort—cost his clients about $250,000. Another one he’s working on, which would take his clients to Alaska for five nights in a luxury cabin, followed by a trip by private seaplane to a separate cabin for another five nights, would cost them about the same. 

"That’s the highest we’ve had recently," Couvillion said. "Other trips that we’ve planned have been well over that. We’ve planned vacations that have been five hundred grand. Very, very high-end, expensive stuff."

Couvillion said that now more than ever, making his clients’ vacations as discreet as possible and keeping them away from paparazzi is of paramount importance. A majority of the celebrities he works with are liberal, he said, and some have been outspoken about the importance of staying home during the pandemic. They don’t want the public to think they don’t take COVID-19 seriously.

"Either because they tried to be advocates for following the regulations, wearing a mask, or not gathering in groups, part of the privacy [concern] is not looking like you're not following the rules," Couvillion said. "I’ve only had like, one or two clients actually specifically mention that, but I think that of course it's in the back of their minds. There is some of that: 'If I am traveling, I want it private, because I don't want people to know.'"

Follow Drew Schwartz on Twitter.