When you hire Travels with Audrey for the Custom Travel Planning Service, for private guided tours or self-guided tours, we follow a 5-step travel planning process in order to create a trip that is the best fit for you and your travel companions. Our process has been honed over more than a decade, and we’ve followed it over and over again to create once-in-a-lifetime personalized itineraries that get rave reviews from our guests.
In order to create your custom vacation, we need to know about you! So before we can even start Step 1, we start with a few introductory questions:
- We want to know how many people will be traveling, and their ages, interests, and anything else you think we should know in order to make the best recommendations.
- Tell us how much time you have, and whether you have a budget (we’ll work within your budget).
- Describe a perfect day as you envision it on this trip.
- Let us know whether you’ve been to your destination before. (If so, when did you go and what did you see. If not, have you been abroad before).
- We want to know whether you have any must-visit places or experiences that you want to include on this trip. These may be as specific as “visit the Colosseum in Rome” or as general as “we love wine and food”.
Step 1: The basic itinerary
Based on your feedback to our set of initial questions, we’ll send you recommendations for destinations and activities we think you’ll love. We can also help with questions such as “should I go to the Amalfi Coast or the Cinque Terre?” or “which would be a better fit for us, Lake Como or Lake Maggiore?” or “should I visit Provence or the French Riviera?”.
This is the most time-consuming part of the process, but it’s important to get it right. At this stage, you’ll tell us what you definitely want to do, what you’d like to do if it fits, and what you’ll save for the next trip.
Based on your feedback, we’ll create an itinerary that:
- includes all your “must-dos” (although here, depending on the amount of time you have, you may need to decide what not to do); and
- is a realistic pace (we’ll tell you if it’s not!); and
- works from a geographic standpoint, so you’re not zigzagging around the country; and
- is a good balance (for example big city>countryside>small city>seaside is a great balance. Big city>big city>big city can be tiring; and
- works for you logistically. For example, if you don’t want to drive, we’ve taken that into consideration.
Step 2: Accommodations
After the itinerary is perfect, we move to the next step of creating your custom vacation: booking accommodations! We are happy to recommend our preferred properties in each location you chose for your vacation. But, we can’t move to this step until specific dates are confirmed and flights are booked.
Here too, we want to know about your preferences. Tell us whether you like big hotels, small hotels, boutique hotels, B&Bs, castles, paradors or farmhouses. We’d like to know whether you need or prefer amenities such as an onsite restaurant or bar or gym or pool. Maybe you’d love views, a balcony, a sitting area, or a suite. We’ll do our best to find the best room combinations for your family or group.
Then, we’ll send you specific recommendations for accommodations that:
- meet your preferences, and
- are within your budget, and
- are in excellent central locations, and
- have availability for your specific dates
You have the final say, but we book, check all details, and make sure everything gets done!
Step 3: Guides, Tours and Activities
After accommodations are booked, the next step in creating your custom vacation is activities! During Step 1, we identified the highlights of your trip so we know, for example, that you are going to visit the Vatican Museums in Rome and that you’d like to do a cooking class. But here’s where we delve into the details.
We want to know whether you’d like that Vatican tour to be with a private guide, or whether you’d prefer joining a small group tour. Maybe you just want us to buy you skip-the-line tickets and you’ll be fine renting a headset.
And for that cooking class: we want to know whether you’d like to participate in a serious class with a professional who is dressed in chef whites; or whether you’d prefer cooking with an Italian grandmother in her kitchen. Maybe you’d love a cooking class that begins with a trip to the market, or maybe you’re looking for less hands-on cooking, and more eating. Maybe you’re with kids who really just want to make pizza and gelato.
For each and every activity, we’ll work with you to recommend tours and activities that meet your preferences, budget, and travel pace. Then, with your approval, we’ll make the bookings for you.
Step 4: Logistics
Logistics can make or break a trip. For example trains are fantastic, but they don’t go everywhere. Renting a care is fabulous in the countryside but should be avoided at all costs in busy cities. Logistics of your trip are really important, but if everything flows smoothly you shouldn’t notice them at all.
When we ask you all those questions about your preferences, we discover whether you are okay to rent a car if it makes sense. We also ask about trains, boats, and private drivers. We find out how much walking you can do, and whether you’ll be traveling light. During this step in creating your custom vacation, we buy your train tickets, but do not book your car rental for insurance purposes. We also figure out ferry schedules and book airport transfers.
Note: When you book a private guided tour with Audrey as your tour manager, or driver-guide (groups of up to 7 guests), she takes care of the logistics for you while on tour.
Step 5: Food and Restaurants
The last step in creating your custom vacation is food! Many people we work with want to discuss food throughout the entire planning process, because it’s an important part of the trip. But our recommendations are included in your final documents once we know where you’ll be, for how long, and how much you would prefer to budget.
Here too, we want to know whether you have preferences or allergies. Gluten-free? No problem. We’ll set your expections about dinner time and food information.
Note: When you book a private guided tour with Audrey as your local host, tour manager or driver-guide, she takes care of your reservations at restaurants for your group.
Before departure, we’ll send you our pre-trip checklist. This checklist has advice and travel tips on technology, packing, electric plugs, tipping, driving, laundry, and more.
You’ll depart for your vacation with a completely personalized itinerary. Information about all hotels, activities, logistics, and restaurants will be in your written itinerary, at your fingertips while you’re on the road. All you’ll need to do is relax and enjoy.
Contact Audrey to start the conversation today!