We have worked with Allie Almario for more than fifteen years, including trips to Ecuador and the Galapagos, Patagonia, Peru and elsewhere. Each trip left us with only good memories. Allie understands our interests, but she feels free to suggest things to see and do that are a bit off the usual path. Without fail, our trips have been extraordinary for us and our kids, who have traveled with us as young children and now as young adults. Whether it was glacier climbing in Patagonia, horseback riding in Otavalo, Ecuador, staying in an eco-lodge in Quito or a fabulous hotel in remote Patagonia, Allie’s itineraries are always interesting, varied and surprising. In countries where not everything runs on schedule, our guides have always been waiting for us, and they managed our comings and goings without a hitch. And they are always flexible — if you prefer to take an afternoon off, or add something, not on the schedule, it happens.
Allie is also mindful of our budget. On one trip to Argentina, when we planned to go only to a couple of popular locations where she thought we would do well on our own, she suggested that we not book a trip with her. Instead, she suggested some things to do, and places to stay without booking a tour through her. That worked well, too.
Allie is unfailingly easy to work with and responsive to questions about background reading, local customs, tipping, etc.
Allie was very attentive and responsive to all of our questions. She did an amazing job with the logistics of the trip.
Allie is top notch! Allie planned an incredible trip to the Galapagos and Quito for us in March 2017. Her attention to detail, communication skills, and expertise was superb. She helped us pick the right ship for our needs and also made sure we were totally prepared for our trip. This was the trip of our lifetime and it exceeded our expectations!
Hi, my name is Sam Marchiano. My husband and I traveled to Quito and the Galapagos in March with our two children, aged 12 and 8 expecting the trip of a lifetime because we had heard such great things from other travelers to the Galapagos about Wendy Perrin. In fact, we hardly did any research and put our faith in the expert’s hands. It was a huge mistake.
The time spent in Quito was moderately interesting. We can all check, “Been to the Equator” off the bucket list, but aside from that, it was a disappointment. We spent way too much time in a bus driving around after two lengthy plane rides plus an authentic “chocolate making” activity took place in a storefront and had my kids rolling their eyes. The bright spot was a knowledgeable and kind tour guide.
In the Galapagos, they simply booked us in the wrong hotel for our trip. During the planning stages, we were not presented context when choosing a hotel or presented with several options so we could understand the context. We had no idea what the range available and eventually switched ourselves because we were so miserable at ours. On our first day in Santa Cruz, I saw The Finch Bay Eco Hotel and asked: “Why weren’t we booked here?” It’s beautiful and rated #1 by National Geographic. It was never even presented to us as an option. I highly recommend it and if you know you want a land based trip to the Galapagos, just book everything through Finch Bay, you won’t be disappointed like we were. It is worth it. It is its own ecosystem, with excursions, etc.
Aside from pointing out wildlife, our tour guide in the Galapagos didn’t teach us anything about the area during the excursions. She fell asleep on the boat. And one day she even invited herself out to lunch with us and then thanked us for paying for her. Our first excursion took place on a dilapidated boat that lacked proper life jackets for the children. They served inedible food. I could go on and on but honestly, I am glad the trip is over and don’t want to relive it any longer. And I believe I have made my point.
Response from Allie Almario:
I’m so very sorry that the trip I arranged for Sam Marchiano’s family and the other family of four that they traveled with did not live up to Sam’s expectations. The Galapagos is one of the most important wildlife preserves in the world, but it is not for every family—and, as in any adventure travel, there can be hiccups that occur but that we always try to rectify them ASAP.
I’m glad to have the opportunity to address Sam’s concerns and hopefully share information that will be helpful to other families thinking of traveling to the Galapagos.
I book travelers into the Finch Bay Eco Hotel frequently. But when Sam and I first spoke, she said that they live in Manhattan and that the kids might get bored in a remote setting and they wanted to stay close to town so that the children would have access to shops, restaurants, etc. For that reason, I didn’t mention some specific, farther-out hotels we have used in the past, including Finch Bay, which requires a boat ride from town plus a 6- to 7-minute walk from the dock to the hotel. Instead, I recommended a hotel that was right in town where the kids could walk outside and be in the middle of the action. I gave them the name of the hotel and suggested they take a look online and see if they liked it. When they arrived and didn’t like it, that was not a problem—I found available rooms at a higher-end hotel and secured the presidential suite and a villa for the two families—but Sam decided it was too far away from town (repeating her original preference to stay close to town). I’m happy that space at the Finch Bay did open up at the last minute and that they were able to move there.
I take the feedback very seriously regarding the quality issues with the boat. I’m so sorry to hear that the children got seasick on the boat and that they were unhappy with the ceviche lunch. I take pride in providing authentic regional meals and ceviche is a very popular Ecuadorian dish; however, I understand that travelers of all ages have likes and dislikes. This is why I send all travelers a preference form—so that they can let us know, among other things, about eating requirements, and so that we can plan meals accordingly. Had the families told me that the group didn’t like seafood or that they would have preferred—as many parents do—American-style food choices for the kids (burgers, sandwiches), I would have gladly arranged for a different meal. I have done this for other families in the past and it is no problem. In the future, I will make sure I discuss this with parents in more detail. It is now listed as one of the items to discuss in my pre-departure phone calls to families.
