Now that I’m … mature… tours are my preferred way to travel. I like to leave my brains at home, and just enjoy that someone else is taking care of all the details, knows what to do in an emergency, knows what is safe and what isn’t, and can provide me with advice on what to bring, what the weather will be like, and answer all my questions. And I have come to learn that I miss some of the best things when doing it on my own.
Here is my review of tours currently available. Your experiences, comments and suggestions are invited.
The best bang for your buck is provided by G Adventures. They are experts in nature adventure travel, running hundreds of tours each year. If you register for the trip, it goes! They provide a detailed itinerary, and excellent customer service. Friends of mine took this tour and loved every minute of it. How can G Tours do it for so much less than all the others? First of all, there is one guide who does it all. He/she is local, so has a relationship with all the providers. Your meal isn’t being served quickly enough? No problem, your guide will go to the back to see what’s going on. For some trips, public transportation is used. Not only do you travel with the locals, but you won’t believe how comfortable the buses are. Some even have internet! Ten days! 4 departure dates, 3 monarch reserves. $ 1699 Canadian includes just about everything except meals and flight. https://www.gadventures.com/trips/mexico-monarch-butterfly-trail/3455/
Holbrook Travel has extensive experience in nature adventure travel. Author and founder of Brenda’s Butterfly Habitat, Brenda Dziedzic has traveled with this group several times. Like many others, she likes the science part of the experience, explained by lepidopterist Dr. Thomas Emmel, at after dinner presentations. You’ll see the world famous pyramids as well. $ US 1775 includes 5 days, two sanctuaries, listed meals, airport transfers, and admissions. Their popular tours fill up quickly, so check the website often to see when the 2019 dates are posted. See the detailed 2018 itinerary here: https://secure.holbrooktravel.com/S/Lisa/2018/Fairn-Mexico%20Monarch/DD%20AE%20NH%20MX%2018-%20Mystical%20Migration%20.pdf
If you would like to go first class, check out World Wildlife Federation’s tours. They must be doing something right, because they have posted 17 departures for 2019! About $ US 3,400 for 6 days. You go to El Rosario twice, once in the early morning, and once in the afternoon, for very different experiences. You’ll see Sierra Chincua as well. And only this trip visits the beautiful artsy town of Valle de Bravo, which is on a pretty lake. Another good visit is the Cosmovitral Botanical Garden with its wrap around floor to ceiling modern art glass windows, which blew me away when I was there, to my utter surprise. And if you want to start your day earlier, you can participate in a guided bird watching trip! See the detailed itinerary here: https://www.nathab.com/central-america/monarch-butterfly-tour/itinerary/
If you are looking for a quickie I would highly recommend Monarch Sister Schools. You’ll get to see the world renowned pyramids, the best monarch sanctuary, and two Mexican schools, all in a long weekend! Another highlight is the guided tour of MSS partner Alternare’s Sustainable Agricultural Training. It’s a training center where people learn conservation and agriculture so they don’t need to cut the forest! All meals and admissions are included for $US 995. Check the link for the full itinerary. http://www.monarchsisterschools.org/travel-to-monarch-country/ Extensions available.
S&S Tours can help you plan a custom itinerary, with our without a guide, for your group. A friend of mine had a good experience with them.
Craftours has recently started to offer trips to Mexico. I would not recommend them. The company specializes in tours for crafters. This is my experience from traveling with them in 2017. They did not understand that one needs to get up early in the morning to see the butterflies, rather than start the day at 10:30, as crafters might want to. We were late and rushed with everything. They actually have a policy of not providing a detailed itinerary until two months before the departure date, making it impossible to compare value. When the itinerary eventually did come through, it was so inaccurate that travelers were inconvenienced and had to spend money unnecessarily. They will not help you find a room mate unless you put down a deposit. Communication is very difficult, with many participants complaining that they had to email or call three or four times to get a response. The land rep had no experience or interest in learning about monarchs or guests, preferring to park herself on the front seat of the bus for the entire trip. There was no water on the bus, even though it was promised, and the rep did not have a working GPS to help prevent getting lost 4 times on the first two days. I was asked to lead the 2018 trip, which was better because I designed detailed itineraries, both for the rep and the guests. I also politely confirmed with both the office staff and the new rep that the previous mistakes would not be repeated. When owner Jim West eventually learned of this, instead of being grateful, he was filled with rage that I had ‘told his staff what to do’. He decided to attend the trip himself, determined to charm the guests so that they would forget the poor customer service beforehand, because he had already planned to expand to FOUR trips for 2019. What poor customer service? Frustratingly poor communication once again, but much worse, changes to the price! One couple registered at the advertised rate. Days later, when their brother went to register, the price was $392 more! Why? Because all the ‘regular’ priced rooms at one of the destinations were taken! Further, after having recruited all 18 guests, I was dismissed from the trip, to the grave disappointment and anger of almost all of them, who had signed up to meet me. Jim’s deplorable behavior included lies, threats, refusal to talk or allow any of his staff to, and failure to compensate me 5 cents for all the work I had done, and the cost of the flight I bought my partner in good faith. Craftours used the ‘escape’ clause that most tour operators have, but save for only emergencies, that they can change the price or the leader at any time. If you do decide to give your business to this company totally lacking in integrity, be sure to take a screen shot of the trip you are signing up for. Unlike most companies, Craftours has gone out of their way to block the web archives, which keeps a record of web pages by date. They certainly do not want to be held accountable for the changes they make.