Many people tell us they have trouble deciding whether to do their vacation planning themselves - using internet searching and guidebooks for research - then making all the reservations and arrangements themselves.
Indeed, for many people, doing their own planning is a genuinely better alternative. We know that our success depends on being able to separate ourselves from the hype in travel marketing. We don't want to encourage you to use us if it's not a good match. So as you read on, we'll help you make that key first decision in as unbiased a way as we can- including thinking through the pros and cons with you.
That way, our planners can spend all their time working only with those who will find it enormously more satisfying and nourishing to work with us. And, if we are a good match, you get to wholeheartedly become our partner in planning your vacation of a lifetime.
Please give us feedback on whether we've succeeded in being your objective, unbiased advisor - dedicated to whatever fits the facts, and only recommending what's in your interest.
You can scroll down and click on the link to look at the kinds of travelers who have valid reasons to have us as their travel partner. Since they're our past guests, you'll hear from them in their own words.
First here are 5 kinds of travelers who may be better off making their own plans and arrangements.
They have a lot of vacation time and They are not like travelers who have just a week in Costa Rica and would feel distraught to lose 10% of their vacation wrestling with some problem with their plans, or a hotel reservation problem.
They have the sense that with enough time they could get all the rich experiences on their own, and they give less weight to our knowing how to schedule many more interesting experiences and encounters for them in every day.
They are simply unable to spend more money to prevent problems, get more experiences, have the benefit of guides, and maximize their lifetime memories.
These travelers have a high tolerance for, even a liking for, uncertainty.
Many of our guests (quoted in 'Which Travelers May Be Better Off Having Us Do the Planning?') rave about how smoothly everything went. But even with us, things can go wrong. The issue is whether you're willing to pay extra to minimize how often things go wrong.
The question is whether getting stuck, then rescuing yourself, is a big part of your enjoyment and adventure. If spending a day fighting with a hotel is an experience you could enjoy, win or lose, without spending the next day with a headache and indigestion, it may make sense for you to save the money for our planning.
Whether you want to remove such stress is often the determining factor in whether you're willing to pay more to have carefree experiences.
Some people love to do their own planning. All the details of planning are a major delight to them.
In fact, some travelers love the planning process almost more than the travel experience. They love to study peer reviews and separate the wheat from the chaff. They find the planning so nourishing, they might plan 10 vacations in detail for every one they actually take.
With us, you take a more strategic role in the planning, by telling us in detail your interests and preferences on your Wish List. Then we do all the detailed planning, reserving all the places, cars, planes, guides, and other vacation details to get you the exact vacation that matches your interests. You come to us with your suitcase of dreams, expectations, and standards. You remain the star; we plan and manage all the backstage details - with you collaborating actively in tuning the itineraries we provide.
If doing it all is more satisfying to you than the all the benefits of working with us which you will find described here, you should plan your vacation yourself.
There is no way that travelers on their own can know as much about what there is to see the very month you are there, where to go to see what wild life at any particular moment, what to avoid, and how to learn the most from every hour, as an experienced local, who is a trained guide.
But for the self-guiding traveler, not knowing - and discovering whatever they are lucky enough to discover - is part of the adventure they want.
If you are the kind of person for whom worrying about things going wrong seems to cause you as much or more stress than things actually going wrong, you should rely on us. You go on vacation to be in a unfamiliar environment, but paradoxically the fact that the environment is unfamiliar can make it feel more stressful.
We go to extraordinary lengths to make your experience as safe and as seamless as humanly possible.
Since there is no effective regulation of adventure sports or any kind of transportation in Costa Rica, we only work with a the ziplines, rafting companies, charter air taxis, etc. who pass our stringent safety survey
You’ll find us consistently punctual, but we recognize the possibility that we might be unavoidably late (for example due to an unannounced detour) so we have systems in place to call you on those very rare occasions that we are not going to arrive on time. Worrying that you have been forgotten and will lose a whole day of your vacation is lot worse than having to wait for a pick-up when you’ve received a call before the appointed time to inform you when we will arrive.
As with so many things in life the perception is almost as important as the reality. It is not enough for your vacation to be safe and hassle free, it also has to be worry free
For example, if you are worried that you might need to contact us and don’t have a phone handy, read Always in Touch.
We would not have realized how incredibly important stress free and peace of mind is if we had not paid attention to the feedback from our past guests
“CRE is worth every penny for the delight, peace of mind and astonishing experience of excellence along the way. We kept thinking CRE had confused us with someone important.”
