Escorted tours: Brief encounters

Escorted tours: Brief encounters

Image credit: Intrepid Travel

Short escorted tours can still be sweet, says Joanna Booth

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A long holiday is lovely, but time or money don’t always co-operate. Short breaks don’t have to mean just a couple of nights in a hotel, however.

When it comes to escorted tours, there are good things in the small packages as well as the large ones. Find inspiration below and sell clients a second or third holiday of the year.


If you’re looking to keep a tour brief then it certainly helps to minimise the travelling time, so consider UK options.

Over-55s specialist Grand UK Holidays offers a range of short UK tours. They include Lark Rise to Downton, a five-day break visiting the backdrops to TV dramas around Oxford and Bath (from £349), and East Coast Safari, a five-day wildlife-focused trip based in Great Yarmouth with visits to Banham Zoo and Africa Alive (from £269).

Great Rail Journeys offers its five-day Highland All Inclusive for the first time in 2014, staying in the Highlands and visiting Loch Ness, the Glen Ord whisky distillery and taking a ride on the scenic Kyle Line railway, from £375. The five-day Yorkshire by Steam is a best-seller for sister brand Treyn, and starts from £295.


Special events provide a great excuse for a break, and an escorted tour offers an easy way to package up a holiday.Leger Holidays’ See It Live breaks visit one-off or annual occurrences, from horticulture festivals to sporting and music events. A four-day break to the Rhine in Flames fireworks festival in May starts from £239, while a four-day package to watch the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race costs from £319 including race tickets.

Transun is giving clients the opportunity to celebrate New Year twice this year with the three-night Happy New Year package in snowy Lapland. They’ll begin with a carol service, cocktail reception and dinner in Finland, and after the clock strikes 12 for the first time, hop over the border to Sweden – an hour behind – and do it all over again.

Starting from £1,079, the trip includes flights on December 30 from Gatwick to Karesuando, three nights’ full-board accommodation, thermal suit and boot hire and an itinerary of Arctic activities including a snowmobile safari and husky sledding, plus, for families, a private meeting with Santa.

Cosmos Tours & Cruises has added a special New Year’s Eve departure for its five-day Images of Iceland tour, which features a fireworks display and a four-course gala dinner alongside sightseeing trips, from £1,175.

It’s not too late for Christmas either: fancy spending Christmas Eve cruising down the Seine, or Boxing Day at the top of the Eiffel Tower? Titan’s five-day Christmas in Paris itinerary offers that and more, with a mix of guided excursions and free time in the French capital, from £945. Grand UK also has a range of five-day UK breaks over Christmas, starting from £299.

Kirker Holidays has a large programme of music festival and event tours, from three-night Kirker Chamber Music Weekends in Alfriston, East Sussex (from £729), to three and four-night trips to the opera – La Fenice in Venice and La Scala in Milan (both from £1,369).

Great Rail Journeys also offers escorted short breaks to UK events, including the Harrogate Flower Show and 1940s-themed weekends.


With a strong focus on activities, themed breaks often tend to be escorted tours, and can be a great way to introduce clients to this style of holiday for the first time.

Next year will surely see a huge interest in battlefield-themed tours, as 2014 is the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. Grand UK will operate two five-day tours, each featuring three full-day excursions to the battlefields: In Flanders Fields is based in Ostend and starts from £299; Remembrance on the Western Front stays near Lille and starts from £389.

Great Rail Journeys is running a range of battlefield tours, including the four-day Remembrance Day in Flanders, from £485, during which clients will witness a poppy parade at Ypres and hear the Last Post being played at the Menin Gate.

The northern lights are tipped for another active season this winter and escorted tours provide a great way to combine the chance of a sighting with snowy fun. Taber Holidays has a new four-night tour to Iceland, combining sightseeing highlights of this volcanic island with nights spent aurora hunting, from £998.

The Dutch bulb fields are a well-ploughed furrow for escorted touring. New for 2014, Shearings has a five-day break that twins a visit to Keukenhof Gardens – the largest flower garden in the world – with sightseeing in the medieval Belgian cities of Bruges and Ghent.

Orient-Express has added a four-night Classic Golf Tour package on The Royal Scotsman, departing Edinburgh on May 18 and September 22 next year, with the chance to play at three courses – Royal Dornoch, Castle Stuart (home to the Scottish Open for three consecutive years) and Cruden Bay. The tour starts from £5,257 on a fully inclusive basis including green fees and cart.


Organising sailing, hiking or biking is possible independently, but it can be a complicated process. Short escorted tours make it easy and give an extra level of security to clients.

Explore’s Toubkal Long Weekend allows clients to head to Morocco and scale North Africa’s highest peak in a five-day trip, of which two days are spent trekking – the second day is graded as challenging so it’s one for the relatively fit. From £594, the price includes flights, accommodation, some meals, transport, guiding and mules to carry the luggage.

These breaks needn’t be just for the super-fit. Exodus’s five-day Loire Cycling Weekend offers relaxed pedalling through quiet country lanes, with plenty of stops for picnics, visits to magnificent chateaux and wine tasting. Prices start from £499 including accommodation and most meals, but not bike hire.

Intrepid Travel’s four-day Sail Italy itinerary allows clients to explore the Amalfi Coast without shelling out for expensive hotels. Staying in the yacht’s cabins, guests are piloted by an experienced skipper and can either lend a hand or laze on deck. They’ll visit Ischia, Sorrento, Naples, Pompeii and Amalfi, and the trip starts from £435 excluding flights.

Escorted Tours


Sure, you can just book them a flight, a hotel and a transfer, but a short escorted tour can be a really rewarding way for clients to visit a city – and earn you a bit more in the way of commission into the bargain.

Intrepid Travel’s new Venice Bite-size Break – four days from £630 excluding flights – helps city breakers get beyond the expensive tourist traps and introduces them to local artisan food producers. Travellers can try cicchetti (Venice-style tapas), take a cooking class, sip local prosecco, sample mountain cheeses at an agriturismo on the slopes of Monte Cesen, visit a salami producer, taste award-winning gelato in Treviso and, of course, explore Venice with a local guide.

An organised tour can pack a lot into a short time – try three cities over four days on Leger Holidays’ Paris, Bruges and Lille: A Tale of Three Cities. Staying in Lille, daily excursions allow travellers to explore all three cities. The break starts from £199 including return coach travel from regional departure points and three nights’ B&B accommodation.


Short tours aren’t just suitable for short-haul holidays. Rather than booking a few nights in a hotel, consider selling long-haul clients an escorted tour as a stopover option.

Suggest On The Go’s new four-day Dubai stopover tour to clients who want to make the most of their flying visit to the emirate. Starting from £249, the itinerary includes airport transfers, a half-day desert safari excursion, a traditional barbecue dinner at a Bedouin camp, a half-day guided coach tour of Old and New Dubai visiting the museum, markets and souks, and three nights’ B&B with the option to choose from three, four or five-star hotels.

Intrepid Travel’s three-day River Kwai & Ancient Kingdoms short tour would suit those who have transited through Bangkok before and feel they’ve seen the city’s sights. Heading north to Kanchanaburi, travellers will stop off at palaces and temples before visiting the infamous Hellfire Pass, swimming in the waterfalls of Erawan National Park and taking a samlaw ride to the bridge on the River Kwai. The tour starts from £310.

Wendy Wu Tours’ Beijing Short Stay packs a lot into four days. It includes accommodation, meals and guided visits to the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and the Great Wall, and costs from £290.


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