When it comes to travel styles… well, I don't really have one.
I don't fit into one style category when it comes to travel; I'm not a strict budget traveler, nor do I only book luxury trips. I sometimes travel solo, but also sometimes travel with family or friends. And when it comes to independent vs. group travel, I don't really have a preference – I like both!
And I have a feeling that plenty of other people are “style chameleons” when it comes to travel, too. Which is why I was so excited to team up with Monograms Travel for a trip in Europe last month.
In simplest terms, Monograms is a company that helps people travel. But Monograms' services don't really fit into one category, either. In other words, their trips are perfect for people who like the best of both worlds like me.
Note: This post was brought to you as a result of the Monograms trip, a project between Monograms and iambassador. As always, all opinions are completely my own – I maintain full editorial control of the content published on this site.
What is Monograms?
Monograms is what you'd get if you mixed a tour company with a really good travel agent. The best way I can describe what they do is to say that their trips combine the convenience of group travel with the freedom of independent travel.
When planning a trip with Monograms, first you have to decide where you want to go – Monograms offers trips on all 7 continents! – and when.
Once you've narrowed down then when and where, then you can start planning your trip, either using some of Monograms' pre-planned vacation packages, or by building a “YourWay” Vacation.
I traveled with Monograms on a custom YourWay Vacation that included 3 nights each in London, Venice, and Rome. I really like this trip option because it allows you to mix and match destinations a bit, decide how long you want to spend in each city (anywhere from 2-5 nights), and have quite a bit of flexibility in your itinerary.
Popular YourWay Vacations include Rome-Florence-Venice, London-Paris-Amsterdam, and Barcelona-Madrid-Lisbon.
A trip with Monograms includes all the details you'd expect a tour company or travel agent to plan for you, from airport transfers to hotel reservations. YourWay trips also come complete with one included sightseeing tour in each city, plus a dedicated Local Host in your hotel to help you book extra excursions, find places to eat, and generally just enjoy your trip.
How Monograms is like a guided tour
Monograms trips are based on the standard guided tour framework in the following ways:
- Trips start on specific dates.
- Airport/train station transfers are organized for you.
- Hotels are booked for you.
- There are some guided elements, like the included city tours, that you'll do with other Monograms travelers.
How Monograms promotes independent travel
But of course traveling with Monograms is not like traveling on a guided tour; not really. There's a lot more freedom in a trip like this. For example:
- There's no dedicated group tour guide.
- You have the freedom of choice – Even though packages are offered and hotels are booked for you, you get to choose how long to stay in each city, and also select your hotels out of a handful of choices.
- No organized or group meals.
- You can customize your itinerary by signing up for more Monograms-organized tours, or you can just go do your own thing.
Why travel with Monograms?
I REALLY enjoyed my trip with Monograms. This “best of both worlds” style of travel worked for me, especially in a place like Italy where independent travel is certainly possible, but not always straightforward.
If you're curious about what the Monograms experience is like, here were the things that really struck me as being stand-out parts of my trip, and reasons I would be happy to book with this company again:
1. Included transfers
One of the most stressful things for me when I'm traveling to a new place is figuring out how to get from the airport to wherever I'm staying. Yes, there are usually taxis, but when you also have buses, shuttles, trains, ride shares, and more to choose from, it can often seem overwhelming – especially if you're arriving groggy off an overnight flight.
The great news is that airport/train station transfers are included with every Monograms trip. When I arrived in London for the beginning of my tour, a Monograms representative was waiting for me in the arrivals area, ready to direct me to my driver who would whisk me away to my hotel in central London without me having to even think about consulting a Google map.
When I arrived in Venice a few days later on another flight, a Monograms rep was again waiting for me in arrivals, and proceeded to walk me to the water taxis (there are no cars on the island of Venice, just boats!) and get me on a boat. Once I arrived at the taxi stop in Venice, someone else was waiting for me to walk me through the maze-like streets of Venice to my hotel. The whole arrival process took less than an hour; if I'd been on my own, guaranteed it would have taken me multiple hours to figure it all out!
2. Convenient hotels
I only experienced Monograms in three different cities, but I was impressed by the hotel choices in each one. They were all in central locations convenient to major attractions and/or public transport.
For example, the hotel I stayed at in London was near the South Bank of the Thames, within walking distance to Tube stations and the London Eye. In Venice, I was right in the heart of the San Marco neighborhood, only a few minutes' walk from both Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge. In Rome, my hotel was in a quieter neighborhood near the Termini train station, near lots of less-touristy restaurants.
And the hotels were all really nice quality, too. The two I stayed at in Venice and Rome were updated and modern inside with huge rooms – a surprise in Italy!
3. Intro sightseeing tours
In every city you visit with Monograms, an introductory city tour will be included on your first morning. These tours hit some of the most popular sites in the city, and are a great way to get your bearings and learn a bit of history.