- Nancy Breuer
“Overall: I didn't realize until I was headed home at the airport in San Jose how much stress of a trip is removed by not having to worry about getting to your next destination and about worrying whether everything will be as promised. Without a doubt, this was the biggest benefit of booking with Costa Rica Expeditions. Every single driver was on-time or early. Every connection and outing was well coordinated. For this, I thank you.”
- Kevin Brand
“We appreciated the safety warnings that we saw in the materials that your company provided This made us aware of the lack of safety precautions on some of the other zip line tours which was backed up by some of what we saw during our travels and heard about from other guests Thank you for directing us to a reputable one“
- Nancy and Peter Stevick
“They treated us so wonderfully that I found myself wishing that I had allowed them to plan our entire vacation instead of just a portion of it If you want the vacation of a lifetime go to Costa Rica If you want a stress-free vacation in Costa Rica contact Costa Rica Expeditions!“
- Robyn Worthington
“Everything about the trip from the expert and accommodating Pricila Jimenez who helped us with the planning to all the guides and transport in between the vacation was seamless and relaxing Just plain wonderful It' always comforting to know you'r taken care of in another country and not have to worry about whether the driver will be there on time or someone will help with a problem…“
- Rick Shiers
By relying on us, you'll have all your reservations made by our Travel Planner who lives here, and has local connections. Our Planners are backed by over 100 person-years of experience with things Costa Rican. They all speak English and Spanish.
In fact, you rely on our Planners, Guides, Drivers, Hotel staff - and the whole team of unsung heroes behind the scenes who you'll never meet. They insure that you see the “hidden Costa Rica,” indeed “the real Costa Rica,” because they all live here, study it, know it so well, and are totally dedicated to your vacation of a lifetime.
“Your skill and long-term experience and contacts throughout the country are clearly of immense value. Every single driver and guide and all the staff at the hotels were totally friendly and helpful and all contributed to a very memorable experience.“
- Clare Duggan & family
If you used even the several great books, or online searching, much of the information would not be up to date. By relying on us, you'll have the up to date information on the services and conditions where you're going, because your Travel Planner and Guides, our Drivers and Hotel Staff - all have constant feedback from our guests and our entire team in country. For example, they know which roads are closed, which special events are happening, and what's most worth visiting given the current season and weather - none of which is on maps. They collaborate with each other and you to maximize your adventures.
“There are many options of activites accomodations and itineraries in Costa Rica Having an agency like Costa Rica Expeditions is critical to helping you decide which ones are the best safest and most worthwhile during your visit They give you insider information and help you find the more authentic experiences Their knowledge of the different areas is invaluable and they make the entire process of planning a memorable vacation in Costa Rica much easier.
Thank you so much Costa Rica Expeditions & Marco for helping us create such a wonderful trip with memories we will treasure for a lifetime!“
- The DiFranco & Sanchez Families
To have the best possible vacation, and add whole new dimensions, we recommend a great guide, one of the best in the country.
Over the years of selecting guides and studying the characteristics of guides that guests rave about, we've found a higher standard than being a “good guide” who has lots of knowledge and experience.
In another league is the great guide, the world-class guide, who goes beyond finding things, pointing them out, and telling you interesting stories about them. In a minute, we'll describe how they enable you to personally, directly experience everything yourself.
But first, let's describe the good guide. After all, knowledge and experience are essential.
Guided or on your own you might be detained by road accident up ahead. On your own this kind of experience can be very frustrating. With a good guide you can expect it to be turned into an adventure, pointing out animals, plant, and events along the way. Good guides make the most of unexpected events.
Good guides can take you to local businesses. They know where and when to go, and not go - including where “off the beaten track” adventures are. You'll see the country and its wildlife through your guide's eyes.
Good guides can take you to a rural school visit, a local crafts exhibit, a parade, a holiday mass, the deserted beach next to the crowded beach, cooking classes, hair braiding, best little restaurants to eat at, indeed edible fruit along the trail or river - you'd likely miss out on if you were on your own.
Now, let's add the qualities of a great guide, a world-class guide…
Merely good guides have their repertoire of facts and stories of things they've seen, done, and heard. You find yourself spending a lot of your time listening to them telling you about their experiences.
In contrast, great guides ask questions to tune in to your values, your style of learning, and your style of moving through the adventures. And they notice what fascinates and excites you, to infer what you might not be able to ask for and articulate. They tune in to your pace, what interests you the most, and where you are hungry for more knowledge and experiences.
