There’s an Irish motor coach tour (bus tour) for foodies, history buffs, golfers, ghost hunters, castle-lovers, even new-agers, but year after year tourists can’t resist the itinerary that has been bedazzled with the longest list of sites… no matter how many hours they’ll end up bumping around in the bus.
If you’re finding yourself wooed by the big-list tour, PUT DOWN THE BROCHURE! It’s those laundry list schedules that give bus tours a bad name. Instead, consider these tips when choosing a tour:
- Avoid “grand tours.” In tour operator talk, “grand tour” usually means “we’re-packing-in-more-than-we-should-because-people-like-to-see-a-really-long-checklist-of-places-they’ll-visit.” Instead, choose a tour that focuses on a region or theme, and although you won’t cover as much ground, you’ll actually see more. Fact is, if you want to “see it all,” you’ll need to extend your visit.
- Watch out for “bribed” tour guides. Although distilleries, crystal factories, and woolen mills can be fascinating stops, be on alert if every stop on your itinerary describes gift shops and souvenirs… some tour guides stick to places that offer kickbacks. The best tours also include experiences and access to things the average visitor might miss.
- Research your accommodations, meals, and other “extras.” Some travelers choose a tour solely on the itinerary and price. Looking a little deeper may help you avoid frustration with lackluster accommodations, sub par meals, unexpected add-on fees, or getting stuck with a crowd that is older or younger than you were expecting.
- Sign up for email updates. If you’re not sure when you plan to travel, but you’ve found some tour operators you like, sign up for their email list. They’ll let you know about specials and new tours. Discover Ireland also announces specials via email. Just remember to refer to #3 above when you find a deal.
- Don’t be afraid to travel solo. Tours attract a diverse group of people, so they can be a wonderful way to share your travel experience. Tour companies usually charge an extra “single suppliment” fee for solo travelers, but you can sometimes avoid this fee by booking at off-peak times or offering to “share” your accommodations with another traveler. And if you really want to go, pay the extra and take the tour you want.
- Extend your visit. Tour operators are happy to help you extend your stay a few days or weeks. This can give you extra time to see sites not covered on your tour, conduct some genealogical research, or visit with friends. If you’re leery about transportation, buses, trains, cabs, and day tours can get you where you want to go.
Do you have a bus tour tip? Add it to the comments.