How many days? How many ways?
By Linda McClain, CTA
Escorted motor coach tour vacations are not all created equal. From budget to luxury, you can expect to find a tour and destination to fit your lifestyle. Depending on the itinerary, there are normally 40-45 people per tour. Most tour companies assign both a driver and professional guide to each of their confirmed departures. Be sure to verify, from the beginning, that the tour you are booking will be a guaranteed departure. Some tour operators have been known to cancel a tour if they don’t have enough participants. If the trip you select is one of them, you may find out too late to book a replacement vacation. Even a full reimbursement can’t replace the anticipation of vacation.
Have you heard or said, “I don’t want to travel with a group.”
Escorted Tour Companies Independent Travel
Safety in numbers Am I in a safe area?
Meet and greet at the airport How much is the cab fare?
Professional Guide Find a tour. Hope it’s good.
Uses hotels on a repeat basis First time here…only time.
English spoken, entire tour Possible language barriers
Curbside drop off Where can I park the car?
Inclusions paid before you travel More than I can afford…
Sit back and relax. Enjoy the view Losing time…lost again!
Luggage delivered to hotel door Keep watching the suitcase
Advice on dining and shopping Let a guide book tell you
See everything you paid for Run out of time, money or both!
Do you still think this type of travel is not for you?
Remember that the more destinations you visit on the same trip, the less time you will have to enjoy their individual culture, history and attractions. One way to ensure a complete destination experience is to choose a regional discovery. Before you even read the details of the tour, you can tell if it fits your time frame, 8 days, 12 days, 16 days or more. An example of a regional tour: Grand Tour of Italy & Sicily. While a company may advertise their Italy tour as a 12 day trip, another may use the same destinations within Italy, but sell it for a longer or shorter stay.
Finding the better value
Tour companies may offer lower rates for a similar itinerary, but there is normally more than one reason why. Compare the inclusions before you commit to the lower priced tour.
• Is breakfast and dinner included each day?
• What tours come with the vacation you are paying for?
• Are the hotels 1st class, deluxe, luxury?
• Are the hotels city center?
• How many people will be traveling as part of your group?
The more exclusive, the more you can expect to pay. Example: Tanzania: A Grand Safari – 11 days, luxury tour. Group size is limited to 24 people. View the Big Five in open air safari vehicle (www.tauck.com).
A few examples of group travel companies
College age groups
Contiki Tours is a successful tour operator that specializes in age restricted travel itineraries to Europe, Latin America, South Pacific and featured US itineraries. You must be between the ages of 18-35 to participate. Whether you are looking for a budget or camping tour, in depth tour experience or special event tour, like Oktoberfest, you can make lasting memories and friendships at the same time (www.contiki.com).
Family group travel
Within the last couple of years, a new niche market has developed into a hot travel trend. Disney, Tauck Tours and Globus Tours have designed extraordinary itineraries and experiences to educate children, while simultaneously enhancing the expectations of adults traveling with them. This includes destinations like Costa Rica, Italy, The Grand Canyon and Hawaii. Example: Adventures by Disney Costa Rica family tour includes a zip line tour through the Costa Rican rainforests, as well as private wildlife viewing of exotic animals throughout a family’s itinerary (www.AdventuesByDisney.com).
Faith based religious tours
Choose an in depth visit to one of the world’s most famous faith-based destinations. Select the tour of your choice and create a custom group with your local church. Share fellowship and a lifetime experience as you watch history and culture come alive. Escorted tours are also available for you to join independently. Example: Footsteps of Pope John Paul II and Poland Heritage (www.globusfaith.com).
Exclusive tours for women
Would you love to explore the Greek Islands? Looking for personal enrichment and spirituality with a tour to Peru? How about a seasonal shopping adventure at the Christmas Markets while cruising the Danube River? These specialty tours are just a few examples you can choose from. Gutsy Women Travel (www.gutsywomentravel.com) offers cultural and historical itineraries, antique specialty tours, shopping tours and spa retreats, to name a few.
Nature expedition tours
If you have a passion for nature or prefer an itinerary that is off the beaten track, then a personal and unique wildlife experience with a small group of people might be what you’re looking for. Consider a company that has a strong commitment to conservation. Example: Visit the Polar Bear Capital of the world for an up close and personal encounter for a one week immersion in wildlife adventure! Check out Natural Habitat Adventures (www.nathab.com), a specialty wildlife company.
Hot air balloon touring in Europe
Drift through quaint country villages of France, Italy, Austria and more. Imagine floating along the Alps or over medieval castles and vineyards of France while sipping champagne. This type of luxury travel can become your reality (www.buddybombard.com)!
• Book your flights directly with the tour company or call a travel professional. Depending on your arrival destination, time change is a most important detail for your arrival.
• Check on the tipping policy for the driver and guide.
• Some companies require insurance to be purchased at the time of tour deposit.
• What does the insurance cover? (pre-existing conditions, cancel for any reason, comprehensive, etc.)
• Be sure to follow up on passport and visa information as well as vaccine requirements.
• Date of issue on your passport must exceed 6 months from the date of your return to the USA.
• Can the seat assignments be booked directly with the airline?
• Are you eligible for frequent flyer miles with the tour?
• Verify carry on and baggage limitations
• Are there additional tour options for purchase with your itinerary?
• What hotels are being used for the tour you have chosen? (You can google the hotel website to get information about amenities, location, etc.)
Linda McClain, CTA, is owner of Capital Region based Linda McClain Travel Services “From The Islands To The Highlands, No Dream Is Too Far From Here!” For more information call 372.7657 or visit www.lindamcclaintravel.com.