Family in the Amazon

Private Journeys: More Than Just a Vacation

Private Journeys: More Than Just a Vacation

Mar 25, 2021|Independent Journeys| by Jordyn Kalman
Holbrook Consultants Sandy Schmidt and Fran Whitlock share tips and stories about Private Journeys and potential pitfalls. 

Vacations can be a challenge to plan under the best of circumstances, and now more than ever, navigating the complexities of COVID-related travel requirements can be time-consuming and confusing. Having an experienced travel provider in your corner can make all the difference.

Organizing one-of-a-kind trips for small groups of friends and/or family is one of Holbrook’s specialties. Holbrook’s Private Journeys give travelers the opportunity to experience engaging and meaningful travel without the daunting task of planning entirely by themselves.

“A lot of people that come to us to plan independent trips say ‘I usually plan my trips by myself, but I don’t feel comfortable in this country, so I’m coming to you’,” Fran said. “You’re going to want to talk to somebody who knows what they’re doing.” Holbrook's specialists are also keeping a close watch on the changing travel restrictions and stay in close communication with in-country partners to implement the most up-to-date health guidelines.

Private Journeys at Holbrook are usually planned for independent travelers, like groups of friends, families, and couples. They typically include transportation, accommodations, most or all meals, and activities, as well as 24/7 service and the ability to completely customize your itinerary, from the destination to the length of the trip and onward, Sandy said. Holbrook can also assist with flight arrangements, or travelers can book their own flights if they prefer. Trips can be planned to any of Holbrook’s 30+ destinations; in the past, some of the most popular locations have included Costa Rica, the Galápagos Islands, and Tanzania.

 Photo by Tammara Williams

The journey begins

The process of planning a Private Journey starts with meeting a specialist like Sandy or Fran to discuss what kind of trip the travelers want to do, what they’re interested in, and what kind of accommodations they want. After that initial conversation, the specialist starts putting together the itinerary and within days are able to email a proposal to their client, which consists of the itinerary, cost, terms and conditions, and if requested, an air schedule and fare in conjunction with their tour. Once it’s approved by the traveler, the deposit is collected and the itinerary is confirmed. they work on getting a deposit in and getting your trip secured.

“With us, we put a great deal of thought into our programs,” Sandy said. “Planning a trip yourself can be a lot of work if you don’t know the country, logistics, transportation situations, activities available, or the best accommodations to use.”

Travelers often aren’t aware of the differences and similarities between the independent and group trips Holbrook offers, they said. Both types of trips mostly have the same destination options to choose from and the same general activities for travelers. There is an illusion that independent travel is more expensive, but both types of trips are often within the same price range.


The benefits of a Private Journey

One of the main differences with Private Journeys is you have more freedom. With a jam-packed itinerary and a full-time tour guide, group journeys don’t allow for much leisure time. Independent travel has more flexibility in what activities people can do and more free time for travelers to enjoy each other’s company.

“They get the freedom to choose what they want to do based on how they feel, what the weather is like, or other factors.” Sandy said, “Keeping the itinerary open with options is always good because sometimes they just really enjoy their free time together.”

“These travelers don’t want their time dictated,” Fran added. “They have that all year round at their jobs and other responsibilities. The activities that we do plan ahead of time we make sure to do in the morning. This way they have the rest of the day to themselves.”

 Photo by Doreen Blake

Celebrating a milestone

Travelers also get a more intimate experience with Private Journeys because they are with their loved ones, as opposed to a group trip which is open for anyone to sign up, making the trip much more personal. This is especially appealing right now to those who wish to travel only with others in their social "bubble."

These trips are often planned to celebrate special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, or holidays. “They have an amazing time and make memories for life,” Sandy said.

Elizabeth Schwartz and her husband, brother, and sister-in-law took a Private Journey to Tanzania back in August 2018. Schwartz said, “We had a fantastic trip to The Great Migration in Tanzania. Everything was absolutely perfect, every day had new adventures, and every single thing was taken care of. It was indeed a trip of a lifetime.”


Independent travelers also typically travel in smaller groups than traditional group travel programs. One of the benefits to having a smaller group size, Fran said, is you are waiting on less people to get ready in the morning and get where they need to be.

Although independent travel groups tend to be smaller in size, Fran and Sandy truly enjoy assisting extended families who oftentimes are celebrating a milestone anniversary, graduation, or birthday. “There is no size limit Holbrook can’t handle,” Fran said. Holbrook accommodates these extended families by making sure to have optional activities planned out for every generation or age group.

“Some of these extended family trips have three generations of people,” Sandy said. “So you want to make sure that everybody has something to do.”

Sheldon M. Gisser, a Holbrook traveler who took a Private Journey with his extended family, said, “I certainly feel that our children and grandchildren, all new to Costa Rica, found it extremely enjoyable. You did a fine job to make the arrangements and everything ran like clockwork.”

 Photo by Doreen Blake

Family trips are such an important aspect to Holbrook Travel because family is an integral part of our roots. It was founded as a family business and has continued to be guided by those principles.

“Holbrook Travel understands family quite well because it was born from a family atmosphere, founded by Giovanna & Juan Holbrook, now and for the last 20 years under the leadership of Andrea Holbrook - there are many of us that have worked together for over 25 years - we are a family to one another in many ways!” Sandy said.

“Planning these trips is a more personal experience and I get to know the family members quite well,” Fran said. “By the time they’re going on the trip, you get to become part of the family too. Because we know the family so well and they tell us about themselves, we are able to make that trip much more special for them.”

For more information or to start planning your own Private Journey, contact us at 800-451-7111 or visit


This post was first published in February 2019; updated March 2021.

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