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Outsourcing your dream vacation

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

For our recent vacation to Europe, my wife spent hours planning all the details, including flights, airport transfers, daily tours, and evening meals. It all came together and worked out well, but we were always relying on the reservations we made, checking and double checking, and referring to a document that my wife spent weeks preparing that contained every detail we might need to refer to.

While the trip went well, at the end we were exhausted when we thought about all of the work that went into it. We discussed how next time we might want to travel differently and put the planning burden on someone else that can attend to all of the details. While there are lots of companies offering group travel, 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 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 on another long planned trip, I thought this would be a good time to look for a professional trip planner. I turned to Zicasso, a sort of matchmaking company for those that want personal customized travel. They offer a service that puts you in contact with two companies in the country of choice that specialize in creating a cutomized vacation that exactly meets your goals. Zicasso finds the top 10% of travel specialists in the country and puts you in direct contact.

Each of the companies will ask for your interests and goals – trip length, areas of interest, food preferences, etc. They then provide their recommendations in a detailed itinerary that covers all details from when you land to when you depart. Zicasso does not charge, but receives referral fees from the planners.

Besides learning about the country, my interest was around food and wine, especially Argentinian Asados and Argentina’s Malbec wineries. I do a lot of grilling and barbecuing and Argentina is of course 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, and recommended dining spots. Each of the planning companies is a small local company that knows the area much better than I would ever.

I emailed back and forth with each of the two companies over a few weeks before they each came back with their final itinerary and cost. While the costs were similar and surprisingly moderate, I chose the one that recommended a local hotel, a stay at a winery and some unique cooking lessons. They required 30% down with the the rest of the payment 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. And with four of us, the price for each became even less expensive. We will 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 more than meets my expectations.