Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Guided Vacations - Value At It's Best

For years when thinking about visiting Ireland, I imagined renting a car and doing a self drive vacation.  I loved the romantic idea of driving and discovering out of the way places, great restaurants and not having to be at a  certain place at a certain time.

A representative from one of my favorite suppliers of vacations to Ireland suggested taking a short tour and then renting a car for a few days on my own. Her thoughts were that we'd be able to hit the Irish hightlights  on the tour and by the time we picked up our car at the end, we'd have a good idea of how to drive in the country and would have enough time to explore on our own.

The reality? I was sorry we didn't go on a a longer tour. Aside from the fact  we knew we wanted to go to a few places such as Westport and Connemara that tours didn't traditionally go to, driving in Ireland was the most tension filled three days I've spent anywhere in my life.  And we missed Liam, our tour guide, who knew anything and everything about every area we traveled through by bus. Our one true discovery was the lovely town of Ennis, when I needed to get off the highway quickly to find a bathroom and we wandered into this quaint town.

Our next tour in Europe, Asia or anywhere else on another continent will be a guided tour. It is truly a pleasure not to have to worry about how to get from the airport to the hotel, where to eat, what to see and the history behind places we visit.

The value of a guided tour is far better than booking all the components individually. The right tour company takes care of everything - transfers, hotels, meals, museum entrances and guides who tell you the history of the areas you are traveling through.All for one price.  One of the best features -  no dragging your luggage from hotel to hotel. On our tour, we simply put our bags outside the room the day we were moving on to another hotel and the tour company took them to the bus,  delivering them to our room at the next hotel.

On a tour or guided vacation, the organizing and scheduling is done for you - all you need to do is be at the bus, boat, train or meeting place at a scheduled time and you are off on your adventure.  When you are visiting a country where English is not the native language, your tour guide that speaks English also makes traveling a lot easier - we've even had tour guides bargain for us when shopping to get the best value!

On a tour you will likely experience true life adventures that you would not be able to do on your own. On one guided tour to Peru, you'll be taken to the private home of a family in Lima and enjoy a home cooked traditional meal. You might be taken to a school to visit and see how children are taught or you might be taken to a center where you  see artisans at work. In Ireland we were taken to a farm where we saw Sheepdog Trials and learned how the dogs are trained to move sheep from place to place. (I had dreaded this stop but it was one of my favorites on the tour - I was amazed at how smart the dogs are and how they can turn the herd by a simple whistle from the farmer).

Another big plus is that you usually will "skip the line" on many tours - the guides already have your entry tickets and go right to the head of the line into attractions. While visiting the Eiffel Tower or the Colosseum in Rome, that eliminates hours of lines.

You'll enjoy the company of travelers with similar tastes. You won't have to worry about how you'll get from place to place - just jump on your bus or train and relax with your guide pointing out the history of every landmark you'll be passing.

Your tour company takes the stress out of finding hotels - they have contracts with many hotels and stick with hotels they receive good feedback on. That translates into lower prices for you, as these tour companies better pricing than you could obtain on your own.

There are guided vacations for almost every type of travel you might want.  Want to see two or three countries one one visit? There are tours for that.  Would you prefer to spend six days in Rome to see all there is? There are tours for that. You also don't have to worry about a frenetic pace - most guided vacations allow you enough free time to explore and enjoy the area on your own, too. In Killarney, we had a tour that brought us back to the hotel at about 2 PM and we were free to explore the rest of the afternoon and evening.

A guided vacation take the guesswork and stress out of your entire trip and will save you money over booking each component by itself.  The biggest issue you'll  face is determining which of the myriad of tours available is the perfect one for you.  We can help! Call us - 516-608-0568.

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