Meet our writers

 







Travel Logs July 2014

Try A Motor Coach Tour

By SueAnn Carpenter

We'd never seen the British Isles and chose a motor coach 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.

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. We've 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 motor coach 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 motor coach was clean, quiet, comfortable, 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 highly organized. Our young, peppy, knowledgeable, and concerned 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, U.S., Singapore, and Malaysia. There were young professionals, 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 couple was obese, and 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 many became friends, exchanged emails and even made plans to later visit each other.

Although the bus had a bathroom, the first day 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 put on the bus.) There was plenty of time to return to the room, brush your teeth and relax before the morning exodus. Everyone had a different opinion of carry-on luggage, but each person was responsible for it, whether choosing to carry it or leave it on at each stop. So ours consisted of a string-type bag/backpack 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. That's it. Although some people stumbled on with bulky cases the first day, they learned that less hassle is better traveling and quickly made adjustments.

Even with our large luggage, we'd packed lightly, with four pair of dark slacks with mix-and-match turtlenecks, sweaters, and jackets. Dressing in layers made adjustments to temperatures simple and easy.

The tour director constantly 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 to the sound of her voice. Surprisingly, she never considered sleeping an affront and thoroughly approved. She felt because of the diversity of the travelers, everything would not be for everyone. We were to pick and choose what appealed, and to make our trip personal while limited by the boundaries of a "group tour." As we approached a photogenic site or bathroom stop, she'd chirp, "wakey, wakey." Although some stayed on, it was an opportunity for others to jump off the bus for fresh air, a leg stretch, a cup of coffee, a bathroom break, or a closer look at the surroundings.

There were always excursion options (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 -- one was a boat cruise on Lake Windermere -- a nice respite from the bus.

Upon arriving at each hotel, our group's keys were handed out immediately in a designated area bypassing the loathed 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 to be covered and make notations on city maps that were given out. Although we had knowledgeable local guides pointing out attractions, it was refreshing to find time to get away from the crowd. Lunch time 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, and watch the human parade pass by. Some obviously had black belts in shopping, but whatever appealed, it was always possible. At each stop, specific directions for each of our requests were given. Like excited teenagers out on a first date, we hustled off noting that curfew was at a predetermined time and place.

We totaled over 1500 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 motor coach 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 motor coach tour can be the perfect fit.

 

SueAnn Carpenter has written numerous articles for newspapers and magazines. She loves to travel. And to relax, she paints portraits of pets and captures her travels in paintings. She has a new website, www.petwatercolorist.com.

Meet SueAnn