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Tour Operator Suggestions
Old 12-25-2006, 05:56 AM   #1
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Tour Operator Suggestions

I had gotten some input in another thread but I thought I'd seek input from the whole forum.

I would like input on tours and tour operators -- both good and bad. This could be for US/Canada or international tours. Any general comments about whether it makes sense to go on an organized tour at all would also be appreciated.

Thanks.

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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions
Old 12-25-2006, 08:58 AM   #2
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions

I've used Globus for three different tours...two to Great Britain, and one to Switzerland. We (my sisters, mother, and I) were all pleased with the tour operation...very smooth, they took care of all details, etc. However, tour groups are not for everyone. We used the tour format because of my mother, who felt more secure knowing that there was a professional operation behind the scenes, who could take care of any contingencies, emergencies, etc. We didn't mind the "on the bus, off the bus" routine too much, because we as a family group have a great time no matter what the circumstances. One advantage of the tour is that they know the area, can deal with traffic, police, etc. Also, they have all the necessary tickets for any venues which require them. They also handle all your baggage from the airport, through the tour, then back to the airport. Now that my mother has passed, we would probably go on our own, but the tour groups are a great way to get the "lay of the land" so to speak, so you can feel more comfortable going on your own the next time.
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions
Old 12-25-2006, 09:29 AM   #3
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions

Quote:
Originally Posted by 2B
I would like input on tours and tour operators -- both good and bad.
Elderhostel seems to be a very good system for ranking tour operators. They're either good enough to attract that clientele or else the evaluations are brutal and EH quickly chooses another contractor. The program is worldwide so chances are fairly good that any spot you care to visit has an Elderhostel event, and a tour company would be proud to advertise their business.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 2B
Any general comments about whether it makes sense to go on an organized tour at all would also be appreciated.
We travel & tour by bus when there's really no other option. Spouse and I spent much of our college weekends traveling by bus and we did it frequently in the military, which has fostered an aversion that's persisted for over 25 years. We also think that bus tours give you one or two really good events each day interspersed with a bunch of mediocre time-fillers and it forces you to interact with people whom you otherwise wouldn't seek out. We'd rather wander around on our own, find our own crowd, and interact or withdraw at our own choice.

Traveling by bus also reminds me of those classic roadtrip comments:
"Are we there yet?"
"But you just went 20 minutes ago!"
"This time I get the window seat!!"
"Whaaaaat? I couldn't hear what they said."
"Just sit there and be quiet. Keep your hands to yourself."

Don't miss that a bit...
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions
Old 12-25-2006, 02:47 PM   #4
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions

I've travelled with Mayflower Tours...a little to regimented for my taste. Plus they make you "rotate seats" everyday.....rightside of bus moves back one row...leftside moves forward one row. We prefer to find a seat we like and stay there the whole trip. (somewhere around middle of bus, right-hand side) Because on longer trips we buy all sorts of sh*t we probably shouldn't purchase a few momentos, and stick them in the overhead above our seats. If you "rotate" you either have to move all your sh*t precious treasures everyday, or try to remember where the h*ll you stuffed them in the first place.

I've travelled with a couple of the local bank travel group....not QUITE as bad as Mayflower, but still to regimented, though not too organized either.

I DO travel ALOT with a local tour company in our area, and LOVE it!!! They're VERY organized, but NOT overly regimented. We have the freedom to do alot of things at our own pace. When they stop for meals, they usually pick a place where there are several choices of restaurants close by.....fast food, steak house, family type, etc. That way people can either have a snack or eat a huge meal.

They always choose nice CLEAN hotels...Drury, Best Western, etc.....with a choice of reasonable restaurants within close proximity.

They handle ALL reservations, ticketing, SOME meals, ALL breakfasts. They provide snacks and drinks on board, along with movies, music, and an ocassional game. They also don't crowd the bus!!! Their buses seat 56, and they will NOT take more than 36 on the trips!!! That way if you want 2 seats to yourself to be able to stretch out, you can.

I travel about 10,000 to 12,000 miles/year with these folks.

Um, just remebered I posted similarly at http://early-retirement.org/forums/i...1245#msg201245 :P

So I'll shut the h*ll up now!
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions
Old 12-25-2006, 03:02 PM   #5
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions

One more thing....We went to Nashville for a short 4-day tour/trip Dec 1st. Went with Green River/Hansen Tours. We had a MAJOR snow/ice storm late night Nov. 30th & early a.m. Dec. 1st. 12 to 18 inches of snow!!! YUCK!!!

We were unable to leave on time due to road closures/conditions. The tour coordinator contacted the hotel, and the venues we were supposed to go to, and did some schedule juggling and such. We were supposed to be in Nashville for a 6:30pm show....they juggled it to a 9pm show the next night.

Had it not been for the tour company, I wouldn't have even ventured out on the road that day, and would have pulled my hair (what little is left) out, trying to get things squared away by phone for the hotel and shows.

For me, tours take a lot of the hassle out of travel, even though I still love to travel by car, also!
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions
Old 12-25-2006, 09:14 PM   #6
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions

We took a fabulous 13-day tour with Globus to Scotland in 1998, The Islands and the Highlands. We were the youngest couple but the trip was advertised as physically strenuous so everyone (mostly 70+ to 90) was quite mobile. Up and out early and seat rotation every day so everyone got a chance at both the best and worst seats. The tour leader was exceptional. Very knowledgeable and passionate about her job and very good at herding cats. We will do this trip again some day.

