8 Helpful Hints for Hiring Local Tour Guides
Before kids, we felt like traveling afar was a big adventure, meant to be experienced in the moment. Trial and error were our best friends, and we “winged it” through many excursions to Europe, Mexico and other far flung places. If we had time, maybe we’d purchase a travel guide for our intended location, or read a bunch of blogs and online resources. Once the cities were identified and hotels chosen, we left daily plans open for informal exploration.
Then came the kids.
Now with kids in tow, we realize their patience levels for experimentation can be much lower than adults. Spontaneity is still important, but it’s also good to know where to go and exactly what you will be seeing when kids are involved. Presumably, that’s why you’re reading this blog right now!
Recently we took a two-week trip to Southeast Asia, visiting Japan, Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam. I was worried about navigating four countries, languages, cultures and local customs, all in an area of the world we had never visited. Adding kids to the mix, I felt even more pressured to ensure our quality family time together was enjoyable for us all without the kids getting bored or the parents losing their cool.
So I researched experts, ultimately choosing Asia Transpacific Journeys to help us plot our course. Our travel specialist Jen Boyd made the process worry-free and helped us book local tour guides in each destination that created a journey beyond our highest expectations. It was one of our best travel experiences ever, and we did not have to fumble with foreign languages, currency, subway systems and jet lag brain. She saved the day.
Here are some helpful hints when choosing a personal tour guide for overseas travel:
1. Ask friends via social media. I put out a request on Facebook and received several great recommendations from friends who had been down this road before me. Use your trusted social network.
2. Research local tour guides via TripAdvisor for your destination. Ask reviewers questions about the tour guide through their website tool, and be specific with your queries of this person’s experience with that guide.
3. Use online resources like Hilton Mom Voyage and others to help you learn valuable tips and stories from travelers similar to you.
4. Cross reference reviews from several websites, and look for user reviews that share input on both the booking company and the actual tour guide you will be using.
5. Ask the tour guide for references from your home country. Reach out to these people with questions about their experiences.
6. Ask the tour guide if they have ever created a custom tour for a family like yours – ages of kids, hometown of origin, special interests, etc. Have them show you an example itinerary.
7. Many personal tour guides must be licensed and bonded by their home country’s government. Ask them to share their license information, and research how easily those licenses are issued. For example, the professional guide license program in Japan is very thorough.
8. Last but not least, trust your gut. If you are booking through a tour company like we did with Asia Transpacific, they have done the vetting for you. If not, trust how you feel about this person and their approach. Much like many things in life, parents have a pretty good feel for what experiences will be most comfortable for their kids and families.
Have fun, and remember to stay flexible. Travel is about the adventure and experience of visiting new places, and sometimes things happen differently than we had planned. Just roll with it and keep going!
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