“Travel broadens the mind and widens horizons”, according to the late US hiker and itinerant traveller Christopher McCandless
Do you have a list of places you would like to travel to before you kick the bucket? Yes, a bucket list! GG and I do and have divided it into ‘Nearer Home’ and ‘Far Flung’.
We are keen to get the ‘Far Flung’ done in the next 15 years when we still have the energy and good health to do it. Now that Graham has had his hip surgery and is walking between 8,000 and 10,000 steps a day and his pacemaker is set to do its job if required, I am hopeful we can say GOOD HEALTH! If you missed that post you can read it HERE.
We admit we are a little lazy about our holidays and like the feeling that someone is looking after us. Others like booking their own flights, planning their own itineraries and finding their own accommodation. We like using trusted, specialist holiday travel agents and have travelled in groups both large and small, with some incredible trips in recent years, including holidays in Vietnam and Cambodia, China and South Africa.
Our first long haul trip was to South Africa with Travel Department eleven years ago to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary and we were hooked! It was our first ‘guided’ holiday.
On that trip of 16 adults ranging in age from 24 to 60 (we were at the upper end of the age scale) we got to see Cape Town and everything it had to offer; part of the Garden Route; whale watching at Hermanus and the Cape of Good Hope; visited wineries; and the highlight of a wonderful trip was a full two-day safari in Kruger Park.
Because we travelled in their winter, we missed the colourful flowers, shrubs and trees, but the upside of sparse vegetation meant we got to see four out of the Big Five animals on the safari.
But, of course, their winter was more like a normal Irish summer (this summer being the exception). In Kruger, the mornings were freezing out in the bush, but once the sun came up you needed your factor 50.
Since then, we have visited China in a much larger group, where we walked part of The Great Wall, saw the ‘Bird’s Nest’ Olympic Stadium just before the Games, visited The Forbidden City and ate some excellent Chinese food.
WHY WE LIKE GROUP HOLIDAYS
1. An added bonus for us is the other people you can meet on these holidays, as we have enjoyed great banter and craic with fellow travellers. Yes, you can meet some strange individuals, but they are few and far between and, to be honest, in many cases they can make it all the more interesting!
2. We have found the hotels to be of an excellent standard, particularly on the long haul trips.
3. In our experience, the guides have been exceptional, always local and most seem to have a sense of humour too, very important for us. I wrote about a trip to Salamanca recently where this was very much in evidence.
4. There is plenty of time to explore the sights on your own and, of course, you are not obliged to go on the included excursions unless you want to. We did.
We are really excited about our trip to India in five weeks’ time with Travel Department (well, with TDactive, the company’s adventure holiday division) and, yes, you need plenty of energy as it includes thousands of steps as well as hikes and bicycle rides) and, of course, we will get to see all the famous sights in The Golden Triangle including the Taj Mahal.
We are travelling with four very good friends, so there will be lots of banter and slagging.
Still on our bucket list is a trip to Cuba (pic below), Australia, New Zealand, Egypt and Brazil. Peru is also on our to-do list and we better do that soon while we can still make the trek to Machu Pichu!
Travel Department, with whom we have made all but one of the trips above and many city breaks too, now offers a tailor-made extension service on the long haul holidays. In fact, two of our friends are stopping off in Dubai to see one of their sons on our way back from India, organised by the company.
So you can have the best of both worlds – the flexibility of some independent travel while enjoying the many benefits of guided group tours.
Oh and if you do book a holiday with Travel Department, make sure you go into Arnotts to pay and bring your Arnotts Wonder Card. I spent the points I got when paying for India on a new jumper!
Do you have a bucket list for places you want to visit? Or if you are a seasoned traveller, tell me where we should go next?