Our travel agents and team were invaluable in helping me plan a surprise 50th birthday trip to France and Spain for my wife, and flexible in the face of the inevitable changes when the surprise got revealed and my wife wanted to put her own twist on the trip. They even worked with us to include a stay not usually in their offerings that had been recommended to us by family friends. Overall we did 4 cities in 16 days which was quite a packed and whirlwind pace but it all fit together.
Everything was coordinated from airport or rail station to transfers to hotel to tours. Their selected tour guides and organizations were nearly all superb in one way or another and never mediocre, in more than one case they vastly exceeded our expectations and made us feel like locals not tourists. They made sure we got texts when drivers arrived, and we had welcoming gifts at hotels, nice little touches like that.
They're not cheap, but of course service of this quality shouldn't be. This is not an agency to contact if you're just wanting youth hostels and backpacking/hitchhiking, I suspect. In the end the total trip price was more than my original budget but I never felt upsold, it was more like when we saw what was available we kept stretching a little further because we wanted to.
Thanks for a great trip!
I might in a perfect world re-order a couple things, like getting the Pintxos 'walking tour' to learn the somewhat different etiquette as compared to tapas earlier in our stay in San Sebastian. Perhaps one less planned self-directed day in each location to explore a bit on our own.
And, having a great agency is no substitute for doing at least a little of your own homework as well. Don't count on 'fast data' on your cellphone if you're on a U.S. cellular plan and away from wireless (e.g. before you get to your hotel). Google Maps allows downloading offline areas including even large regions like the whole inner circle of Paris at 100-200MB storage per city, which will include restaurants and tourist spots for searches not just the visual map. Since everyone has smartphones these days with 8-16GB free, no reason not to download all your target destinations ahead of time to be prepared so you only need the GPS signal and aren't waiting for data once you're there and trying to figure out where to go.
The same applies for translation - Google Translate offers an offline download of languages that was a great help with menus for us typical only-English-speakers. In Spain this may mean downloading Spanish, Catalan, and Basque depending on location!
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