About Us

We Are a Full Service Travel Agency

Avant-Garde Travel advisors are jetsetters with firsthand knowledge and experience to elevate your travel to the next level.

With our headquarters located in beautiful San Diego, CA, Avant-Garde Travel is a collective of travel advisors who are experts in their field. For each trip, we start with establishing a vision and designing a concept based on our clients’ individual needs and interests.

Then, our team of experienced advisors cover everything for your upcoming journey – from the initial reservation down to the minuscule details you haven’t yet thought of such as luggage shipment and restaurant reservations. From small group experiences, to private and personalized tours, our design lies in the thoughtful intersection between service and value.

Our Exclusive Partnerships

Meet Our Travel Advisors


Unique Experiences + Luxury Properties

Aimee Leon has over 15 years in the travel industry, has visited over 30 countries and worked with the top cruise lines, tour operators and luxury hotels in the business. She spent the past several years of her career at a leading luxury Virtuoso agency overseeing the leisure division, handling all independent contractor business development and agency sales and marketing efforts.

She started Avant-Garde Travel to cater to fellow travelers who, like her, look for unique experiences, off the beaten path and upcoming destinations. She enjoys staying at luxury properties with a modern design as well as hotels that encompass their surrounding heritage. When she is not working she enjoys traveling (of course), photography, going to live music venues and spending time with her hubby and two adorable miniature dachshunds.

Learn more about Aimee


Cruise Expert

Effie Patrianakos has been helping clients realize their travel dreams since 1992. Effie is our resident cruise expert, as she has intimate knowledge of all cruise lines, having personally experienced each one during her tenure in the industry. She has had the opportunity to work with and learn from the leading players in the industry.

Luxury cruising is her premier specialty and her clients trust her exclusively when it comes to choosing their next voyage. She has well established relationships with the representatives from every cruise line, allowing her to ensure that her clients are getting the very best deals available!

Effie is always in her office, based in Canada, working hard to ensure that her clients receive the time and attention they need.

Learn more about Effie



Betty Roth Hellstrom has traveled to over 100 countries and growing and sailed on almost every premium, luxury and expedition cruise line (and not so fancy ones too). While her expertise is in leisure group travel and custom trips for individuals, she also specialized in family reunions, destination weddings and honeymoons.

Betty’s loyal clients have enjoyed traveling with her on multiple, annual customized group trips around the world. With over 37 years’ experience Betty has extensive knowledge on global destinations to assist in making your trip an unforgettable and exciting journey of a lifetime.

Learn more about Betty


Authentic + Unique Italy Experiences

Gina Ruggiero has been in the travel industry since 1994. Born and raised in the Boston area, Gina has also lived in Alaska, Maui, Arizona and has recently relocated to Southern California. With a family background rich in Italian culture, specializing in Italian vacations became a natural transition, providing her clients with a unique and memorable experience savoring the wonderful pleasures of Italy. Unable to always find the “perfect holiday experience” for many of her clients, she set out to create it. In 2006, she launched Where to World out of her wish to create an “authentic holiday experience” for many of her clients.

Gina’s focus and true passion is sending people to Italy while offering an independent holiday specific to unique interests and authentic experiences. She also has a Castle in Tuscany for special events and larger groups. Her small group programs are customized for women’s affiliations, art and photography workshops, cooking holidays, local NPR station and special friends and family occasions. In addition to being our “in-house” Italy expert, Gina has also traveled extensively throughout Europe and the Caribbean, loves Mexico and Central America and dreams of sailing a yacht around the world.

Learn more about Gina

Maryann Soinski, CTC

Historical + Cultural Travel

Maryann Soinski, CTC has been a professional travel advisor for 28 years. Formerly a school teacher and administrator teaching English, History, the Gifted Program and the International Baccalaureate program. Without a doubt, her passion and beliefs are very strong in everything that she does and she is thrilled with the opportunities to enhance others life by making diverse choices for methods of travel and areas to visit.

Maryann specializes in historical and cultural travel as well as representing Bridge directors on luxury cruises. Besides escorting her students to Europe during her teaching years, Maryann has traveled to over 50 countries but knows there is still more to go!

Learn more about Maryann



Raised in California, Erin Philp was working in the restaurant management field and decided she wanted a different career path. She started working with a large Virtuoso agency in 2005 as an administrative assistant while learning about the world and travel industry. Erin quickly realized she had a passion for travel and assisting people arrange their perfect trip that she decided to stay in the industry. 13 years later she opened her own storefront travel agency office located in Rancho Bernardo called Grand Journeys.

Now with over 15 years’ experience in the travel industry, Erin is here to assist in arranging the perfect journey for her clients. She specializes in custom 4-star and 5-star worldwide itineraries, adventure travel, land journeys, cruises, and air travel. Erin can assist with everything from the time you leave your home till you return – making your entire journey memorable and seamless.

Learn more about Erin


Eastern + Central Europe, Cruises, Hawaii + Resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico

Nelly Kats has over 22 years of experience as a travel advisor. Originally from Lviv, Ukraine, Nelly lived in Chicago for many years before moving to the West Coast and calling Carlsbad her home. Nelly studied Fashion Design in college and was an Art Director before starting her career in travel. Her education and travel expertise allows her to plan amazing getaways for the most discerning clients.

