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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

REVIEW OF TRAFALGAR TOURS--WORKED FOR US

Sometime in the mid 1990s, Ireland launched an incredibly alluring television advertising campaign, and my mother was hooked. She, my son Michael, and I were off to Ireland. Not as easy as it sounds because my mom had trouble walking, and we needed a wheelchair. I did a lot of checking before we booked with Trafalgar tours. It was the perfect choice.

Trafalgar's competence was exhibited in many ways. Our tour's licensed professional guide was extraordinarily knowledgeable. Our driver had foresight and was caring without making my mother feel beholding. By the time mom was off the bus, if this was a "wheelchair stop," he'd have it open for her. I remember specifically how good she felt never having to ask and never feeling she was a burden to our driver or to the other people on the tour. In fact, she made a friend of another older woman on that trip who remained a friend until the end of their lives. It was a wonderful, informative, very professional experience.

One other important point for me was the number of tour companions we met from other countries, particularly winter escapees from Australia. We met other Americans, Europeans, Canadians, and New Zealanders too, and that was an added bonus. Different points of view and different expectations helped round out our trip and opened us all to new perspectives.

When Rob and I looked to plan our fall 2007 trip to Ireland, I turned first to Trafalgar, but I did not stop there. I checked into all the tour companies--their itineraries coupled with their schedules, their services, their costs, their histories, and the reviews that other tourists posted on the net. I also did a lot of talking with our own travel agency’s tour experts at www.TAT.globaltravel.com. At one point, for instance, I thought we might visit Ireland, Scotland and Wales on this trip, but eventually settled into Ireland and Scotland to avoid the rushed travel pace we sought to avoid. Sometimes less is more.

Why did I settle with Trafalgar and CIE as the two final candidates? It was primarily a matter of pace and slight differences in itineraries. Both offered several multi-night stays--a chance to unwind and relax a bit. Mornings began at the same early hour, but coming back to the same room on occasion does help. Trafalgar also made a stop on the Isle of Skye, and Allison recommended that as being a bit different. It was, and we were glad.

In choosing a tour company:
1. Request brochures from all possible suppliers and read them carefully

2. Understand the costs and what the company is including. Are their extra trips included in the basic price or is it more like a cruise's shore excursions? (Trafalgar's brochure suggested an extra $60.00 a day for optional side trips, and that amount turned out to be quite accurate.)

3. Look at travel books (Frommer's, Fodors, etc.) and check their suggested itineraries against the tour company's itinerary. Tours vary, and you want to make sure your tour includes the sites you want to visit. Check the internet too.

3. Consider the pace at which you want to travel.
We liked the number of multiple night stays. We weren't interested in "If it's Tuesday this must be Belgium." A tour is usually fully planned, but you need time to "digest." Staying in one place for multiple nights keeps you relatively close to a center point, meaning less time on the coach. That's a nice refreshing break

4. Think about what you're looking for in your trip. A tour, unlike self-guided travel, does isolate you from the local people in many ways. You can read (http://thirdagetraveler.blogspot.com/2007/12/ireland-day-9.html) , for instance, about Rob's conversation with a Northern Irishman in a pub, but our interaction with Scotsmen and Irishmen was rather limited. If you choose a tour for its other benefits, think about the population to which the company caters. Do you want everyone to be just like you or would you prefer a broader mix of people and a chance to look at the same sights through other perspectives. On my two tour experiences, some of the best moments have been sitting with new friends--this last time from Michigan, Canada, and New Zealand--as well as lovely conversations with people from other places.

Trafalgar Tours works for us. Some of the people on our tour used this company many times and came back because of the high level of satisfaction. Trafalgar’s professionalism in planning, their informed, highly efficient and personable tour guides educating and easing us comfortably through lands and cultures, their choice of hotels and itinerary all combine to make the trip something highly memorable. I'm not sure when we will next do a tour, but I definitely will place Trafalgar high on my list of possibilities. Make sure to check them out.

I’d be happy to book Trafalgar tours through my TATravel Agency, and by calling the toll free number, you can speak to tour specialists who will help you compare different possibilities to meet your needs. If a tour is your way to go, we can help you out.
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