Ed Perkins on Travel
9:30 AM EDT, September 30, 2013
For many of you, travel is more interesting if you have something specific in mind that you want to see or do. Sitting on a bus or driving a car and looking out at even the most spectacular scenery can get old pretty fast, and having a focus is often the best way to get the most out of a trip. Vacations to Go (vacationstogo.com) recently issued a press release about the many special interest travel packages it offers, and this list is a good point of departure for a closer look at some of the options -- both the sorts of packages that Vacations to Go sells and ways to do it on your own. I'm covering two types of special interest tours this week; in coming weeks I'll cover others.
Adventure Tours. In travel industry parlance, "adventure" means hiking, biking, rafting, kayaking and trekking in areas offering some combination of scenery, culture, exotic environment and physical challenge. You can find packages from Alaska to Zambia, the Amazon to the Zambezi. Prices range from $50 to more than $500 per person per day. Typically, adventure tours are also graded by difficulty, including "soft" adventure tours designed for small children, seniors and others unable to keep up with vigorous adults. ElderTreks (eldertreks.com), for one, specializes in trekking for travelers age 50 or over. Hiking and bicycling tours typically include overnight hotel/inn/hostel stops; many include a group guide and many include an accompanying truck or bus to carry baggage. Lots of travelers like these packages because they enjoy participating with a group of like-minded travelers. Locate tours through an online agency such as Vacations to Go or Google for the sort of tour you want.
But you don't have to take a package to take part on adventure travel. Just about anywhere you go, you can find venues where you can enjoy your special interest. For hiking, all you need is a good guidebook or website to locate the trails in any area, plus maps, and you can book stops along the route, either in advance or on the fly. If you need special equipment such as a bicycle, you can sometimes take you own along or rent one after you arrive. You can locate local rafting suppliers and guides along just about any suitable river.
River Cruises. Cruising along major rivers has become a really big business, especially in Europe, where dozens of river cruisers ply the Danube, Elbe, Mosel, Rhine, Seine and the river-canal system linking Moscow and St. Petersburg, as well as more remote locations. China is emerging as an import destination. Two "stern wheeler" riverboats cruise the Mississippi-Ohio system. The advantage over ocean cruises is that you're always passing through some scenery, much of it spectacular, rather than open ocean. Typical river cruise ships carry no more than about 400 passengers and many are smaller. Prices generally start at $200 per person per day. You can also find small-boat and barge cruises through many of the world's canal systems, ranging from the Erie Canal to the complex canals of Britain, France and Germany. Some barge tours include onboard meals; others have you eat at restaurants. Unlike river cruises, barge cruises seldom cover more than 30 to 40 miles a day.
Again, however, you can also do it yourself in many places. In England or France, for example, you can rent your own canal barge for groups of up to 12 people, or you can rent boats for just a couple. Although rentals come equipped with kitchens, many canal boaters prefer to eat in restaurants along the way. Among the many rental agencies are H2olidays (barginginfrance.com) and Locaboat Holidays (locaboat.com/en), both covering all of Europe. Rental rates for a small boat start at about $1,000 per week.
(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at eperkins(at)mind.net. Perkins' new book for small business and independent professionals, "Business Travel When It's Your Money," is now available through http://www.mybusinesstravel.com or http://www.amazon.com)
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