The owner of our travel company had a lot of good ideas initially but by the time we booked the experiences they were standard tourist fare. Although we first began working together almost 9 months before our trip, and paid her 50% deposit, she didn't book much until less than 2 months before departure, according to the vouchers she included. Because we were traveling over the holidays, paying attention to which attractions were open and planning our itinerary should have been key. Details such as correct days of the Changing of the Guard ceremony or pre purchasing Oyster cards for discounts and transport fell by the wayside. Agent did not call ahead to our hotel to confirm booking details,(which were not settled correctly until after arrival) let alone arrange a welcome basket for us. The Jack the Ripper tour first described as the only tour with "ripper vision" was booked with different tour operator, tour was good but no special effects or anything to distinguish it from other available tours. London eye tickets were not skip the line tickets we requested; we had to get help from the Eye customer service. We had good luck with the tour guides arranged in Paris, but these were booked online with a tour company. I believe our agent had used them before but certainly she had no specific recommendation for individual guides; we got lucky with 2 of the 3 and the third was ok. The Versailles tour was not nearly as long as represented so we saw only the main rooms, no time for Petite Trianon. Yes, budget impacted our desire for unusual or personal touches, but I thought the trip should have been a level above what I could have booked(and in some cases did end up booking or rebooking) online using trip advisor. The most fun thing we did was go early to a West End theater and get same day front row seats for Miss Saigon. We only knew to try this because of our own knowledge, and it turned out to be a highlight. In Paris one of the main things we wanted to do was visit the catacombs. Due to the Paris attacks in November all advance tickets were refunded and no longer available online. Our agent just passed on the refund and made no attempt to think a way around that. On my own I hired a tour guide who purchased tickets in person for us. After initially suggesting entertainment like a Lido cabaret show for our family, we ended up at a dinner show type of place for New Year's Eve that was totally inappropriate( about 40 years too old) for our family with teens and we left early even though we had paid in advance.
The most fun were the things I arranged on our own- a private guide to take us to Stonehenge on Boxing Day, so we could see the changing of the guards the next day; the theater show, the catacombs tour.
I would book it myself reading reviews and recommendations on Trip Advisor. Even though I shared details about our family likes and dislikes and stressed that this was a family trip with 2 teenagers, the trip was mostly standard. Since my son is into history and politics, we'd make sure to get to Churchills war rooms and maybe get an in depth Parliament tour. Since my daughter is learning French and loves theater and historical fiction, I would try harder to incorporate that into a Parisienne experience that was more relatable for her.
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