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the plan

what to ask
a travel agent

what to ask
a tour operator

Our planning requirements

I don't know if our travel agent appreciates it or not, but here's the list that I sent her about what we were looking for, and to check against the tour operators plans. Yes, I'm a little over-wound.

  1. Just us. We don't want to be in a group tour. We're only considering a tour because we can still travel "semi-independently" - we just need assistance, not complete insulation from everything and complete hand holding
  2. We want to spend 3 1/2 weeks or so in Egypt. (21-24 days plus flight time)
  3. We'd prefer a non-stop flight from New York to Cairo, to avoid long layovers and film x-rays.
  4. We are looking for some balance between "unbelievably hot" and "tons of tourists". We're looking at traveling in March (to avoid the rate increases of April), but would it be better to travel in a different month? I'd rather be hot than crowded.
  5. We tend to dawdle (a lot) at sites and take tons of pictures. While not focused entirely on photography, we will often spend quite some time at each site wandering around sites and poking in all the corners. We don't expect, or want, to be led around a site and have a specific time-schedule to adhere to (unless required by flight schedules or other arrangements)
  6. We would like to have the opportunity to visit sites early morning and late evening - they are less crowded, better for photography, and probably not as hot. If this requires a long, midday, leisurely lunch, that's fine. We're going to hit the major tourist spots, but we want to minimize the giant tour bus interaction, if we can.
  7. Neither of us really likes to shop much.
  8. We are more than willing to learn some Arabic, and would prefer to do so
  9. We are more "historic" travelers than "modern cultural" travelers. A balance of 2/3 historic/archeological sites and 1/3 normal interaction with the city and people is best for us. We are not interested in the "nightlife" or in visiting bars, casinos, or nightclubs every evening.
  10. We definitely enjoy eating out and experiencing local food - we'd rather not have a tour that sequesters us in a "western" hotel and feeds us western food at all times.
  11. We also enjoy the historic hotels, and would prefer to stay in the turn-of-the-century accommodations whenever possible, even if these are more expensive (Mena House, Old Cataract, Old Winter Palace). We do, however, want A/C in all hotels, which seems to be available, and "western bathroom amenities" - i.e., a flush toilet, would be appreciated when available. We don't require en-suite facilities.
  12. We want a minimum of 2 generous half-days at the Cairo Museum.
  13. We want a full day at Saqqara and Memphis if possible.
  14. We're ambivalent about a cruise - while all accounts say it is the only way to experience the Nile, we aren't sure we want the rigid schedule, unless the stops are generous.
  15. Mark would like to dive in the Red Sea.
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