Everyone has their bucket lists or their dream holidays, but then perhaps you cannot make these dreams reality for a multitude of reasons: not enough money, work interferes, family interferes, or life in general interferes. One late fall evening, less than three months before our departure, I received the news that my disabled ailing mother was approved for travel and would be able to visit my sister for the winter months allowing a respite for me. This was a most unexpected change in developments. A quick glance at the school calendar showed this year’s end of year winter break is longer than typical. Ever grateful for our changing fate, my travel partner, Celia, and I were cautiously hopeful that maybe everything was aligning so we may be able to go on an epic dream holiday. However, time was running out and most places we wanted to visit are typically booked a year in advance for the holidays and we didn’t want to settle for a sub-par experience.
Thankfully we had one important tool: I knew a travel advisor, Charlotte French of Cavatica Luxury Travel. Late that fall evening I messaged her with a long shot: “by chance - do you have a list or recommendations for Christmas trips for this year? I was wanting to go to Patagonia, but it may not be attainable due to the Christmas season.”
Charlotte immediately responded, had a few initial questions, and then it was up to her to make a miracle happen in a very short non-flexible time with a set budget.
Having never used a travel advisor before, I was hesitant at first. Not because I thought the cost would be higher, or she would be too salesy. (Neither of which happened). Instead, I was worried I would miss out on the excitement of planning for travel - the thrill in finding new places to visit, sights to see, new foods to eat, tours to go on, the researching and searching for unique opportunities. I have always enjoyed planning my own trips. I didn’t want a cookie cutter trip I wanted my own unique epic adventure and Charlotte understood that immediately. I sent her the most off-the-book requests (eg: I would like to go inside a glacier, I would like a private cooking class of native Chilean food, I would like an underground food tour of places only locals go).
She made it all happen.
All of it and more. Much, much more.
That’s something I could never have done even with my exceptional internet search skills and thorough research abilities. As much as I pride myself on finding amazing travel experiences, that doesn’t mean I can
always make them happen myself. Some of the activities we did in Chile aren’t widely known, some tours don’t have a web presence, they aren’t popular tourist spots and therefore aren’t always written about. But Charlotte’s role is more than just booking a trip, a tour, or activity, it’s about knowing the best partners to work with to book the best experience a traveler can expect. Charlotte selected, Big Five Tours to partner with for our trip to ensure that we didn’t just receive a typical guide, we received the best guides. Guides who were always prompt, had everything we needed for our activity, and provided a uniquely local immersive experience.
Because of her diligence, we were able to scale a volcano whose public access had been limited. In addition, our guide provided endless information on birding, flora, fauna, and even introduced us to a 3000+ year old tree that most people would walk right by and not notice. We never would have had that experience on our own or with an average tour guide.
Another tour guide made us lunch from her home because she knew her cooking is better than what you can buy in a store. And she was right! Her food was amazing!
The icing on the cake, the piece that sometimes gets overlooked and can truly be a pain, is what Charlotte did for the non-epic-adventuring moments: the transport, the meals, the connections, and the hotel bookings. We were always met at the airport, transferred to our hotels, and seamlessly transferred to adventures. We did not have to plan for anything additional - we didn’t even have to worry about having taxi money or bus money, paying tolls or admission fees. We didn’t need to worry about ordering cars, getting taxis, ensuring we find our tour guides, or packing our own meals for excursions. Charlotte’s planning ensured that even if the hotel’s breakfast wouldn’t be available when we left for an adventure, we had breakfast waiting for us, as well as lunches provided for all our excursions. The transfers were always early and arrived with water, snacks, and good humor. Charlotte gave us suggestions on tipping expectations for different services so that we could have our envelopes with counted tips ready each day. Additionally, she delivered a print-out of our itineraries in advance as well as an app for our phones which provided a day-by-day guide for us. This proved the most helpful on our trip. We had all our information on our phones, and it was available off-line.
13 days, 10 flights, 3 different airlines, 10 different guided tours, 20+ hours 4-wheeling on remote unpaved mountain roads, 75 trekking miles, 80 liters of water (not all bottled), street food, new food, lots of Chilean wine, and 1 rigid USA teachers’ contract that does not allow for any flexibility in time off and therefore, no room for error. Our travel advisor made it work!
As we loaded our hiking packs into the car for the first plane ride, Celia and I nervously laughed about everything that could possibly go wrong.
What went wrong? Nothing. Not one single thing was delayed, canceled, and other than seasonal allergies, no gastric upsets or injuries, and no breach of a teachers’ contract.
Why? Because we chose to book through a travel advisor!