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Old 04-01-2012, 08:06 AM   #1
FizzingWhizzbee
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ABD Cost Effective

Has anyone looked into ABD's cost effectiveness? Specifically for Costa Rica or Peru?

I know there is a lot included, so I am looking for an apples to apples comparison.

I definitely want a guided tour. If not ABD, does anyone have any other suggestions?

Thanks!
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Old 04-02-2012, 01:20 PM   #2
familygoboston
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I know I did a "head to head" comparison for my Galapagos trip...I took the individual hotel stays and cruise and figured a price...it came to half what ABD charges with a big BUT...
But, the ABD included:
Two guides and all arrangements taken care of
Meals
Airport Transfers and Transport between locations
Tour and experiences I could not book on my own, even if I paid for them

My "on my own" price did not include those things and I didn't have a way to price them out really. So i estimated there would probably be a 25% premium for having it all pre arranged and the "extraordinary experiences" by booking ABD. We decided that was worth it, and luckily was within our budget. I've taken some trips on my own and often spent time lost, confused or came home to realize I missed something important. Now when I travel far to see something or someplace unique, I find it worth my while to pay for good guiding!

It's important to compare apples to apples. When pricing Africa trips, I found many that seemed " reasonable" but upon investigating learned they might use local transportation ( which I was not comfortable with doing with my kids (poor safety records)and can chew up a lot of days traveling for working people) home stays, or camping, not many included tours or meals. Those gap year or senior tours are fine I'm sure for folks with large blocks of time on a low budget, but for our family having things prearranged so we don't waste precious vacation time was well worth it to us.

We decided not to do the ABD in SA because it did not include enough days on safari for us. But we did pay quite a bit more than the ABD for a private safari in a more remote area of Africa.

Another consideration is what level of accommodation you like. In our case, ABD is often a notch higher than we really need, but we book them for the other benefits. ABD accommodations are among the best locations and usually have the kind of amenities most Americans would expect. Living with a little less or in a more " local" way, if that is comfortable for you, can save some money.

Most ABDs are offered at peak season in the places where they are offered. Peak seasons encompass the weather in a certain place but also demand, and demand is high for school vacation weeks and holiday periods. Be sure to compare other tours " lowest prices" to the dates you can or want to travel. One senior overseas adventure travel company almost always travels in the " off peak" time for a locale. I hear their trips are great, and they are an excellent value, but they never work for our family because they don't coincide with our vacations.

I did an ABD to CR, (which we loved!) but we also traveled part of the trip with Costa Rica Expeditions. They weren't priced much more cheaply than ABD, because it also provides excellent guiding and experiences, but you can tailor your own package to suit your needs and time frame, so you can arrnage different levels of hotels etc, or travel during the shoulder season and benefit from a better price that way.

Aso, I should say that for both CR and Africa I compared ABD to all their major competitors like Natural Habitat, Tauck, etc....did not find any appreciable difference in the prices, just differences in what was on offer for activities. For instance my neighbor who was happy with her Tauck HI trip, just booked ABD Italy because for similar money the ABD trip had better options to appeal to both her HS sr and her 8 yo, whereas she worried the other trip would bore her 8 yo.

BOL with your plans!
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Old 04-02-2012, 02:00 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by familygoboston View Post
Most ABDs are offered at peak season in the places where they are offered. Peak seasons encompass the weather in a certain place but also demand, and demand is high for school vacation weeks and holiday periods. Be sure to compare other tours " lowest prices" to the dates you can or want to travel. One senior overseas adventure travel company almost always travels in the " off peak" time for a locale. I hear their trips are great, and they are an excellent value, but they never work for our family because they don't coincide with our vacations.
First off, great post!

Secondly, would you mind if I asked which "Senior overseas adventure travel company" you're referring to? I can be fairly flexible with when I travel (and I prefer the "off peak" season) so they might work great for me!

