Spain, October 2017
Our trip to Spain went off without a hitch. We were greeted upon arrival at our hotel with a travel package from Mike and Ally followed immediately by a phone call from the local representative checking to make sure all was well. The special experiences that were prepared for us were truly memorable – most notably the private visit to a modernist apartment and cooking lesson in Barcelona, and the tour of del Prado with an art history professor in Madrid. We visited Barcelona during the protests for Catalan independence, but were totally confident that they would be able to adjust our plans should the need arise (it didn’t, but the chance to talk with locals, both pro and con, during this historic time was priceless). Despite precise instructions for meeting our driver at the Madrid train station, we still managed to end up in the wrong place (according to the driver this is an ongoing problem with all arrivals to this train station), but our local representative called us immediately when we failed to meet the driver and had him find us in short order. It was like we were being watched over by a guardian angel. The night before we were to leave Madrid, the local representative again called us to check on our visit. This is our 5th trip to Europe with a WOW list agent and we would not consider traveling internationally any other way. The only advice we have for using this travel planner would be to follow-up any unanswered email with a phone call and to be very specific about how much of your time you would like to have “planned”. Since our trip was very short and we wanted to see as much as possible, we didn’t have much time to explore on our own. Guess that’s a reason to go back . . .
I usually am the planner for trips with my family and friends, but this years stresses led me to search out an agent to take on the task of helping me put together a family trip to Spain this July 2017. I am so grateful Wendy recommended Mike and Ally. Mike, Ally and their team put together a great itinerary for us, including some very fun experiences like a private tapas tasting tour in Madrid. I was especially impressed with how smoothly everything went on the trip – we felt completely taken care of from the moment we arrived at the airport in Barcelona.
I do have to say how very impressed I was with the logistics. We decided to move a lot on this two-week trip and had a LOT of different guides, drivers, train and airport transfers, hotel reservations, etc. The fact that there was not a single hiccup – not one late driver, missed connection, confusion at check-in….again, just very impressive. I think the one “late” driver was one towards the end of the trip who showed up exactly on time! I had to laugh when I realized I was getting nervous…I had become so used to drivers and guides waiting in the lobby for us when we got there! It speaks to the excellent communication and attention to detail of the agency.
We submitted a trip request to Joel Zack, founder of Heritage Tours, in September 2016 and received a note from Wendy in October saying that Joel had recently stepped away from his position at the company and that his team was going through a transition period. Wendy offered to recommend a different Spain travel specialist at a different company. I should have taken her up on that offer. I have used The WOW List for countless trips and have enjoyed wonderful adventures with the amazing professionals on the List. But with Heritage Tours, perhaps because we were caught in the transition, we had huge problems.
We traveled with another couple from the Chicago area (we live in Nova Scotia) and were meeting them at our destination. The women arrived one week earlier than the men for a yoga camp. Despite sending their itinerary three times, the manager still thought they were arriving with us.The day of departure we got confirmation that they would be picked up separately because they were on different flights. I had questioned pickup 6 days prior and had not received a reply until I resent on departure day.
I wrote to Ally to remind her that Terri and I would be at the Yoga Resort and that the men needed all of the necessary information to pick up the car without us because they would be getting us en route. When they got to Avis they were refused the car because it was in my name.They tried to rent another car but none were available.They finally got hold of the Madrid representative who was able to fax necessary info and speak to enough managers, and our husbands were two hours late and extremely frustrated on their first day in Spain.
We were departing from Marrakech, they were leaving from Casablanca. There was a scramble a month prior to departure trying to reorganize our accommodations so they could get an early a.m flight, 10 pm that Ally had known about for 7 months….she thought they were leaving from Marrakech! Our flights from Malaga to Casablanca were never booked! They were confirmed in our itinerary (and paid for). I wrote to Ally 2 days prior to our flights asking for the confirmation # and still have not received a reply.The Heritage representative in Madrid called us in a panic10 pm the night before our flights saying they had never been booked and asking us to scan our passports to her ASAP !
The office seemed disorganized eg. Final payment was due March 6th. I noticed at the end of March that it had not been processed and was asked to resend credit card details.(They were very understanding about retrying my new credit card I was having problems with though)
The list is much longer but Im sure you get the picture! We could have done MUCH better organizing the trip ourselves.
Response from Trusted Travel Expert Ally Lewing:
Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback. We appreciate it. We take great pride in our work and our goal, of course, was to provide you with an in-depth experience of Spain and Morocco as well as a trip that worked well logistically. Your trip included private touring, top hotels and special experiences in Granada, Cordoba, Sevilla, Ronda and Morocco. We truly hope you enjoyed the overall experience and regret some of your feedback related to a number of logistical matters.
