Have you been fantasizing about your next trip and when that might happen?
Or maybe you are thinking about that just now, and wondering where you’ll go?
Do you want to know about all the best options to create your bucket list? Let us help you!
In this post, you’ll learn about guided and customized vacations with the help of Ken Nickerson from Trafalgar and Sarah Hamilton from Brendan Vacations. They will share with us some details on what those experiences are like for travellers, including what impact recent events are having, and any advice they have before booking!
To watch the whole interview at Travel Talk Thursday with Travel time, scroll to the bottom of the post!
What are Trafalgar and Brendan Vacations known for?
The two companies are connected and both offer guided vacation experiences. They belong to a company called The Travel Corporation which is owned and operated by the Tollman family.
Trafalgar started back after WWII, and then it became part of The Travel Corporation in 1969. On the other hand, The Travel Corporation itself has been around for now over 100 years, they’re actually in their 101st year of operation.
Brendan Vacations became part of that family of brands several years ago and now, fortunately, Brendan is working in Canada. The brand itself has been operating for over 50 years.
What is a guided vacation?
In 2009, Mr. Tollman felt they hadn’t changed enough to embrace the changing needs of travellers. People wanted more real experiences, not just seeing the iconic sites; they wanted to form memories and connections that would make their travel more fulfilling.
With that in mind, Trafalgar went through a real transformation, going from touring to what they call guided vacations. Each itinerary is shaped by their travel experts to give you what you long for on your holidays: the independence and self-confidence to explore.
With Brendan Vacations you will get the independent travel style, so they offer private chauffeurs, travel by rail, or they let you take the open road and drive yourself if you wish. It’s well represented in their mantra, ‘Taking You Personally’, they really want to make sure those itineraries are handcrafted and exactly meet the needs of the guests who will be traveling.
As you can see they have great options since they know there are two ways people look at vacations. Some guests want to see and do something different and they want to be totally independent, while some others want someone to explain to them fascinating details of all the iconic sites as they’re shown the highlights and interesting sites along the way, discovering the best hidden gems as shown by an expert.
Speaking of hidden gems, Trafalgar is well known for them. Their brand is all about engaging all of the senses and there are many little things that they do along the way to improve the overall experience.
Each travel director has their own set of hidden gems or little things that they do on the coach. For example, once there was a guest on board whose great uncle fought at the Battle of Vimy Ridge, so the travel guide helped him find the place where his relative was buried. He was the first family member to ever visit the grave, which was profoundly meaningful for the entire group of travellers, not only for that one guest.
How do they see the travelling future?
At The Travel Corporation, they are optimistic, especially with the vaccinations, and they expect that by June it will be safe to be operating a lot of trips, of course, paying a lot of attention to governments requirements.
The Travel Corporation has worked really hard with the World Health Organization and with the World Travel and Tourism Organization to make sure that they are meeting all the necessary protocols. They are putting in place special hygiene practices for their coaches and making sure that all of their partners like the hotels and restaurants that they visit also meet those same standards.
On their coaches of 26 guests or more, they’ll have a well-being director who will be assisting the travel director to ensure that all of the cleaning standards are met and the luggage is handled properly.
Although proper physical distancing is kept and met on all the comfortable coaches, travellers have the option of making plans with their own private bubble, starting at 12 guests. This will have an additional cost because they are shrinking the number of people on the coach.
If the group size increases they’re able to increase the size of the luxury vehicle so if you want to travel in a group it can be completely customizable. A lot of people have a dream of doing this type of trip while travelling with their families (maybe multi-generational families) or going with a group of friends, so it’s good to know they can adapt everything.
Who’s the ideal client?
In simple words, the ideal client is everybody who enjoys travelling.
There have been changes over the years and the people who travel with Trafalgar include quite a surprising mixture, including a lot of working professionals who are experiencing burnout and are ready to just let somebody else take control for a while so they can enjoy a laid back vacation.
