Frequently Asked Questions
I have compiled a list of most frequently asked questions to help you find your answer. If you have other questions or would like further clarification, contact me and I will be glad to discuss with you other aspects of your customized private tour to Europe. Thank you for your interest!
What is a tour manager, driver-guide?
- For private groups of 9 or more guests, I am the tour manager and arrange luxury mini-buses (10-15 seaters to 19-24 seaters), or 2 vans depending on the size of the group and locations visited.
- For groups of 2 to 6 guests I am the driver as well as the tour manager (2 guests are driven in an SUV or sedan style vehicle and 4 to 6 guests in a comfortable van).
Traveling with a tour manager means you have a built-in concierge during your trip. The tour manager makes sure the logistics of your trip go smoothly, helps you with special requests along the way, offers cultural information and travel tips, orients you in each city, walks you to that market or site that might be hard to find on your own, recommends favorite restaurants, and helps you arrange your plans for your free time.
Like traveling with a friend away from home.
“As your tour manager driver-guide it is my passion and mission to help you create memories and seeing you fulfill lifelong dreams. I love to surprise my guests with bonuses not included in the tour itinerary when possible and for multi-generational families I always have a professionally put together video of their vacation as a gift. But it goes deeper than that for me, it does not end when the tour ends, but I like to stay in touch with my guests, and many travel with me more than once. That is why I do what I do”.
Can you help me plan one day sightseeing or one night accommodation or a cruise shore excursion?
As you might imagine, it is not cost effective for us to arrange a one day experience. For cruisers, we can assist you with shore excursions from your ship if it is in conjunction with a pre and or post tour package.
Can I get referrals of former clients to see what kind of experiences they had working with you?
I am very careful with privacy and personal information. But for serious queries, I do have permission from past customers for prospective clients to email or talk with them.
Our alumni, church, language class, art class, wine club group might want to do a customized private tour to Europe. Can you help?
Absolutely! Together with my in-country associates we tailor visits to Europe based on your interests, for any size group. Please contact me to discuss further.
How to have the best experience from first contact
Based on my years of experience I can usually discern after our initial phone consultation, or email inquiry, if we are a right fit for each other. Here’s how you can tell:
If you submit a request that goes something like this…”We would like to tour the following places: Paris, Lucerne, Florence, Rome, Venice, Munich, Rhine valley, Amsterdam in two weeks on a budget of $5,500 per person including all transportation, hotels, sightseeing”….Then I am definitely not the right fit for you!
My tours are custom-built, personalized for each client or group of clients.
We never use big buses to get around and we prefer to stay in the same place two, three or even more nights, so that you can get a feel for the place you are visiting. We do day trips from that strategic location and we love getting clients into the countryside so they can truly experience and enjoy the country they are visiting.
And I never, ever do “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Rome” types of whirlwind, exhausting itineraries such as the one in the example above.
For my clients, many of whom repeat customers, Travels with Audrey is the right choice and they are the right choice for us.
Join my exclusive family; I would love to have you. You can check out a few of the tour packages I have created for clients here.
How long does a typical customized private tour last?
Private customized tours are commonly between 4 and 14 days in length. All my private tours are hand-crafted, therefore, they can be as long or as short as you wish, simply let me know what you are looking for and together with my in-country associates we can design an itinerary to suit your wishes and dreams.
You mean you actually will custom-design and lead a trip for just two people?
Yes, I do. And, it’s not as expensive as you might think, with pricing easily competitive with other luxury operators in Europe. With Audrey, you are the group, even if it just two of you, or you and your family. This means you have my full attention to ensure you have a wonderful vacation that exceeds your expectations. The largest private group I worked with was 35 people and the smallest 2.
I most commonly hand-craft and lead tours for groups of friends (couples traveling together), small families (10-12 people) and couples. In fact, most of the trips I design and lead each season (March through October) are with repeat clients who have been spoiled by my services. They enjoy having their own local expert, dedicated driver-guide or tour manager (depending on the size of the private group), having an itinerary designed to fit their wishes and dreams as well as their families and friends. In addition the flexibility that a private tour offers is so different from most group tours on the market.
How far in advance do I need to plan & book a private tour?
