There are lots of tour companies that offer generic trips to Southeast Asia, hitting the most frequently visited highlights of each country. These trips typically include motorcoach touring with a large group of people. On the plus side motorcoach tours may cost a little less. On the other hand, the included hotels aren’t always in the most convenient locations, there always seem to be one or two people who show up late or otherwise hold up the group, and the included sightseeing might not be to everyone’s taste.

The advantages to a private custom-designed trip are being able to travel at the pace that best suits you, staying in the style of hotel that you prefer and seeing and doing the things that interest you. But, a trip of this sort doesn’t just magically fall into place. When I prepare a trip proposal for a new client I’m starting from scratch. It would be very simple to suggest a standard everybody-does-that itinerary. But, you aren’t everybody. You might want a busy itinerary in order to see and do as much as possible in the time allotted. Or, you may prefer a few days of touring with lots of downtime. You might want to fit in as many countries and cities as possible, in order to get a quick overview of each destination. Or, you might prefer to focus on one of two areas, in order to see them in-depth.

When someone submits an inquiry via the Get Started / Contact Form on our website, I respond via email with a list of questions. And, for residents of the U.S. and Canada, I also offer the option of setting up a phone consultation so that we can discuss the trip. The key to ending up with a perfect itinerary is for you to provide as much information as possible about yourself, your interests, your budget, etc. This can be done by email if the questions are answered thoroughly, but a phone consultation is even better because  it allows you to ask questions of me. And, the answers that I give may in turn help you to answer my questions.

It’s not unusual for someone to tell me that I should just “put something together”. That’s fine for a generic tour. But, it does you a disservice if I send you an itinerary that doesn’t take into account the kind of trip that best suits you. In many areas of the world private touring is through-the-roof expensive. Luckily that’s not the case with Southeast Asia. Because private touring is more affordable in Southeast Asia than in the rest of the world, my view is that people should take advantage of it. I often tell my clients that the only problem with private touring is that it spoils you!

When you contact me regarding your trip, I suggest that you be willing to set aside some time for a phone consultation. A consultation normally takes anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. There’s no charge for the consultation. And, whether we start the planning process via email or phone, be prepared to let me know your likes and interests; things that aren’t of interest; whether you want a busy trip, a more leisurely paced trip or something in-between; whether you prefer large western-style hotels or smaller boutique-style hotels; whether you prefer hotels with local character or hotels with contemporary décor (or whether this doesn’t matter); what type of physical activities such as hiking, bicycling, etc. you like (if any); which countries and areas of each country are on your wish list (if you’re not sure, letting me know your interests will help me to make recommendations); how many people will be traveling (if there are children involved let me know their ages and genders); whether you’re celebrating a special occasion; and whether there’s anything in particular that you saw on my website that interests you or about which you’d like more information. Keep in mind that you don’t have to do the exact itineraries that appear on the website. Those itineraries are just samples. You can pick and choose as much or as little as interests you.

And, very importantly, be prepared to give me an idea as to your maximum budget for the trip. This is a key piece of information that I must have in order to prepare a custom itinerary. Having this information allows me to select hotels that fit your budget, as well as determining whether or not the trip is doable. Sometimes people are reluctant to tell me how much they want to spend. I promise that I’m not trying to push you to the top of your budget if it’s not necessary to do so. But, a trip is like any other major purchase such as a household appliance or a car. Even though you may or may not know what these items cost before you go shopping, you should have an idea somewhere in the back of your head as to the maximum that you’re willing to spend. A custom-designed trip has so many variables that knowing how much you’ve allotted for the trip is an essential piece of information.

By the way, be sure to let me know whether the amount you’ve budgeted is for the land arrangements (hotels, transfers, excursions) only or whether it’s also meant to include overseas and/or intra-Asia airfare.

The bottom line is that the more information you can provide about yourself, the better chance you’ll have of ending up with your ideal trip. And, ultimately that’s a goal that you and I both share!

Diane Embree
August 6, 2017