Or is it better to use a consolidator? I know there will be effort expended in making reservations for hotels and tours and transfers but is that effort worth substantial savings? AbercrombieKent for instance charges a lot for hotels that when you add up the cost, their charges seem exorbitant. I am planning for a trip to Spain in late April 2020 to May 2020 with my wife. Are there any pointers for operators that have decent deals. I am looking to stay at a minimum Five star accommodations and small groups.
Hotels are easy to arrange yourself, but transfers and tours are trickier / more time consuming. If you are unwilling to self-drive or use public transportation (even in first class), I guess it's better to bite the bullet and use an agency (after all I assume you're not too cost sensitive since you wish to stay at luxury hotels). I can't recommend any agency, that's really not my area of expertise.
Or maybe you could mix and match: have an agency arrange the parts of the trip where you are mobile, but book yourself, say, a few nights in Madrid and / or Barcelona at the start/end of the trip? This could save a few hundred dollars.
Do you want to go on a small group tour or do you prefer to travel independently with arrangements and assistance, made by a Spain specialist? Look at Iberian Traveler in Seattle for assistance with the latter.
Tauck is a great luxury tour operator.
I suppose it depends on how you define "luxury." (Abercrombie and Kent and Tauck don't belong in the same paragraph.) Do you want everything put together seamlessly and everything taken care of for you? Or is price important enough that you're willing to search around for the location of the next attraction you planned to see that day? Are you fast with Google Maps on your phone? Does your phone data work in Spain?
I like luxury hotels, but I don't need a private driver to pick me up and take me to a place I can get to on the tram or bus. But if I want to see the Descalcas Reales convent (or the Alhambra, for that matter) without a reservation, I need someone who has the fix in and can get get me in tomorrow. Windstar Cruises set us up (two busses full, that is) with a hot buffet lunch, including green s-a-l-a-d in a picnic grove at Tikal, Guatemala. Do you want to worry whether the sandwich maker washed his hands
I might add that I try very hard to book luxury hotels directly, because you get better service, IMHO. But you sound like you might use Trivago to get the lowest price. Will you be surprised if I get a better view than you do?
I'm sure A&K does independent trips, but mostly they do small groups, say 12-16. Is that what you mean? Or is your group independent? I'll note that our Abercrombie and Kent East Africa safari delivered just what we wanted, for a high-ish price. But I also got a taste (from our well-heeled companions' behavior ... ) why my Named-Executive-Officer brother-in-law buys the "private" version of tours like that. We had some weirdos in the group of 16.
Google Luxury train adventure for northern Spain. Consider the Paradores that are luxurious for lodging.
I am looking to stay at a minimum Five star accommodations
Do they make em' any higher? LOL!
Indeed they do. There are 7 star hotels all over the world but I appreciate you asking.
Wow, I did not even know that, thanks for sharing ;-)
A&K starts their tours around $15k per person. I am not looking to spend more than $5k (land only). I am good with technology and my phone works worldwide. As far as the group size is concerned, I prefer about 14-16. I am not looking for the lowest price per se but I also don't want to rack rates. Is there anything inherently wrong with Trivago? I have never used it or booking.com etc. There is a big difference between looking for the cheapest deal vs. being frugal. Just because one want's to travel in comfort doesn't mean that paying more than what is reasonable is prudent.
@Carlos. Emirates Palace and Pangu in Beijing come to mind but there are more. If you consider Aman resorts in the hotel category, plenty of their resorts are 7 star. Amangiri in Utah is one such.
Try Destination Spain, https://destination-spain.com/.
Absolutely. With Viator and Klook and Airbnb experiences it's easier and easier to manage transfers and tours. Scheduling is a bit of a hassle but in exchange you get more options and substantial savings. We are not a package tour family, and we also love to stay in nice places. It works for us.
H, you say, "There are 7 star hotels all over the world".
I say, nonsense. It's called marketing. The globally accepted maximum stars a hotel can have is 5 stars and this is usually defined by the national tourism organisation (very often wholly sponsored by the hospitality trade and therefore not objective) of the respective country. That countries such as Abu Dhabi, Azerbaijan and Fiji have decided to independently uprate and extend their hotel grading system is irrelevant.
