Outsourcing your dream vacation

After traveling internationally for so many years, mostly on my own for business or with my wife and family on vacations, we always planned our own itinerary, hotels, and details along the way. But recently we’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps it’s time to hire some pros to do the work for us.

For our recent vacation to Europe, my wife spent many days planning all the details, including flights, airport transfers, daily tours, evening meals, reading hundreds of reviews, and researching the things to do in each of the tourist areas. It all came together and worked out well, but we were constantly checking and double checking, and referring to the document that my wife spent weeks preparing containing all the details.

Once we returned home and thought about all the planning that was required, we discussed how next time we might want to travel differently and put the planning burden on someone else. While there are lots of companies offering planned group tours, that’s not always appealing to us because the itineraries rarely match our preferences. Either they repeat areas we’ve been to or don’t go to exactly where we’d like to go. And we much prefer dining in unique local spots rather than having large group dinners. In other words we want to take our own road.

When the opportunity popped up to take a trip to Argentina while my wife and daughter were going to another destination, I thought this would be a good time to visit Argentina, a trip I always wanted to take. I looked for a small-group preplanned trip from numerous tour companies but found nothing that met my objectives. I then came across Zicasso, a sort of matchmaking company for those that want customized travel. They offer a no-cost service that introduces you to two local trip planning companies that specialize in creating your own personal vacation. Zicasso says that they find and vet the top 10% of travel specialists in each of dozens of countries around the world and arrange the introductions.

Each of the companies asked me for my interests and goals – trip length, areas of interest, food preferences, etc. They then provide their recommendations in a detailed itinerary that covers all the specifics.

Besides learning about the country, I was interested in exploring Argentina’s food and wine scene, especially Argentinian asados and Argentina’s Malbec wineries. I do a lot of grilling and barbecuing, and Argentina is known for doing it better than most anywhere in the world.

Each of two companies came up with a recommended trip split between Buenos Aires and Mendoza. They each selected Argentinian food experiences, cooking lessons, visits to wineries, city tours, flights, and recommended dining spots. They both knew every detail of the areas, certainly much better than anything I could find on my own.

I emailed back and forth with each over a few weeks, and both came back with their final itineraries and costs. While the costs were similar and surprisingly moderate, I chose the one that was more imaginative and included some of the most appealing offerings. After 30% down, they make the reservations. The rest of the payment is due 60 days prior to the trip.

When I shared the itinerary with a few friends, several were so excited by it that they decided to join me. The company readily accepted the change and the price for each was adjusted downward because more joined. We’ll be picked up at the airport and have guides and transportation for most of the entire time. Everything has been planned. While it’s still several months away, I’m looking forward to what should be a very unique vacation that much better than anything I would have done on my own.

by Phil Baker