Friends of ours were telling us about smarTours for years. For at least six years, I would call them to inquire about one of their tours. For those that know me, I consider myself a Go With The Flow Traveler. As a former New Yorker, I never have been, and never will be afraid to speak my peace. I'm like Superman, standing up for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. I consider myself able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and help travelers in need enjoy their vacation. Unfortunately for me, for those six years, I was turned off by smarTours lack of willingness or inflexibility to make any changes to their tours. Travelers cannot extend the air portion of their trips and people who answer their phones are not inclined to answer specific questions about the trips themselves. Also, the credit smarTours offers for not using the air portion of the trip was either very little or could not be done.
Recommend this product?
It took my hard head about six years to finally get what smarTours is all about. They have a quality product, loaded with value. The air portion of the tour is almost a throw in. Don't be offended when you call if the customer service is not what you'd expect. Their office is on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. It took me years to finally develop a rapport with their agents. I've been living in Florida for the past 30 years, but I'm a born New Yorker. Their agents are New Yorkers and are very abrupt and put out by too many questions. My advice to a first time smarTours customer is to take a Valium or pour a glass of wine before attempting to contact smarTours to book a tour. I wish my friends Ralph and Lucy would have told me this when they first recommended smarTours to me years ago. All Ralph would say was, "Johnny, go with the flow".
What do I like about smarTours? For those who enjoy traveling, smarTours is a turnkey vacation. They offer very nice hotels, excellent guides, admissions to museums, palaces, sights, included in the price, very few options on the tour, enough free time to do your own thing, and to me the most important thing is the tour members are well traveled people. On my previous four smarTours, travel, such as new destinations, new travel suppliers, various travel experiences, was the topic of conversation. Most people we have met on the previous tours all have the same addiction or travel bug as we do. We have made and kept friends with people on the previous smarTours trips we've taken. I'm about to take my fifth smarTours trip to Eastern Europe in September 2011.
When I took my first African Safari to Kenya and Tanzania in December 2007/January 2008 with smarTours, I asked our good friends Jay and Barbara, who love and have been on numerous safaris to Africa, to review the Smartours itinerary for their opinion. I'll never forget my long phone call with Jay when he said he doesn't know how they can stay in the fabulous lodges for the price they are charging. As much as Jay talked up these lodges before we booked the tour, my wife and I have been talking up these spectacular lodges and two safaris a day since then.
My second smarTours trip in December 2008/January 2009 was to South Africa and Zimbabwe. Once again, there were spectacular properties, sightseeing of Capetown and Johannesburg and some safaris. We purchased the extension to Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls, and Botswana. Prior to this trip, Zimbabwe was having a major cholera epidemic that was in the news daily. I called smarTours to ask them if they were going to cancel the extension to Zimbabwe because of the cholera. I still chuckle at the response I got from them. "Cholera, we're not aware of any cholera problem there!" We had a great time in Zimbabwe and even drank the water out of the tap at our guides recommendation. The government kept the water safe there to keep the tourist dollars flowing.
My third smarTours was September 2010 to Croatia. Everything was as smooth as a glove.
My fourth smarTours was June 2011 to the Baltic States and Berlin. The Berlin area was having a major E Coli outbreak that was broadcast on the tv news and in the daily newspapers, and many people died. The German authorities took weeks trying to figure it out, and at one point it seemed that the entire food supply, especially vegetables and bean sprouts, was suspect. Once again, true to my experiences with smarTours, I called them to ask if they were going to eliminate the Berlin portion of the tour due to the E Coli. Once again, the answer I received from them was, "E Coli, what E Coli!" We had a great time, and my wife even ate the bean sprouts in Berlin. Helsinki was a throw in because of the air deal smarTours has with Finn Air. Nothing to do with smarTours, but for those who haven't, please read my two reviews of Helsinki!
In September 2011, we'll be taking smarTours trip to Eastern Europe. We're looking forward to the entire trip......................,however, I wish I could say the same about the last night of this trip that will overnight again in Stinki Helsinki.
All of the hotels smarTours uses are centrally located in the heart of what's happening. Their hotel choices have been fabulous. Their tour guides have been extremely knowledgeable. The people who take smarTours are all addicted to the same thing as us. If you like to meet interesting people, love to talk travel, see new sights, check out smarTours.com.
They've been in business many years. They don't deal with travel agents. They always charge $100 per person for using a credit card. They don't give much of a credit if you have lots of frequent flyer miles and don't use their air. I'd rather use my miles for a different trip and get their killer deal on the air. Be prepared to hear NO if you ask to extend the trip on the front end or back end of the trip. Most of the people we've met on the prior smarTours trips are like groupies. Some people have taken ten or more smarTours trips. As much as I don't like hearing no when I want to extend my trip, smarTours does offer killer deals on travel. My neighbor Lyn, joined us last month on the trip to the Baltics and Berlin. She was at first apprehensive at going as a single person. Knowing us on the tour, eased her mind. Poor Lyn is now a smarTours junkie and totally addicted to travel. She is already planning her summer 2012 trip with smarTours. They really do have a quality product and put together a fabulous trip at the best price possible. If they have an add on at the end of the trip, purchase it if you have the time and money. To me their add on extensions are worth it.
Smartours is located at 501 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1402, New York, New York, 10017. Their website is http://www.smartours.com. Telephone 1-800-337-7773. They do not sell your information or spam your in-box when you sign up at their website. Just remember don't get turned off by hearing NO from them.
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Best Suited For: Friends
Tour format: Various
Tour length: Over a Week
Tour type: Group