Motorcoach tours are castles on wheelsFeb 22, 2021 04:21PM ● By Sue Ann Carpenter
In our younger days, we loved to research and discover a place at our own pace, in our own way. We used to scoff at tours because people seemed like a pack of trained mice as the guide pointed, jabbered and marched the group around. We’d shake our heads and agree it was a disagreeable way to travel.
We now stand corrected and humbled. My husband and I have learned there is a place for every kind of travel for every age, need and wallet. We’d never seen the British Isles and chose a motorcoach overview of Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England. We wanted it to be easy: We didn’t want to schlep heavy luggage and deal with checking in and out of rooms. We wanted to relax and focus on the highlights of new discoveries, and to be able to venture out on our own when the spirit hit us.
To our delight, our motorcoach was clean, quiet and comfortable. It even had Wi-Fi and a seasoned driver focused on safety. Because these professional drivers are regulated by how many hours can be driven daily, tours are very organized. Our peppy, knowledgeable tour director answered everyone’s questions and gave elaborate advice. Some found it annoying at times, while others felt she was a godsend when they needed specific information.
Our tour members were from Australia, Canada, the U.S., Singapore and Malaysia. There were young professionals and retirees (one with a 12-year-old grandson). Some were married, some just friends. Some had traveled widely, some for the first time. Most were in good shape, although one woman had MS. We were a friendly group, with some partnering for shared interests (viewing a castle together, sharing a meal, etc.). By the end of the trip, we’d exchanged emails with some of our newfound friends and even made plans to later visit each other.
Although the bus had a bathroom, we were immediately told it was only for liquids. Everyone glanced nervously at the tiny, hidden space denoted only for emergencies. With a sigh of relief, I can say that it was never used and frankly never necessary because there were plenty of bathroom stops along the route.
The days were full (10-12 hours), starting with a full buffet breakfast. At the same time, you’d set your large bags outside your door for them to be put on the bus. There was plenty of time to return to the room, brush your teeth and relax before the morning exodus.
We carried a drawstring bag/backpack with us that was easily slipped on, leaving the hands free. Inside were our knit hats, scarves, plastic rain parka, camera, passport/money packs, lip balm, candy, gum and bottled water. Although some people stumbled on the bus with bulky cases the first day, they soon learned that less hassle makes for better traveling and quickly adjusted.
Even with our large luggage, we’d packed lightly, with four pairs of dark slacks with mix-and-match turtlenecks, sweaters and jackets. Dressing in layers made adjustments to temperatures simple and easy.
The tour director rambled esoteric information about our destination or the area passing outside the windows. While this was an advantage for those with an aversion for research, others on the bus dozed off to the sound of her voice. As we approached a photogenic site or bathroom stop, she’d chirp, “Wakey, wakey.”
There were always options for excursions (we hadn’t bought any in advance, thinking we’d decide at the last moment as to how we felt and whether it appealed). This worked perfectly. There was no problem with last-minute decisions and they were a nice respite from the bus.
Interior of Cardiff Castle in Wales.
Upon arriving at each hotel, our group’s keys were handed out immediately in a designated area bypassing the check-in procedure. We were able to go directly to our room where our bags were waiting. This left extra time and energy to explore the city, or just relax in the room.
At the start of each day on the bus, we’d consult our itineraries and make notes on city maps that were given out. Although we had knowledgeable guides pointing out attractions, it was refreshing to find time away from the crowd.
Lunch was always on our own, with plenty of time to check out an ancient castle in more detail, or just sit in a relaxing cafe, sample local delicacies, shop or watch the human parade pass by. At each stop, we hustled off like teenagers out on a first date, noting that curfew was at a predetermined time and place.
Perfect for the young-at-heart
We totaled more than 1,500 anxiety-free miles in our “traveler’s castle on wheels” (not including two Irish Sea ferry crossings). Best of all was the structure of the itinerary, with free time that enabled us to do things on our own. We ended up with a thorough overview of so many things enhanced by convenience, safety and the pleasure of a memorable vacation.
Now that we know the ropes and have rested, we’re discussing other places we’ve never seen. We’ve learned there are motorcoach tours with the same attention to detail and comfort almost anywhere you can dream of visiting. We’re convinced that for the not-so-young but young-at-heart travelers, a motorcoach tour can be the perfect fit.
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