Allie and her team are 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 Trusted Travel Expert Allie Almario:
We are so very sorry that the trip we 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). We’re happy that space at the Finch Bay did open up at the last minute and that they were able to move there.
We take the feedback very seriously regarding the quality issues with the boat. We were so sorry to hear that the children got seasick on the boat and that they were unhappy with the ceviche lunch. We take pride in providing authentic regional meals and ceviche is a very popular Ecuadorian dish; however, we understand that travelers of all ages have likes and dislikes. This is why we 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 us 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), we would have gladly arranged for a different meal. We 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 we 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, we 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, we 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 we work at Myths & Mountains:
* 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. We changed their Galapagos flights and transfers to the next day, and we 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. We 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 we waited to bill them until after their return home. We 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), we still make sure they have any medical attention they need.
* When we learned that the families were not happy with their hotel, we offered to compensate them with an extra boat excursion on their day of leisure. They agreed, so we paid $1,720 for it ($215 per person x 8 people) to ensure there were spots for them onboard two days later. However, we learned later that the group chose to stay by the pool at their new hotel rather than go on the excursion.
* We 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 we’d planned for them, and potentially missing their connecting flight back to the USA. We 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. We are experienced with that kind of scenario, and we did the best we could in all the situations brought to our attention. We have learned from these experiences, and we sincerely hope Sam and her family have gained better insight into their own travel preferences. We 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. And its entirely possible the local travel agency they work with dropped the ball. We highly recommend Allie.
We recently returned from a vacation planned by Allie and her team (Jen Kamen). We traveled to Ecuador – Quito and Guayaquil and also a 5 day cruise to the Galapagos Islands. We had never been to South America and we had never been on a cruise before this trip.
We had a phenomenal experience from start to finish. Allie and Jen spent quite a bit of time getting to know us and learn what type of experience we were looking for. They custom crafted an itinerary that exactly fit our needs. Allie is extremely knowledgeable on the different ships and their itineraries around the Galapagos and her recommendations could not have been better. We had outstanding guides in both of our on land stops and we had restaurant recommendations and hotel recommendations that were outstanding.
We have worked with many of Wendy’s TTE’s over the years and Allie and Jen are really at the top of their game and first class in every possible way. They have exquisite attention to details, they learn their clients wants and desires and they follow through with everything. Their level of communication is also first rate. They are always available, never too busy and respond immediately with your questions or concerns. We even got a welcome home call from Allie to make sure that we enjoyed our experience. Jen was texting us while we were in Ecuador just to see if we were having a good time. No stone was left unturned.
I would give them my highest recommendation and I would definitely use them again without hesitation. Great people, great planners and if you are looking for that extra special touch or experience, then they are definitely the right choice.
Allie was attentive to our needs, planned the trip with all details accounted for, booked us great experiences with expert guides.
We dealt with Allie Almario and her staff of experts for planning our trip to the Galapagos & northern Ecuador.
The hotel they picked in Guayaquil prior to our departure to the Galapagos was excellent and allowed us not only to see Guayaquil prior to our departure for the islands, but also eliminated the necessity of flying from Quito to the Galapagos which would have necessitated a VERY early wake up call that morning to get from Quito city to its airport(a 45-60 min trip). All the transfers were handled excellently (its always nice to see ones name on a placard when one arrives in a foreign city!). Our time in the Galapagos was superb, albeit on a larger ship (the M/V Legend holds around 100 passengers), and the organization of the guides/naturalists getting people on & off the zodiacs was incredible as were most aspects of life aboard the ship (food, service, etc.). The rooms were simple but fine each with private bath. We left the Galapagos and stayed one night in a nice hotel in Quito and had a great guide who toured us thru the Old City prior to our van ride north to Hacienda Zuleta near Otovalo, EC. He stayed with us for three nights and four days there and took us to wonderful towns in the surrounding area as well as on a hike to a Condor Preserve and on a terrific horseback ride through the trails & valleys around the Hacienda. The beautiful Hacienda was fantastic and had plenty to keep us busy for 5 days & nights. The food, the rooms and the place were spectacular and the owners, Margarita & her nephew Fernando were wonderful gracious hosts. We were driven back to Quito on our final evening in a nice van with an English speaking driver after a full final day at the “ranch”.
