As younger travellers, we could travel the earth with a backpack and a smile. But once we get over 50, we want a little more comfort and a little more security, especially when we’re going to places we haven’t been before. And as far as I’m concerned, the best way to get that is with an escorted tour.
I’ve been an independent traveller most of my life. But even I have finally concluded that escorted tours are a great way for baby boomers to see the world. As I get older, I have a new appreciation for the “all-inclusive” approach of an organized tour. Your bookings made for you, your needs anticipated and fulfilled: it’s travel made easy. That goes both for land tours and for things like European river cruises.
Of course, the other great benefit of escorted travel is the simplicity of booking. I’ve spent many an hour scouring the net for the best price on a cruise or airfare, and more than once I’ve wished that someone else would do it for me and save me the time and stress. With a group tour, you read the brochures, pick the itinerary you want, and the tour company makes it happen. Easy peasy.
Here are five reasons I think escorted tours work for baby boomers.
As noted, all the arrangements are made for you when you’re on an escorted tour. There’s no need to book hotels and day tours, to figure out the best way to get the airport or the train station. Each morning someone picks you up at the hotel they’ve hand-picked for you, and takes you where you’re going. There are staff members there to help with your luggage, your itinerary and your particular needs.
Speaking of particular needs, today’s tour companies take pains to cater to the needs and abilities of older passengers. “Our tours are rated on a leisure activity level, so you know what you’re getting,” says Lisa Dare, Managing Partner of Calgary-based Rostad Tours, which runs small-group tours in the Americas, Europe and as far afield as Australia and Africa. They tend to travel at a more leisurely pace, she adds, often spending two or more nights in one place. And “if you have special meal requirements, we communicate them to hotels and restaurants so they can be accommodated.”
There’s a lot of truth in the old saying, “there’s safety in numbers”. And travelling with a group under professional care is about as safe as you can get. An experienced tour company knows where to go and where not to go in countries where safety is a concern. And it knows the safe ways to take you places where travelling on your own can be risky.
As well, escorted tours provide a built-in support group. There’s always someone there to make sure you get home safely at the end of the day, and there’s someone to respond if there is a problem. On my European river cruise last year, there were two passengers with medical ailments, and the Viking crew got them the quick medical help they needed – not any easy task when you’re in a foreign country.
Getting to your destination and back again is only part of travel. You want to learn about the place you’re visiting, and I’ve always found the best way to do that is to take a tour. A good tour company provides guides with a deep knowledge of your destination — its history, its culture and its people. If they don’t live there they’ve been there many times, and researched the stories behind the sites you’re visiting.
That deep knowledge can help you avoid the dreaded traveller’s remorse – when you visit a famous place and miss its most famous attraction. Years ago I spent three days in Barcelona and completely missed the Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi’s amazingly quirky cathedral and the city’s most famous sight. On an escorted tour, that doesn’t happen. In fact, you may get to skip the ticket line when you get to the big attraction.
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Escorted tours aren’t the cheapest way to travel; you can save a few bucks if you’re willing to spend those hours in front of the computer. But the included meals, guided excursions and other services can make them good value, says Rostad’s Lisa Dare. “Your flights, taxes and visa fees are all included in our tours,” she notes. “There are no extra charges for sightseeing or entrance fees, your tipping is taken care of, and two meals per day are included in the price. There are no hidden costs.”
There’s even a chance to get your tour free of charge, if you’re good at working with people: “We’re always looking for older travellers who would like to lead one of our groups,” says Dare. “They take part in organizing the tour, and they can end up getting their trip for free. They can even earn spending money for the tour.”
Travelling with a group is a great way to get to know people, and make new friends. As veteran cruisers know, seeing the same people day after day, over dinner or on day tours, allows you to build real friendships. Some people make friends for life; others even find a life mate. Dare says for a lot of tour leaders, the biggest reward is the experience of helping people fulfill their dreams and creating a trusted group of friends.
Aside from the sheer proximity, joining an escorted tour means you’re travelling with people who have the same interests as you. And discussing the things you see each day with your tour mates can be rewarding, and in some case eye-opening. I often find that other people have a whole different perspective on the places I see, and very often have background information I didn’t know.
Those are five good reasons an escorted tour works for baby boomers — even those like me who are longtime independent travellers. But doesn’t this kind of travel take away the free time to make your own discoveries? Not necessarily: I’ve found that most tours allow you enough free time to see the castle or museum you had on your bucket list, or just to wander on your own and get the feeling of the place.
Lastly, unless you’re the adventurous type and a trip planning whiz, escorted tours can allow you to see places you never would have visited on your own. And their skill at getting you from place to place means you can see a lot in a relatively short vacation.
I still travel independently, but now that I’ve experienced escorted tours, they’re one of my favourite ways to go. When you can combine bucket-list destinations with the safety and convenience of an escorted tour, it’s hard to beat. And that’s well worth the price.
This is a sponsored post — top photo and beach photo courtesy of Rostad Tours