Karen and I (mostly Karen) are in the midst of filling in details for our upcoming trip to South America. As it often is with us, this is a triple combination of a cruise, a land tour and some on-our-own travel.

Successful trips require careful planning, which you can do by yourself or with some professional help.

We generally find the “tour” the easiest part to plan. Once you have selected an operator who can show you what you want to see at a price that suits you, planning is largely done. You may accept or decline some optional tours, but that’s about it.

Adding your own pre- or post-trips to a package can be a bit more challenging. You will need to choose and book a mode of travel, a place to stay and sights to see.

Internet-based booking is really not difficult, and travel advice websites abound. Use your search engine to home in on your needs.

While a really knowledgeable travel agent or friends who have “done that” can also be very helpful, be sure to choose knowledgeable advisors who have “been there.”

Surprisingly, it is the cruise portion that has occupied most of our planning for this trip. While all vessels offer shore excursions at each port of call, these might not meet your requirements. They tend to be large groups and somewhat impersonal for our taste.

Cruises around South America offer many opportunities to see penguins, but often not much else. These shore excursions are easy to select and book and, while we love wildlife, one or two rookeries are enough, so we have spent a lot of time surfing the web for local suppliers.

Many ports offer excellent tours by certified local guides with as few as two to eight passengers and the flexibility to do some customizing for you. Ratings and recommendations are readily found online, but the volume of offers makes the search time consuming.

Be sure the guide has good recommendations and speaks your language.

When you are using the cruise line’s shore excursions, select them in advance, well before you embark. That way you will have time to create more variety in your excursions and avoid being closed out by booking too late. Space is often limited.

Travel planning need not be difficult, and Karen and I find it to be a pleasurable part of the overall experience.

Keep on trippin.’

Despite more than five decades of travel, Stuart Blickstein still delights in finding new and exciting experiences. thepurposefultraveler@gmail.com