After cancelling a trip to South Africa due to the Ebola epidemic, my daughter and I chose the Galapagos as our substitute destination in January 2015. I had often longingly perused the Myths and Mountains travel brochures, but didn’t feel I could afford the custom travel they specialized in. Instead, I usually planned my own custom travel. Since I knew nothing about the Galapagos and even less about boat trips, I decided to contact Allie Almario, as I knew she was “the” expert in the field. It was the best decision I ever made regarding any travel I have planned.
Allie knows just the right questions to ask to get all the information she needs to plan a trip that matches your exact travel desires and needs. She knew that cost did matter to us, but that we also wanted to be comfortable and well cared for on this adventure. After our initial conversations, I was completely secure in turning all arrangements over to her. She gave us three boats to choose from, telling us the positives and negatives of each one. The Guantanamera fit us to a tee. We loved the crew and the international passengers of all ages. The activities and tours gave us just the right mix of adventure and relaxation. Allie even let the crew know it was my birthday trip, and they presented me with the most delicious homemade banana cake I have ever tasted.
Don’t hesitate to use Allie to plan your trip of a lifetime. You won’t be disappointed. Her great pleasure is to help you find yours.
Allie and her crew were very easy to work with and clearly knew what they were doing. I would definitely use them again.
Allie Almario did a terrific job customizing, planning and organizing our trip to Peru. I described to her what we wanted to see, and she recommended a perfect itinerary, which had a lot of fun activities in it and was well-paced. We have seen everything we wanted to see in a very efficient manner-Cusco, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo, Urubamba. The accommodations were well-selected and excellent–ranging from a small exotic hotel, decorated in a wonderful Peruvian way, to a luxury accommodation at Tambo Del Inca. Our driver Carlos was terrific–definitely an expert in driving on very difficult roads, and our trip was very well-organized and planned, with guides waiting for us as planned and on time. It was wonderful, and I don’t think we would be able to see as much without Allie and the expert advice we got.
We had always read about and admired the kind of trips that Allie Almario with Myths and Mountains put together for travelers. We certainly were not disappointed when she helped plan our trip to Ecuador. Allie was wonderful in guiding us in our plan. She was both very knowledgeable and understanding while she personalized the trip to meet our needs for this trip of a lifetime. Our accommodations were wonderful and ranged from an old beautiful Quito family home/now a hotel, to a homestead with a farm family near Otavalo, to a wonderful boat Coral 1 in the Galapagos. If you have never done a homestay, we heartily recommend you try it. We were very comfortable on the farm and loved it when the mother brought us each hot water bottles in a knitted cozy to make sure we were warm when we went to bed. Our homestay was organized through the Karanki Magdalena Indigenous Community. During this trip we saw some big tours and felt so lucky to be traveling with Myths and Mountains instead of a giant tour group! Our guide/driver, Alejandra Mosquera on the mainland was relaxed, very knowledgeable, fun to be with, and a terrific driver! She even provided sun for our days there! Our guides while in the Galapagos were great and taught us a lot about the precious environment there.
Allie Almario was warm, personable and a consummate professional from the start. She listened to what our goals and interests were and then worked to best meet our wishes on this trip of a lifetime to the Galapagos Islands. Allie was recommended by a friend and boy was she right – Allie is the best!
She and her team planned every detail of the trip, suggesting and arranging things I never would have thought of. Then just before we left , Allie called us and we spent a long phone call completely reviewing the itinerary and answering all our final questions. That’s the kind of personal attention Allie provides.