Ideally, I recommend at least 6 months advance notice, even more when considering the busier travel months in Europe. So if you are traveling in the fall of any given year, contacting me around February/March is ideal. If you are traveling in the spring of any given year, then contacting me in September/October is recommended. Italy, Spain and France receive millions of visitors each year and even though I could plan in less time, you run the risk of missing out on the availability of our favorite hotels (rooms with a view) and guides. I always want the best for my clients and the more time I have the more I can guarantee just that. As soon as you know where you wish to travel and when, contact me to get started.
Why don’t you offer airfare with your tour package?
There are several reasons why. My clients are from all over the United States, as well as Canada and other parts of the world. Therefore, we want to give our travelers the opportunity to choose their own flights. Many people have air miles they want to use to fly overseas or upgrade to first and business class.
My expertise and focus is on creating all-inclusive ground packages in Europe. International flights are an area where the internet, or a travel agent, are good options. When crafting your personalized itinerary I will always recommend which airports to fly in and out of.
How far in advance should I book my flight?
If you are planning on using frequent flyer miles, the sooner the better. The longer you wait, the more you will run into black-out dates, seat unavailability, or having to make multiple connections. If instead you are buying your ticket, the typical “ideal window” for best airfare deals is between 5-3 months prior to departure. Please ensure you have travel insurance in case you need to cancel your tour with us for any reason, since Travels with Audrey will not refund airline tickets should you need to cancel your tour.
IMPORTANT: All flights from the U.S.A. and Canada to Europe are overnight flights, so you will arrive the day after your departure. Make sure to book your flight accordingly. When you return, you’ll arrive back in the USA or Canada on the same day you leave Europe. Example: to arrive in Italy on Sunday (the first day of the tour) you will need to leave Saturday from the US or Canada. On the way back, let’s say the tour ends on a Friday (last day of tour) you will depart that day to arrive in the US or Canada on the same day. Also, keep in mind that most private customized tours start in one city and end in another.
Should I insure my vacation?
Travels with Audrey strongly recommends that you and all members of your party are adequately insured, protecting against unforeseen circumstances that could otherwise spoil your travels. Coverage should include medical expenses and repatriation in the event of accident or illness. In addition, we also strongly recommend that you have coverage for personal belongings, delay at your outward or homeward point of departure, personal liability, overseas legal expenses and cancellation.
While Travels with Audrey highly recommends travel insurance to all our guests, for peace of mind, we do not sell travel insurance directly, nor are we experts in this field. This can save you a lot of money in the case of a family emergency popping up, when we have already paid or committed to pay for dozens of services and lodgings.
We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance at the time of booking your trip, since coverage will begin for pre-departure cancellation from the policy issue date. This will, therefore, provide coverage should you have to cancel your trip for an insured (covered) reason.
With that in mind, some of North America’s travel insurance providers are:
NOTE: Please ensure that details of your insurance are carried with you at all times. You may be asked to provide details of your medical insurance or a payment guarantee in some counties before medical assistance will be provided.
What travel documents do I need?
A valid passport for US or Canadian citizens which does not expire for at least 6 months after the trip return date (a requirement to enter many countries). You are not required to obtain a visa for the short duration of your private tour.
If you are a citizen of another country traveling internationally, you should contact an embassy or consulate to determine what travel documentation is required.
We recommend that you make at least two photocopies of all the travel documents that you bring with you. Keep a copy of your scanned passport (photograph page) on your email while traveling as well as copies of the photo page of your passport that contains the date of issuance, the date of expiration and your citizenship. Secure one set of copies in the safe of your room while sightseeing and leave one set behind with someone at home who will assist you in the event your documents are misplaced, lost or stolen.
- Any minors traveling without both legal parents or guardians need to travel with a notarized letter of consent.
- The name on your airline tickets must be identical to the name that appears on your passport.
Is there a limit to the luggage I am allowed to bring?
Depending on the size of your group, we could be traveling in an SUV, a Sedan, a van or a luxury mini bus. In all cases luggage space is limited.
Each of our guests may bring one piece of main luggage of a standard size of no more than 158 cm (when the length, width and height is added together) and weighing no more than 20 kg. You may also bring one small carry-on bag per person.