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Check out my Southwest Splendors Trip Report! (2008). 5 parts, full of pics & details & impressions!
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Also check out my ABD/DCL Mediterranean Magic Trip Report! (2010)
NOW POSTING! My DIS Unplugged London/Paris/Disneyland Paris Trip Report! (2011)
Now posting my Greek Odyssey Trip Report (2013)

Last edited by sayhello; 04-02-2012 at 02:33 PM.
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Old 04-02-2012, 03:30 PM   #4
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While I've never travelled with ABD I have compared the price and services (based on their website) with China Focus Travel with whom we went to China and Hong Kong with for 15 days. Two of the 15 days are travelling days to China and back so really 13 days.

China Focus Travel:

We paid $2499 each for a winter promo (early November). The price included:

- Round trip transpacific air between US and China via Air China.

- All intra-China air/land transportation as specified in itinerary.

- All U.S. and China taxes, airline fuel surcharges plus airport construction fees.

- Luxury and international standard 4 or 5 star hotel accommodations.

- Round trip transfers between airport and designated group hotel. Land only passengers are subject to some limitations.

- Baggage handling throughout the trip.

- Daily American buffet breakfast at hotel

- Chinese family-style lunch and dinner at local city restaurants. (Except free days on your own)

- Comprehensive tours including entrance fees and admission to all shows specified in itinerary.
- Professional English-speaking tour escort (local guide) for all transfers and sightseeing.

- English speaking tour manager for tour groups of 10 or more. *Will not accompany group to Hong Kong.

- Delicious Culinary Events: Peking Duck Dinner in Beijing and a Special Dumpling Dinner in Xi'an.

- Special Evening Entertainment: Tang Dynasty Music & Dance Show in Xi'an plus a Breathtaking Shanghai Acrobatic Show.

- Memorable experience on the MagLev Train ride to Pudong airport (SFO passengers only).
*
Tour Fare Excludes:
- Chinese Consulate's $140 Visa Fee + China Focus' $30 Processing Fee = $170/person
- Gratuities for your guides and drivers

ABD

12 Day $6419 each (cheapest price)

Our hotels were 4 and 5 star and they were excellent. Many of the rooms were full suites. Most were owned and operated by the Chinese and not International brands. I've seen the Peninsula Hong Kong and none of our hotels were that fancy but they were extremely adequate for the price we paid.

The itineraries are a bit different (we didn't go to Chengdu although some of the tours do) but much of it is the same.

There was tons of food. I've had better but it is China.

There was one scheduled shopping factory stop each day that lasted no more than an hour and wasn't a hard sell. We also did a "tea ceremony" which was a guise for us to buy over priced tea. We didn't waste any of our money on these stops. All of the factories - jade, silk, etc have overpriced merchandise. I couldn't believe how much many in our group spent at these places.

We had two guides (one in HK) and they were amazing. The national guide, Mark, was like a mother hen. He bent over backwards for the 32 (or so) people on the tour. They all did, actually.

There was no dressing up as emperors or kite making and no "special touches" that I can think of.

So, I can't properly compare the two companies since I've not been on ABD I was extremely pleased with our tour, especially for the price.

Our entire trip for four cost us $12,000 (airfare to SF from Toronto, Canada was included in the $12,000). With ABD it would have been $25,000 PLUS return airfare to China so about $30,000.

Maybe someday I will get rich, book an ABD tour and do a proper comparison!

Last edited by LSmith; 04-02-2012 at 03:52 PM.
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Old 04-02-2012, 04:45 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by sayhello View Post
First off, great post!

Secondly, would you mind if I asked which "Senior overseas adventure travel company" you're referring to? I can be fairly flexible with when I travel (and I prefer the "off peak" season) so they might work great for me!

Sayhello
Thanks Say Hello! The company is Overseas Adventure Travel. I'm always intimidated to name names...but this board is so open! I am an active member of another that won't let you mention any kind of travel agent, ever...I had to talk about the triple AAA trip tiks as those "maps from an auto club" on that board

Anyway, OAT is a division of Grand Circle, but the groups are generally smaller (usually less than 20) and rather than being bus tours, they do use local transport where it's safe and tend to be a bit more active, more hiking and walking than most typical " senior" tours, but certainly on par with an ABD. It is geared to 50 + largely because of the scheduled trips occur during school times, and trips are routinely 15-21+ days, which makes them ideal for retired folks.

