On Touring by Bus

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My recent blog break (in May) centered around a vacation. I not only was a 2-week vacation visiting numerous national parks and monuments, the trip was our first-ever bus tour. My wife says she entered the venture with low expectations. For me, I started the journey with two angsts; people being late for departures and living out of a suitcase.

Although one tour is not a reliable sample, below is a list of positive and negatives about bus tours. Besides, I wanted to get this post out for Jo, ahead of her first bus tour.

Positive 1: Vacation planning is time-consuming – especially a two-week trip to a new area covering many miles. With bus tours, the tour company does all the planning. From all the hotels, numerous meals, special activities, setting the times, load/unloading luggage, and more, this long journey required little planning on our part.

The Downside: A bus tour resembles a forced march! Travellers are on the tour’s schedule – not theirs! “Instructions as the following are common: “Breakfast starts at 6, bags out by 7, and be on the bus by 8.” – “We are stopping for x minutes, so be back on the bus by 2:20.”

Positive 2: The tour guide provides the pertinent information of the area. Landmarks, history, people, culture, wildlife, geology, and more. A positive, knowledgeable tour guide makes a big difference. A major thumbs up to ours (which veteran bus tourists confirmed his excellence).

The Downside: Just like cruising, visitors are “in port” long enough for a taste – a sampling – not an immersion. All the major parks have much to offer, but we weren’t there long enough to take in everything. Like cruising, that is the nature of the beast. Given the available time, the tour director planned well so we could see, experience, and learn as much as possible.

Positive 3: Besides having a tour guide providing information, someone else is driving! Travelers now have the time to do as they please – read, sleep, watch, write, photograph, chat, or just relax.

The Downside: Although the tour company sets the schedule with the tour guide (who has some discretion) implementing the plan, travelers are at the mercy of fellow travelers. If one person is late, everyone is late because the rest are waiting. We were lucky because our group was very timely most of the time. However, our tour guide told me this is not always the case.

Positive 4: Our bus was more comfortable than we anticipated. A smooth ride. Ample leg room. Sufficient overhead storage area. Reclining seats. Although a toilet was present, the tour director encouraged us to only use it for necessities – so we stopped about every 90 minutes as off-the-bus breaks.

The Downside: When cruising, the ship travels in the evening and overnight to the next port while passengers are entertained and sleep in the same room. Bus tours travel during the day. Given our aggressive itinerary, we saw a lot of moving land.

Positive 5: We ate well – very well! It seems two of the differences in tour companies are the types of hotels and the number of included meals. The old saying “You get what you pay for” is very fitting. In our case, all breakfasts, several lunches, and about half the dinners were included.

The Downside: Yes, we ate well, but the breakfasts were very similar. While the hotels had more than the cheap continental breakfast, many in the group got tired of seeing scrambled eggs – but some breakfast offerings had greater variety than others. Plus, (it took me a while to figure out this one), adjusting one’s eating schedule each day is important. Breakfast time is relatively consistent, but lunch can vary from early, normal, or late, which will affect dinner. So some meal planning would be helpful.

Positive 6: Given that we had 14 different rooms in 13 hotels over 15 nights, we were happy with our accommodations. No – they were not a string of 5-star hotels – but the hotels weren’t budget-oriented either. In Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, we stay within the park (not in the surrounding area). The lodge at Custer State Park in South Dakota had an interesting history as the Summer White House for President Calvin Coolidge. The Rustic Inn in Jackson Hole, Wyoming was my favorite. Their individual cabin concept was unique and the room are beautiful.

The Downside: Living out of a suitcase isn’t easy – well, until one learns a routine for themselves – which we did. Each of us had our toiletries bag in the overhead bin, then set out (and put away) clothes before going to bed.

The Bottom Line: Our first bus tour involved an aggressive agenda over 2800 miles (4500 km). Not only did it exceed our expectations, we were very pleased with the our company – Globus – and yes, because the positives of this experience outweigh the negatives, we would take another bus tour. Is bus touring for everyone? Absolutely not.

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58 thoughts on “On Touring by Bus

  1. I appreciate your honest perspective on bus tours. As you say, not for everyone, but it sounds like you had a good experience. And your map shows you covered quite a few of my favorite parks! I look forward to seeing some of your photos!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree–having things already planned out for you is a huge plus. I’ve done both bus trips and cruise trips, and while it’s nice to be on dry land, the living-out-of-a-suitcase part is difficult. At least on a ship, you can leave your things unpacked for the duration of the trip. That being said, my husband and I would love to take a land trip through Ireland. All those yummy pubs…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s funny… I ran into my late father’s best friend at a funeral on Saturday. Hadn’t seen Sonny and Irene for years. They travel extensively and were trying to convince me to take a bus tour one day… still not convinced, but maybe one day…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Found your description of the pluses and minuses of bus tours very interesting. Can’t help wondering how much time you spent on the bus relative to the time spent visiting the different sites. As for living out of a suitcase, but that is certainly part of traveling whether on the bus or any other transportation, and I really learned to really enjoy that aspect of traveling. Sounds like you’re going to have more tours in the future.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Shimon,
      That is an interesting question, and I have no idea. Not sure I can recollect each day to figure that out. Even though I prefer cruising on the water, I imagine we will try another one in the future!