Although oversize bags and wheeled carry-on luggage are acceptable on mainstream airlines, they are often not convenient or appropriate for mini-bus/van travel or for many on-tour flights and train travel. Most of our transportation offer limited space for numerous or larger items. Space under seats or in the overhead rack is typically small, and designed to accommodate items like coats, hats, purses and small camera bags.
Space is limited even on our mini-buses and vans so for the comfort and ease for all members of the group, we ask that you please limit your checked luggage to one suitcase per person weighing no more than 50 lbs (23 kg) and with overall dimensions (length + width + height) not exceeding 62 inches (158 cm). When our transportation is a van, luggage allowance is one roller bag (this can be no larger than 26 x 17 x 11 including rollers).
For your day to day travel while on tour, we recommend that you limit your hand luggage to a small, soft-sided carry-on piece, and that you bring only those items you need handy during the day such as make-up, medications, cameras, etc. We must stress that available space in our vans is very limited! On some itineraries, you will be responsible in handling your own luggage, such as traveling by train, loading and unloading the van (if we have a mini-bus this would not apply). In some cases you may have to pull your bags a short distance to your hotel and a possibility of stairs.
If you exceed this limit there may not be space in the van or mini-bus to transport your excess luggage and will need to be stored at your own expense.
Besides complying with the Travels with Audrey restriction noted above, you should also be sure to research and comply with all airline baggage restrictions relating to your flights to and from your destination. Airlines have become much stricter in enforcing size and weight limits in recent years, and luggage exceeding airline standards for size or weight may result in expensive fees.
Airlines are free to revise luggage policies without notice, and certain airlines have different baggage allowances for different classes of service. Researching and complying with airline luggage restrictions is the responsibility of the guest, and Travels with Audrey cannot be held responsible for any costs or disruptions to travel caused by the failure to research and comply with airline policies.
Although every effort is made to handle your luggage carefully, we cannot be responsible, assume liability or accept claims for loss or damage to luggage and personal effects due to breakage, theft, or fair wear and tear through hotel, airline and private transportation handling. It is important for your own self-interest and protection that you make certain you have adequate insurance to cover for these eventualities. Lost luggage is an unfortunate possibility in today’s world of airline travel.
We suggest the following:
- You can purchase an inexpensive bag in your final city for all your new purchases or ship them home.Pack at least one change of clothing in your carry-on bag
- Split your items between your suitcase and a traveling companion’s suitcase
- Do not pack any vital medications or valuables in your checked luggage
- Confirm that your luggage is checked and tagged to your final destination at airport check-in
- Place your luggage claim tags in a secure place for your flight
- File a claim for any missing luggage immediately before leaving the baggage claim area at the arrival airport
- Secure a case number and contact information for follow-up communications. Make certain that the airline has your onward itinerary
- Your tour manager may assist you with airline and other carrier communications, if there is a language barrier, but has no inside contacts to guarantee or expedite recovery of lost luggage.
- All recovery costs, including communication costs, are your responsibility. Check your travel protection details for covered expenses.
What should I pack?
Bringing the right clothing for your vacation is important. A suggested packing list will be provided in your pre-departure information. A private tour with your loved ones is a relaxed friendly and casual atmosphere.
Dress for comfort and convenience with a wardrobe that is adaptable, allows for layering in case you get chilly or hot and protects you from a rain shower. Generally during the day, casual, comfortable, cotton clothing is recommended. In Europe, especially in finer restaurants, where I occasionally like to take my clients for a fine dining experience, it is generally customary to dress somewhat formally. Slacks or a dress for women and a jacket for men are acceptable dining attire. It is advisable to avoid wearing old Jeans, sneakers or shorts for dinner. You may also wish to dress up for the welcome dinner and farewell dinner, but by all means be comfortable. A sports jacket is not required.
Many day trips start after breakfast and end before dinner, sometimes after, so you do not always have a chance to change into evening cloths. You can also bring extra cloths and shoes to leave in the van/mini-bus/car if you so wish.
The times that you might want to wear something a little more elegant would be in cities like Paris, Malaga, Florence, Venice, Turin, Rome to name a few (larger cities) where people are more fashion-oriented.
