UK travel

Jan 10th, 2011, 05:11 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 5
UK travel

My Daugher and I are planning a trip through England, Scotland and Ireland to celebrate our 50/70 birthdays. I would appreciate feedback on some group tours since this seems to be the way to go.

We are looking at one with American Express ALtours. Anyone have experience with them? Are these tours pleasant or perhaps grueling?
patricia1009 is offline  
Jan 10th, 2011, 05:44 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 10,168
This doesn't answer your question, but I don't necessarily believe that a tour is the way to go, though they certainly make some things easier. We have taken tours of places where the language is difficult (Portugal, Croatia)but most people in the UK and the Republic of Ireland speak a semblance of English

I have the usual ailments of a person in his mid 60's (aching joints 'n' more) and find that by planning my own travel I can avoid overtaxing myself.

Figure out what you really want to see and why you really want to see it, look at how much of that you can realistically expect to see in the amount of time you have available and in relation to any physical limitations you may have, and take your planning from there.

It is generally better to spend a few nights in the same place, rather than going to a different city every night,
and certainly in all cities and most small towns, you can get a local tour, group or individual, of the principal attractions. The best scenery in Scotland is all viewable from the West Highland train from Glasgow to Mallaig, and the CalMac ferries will take you from scenic island to scenic island.
Ackislander is offline  
Jan 10th, 2011, 06:48 AM
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Agree that there is no need to take a tour in the UK and Ireland unless that is really the way you prefer to travel. Some people prefer not to do a lot of work themselves and have things planned/organized for them - and are willing to accept a lot of 7 am starts, long days on the bus, changing hotels almost every night and spending a lot of time "shopping for souvenirs".

Most people on these boards prefer independent travel - so you might get more input on specific tours on tripadvisor,com.

If you want to judge this particular tour I would see if it stops at the major places you want to see (versus just a drive by or photo op), if the hotels look good - and central - and if you like the itinerary.

We always do independent travel - since our vacation time is limited and we won;t waste any of it doing anything other than exactly what WE want.
nytraveler is offline  
Jan 10th, 2011, 07:54 AM
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A tour will allow you to cover the most ground possible with the least stress about transportation and accommodations. So if you really want to "do" all three countries, and only have a couple of weeks to do so, a tour might be your best bet. However, tours will determine where you go (you don't really get a choice), and generally go-go-go with not much down time. You'll see a lot, but not have much time to experience places in depth. But that might be OK with you. As nytraveler mentioned, Fodors tends to lean very heavily toward independent traveling (vs. tours), so if you decide to do a tour, you may not find as much information here as you'd like.

If you want to consider it, those countries really aren't hard to travel independently. The UK has good train transport, and all speak English (though you'll learn some differences between American English, British English, Scottish English and Irish English!). You can fly into London and out of Edinburgh, or whatever makes sense for what you want to do. That's the big plus of independent travel - you get to do what YOU want to do rather than what a tour company thinks are the highlights. But that involves more research, planning and decisions on your end.

Ireland would be a little tougher *if* you don't want to drive yourselves. The train system is not as extensive, so your options to get to some places are self-drive or group tours. There are lots of day trips (to the Ring of Kerry, for example) that you can book as part of an independent trip - you just meet the bus in downtown Killarney, and the trip lasts from 9-4 or whatever. But if you're open to renting a car, you'll have lots of flexibility in Ireland. Do keep in mind that the average road speed there is 35mph, though - it's not like driving interstates in the States.
jent103 is offline  
Jan 11th, 2011, 04:14 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
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Having made the case for independent travel, I am back to suggest that if you wish to take a tour, friends very much enjoyed and E ngland/Scotland tour with Odysseys Unlimited.

We have toured with this company twice, once with excellent results, once not, but they do stay in good places and transport you in comfort.

A highlight of our friends' tour was lunch in Edinburgh with a Scottish family in a beautiful Georgian house in the New Town.

Again, be sure that they go where you want to go.
Ackislander is offline  
Jan 11th, 2011, 05:15 AM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 4,108
When you read the brochures, be sure to note the difference between "see" and "visit". "See" means you will see ____
out the bus window as you drive by, possibly a ten minute or two stop for photos. "Visit" means you get to go in.

Also, if it is something you really want to see, check online to see that it is open every day. If there is a day that the site is closed, make sure that the planned day of the tour does not fall on that day. If something is closed and a tour does not visit as planned, most tours will choose an alternate site, but it may not be something you really want.

Have a great trip!
irishface is offline  
Jan 11th, 2011, 12:18 PM
Join Date: Jul 2010
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I'm in my fifties and have twice now travelled in the UK independently and am going back in March for 9 weeks. I decided on what I wanted to see....the 'must' sees then worked out an itinerary using the fantastic public transport system in England and Scotland.

I have seen a bit of Scotland by being based out of Edinburgh (where I rented an apartment on the Royal Mile for four days) by using Timberbrush tours . I have also taken the train from London to Salisbury, Bath and Stratford-upon-Avon, bus to Oxford, train to Windermere from London then day trips with Mountain Goat tours including their tour of the Yorkshire Dales. This kind of travel then allows YOU to decide what and when you do things and it is very easy in the UK. Haven't been to Ireland but have heard the same as above probably best to do a tour unless you are keen to drive. Goodluck and enjoy your planning!
Jennywren58 is offline  
Jan 11th, 2011, 12:30 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7,563
How did you conclude that group tours are "the way to go"?

You speak English? So do the English and, to a somewhat comprehensible degree, the Scots and Irish. If you can navigate without a language barrier, why not navigate on your own, in which case you can plan where YOU want to go and decide how long YOU want to spend in the places YOU want to visit, instead of having someone else determine these things for you?
BigRuss is offline  
Jan 11th, 2011, 06:11 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,381
If this is a first trip abroad for you and you don't feel comfortable planning on your own, a tour is a good way to orient yourselves so that you can go back and spend more time in the places you most enjoyed. Globus and Insight are both good companies.
carolyn is offline  
Jan 13th, 2011, 09:04 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,156
patricia, we do have a habit on here of saying- you know that question we asked? Well we didn't like it so here's the answer to the one we would rather you'd asked.

For something a bit different, have a look at this.

I don't do tours myself (and like my co-Fodorites, I don't think you should either), but I have friends who've been with Classique and loved it
sheila is offline  

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