Several years ago, we started encouraging travelers to arrive into our international starting point a day before the Adventure officially begins. We call this additional night in the hotel a “pre-night.” Initially this idea was birthed after a rash of late flights caused people to miss a portion of their tour, and/or wait a matter of days for their luggage to catch up to them en route. Airline on-time records have improved in the past few years, but we still recommend going in a day early to “catch your breath” after a long international flight, get a jump on jet lag, as well as offset the possibility of a late arrival or lost luggage.
To accommodate this advice, we also began offering this pre- night at our first hotel at the best rate we could obtain from our suppliers. Travelers are now taking our advice in droves. The standard arrival day on international trips is now one day ahead of when the tour officially begins. Many are also leveraging the concept, adding even more days ahead of the official start day, or adding days onto the back of the program at our finish point.
We’re really glad to see travelers maximizing the experience in this way, and stretching their airfare dollars. It makes a lot of sense! The only caveat we feel it’s time to make is: WAI is unfortunately not set up to book those extra nights for you. We can book the one “pre-night” as a block of rooms, but no additional nights.
WAI, you see, is not a travel agent; we are a “tour operator”. A travel agent is plugged into a special computer system, for which they pay steep fees and jump through several training and educational hoops. With this system, they are positioned to book individual travel efficiently at the click of a button. Airfare, rooms, trains, and land transport – all are just a click away from a travel agent. That one button click secures the room and produces an invoice with a commission already built in. No muss, no fuss, no pricing decisions.
WAI, on the other hand, is set up to book group travel, not individual services. We contract for group services, negotiating each service with suppliers on the other end. Most often, this is done with a request for a tour-long itinerary – multiple days of hotels, transport, meals, activities, which we book internationally through one or more travel companies in the host country or region. Each additional service we add to this package must be negotiated separately. This involves multiple emails or phone calls, then a pricing equation to determine what to charge the individual traveler, then a separate billing by Amanda, our bookkeeper. It is not an efficient process.
So while a travel agency is structured to book individual travel, WAI is designed to book group travel. Our system of phoning and emailing back and forth for customized bookings creates more work than is justified for an individual booking. For this reason, we do block a group of rooms for the one “pre-night” at our first hotel, but refer you to the travel agent with whom we work, Debbi Custer, for extra, non-tour services beyond the pre-night.