This was our first time to London and Paris and was going to be a combination birthday and anniversary present for my wife so the pressure was on to make this a spectacular trip. And it truly was! A few things that stand out about our experience working with our agent at this European travel company:
Why We Choose this company: So, we ended up using both Zicasso and additional research to identify and speak with a number of travel companies. At the end, we selected this company over others for a number of reasons:
1. We clicked pretty much instantly with our agent. She is down to earth, funny, very easy to talk to, asks great questions and really really really knows her stuff. Her background working in various areas of the travel industry and across a spectrum of different clients clearly gives her a comprehensive understanding of all aspects of travel planning and execution.
2. She was super responsive. our agent was incredibly fast and responsive to us (frankly, I was more the bottle neck). She put together a draft intinerary quite soon after our first conversation and was terrific about then reshaping it to meet our exact needs. This was in contrast to some travel companies we spoke with that took a couple of weeks to get back to us after our initial conversation.
3. She really listened to us and didn't try to 'sell' us. One frustration we had talking with other travel companies is that we would lay out ideas of what we wanted and then they'd come back with an itinerary that really didn't reflect the conversation. Another thing that was really a challenge was talking with companies who tried to 'sell' certain experience as being very unique (and very expensive) when one could go onto an online Travel Agency and quickly see they were neither. Our agent never did that. She definitely suggested some great experiences and also worked with things we had come up with on our own but she never tried to overblow something.
4. She worked with our budget. London and Paris are *not* inexpensive cities. We knew that going in. Still, we had a budget we needed to work with and she did a great job of staying within it and also helping us work activities that kept things very personal and luxe.
5. It was truly personalized/custom built: We talked to some really terrific travel companies who, when it came time to actually cost out the execution of the trip basically just took the itinerary and sent it out to another travel company. This basically added a layer of un-necessary cost while reducing the actual 'hands-on' experience of the travel company. WIth our agency, they were involved in every facet from picking just the right guide for each event/location to making reservations, to following up on things. It truly was "handcrafted travel" and it makes a huge difference.
The Experience: So, basically every step of the way, from receiving our final itinerary packed full of helpful hints (including specific maps and directions for using the Underground/Train systems in London and Paris to get around as well as Oyster Cards and Paris Passes) to the actual day-by-day travel, was fantastic. One of the things that really struck us was how with *every* guide we used and every event we did, our agent had clearly spent an enormous amount of energy not only selecting each guide to be a great fit for us, but talking to them right before we met with them and then immediately after. It made for such an amazing experience.
In the end, we wanted a trip of a lifetime and we got exactly that (without having to break the bank to do it). Highly recommend and will absolutely use this agency again ourselves.
It is very difficult to pick out the most enjoyable parts of what was a truly amazing trip but, here's a few examples:
- Day long tour of London with an excellent Blue Badge guide, really focusing on the Tower of London and, through an exploration of that, getting an amazing history of England
- Private guide and stone circle access of Stonehenge, tour of the Avebury Stones and Salsibury cathedral
- Walking along the bank of the Seine in Paris and locking a lock (and throwing away the key) on one of the lover bridges by Notre Dame
- Fantastic guide in Paris (basically the *perfect* Frenchwoman)
- Day of Hawking in the English countryside (an *amazing* experience).
Because we had never been to Paris and London before, our list of things we wanted to do was *very* long and we wanted to have a lot to do each day. We probably over-estimated our stamina and need to have downtime on the trip and so, if we were to do it all over again, we would probably cut back on a couple of events (which we ended up doing anyway) just to have more time to relax and enjoy the cities.
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