Their prices are very reasonable because they definately stay in "clean and comfortable" digs rather than luxury accommodations, they usually include RT air from a US gateway with a small supplement for other gateways. They include some meals, several tours, but lots of "optional" add on tours that most would be inclined to take advantage of if you are going that far! For "apples" sake- their 22 day China with Tibet and the Yangtze ( which is a cruise) is $4800 with the airfare. So you can see how that compares with LSmiths trip, which was a bit shorter but probably has more inclusions.

My friends who have traveled with them ( several different couples and singles, almost all were over 60) rave about their trips as authentic and interesting, while being more affordable than the other more luxury brands I mentioned. Some destinations my friends have done- China, Africa, Peru, Galapagos, Bhutan, etc. This particular branch doesn't have much Europe and I don't think, any US trips, though the GC company might!

My husband and I will likely do some of their trips once the kids have flown the coop in a few years. We will be more able to travel on off times and will be able to travel more since we will only be paying for half the fares we have to pay for now

So that's all the info I have on that! I guess OP none of this discussion is really helping with Latin America for you but at least you get the idea...there are lots of options and it's all about finding what works! I think ABD comes at a premium because its a well known brand that attracts folks who feel safe and comfortable traveling with them. I know we've done non ABD trips and felt perfectly safe and comfortable, but there are enough folks willing to pay the premium that they obviously can demand those higher prices!
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Old 04-02-2012, 05:57 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by familygoboston View Post
Thanks Say Hello! The company is Overseas Adventure Travel. I'm always intimidated to name names...but this board is so open! I am an active member of another that won't let you mention any kind of travel agent, ever...I had to talk about the triple AAA trip tiks as those "maps from an auto club" on that board

Anyway, OAT is a division of Grand Circle, but the groups are generally smaller (usually less than 20) and rather than being bus tours, they do use local transport where it's safe and tend to be a bit more active, more hiking and walking than most typical " senior" tours, but certainly on par with an ABD. It is geared to 50 + largely because of the scheduled trips occur during school times, and trips are routinely 15-21+ days, which makes them ideal for retired folks.

Their prices are very reasonable because they definately stay in "clean and comfortable" digs rather than luxury accommodations, they usually include RT air from a US gateway with a small supplement for other gateways. They include some meals, several tours, but lots of "optional" add on tours that most would be inclined to take advantage of if you are going that far! For "apples" sake- their 22 day China with Tibet and the Yangtze ( which is a cruise) is $4800 with the airfare. So you can see how that compares with LSmiths trip, which was a bit shorter but probably has more inclusions.

My friends who have traveled with them ( several different couples and singles, almost all were over 60) rave about their trips as authentic and interesting, while being more affordable than the other more luxury brands I mentioned. Some destinations my friends have done- China, Africa, Peru, Galapagos, Bhutan, etc. This particular branch doesn't have much Europe and I don't think, any US trips, though the GC company might!

My husband and I will likely do some of their trips once the kids have flown the coop in a few years. We will be more able to travel on off times and will be able to travel more since we will only be paying for half the fares we have to pay for now

So that's all the info I have on that! I guess OP none of this discussion is really helping with Latin America for you but at least you get the idea...there are lots of options and it's all about finding what works! I think ABD comes at a premium because its a well known brand that attracts folks who feel safe and comfortable traveling with them. I know we've done non ABD trips and felt perfectly safe and comfortable, but there are enough folks willing to pay the premium that they obviously can demand those higher prices!
Thanks, familygoboston. We do give a bit more leeway here, as folks do want to compare and contrast ABD with what else is out there. Although as Kevin reminded us recently, we don't want to see people trying to sell other companies. But providing info & comparisons is fine.

Thanks!
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Check out my Southwest Splendors Trip Report! (2008). 5 parts, full of pics & details & impressions!
My Taming the Last Frontier ABD Alaska Trip Report! (2009)! 7 parts, pictures, stories, & more impressions!
Also check out my ABD/DCL Mediterranean Magic Trip Report! (2010)
NOW POSTING! My DIS Unplugged London/Paris/Disneyland Paris Trip Report! (2011)
Now posting my Greek Odyssey Trip Report (2013)
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Old 04-02-2012, 06:05 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by sayhello View Post
Thanks, familygoboston. We do give a bit more leeway here, as folks do want to compare and contrast ABD with what else is out there. Although as Kevin reminded us recently, we don't want to see people trying to sell other companies. But providing info & comparisons is fine.