These tours are guided, and the group sizes depend on how many other people are traveling on a similar Monograms itinerary to yours. I LOVED these tours, and thought it was brilliant planning on Monograms' part.
In London, our included tour was a bus tour around Central London with one of the smartest guides I've ever had. He knew EVERYTHING. We made a photo stop at Buckingham Palace, and went on a tour of the inside of St. Paul's Cathedral.
In Venice, the included tour was shorter, but included a morning tour of the Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Basilica – definitely the top must-sees in Venice.
In Rome, the included tour lasted half a day, but covered just about everything. We went to the Vaitcan Museums right at opening time to see them with less people, and walked through St. Peter's Basilica. We then headed over to the Roman Forum, and got a short skip-the-line tour inside the Colosseum.
These intro tours are great, especially when you have limited time in a new city and want to see as much as possible.
4. Local Hosts
A unique thing that Monograms offers is Local Hosts in every city. I was unclear on what the role of these people was before I traveled with Monograms, but it turns out that they're exactly what their title implies. Local Hosts are guides who aren't actually guides; these folks hang out at your hotel to help you with just about anything.
When you arrive to a new hotel, your Local Host will help you check in, and then will sit down with you to go over your itinerary for that city. They'll give you any tickets for optional tours that you've pre-booked, and can help you book other optional tours, too.
Your Local Hosts can help recommend good places to eat during your free time, can suggest the best ways to get from Point A to Point B in a city, and can also give you extra tips on sightseeing.
In London and Rome, my Local Hosts mostly stayed in the hotel the whole time to help people with logistics and questions. In Venice, though, my Local Host was also the one who helped get me on/off water taxis, and even went with me to the train station to make sure I got on the right train when it was time for me to head to Rome.
This idea of employing Local Hosts instead of guides is such a good one! It means you can have as much or as little hand-holding during your Monograms trip as you want.
5. Optional extra tours
We have to talk about some of the optional tours you can book through Monograms, too. More independent travelers might opt to skip the extra tours and plan their own time in each city, but for those like me who usually want to DO IT ALL when they travel, then Monograms has you covered.
Like the intro sightseeing tours in each city, most of Monograms' optional tours are guided. Monograms partners with local tour operators to offer tours to see/do the most popular things in each city.
For example, in London you could book a tour of the Tower of London, day trips to Windsor Castle or Stonehenge, dinner and a West End show, tickets for the Harry Potter studio tour, a nighttime cruise on the Thames, and more.
In Venice, optional extras included gondola rides, a cruise to the island of Burano, or even a day trip to Verona.
In Rome, I went for a lot of the food options (which included food tours and cooking classes), but other optional tours included e-bike tours, tours of the catacombs, evening concerts, and day trips to places like Pompeii.
6. MonogramsGO app
Lastly, it's worth mentioning that Monograms has its own app that travelers can use called MonogramsGO. Along with using the app to keep track of details like hotel names, it can also be used to get restaurant recommendations and use GPS and maps offline, meaning you can still navigate without wi-fi or using cellular data.
Check out Monograms for your next trip!
Who is Monograms good for?
So who are Monograms tours made for? Well, I really think that a lot of different types of travelers could love traveling with Monograms. People like:
New or nervous travelers
Because Monograms handles stressful things like hotel bookings, airport transfers, and intro tours, I think this is a great option for newer travelers, or people who get nervous when going to new places. A lot of the most nerve-wracking details are handled for you, hopefully allowing you to enjoy the trip more.
On the other hand, because Monograms trips allow for quite a bit of freedom and flexibility, it gives you the chance to try out being a little more independent on your trip in a very low-risk way.
I'm of the Millennial generation, and I have lots of friends who say they'd love to travel more, but often just don't have the time to handle all the travel planning. After all, searching for flights and hotels and putting together an itinerary takes time – time that many people just don't have to spare, even if they DO have the money to travel.
Monograms is pretty much the perfect match for time-poor Millennials who want to see the world, but who don't have the time to actually organize it.
Lastly, I couldn't help thinking the whole time I was on my Monograms trip that this would be the perfect way to travel with my mom. No dragging suitcases around or wasting time finding directions, comfortable hotels with free breakfasts, and knowledgable Local Hosts to help with additional logistics are the perfect combination for the sort of mother-daughter trips we tend to take.
Whether you're trying to plan a trip with multiple family members, or with parents or grandparents who might be less-frequent travelers, I think Monograms would be a great option to make everyone feel comfortable on a multigenerational trip.
Bottom line: Monograms is great for travel style chameleons like me, and might be good for you, too. This trip was technically a work trip for me, but I don't think it'll be the last time that I travel with Monograms!
Who's ready to look into traveling with Monograms on their next trip?
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