This is a naugthy article of mine…. Having worked as a tailor made travel consultant for the UK’s top South America specialist tour operator, I know what goes into the making of a tailor made holiday. Here I offer you a very easy method by which anyone can book budget or luxury tailor made holidays to South America for about 30% less than if they book with a travel agency or tour operator. Try it - it works - it’s much cheaper this way….
First, call or email a South America specialist tour operator or travel agency and get some ideas from them. Tell them you want to do this, this and this, in so-and-so country, for X days at a certain time of year and let them come up with the suggestions for you. They’ll offer lots of insights for you, maybe it’s better to visit a market on a certain day and build your itinerary around that, or the weather might be better in so-and-so a region at that time of year, maybe you need an extra night to acclimatize - the tour operator will offer lots of insights and make lots of suggestions based upon your preferences and holiday budget. Once you’ve established with the South America tour operator what your vague itinerary will be, ask them to write you up a tailor made travel proposal. You might want to subsequently tweak the proposal slightly - ask for a re-write if this is the case (this is very common - I very rarely wrote a client a proposal without them wanting to change a few things around before booking).
Once you’ve got your final itinerary planned, have a scope online to see if it can be booked yourself. Simple itineraries involving major tourist destinations (Rio, Buenos Aires, Patagonia, Salvador etc. etc.) can often be booked independently online, and prices will often be up to 30% less when booked this way. More complicated itineraries involving packages or less frequently visited destinations will have to be booked with a tour operator though.
Tailormade holidays consist of flights, transfers, hotel stays, excursions and maybe tourist packages. Here’s how to book each online, immediately, cutting out many of the middlemen.
I shouldn’t need to explain to you how to book flights online - go to Travelocity, Expedia, LastMinute, Kayak - your choice. Your South America tailormade tour operator will have already suggested the most suitable (and probably cheapest) flights - find the same ones online and you’ll typically find them 10-15% cheaper this way.
Following the itinerary provided by your South America tour operator adviser, you will have been suggested some hotels that suit you and are within your budget, whether you are after a luxury or cheap holiday. Check whether these very same hotels can bookable online - on Travelocity, Expedia or Hotels.com. You’ll find that these hotels are anything from 20-40% cheaper if you book them this way. Of course, not all hotels are bookable online - smaller properties often aren’t available to book online, but large, well known hotels often are.
Excursions, tours, day trips, airport transfers and tourist packages
You can even book these small intricacies online for the countries Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Mexico. The ground providers of these tourist packages, tours and excursions may well be the same as if you book through a South America tailor made holiday specialist in your own country. To finalize your South America tailor made holiday, follow this link to book tours and transfers online - prices are typically 30-40% cheaper when booked in this way.
What if a certain part of my preferred itinerary isn’t available on one of these online travel aggregator websites?
Remote lodges and hotels in less frequently visited travel destinations in South America can’t be booked online. You’ll have to either approach the hotel directly (usually the cheapest option) or get your tour operator to book this part for you. You could book certain pieces with the tailor made holiday operator who wrote the original itinerary for you - just go back to them and say you found most of their itinerary online for 30% less, but could you book X with them - they’re used to this, fair enough no?
Suggested South America Tailor Made Holiday Operators
All of the following operators can arrange anything from a budget to a luxury itinerary for you, though some more focus on the luxury market. Pick their brains, you may even find you end up booking various parts with them:
USA: Yampu, Blue Parallel, Festival Tours, Magic Globe (EU as well).
UK & EU: Scott Dunn, Journey Latin America, Last Frontiers, Steppes Travel, Audley Travel, Tucan Travel, Cox & Kings.