Coach trips aren’t just for your Nan anymore – fun, modern tours let you see the world with no more planning than how much spending money to take
You know the feeling – you flick through your favourite magazine, see an article about this year’s must-see destination, jump onto Thomas Cook and search for a package deal for two. Only problem is, you’re single, your friends are all out of money slash annual leave and, while your mother would be more than keen for a week in a Seychelles, it’s not the free-spirited summer hols you had in mind.
Lots of full-time workers are now embracing their inner students, using sabbaticals, job breaks or redundancies to grab a backpack and travel across the continent. Why go for a week when you can go for six? Just you and the open road with endless possibilities.
But what about those looking for a simple two-week break to tick off the experiences from your Lonely Planet travellers guide? Or those, including myself, who love the idea of being a free-spirited world explorer, but don’t quite have the guts (or the expertise) to organise a solo trip around the world?
Cue the rise of the Solo Organised Tours.
More and more companies are jumping on this minibus bandwagon, and there’s now the possibility of going anywhere you want in the world with no more planning needed than where your passport is and how much spending money to take.
The premise works similarly to the ‘coach tours’ that your Gran goes on to Venice, but far more modern and Instagram-worthy – the trips include a tour leader, normally from the country of destination, often a school-bus style van and a carefully structured itinerary that means you can see as much as is physically possible within your squeezed-annual-leave time away. These trips usually cater for around 12 people, so whether you’re travelling as a complete solo, or have signed up with your other-half or best friend in tow, there’s a big mix of people from all around the world that you set up a little life with for a few weeks.
Companies like Intrepid cater for any age, including organised family breaks to obscure parts of the word, while Contiki specialises in the 18-35 market, and specialist trips, such as Trek America (and my personal fav – see my last travel blog), hone their focus on different parts of the world.
Depending on where you go, you’re looking at roughly £1,000 for two weeks (land price only), but this includes the full itinerary, the full use of a tour guide, all transportation and accommodation, whether you opt for the luxury hotel options, chill out in hostels or commit to the full wilderness experience on a camping tour.
While this does sound a little too school-trip for some travellers, the joy with these tours is the sheer amount of activities they include. One day can see you ticking off multiple stops from the brochures, including places you certainly wouldn’t find on Trip Advisor. With expert knowledge from local guides, you get to see genuine parts of a country that’s inevitably worth exploring – with some definite tourist spots thrown in for good measure.
For solo travellers, there’s the full support system of not only the guide and organisers but by being in a group of like-minded people who you bond and hang out with. There’s always options for down time if the community-spirit gets a bit much for you, and the activities are all completely tailored to you – while a lot of them are included in the tour, there’s always the option to skip it and go explore the town instead. On free days, the guides will set up 2-3 activities and you simply have to pick which one is more exciting. While the structure is there if you simply to want to sit back and go with the flow, the joy with these tours is they are all there for you, the traveller, so you can tailor it to exactly what you want. Plus, by embracing the solo-and-free-spirited nature, you get Me time. You get time to do what you want to do, without compromising with friends or family. You get to explore how you want to, with time to sit and get your own thoughts in check – if you have time, that is.
So next time you’re scouring the travel brochures or dreaming over your lunch break, consider looking for a solo trip – don’t be putting off your dream destinations just because you’re waiting for someone to explore it with you. Get out there and do it now.