Tailor Made Holidays & Travel to South America at a Discount

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.

Flights

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. 

Hotels

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. 

5 Responses to “Tailor Made Holidays & Travel to South America at a Discount”

  1. You are obviously wanting people, especially hard working tour operators who are in business to provide a service to comment on this with much fanfare and criticism. It is quite obvious you were let go from your employer and have some ill will towards them. How could you make the suggestion of asking people to waste the time of tour operators to plan out all the details and then they go run with it on their own. Anyway, a sensible client will probably value the service given by a travel agent or tour operator. No one is going to waste their time getting their brain picked. This is why most companies will or should charge a planning fee. This is one South America tip you could have written better. I had a lot of respect for this blog but today you changed that.

  2. Raul that’s a little harsh…. no I wasn’t “let go by my employer” - I’m actually still on very good terms with them, and promote them in various sections of this website. I actually quit, as I’ve moved to Colombia. As you are probably fully aware, there are cheapskate travellers out there, so this article is for them. At least I am promoting the tailor-made pre-planned form of travel, and sending potential enquiries to operators - after all, not everything is bookable online in a few seconds and this article would send business in operators’ direction anyway! Sorry if I offended you - all I do here is offer South America travel tips - have I not done that?

  3. Well, since I know who you are (I hope you’re well), and since you used to work for us, I can confirm that you did indeed leave us on good terms to go and live in Colombia, and that you do intermittently mention us in your blog. I have no embarrassment as identifying myself as Chris Parrott, one of the directors of Journey Latin America – based in Chiswick, west London.

    Most of what you say is true, and the nature of tailor-making an itinerary is that we do a lot of unpaid work up-front in simply presenting ideas (brochures, websites). We do this in the hope that potential travellers will be impressed with our breadth and depth of knowledge book with us.

    Much of the information which was simply unavailable to all but a few specialists is now accessible at the touch of the button. But making it all work together is where the skill comes in. Ask anyone who’s tried it. It’s very time-consuming. But possible.

    You suggest that you also get the tour operator to do this planning bit for you. It happens more and more. We do the work, but lose the business either to a competitor or to do-it-yourself.

    In an ideal world, I’d prefer you not to lift our skirts so that all the world can see up.

    Magicians who reveal the “smoke and mirrors” secrets of their trade are vilified by the Magic Circle, but the public’s fascinated to know how the lady gets sawn in half and emerges whole again. But you wouldn’t try it at home.

    It’s actually fairly common for people intending to do get us to do the planning to end up booking with us – up to us to demonstrate that we’re actually adding value.

    And then there’s Consumer Protection.

    If anything goes wrong with, or you’re unhappy with, the arrangements you book with us, we’re there to pick up the pieces. We have to conform to UK law, and EC law, and accept responsibility for the services we’ve said we’d deliver. We’ve also had (for 20 years) a 24-hour helpline for our clients.

    In the last 3 months, clients affected by the collapse of Air Comet, the floods near Machu Picchu, and the Chilean earthquake have all had us on their side: not least in Chile, re-booking flights when not even LAN Chile could do it, and our own staff on the ground making contact with clients in person.

    I know consumer protection usually comes lower than price in most people’s decision-making process, and I can go on about this, so if you’d like to know more, take a look at Journey Latin America’s website (click on AITO logo down at the bottom of the home page.)

    By the way, I’ve no idea how consumer protection works in USA.

    CP

  4. I coincide with CP,

    I would normally try to do it yourself travel, but now the internet has created its own trap.

    when you are actually caught in real trouble, or something pops up and you need to make changes to your itinerary, good luck with Orbitz or Lan.com

    the internet has helped bring down prices but it really helps simplify things for the corporations
    since travel is never going to be a simple operation

  5. Hi,
    Just came across this blog, crosslinked from flyertalk when I was looking for information on South American air passes.
    I don’t think this particular blog post reveals any secrets - but I can understand that travel agents are worried. Chris Parrot puts a brave face on it, but the internet has made it easy for the independent traveller to find out about as much information as a travel agent. A travel agent has to be very good and very knowlegable to be able to compete. I have a Travel Weekly subcription, and just have to laugh sometimes at the mystery shopper series they run - the ignorance of some agents is just breath taking. I’m sure that JLA by the way is much better. And I like reading Papagaio.
    But at the end of the day there are two types of travellers - those who do, and those who do it themselves. If you have the time and the inclination to book it yourself, you can - almost invariably just as good as most travel agents, and cheaper. Plus, you can really customise your trip, taking into account idiosyncracies of your travel requirements.
    And you know what? I actually enjoy the trip planning. For me it’s part of the experience - researching options, making decisions, the anticipation of actually going there. I’ve done a several of these multi-country, multi-city, multi-whatever trips in four continents. Even in China it is possible these days and South America is relatively easy. And we’ve always enjoyed them.

    Maybe I should give up my day job, and become a travel agent ;)

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