Travellers on Trafalgar tours like to sit back and relax; they don’t want to drive or plan, they would just rather have somebody look after them. The average age of these travellers fluctuates between 45 and 52 with many travellers much younger and many travellers considerably older.
There are also offerings for family trips and even honeymooners are now traveling on these coach trips. As you can tell, the type of guest can vary quite a bit but they all share one thing in common: they want to sit back and enjoy their trip.
For Brendan Vacations, the ideal client is typically looking for a bit more independence and luxury. Either as a self-drive or with a driver, the schedule is totally customizable according to your preferences. This works very well for couples or small family groups who are like-minded in interests.
What are the top destinations or itineraries that people are selecting?
Outside of the UK and Ireland, which are extremely popular, Trafalgar has seen a big increase in bookings to Scandinavia and also Croatia, and surrounding areas. The Balkans has really come alive over the last number of years. There is some growth in the Asian market as well.
It’s important to mention that people can also travel within Canada with them. They have great programs across the country. Two of their hottest destinations are:
- The enchanting Canadian Maritimes: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.
- The wonders of Newfoundland and Labrador.
What are the reasons people choose Trafalgar and Brendan?
People travel for unique reasons apart from the more general ones: enjoyment and relaxation.
Some of these special reasons are:
- Ancestry searches
- Food and drink tours
- Exploring the culture
- Visiting hidden gems instead of only iconic places
What are the flexibility terms to make provisional bookings?
As they are a solvent family-owned organization and they’re in good financial shape, guests’ money is safe when they put their confidence in them. Trafalgar and Brendan also offer flexibility too. It’s good to know that it’s not a loss if guests change their mind so that’s a really important aspect for people these days with the uncertainty around government restrictions and the pandemic.
Do they have a protocol of giving back and sustainable travel?
11 years ago the Tollman family started The TreadRight Foundation, which is their not-for-profit organization. It ensures that they do everything they can to protect the people, the planet, and its wildlife.
They are making sure that whatever they do leaves a smaller footprint. They know about the detrimental impact there can be to the environment, for example, when touring around some areas of the world. In other ways, they consider the fact that businesses set up near iconic sites often see a high volume of traffic while businesses further abroad may represent a better experience for their guests while operating in a sustainable way, or there could be a shop that’s special for other reasons.
With this in mind, they try to visit the iconic sites when it’s quieter, and then they’ll go out to places that aren’t so well-known like the countryside, the mom-and-pop businesses, and the family farms just to make sure that they spread those tourism dollars around.
One of these places is Ashford Castle, an 800-year-old castle in the west coast of Ireland, which actually brought jobs back to that area and people can enjoy the view of this beautiful restored five-star property. Its people really make it feel like home.
Fortunately, many of the Trafalgar itineraries include a night at Ashford Castle and this is one of the things that certainly creates a draw for the average traveller. About six years ago, they started looking for properties like Ashford and adding them to their itineraries and they call them “Stays with stories”. These types of unique stays can bring new life to a certain region when the tourists benefit from enriching experiences at lesser-known places.
They also have a program called “Make Travel Matter” where they support local businesses. They have one in Jordan, called the Iraq Al-Amir Women’s Center. They helped in the reconstruction of new buildings for the women’s center and now they can visit the new center to buy local goods that the ladies there are crafting.
Another program that makes them proud is the “To Be My Guest Program”. This program tries to find those family businesses and connects guests with them. It really helps connect the guests to the destination, the food, and to the whole travel experience.
What are you waiting for to book?
Ireland and Scotland are waiting for you as well as all of the other lovely destinations that Trafalgar offers so whatever type of travel style you have, you are really welcome!
Start planning and booking right now since their coaches are filling quickly. Take advantage of this time to ask questions and continue dreaming about your ideal destination!
Whenever you’re comfortable to plan your next trip, get in touch with us and we can help you talk about how far into the future you’d like to plan for, get your preferred itinerary booked, and we can discuss with you options for insurance, cancellations, and re-scheduling should the need arise!