Nelly has traveled to over 30 countries, is fluent in Russian and her specialties include Eastern & Central Europe, Cruises, Hawaii and All-inclusive Resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico. In her free time she enjoys dancing and recently dazzled us in a local performance of the Nutcracker.

Learn more about Nelly


Honeymoons + Romantic Escapes

Minerva Padilla (AKA Minnie) discovered her love for traveling at a young age. After completing her Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology, she realized travel was her passion in life and wanted an occupation that would allow her to share what she loves with her clients. This resulted in a career change from an exercise specialists to a travel advisor, entering the travel industry in 2014 in San Diego.

Minerva recently became a Certified Romance Travel Specialist and feels she truly thrives in planning honeymoons and romantic escapes all over the world. She has lived in San Francisco, Paris and New York and believes that “Life is not meant to be lived in one place”.

When she is not working, Minnie loves spending time on the beach or anywhere outdoors. Some of her interests, besides traveling, are: food, wine, yoga and sports. Next bucket list destination: Iceland!

Learn more about Minerva


Customized Vacation Experiences

Brianna Glenn considers herself a tastemaker of customized vacation experiences, and runs her boutique travel agency, Milk and Honey Travels, from her home in sunny Newport Beach, CA, or anywhere around the globe that has decent WiFi.

Her wanderlust spirit was born during her career as a professional athlete. It was a career that not only allowed her to pursue her purpose and passion as a track and field athlete for over 10 years, but gave her the opportunity to fall deeply in love with the world and all the incredible places available to explore and experience.

More than anything, Brianna loves helping people have better travel experiences. Her sweet spot in travel is where luxury meets authentic, and she is incredibly passionate about creating the right space for people to travel in a way that speaks to exactly who they are and what they desire to experience on vacation. Follow her adventures on Instagram!

Learn more about Brianna


Air Expert + Family + Multi-generational travel

Elizabeth McEachron has 17 years of experience in hospitality & tourism. Originally a Culinary school graduate, in 2002 she joined the luxury hospitality industry as a concierge for The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. During her 8 years with Ritz she advanced to the leisure sales team and, eventually, ended up in Revenue Management.

In 2010 she decided to make a life change, leaving the hotel industry to join a large luxury travel company as a travel advisor so she could start a family (now mommy to Fiona 7 and Oliver 3). As she grew her book of business she became an air expert, was trained in Sabre and began taking on several small corporate air accounts. In addition to be our resident air expert, Elizabeth specialize in family, and multi-generational travel as well as cruising, honeymoons, and all things Disney.

Learn more about Elizabeth

Our team is incredibly passionate about discovering your perfect trip! To get started, set up a consultation with us.


Learn More About Our Services


Thank you for helping us make incredible memories

“I can’t say enough great things about Avant-Garde Travel. I, my husband, his two brothers and their wives went to Italy for the first time and we booked our vacation with Avant-Garde Travel. This was one of the best planned and prepared vacations we have ever been on. Every detail of the travel was handled by Avant-Garde Travel and we could not be more happy. There is only one word to describe our experience with Avant-Garde Travel – “Perfection.””

—Kelly B., Google Review

The most unforgettable trip I've ever had

“Aimee and Minerva at Avant-Garde Travel are truly amazing partners to have while planning any major trip. Aimee and Minnie helped my husband and I plan our dream wedding on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. It was the most unforgettable trip I’ve ever had. Aimee and Minnie found the MOST. AMAZING. VILLA. EVER. Aimee and Minnie went above and beyond our wildest expectations for this trip and we couldn’t be more grateful for their contribution to our big day! We would recommend Avant-Garde to anyone looking to take an awesome trip!”

—Katie S., Yelp Review

I wish she could plan my day to day life

“Aimee is UHMAZING!! We got married on a cruise ship and she made me a cute flyer to send to family and friends to get them to go. She blocked rooms off for our guests. She took care of our flight to FL, hotels, transportation to the docks and everything associated with the cruise. She even saved our butts when we forgot to print luggage tickets and resent them for us. We are using her for every trip we take. I wish she could plan my day to day life.”

—Kelly W., Facebook Review

A trusted partner to brainstorm honeymoon ideas

“From the very first interaction to the day of departure they were on-point, organized, and an extension of our trip. We wanted a trusted partner to brainstorm honeymoon ideas based off of our needs and they provided multiple options for us to review. There were many personal touch-points prior to departure to made sure we had what we needed, and any last-minute requests were addressed. The trip itself exceeded our expectations and we have already reached out to the Avant-Gerde Travel team with two more trips. Thank you for everything!!!”

—Katie Z., Facebook Review

Above and beyond what we would have found ourself!

“Aimee and staff put together an amazing wedding trip to Italy. The wedding venue was PERFECT and the wedding itself was like a fairytail. All of the trip info/tickets/direction all at your fingertips. We received timely responses to our e-mails or messages. The accomodations she provided were above and beyond what we would have found ourself. You made it so very, very personal and special, Just cannot thank Aimee and team enough.”

—Lori S., Google Review

We’d love to start planning your trip—personalized to you. Let’s talk!


or call us 619-446-6400

Set up a consultation with us

Fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you shortly!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.