Thanks!
Sayhello
Righto! That seems entirely reasonable! When I started doing research for one of our first big trips to Alaska in 2005, I wish these forums were more established! It's so helpful to compare and get advice ( and then give it back!), I totally understand that you don't want folks selling their particular trip or product here...that would be no fun for anyone!
Thanks!
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Old 04-02-2012, 07:51 PM   #8
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If you're looking for a special tour with some Disney magic sprinkled in ABD is the way to go if you can afford it. The guides and daily activities with daily surprises is very special and can't be overlooked. You will certainly not be disappointed. Yes there are alternatives and I am familiar with the companies mentioned but for those who love Disney ABD is a great way to go if you can afford it. I wish they had an option to include airfare in their packages. I know they will work with you to book your airfare but I do like a complete package vacation.
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Old 04-02-2012, 10:06 PM   #9
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If you're looking for a special tour with some Disney magic sprinkled in ABD is the way to go if you can afford it. The guides and daily activities with daily surprises is very special and can't be overlooked. You will certainly not be disappointed. Yes there are alternatives and I am familiar with the companies mentioned but for those who love Disney ABD is a great way to go if you can afford it. I wish they had an option to include airfare in their packages. I know they will work with you to book your airfare but I do like a complete package vacation.
But it is sort of like a package! My husband has status with AA, we get free bags, priority board, pre selection of seats etc etc. He was not giving that all that stuff up to go with an air package where he couldn't get those things and/or had to pay more.
Incredibly, they were able to book our exact choice of airline and flights, with all our benefits ( including selecting those seats only available to him) for not one penny more than if we did it on our own. I was stunned at this! It took us quite a few crusing days to get this perk from my preferred crusie line and ABD offered it right off the bat ( we have travelled with them once before, but I got the feeling they do this for everyone!). Of course, everyone pays for their airfare based on where they are, whereas the other companies charge a flat fee for everyone, but either way, your paying for air, and since ABD made it so convenient and no extra cost to us, it was a no brainier to bundle it all in!

I am like you though, I do like the conveinience of one stop shopping!
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Old 04-02-2012, 11:31 PM   #10
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But it is sort of like a package! My husband has status with AA, we get free bags, priority board, pre selection of seats etc etc. He was not giving that all that stuff up to go with an air package where he couldn't get those things and/or had to pay more.
Incredibly, they were able to book our exact choice of airline and flights, with all our benefits ( including selecting those seats only available to him) for not one penny more than if we did it on our own. I was stunned at this! It took us quite a few crusing days to get this perk from my preferred crusie line and ABD offered it right off the bat ( we have travelled with them once before, but I got the feeling they do this for everyone!). Of course, everyone pays for their airfare based on where they are, whereas the other companies charge a flat fee for everyone, but either way, your paying for air, and since ABD made it so convenient and no extra cost to us, it was a no brainier to bundle it all in!

I am like you though, I do like the conveinience of one stop shopping!
Yes, ABD does this for everyone. All you have to do is find the flight you want, call ABD, and they'll book the fare for you if it's still available. They basically just act as a Travel Agent for you, booking the airfare for you. It's nice that it's not like most cruiselines, where you get whatever they give you, at whatever price they negotiate.

