The Society of International Railway Travelers® (IRT) is a family-owned luxury travel agency specializing in over-the-top rail experiences since 1983. In short, we are the luxury rail experts.
Based in the United States in Louisville, Kentucky, co-owners Owen and Eleanor Hardy are “committed to providing the kind of care one would expect from a friend,” Owen says. “In fact, we’ve become friends with many of our clients.” We are proud to offer the very finest in travel the world over.
When clients began requesting services beyond luxury rail, IRT joined the invitation-only Virtuoso luxury travel consortium.
“Joining Virtuoso gave us – and our clients – immediate and intimate access to the best of the best,” Eleanor says. “The best cruise lines, tour and safari companies, hotels and other luxury travel services.”
Entrust your valuable travel time and dollars to the best in the business: The Society of International Railway Travelers®.
Meet Our Staff
But as soon as I took my first international trip, I was “hooked.” Now, not only do I love traveling myself, I love preparing itineraries and experiences for my clients and hearing all the details on their return. I live vicariously through all of their travels.
So although I have traveled thousands of miles to test great luxury trains, there are many places I haven’t physically visited, but feel as if I have, through the stories and experiences of my clients and friends.
I specialize in luxury rail journeys, such as the Danube Express, Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, Trans-Siberian and Rovos Rail in South Africa. But there is no limit on what I can organize in cooperation with our fantastic partner hotels, guides, drivers and special sightseeing opportunities anywhere in the world!
Favorite places to travel (so far): South Africa, Switzerland, Spain, India and Canada are among the top choices. But I’ve never been anywhere I wouldn’t return.
Next on my travel “wish list”: Antarctica and Australia.
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, Rovos Rail’s Pride of Africa, Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express, Belmond Royal Scotsman, The Blue Train, the Belmond Grand Hibernian— these are some of the luxury trains I have personally inspected for you. (Somebody has to do it!)
My husband and partner, Owen, and I and our staff have traveled literally millions of miles on trains over 35 years to test them out. My expertise also includes safaris, hotels, and expedition cruising.
My focus is personal, amazingly detailed service based on direct experience and sound relationships with our Virtuoso suppliers. Our company is family-owned, our team is fabulous and we are proud to be celebrating our 35th year.
Nothing’s more wonderful than a luxury rail journey. Safaris, cruises, fab hotel stays – these are icing on the cake, and we know just the ones you will want! We meet the owners and managers of the most wonderful tour operators, safari outfitters and hotels every year, face to face, at Virtuoso Travel Week. Our powerhouse Virtuoso network gives us $23.7 billion in buying power to give you, our guests, the very best in exclusive amenities and VIP treatment. Once you travel the IRT Virtuoso way, you will never look back.
The unusual, the fun, the adventurous is what makes me want to share the excitement. This is why my job as President and co-owner of The Society of International Railway Travelers® and luxury travel advisor is perfect for me. Here is a link to my reviews.
It’s taken me to Canada, Mexico, Europe, Russia (I’ve ridden across Siberia six times), India, from Cape Town to Dar es Salaam in Southern Africa and Thailand and most recently to Japan. I have traversed the ancient Silk Road by luxury rail from Beijing, through the ‘Stans, to Moscow. We took 2 private trains; hiked the Great Wall, rode a camel in the Gobi Desert, toured cities 2,000 years old.
The rail travel bug bit early – I was an exchange student in Germany and criss-crossed the continent by train. A stint as a sailor on an old, square-rigged brigantine in the British Virgin Islands expanded my horizons.
And I’ve never looked back. Owning a travel agency like ours — specializing in adventure and specifically luxury trains — has been a natural progression. While I love the excitement, glamour and culture of big cities, I’m equally at home in the wilderness – the wilder the better.
Favorite trips? I’m just back (November, 2015) from Japan, testing out the brand-new Cruise Train Seven Stars in Kyushu train. I’ve posted about this on our blog (blog.irtsociety.com) and will have stories appearing in several magazines, including Virtuoso Life.
On our safari in Botswana (after we took the Blue Train) we saw a family of lions – including four rambunctious cubs – devouring an elephant. Thailand’s Eastern & Oriental Express was a dream of temples, elephants, pageantry.
In 2014, Eleanor Hardy & I hosted river cruises on two new luxury cruisers: the Orcaella up Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River; La Estrella Amazonica up the Peruvian Amazon. In 2015, we hosted the Sea Cloud’s magnificent program on the Dalmation Coast. I’d invite you to join us this year for two charters: as we head to Ireland, for the Belmond Grand Hibernian or to Japan, for the Seven Stars. Unfortunately, both are sold out. But call us about other great trips.
So many trains! So little time!
Our family-owned company was born in 1983 — 4 years before I was born. So we grew up together, and I have grown up traveling.
A political science major at the College of Charleston, I founded my own company, Bluegrass Voodoo Vintage. But since 2016, I have worked full-time at the Society of International Railway Travelers. I was honored by Belmond at Virtuoso Week 2018 by the Trains & Cruises division. I was the first travel advisor from the Western Hemisphere to be invited to see the brand-new Venice Simplon-Orient-Express Grand Suites. And as the result of my blog posts about it, we booked more Grand Suites in 2018 than any other agency in the world.
If you’d like me to arrange a Grand Suite for you on the VSOE for a luxury European vacation, or on a Canadian luxury rail vacation, I can share with you all my knowledge about these regions and fantastic trains.
I also recently enjoyed a study tour to Chile – and experienced one of the top Virtuoso Adventure hotels, Explora Lodge Patagonia, as well as the Singular in Santiago. Call me so I can tell you about the Towers hike!
Or, call me to find out about our favorite Peruvian Amazon adventure cruise. I loved it — let me tell you why!