Bus tours are guided tours with the itineraries being dictated by a tour guide. While taking bus tours might be a great way to enrich your travel experiences, there are pitfalls you should be aware of.
The last time I took a “Bus Tour” was over 15 years ago when I travelled to the Eastern part of the United States. Back then, it was a 4-day trip with my entire family. Typically, I tried to avoid taking these kinds of tours due to their notorious reputations. I preferred to travel by car to get full enjoyment out of the trips.
So why would anyone want to join one of these so called “Ducklings Tour Groups”? There are a number of apparent advantages – Major attractions are covered, accommodations are arranged, driving and parking issues are taken care of. Disadvantages? We will get into that in a minute.
Recently, I took a trip down to the East Coast of Canada on a “Bus Tour” and experienced the life of a duckling once again. This gives me the opportunity to compare the trip to the one I took over a decade ago.
“Ducklings” are members of the tour group. The Tour Guide rode herd on the flock of tourists under his charge and dictate the schedule, the eating facilities and the accommodations. Typically, attractions are crammed into a tight schedule and stoppages to explore each attraction is limited to under one hour. This type of “hurry-along” strategy is a necessity to over-stack the schedule with attractions. Apparently, some tourists only want to take a photo in front of the attractions to show their friends and relative that “they were there”.
For those who planned to take such tours for the first time, they must understand this inherent characteristic of the package. If you want to spend extra time on time-consuming attractions like Art Galleries and Museums, this is not the tour to join!
The routine starts every morning at 6 o'clock in the morning when breakfast is self-served. By seven o'clock, everyone and their luggage will get onto the coach. Unlike the Marines in action, you will be left behind if you cannot make it to the pick-up points! The coach will roll out and travel for two to three hours before stopping for public washrooms either en-route to the next attraction or arriving at one. While there is a washroom on the coach, the use of it was discouraged particularly for sit-down events. Strong bladders controls are required for these long distance travels!
Since a majority of the group are of Chinese origins, most meals are arranged at buffet restaurants with a typical time allotment of one hour. Do not expect a relaxing meal in such a time frame. I notice that many tour groups use the same restaurant and that meal times are co-ordinated to avoid conflicts. This means that no additional food will be supplied half way through the meal. Eat early and fast is the only way to go.
When you sign up for the tour, the price quoted will not include meals and some of the attractions. Taking on the full meal plan doubled our package of just under $500 for 7 days to over $1000. it is almost impossible to opt out of the meal plan as it will take time for you to go to nearby restaurants and come back to catch the coach. Overall, the restaurants are of passing grades but encountering a good one becomes a bonus.
Next time, we will follow up on the pitfalls of these “Bus tours”.
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