Meet Melanie

high Melanie with Patrick

Melanie with Patrick

It all started the summer when I was 7.

That summer, my dad hooked a Shasta camper up to our blue Rambler and drove my family around the American West. I remember peering into the Grand Canyon and chasing a baby heifer at a Wyoming rodeo. These were seemingly common American family-road-trip events, but they gave me an uncommon memory. My family felt like a tight tribe as we struck out each day to new territory. I sketched oil wells in my journal and savored the Tang my Mom made for breakfast. All these memories created a cherished touchstone to my childhood, and yet, it all happened in just 10 days!

My love of travel that started from that trip eventually took me around the globe. I witnessed martial law in Tiananmen Square in 1989. I side-stepped cobra charmers in the souk of Marrakech, hiked up Arenal Volcano, saw my first mummy in Pompeii, and rode the Orient Express into Budapest.


Melanie and her 4 sons at GBNP

Melanie and her 4 sons at Glacier Bay

When I became a parent, I was determined to recreate my wondrous childhood experience for my own 4 sons. Every summer, we road-tripped in our Ford van, but unlike my own childhood, our trips were anything but common. I strapped my sons into bushplanes to fly out for an overnight in Alaska’s grizzly country. I sailed with them over the Gulf Stream to gunkhole around the Bahamas. We polar-bear-plunged into the Arctic Ocean, slept in a Caribbean treehouse, and hiked volcanoes from Maui to Santorini.

How these adventures bonded my family!

As my sons graduated from high school, moved to college, and eventually started their own adult lives, my family traveled to mark each moment. Today, our conversations are peppered with references to “the Crying Rock” and “Whoa, Bear.” We speak a language that is unique to our family. It is a special bond that I hope will connect my sons long after I am gone.

My Mission: Sharing My Passion for Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel with You

high Melanie in kitchen

Owner Melanie Tucker’s passion is to design off-the-beaten-path travel experiences for her clients.

I have since made a commitment to dedicate the rest of my professional life to creating these precious memories for individuals, couples, families, and social groups. My mission is to share my passion of off-the-beaten-path travel with my clients and present them with unique itineraries that reveal the essence of a destination through culturally seasoned meals, offbeat lodging, and unique activities that fire their imaginations, open their eyes, and bond their group or family.
I love to make dreams come true. If you want to ride horseback in the surf or meet the captain of the local Muggle Quiddich team, I can plan that for you. If you would like for your aspiring teenage screenwriter to meet a Hollywood director, consider it done. If you dream of tracing your Irish roots, I know how to do that.  If you’re a foodie and have always wondered what it would be like to go truffle hunting in the mountains of Umbria, Italy I know exactly who to introduce you to.
I travel regularly to hone my expertise and discover new adventures and excursions to share with my clients. I have trained, helicoptered, bussed, and trekked around 5 continents. My curiosity about other cultures and sense of adventure grows every day.

Professional Background

I have nearly 20 years experience planning customized itineraries that match a group’s physical, intellectual, and financial goals.

Additionally, I am…


Melanie focuses on an attitude rather than a destination

  • an IATA certified agent
  • an active member of ATTA Adventure Travel, OSSN, e-Women, the Virginia Club, and the Princeton Chamber of Commerce
  • a Destination Specialist for the state of Alaska
  • a Yachtalist for small ship expeditions and licensed agent for large ship cruising
  • FUNDI certified for tourism in South Africa, as well as trained in South African Winelands, Namibia,and Botswana

I am a regular guest on “Around The World” radio travel show out of Santa Barbara, CA. I teach travel classes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and I sit on panels at the New York Times Travel Show. Each year I exhibit at National Geographic Adventure Travel Shows around the country, and in winter and spring 2014, trips I designed under my former brand, Tough Love Travel, were featured on CBS’ “The Price Is Right!”

Other Information

I have a bachelor’s degree in business from University of Virginia. Before starting Tough Love Travel, now Rare Finds Travel Design, I worked in commercial real estate, event planning, and fundraising.

Rare Finds Travel Design owner Melanie Tucker in Egypt.

Rare Finds Travel Design owner
Melanie Tucker in Egypt.

I’m an avid reader of memoirs and travel histories, a sculler and sailing captain, and a cyclist and snowboarder. I’m a shameless foodie–my friends say that if it doesn’t walk off my plate, I’ll eat it!

I live on the canal in Lambertville, NJ, with my wheaten terrier, Patrick.