Wow – what an adventure! Travel to this amazing part of the world is a must do if you enjoy history, culture, food and local beverages or incredible scenery.
As an introduction to a series of Chronicles, I hope to share with you my experiences on my recent visit to the United Kingdom.
The first of the three following Chronicles will focus on my visit to London, Bath and Stonehenge. The second will focus on visiting Scotland and the third on visiting Northern Ireland and Ireland.
As a travel professional, it is my responsibility to offer you lifetime experiences all wrapped up neatly in your treasured vacation! These vacations come with so many options – where to go, where to stay, what to see and do. I know how overwhelming this search can feel and that’s where I come in.
I travel not only because I love experiencing this beautiful world we call home, but also so I can have first hand experience and really know what it is like to travel with a particular supplier. In this instance it was CIE Tours for the Scotland and Ireland portion of my 3-week sojourn. My London portion was what we call FIT – I created the itinerary that best suited my budget, my allotted time and my must sees.
I have so much to share about each one. I apologize if I get carried away, but a few weeks later, I’m still smiling recalling all the nuances and I believe my solo trip to London, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland will forever be a part of me.
Let’s first look at what it’s like to travel solo. First and foremost – you will pay more! Hotels and tour companies will charge you a single supplement. There are exceptions, but I thought I would warn you right off the bat!
Some Solo travelers just like to be on their own, in their own space and not really interact with others. On the other side of the coin, solo travelers may travel alone so they can meet and interact with total strangers and have a great time doing it! Then, at the end of the day, they retreat to their hotel room for some much-deserved sleep. I have no problem traveling alone and I’m one of those who love to mingle with perfect strangers. Solo travel is wonderful for those who don’t have a partner to travel with but are looking for that interaction when visiting restaurants, bars and events. I had dinner in one restaurant in London and sat between 2 couples and we ended up visiting throughout the whole of the dinner sharing where we lived and what we saw during our separate days.
So, what about joining up with a guided tour traveling as a solo person. Here’s a completely different experience. If there’s room on the bus, you will have your own seat. If the bus is full, you will be seated beside another person traveling solo. Seats on buses with group travel rotate daily, so it’s your seat for the day, but the next day that prime front row belongs to someone else. They are assigned by the driver, but most are very flexible. For example, our driver left Row 3 completely empty to allow those with motion sickness or reduced mobility the option to sit there.
Again, I had my own room at the end of our day, and since there were two other ladies traveling solo, we spent time together both during the walking tours and during our free time. But, as it goes with guided bus tours, it didn’t take long before everyone knew everyone and we were often bunching ourselves together enjoying each other’s company. So, when you are on a guided tour, you’re not really traveling “solo”.
Let’s talk about CIE Tours. This tour company focuses mainly on the United Kingdom and has just started to branch out with Tours to Iceland and Italy. They are a little higher end, and typically cost a little more, however, their tours include entry fees and extra tours that, with other tour operators, you pay extra for after you begin your vacation. I sell a lot of their product and have always received amazing reviews back from my clients, so I thought I would check them out for myself. A bonus traveling with CIE as with many guided tour companies, is that my bag was taken care of for me at every hotel. Once arrived, I simply went in and pick up my room key. My bag magically showed up in my room and every morning it magically disappeared and showed up on the bus. It truly is an added bonus to have porters look after your bag. Careful here, as it usually allows for only one bag per person. Our driver did allow us to stow extra baggage under the coach, but we were responsible to carrying it ourselves.
At one of our many stops along the way, our driver popped off the bus (as he often did) to get our tickets and we were off and running. I took notice of another supplier bus that pulled up. Each of the travelers, got off the bus and stood in line to get their tickets. So, I’m still paying for the tickets, but I had the advantage of just going straight in without lining up. For me, that’s an added bonus.
Going on tour “incognito” is so much fun. Our driver and tour guides did not know I was a Travel Professional. As far as they were concerned, I was just another person traveling solo on the tour. Two days in we did a round-table introduction. It wasn’t until then did CIE know I was a Travel Professional. On that second day as I was getting off the bus at the end of the day. Our driver, Colm, extended his arm as he always did to help us get off the bus. So, I jokingly asked him when the “white-glove treatment” would begin and his response with a grin on his face – “You’ve been having it all along!” And so I was!
Tours with CIE range from self drive B&B vacations to city getaways to 7-15 day fully guided trips and even to chauffeur driven vacations. There is something for everyone, and after my 15-day unannounced experience with them, I won’t hesitate to continue sending my valued clients their way.
Having said that, it is my responsibility to help find YOUR perfect match. If it’s not CIE, then I am more than happy to continue the search and recommend another supplier.
Is London, Scotland or Ireland in your Wishbook? Contact me today!
The next three Chronicles in this series will each focus on the separate destinations I visited: London, Scotland and Ireland. Come and experience them with me! I will release one write up every few days. Click on the the one that you want to read first!
Or, head over to my Gallery to see all three photo albums of London, Scotland, and Ireland.