Personalized stays, autotours, semi-autonomous circuits, tailor-made circuits: a trip designed according to your tastes, with or without a guide, which allows you to experience a unique vacation. But in reality, what does this imply?
The typical package tour of the 1980s has changed a lot. If we always come across coaches of vacationers whose challenge is to discover a region or a country in record time, the formula has nevertheless been adapted according to the trends and preferences of travelers who are more demanding than ever.
“Faced with the growing popularity of personalized stays, both agents and tour operators have adjusted their offer”, reported already in 2014 the American magazine Travel + Leisure . A simple search on the Internet with the keywords “tailor-made organized trip” confirms this by bringing up a number of agencies specializing in what are also called “à la carte trips” or “private trips“.
“The main clientele for this type of trip? Baby boomers. We are seeing an increase in demand for multigenerational trips (grandparents, children, grandchildren),” says Annie Couture, personalized travel consultant and external agent for Voyages Turquoise (member of the Voyages en Liberté network). She adds that newlyweds looking for an unusual honeymoon and women – alone or accompanied by a sister or a friend – are also more likely than in the past to opt for this. type of stay.
Be in control of your journey
The tailor-made organized trip is built according to the client’s fields of interest, tastes and needsmuch in another, a place they want to see missing from the itinerary, etc. The tailor-made organized trip allows much more flexibility,” explains Annie Couture.
There are several à la carte travel formulas, adds this specialist:
• self-drive, popular especially in European destinations; travelers move independently, with a car rented for them, or by train, according to a pre-established itinerary;
• the semi-autonomous circuit, also widespread on the Old Continent; comparable to a self-guided tour, it allows travelers to travel on their own while providing access to local guides in certain towns or regions;
• the tailor-made circuit with a guide or driver: “They are very popular with destinations in South-East Asia and Latin America”, specifies Annie Couture.
Some travelers choose the tailor-made tour in order to visit a country that is more difficult to access than others because of the language or for security issues, for example. This is the choice made by Katerine-Lune Rollet for her solo exploration of India. “As I didn’t have time to read everything about this country to prepare for my stay, I explained to my adviser what I wanted to do”, says the one who has around forty trips to her credit. “I wanted to go to an ashram, do yoga, see the countryside… He offered me an itinerary, hotels and guides for each of the cities, then he made all the reservations. I just had to get on the plane!”
Others like the idea of a thematic trip: yoga retreat, vineyards in Italy, spa treatment, temples in Egypt… This is the case of François Dompierre, who not only takes part in hiking trips in small groups, but organizes some himself on behalf of the Voyages Malavoy chain. These stays are generally much better organized and more interesting than large group trips, designed to suit several types of travellers. Thus, according to Mr. Dompierre, in a smaller group, it is more likely that people have common interests and do activities that really appeal to them.
As for Marie-Sophie L’Heureux, she let herself be tempted by the formula of semi-autonomous (and solo) cycling travel from the SwissTrails agency, based in Switzerland. The young woman organized her journey online: all exchanges with the agency were done by email. In addition to establishing his entire circuit, the members of the team – who traveled by car – were able to help him in the event of a technical glitch and transported his luggage to the hotels and inns where they had previously reserved a room for him. I just had to say my name, and they handed me the keys to my room,” she says.
It’s all in the agency
Tempted by the adventure? Start by researching the Internet according to your areas of interest. You should find specialist agencies or travel consultants who offer similar packages.
Warning: make sure, as far as possible, that the agency or advisor has a valid license from the Office de la protection du consommateur (OPC). “The online agencies that offer tailor-made organized trips are mostly local incoming agencies – that is to say, located in the country to be visited – and the traveler is therefore not protected by the OPC if the trip does not go as planned or if he does not receive the services defined at the start. Appeals are then more difficult: it is therefore at your own risk,” warns Annie Couture.
Once you have found the professional, make an appointment with him and explain the type of stay you are looking for, the type of accommodation that suits you best, the price you are willing to pay, etc. making a decision. Also, if you’re joining a small group of travellers, “don’t be afraid to ask what kind of people – retirees? young people? – can end up with you, to avoid unpleasant surprises”, advises François Dompierre.
Also ask your agent or adviser if he will take care of all the formalities related to this type of trip concerning:
- international flights;
- internal flights (when required);
- ground transportation (car rental, train and coach tickets, etc.);
- the tour guide or the driver;
- the local guide(s);
- planned excursions and activities.
This professional has a duty to inform you about travel insurance – it is then up to you whether or not to take out the one he offers you. Moreover, if a visa is required in the country you wish to visit, he has the obligation to inform you of this, and can, if necessary, assist you in your steps to obtain it.
The tour guide, this precious ally
A fine connoisseur of local customs, the best addresses and the most interesting (and most likely to please you) tourist attractions, the tour guide will become your regular travel companion.
“Arriving in India is a shock,” recalls Katerine-Lune Rollet. “Having someone waiting for you at the airport, walking around the city and sharing their knowledge with you makes all the difference!”
But above all, this person usually adapts easily to the pace and tastes of the traveler she is escorting. The itinerary for the day seems a bit too busy? Would you rather spend the afternoon at a flea market than at a museum? Don’t hesitate to let him know: a good guide demonstrates flexibility. In the event that the change of program would result in additional expenses (visiting a paying place not scheduled, for example), you will then have to assume them.
“It was I who managed my cycling days: I happened to modify certain routes initially planned by my guides. Anyway, I could reach them at any time by cell phone,” recalls Marie-Sophie L’Heureux.
When the guide is not up to par…
On the spot, the official guide of your stay offers a poor service? If the thing turns out to be rather rare (given the high amount to be paid for this type of trip), it can happen… Contact your agent or advisor without delay, advises Annie Couture: “He will explain the situation to the local supplier, who should then check if another guide is available. As these are personalized trips, the suppliers usually provide excellent service in this context and do everything to help.”
Does the travel agency recommend the services of local guides who join you during the day during your stay? If you are disappointed with their services, when you return, go to your agency staff and tell them the facts. Perhaps your agency will be able to compensate you by filing a complaint with the local supplier. If the latter refuses to cooperate, try to reach an agreement directly with the agency – the Compensation Fund for Customers of Travel Agents (FICAV) can do nothing for similar cases – or, subsequently, consider a go to small claims court if you think the case is worthwhile.
For all scholarships?
The tailor-made organized trip of the self-guided or semi-autonomous tour type is generally not much more expensive than a traditional organized trip. Let’s take a typical example provided by various specialized agencies: an all-inclusive 14-day safari in Tanzania in a group of four travelers could cost around $5,200 per person, while it will take around $4,900 per person. head for the same trip (obtained from the same supplier) in a group of 15 to 25 vacationers.
That said, according to Annie Couture, personalized travel consultant, the bill will be much higher for a solo traveler accompanied by a guide, in particular because of the supplement generally required for the rental of a single room and the fees for the accompanying guide. , which are not amortized over several tourists. In all cases, prices vary according to the destination chosen, the date of the trip, the type of accommodation and the presence of an English-speaking guide on site. The usual advice prevails: shop around!
As a general rule, tips for the guide are not included in the price of the tailor-made tour package. If this person delivers an excellent service, it is customary to reward him at the end of the stay with a slightly larger sum than for a traditional organized trip. The number to remember: 10. “We usually leave the guide 10 euros per day per person in European countries where this currency is current, or the equivalent of 10 $ in countries where the cost of living is lower , such as those from Central America, South America or Africa,” concludes Annie Couture.