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A lot of people just don’t know where to start when it comes to planning a trip overseas, and so going on a bus tour can be great option if your vacation. It can be extremely helpful if your vacation time is limited, you’re not wanting to spend an extraordinary amount of time planning, and/or if you’re on a budget. But, you will want to tread carefully before signing up, because all tours are not created equal.

You have high-end luxury getaways for exclusive and smaller groups, midrange offerings, (like Sloan Travel, also offering small groups), and then you have low-end, big-bus, fill-up-the-bus and take em through the mill tours for large groups. On most tours, the transportation itself will be nice, with a high, quiet ride, comfy seats, air-conditioning, and sometimes offering a toilet on board.

stock-2How many travel companions are you looking to travel with? Most would say, as few as possible. When offered the choices between of traveling with a group of 55, 24, or as few as 8, people are going to have differing opinions, but the group of 55 would usually be the first one crossed off the list of ideals. Do you want to change hotels every night or enjoy three, four, or even ten-night stays? There are a ton of variables to consider when comparing the fully guided tours offered around the world.

And there are quite literally hundreds upon hundreds to choose from. You have the posh, stuffy, high-end range (Abercrombie & Kent, Tauck, Maupintour ) to low-end cookie-cutter budget tours (CIE, Cosmos, Globus, and Trafalgar).

Where do you start? Well, you can start by browsing options online, or by talking to friends. In general, a typical big-bus tour company will provide a capable tour organizer and 40 to 50 travelers. Big-bus tour companies are most times very big, booking rooms by the thousands; and many times they own the hotels they use. Tour hotels fit American standards well — good size, not too personal, good plumbing, mass-produced comfort, and double rooms. Keep in mind, it is the goal of most tour companies to fill every seat possible on that bus. On the big-bus tours; you are a number. Cattle to be fed, sheep to be herded to the tourist spots, profited from, and shipped back home. If money is saved on a “budget tour”, it most certainly will be at the cost of your authentic experience.

stock-3When considering tours, some of the “best sellers” are tours that are promising more sights than is even reasonable to see in a given amount of time. You can’t create more time, a day is the same length no matter what tour you go on. What happens on these tours is more of a whiplash experience that will leave your head spinning and the constant haunting thought of “If I had just had more time.” Study the itineraries available and think, do you want a bunch of one-night stops? You deserve to be out and seeing the land, not just watching it pass by through panes of glass, and visits cut short.

Is cheaper, better? The cheapest bus tours are an incredible value, at a glance. There is literally no profit in their retail price. They give you bus transportation and hotels for about the same price that a random tourist would pay, but here’s the ghost in the closet, these tours charge extra for sightseeing, and make money by taking you to attractions and shops from which they receive kickbacks. And before you know it, you’re $1,499 tour, just cost you an extra $1,000 once you hit the ground, if you want to see or do anything.

It’s been a process learning the ins and outs of the touring industry, and it’s not easy doing what we do, but it’s WORTH it for our travelers. After five years, we have worked hard at Sloan Travel to develop the best experience offered at mid-range prices. We keep our groups small, and even do private tour offerings, we stay at least two nights in most locations, and sometimes at the same accommodation for the entire tour. We visit important, authentic, and off-the-beaten-path sites, that no other tour is offering. We are growing our catalog of itineraries and destinations on a yearly basis, to keep you having options and having a reliable touring company to call your own.

CT-4Find a smaller tour group. The time it takes getting 55 people on and off the bus at one stop, let alone 6-10 in a day, is staggering. We have estimated that we are able to save our guests 50-90 minutes per day in valuable tour time just from keeping out group sizes at 24 and under. That’s an average of 12.83 hours saved, per trip. That’s almost an entire traveling day! That saved time allows you to see and experience more, each and every day.

Along with the saved time, smaller groups allow you the opportunity to dine, and sleep at places that the people on big-bus tours only dream of. Quaint pubs, small family owned cafes, cottages on the ocean, bed & breakfasts, Victorian manors, and more. None of which you will find on a big-bus tour.

Avoid one-night stay-overs. Frequent one-night stops will leave your vacation feeling more exhausted than your normal work week back home. To help you feel at home and getting good restful time, the best tours let you work to give you as many 2 night starts as possible.

Look for authenticity on every front. Pick a tour that offers a real off-the-beaten-path look at the place you’re traveling to, where you’re laying your head, and what you’re eating. Avoid a tour that offers forgettable accommodations, buffets at big restaurants, and impersonal hotel restaurants.

stock-7Find out about the guide. The quality of your guide can make or break your tour. While most guides do make tips from ensuring you are well looked after, a lot of tour companies make significant income from merchant kickbacks. With a quality guide you are the focus, not how much money they can get you to spend on shops and excursions.

Take a close look at what is and is not included in your tour package. Many budget tours will have you emptying your wallet and charging up your credit cards during your trip to cover “optional” sightseeing, charging $50 and up to $150 extra, at each stop.

Read the fine print. What are the company’s policies regarding cancellations, refunds, and trip interruption/cancellation insurance? At Sloan Travel we have a gracious 10-day refund policy on your “non-refundable” deposit. So, if you wanted to jump on board to secure your place, but forgot about a wedding or an event you just can’t be away from, just give us a call, and even your deposit can be refunded within 10-days of your initial booking.

When you’re selecting a bus tour, the cost you’re quoted isn’t the only factor to consider. It is necessary to consider both, how many people you’ll be traveling as well as what extra costs you’ll be expected to cover when you arrive. We believe that we are highly competitive in giving out travelers the most value for their travel on all fronts.

When comparing prices, remember that airfare is not included. The chart below illustrates what to expect from a range of tour companies.


High-End

$525

on average, per day
  • 24-48 travelers
  • 2 meals a day
  • all sights included,
    plus excursions
  • all tips included, except guide

Big-Bus

$225

on average, per day
  • 40-55 travelers
  • 1-2 meals a day
  • most sights cost extra,
    no excursions included
  • most tips and fees are not included

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