Travel: Motorcoach Guided Tours and Trips

2021 update: I look forward to doing these motorcoach trips in the future.

Update to this post: Mary Ann and I took the 5 day 4 night bus tour to Virginia. We stayed at two great old hotels for two night each. This shorter trip was much better, we thought, than the longer bus trip.  However, we have decided that bus tours are not for us.  We loved the siteseeing but all that time on the bus and all the snacks while traveling didn’t leave us feeling too good about this type of travel.  But some people from our over 55 community love motorcoach guided tours, so give it a try and see what you think. I think the older seniors liked it better than the baby boomers. -Robert

Mary Ann and I just returned from a 10 day motorcoach tour titled “New Engalnd Fall Foliage Tour”.  Previously we did a 14 day motorcoach tour around Italy and a 10 day motocoach tour of Germany and Austria. Those two were long ago, so we really didn’t know what to expect of this trip.

A guided tour is when you travel with other travelers on a planned itinerary visiting several locations and visiting attractions along the way. With our motor-coach guided tour, we had two tour guides and a spouse of one of the guides that helped, along with the bus driver. Guided motorcoach tours are very popular with senior adults.

In our trip, we saw the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in Philadelphia, had lunch Quincy Market in Boston, ate Lobster at Boothbay Harbor in Maine and took a dinner cruise on Lake Champlain in Burlington VT.  Since it was a Fall Foliage Tour, we drove past the Smokey Mountains in NC, the White Mountains in NH, the Catskills in NY, and the drove the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.

Sounds exciting right? Yes, it was. It was also very frustrating and tiring at times. The tour operator replaced the tour guides at the last minute, so we were stuck with two people who didn’t know much about where we were going, so they had to try to read descriptions off the internet.

The trip was way too long as we logged 2900 miles and drove through 16 states in 10 days, resulting in two days of getting on the bus at 8am and not getting to the hotel until 8pm. Ugh!  This was hard on me as I usually walk every day and I missed that, as well as eating too much junk food, along with nicer dinners.

This was a local tour company out of Lula Georgia who was recommended to us by several people in our Active Adult Community, who had taken the shorter 3 or 4 day trips.  I can see there is a big difference in going on a shorter trip, rather than a longer one, especially when the latter is planned to cover 2900 miles!

Several experienced motorcoach fellow travelers told us these problems would never happen on a guided tour with a company like Collette Tours and Road Scholar Educational Tours.  There is also Grayline, American Express and Trafalgar. While our tour was not cheap, those companies charge more and apparently deliver more also.  Their schedules are less rushed and the guides are better informed. Looks like they offer higher quality hotels also, but there is nothing wrong with the Hampton Inns and Holiday Inns we stayed at.

On our tour, we had 44 fellow travelers and the 3 from the tour company, leaving only about 3 empty seats. All of us were age 55+ or better. Only four of us were from our Active Adult Community.There were lots of single women. I was only one of ten men on the trip.

You get to meet a lot of interesting people when you travel 2900 miles with them. We felt like true survivors at the end of our trip.

I am pretty sure we won’t be doing another 10 day bus trip anytime soon, but we would not rule out taking a shorter tour.  Also there is the idea of flying to a location and then taking a shorter tour. That sounds like a good idea. On our trip,  the return from VT to Atlanta was like taking a commuter bus trip. I wish we hah just flown back.

So taking shorter trips or using higher quality tour companies are options worth exploring.

Motorcoach tours are better than driving yourself and a good way to see a bunch of sites on one trip. They have their place, but I think we like a more relaxing pace. Maybe that’s why we have taken over 25 cruises.

Robert Fowler

PS: If you do take a motocoach trip, you may want to bring along these items.
Head pillow (we got our at Bed, Bath & Beyond at our first stop)
Bad support pillow – if you need one.
Small blanklet or throw, as they keep it cool
Backpack to keep under the seat with your supplies
Cup holder hanger