      Like

  5. Glad your group was timely and I like how you say downside and not negative – I might borrow this in the future- it has a classy vibe it,. and love how you give details for various readers to glean what they will – looks like an awesome 2800 miles and worth the suitcase shuffle

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I appreciate your thoughtful reflection and the pluses and minuses of a bus tour.
    The being late part reminded me of my trips to Italy (one with each daughter and other students). They weren’t exactly bus tours, but we did travel by bus to different destinations, staying in cities for a few days. One evening we went from Florence to Pisa, and two parents didn’t show up at the designated time. After waiting for a bit, the bus left. The two women later showed up there–they had been shopping.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Merril,
      Thanks for sharing!!! In a way, your group as a private bus tour (not open to the public). Those two women were selfish and disrespectful to the entire group! grrrrr …. Hope you enjoyed the region of my roots!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I did not particularly care for those women. That was the first trip. I mostly talked to the teachers and one grad student who was a chaperone. On the second trip, I shared a room with a wonderful woman who I’m friends with. We went to some different places on each trip, but both times we had the same excellent tour guide.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I have said to my husband for years, that when he retires, this is what we will be doing. It sounds like you have a wonderful trip, I like how you wrote both positives and negatives. I look forward to our trip but not for a few years yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I´d say the pros beat the cons! 😀 a very well presented post and loved how you throroughly explained it… I am glad you enjoyed your trip. Sounds wonderful dear Frank. Sending love & best wishes 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  9. AFA:
    That first image of a bus driving through the desert landscape looks very ominous, as though a giant bus-eating creature is about to appear over the horizon and devour all the bus occupants.
    I agree with the comments about the advantage of cruises – your “hotel” stays with you – over bus tours. However, if you are considering an overseas bus tour, I highly recommend that you take a look at Scholarly Sojourns – small groups (no more than 16 people), great itineraries and exceptional service.
    C-a-L

    Liked by 2 people

    • C-A-L,
      Wow … never heard of Scholarly Sojourns. Checked out the site and WOW! Great concept!!!! Definitely something to consider … so thanks for sharing!

      I loved searching Getty Images to use in my little corner of the world. Ominous giant, bus-eating creature is exactly what I had in mind!

      Like

  10. Maybe it all depends on your time allowed, your energy level, and your objective.
    “Forced March” is accurate – but having knowledgable guides is a big plus – along with someone else driving.
    As long as everyone on the4 tour is congenial and respectful, it works.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mouse,
      Time is the first consideration. After all, one can’t do 15 nights if they only have 7. One can’t immerse in every place is they only have 15 nights. Keep in mind that unless one is selecting participants for a private tour, one has no influence on who joins the tour. We realize we were lucky with this group. Thanks for chiming in!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks for this post, Frank! I feel less apprehensive as Husband and I go on our first bus tour in a couple of weeks. The most positive for us was that we did not have to plan or drive. Usually when we travel we make all the arrangements ourselves and can be very independent. Our first bus trip will only be six days so it will be a short commitment. Thanks for sharing your experience. Hopefully ours will be positive and will be able to say we would take another bus trip. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jo,
      Success!!! I kept wondering about when I would publish this post, but knew I had to be sooner than later for you. Simply wanted to give you something to think about. Then again, each tour is different because the people are different. Good luck …. and let me know! (I’ll ask about the trip later.) 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  12. You really covered quite a bit of scenic territory. I recall a bus tour taken in Mallorca a few years ago and one Swiss woman showed up late back at the bus. Man, did she hear it from the über punctual Germans! LOL She was never late again. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad and in my books, not driving usually outweighs the negative. 😇

    Liked by 1 person

  13. You are a great promoter of travel and world cultures, which is so much needed in this time of “America First.” I especially like how you point out the positives associated with different modes of travel. I remember back in the day when you and your wife would fly to a city and just walk around the town for several days soaking up all there was to see. That continues to influence me.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I think your pros and cons are really balanced, and bus touring does appeal to me, at least you describe it! Driving into the National Parks on your own steam isn’t entirely fuss-free! At peak times we’ve had trouble finding a place to park the car, and then I’ll see a bus pull in and the passengers have a front row seat to some of the best views. This would have been a grueling trip by car, so whatever you lost in certain freedoms, I think you gained in other comforts. I think it looks like a great trip!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I think I’ve done one or two bus tours. I didn’t mind living out of a suitcase – a backpack, in my case, it’s the inflexibility of the schedule and itinerary that’s a big downside – for example, in Barcelona, the tour took us to a corrida show but not to Sagrada Familia a few blocks away , so we left the show after the 2nd fight (out of 6) to see the cathedral on our own.
    Another downside – which, I think, you had avoided, was that that tour would make daily stops at “this great store with amazing and inexpensive souvenirs you will have an hour to shop”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • X,
      Thanks for sharing your experience Bus tours have schedules — that’s why the are tours. A bit of advice for people not wanting that schedule – don’t take the tour! As for me avoiding a downside – nope – I didn’t avoid it because it wasn’t an issue.

      Like

  16. Good post on the topic, Frank. I’m sure I would not like a bus tour. I also do not like any cruising on water. I’m not big on flying. Now, the train is something I could do for an extended period of time. I wonder if there are train tours?

    Like

    • Resa,
      Yes – there are train tours – but the ones I know are 1-day journeys. Then again, I know there are train trips, such as one across Canada!

      Meanwhile, just like cruises aren’t for everyone, neither are bus tours – but I can say we were pleasantly surprised!

      Like

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