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experiences of major guided tour companies

experiences of major guided tour companies

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Old Jun 16, 18, 1:21 pm
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experiences of major guided tour companies

In view of a recent experience traveling in India with a major guided tour company (Overseas Adventure Travel), I thought to come here to FlyerTalk to see what the experiences of others has been with them and comparable guided tour companies (Tauck; Abercrombie and Kent; etc.) To my surprise, I haven't come upon any threads about this topic, which I would think would have been discussed a number of times. Am I going about a search the wrong way, or has the topic just not been one that FTers have had occasion or interest in going into here?
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Old Jun 16, 18, 5:03 pm
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I'm guessing a lot of the posters here travel personally with points and miles earned via work travel.

I've been curious about a few of those companies myself, Gate1 in particular, so I'm hoping some good posts show up in this thread. Some of their packages look pertty good, except I wish they had a few with some built in solo days to do your own thing at the end of the guided portion. I haven't seen any tour companies that seem to offer that.
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Old Jun 16, 18, 5:17 pm
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We travel internationally quite a bit, but this is not something we would do. We make our trips our own, and done our way. JMHO
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Old Jun 16, 18, 5:49 pm
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Originally Posted by smc333 View Post
I'm guessing a lot of the posters here travel personally with points and miles earned via work travel.

I've been curious about a few of those companies myself, Gate1 in particular, so I'm hoping some good posts show up in this thread. Some of their packages look pertty good, except I wish they had a few with some built in solo days to do your own thing at the end of the guided portion. I haven't seen any tour companies that seem to offer that.
only company I have been with is Lady Egypt for a 4.5 week Egypt and Jordan tour. It was absolutely fabulous and great price for a private car, driver and guide and every day or two on check in to a hotel we met the company organizer to go over things.

They had a suggested tour with popular sights then we just arranged it to suit. So it was relaxing we made many days a half or 3/4 day of sight seeing them blazed by pool. We had free days that the driver and guide were available and we could do nothing or whatever we wanted. I recall using one of those days to go back to the Egyptian Museum again.

Last edited by Annalisa12; Jun 16, 18 at 5:55 pm
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Old Jun 16, 18, 6:37 pm
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Originally Posted by itsme View Post
In view of a recent experience traveling in India with a major guided tour company (Overseas Adventure Travel), I thought to come here to FlyerTalk to see what the experiences of others has been with them and comparable guided tour companies (Tauck; Abercrombie and Kent; etc.) To my surprise, I haven't come upon any threads about this topic, which I would think would have been discussed a number of times. Am I going about a search the wrong way, or has the topic just not been one that FTers have had occasion or interest in going into here?
I am guessing that experiences with guided tour companies are more likely to be found in the Destinations /and/or Trip Reports forums. Thus, those looking to book an Africa Safari would search Africa Forum (as one example).
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Old Jun 18, 18, 6:13 am
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My first and only (so far) guided tour was with CIE - a trip of Scotland. I was invited to go and would not have otherwise considered such a tour as I figured they would be filled with loud-mouthed Americans tossing McDonalds waste everywhere. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The trip was wonderful, the guide knew every rock and and twig in the country, and my fellow travelers liked to travel, had traveled a lot, and out of 32 people only one was even mildly annoying. The food, and I am not a foodie but I don't enjoy mediocre food, was good to great.

Yes, you have to go where the tour goes, but the pay-off is it is VERY relaxing to have someone else sweating details for a change, no waiting in lines, and you have a guide who knows what he is looking at and can impart way more info than you can generally get on your own.

CIE travels in the UK and Ireland and is an Irish company, I believe. I would highly recommend them if you decide to go this route.
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Old Jun 18, 18, 7:32 am
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I've travelled with Intrepid, Tucan and Explore. All are great options to see places that would otherwise be a hassle, and a lifetime of memories and connections.
Would I travel with a big bus tour company in Europe, probably not. But if I want to see Mongolia or Ethiopia in 2 weeks - give me a small group tour.
Even India, which I've travelled on my own in, and is easily doable, especially the more (unnecessary) money you are willing to throw at it, was a much easier travel experience in my group of 10, with a leader who took care of everything, the lines, the food, the transport.

Do some research on thorntree - that is more of a forum for travellers, FT is mainly focussed in points/chain hotel dwellers, and work flyers.
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Old Oct 29, 18, 11:05 am
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Many years ago my husband and I used Gate 1 for a trip to Thailand. Gate 1 has BOTH guided and independent packages. We booked an independent package which only included round trip airfare and hotel for 7 nights in Bangkok. Actually, we found Gate 1 to be extremely flexible because they allowed us to extend our trip to return 28 days rather than 7. The hotel in Bangkok was fine and we actually met a few other Gate 1 customers like ourselves who were doing their own thing so we got together and took a few day trips with them. After our 7 nights in Bangkok we traveled around Thailand by train, ferry and cheap flights on our own. The package saved us a few hundred dollars compared to us booking our own flight. Actually, I'm looking to use them again this coming summer because I have to arrange a trip to Europe with my extended family and so far I'm having a heck of a time trying to coordinate affordable flights from various departure airports. We've never taken a guided package tour (well, nothing more than a 1-day guided trip) so I can't comment about that.