We also used Globus for a 10-day tour of Portugal that was very good.
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions
Old 12-26-2006, 10:48 AM   #7
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions

When I was about 21 I did a European tour with a company called Contiki (contiki.com) and had a really fun time. Their trips are only for ages 19-35, so it's obviously a younger crowd, which is exactly what I wanted at the time. If you're under 35, I'm sure it would still be a great time and I'm pretty sure they have trips to almost any destination, both US and international.

I'm not a huge fan of tour companies anymore, just because I like to get out and do my own thing on my own schedule and feel more like a local. However, tours can be nice if you've never been to the area before and want a guaranteed way of seeing the major tourist sites.

DW and I went to Peru this past summer and used a small 2-day tour group to see Machu Picchu and the surrounding Inca sites in Cusco. It was the perfect way to see everything and would have been very difficult and impractical to try and arrange everything by ourselves. Plus, we were able to leave the group at the end and do our own thing, which was great.

One other downside about an extended tour group, is that if one person on the bus got the flu or became sick, then pretty much the whole bus would catch whatever was going around.
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions
Old 12-26-2006, 04:53 PM   #8
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions

Aaron--


One of the things on my to-do list is to see Machu Picchu and the surrounding Inca sites in Cusco. I'm also planning a trip to Ireland to kiss the Blarney Stone and I'd like to take a drink from the Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine, FL following my retirement.

I am interested in your experiences at Machu Picchu and can you tell us more about the tour company you used, costs, dependability, etc.?

Thanks.

Professor
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions
Old 12-26-2006, 04:59 PM   #9
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Professor
I'd like to take a drink from the Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine, FL following my retirement.
I was in St. Augustine in the spring. I didn't find the fountain of youth, but I DID find the fountain of Bud on draft!
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions
Old 12-26-2006, 07:40 PM   #10
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions

Goonie--

That sounds even better!!!!!!!!! I love a contingency plan.

Professor
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions
Old 12-27-2006, 11:00 AM   #11
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions

Professor we used this tour company, called "Orquidea Tours" to see Machu Picchu and Cusco:
http://www.bookingperu.com/cusco.htm
There are a lot of tour companies on the internet, but this one was pretty budget friendly, had a toll free number, and allowed us to pre-pay by credit card. We chose the "Cusco Classic Plus" (5 days/4 nights $340/person) which gave us one extra night in Machu Picchu (most tours go up and come back the same day, which seems like too much travel in one day). That price includes entrance fees, hotel, breakfast, tour guide, airport transfers, round trip train travel from Cusco to Aguas Calientes (the last city before you go up to Machu Picchu).

The only thing we would do different is to stay one more day in Cusco, because it's a nice city, much cleaner than Lima, and they have some shopping and restaurants that we wanted to check out. The first few days of the tour are sites around Cusco, so you return home in the evening and can check out the city by yourself, but after we got dinner, we were usually tired and also didn't want to explore too much after dark.

We didn't have any problems with altitude sickness, but some do. It was just a little harder to breath at the altitude. One thing I learned the hard way make sure you use lots of sunblock and take a hat the day you explore Machu Picchu.
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions
Old 12-27-2006, 11:33 AM   #12
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions

DW and I are lining up a 2 week tour/cruise in July to Alaska.

We're novice cruisers so we're doing this by the seat of our pants and probably making mistake after mistake (not dissimilar to the way that I taught myself about investing/personal finance ) so I can not recommend anything about the quality of service or accuracy of the promises of the tour company that we are using.

I will glad to report back after is all over and I can then make an after action report.
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions
Old 12-27-2006, 10:48 PM   #13
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions

Thanks for the info and the tips, Aaron. I intend to look into this for the early fall as I'm ERing in May of '07. Hopefully when I go, it will be less crowded.

Professor
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions
Old 12-28-2006, 12:12 AM   #14
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions

Just got back from a tour to Mexico's Copper Canyon. We went with Caravan Tours, it was fabulous. We liked it so much we will probably go to Costa Rica with them. We usually avoid tours, arrange our own itinerary with Montrose Travel but a good tour can save a bit of money and "run interference" for you with customs and the like.
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions
Old 12-28-2006, 07:32 AM   #15
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions

yakers - just in case you were wondering, Costa Rica is very easy to do on your own. We rented a car and drove around the country last March - no set itinerary, no hotel reservations in advance etc. We had a great time and had no trouble getting nice hotels at cheap prices.

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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions
Old 12-28-2006, 11:01 AM   #16
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Re: Tour Operator Suggestions

I've always enjoyed planning my own trips; however, depending on the kind of trip I wanted to have determined how much I involved a travel agent.

For exploratory trips like backpacking, I avoid organized tours at all costs. I don't want to be restricted nor pushed forward on somebody elses' time schedule, nor be pushed into things I don't want to see or not given opportunity to see things I did want to see. Also, when exploring it's nice to have as many options as possible as I may not even know from day to day what I'll be doing or even where I'll be sleeping (though I never was without a bed for a night, even when arriving in a new city at 11pm where I didn't speak the language).

For more relaxing trips, like a "vacation" to a tropical place, I like to know exactly where I'm staying and sometimes sign up for an organized outing or two in advance.

Then for highly specialized places, an organized trip is about the only way to go to ensure that all the right things are taken care of on my behalf so I don't have to think... just enjoy.
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