We were totally taken care of from the moment we landed in Guayaquil to when we landed back home. The hotel in Guayaquil was lovely, the tour and tour guide around Guayaquil were just the right amount of information and activity. All the detail of flying to the Galapagos was completely taken care of too – we felt like total VIP’s! We loved our boat that Allie had found and she made sure we got the cabin we wanted! Our Galapagos experience was out of this world – the very best all around! And then upon returning to Guayaquil, we were treated with care and comfort once again.
Allie made all of this happen and we are forever grateful to her!! We will definitely come back to Allie Almario and Myths and Mountains for another trip of a lifetime experience!
Working with Allie and her team at Myths & Mountains was a pleasure. They are highly professional and detail oriented. They were always available to answer questions and it felt good to know everything was taken care of. Visiting the Galápagos is an amazing experience and the Finch Bay Hotel was outstanding!
I have directed an academic program here at Emory University that travels to remote regions of Ecuador since 1999. I find Allie to be utterly reliable about every possible dimension of our travel to the Andes Mountains and to the Amazonian rain forest. Allie is incredibly knowledgeable, quick to respond to my many inquiries, and is on top of every relevant detail of our travel in South America. Put simply, Allie is the most astute travel planner that I have ever encountered, anywhere, any time.
Most recently, the news about the Zika virus became a significant concern for my plans to travel in Ecuador with my class. I spoke with Allie and shared my desire to completely re-work my planned itinerary with her. Within days she had completed rearranged my day-to-day travel in Ecuador to keep us above 7,000 feet where the mosquitoes that carry the virus are not found. And Allie did this in record time and without compromising my academic goals for the trip in any way whatsoever. In fact, her revised itinerary yielded the best travel to Ecuador that I have enjoyed in the eighteen years of our partnership. My sociology program here at Emory is possible only because of Allie’s wonderful professionalism, close attention to all detail, and dedication to a successful travel experience. Allie is simply the best in the business.
Five stars! Allie responded very quickly to my e-mails. The snorkeling was probably my favorite activity, but the whole trip aboard the Coral 1 was incredible for my family. The accommodations were great and everything from food to staff was exceptional. Here are some tips you might find helpful for the Galapagos:
Make sure any shoes you bring are already broken in and comfortable.
Bring more sunscreen than you think you’ll need.
Bring sufficient cash for tips at the end of the cruise.
Always pack some sort of upset stomach medication and Imodium.
Allie was terrific, very quick responses to any questions, very good insight into the pros and cons of different boats. Would recommend her highly.
Allie was terrific. She’s very knowledgeable about Peru and the Galapagos, her itinerary planning and advice were excellent. She was very responsive to my questions and concerns, and her local providers were very good.
Thanks to Allie’s vast knowledge and meticulous planning, our trip to Peru was a true five star adventure. This trip was to celebrate our wedding anniversary, and we wanted something beyond the ubiquitous package trips available. Allie took the time to learn of our interests and travel style. She was always available to answer my many questions as we were planning and preparing for the trip. Every part of the trip ran smoothly. Each hotel was ideal us. All our guides and drivers were first-rate. One of the many highlights was an anniversary lunch that was prepared and served to us at 12,000 feet overlooking the stunning snow capped peaks above. This was truly a trip of a lifetime, and I would highly recommend Allie to anyone planning a trip to South America.
Our family traveled to Buenos Aires and Patagonia for our 2015 spring break. Allie Almario of Myths and Mountains arranged our spectacular trip. We spent a couple of days in Buenos Aires touring the city with a super local guide, taking a cooking class (so fun!) and enjoying the atmosphere. Then we spent several days on an Estancias in Patagonia riding horses, hiking and a day at the Perito Moreno Glacier in Glacier National Park (where we had a fantastic guide). Our trip was amazing! We not only recommend Allie Almario to you, but we will also have her plan our next big adventure!