As to the complaint about having to carry bottled water to an excursion where lunch is included, I’m glad I have the chance to explain that reasoning—and I will strive to be clearer about it going forward. The reason is that, on these very protected islands, they try to reduce plastic bottle waste by encouraging guests to carry a reusable water bottle filled with their own filtered water. At any rate, I stepped in and made sure that the next day the boat provided a different lunch and the guide brought separate family-friendly snacks and bottled water.
Regarding the chocolate making: Because the family arrived later than anticipated, the chocolate making took place in the Pacari Chocolate Gallery’s store rather than in the showroom where it is normally held. Since they weren’t happy with the chocolate stop, I refunded the $200 cost.
Working in a third-world destination can always bring unexpected surprises, and I know that these cannot always be anticipated, even by experienced travelers. So I’d like to share what we did to alleviate several issues that arose during the trip, in the hopes that future WendyPerrin.com travelers can understand how I work:
* When the other family arrived in Quito with a sick daughter, our local operator and I arranged for a doctor to visit her at the Quito hotel. I changed their Galapagos flights and transfers to the next day, and I booked an extra night for them at the Quito hotel. That gave them a day to recuperate before joining the other family in the Galapagos. I paid the extra charge immediately ($1,852 total for 4 people) so that they wouldn’t have the added stress of paying for the emergency on top of their daughter’s illness, and then I waited to bill them until after their return home. I advise all our Galapagos travelers to purchase travel insurance so that medical costs can be reimbursed in emergency situations like this, but even in cases where the travelers choose not to buy insurance (as in this case), I still make sure they have any medical attention they need.
* When I learned that the families were not happy with their hotel, I offered to compensate them with an extra boat excursion on their day of leisure. They agreed, so I paid $1,720 for it ($215 per person x 8 people) to ensure there were spots for them onboard two days later. However, I learned later that the group chose to stay by the pool at their new hotel rather than go on the excursion.
* I learned that the group’s flight from the Galapagos back to Quito was significantly delayed. This would mean missing the planned Quito hotel day use and farewell dinner I’d planned for them, and potentially missing their connecting flight back to the USA. I rebooked the group on an earlier flight and upgraded their farewell dinner.
Wendy, I can completely understand their disappointment with the Galapagos hotel choice—sometimes things simply look different once you’re on the ground. I am experienced with that kind of scenario, and I did the best I could in all the situations brought to my attention. I have learned from these experiences, and I sincerely hope Sam and her family have gained better insight into their own travel preferences. I wish them the best on their next adventure.
Allie Almario is one of the best travel agents I have ever worked with. Her attention to detail is phenomenal. I found her thru your WOW List, and I was not disappointed! She helped my daughter and I navigate thru the myriad of choices (boats) for the Galapagos and we were extremely happy with our ultimate choice — The Origin, owned and operated by Ecoventura. She also discussed in detail with me the various options of where to fly into —Quito vs Guayaquil. She was extremely professional and efficient and never tired of my endless questions re what to pack, what to wear etc! She even sent me pictures of people hiking around the islands so I could get a sense what people wore! She called me several times prior to our trip and walked me thru the detailed itinerary, etc. One call was to tell me the experience of another client who went on the Origin a week or two prior to us; the boat is only a year old. She put in place an emergency plan with her cell phone numbers in the event there was an emergency there or back home (my husband was home) and we could not be reached due to lack of cell service or internet while on the cruise.
Unfortunately my daughter and I had to delay our departure by a day (we made the decision several days before we were scheduled to leave), due to the fact she had been sick with a very bad cold and was advised not to fly until she felt better We had been planning to take a private tour of Quito etc the day before we were scheduled to fly from Quito to the Galapagos. My only issues are that we were not refunded the monies for the tour we had to forgo even though we gave approximately 3 days’ notice. Also, we did not like the hotel in Quito (extremely deserted and desolate). There was a last-minute change to put us there, and I do understand why Allie chose it. She informed us she had had negative feedback with the original hotel we were scheduled to stay at. It did seem expensive, however. Had I known, we would have preferred at the end of the trip to just stay at the airport lounge during our layover for our flight back to the US. I am hoping to recoup monies forfeited and extra charges incurred due to our last minute change of departure date thru the trip insurance I purchased. Allie has been very helpful in assisting me in providing the appropriate documentation to file the claim.
My daughter and I had a wonderful time in the Galapagos — I would recommend Allie to everyone! I only wish she could help me plan future adventures in other places!
Allie is an expert on the Galapagos, having been there more than a dozen times. She knows which size and boat vibe might suit your travel style, and did well by us. She advised us to go small, and that resulted in an intimate experience on board and with the amazing wildlife. She also tried to save us money where she could. The only glitch was a missing pass to Machu Picchu that was rectified once we discovered it. We highly recommend Allie.