There's an ever-evolving holiday scene out there and touring companies have adapted accordingly. Forget what you thought you knew about guided holidays, we're about to expose the truth about what touring is really like in the 21st century.
1. "I'm too young! Touring is for the elderly"
Right, time to let you into a little secret.
The average age of a guided holiday guest has decreased considerably in the last 10 years. The touring product has adapted to accommodate the ever-evolving nature of adventure-filled travel, and neither the backpackers nor the elderly maintain their long reign over the coach touring market. These days, travellers in every age bracket want an easy and reliable (and more importantly, fun) way to see the world. Little wonder then, that over three-quarters of Trafalgar’s customers are under 60 years of age. Hurrah.
But wait, allow us to expand on this...
With over 50 years’ experience creating global travel experiences, Cosmos have refined their tours into a perfect mix of affordable and adventurous. Compiling travel packages to the world’s most captivating places, Cosmos attracts a slightly younger clientele than its sister product, Globus. Typically, Cosmos travellers are in their fabulous forties, whereas Globus appeal to the equally fab fifty-plus adventurers. Having said all that, there are no hard and fast rules in travel, but rest assured, you're not on a day trip to the seaside - with two dozen elderly ladies in their hair nets. And just in case you thought guided coach holidays were only for the energetic Contiki youths, we’ll dispel that myth too. All sorts of companies offer guided vacays for the more mature (but by no means over-the-hill) adventure-seekers.
HOT tip: If you don’t fall into the Contiki or Topdeck age bracket (18-35 and 18-39 respectively) consider Cosmos, Globus, Insight Vacations, Back Roads and Trafalgar. All are suited to a slightly older clientele.
2. "I don't want to see 14 countries in 14 days"
What a lot of people don't know is that guided holidays offer an entire range of different itineraries. There are numerous regional tours that concentrate solely on a specific area, whereas others delve into almost everything, leaving no stone unturned (but spread over a greater amount of time). You can choose anything from five-day introductions to a single place, to a 31-day cross-country tour. Either way, the pace is always leisurely. You won't see the Eiffel Tower flying past your window in a blur of bronze steel and blue lights.
Need some examples? Sure thing.
Get to grips with the real Spain with Trafalgar's 11 day “Highlights of Northern Spain” trip.
If Italy's your dream destination, fill up on endless culture and carbohydrates with Globus' 10 day “Northern Italy’s Highlights” tour.
HOT tip: Run through the different itineraries with your HOT travel consultant and see which appeals most to your wishlist.
3. "I don't want to sit on a coach with 50 people!"
You don't need to. A few years back, touring companies started to introduce a range of tours with smaller group sizes. For example, Trafalgar’s “Hidden Journey” itinerary has a maximum of 26 guests. Contiki’s “Limited Edition” holidays are at full capacity when they hit 24 guests, and Back-Roads boast a maximum group size of 18 passengers. Simply have a chat with your HOT consultant about the size of your preferred group and they'll find a company with an itinerary to suit.
4. "I can do all these things independently"
Allow us to tell you a little insider's secret about Trafalgar:
As part of Trafalgar's Be My Guest dining experience, guests are invited to dine with locals, often in their own homes. For example, in Provence, you head to La Bastide Rose on the Sorgue River, where Emmanuelle serves a three course Provençal dinner in the heart of his family home. Sat just off the kitchen, you’ll eat in his dining room while the host busies himself with huge pots of poached pears and enormous bottles of Pernod. All the while regaling his guests with witty anecdotes and tales of French despair.
Good luck booking that kind of private dinner on your own!
As with lots of things in life, it’s who you know and not what you know, and in this situation, you want to know a dedicated tour guide. Here are just a few examples of the included experiences they can dish up (pun intended) during your guided holiday:
1. Insight Vacations invite guests for a private dinner in the Vatican Museums.
2. Trafalgar organise traditional Tuscan dinners in a 12th century Italian fortress.
3. Globus ensure keen golfers can perfect their swing at St Andrew’s.
HOT tip: Many tour groups offer unique dining venues and niche experiences. Ask your HOT consultant about the rich variety of activities you can enjoy.
Emmanuelle and his Pernod
5. "I don't want to dine in the same restaurant every night"
Not possible when you choose to travel with a guided holiday. As well as the dining opportunities mentioned above, companies such as Insight Vacations take the greatest care in choosing dining experiences which are both surprising and delightful. After your initial welcome dinner, every day presents a new and unusual way to wine and dine. You’ll go from leisurely lunches to five-star a la carte menus at acclaimed restaurants. You’ll dine at unique bistros recommended by your Travel Director, and much less so by the guidebooks, resulting in a more authentic local-focused experience. Insight ensure every one of their dining options target great food, but also a great ambience, service, location, and of course, great company. You may even have the opportunity to dine in the home of a local, eating with the host who is also the chef. Away from the hordes and in the very heart of a destination.
HOT tip: Insight’s Country Roads journeys – plus a few other itineraries – feature meals showcasing the very best and freshest agricultural produce of the region.
6. "I bet they shove me in a motel on the outskirts of town"
No way. Both Cosmos and Globus both endeavour to place you in accommodation that’s both well facilitated and well located, so all hotels are pre-screened and pre-selected. When you’re travelling the world to see all the destinations you’ve ever dreamed of, it’s all about location, location, location. With all the top-spots on your doorstep, you can absorb the ambience of your new surroundings simply by stepping outside. And when it comes to hotel check-in, all the fiddly bits are handled for you: Quickly, efficiently and best of all, without you even realising. Your Tour Director oversees check-in so you can go straight to your room. All your bags are then delivered to your door and the porterage gratuity is also taken care of.