Last edited by Bohemiana; Oct 29, 18 at 11:07 am Reason: add information
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Old Oct 29, 18, 1:21 pm
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Originally Posted by itsme View Post
In view of a recent experience traveling in India with a major guided tour company (Overseas Adventure Travel), I thought to come here to FlyerTalk to see what the experiences of others has been with them and comparable guided tour companies (Tauck; Abercrombie and Kent; etc.) To my surprise, I haven't come upon any threads about this topic, which I would think would have been discussed a number of times. Am I going about a search the wrong way, or has the topic just not been one that FTers have had occasion or interest in going into here?
Could you tell us a bit about what that experience was, or link to a trip report here about it?

I have a good friend who has taken 15-20 trips with OAT, returning from her most recent one (to South America; her second, or perhaps third, in 2018) three weeks ago. Most of these were with her late husband but the last few have been, for lack of that option, on her own or with a female friend. She is obviously quite pleased with them. I have no idea how universal that feeling is among OAT customers, but my wife and I are considering going to Japan with them next year, in part based on this friend's enthusiastic recommendation of the specific tour we would take. If there's another side, we'd like to know about it!
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Old Nov 3, 18, 5:07 pm
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I've been on four Gate1 trips (Ecuador, Turkey, Costa Rica and India) and have no complaints. We were well taken care of. All of our tours had an interesting mix of Americans, British, Australians and other nationalities. The price was right, the hotels ranged from good to excellent, and the meals were enjoyable. I'd highly recommend Gate1 to anyone.
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Old Nov 3, 18, 6:07 pm
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is there anything that really delivers at the higher end? most seem to just add a zillion layers of markups, which also applies across all price levels

also for example i personally remain skeptical regarding how Virtuoso et al 'select' their supplier partners

are there any companies that book everything a la carte, like guides at daily rates wherever one wants?

one type of company to also add to consideration is Destination Management Companies / DMCs (vs tour operators)

depending where one is going there are also safari style (not just africa) properties which include excursions

FT has plenty who do things unrelated to chains, programs, biz travel - just few dedicated forums here
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Old Nov 5, 18, 12:16 pm
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I've booked cars with drivers in a few places where foreigners either cannot rent cars or it would just be too much of a learning curve to do it. It's not *usually* my style to do this, but in places where waiting on public transit would eat into a lot of your available time, I've found it's worth it. Especially helpful if you're exploring beyond "popular" tourist sites.
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Old Nov 9, 18, 3:06 pm
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I'd also be interested in your experience with OAT- I also took them in India and Nepal just this past March and loved them. The primary guide was great about answering all questions- even some of the good/bad/ugly ones about the country- tactfully and honestly. He was also very responsive to different things people wanted to do- a special excursion, stopping at the ATM, sitting out a rigorous hike- always making sure they had a god place to stay and a way back to the hotel (which he'd arrange and prepay). I asked if there was a way I could deposit some of my late husband's ashes in the Ganges. We had a ride on the Ganges scheduled at Varanasi anyway but he brought a Hindu priest with us who chanted from the Vedas as I released a dish made of pressed leaves, filled with a few flowers and some of DH's ashes into the Ganges. I'm a Christian and it was PROFOUND- one of the most memorable experiences in the trip. No single supplement- a huge benefit to me.

I'm not a "group" traveler- happy to explore Europe on my own and have done so, many times- but I'd been to India on business often enough to know it wasn't a good place to solo. Too crazy to drive yourself, the trains aren't great (the one we used on the tour had tray-tables that hadn't been cleaned in awhile and was equipped with squatty-potties) and just hiring a driver to take you around is isolating. The guide also knew which gas stations had Western-style "facilities" and would tip the appropriate people and wait till we got out. I don't need that kind of babysitting in Europe or South America but definitely appreciated it in India- especially when I developed a bad case of dehydration (despite my best efforts to prevent it) and he came up with envelopes of electrolyte powder. Magic stuff.

Will probably use them for the Galapagos in 2020.
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Old Nov 10, 18, 12:41 am
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I have traveled with the following tour companies -

Adventures by Disney - Italy Signature (this specific tour is no longer offered), Alaska, San Francisco (long weekend), and Montana/Canada
CIE - Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales
Tauck - Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, and northern Italy
G Adventures/National Geographic - Costa Rica, Morocco, and Ecudador
Rick Steves - Sicily

I would do ANY tour by G Adventures/National Geographic in a heartbeat.

I'd do specific Adventures by Disney again. (Long story, so maybe not relevant here.)

I got my money's worth out of CIE. (GREAT tour companions.)

I hated Tauck, despite the fact that it's the 'high end' tour company.

Rick Steves? We had an awful guide. The tour was amazing. The guide was not. Apparently, this is not the norm.
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