Overall we found our travel agent to be extremely responsive and attentive to our needs. I usually got an email response from him about 6-8 hours after emailing, which is reasonable. We were initially assigned to another company for our trip to Spain, but that company was unable to have a conference call with us on a Saturday morning when my whole family could be in attendance (which I regard as essential). I am a 3-time Zicasso user, and all the other companies I have worked with have been able to talk with us on a Saturday morning. So I was surprised when this first company was unable to work with us. So, I asked Zicasso to provide us with a different agency, and the travel agent was calling us literally the next morning (which was a Saturday!).
We worked with this travel agent over the next year to identify what we wanted to do, and he was very helpful in responding to our specific requests, and also filling in the gaps when we weren't sure what we wanted to. Our agent was also able to work with us in finding ways to cut costs. His initial itinerary was having us stay in 5-star hotels, but this was very expensive because we had to have two rooms in every town because two adult children were coming along with my wife and me. He found two excellent 4-star hotels in Madrid and Sevilla, which lowered the cost significantly.
Booking the trip was very easy, and he even accepts American Express. In my experience, other companies have added a surcharge when booking with a credit card. So in the past we have had to wire money, and that is very annoying.
The trip went flawlessly! The driver was there to pick us up at the airport (which for us is one of the most important things). There was no problem checking into any of the hotels, and also no unexpected charges when we checked out. A small thing which our travel agent provided, but which turned out to be really important, was a hotspot device that worked all over Spain. This proved indispensable for us, especially our son, because it allowed us to use the internet everywhere without using data from our AT&T plan. The device was available to us immediately upon check-in at the first hotel, and upon check-out at our last hotel, all we had to do was leave the device with the front desk. Easy-peezy.
We traveled to four cities: Malaga, Sevilla, Trujillo, & Madrid. I am sure that each of us would rate our experiences based on our own likes, but one of my favorite experiences was renting bikes in Sevilla. Sevilla is very flat, and they have nice bike trails throughout the city and it is easy to get around. We had a very knowledgeable bike tour guide, who knew good places to take us.
All of the guides were professional, prompt, and seemed to have considerable expertise. My favorite tour guide was the one who took us through El Prado. She emphasized Goya, Velaszquez, El Bosco, and El Greco. This was perfect for us, and we spent 2 hours doing it. El Prado is overwhelming, and it was very nice to have a guide with a specific focus.
In terms of sights, we loved the "white villages" in the Costa del Sol region. They are beautiful to look at from afar, and we had fun exploring Fugiliana on foot. There is also some beautiful scenery overlooking the Mediterranean from these mountain villages.
Also, the aqueduct in Segovia is breathtaking; and the city itself is very charming. It's hard to believe the aqueduct is still in one piece and transporting water after 2000 years. The ancient Romans were obviously engineering geniuses.
We had to have a rental car to get to and from Trujillo because Trujillo is a very rural, medieval village. This was memorable because I didn't much care to drive in Madrid or Sevilla, and we got lost in the tunnels under Madrid (which I totally expected would happen). Still, the cost for the rental car saved us something like $700 from having a private driver. Taking the train wasn't an option, and buses would have been extremely awkward given how much luggage we had (we were picking up our daughter after a study abroad experience, and she had very many bags).
Knowing what I know now, I think one thing I would do differently is try to stay longer in Fragiliana and Segovia. Because we were on a day trip for both visits, we were only scheduled to stay there for about 90 minutes, which included lunch. Lunch is VERY slow in Spain, and it is impossible to get the check within the American timeframe, so we didn't have time to walk around. For both villages I think we would've preferred at least an additional 2-3 hours to wander and explore over and above what we were scheduled for.
I would also rethink the value of moving down to 4-star hotels from 5-star hotels. We asked for some 4-stars to save money, and we did save a lot of money. The 4-stars our agent found us were also very nice hotels in prime, centrally-placed locations. But there is something special about staying in European 5-stars that is hard to put your finger on, that in retrospect may be worth the cost. It's the kind of excellence and elegance that someone in my station doesn't often get the chance to enjoy, so I have wondered whether it might have been better just to absorb the cost. The one five star hotel we stayed at in Malaga treated us like celebrities throughout our stay. The staff always smiled, addressed us by name often, greeted us whenever they saw us, had a concierge on staff all day, and had much better English than staff at the other hotels (which was a bonus, not something we necessarily expected). The four star hotels were quaint, historical, and had good amenities. The staff were mostly fine (although at the hotel in Madrid was fairly off-putting), but overall they just lacked that special touch of the hotel in Malaga.
Each review is written by a verified traveler who was matched by Zicasso to the reviewed agency. Traveler must have purchased and traveled.
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