Taking the coach for a day trip, short break or a longer touring holiday is an ideal way to discover new destinations and visitor attractions. It’s also a popular holiday option. After all, you can sit back in a comfortable seat and savour the views while someone else does the driving. What’s not to like?
But if you’ve not been on a coach since that school trip all those years ago, you may be uncertain whether a trip by coach is for you. Will you have to follow everyone else around or can you wander off and explore by yourself? How do you pick a coach tour, what happens if you don’t like the hotel, will there be enough leg room, is there WiFi?
We’ve taken a look at five of the most popular misconceptions and myths about travelling by coach to set you on the road to a successful, enjoyable and memorable trip.
1. Coach tours are cheap and cheerful
Back in the 1950s and 1960s this may well have been true. Today, travelling by coach offers real value for money, especially during the shoulder holiday months of April, May, September and October. It can come as quite a surprise to discover that a modern, state-of-the-art luxury coach can cost upwards of £350,000. With air conditioning and reclining seats, and now often with seat-back entertainment, WiFi, and USB charging points, the onboard experience is not too dissimilar to that of a private car.
2. There’s not much leg room
While there are still some coach operators who will try and pack as many seats in a coach as possible, the vast majority understand that passengers like some decent leg room. Well-known names such as Bakers Dolphin, Parrys International and Leger Holidays operate longer coaches with fewer seats and a small lounge area at the rear of the coach. Leger has gone one step further, with its ‘Luxuria’ product having just 31 seats (the usual is between 45 and 53). If you’re someone who likes or needs more leg room, always check what’s available before you book.
3. There are lots of hidden extras
Once again, as with so many holiday products, you need to check the tour descriptions to see what’s included. Some coach tour operators keep their lead-in price low, cutting out most of the things that you’re probably going to want to do during your trip. So, you can find yourself paying for admission charges, steam train rides, boat trips and guided tours, even some meals. This, of course, is ideal if you’re someone who doesn’t want to ‘do’ all the attractions and tours. But for most people, these extra costs can come as a big surprise and really dent the budget. Understanding this, many coach tour operators are following the hotel sector and offering fully inclusive packages. Our advice is to be clear what sort of trip you want, and then pay close attention to what’s included.
4. You get herded around together
One of the real advantages of travelling by coach is that you’re pretty much looked after from start to finish. That means you’ll probably be visiting destinations and attractions as a group. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay with the group all the time. City breaks often include a guided tour in the morning, then free time in the afternoon. Perhaps you’ve visited the city before and want to go and do your ‘own thing’. That’s usually fine. Tell your driver, courier or tour guide what you’re doing, but do make sure to turn up at the right time and place to meet the coach later.
5. The hotels aren’t very good
This is another of those situations where a bit of research pays dividends. Every coach tour operator will tell you which hotel(s) that tour will use, usually 3* or 4* standard. Coach tour operators know that hotel choice is extremely important in terms of customer satisfaction. Many operators visit the hotels to check their quality and customer service. These days you can check Google Maps to see where the hotel is located, or check the reviews on Silver Travel Advisor or Trip Advisor.
Research, research, research
Choosing a tour is an important process. Do you want a day trip or a mystery tour, a short break or a longer touring holiday in the UK or continental Europe? For peace of mind, choose an experienced and reputable company. Brochures and websites are helpful, but independent reviews and actual experiences from other travellers are much better. If you have a local coach operator that offers tours, go and visit them. If the coach is parked outside, step aboard and try out the seats. Coach travel is a wonderful way to explore the country. Choose your tour or day excursion with care and you’re on the right road to many memorable experiences.
Tips for finding a coach holiday
- Ask friends and family, as well as recommendations on social media and travel review sites such as Silver Travel Advisor – type any keyword into the search box or go to the Find a Holiday page for Escorted Coach Tours.
- Search online for ‘coach holiday’ or ‘day trips by coach’
- Go to www.findacoachholiday.com, a website run by the Coach Tourism Association
- Go to the two coach industry quality organisations: CoachMarque and the Guild of British Coach Operators.