- Please note that you will not be able to enter any of the churches if you wear pants or skirts above the knee, and/or sleeveless shirts. The same goes for men! So, if you are wearing a tank top, you may want to bring a light sweater or scarf that you can put over your shoulders so you can get inside the church.What matters is that you have a good time and that you are comfortable, so the strongest memories of your trip are those of beautiful places you visited and not the pain that the cobblestone streets gave you while wearing the wrong shoes. Think lightweight, comfortable, quick drying, soft and nothing that will feel tight or not let your skin breathe.Many people ask us what to wear so they can fit in and not stick out like a tourist. Just wear what is “you” and what makes you comfortable. As a general rule, French and Italians do not typically wear bright colors or patterns, but stick to neutrals like blacks, grays, whites, navy.
- Most accommodations provide hair dryers. If you bring any electrical appliances (hair dryer, flat iron, electric razor, etc.) please ensure they are dual voltage. The electricity supply is 220 volts, which means your appliance should have a switch that you can turn to the correct voltage. If it does not, you will need a converter because an adapter alone will not be sufficient. Laptop computers, camera chargers, cell phone chargers, i Pods, and other electronics only need an adapter.
- We recommend that you pack an adequate supply of your prescription medication in its original container to last through the entire vacation, together with a copy of your doctor’s prescription or a letter from your health-care provider on office stationery explaining that that the medication has been prescribed for you, a list of the generic names of your medication, your travel documents and a change of clothing in your carry-on bag to avoid any inconvenience in the event that your flight or luggage is delayed.
Following is a list of recommended items to pack for your trip:
- Casual daytime wear: shorts, slacks, skirts, long and short-sleeved shirts, sun dresses
- An optional jacket and tie for men
- Casually elegant evening wear for ladies
- Sunglasses, sunscreen, hat
- Gym wear
- A light sweater or jacket for higher elevations or a breezy night
- Insect repellent (depending on time of year)
- Camera, lenses, batteries, memory cards
- Lightweight, comfortable, sturdy walking shoes that have already been broken-in
- Battery-operated travel alarm clock
- Rain poncho and collapsible umbrella
- Day-pack for camera equipment
- Sundries and toiletries that may be difficult to find en route
- Copies of your travel documents that should be secured in the safe in your hotel room while traveling
What type of transportation will be used on private tours?
Customized itineraries can include different forms of travel all dependent on location, chosen sites and activities. Forms of transportation can vary from train travel, ferries to private vehicles with professional drivers. Depending on your group size:
- For 2 to 3 people it would be your own driver with a sedan vehicle or SUV
- For 6 to 7 guests a comfortable minivan (i.e. Peugeot Expert Tepee, Renault Espace, Mercedes Viano, Ford Tourneo)
- In some cases a separated dedicated luggage vehicle is chartered for increased comfort (this is included in the quoted tour price)
- With more than 8 guests we operate either 2 vans, a 10-15 seater or mini-bus (19 or 24-seater)
In Italy, Spain and France any vehicles larger than a 9-seater van will not be able to enter small towns or historical centers. So we always choose vehicles as indicated above that allow us to access areas of towns and cities that other larger vehicles would be restricted to. Their size also allows us to travel along local roads, across breath-taking mountain passes to find charming villages and picturesque vistas which lie most time beyond the well-worn tourist trails where large motor coaches cannot go. For added convenience, we usually drive into the center of small villages and old towns to park beside charming accommodations and intimate local restaurants.
Private transfers to and from the airport can be arranged as part of your all-inclusive land arrangement.
On some itineraries and dependent on group size you may have Audrey as your personal driver-guide, so you are in good hands!
How much driving on a Travels with Audrey customized private tour?
How much driving depends on your personally chosen activities and locations chosen to visit on your customized itinerary. Generally we design our private tours so that there is as little time as possible on the vehicle and plenty to see. We travel along the scenic route wherever possible, meaning you’ll see more of the countryside and local village life. Inevitably, there are days when traveling between locations that may involve freeway driving and more mileage. Generally we try to do at least two to three attraction stops, comfort and meal stops. It would be as if you had rented a car, without having to drive or concern yourself with directions, maps and the possibility of getting lost or not speaking the language.
How much walking will I do?
European travel, in general, involves a lot of walking, much more than my guests are used to in North America. Most of the Travels with Audrey private tours include city walking tours, visits to hilltop towns and villages, going up and down lots of stairs, meandering through cobbled streets and in some cases walking up to your hotel room. Keeping active and incorporating long walks into your busy schedule in the weeks before your departure will make your vacation much more rewarding. Want to visit a castle? The famous Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria features more than 100 interior stairs, on narrow, winding staircases. Most villages in Europe are on hilltops and require you to go up and down hills.
