That's what it's like to book an overseas adventure through Viator, Trip Advisor's tour and excursion booking platform (2023)

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  • While I was in Croatia with my family this year, I used toTravel agentThe activity booking platform ofviatorto book charter yachts abroad. All operators are pre-screened by Trip Advisor to ensure credibility and security. Tours range from $15 for a walking tour to thousands of luxury experiences.
  • Booking independently through Viator saved me significant costs compared to using a travel agency and helped me plan my vacation in advance with clear pricing and reviews from past guests.
  • I had a great experience with Viator and would use them again, but with a few changes. Next time I'll ask more questions first so there are no surprises. Here's what you need to know to do the same.
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I'm a travel-focused lifestyle journalist and I run the world frequently with my husband and five-year-old twins. That's why I consider myself quite experienced when it comes to resorting to Internet resources (not to mention the intuition gained from experience) to make reservations, even in places I've never been before.

This summer, I took my family on a two-week vacation to Europe, visiting Greece and Croatia, as well as neighboring countries along the Dalmatian coast. We had a good amount of time off the beaten path and there were a lot of moving parts. But I felt confident and competent being able to plan our trip independently without the help of a travel agency. I know the search engines for flights, hotels and promotions.

But there was a blind spot. How can I book tours and excursions, how to rent a speedboat for our family on Croatia's famous islands?

(Video) What is Viator? Viator tours | Viator travels | via tor | tripadvisor

I was relieved when I came across the activity booking search engine.viator, which belongs to Trip Advisor. After going through several offers and reading reviews I booked two separate charter boats through the company. Both boats were clean, comfortable, beautiful, pretty much as advertised and operated by companies I wouldn't have known to access without Viator.

I would recommend the platform, especially for anyone staying in an Airbnb without a concierge like me, or looking for cheaper options than what a hotel or travel agency might suggest. But I'd like to add a caveat based on my own experience: Seasoned travelers should make sure they cover their bases to avoid potential pitfalls like the one we experienced.

That's what it's like to book an overseas adventure through Viator, Trip Advisor's tour and excursion booking platform (2)

Alesandra Dubin / Business Insider

What is Viator?

viatoris the Trip Advisor platform for booking all kinds of activities during your trip. Consider that you can find camel and 4x4 rides in Dubai, a skip-the-line Colosseum tour in Rome, or a Grand Canyon helicopter tour from Las Vegas.

Really, you will find almost everything. The search engine includes options for a whopping 200,000 bookable activities in locations around the world, so it's unlikely you won't find what you need. All carriers listed are pre-screened for credibility and security backed byTravel agent.

Importantly, the site also aggregates millions of reviews like you'd find on Trip Advisor, Viator's sister site, so you have a good idea of ​​what you're getting.

What is Viator pricing?

Of course, the price points atviatorthey vary dramatically depending on location and complexity of tours. A basic walking tour can cost less than $20, while a day tour or charter can cost hundreds more. The most expensive of the two trips I booked was under $1,000, and rates on the website can go up depending on what you're booking.

The site is optimized for mobile bookings, offers 24/7 customer support in multiple languages, lowest price guarantee and 24-hour cancellation policy, making the financial risk of booking seem low.

In fact, I used this cancellation policy several times to cancel and reschedule similar activities when I changed my mind about the details, and also to completely cancel a tour I had booked for our first day in Greece when I realized they would all be too outdated to bother. .

I made both Viator reservations using myChase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card—both in US dollars— and I had no trouble making those changes.

(Video) Travel Experiences: How Viator, GetYourGuide, Peek, and Others Change Tours and Attractions Industry

What did I book through Viator?

I had never been to Croatia before, but I knew I wanted to see its beautiful islands. We were staying in an Airbnb apartment (rare choice for me) rather than a full-service hotel with concierge, so I was on my own to figure out how to do this.

Searching the Internet for tours, I foundviator, which was previously unknown to me. I appreciated that, like its parent company Trip Advisor, Viator largely incorporates a review system and being endorsed by Trip Advisor gave me confidence. I booked two tours, each about three weeks before our arrival.

For our stay in Dubrovnik I booked aHalf Day Private Speedboat Tour to Elafiti Islands, which earned an impressive five stars overall, with over 100 reviews on Viator. The trip for four people in four hours cost me just under $400 after using a 10% discount code.

So for the part of our trip in the northern part of the country, Split, I booked afull day private sightseeing tour with five proposed stops, including the famous Blue Cave and the island of Hvar. This trip also had an overall five-star rating on Viator, but with far fewer reviews, only 27 so far. The eight-hour trip for four people on the private speedboat costs $873 after discount code.

These prices may seem high, but keep in mind that the price is for four people, as is the alternative. Quickly overwhelmed with planning, I contacted a Croatia-based travel agency. The quote for just one piece of land for a week in the county for our group of four was €12,000. Book on your own, including these two-day trips byviator— reduce our expenses by more than half.