I had always booked my own trips. This changed, however, the second I spoke to Allie. She tailored our trip to exactly our adventure level. This was a birthday gift to one of my best friends and Allie delivered on every part of the trip. We arrived into Guayaquil at 4am and there was someone there to greet us with a smiling face and to also get us to our hotel. That’s how the trip started…. From then on, it was amazing. It was almost like she personally picked our guides to match us. The guide in the Galapagos was unreal!!! He opened our eyes to a completely different way of living with a completely different ecosystem. Every day he had us on a new adventure, whether it was kayaking, swimming with sea lions, or learning about the tortoises and land iguanas…. He always blew our minds… And after being blown away on the Galapagos Islands, we were then met with our original guide in Guayaquil and were guided around the second largest city in Ecuador…. All of this was because of Allie and Myths and Mountains. When I’m ready to do another life-changing trip, the first person I will call is Allie! Amazing…. simply amazing!
Last year (June/July 2014) we took our first long bucket list trip to Peru and Ecuador, my wife’s dream vacation, and it was ALL it could possibly have been, including the cherry on top. Myths & Mountains provided excellent TLC from the planning stages through the unexpected call for help we made to Allie Almario from Peru to her cell phone! We were able to see all the major sites we planned for, and the guides that were provided took us to some amazing locals-only experiences.
We loved: Cusco, Sacred Valley (rural elementary school visit/horseback riding), Machu Picchu, Puno, Lake Titicaca (Homestay) and Arequipa/Colca Canyon (Condors) in Peru. When we went to Ecuador, we enjoyed the sights in Guayaquil. We then went to the Galapagos Islands and took an awesome cruise on the Yolita II for mind-blowing snorkeling and hiking! Great boat, a super gracious crew, lots of water, nice cabins, and the food was excellent. Finished our tour in Quito and visited the surrounding countryside with visits to the Equator (the real Museum) and Otavalo Market. Our trip was everything we hoped for and more.
My family and I had a great time in the Galapagos in May 2015 and the ship Allie recommended to us after listening to our preferences worked out really well. The ratio on board the ECLIPSE of 12 passengers per naturalist was a big win, and so was having a professional photographer like Jonathan Green on board. We were able to take phenomenal photos after just 12 hours of lessons with him – the fact that this was a photography expedition was a nice touch. The work Allie did on our behalf, her fast responses to so many of my questions, all of it was just outstanding and couldn’t be more perfect. All in all, it was a memorable Galapagos trip. Thank you, Allie.
When we first starting planning our trip to the Galapagos, all we knew was that we wanted to see the wildlife. Allie was tremendously helpful to us as we decided to see the islands by boat and selected the boat that was right for us. The result was a fabulous trip that exceeded our expectations. Family and friends have oohed and aahed over the pictures of blue-footed boobies doing their dance, huge tortoises peeking out of their shells, penguins and sea lions sitting on the lava rocks, iguanas sunning, and a Galapagos gull feeding squid to her chick. We could not have been happier with the boat and crew that Allie helped us select and truly appreciate her expert and prompt service that made planning easy and efficient.
Our first visit to the enchanting Galapagos Islands in December 2014 was simply spectacular! We’re still talking about it—the wildlife captivated our senses (omg!), the grayish-blackish mysterious landscapes, the impossibly white sand beaches dotted with playful sea lion pups & iguanas, diving the gorgeous aquamarine water, the tiny penquins, the giant tortoises and so many endemic wild ones only found in the Galapagos.
Because of Allie’s clout and exceptional relationship with Ecoventura, we got the best cabin and best seats on domestic flights. My Galapagos detailed itinerary was a surprise hit with my cruise buddies! This trip could not have been stress-free without Allie’s guiding star and expertise of the Galapagos. You are a consummate professional, Allie!
Allie Almario of Myths and Mountains is not only an expert on the Galapagos, knowing them through and through, she also has detailed knowledge of each ship, providing invaluable information we did not know enough to ask, such as which ship has more of a “sailing” vibe, and which has berths rather than beds on the floor. She listened carefully to information about each family member and what was important to each before making suggestions and recommendations. Allie was unbelievably prompt in responding in every instance, always with choices and details, and is just an all-around lovely, gracious person. Our trip unfortunately had to be postponed indefinitely, but when we do go, we are certainly going to use Allie.