“65 Things to Do When You Retire - Travel” offers 65 inspirational articles to advice retirees, both young and old, on how to see the world. iSpyRome is a contributor and below is our piece “Getting the Most from a Private Tour Guide”. Keep reading to enjoy it for free. However, you’ll need to buy the book for the other 64 pearls of wisdom from the likes of Andrew McCarthy, Elizabeth Berg, George M. Taber, and Lynne Martin. Royalties generated from book sales are being donated to non profit organisations working for the prevention and cure of cancer. If you have read the book please post a review on www.amazon.com, bn.com, or an ebook retailer of your choice.
Getting the most from a private tour guide
by Stephen Wheeler
Traveling to a different continent is a big deal for anyone, so it's only natural that some feel safer entrusting the booking of flights, hotels, and transfers to a travel agent or cruise line. However, the Internet has unbundled the travel sector and the young as well as not-so-young retirees are now planning their own travels from home. Working with a private guide is one way to reduce the risks involved with Do-It-Yourself tourism.
As a tour organizer in Rome, I work with many clients who are embarking on Mediterranean cruises. They hire my services because the tours sold by the cruise companies are either for big groups (and therefore rather impersonal) or are prohibitively expensive. People fly into Rome, see the city, and then take a limo up the coast to meet their cruise ship. The most common mistake guests make is not allowing enough time to see a city that “…was not built in a day.” Ideally, you need three days to cover the “must see” sites and get over the jet lag. Therefore, my first piece of advice when using a private tour guide is to take it slow; do not take a been-there-seen-it-and-got-the-t-shirt approach.
Private tours by their very definition are customized and that means the guide and client work together before the tour to build an itinerary that suits your interests and mobility. A good guide will encourage involvement and listen to your needs before you do the tour; if you are not getting this kind of attention, then look elsewhere. When visiting Rome, you do not need a college degree in classics to enjoy hearing about the country's history, architecture, theology and archaeology but only a guide brings this all to life. However, if you reach your saturation point, do not be shy about asking your guide lighten the conversation. In any case, a seasoned guide will understand when you need an ice cream, a coffee, or some gift shopping.
Should you be brave enough to organize your whole holiday abroad yourself, then working with a private guide can really be beneficial. Guides know the travel business in their city or region far better than travel agents. Still, do not expect a free lunch - if your guide creates a personalized travel itinerary, especially when there are several cities involved, expect to be asked for a financial commitment in advance of your visit. A recommendation from a guide on a restaurant, hotel, or means of transport can usually be trusted as genuine as the guide is typically working on a good will basis for such referrals. For example at Enoteca Corsi in via Gesù, Rome, my regular lunchtime spot, I don’t pay when I go with the family.
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