Upon receipt of your feedback, we looked closely at our communication and each version of the itinerary (there were 10) from the time we began working together until your departure. While I see a reference to your flights in an email from October, I have an email with your detailed flight information in April and made arrangements accordingly. It’s clear from your feedback that you feel there was a lag between when we received the various arriving flights (there were four) and when we acted to update the arrangements.
It’s my understanding that your arrival to Spain was managed well on the ground and we included complimentary airport transfers.
Car rental in Malaga – yes, we understood who would be picking up the car and communicated that information to Avis. I regret there was a problem at the Avis desk when attempting to pick up the car.
Flights between Spain and Morocco – yes, we took responsibility for arranging these flights which was clear to us from the start and reflected on your itinerary. We issue flight tickets in Spain and there was an unexpected issue with your confirmation. As you know, we rebooked these tickets and your transition to Morocco went well. However, this issue was unnecessarily stressful and we apologize.
Thank you again for your feedback. We regret some of the logistical hurdles.
We had a wonderful, worry-free vacation to Portugal courtesy of Mike’s expertise and connections. Every driver and guide was punctual and knowledgeable, our hotels were fantastic and reasonable and our itinerary allowed for lots of learning and exploring. We can’t say enough about Carla, our guide in Lisbon. She was absolutely fantastic. Thanks, Mike!
My trip was wonderful. Mike and Ally were quick to respond to my initial request and they set up a great itinerary based on my interests. The guide was very knowledgeable, especially about port. Our driver was a very nice man who treated us like royalty. The trip was a gift to my husband who has an interest in wines. The one puzzle for me is why they booked a room that looked across an alley at another building. We upgraded to a better room (for only 19 euros a night) with a view of the square and the river. I think this trip came in way under my stated budget. Overall, the trip was excellent.
We are seasoned travelers to Europe and on prior trips had made all the arrangements ourselves. The question was whether it would be worth it to have a professional handle the arrangements; the answer is a resounding yes, in terms of the inside knowledge, the itinerary, and most importantly, the quality of the guides they lined up for us, which were outstanding. We highly recommend and plan to use Heritage Tours to plan our next trip!
We just returned from a month long journey to Portugal and Spain which we planned through Mike Korn and Ally Lewing. We could not be happier with the level of service and planning they provided. There were VERY few instances of confusion during our trip, but when we needed their in-country specialists, they dealt with the issue immediately. We could not imagine planning a trip like this and not using a local travel expert.
Mike Korn and his team were wonderfully helpful, and we were delighted with the arrangements they made for us. Two days in Porto, sightseeing with guide and driver on the way from Porto to Lisbon, and a guided tour in Lisbon, all in April, 2016. We involved Mike only about six weeks before our planned departure, and he responded quickly with a good plan for us. The material sent before we left for Portugal was excellent, and I especially appreciated the suggestions about tipping guides and drivers. We were very happy with the hotel they chose for us, and they made dinner reservations for us in two very different, but wonderful, restaurants in Porto. We loved Rita, who served as our guide for three days, as well as Sergio, who was our driver for two days. Christina, who served as our guide for a one-day tour in Lisbon, was also amazing. They booked dinner reservations for us in three different Lisbon restaurants, each with great food, and each very different from one another. One thing we enjoyed which might seem small, but was delightful, was stopping for coffee and local pastries while we were walking. The stops in these lovely shops were refreshing, and the pastries were unique to Portugal. My only advice: if there is some really keen interest which might not otherwise be covered by a guide, identify it at the very beginning of the planning. Christina told us that if she had known about our keen interest in pipe organs, she would have brought along some written information about the organs in each of the churches we visited. Thanks much to Heritage Tours for a delightful visit in Portugal!
Mike set up a wonderful trip to Portugal with great guides, hotels, and drivers. I would definitely use him again. What a wonderful way to see the country!
*One note: Make sure you have all the flight reference numbers for any in-country flights they are going to book before you leave the States.
Last October my husband and I traveled to Spain and Morocco with the very able help and guidance of Heritage Tours. Again, Wendy Perrin discovered a hands on travel team with access to wonderful guides and top notch experiences. Barcelona, Seville, Cordoba, all of our lodgings and guides in Spain were chosen with our desires in mind. Morocco was even better than we had imagined. The country lovely, the cities fascinating, and the culture deep and resonating with history. Pairing Southern Spain with Morocco really helped us understand the history of each country. We perhaps did a bit too much driving in Morocco, and would suggest finding additional means of travel (helicopter?), but the driving did take us to out of the way places. Not to miss is the desert encampment in Eastern Morocco near the border with Algeria. Our night in a tent (think dining room, living room, bedroom, running water) on the Sahara Desert under the stars was an experience of a lifetime.