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Posted on: Thursday May 06, 2021
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Why Take A Preplanned Tour or Vacation When You Can Do It All Yourself?

Are you an experienced traveller?

So many people today have been on trips to wonderful and unusual destinations. And maybe you have been kind of foot loose and “quixotic”, with out much in the way of set plans. I admit that even as a group tour planner for many years I still winged it my own travel. But I was changed in Peru. I had been planning a tour for a university group and I really needed to know more so I arranged a private tour with a local company for me and my wife.
From the moment I arrived in Lima I realised, this was going to be good. Instead of hassling with taxis at the airport, a driver met us. Instead of fussing about money and finding a hotel, we were already prepaid. Instead of racing to a bus station the next morning to try and figure out when the bus to Paracas left, we had tickets and were taken to the first class terminal. More time, less stress.
Later on in Arequipa, we met our guide Jorge who took us to places we’d never think of going, like a beautiful hot spring in the Colca valley. When he learned we were interested in wildlife, he detoured us to places he knew we could see endemic birds, vicunas, alpacas, llamas and of course Andean condors. But it became even more interesting as the trip progressed to one of our main points of interest, Cuzco in the Sacred Valley of the Inca.
We came in the wet season and it’s not unusual that the train to Machu Picchu closes down temporarily when tracks wash out. We did not know this, but it happened a few days before we arrived in Cuzco. Had we been on our own, I don’t think we would have made it to Machu Picchu. But Rosy, our guide/host in Cuzco, had already rearranged our itinerary so that we could take a helicopter transfer from Urubamba to Aguas Calientes where we stayed the night in a fantastic little hotel. From here we were able to take the daily bus ride up the switchbacks to the magnificent lost city of the Incas.
The next day, we returned by helicopter through the misty mountain clouds (now a twice in a lifetime experience) to the Sacred Valley. Rather than letting rain be a negative, Rosy took us to see how the ancient Incas had engineered water ways and fountains that not only channeled the water away, but did so with beauty and joy.
The rain had cancelled some commercial flights and they were backed up. That was also managed by Rosy and we continued on our fabulous journey into the Amazon without any stress of dealing with overworked airline check-in agents.
The Difference of Taking a Tour and Making A Tour
When you have never taken a tour, you only see it from the outside. It looks prescribed. It looks channeled. It seems like you are giving something up by letting some one else do the thinking, planning and organising. But reality is much the opposite. You actually have more freedom, and more enjoyment because most of the gritty logistics of travel are simply “handled”. (It’s like the difference between making home made wine, and sitting on a winery patio and enjoying a glass. Making wine is cheaper but it’s messy, and it can sometimes turn sour. Drinking wine on the winery patio? What would you rather be doing?)
Our guides became much more than guides. They interpreted what we could not understand and they made us feel easy and relaxed. They worried the details so we didn’t have to. They became friends and companions on our shared journey. (In fact I’ve read so many post tour evaluations that all say the same thing: “The guide made the trip.”)
Did the tour cost us more than if we’d winged it? If you count the dollars we spent up front, yes it did, of course. We paid for a service. But when you factor in the value that the service brought us, it saved us money.
We simply would not been able to manage the unforeseen events and still have the great experience. Challenges like this are not uncommon on trips, but when they do happen, it’s really good to have the local assistance to help you out.
So, if you are curious, if you want to get a idea of price, do some comparison shopping or even just want to open the door to learn more, call me. Let’s talk about where you’d like to go and what you’d like to do.
Pre-covid Post-covid Postscript
I wrote the story above long before Sars Covid. I don't think unplanned travel or unpackaged travel will go away, but it underscores how any travel can be upended. Having a resource to help you out can be very useful, not to mention comforting. Check out this video from Independent by Flight Centre.

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