Seniors' tours of the U.K.
England tours for mature travelers
Sometimes you just want the comfort, ease, and companionship that an escorted tour can offer—and the companies listed in the "Links" section cater specifically to folks over 50 or 60 (though, frankly, most escorted tours that aren't specifically aimed at youger travelers tend to skew older).
Should I travel alone or join a tour
Do you like to let your bus driver worry about traffic while you sit in comfort and listen to a tour guide explain everything you see? Or do you prefer to rent a car and follow your nose, even if you don't catch all the highlights? Do you like to have lots of events planned for each day, or would you rather improvise as you go along?
Or do you like it somewhere in between, with some of the travel details planned for you so you can devote your energies to planning your daily sightseeing? The answers to these questions will determine whether you should choose a guided tour or a vacation package or travel à la carte under your own steam and ambition.
The escorted tour
Some people love escorted tours. They free you from figuring out complicated train schedules or spending lots of time behind the wheel; they take care of all the details of booking hotels, (often) choosing restaurants, and deciding where to go and how long to stay, and they walk you through—or bus you past—every attraction with an accompanying monologue on its history and importance.
You know your costs up front, and there aren't many surprises. Escorted tours take you to the maximum number of sights in the minimum amount of time with the least amount of hassle.
Other people need more freedom and spontaneity; they can't stand escorted tours. They prefer to discover a destination by themselves, and don't mind getting caught in a thunderstorm without an umbrella or finding that a recommended restaurant in the guidebook is no longer in business. For them, that's just the adventure of travel.
Escorted tours tend to ride comfortably and unimaginatively in the deepest ruts of the beaten path, eschewing anything novel and treating the bulk of Europe like so many living postcards to be ogled from the tinted windows of an air-conditioned bus. Big bus tours tend to write off even the most interesting sights if a big parking lot is not nearby.
Some questions to ask if you want an escorted tour
Before you sign up for an escorted tour, you need to ask some questions.
- What is the cancellation policy? Do you have to put a deposit down? Can the company cancel the trip if they don't get enough people? How late can you cancel if you are unable to go? When do you pay? Do you get a refund if you cancel? How about if they cancel?
- How jam-packed is the schedule? Do they try to fit 25 hours' worth of activities into one day, or is there ample time for relaxing by the pool or shopping? If you don't enjoy getting up at 7am every day and not returning to your hotel until 6 or 7pm at night, certain whirlwind escorted tours may not be for you.
- How big is the group? The smaller the group, the more flexible the schedule, and the less time you'll spend waiting for people to get on and off the bus. Also, the larger the group, the more some quaint little village will treat you like an invading barbarian horde to be fended off by throwing large amounts of overpriced souvenirs in your general direction. Tour operators may be evasive about group size until they know how many people have signed on, but they should be able to give you a rough estimate. Some tours have a minimum group size and may cancel the tour if they come up short.
- What is included in the tour? Don't assume anything. You may have to pay to get yourself to and from the airport. A box lunch may be included in an excursion, but drinks might cost extra. Beer might be included but not wine. How much choice do you have? Can you opt out of certain activities, or are you committed for a full day? Are all your meals planned in advance? Can you choose your entree at dinner, or does everybody get the same chicken cutlet?
- How much is "optional?" Many tours look cheap but are larded with the phrases "optional excursion" and "optional tour." That's brochure-speak for "you have to pay more if you want to do this."