Ever had the experience on holiday where you realise you’ve been holding the map upside down for two hours and were actually on the wrong page anyway, causing you to be further away from your destination that you started, forcing you to stay in the Peach Passion Motel renting a room by the hour, and having your car door torn off in the night by a conniving Grizzly bear who smelt the ham sandwiches left on the dash? No? Neither have I. But wouldn’t it be awful? Burdened with an overactive imagination, and a questionable sense of direction, Escorted Tours consequently appealed to me as soon as I’d done a bit of research into what they’re about.
At first the concept made me think of dodgy coach trips in Lanzarote to matchstick museums and cafes with unidentifiable creatures sticking out of the lunchtime paella. But the new generation of Escorted Tours is a classier scene, with renowned companies setting up their own versions offering passengers the chance to tour destinations such as North America in comfort and style. Rail tours, river and ocean cruises are also encompassed by this term; a far cry from your average bus tour.
So, what’s the appeal? Well, Escorted Tours effectively banish many fears and potential foibles which can turn a supposedly relaxing, fun filled holiday into something a wee bit stressful. The basic principle is that the structure of the holiday, including travel, accommodation and destinations are all dealt with by the tour operator so that you don’t need to make any of the plans yourself. Faced with an extensive new terrain like North America this can be really handy, with operators handling every detail from airport transfers and flights to excursions and accommodation bookings.
Tour operators separate the weeds from the roses and put together an impressive itinerary including all of the key sights of a region. An escorted tour might include several stops, like on a USA coast-to-coast, with exact destinations and accommodation described in company brochures or websites, so you know what to expect. On such a tour your operator will select the region’s highlights, avoiding any disappointments. Professionally selected hotels are also an advantage, so you can expect excellent service and comfortable accommodation when you arrive.
Especially if you’re going somewhere really adventurous like Alaska, it’s comforting to know that you are in the safe, knowledgeable hands of a tour manager. On an escorted tour, the tour manager travels with the party and is there to give information and assistance as well as sorting out any problems.
With the framework and guidance of your holiday in place, you are then free to sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds rather than worrying about travel plans, map reading or timing. There is also the added bonus of a group of likeminded souls who will take the tour with you, potentially forming lasting friendships along the way.