Lengthy foreign tours wanted

This article appears on page 36 of the March 2018 issue.

ITN subscriber Carol Greene asked readers for their suggestions for lengthy foreign tours, writing, “When taking a tour to another country, one thing I don’t like is going through airports and spending a whole night or more on a plane and then being in the new country for just one or two weeks.

“When my husband was alive, rather than take tours, we went by ourselves and spent three or more weeks in each country. So now that I am traveling alone I would like recommendations for any tour companies that offer tours of more than two weeks anywhere outside of the US. What are some of the lengthy, in-depth tours in this wonderful world?”

Here are our readers’ responses to her info request.

In order to take a lengthy trip, Carol Greene should contact Overseas Adventure Travel, or OAT (Boston, MA; 800/955-1925 www.oattravel.com). They and their sister company Grand Circle Travel (www.gct.com) offer numerous trips that can be piggybacked. Many of them are scheduled in such a way as to facilitate travelers who want to take a longer trip. 

Just call OAT or GCT and tell them you want to have an extensive trip, and they will work with you to find back-to-back tours.

Jackie Wiedeman

Colorado Springs, CO

Per Carol’s request for lengthy tours, she might want to look at Original World (San Rafael, CA; 888/367-6147, originalworld.com). I took their 32-day Balkans tour in September 2016.

And in November 2017 I took their 31-day Jordan/Israel/Tunisia tour. The guides and drivers were outstanding, and the tour content was excellent, with the exception of two days in Tunisia.

The participants in the Tunisia tour all were well-traveled individuals, and our contact at Original World knew this, but for some unknown reason, we spent an entire day driving to a date palm oasis with hot springs and small sand dunes, then another entire day driving on. 

We had all seen much more impressive examples of same elsewhere in Tunisia and the world, so I feel we could have used the time for something else.

B. De Graaf

Morristown, NJ

ITN sent a copy of Ms. De Graaf’s letter to Original World (inquire@originalworld.com) and received the following reply from the company owner, Barbara Sansone: “Yes, it is true I received communications that this night at the camp in the desert was not a good experience. On the itinerary, we need a midpoint at which to stop between two important places, and I relied on our guide (who is also the DMC [destination management company] rep), who suggested this stop. For 2018, we have changed the itinerary to stop at a different point not in the desert, though it is the same amount of driving time.

“For the record, Jordan/Israel is offered as one tour (21 days). Tunisia is a separate tour (was 14 days but in 2018 is 15 days).”

I am a single older woman who has traveled alone for the past 23 years, since my husband died, and I like to stay in Europe for at least 3 to 3½ weeks at a time in order to get my money’s worth out of the (now) very expensive international airfares. In order to do this, I use a combination of tours, cruises and independent stays in large cities. 

Since I have always done my own travel planning, I do not find it difficult at all to find various tours or cruises that can be linked. Of course, my methods of staying in Europe for a while will not work for anyone who does not enjoy spending time on their own and who wants to use tours only. 

In 2013 I spent two weeks alone in Edinburgh, a week alone in London and a week alone in Dublin and then took a 12-day tour around Ireland and Northern Ireland.

One year, I took a week-long cruise round trip from England to Norway, spent a few days in London afterward and then flew to Dublin for a tour around Ireland. Another year, I took a 14-day tour from London to Scotland and on to Dublin, where, after four days alone there, I joined a 9-day tour around Ireland. 

In September 2017 I spent a few days in London, then took a 14-day cruise around the Baltic round trip from Dover. I especially enjoyed getting to see Tallinn, Estonia, and Riga, Latvia. After the cruise, I spent some more time in London. 

I have also spent time in London first, then flown to Athens or Rome for a 2- to 3-week-long cruise around the Mediterranean. It’s quite easy to combine cruises in that area of the world or, in the fall season, to add a transatlantic cruise back to the US.

When my husband and I started traveling, 40 years ago, many organized tours did last for 17 days or more, but these are difficult to find now due to, I would guess, the much higher costs of travel today. Tours seem to have been shortened to keep the prices down and to enable employed people without much time available to have an overseas vacation.

Susan Algul

Sierra Vista, AZ

Carol Greene asked about travel companies that help plan longer trips. I like to plan a trip where I stay multiple days in a city and do local day trips (or take a multiday tour, returning to the same location), then move on to another location from which I book or have booked more excursions.

• For example, for my third trip to Australia, in late August 2003, I called Far & Wide [Far & Wide went out of business in September 2003. — Editor] with my own 2-week itinerary. I gave them the name of a hotel in Cairns where I had stayed in 2001, the Colonial Club Resort (18-26 Cannon St., Cairns, Queensland 4870, Australia; phone +61 7 4053 8800, www.cairnscolonialclub.com.au), and told them the type of room my husband and I wanted and the number of nights. 

While in Cairns, we were able to travel by bus or hotel shuttle to the downtown and back.

At the hotel’s front desk, we booked full-day trips to areas around Cairns. One was a flight from Cairns to Cooktown for an overnight stay followed by travel in a special vehicle, which carried about 12 people, south to Cairns via the Bloomfield Track. That all-day trip included lunch at an Outback station.

From  Cairns, we also took day trips to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures (Captain Cook Highway, Wangetti Beach, Queensland 4879, Australia; phone +61 7 4055 3576, www.crocodileadventures.com) and to Kuranda by van and train.

We then took a flight to Sydney, where we stayed at the Park Regis (27 Park St., Sydney, NSW 2000, Austrailia; phone +61 2 9267 6511, www.parkregiscitycentre.com.au), which is within walking distance of Hyde Park, museums and other tourist sights plus trains.

Again, when we wanted to travel further, we booked day trips through the hotel desk or asked for ideas that they recommended.

• My next package trip, over most of August 2006, was for 30 days and included three cities in Australia (Melbourne, Perth and Sydney) as well as all flights, transfers and 3- and 4-star hotels. 

In online searches, I tried to find hotels and get some idea of costs in the cities that my cousin and I wanted to visit. I then called Goway (US office in Glendale, CA; 800/387-8850, www.goway.com) and gave the agent the cities and locations we preferred (like near the central city and public transportation) and lengths of stay.

She called back and emailed me with what she found, and I gave her a ‘Nay’ or ‘OK.’ She booked what we wanted and also booked the flights to and within Australia.

Goway has package deals that may include flights and hotels for different destinations. They gave a better price if we extended past the number of days in the package. A price would be given for three nights at a hotel, but it would be much cheaper per night if you stayed six nights. 

With Goway, I was able to use their packages and extend the time I wanted to stay because they gave me flexibility. Goway also can book some city tours and even extended tours.

While in Melbourne in 2006, we traveled by bus to various sights around the city and did some walking, too.

In Perth, where we stayed in the main downtown area and by a bus line, my cousin and I cruised the Swan River and traveled on one-day trips, which included many miles of scenic wonders plus stops to view and experience the culture and scenery. The trips were arranged through the hotel’s travel desk, or we just walked to the dock or station and purchased tickets or boarded a bus. Our stay in Perth was for 12 nights.

Then we flew to Sydney and did harbor cruises and took buses to various scenic sights. Always, I would stop and talk with people, asking for suggestions for eating places, shopping destinations and memorable sights to see.

Carol Greene wanted in-depth tours. Perhaps my experiences aren’t quite what she asked for, but the advantages of the trips I made is that they kept us anchored in one city for many days, where we could venture out to see and experience the people in shops and restaurants, on buses and trains and while walking about, without packing up and moving frequently.

I also traveled with people from other countries. They had wonderful stories and great recommendations.

Denise Doporto

Sacramento, CA