Guest Author - Jim Fortune
Have you ever seen an advertisement for an all inclusive tour to Europe? It will be a small party of 6 or 8 couples. The group will have their own tour guide who will show them where to go, where to stay (and not pay an arm and a leg), great places to eat where the locals go and the places are very affordable and you'll see all of the sights that most people on tours like this never see. This tour just happens to have you as the tour guide.
O.K. Before you dismiss this as folly, let me tell you about a trip I took a few years ago and also tell you what I learned later. A couple we knew started talking about going on a Windjammer Barefoot Cruise "some day" for their anniversary and it would be all of their friends, of which we were two. Windjammer Barefoot Cruises was a cruise line that had large sailing ships that toured the Caribbean. Tall masted sailing ships that were very romantic and were a great way to get away from it all. This particular company went out of business and is no longer around, but similar boats still sail the Caribbean today.
The couple we knew, got some brouchures from the Windjammer Barefoot Cruises company and also full pricing for airfare and booking from a travel agent with offices right down the street. Would we be interested in going on this trip around say, next February? It was about June when they told us about the trip. We told them we needed some time to think about it.
We saw them several times and every time we saw them they asked if we were coming. They needed two more couples to go so they could get the group fare. Around October, after checking with my boss to see if I could get off for 10 days in February, we decided to go on the cruise.
We went. We flew to Dallas, then on to Miami, then to U.S. Virgin Islands and got on a tender that took us to the tall masted sailing ship. We saw the British Virgin Islands, including Van Jost, and Virgin Gorda and many smaller isles. On this particular voyage, we got all of our food and special drinks for the entire trip, included in the price. If we wanted drinks other than what was offered, we had to pay extra. The day trips and the swimming were fun and I was glad that we got drinks included, because I needed free drinks - lots of free drinks - given our poor sleeping conditions.
We had an O.K. time. I wasn't really happy about the room we had nor the bed that was in it. The bed was a bunk bed and I couldn't even lay on the bed with my legs straight out without them slamming into the wall. I didn't get much sleep on this cruise.
A few months after we got home we saw the travel agent who arranged the trip at a party. We had been thinking about going on a trip with a few friends and she said, "Would you like to go for free like Peter and Janice did?" We said tell us more. Seems that Peter and Janice got the entire trip including airfare for around $300 total. They could have gone for free if they had one more couple. The cost of the entire trip was divided by all of Peter and Janice's friends but not Peter and Janice. Whatever was not covered Peter and Janice had to pay for. That came to around $300.
Now we knew why Peter and Janice were so pushy about us going on the trip. Remember that I said, "They needed two more couples to go so they could get the group fare." The group fare was a euphemism where Peter and Janice got the group fare and go for free and we paid for it.
So then I got to thinking, a lot of people could arrange a tour and divide the total expenses by the number of people going minus the tour guides, and make an exciting trip out of it. Naturally the tour guides go for free. It would take a little work, but you could do something like this, for a trip to the place you want to go. And your pay for being the guide would be a free trip.
With a little work, I could put together a trip to New England for the fall colors. Ten or twelve people, and a single supplement for someone who went solo, would all go to New England. We'd fly into Logan in Boston, travel by motor coach to Newport Rhode Island. Have dinner near the Breakers, sleeping accomodations on Goat Island, and spend a few days getting to know Newport. We might catch the boat to Block Island for the day. Then off to New Hampshire. We'd see Hanover and Dartmouth College, check out the sights, the White Mountains, and the foliage and then off to Vermont. We'd go to Stowe, Woodstock, Newfane, check out the maple syrup farms and locations where it is made (although mud time is in the Spring when the sap if flowing). Then on to the Maritime Provinces and Prince Edward Island.
Well you get the idea. The price includes round trip airfare, all accomodations, two meals a day, motor coach travel between towns, a welcome party in Newport the first night at the 16th century, 72-room, four-story Italianate Breakers belonging to the Vanderbilts and a surprise bon voyage get together on the last night. You'll see New England from a native and your tour guide will be a native New Englander, born and bred.
How many in your party? (Oh - I'm going for free!)
Despite the economy I hope you are travelling and enjoying yourself. Until next time, let me know what is on your mind, and how you are doing, O.K.?
Jim Fortune - the Bella Budget Travel Guy