If you've never thought about taking a coach tour, it might be time to reconsider your preconceptions and climb aboard for a holiday on wheels.
COACH TOURING HAS CHANGED
You know how hotels and cruise ships have upped standards from bare bones to flash over the last decades? Coach touring is doing the same. It has become more varied, more luxurious, more imaginative, and is attracting a wider range of guests. Numbers are booming. And coaches will take you to an ever-increasing number of destinations ever more tailored to particular regions, or themes such as food and wine.
YOU CAN TRAVEL IN LUXURY
If you equate a tour coach with a public bus, you probably anticipate discomfort. Yet tour coaches can cost upwards of $400,000 a pop and have everything from decent legroom to toilet, Wi-Fi and bottled water. If you go for premium tours, such as the all-inclusive, concierge-led Luxury Gold, you'll also be staying in five-star hotels, dining in lovely restaurants or maybe even opting for a chartered scenic flight.
IT'S BETTER THAN DRIVING YOURSELF
Everyone knows the stress of driving out of an airport into a country of unknown road rules, indecipherable signs and unfamiliar speed limits – never mind what side of the road you should be on. And have you tried driving through Rome or Saigon, working out how to use a Czech parking meter, or navigating a Swiss mountain road? Driving is energy sapping and nerve-racking, and nobody needs that on a holiday.
YOU CAN ENJOY THE VIEW
Admit it, you spend a lot of time behind the wheel admiring the backs of trucks. But you won't miss the passing scenery in a coach. Windows are large and you have an elevated seat above hedges and vehicles. You won't want to look away along Italy's dizzyingly scenic Amalfi Coast or Iceland's amazing Route 1. And in India, the view down onto passing street life is seldom short of fascinating.
YOU WON'T BE RUSHING
It's a misconception that coach tours rush you around 10 countries in a week. Though some do, many such as Insight Vacations' Easy Pace and Trafalgar Tours' At Leisure have more relaxed itineraries that might include a regional focus, free time, late starts and even two-day stopovers. What's more, the likes of entrance and concert tickets are organised well in advance, so there's no headless-chicken act to be first in a queue.
YOU'LL MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
You won't be wasting a minute studying maps, seeking out parking spaces and finding restaurants. Remember how time-consuming just getting from A to B can be? None of that either. Coach itineraries have been developed from years of experience to cover the chief sights without wasting time. The result is more time out at the gelato shop, along the shopping street or in that museum you've always dreamed of seeing.
IT ISN'T JUST ABOUT WINDOW GAZING
Coach touring isn't just about passive looking any more, nor just about ticking off sightseeing boxes. Contemporary coach tours often provide the opportunity to meet locals, from huskie breeders to olive farmers. You might visit markets with a chef, opt to dine in a local home or go on an indigenous walking tour. AAT Kings will even have you camping in the outback, swimming in Kimberley gorges or snorkelling in Queensland.
COACH TOURS ARE GOOD VALUE
Don't underestimate the purchasing power of a big company when it comes to airfares, hotel nights, tour guides and entrance fees. As an individual, you might struggle to achieve the same inclusions at the same price. Also, the upfront tour package price allows enables you to set your budget before you leave, and avoid common holiday cost overruns from items (such as petrol and road tolls) that you mightn't have considered.
YOU'LL MEET INDEPENDENT TRAVELLERS
You're living in the past if you think coach travellers are either partying backpackers or ancient, unimaginative folk hobbling from bar to bingo hall. Maybe once, long ago, coach tours were for inexperienced, timid travellers. These days passengers are a varied bunch and, while many are retirees, they're looking for convenience, not mollycoddling. Tours are now offering more active options, more flexitime for individual exploration, and occasional free evenings for your own local dining.
THE COMPANY IS GREAT
It's easy to meet new people in the small-group, confined surrounds of a coach, particularly as many single travellers like coach touring for its sense of security. Camaraderie often builds quickly. After all, there's a good chance that your fellow travellers will be like-minded people. Meals can be convivial, and there's usually no kids to disturb the equilibrium. Some guests become friends enough to organise their next tour together.