Some of the most memorable sightseeing can only be accomplished on foot. Cities like Venice, Florence to name a few are made for walking. You must be able to sustain extended periods of time walking and standing as on our walking tours (anywhere from 3 to 4 hours).
Many historic cities prohibit motorized transport, meaning that your driver will need to park some distance out of the center and you will be walking into the town or city center with your driver-guide or tour manager.
Traveling in North America most sites are handicapped-accessible and within easy reach with a car. That is not the case in Europe.
All Travels with Audrey’s customized itineraries have planned time on your own, time to enjoy your local guide, a photo op or a gelato, but is has been our experience that most guests would like to see and experience as much as possible while on vacation with us. We’re adaptable to any speed, but if you’re not used to walking on your own power for three or four blocks at a time without stopping to catch your breath, you may have problems enjoying Europe. European countries do not have stringent disability laws as in the United States/Canada.
TIP: Also to keep in mind, that most of these villages including historical city centers have cobblestones, uneven surfaces, and it is essential that you have good walking shoes with a thick rubber sole especially in the summer due to the heat coming up through the bottom of your feet. To enjoy your private customized tour to Europe with us, you should be able to walk reasonable distances, often over unpaved and uneven surfaces. The countries we travel to are home to innumerable historic buildings and sites, many dating back to antiquity. Therefore roads, walkways and sightseeing locations may present difficulties for some guests with physical disabilities.
NOTE: Please note that if you have a mobility concern, you may not find our private tours suitable. Please contact us if you have any doubts. Please also check our Terms and Conditions for more detail.
What type of hotels do you normally use?
We pride ourselves in seeking and selecting unique accommodations, boutique properties with less than forty rooms in most cases, mostly small family-owned establishments and not working with chain hotels. You can rest assured I have personally selected all our hotels for their quality, cleanliness, comfort and location. Occasionally, you may have to walk up and down stairs, bring your own hair dryer and even do without cool air conditioning. However, the pay-off is an authentic European experience.
Our accommodations (whether a villa situated in a stunning location in wine country, a boutique hotel, a castle hotel, a property in the historical heart of cities, ‘Paradors’, charming inns, B&B’s, ‘agriturismi’ or traditional farmhouses) are carefully selected to always reflect the authentic local character and charm of the destination you are staying in without sacrificing comfort and service. Rather than going by the official grading (based solely on facilities rather than the standard of the accommodation), we base our choices on location, quality and warm hospitality.
The hotels we select in cities will be in the historical centers, within walking distance of major sights, shopping and museums and most are historical buildings dating from the 13th to the 19th centuries. On most of our tour itineraries we have also opted to stay in country villas/inns or castles to better appreciate the region itself and savor the countryside. All of the rooms have private bath and air-conditioning. In some of the country estates, villas or castles, there are spas and swimming pools for you to relax and enjoy.
- At time of booking, please let us know whether you would like a twin room (two single sized beds in a room) or a double room (one standard sized bed for 2 people) or single room. Room sizes in older buildings may vary and each room could have its own unique style and character.
- We do not include porterage as most properties do not offer that service and quite honestly it is actually faster in most cases to bring up your own, even if they have one bell boy on duty to help you with your luggage.
Additional notes on accommodations:
- Historic buildings that have been converted to hotels, the strongest intent during renovations was to respect and preserve the original structure as much as possible. So we ask for your patience and flexibility as most rooms will be a different size, layout, and view (which is not guaranteed until time of booking) and may be smaller than you might be used to in newer chain hotels. Also, if you are staying in a hotel located within a city center, please know that there may be a certain degree of noise that is higher compared to other accommodations in more remote areas (Cars, pedestrians, mopeds).
- Lifts, if any, are usually very small, due to space constraints in older historical buildings, and your shower may not be as big as the one at home. In many cases this is due to regulations concerning protected buildings, but this will be more than offset by the charm, unique character and history which can be uncovered in these locations.
- We do please ask not to communicate directly with the hotels prior to your vacation, as it could cause misunderstandings. If you have particular requests or concerns, please let us know and we’ll make sure to notify the hotels. Thank you for your understanding.