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Check out my Southwest Splendors Trip Report! (2008). 5 parts, full of pics & details & impressions!
My Taming the Last Frontier ABD Alaska Trip Report! (2009)! 7 parts, pictures, stories, & more impressions!
Also check out my ABD/DCL Mediterranean Magic Trip Report! (2010)
NOW POSTING! My DIS Unplugged London/Paris/Disneyland Paris Trip Report! (2011)
Now posting my Greek Odyssey Trip Report (2013)
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Old 04-03-2012, 11:10 AM   #11
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We did Costa Rica last year with Tauck Bridges, after traveling the previous two years with ABD (Quest for the West and Knights and Lights). We had a great time in Costa Rica and thought Tauck did a great job. Having now experienced both companies, my feeling is that they are more similar than different. Both get the important things right: excellent guides, good lodging, smooth handling of transportation and lodging, good selection of fun activities, and excellent local tour guides. I would gladly recommend either one.
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Old 04-04-2012, 06:08 AM   #12
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We did Costa Rica last year with Tauck Bridges, after traveling the previous two years with ABD (Quest for the West and Knights and Lights). We had a great time in Costa Rica and thought Tauck did a great job. Having now experienced both companies, my feeling is that they are more similar than different. Both get the important things right: excellent guides, good lodging, smooth handling of transportation and lodging, good selection of fun activities, and excellent local tour guides. I would gladly recommend either one.
This is exactly what my neighbors found...they went on a Tauck tour out west and loved it, but when they looked at Italy they thought the ABD was a better mix for their 8-18 yo range of kids. Any ABD I've been on there are Tauck people at some of the same hotels, and when we compare notes, sounds like we've done similar things.
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Old 04-05-2012, 07:25 PM   #13
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This is exactly what my neighbors found...they went on a Tauck tour out west and loved it, but when they looked at Italy they thought the ABD was a better mix for their 8-18 yo range of kids. Any ABD I've been on there are Tauck people at some of the same hotels, and when we compare notes, sounds like we've done similar things.
I thought you looked familiar......I hang out on the cruise critic boards too. I loved your review of the Oasis....we just returned from sailing on her last week. We are thinking about ABD for next summer....Italy or Ireland. We are DVC and aren't sure if cash or points is the way to go. Love all of the feedback on here!
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Old 04-07-2012, 06:45 PM   #14
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My husband and I just returned from 9 nights in Costa Rica. We booked through Costa Rica Expeditions. They do tour travel but we found from doing an AbD that we don't like group travel.

They put together a private itinerary for me. We did transfers by charter plane, had private guide and private transportation at every location. Our hotels were ranked #1 on trip advisor at each location.

We did all of the activities that AbD has, had a few special dining events (private butler dinners, etc).

We spent very close to what the cost of the same AbD tour. It's a big deal to me to have the best accommodations and food and those charter flights vs traveling by van was the deciding factor for me.

We don't have kids so I realize that makes a huge difference.
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Old 04-09-2012, 10:39 AM   #15
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I thought you looked familiar......I hang out on the cruise critic boards too. I loved your review of the Oasis....we just returned from sailing on her last week. We are thinking about ABD for next summer....Italy or Ireland. We are DVC and aren't sure if cash or points is the way to go. Love all of the feedback on here!
Thanks Molly! It's such a great ship, isn't it?..loads to do, I think I read your review too! (different screen name tho!) Good luck with your ABD, we are not DVC members, but friends thought that their points were better used on WDW vacations (more bang for the $) but if you know you won't do both in a year...might as well use them! I plan to review my ABD here in a similar (day to day) way here. I wish there were more like that to read on this board!

Quote:
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My husband and I just returned from 9 nights in Costa Rica. We booked through Costa Rica Expeditions. They do tour travel but we found from doing an AbD that we don't like group travel.

They put together a private itinerary for me. We did transfers by charter plane, had private guide and private transportation at every location. Our hotels were ranked #1 on trip advisor at each location.

We did all of the activities that AbD has, had a few special dining events (private butler dinners, etc).

We spent very close to what the cost of the same AbD tour. It's a big deal to me to have the best accommodations and food and those charter flights vs traveling by van was the deciding factor for me.

We don't have kids so I realize that makes a huge difference.
That's who we used as our "add on" to ABD...at the time ABD did not offer Torteguero national park, and thats what we added on. They did a terrific job and for similar money we were completely escorted from point to point with just our group of 4. Now ABD offers that on the TNP on their "turtles" itinerary.

I recommended CRE to friends of mine who did not have children with them and were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. They had a terrific trip too, and CRE put together an alfresco anniversary dinner just for them one night! I scored big points for that recommendation
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