My Viator Booking Experience

After so much planning, our trip was finally underway. We spent a morning at a Dubrovnik beach club before our scheduled afternoon boat excursion. That same day, the highly responsive tour company reached out via WhatsApp and email to coordinate transport for us to the marina where we would meet our captain and boat.

They called a ride at their expense to meet us at the beach club and we arrived at the marina to find a spotlessly clean boat and a friendly captain.

As promised, the boat was just for our family with amenities like a shade canopy and a USB port for charging phones and being photo ready.

Alesandra Dubin / Business Insider

We left in the afternoon along the Adriatic and were able to customize our itinerary, visiting bays, beaches and caves at our own pace. The captain took family photos and offered snorkel masks and refreshments.

In the late afternoon, our skipper called an Uber to take us back to the hotel. Overall, it was a successful and fun day. And at under $400 for four people, it seemed like a great value for all we could do.

Unfortunately, it didn't bode well for the most challenging experience we had on our next excursion, which was a full-day boat rental from Split.

For that trip I had a harder time communicating in advance with the operator who was less responsive. I didn't get all my questions answered prior to booking and I miscalculated by making a few critical assumptions that turned out to be false.

(Video) A Preview of Viator (Activities Booking Engine) for Travel Agents

We arrived at the marina and found a boat that exceeded our expectations. It was a luxury speedboat with room for 12 people and was bigger and more elegant than our previous boat in Dubrovnik.

It was also more powerful, with 250 horsepower. While some people appreciate that, the speed of the boat scared our little kids right away.

Our skipper was a dedicated and experienced big brother so he was well equipped with strategies to help calm our kids and went out of his way to make them comfortable. He even let my son "steer" the boat and honk the horn which was a huge hit.

Alesandra Dubin / Business Insider

But my daughter was still uncomfortable as the boat sped across the open sea. Right off the bat, I wondered if this was something any ambitious American traveler would try with kids that young if they knew how difficult it would be.

The skipper warned that the Blue Cave would be crowded and full of people, and that the moment could correspond to a busy navigation in the afternoon. So we opted out of that and chose a custom plan to mitigate the intensity. I appreciated that we were able to change the itinerary for the day to better suit our needs.

Our skipper took us to a beautiful remote beach on the island of Vis which was a real highlight with crystal clear waters and a feeling of true seclusion. We swam from the boat to the beach, swam and took lots of pictures.

Afterwards, we sail to the glamorous island of Hvar, where we spend about an hour with lunch in Hvar town.

Alesandra Dubin / Business Insider

But it was after that, on the way back to the port of Split, that our challenges began in earnest.

By this time it was late afternoon and the winds had picked up; the open sea was very rough. I mean, our boat took off and hit the ground, over and over again. There was nothing the captain could do as that was the nature of the ship and typical conditions.

While my kids (thankfully) didn't get seasick, they were terrified. Those with small children and those suffering from seasickness should consult the conditions before booking a boat trip similar to the one they would like to take.

My son could placate himself by returning to his boat "driver" position, but my daughter was unhappy during the 75 minutes it took to get back to the marina and our family was drenched in waves. To make matters worse, there was only one child's life jacket on board.

I'm sorry for putting us in this position. I had not properly confirmed that this was the right trip for our family.

And while I generally feel like a diligent and capable planner, I went ahead with the booking despite not expecting the answers I needed: would there be snorkel masks for kids? Would there be two life jackets for children? Was the water probably choppy? Are we going to get wet or dizzy?

(Video) Viator | How to Research, Book and Share

Viator's bottom line

Overall I wouldn't change any of the amazing boat trips I bookedviator. They were essential tourist experiences for any visitor to Croatia.

Operators for both experiences were professional and services were provided as advertised. Prices also seemed reasonable to me, much more than if I had booked through a travel agency.

I will book through Viator again, but next time I'll ask more questions and get the specific answers I need first.

If a given operator is lazy or unwilling to respond to the details of an important matter like life jackets for children or typical water conditions, I will move on to another operator.

As a seasoned Viator user I would say - book with confidence. Just make sure you ask lots of questions specific to your needs, and make sure you get all the answers straight before showing up on the day of your reservation.

With the sheer number of bookings available on Viator, you should be spoiled for choice to keep switching to another suitable tour operator until you find one that gives you all the answers – and confidence – you need.

Book a Viator tour, large or small, anywhere in the world.

alessandra dubin

Freelance reporter, insider analysis

alejandradubinis a Los Angeles-based news and lifestyle writer and editor. A veteran digital journalist, she has covered travel, food, events, fashion and beauty, entertainment, home, parenting and viral content for over 15 years, for both consumers and businesses. Her work has appeared in Town & Country, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Parents, E!,bravotv.com, BuzzFeed,HOY.com, and countless other print and online vehicles. Alesandra holds a master's degree in journalism with an emphasis in reporting and cultural criticism from NYU and a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley. An avid traveler, she travels the world with her husband and twins. Learn more about how our team of experts test and review products on Insider here.

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