Friday, June 14, 2013

Upgrade your travel experience without flying first class

Maryl discovers local tour guides that can personalize your next trip.

Laurence Minard-Amalou, of Provence Exclusive
Leave the tour groups behind and your travel books at home and hire a personal tour guide for your next vacation or adventure. Slogging along with a pack of camera laden tourists and straining to listen to the leader with the silly hat or pinwheel isn’t ideal. You can try the guide book route if you’re good at reading and walking at the same time. If not, consider hiring a personal tour guide for your next trip to an unknown or foreign location.

Local Tour Guides

There’s a whole industry of global tour guides that I learned more about when I recently dropped my daughter off in Avignon for a two week photography course. Her school had hired Laurence Minard-Amalou, (photo above) principal of Provence Exclusive, to act not just as the students’ tour guide but also their translator and dispenser of everyday knowledge on how to live and learn in Provence.

Laurence with students & instructors
Laurence is a former historian turned tour guide for hire who speaks a few languages. She is licensed by the French government to conduct tours - walking or driving - that offer a unique experience in the less touristy places for families or small groups. Laurence also gives community services classes on travelling in France and consults with foreign executives relocating to France. 

Specialized Shopping Tours

Lisa Richardson and Niki Robinson
Some tour guides specialize, as is the case with Antiques and Boutiques located in Barcelona but with operations in London, Milan and Florence as well. Lisa Richardson and Niki Robinson are two former fashion designers who have lived in these cities and who will customize a shopping day for you not to be forgotten. They promise “Your tailor-made adventure will get you straight to the heart of the city introducing you to local culture, designers and artisans along the way.” There’s something to be said for knowing what the locals know and having a more authentic, personalized and friendly experience.

Tour Guide Consortium 

The World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations (WFTGA) represents the tour industry from the top. They set standards and promote the use of professional guides globally. There isn’t a central resource for selecting tour guides for a specific area or city in a country. However, the WFTGA does partner with Viator Private Tourist Guide Booking, a good place to start your search.  I heard back from a WFTGA executive who recommends clicking on the Members section of their website and then making a selection based on location.  There you can find a list of their local guide members.  Later this summer the WFTGA will launch a new section where visitors to their website can get information on "how to hire a guide." 

Obviously, personal recommendations are the best way to find a guide and be assured of getting a quality tour. We can highly recommend ProvenceExclusive and Antiques and Boutiques. And please share any other referrals you might have in the comments below. Laurence spent two weeks with my daughter’s class and one of their excursions included a dinner party at her house with her family. It doesn’t get more personal than that!


  1. Thank you so much for visiting me today, and leaving such a nice comment. Big hug from Texas...