- Most accommodations will have air conditioning but will not run as cool as in North America, and may not run all day. Generally Europe does not adhere to the same levels of luxury or spacious rooms or even customer service that one might be used to in Canada or the United States. They are also, along with some other European countries, some of the most environmentally conscious countries in the world.
- In regards to bathrooms: sometimes you will have a large bathroom with shower and bathtub, sometimes just a small shower stall that you can barely turn around in. This is just helpful to know in advance, knowing what to expect when traveling to European countries, but that will certainly not take away from your enjoyment.
NOTE ON ACCOMMODATION TAX: Various European countries or cities have what’s known as a Tourist Tax Europe which is utilized for tourism-related purposes yet guests don’t frequently acknowledge it is set up in light of the fact that the charge is normally joined into their accommodation cost. This fee has to be paid normally at hotel reception desk at checkout.
Because this tax is charged and collected by your hotel and is payable in cash only when you check out, we are unable to collect this tax in advance or include it in your price when you are traveling independently. This tax is included in the tour price for clients traveling on an escorted tour accompanied by a Tour Manager who is able to pay directly to the hotel on your behalf.
What if I am vegetarian/have allergies/require a particular diet?
Prior to any trip, we send you a Guest registration form which is designed to provide us with information on any special requests or requirements you may have like any dietary restrictions, limitations or preferences. We ask for you to be as detailed as possible. (For example, if you are vegetarian, let us know if that means you do not eat meat and poultry but you do eat fish, only legumes, etc.).
We will try our best to accommodate your dietary needs but Travels with Audrey won’t assume extra costs relative to special diets. If you have allergies, special dietary requirements, glucose or other food intolerance, if you are hypoglycemic, vegan, lactose-intolerant, diabetic, etc., or if you require specific foods not readily available, you will be responsible for purchasing at your expense any menu item that is not served during the included group meals or bringing your own ingredients.
How about restaurants and meals?
On self-guided private custom tours the only meal included is Breakfast. Of course we can include wine tastings, cooking classes, visits to farms to name a few. Lunches and dinners are only included based on clients wishes on guided private custom tours.
Character and Quality: Tasting the local cuisine should be an important part of any holiday and Travels with Audrey ensures that an emphasis is placed on local specialties. No large group tour can offer you such a thorough and enjoyable approach of this authentic part of heritage of Europe. Our included culinary experiences, only included on guided private tours, enable you to enjoy truly authentic, locally sourced and produced cuisine. Take cooking classes using regional ingredients, visit local farms, enjoy food and wine tastings at local producers. Furthermore, throughout our private tours you’ll dine in small, authentic restaurants, frequented by the locals and guaranteed to give a true reflection of the tastes of the region.
Some of our meals will be in towns we visit along the way, while others are in countryside locations with breathtaking surroundings. The locations we select for your included exclusive culinary experiences are authentic locations, most often family run, farm to table establishments, ‘agriturismi’, Michelin star fine cuisine, upmarket establishments, but also typical cafes and ‘auberges’.
Breakfast is included daily. Each bespoke itinerary will have a list of inclusions. Meals are noted by B (Breakfast) L (lunch) and D (dinner). Each itinerary will differ on the number of included lunches or dinners based on clients personal wishes. For the ones we include in your package they will be considered experiences for the group and will be included in the price of your tour package.
When making reservations at our chosen locations most often the menu will be an open menu where you can freely choose ‘à la carte’, but a number of the restaurants we work with, prefer to have a set menu. In this case we send you the choices and you then let us know what your preferences are. The ‘set menu’ will always reflect what the cuisine and beverages of the region are, and not the tourist menu “beef, chicken, veggie or fish” options on mainstream tours. We want you to truly taste the lands you are traveling through. We also feature a handful of unique culinary and chef-prepared dinners that feature specific menus but exclusively prepared for our guests. Bottled water, tea or coffee is included with all meals. Wine is only included with some meals. Beer, soft drinks and cocktails are not included.
For the optional lunches and dinners, you are free to make your own gastronomic explorations or join your tour manager, driver-guide.
NOTE: One thing to remember is dinner times in Europe are later than you might be used to, 7:30 PM at the earliest and often later in some locations in France and Italy (Spain).