Every company puts a lot of time into finding accommodation that makes the most of the location. Sometimes that will mean your home for the night is slap-bang in the middle of the city; taking full advantage of all the attractions. At other times you’ll be situated in a setting so stunning, you’ll absorb the most spectacular views from your room. Hotels are hand-picked and they are all comfortable and well located, constantly varied, and hands-down exceptional. From boutique hotels to vineyard stays in French chateaux, the address is always desirable.
7. "I've got a guidebook, I don't need a guide"
No guidebook can match the knowledge of a genuine local with a passion for their city. Guided holidays source charismatic local guides who are hand-picked for their boundless energy and vast knowledge of their nations, towns and neighbourhoods. Animated and highly engaging, you will take delight in seeing places through the eyes of a local. Whether they regale you with stories of previous inhabitants - painters, poets and revolutionaries - or show you something only the locals know about (with a light tap to the nose) you will gain a local, and highly personalised insight into the region. One that can’t be pulled from a guidebook or downloaded from Google.
HOT tip: Again, this isn't a perk aligned solely to a handful of companies. Numerous brands offer memorable experiences with local experts. Run through the different itineraries with your consultant and see which jumps out.
9. "Sounds lovely but I need examples"
Sure you do. In every destination you want to discover the hidden gems; all the best bits that only the locals really know about. With Trafalgar for example, you get just that. Local Specialists revealing the secrets you wouldn’t uncover on your own. From ‘Les Traboules’, hidden passageways that lie behind Lyon’s unassuming doors, to Van Gogh's favourite hangouts in Arles, don’t expect these treasures to find you themselves - hook yourself a local expert.
10. "I flat out refuse to feel like a tourist on holiday"
Who really wants to feel like a tourist? With an entire collection of carefully curated memories-in-the-making (70 to be precise), Insight Vacations will introduce you to authentic experiences, fascinating activities and expert insights you may struggle to find without them. From VIP Sistine Chapel entry to a private breakfast in Canada’s Butchart Gardens, a memorable journey is always guaranteed. Globus and Cosmos also provide special behind-the-scenes experiences that immerse guests in every destination. You might witness the magnificent Duomo, the world's largest Gothic cathedral, or enjoy a private boat tour of the 18th century Villa del Balbianello; one of the most beautiful villas fronting Lake Como. Either way, you’ll get off the tourist track and right into the thick of it.
11. "Who's looking after me throughout all this? I don't like fuss"
Fly by the seat of your pants you will not.
With all tour companies, itineraries are meticulously planned to ensure every guest gets the most out of their holiday. If you’re a dedicated planner, your pre-planned program will outline when you have a few spare hours, allowing you to research any additional landmarks you’d like to explore.
If you’ve ever holidayed independently, you’ll appreciate there’s a lot of throwing caution to the wind involved. From missed trains (and opportunities) to clueless map reading and zero clues as to where the hell you are, it’s all a bit hit-and-miss. Guided holidays eliminates all that grey space. Upon arrival at your hotel, simply grab your keys and head to the room to freshen up (read as power nap). With guided holidays, the organisation around the precise time of key events (such as spellbinding sunsets) is perfectly executed so your coach will dodge all the crazy crowds.
HOT tip: Pick any coach option and you’ll instantly eliminate all the hassle of independent organisation. You needn’t drive, navigate, check-in, check-out, translate, troubleshoot or problem solve. It’s all done for you.
100% fuss free.
12. "Won't I be herded from one landmark to the next ALL DAY?"
One of the many highlights of a guided holiday is there’s also ample free time, and it can be as inclusive or exclusive as you want it to be. The independent traveller can utilise the transfers, accommodation and meals as much as they like, or simply go out and do their own thing. It's as much about your free time as it is the organised events. It’s the perfect balance of prearranged travel and freedom to do as you please.
HOT tip: With all guided holidays, don’t forget to ask your Travel Director what to do with your free hours. Their encyclopaedic knowledge is invaluable.
13. "Something is bound to go wrong"
Things can go wrong. That’s travel for you, right?
All guided holiday companies utilise a “tour guide” (better known these days as a Tour Director or a Travel Director). Handpicked and thoroughly trained, your TD is a constant source of information, as well as a familiar face in a crowd; a language expert; a food guru; an answer to every (seemingly implausible) request. They will make your trip the best it can possibly be. Professional yet always approachable, your Director is a little bit of everything; well-informed, entertaining, kind, generous and caring. Everything you need for a stress free holiday.
HOT tip: When a crisis arises, independent traveller struggle, but with a Tour Director, every issue is resolved before guests are even aware there is a problem.
14. "What if I really AM young at heart? I might actually want to travel, eat, party, repeat"
In that case, Contiki here you come. Designed specifically for young travellers aged between 18 and 35, Contiki is the original touring company that offers just the right balance of sightseeing, free time and guidance from the Trip Managers. With more choice, more freedom and more destinations at a great price, Contiki have been creating the perfect European adventure since 1962. Simply pick the holiday that appeals from their huge range in Europe, the Americas or Asia. Then Contiki and your local House of Travel agent can plan it all so travellers quite literally turn up, bag-in-hand and wait for instruction at the start of their tour. From the accommodation, to the duration of each stay, transfers, tickets and touristy must-sees, everything is covered. Easy-as.
HOT tip: Topdeck also offer trips for the 18 to 39 year old market. Mixing the best of travel with an energetic pace, it's the perfect mix of culture, fun and frolics. Ask your consultant about which trip is right for you.
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