They have an uncanny sense of when you need to rest, or when to leave you alone for a while to share with your travel companions.
They put you at the center of each experience, helping you discover things that will become your own stories and lifetime memories, not theirs. Your Costa Rica, not just theirs. They are expert at helping you get the most customized direct, personal, first-hand experiences from every hour.
With great guides, it's subtle. They are not intrusive. They bring you to the experiences, and let the magic take over. You may find yourself smiling and wondering what they are doing to enable you to have such personal experiences.
And you may not notice the things they are avoiding. For example, when they talk with your driver, or local merchants, they don't leave you out. It might never occur to you that they are always bringing you into the experiences by translating, and enabling you to interact in an authentic way.
Such firsthand experiences are spontaneous, serendipitous, unique, and personal. With a great guide, you are immersed in a rich and complex awareness of what you see, feel, hear, taste, smell, and say to yourself and others. You are free, not controlled, to interact, to be surprised, to challenge yourself if you want, and to be delighted.
We can usually pick one of our guides for you with specialized knowledge of things you personally care about most. For example we can give you one of our guides who is a great photographer, or who specializes in making things exciting for kids, or who is an ornithologist, or who is a frog expert, or who is a climate change and ecology expert, or who knows where to take you to see stone carvings.
Your Travel Planner and Guides will arrange special locations, celebration events, special dinners, watching a parade, picnics on the bank of the river, or a private nighttime giant sea turtle nesting expedition on an isolated beach that others don't know about---all chosen on the basis of what they have learned about you.
To sum up, good guides orchestrate; great guides facilitate.
“We were glad that our guides were willing to discuss the realities of Costa Rican life rather openly with us My husband and I were interested in knowing a little more about the parts of life that are often hidden from the "tourists" like the Nicaraguan immigration …the relationships between Costa Rica and the corporations such as the banana companies the coffee trade etc. We were also delighted to be able to see the wildlife that we wouldn' have spotted on our own and to have people with local ties to the community acting as our guides and benefiting from our visit. We felt conscious of our privilege as Americans and self-conscious of our lack of Spanish speaking but never got the feeling that those working for the company were anything but happy to work with us.“
- Erika Nelson
Many travelers cherish flexibility and spontaneity while on vacation. Some even want to decide what to do each morning based on the weather and their moods. These travelers often conclude that using professional travel planners and guides would limit them, when just the opposite is the case---as long they let us know that flexibility and spontaneity is important to them.
When we discover that flexibility and spontaneity is important to our guests we build in flexibility and spontaneity with a much wider gamut of choices than most people could discover on their own.
“Our guide William was a wealth of knowledge. He was able to answer every question we had and provide information and experiences that we hadn't thought of. He was flexible in restructuring our itinerary to include a trip to a dairy farm which we all enjoyed very much having come from a farming background ourselves We did an impromptu shopping trip where William gave each of us a list of ingredients (he told them to us in Spanish and we wrote them down - as best we could - considering neither one of us speak Spanish - which was quite hilarious) and then we went into the store and proceeded to find our ingredients.“
- Nancy Hammel
“Kenya also altered our itinerary and took us to the market on Saturday which we loved It was so much fun to see how the Costa Rican people live on a daily basis We loved the flexibility Kenya offered in our itinerary.“
- Sharon Evans
Sometimes our guides and trip planners invite our travelers to their homes, their school, their church, etc. Not to mention their hearts.
“Elena Monge is such an extraordinary human being. I knew from the moment we spoke that I had found the right tour company. We bonded immediately & developed a relationship that I will cherish for the rest of my life… She even surprised us by showing up the last day to take us on a quick shopping trip & say good-bye. We cried when we parted. I will treasure her always & hope to see her again one day“.
- Jennifer Gunderson
“Luis took my preferences into consideration and sold me a trip that best met MY needs without just trying to upsell me on every aspect of the trip“
- Kimberly McCormack
“I fell in love with your Tortuga Lodge. As my 15-year-old son said, it's a place where you are treated like a good friend, like someone you have known your whole life!!!”
- Emilie Wheat & Thomas Augliere.
“I shall never forget the wonder and beauty of this entire experience and the generosity of heart and beautiful natures of those who made it possible and contributed to an indelible memory I shall carry for the rest of my life…Thank you for this dream come true.”
- Rosemary Bell.