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Grab Your Group and Go

Sep 06, 2010 09:04PM ● Published by Erin Frisch

Italy

“I NEVER TRAVEL WITH A GROUP”

And how I changed their minds!

by Debbie Johnson

More and more clients ask me about doing something a little different on their next vacation. They are interested in traveling to destinations with travel companies that have special insight and put emphasis on the environment, education, and personal achievement. It is about coming back from a trip with a rewarding or remarkable experience. It’s about making memories for you and your family and friends. It’s about enriching your body and soul.

The Evolution of Group Travel

There has been a stigma placed on traveling on a “tour” in the past as clients felt that a tour would mean a busload of 50 older travelers shuffling from museum to museum, all eating at the same place and at the same time. It meant in and out of hotels nightly with multiple destinations crammed into one short week. It meant coming back with snapshots taken from a bus window and no clear memories of meeting anyone from where you had visited.

Times have changed! Over the past dozen years, tour companies have emerged to offer more active travel, from rugged adventure travel to soft adventure in the form of walking, biking, and multi-sport activities. Educational-based tour operators have come into being offering hands-on experiences and up-close encounters. Small ship cruising and river cruising has become very popular. And, those tour companies formerly offering the “If it is Tuesday, it must be Belgium” have branched out and are providing smaller, more personal travel experiences.

Collette Offers Many Options

One such company is Collette Tours. Collette Tours, the oldest tour operator in America, founded in 1918, has recently added “Explorations by Collette” to their product line. Their destinations include California’s Wine Country, New England’s Coastlines, Canada, Peru, the Galapagos Islands, Ireland, Spain, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Africa, Egypt, China, and Tibet. With just 16 to 24 travelers on each tour, your “exploration” will allow you the opportunity for cultural immersion and up-close personal experiences.

Their tour developers have created itineraries offering accommodations not generally offered on a group tour, such as boutique-style hotels, mansions, and elegant country villas. Your dining experiences are customized and available at smaller restaurants. Your sightseeing is interactive and not just a drive-by viewing. Excursions may include a catamaran cruise, wine tasting, cooking demonstrations, and a visit to local orphanage sponsored by the Collette Foundation, founded to help children around the world. Best of all, your itinerary always provides you with free time to discover the area on your own.

A Good Buy

In this economic climate, particularly, an escorted tour geared towards “today’s traveler” offers great value monetarily as well as time-wise. A tour can save an average of 20 percent off the cost of your trip had you planned it on your own. Tour developers have negotiated rates with hotels, restaurants, and sightseeing venues, which are passed along to the traveler. And, you will pay in U.S. dollars in advance, saving you from the fluctuating dollar. The old adage “time is money” comes into play as tour developers have taken the time to scout out restaurants, work with ground transportation, entertainment, and attraction venues in advance of your arrival. They know what is available to you, freeing you from bumbling through maps and waiting for doors to open.

Many tours allow you to focus on one theme, such as cooking, biking, hiking, or art history as you travel through a place. Being with people who share similar interests can enhance your experience by creating stimulating conversation and life-long friendships. So, if you thought a “group tour” was not for you, think again!

Debbie Johnson, owner of Experience Travel, has been in the travel business for 25 years with positions ranging from travel agent to agency manager to group sales operations. She works as a travel consultant providing personalized service and expertise in vacation planning. She may be reached at www.experiencetravel.biz or (603) 224-6519.

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