My recent journey through Argentina served to emphasize the fact that in many destinations it is best to organize your entire vacation with a ground operator or travel partner. I frequently book hotels individually and make transfer and guiding arrangements through concierges, because my itineraries — which involve frequent hotel changes — would raise suspicion if a travel partner saw one in its entirety. But I do sometimes use travel partners for sections of my trips, and the contrast in service can be stark.
For example, a few years ago Journey Mexico helped me with a portion of an itinerary in the colonial cities of Guanajuato, Morelia and San Miguel de Allende. We had different guides in each location, but the standard of service in each city was equally high. The guides were friendly, knowledgeable and punctual, and the vehicles were always comfortable.
In Argentina, however, the individual hotels arranged wildly varying services. While the Estancia Villa María sent an English-speaking driver who met us at the airport with a professional-looking sign and a comfortable car, two other hotels sent drivers who spoke only Spanish, and the House of Jasmines botched the transfer entirely, forcing us to take a taxi. One resort booked a Spanish-speaking guide and sent a hotel staffer along as a translator. The services of some guides and drivers could be added to the hotel bill, while others had to be paid in cash.
Booking a trip with a travel partner costs more initially because all hotels and many activities are paid for in advance. And indeed, such a trip may cost a little more in total. Nevertheless, the consistency of service and the knowledge that everything will run as smoothly as possible seem well worth any additional expense.