Monday, September 3, 2012

Traveling in a Bus Group

  I had previously mentioned that my husband and I have taken a few bus group tours over the years.  Even though bus tours can have their downsides, we've found them to be very rewarding.  Despite having to wake up early every morning, we were happy to see all the villages and cities that we did on each tour.  Each day we would cover a lot of ground and get to see many hot tourist spots plus get some time for ourselves.  One of the downsides of group tours is having a tight set schedule of sights to see.  During the day every stop is timed.  Sometimes we would stay out late at night but for the most part, we tried not to since we knew we had to get up very early the next day.  In our tours, we would only stay in each city for 1 or 2 nights at a time.  Thus, we would try to see as much as we could in each city and not get very much rest and relaxation.  I remember sleeping a lot on the bus.  I do, however, find bus tours to be enjoyable and would do one again in the future.
  In 2006 we did our Eastern Europe bus tour through Contiki.  Contiki is a tour company that provides vacation tours for people ages 18-35.  Before our trip we thought it would be a nice age range to be with.  Everyone would be our age and we would all want to go out at night and have fun.  We saw a lot on our tour and have a lot of fun memories however we decided to look at different tour companies for our next group tour.  We met some very nice people on our Eastern Europe tour but there was also the typical gossip and "cliques" that formed.  I was in my mid-twenties at the time but I was still amazed about how some of these people could party all night and get up and tour the next day.  One thing I have to say that I didn't like about our tour guide is that she didn't seem to have a lot of tolerance for young people even though she was in our age range as well.  She flat out told us that if we were not on the bus at a certain time, the bus would leave without us.  There was one guy that did get left behind one morning and he had to find his own transportation to catch up with us in Prague.  The 14 day Eastern Road bus tour can still be found on Contiki's website.  The travel route starts in Berlin and goes to Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow, Warsaw, and back to Berlin.  According to Contiki's website, you will pay $2,295 per person if you leave this September.  6 years ago we paid less for this trip.
  In 2008 we decided to try a different travel company so we booked a tour of Germany through Cosmos.  Cosmos provides tours for all age groups however in the 2 tours that we took through Cosmos, there were not any young children in our groups.  There were many older, retired people on our Cosmos tour and actually we liked hanging out with them better then we liked hanging out with the people our age.  They still liked to drink and go out at night but they drank more casually and were overall more laid back.  Our 12 day tour of Germany is currently called Highlights of Germany and is currently priced at $1,679 for a September departure date.  We traveled from Frankfurt to Cologne, to Hamburg, to Berlin, to Nuremberg, to Munich, to the Black Forest and back to Frankfurt.
  I forgot to mention before that almost all the people in our groups were from English speaking countries.  Americans, Canadians, Australians, and British made up a large part of our groups and there were also a few "Kiwis" or people from New Zealand.  In our 2006 Eastern Europe Contiki group I remember there was one really nice Italian girl and another girl that was Dutch.  Our tour guides and bus drivers all spoke English well and ranged from being Dutch and German to Canadian and Spanish.  
  Our last group bus tour was in 2010 for our honeymoon.  This tour was also through Cosmos and we again were probably the youngest in our group which suited us just fine.  It was 9 days from Madrid to Madrid and included overnight stops in Coimbra, Lisbon, and Seville. Current prices for September departures are $1,209 per person.  Even though the tours usually only stay overnight in larger cities, there are still plenty of smaller cities and villages that the buses stop in.  For example, in Portugal, one of the towns we stopped in was Fatima.  In 1917 Fatima is where 3 shepherd children saw the apparition of the Virgin Mary.  It is now a place of pilgrimage for many people.
  All in all, I think bus tours can be great depending on what you're looking to get out of a trip and what kind of person you are.  If you like to visit and see a lot every day of your trip then a bus tour is a great travel experience.  If you enjoy wandering around on your own and not being on a schedule, then a bus tour isn't something you'll particularly enjoy. 

       This is a photo of our 2010 Spain/Portugal tour group.  We met a lot of fun, nice people on this trip.

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