However, having said that, what is 5-star in Spain does not always match what is regarded, and expected, as 5-star in the UK for example.
(For disclosure reasons: worked on a project four years ago which examined US visitors' expectations of 5-star hotels in Spain — and matched them with the reality of their experience. The overall results were not received well by the hotels involved. When it came to ranking individual so-called 5-star hotels in Spain most US visitors ranked them at around 3.5. There are serious divergences between cultures as to what constitutes 'luxury'. )
And, to add, if you wanted to stay in a so-called 7 star hotel you are looking at around $15,000 per night — not convinced these suites are available on Trivago.
What thread or threads are you reading.? Who said I was looking for a 7 star hotel and that too on Trivago.
Your original post referred to "minimum Five star accommodations".
"What thread or threads are you reading.?"
THIS ONE: "I am looking to stay at a minimum Five star accommodations ".
“I am looking to stay at a minimum Five star accommodations and small groups” as the OP wrote
could be construed as looking for a 7 star too.
But, I agree that what a 5 star in Spain, or any other country, can be quite different than what a 5 star might be in the US. And, some star ratings are just plain subjective and often ridiculous.
Putting together a luxury tour should be easy enough by searching luxury hotels on many booking sites by using filters or just by checking city specific sites online.
What thread or threads are you reading.? Who said I was looking for a 7 star hotel
that would be the thread by kmstura titled, Can I piecemeal together a luxury tour of Spain? - also known as this one.
posted by kmstura -
There are 7 star hotels all over the world
and 14 minutes later,
Emirates Palace and Pangu in Beijing come to mind but there are more.
If you consider Aman resorts in the hotel category, plenty of their
resorts are 7 star. Amangiri in Utah is one such.
I don't think your $5,000 plus air budget is realistic for a luxury tour of Spain. The cost of a Rick Steves 14 Day Best of Spain tour in April-May 2020 ranges from $4,195 to $4,395 plus air. I don't think $5,000 will cover the cost of what you want.
I believe terms like "luxury hotel" or "five star hotel" refer to the availability of specific services in the facility. Things like 24 hour room service, concierge, a complete restaurant, on-call maid service, etc., may raise a facility's ratings. It is possible to find hotels with spacious, well-appointed rooms and helpful staff in good locations with a much lower ratings. I suggest you decide what specific features you want in a hotel and don't rely entirely on the terms "luxury" or the number of stars.
The star rating system in Spain is set by the regions, so might be a little different, for example, down in Murcia compared to Galicia up in the other corner of the country. Obviously in all communities a 5 🌟 hotel is going to be rather more luxurious than a 3 🌟 one. However, some of the differences at the higher level are rather obscure - it's not only basics such as having a porter or room service, but also how wide the corridors are or the length of the bath. By way of example, I link below the Andalucia criteria which also lists hotels in each category.
I write all that, with apologies, because if you do decide to organise the holiday yourself then you may want to consider not only the star rating. In particular, there are some excellent hotels called parador which are often in atmospheric refurbished old palaces or monasteries and/or have beautiful, scenic locations. Not all of these achieve 5 🌟 status, but they are certainly luxurious and the building and location makes them magical places to stay even without that top star.
More generally, it is straightforward to book a trip by yourself using search engines to identify hotels and private tours. Transport between the most commonly visited cities and major towns is also easy, but what you loose is the door-to-door service and constant guide that going on a full package tour offers. How important is that to you, because I suspect that is what you're paying for with a tour? Personally, I'd much rather go the piecemeal/DIY/tapas approach (but, in fairness, that's partly because I'm misanthropic and just don't like the idea of a package tour, no matter how fancy).
PS If you named the parts of Spain you were interested in then posters might have specific recommendations for hotels, transport and local guides.
Now that I have more information, it looks like the Paradores hotels would be a good bet. Check reviews carefully, as some have dated rooms, but they usually provide good service, large and plush rooms, and great breakfasts, at about $150-300/night which would be within budget if you cut back on 'private transfers'.