When I first started this post, it was intended to review the more popular tours offered by Trafalgar Tours. But, as I started writing it, I realized that I may first need to take a step back and talk about tours in general first, and my role in helping you determine if they are right for you, and what you may want from it.
I promise I will get to Trafalgar in the next post.
As a travel agent, I am here to help you plan your perfect trip. The form of that trip can vary in many ways:
- Fully customized, fully independent travel.
- Cruises – either ocean or river.
- Escorted Tours – whether that is a packaged tour, custom group, or a combination.
In this post, I would like to cover two questions you may have:
- Why go on an Escorted Tour?
- If the tour is pre-packaged, why do I need a Travel Agent?
Why Go on an Escorted Tour?
Here are just a few reasons:
- The Tour Group knows where it is going and how to get you there. You don’t have to worry about driving or navigating in an unfamiliar place.
- Your expert guide is with you all of the time.You don’t have to worry about missing something.
- Someone is watching out for you. If you have an emergency (medical or otherwise) someone is there to help you.
- Your time is structured, but still flexible. Even though you are on a tour, there is still independent time for you to explore on your own.
If a Tour is Pre-packaged, why do I need a Travel Agent?
To help you pick the right Tour Operator. Tour Operators are a lot like Cruise Lines. When we went to Alaska a few years ago, there were several different cruise lines that were taking the same route, and traveling the same days. In fact, there were the same three ships, including ours, in each port the same day. But I can guarantee you that the on-board experience for each of these cruise lines were very different. Tour operators are the same way. They will differ in group size. They will provide different amenities – for example, luggage handling. Some will offer extra perks such as an after hours visit to the Sistine Chapel. They will be oriented to different travelers, based on age, family status, and some itineraries are faith based. My job is to help you find the right tour operator.
To help you pick the right tour. I will use a personal example here. I am taking a trip to Ireland and Scotland later this year. When I started researching this, these are some of the different options I found:
- Trafalgar – When searching for “Ireland and Scotland”, I got 17 different results. These options further included options for group size, departure dates, number of days and different itineraries.
- Globus – 17 different options. Also varying for dates, itineraries, group sizes and number of days.
- Insight – 6 different options.
- CIE Tours – 4 Options
- Collette – 5 Options
- Tauck – None that combined both of Ireland and Scotland
So, almost 50 different options to look through and evaluate. Then there are the other details to tend to: flights, documents, pre- and post-night stays and trip insurance options, just to name a few.
When I got down to researching these tours some interesting things came out:
- The length of a tour and the cost are not proportional. Cost is also related to the timing, group size, and specific itineraries. In several instances, the cost can even get down to which specific departure date. For example, most of the August Scotland Tours will include the Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo, which is not available in other months. This changes the price. I have also seen cases where the same tour will have different costs from two different dates in the same month. By the way, if you are in Edinburgh in August, you have to attend the Tattoo. You’ll regret it if you don’t.
- Two tours between brands may look alike, but still be different. As an example, Trafalgar and Insight both have a tour called “Best of Ireland and Scotland”. The Trafalgar tour is one day longer, but about $600 cheaper. Since both brands are owned by the same company (TTC), you might expect them to be the same tour. They are very similar, but the Trafalgar tour skips the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland and goes to the Isle of Skye in Scotland, where the Insight Tour does the opposite. I chose the Insight tour, although it is killing me to miss the Isle of Skye. But, the Insight Tour has a smaller group, spends more time at Trinity College in Dublin, visits the Blarney Castle and the Cliffs of Moher, and has a few other extras.
- Not all tours are the same, and picking the right one can be a challenge.
- Tours can offer you things on your trip that you can’t get on your own.
- It can be less stressful on a tour than traveling on your own.
- “Breadth or Depth”. Tours give you the opportunity to see more things, so that you can pick the places you want to return to later for a longer stay.
- A travel agent is just as important in picking the right tour as it is in setting up your custom itinerary or cruise.