Coach Holidays – Everything You Need to Know
In the past coaches used to be the cheapest way to reach Europe so many coach holidays started from the UK, travelled to Europe by coach and then travelled around Europe by coach too.
Now many coach holidays fly out to their destination and then use a coach for exploring while on holiday, and fly back again at the end of the holiday.
Coach holidays are often called touring holidays or escorted holidays too.
They all mean the same thing really.
A coach holiday will always have a driver (obvs!) and sometimes the driver will also do the guiding.
Some coach holidays will have a Tour Manager who is responsible for managing everything while on tour. Sometimes the Tour Manager will also be the tour guide and sometimes there will be local tour guides.
10 Things You Need to Know About Coach Trips Before You Book – my guide to finding your perfect coach holiday
History of Coach Holidays
What Are Coach Holidays?
Coach holidays are holidays where the main part of the holiday is on a coach. They are organised tours that include visits, hotels and some meals. There are all sorts of coach holidays available for every type of travellers, their interests and their activity levels.
Thomas Cook was the organiser of the first ever package holiday with a package deal on a trip on a train in 1841. It took a while longer for coach holidays to become a big thing.
In the 1960s and 1970s coaches started heading across the Channel to Europe so that people could enjoy the warmer climates of Spain. Travelling non-stop on a coach from the UK wasn’t for the faint-hearted, especially given the lack of air conditioning on coaches then.
However, the attraction of a foreign holiday was such that many people did head off on these epic journeys!
Coach Holidays Over the Years
Coach holidays have come a very long way from where they started. In my own 36 career so much has changed.
36 years ago there were no cheap flights to Europe so taking a coach was still the main way to get to Europe. That meant a very long journey for passengers doing pick ups in the UK before heading to the port of Dover and taking the ferry. Then the feeder drivers would take the coach somewhere in France or Belgium where we would meet the tour drivers. From there it was just another 22 hours to our holiday destination!
The internet wasn’t around then and mobile phones were not that common either. That meant that people didn’t necessarily know how to get around themselves on holiday, so they would often take most of the organised excursions while they were away.
Even paying for the excursions was different with guests having to pay in cash. The amount of cash flying around on those early tours was staggering.
When budget airlines appeared holiday companies quickly moved to flying to Europe and using either local coaches or UK coaches and drivers who headed out at the start of the season and stayed in the destination. The prices of the flights were so competitive that coach travel couldn’t really compete.
Some companies still offer coach travel all the way for those who don’t like to fly, with some even offering non-stop journeys!
Over the years coach holidays have developed. There have been more choices of excursions with more active choices available. Some holidays offer guests the chance to personalise their trip by giving a choice of hotels, a choice of excursions and even different coach options.
Travellers are now much more travelled and as such much happier to explore on their own. Coach holidays now have time for independent exploring built in rather than the back to back excursions that early tours had as people wanted to see everything on their one holiday a year.
Types of Coach Holidays
An escorted holiday is a coach holiday where there is a Tour Manager with the tour. Sometimes they are called Program Directors, and Tour Leaders but they all do a similar job. They are there to ensure that the tour runs smoothly and everything happens as it should.
They need to ensure that the holiday that people experience matches what the holiday company promised to deliver in the holiday contract.
The Tour Manager is responsible for making sure all the hotels provide what they should for guests. This includes making sure all the rooms are as required, and that all meals are as per the contract agreed with the holiday company.
They are responsible for dealing with any issues on tour and making decisions about what to do in case of any travel disruption, weather issues etc. They are also there to assist in case of any medical emergency for guests, often liaising with the travel insurance companies.
A Tour Manager may also provide commentary and do guiding for tours on the trip or they will work with local guides when visiting cities. They are also responsible for working with the coach drivers, who may be from the UK or local to agree on routes, timings and other logistic arrangements.
If the holiday companies use agents in different countries then the Tour Manager is responsible for working with the agent to ensure all the travel arrangements are correct.
There is quite a lot to being a Tour Manager!
Coach Based Holidays
There are still some companies that offer holidays that only use coach travel. These are ideal if you want to see some of Europe when you travel through or if you don’t like flying.
The journeys can be long though, particularly if the holiday company is doing plenty of pick-ups in the UK before heading across the Channel.
My advice would be to join the coach as close to Dover as you possibly can. This makes the journey through Europe much more manageable.
Some holiday companies take an overnight in France if travelling to Italy or Spain for example. Some holiday companies just go non-stop through to their destination.
Driving hours mean that two drivers can drive around 22 hours in one go. Generally, coach holiday companies travelling all the way to their destination by coach will use two sets of drivers.
Special Interest/Themed Coach Holidays
There are coach holidays for all sorts of interests now – everything from archaeology to wildlife, painting, photography, walking, cooking, military history and more.
These types of coach holidays generally have specialist trip leaders who are experts in their subjects.
There are also holidays based around specific events such as the Passion Play performances, concert trips, sporting trips and more.
Solo Coach Holidays
There have always been solo travellers on coach holidays. Generally, the number was quite small as there were only a few single rooms reserved for each coach holiday group.
Given the growth in solo travellers there are now coach holidays where all the travellers are solo travellers. Many holiday companies are offering set dates where all the travellers are solo travellers and where there is no single supplement payable.
There are also more spaces for solo travellers on all departures now.
Some holiday companies cater purely for solo travellers.
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A touring holiday is a holiday that moves around and doesn’t stay in one destination. There are many coach holidays that offer this sort of holiday experience. Some visit several countries in one trip, some visit large areas of one country in a trip.
These holidays may use the coach to travel around once on holiday, or it may be a mix of planes, trains, boats and coaches depending on where the holiday is travelling to.
This means coaches will be local, with local drivers.
These holidays often have Tour Managers with them. Sometimes these Tour Managers are locally based, meaning they are from the country being visited. This means they meet the group when they arrive in the country rather than travelling with them from the UK.
Advantages of Coach Holidays
Coach holidays are convenient, generally offering a great holiday package. This may include pick-up points around the UK, or it may include flights to the departure airport. Some holiday companies offer included transfers to the destination airport with a driver picking you up from home. This is very convenient as it means you don’t need to worry about any flight delays or issues when you return home, you simply enjoy being driven home.
Coaches generally are pretty comfortable to travel on. Most holiday companies will have a minimum specification for coaches to be used on their trips or tours. This might specify air conditioning, an onboard toilet, and coaches that are less than 5 years old for example.
Some coach holiday companies offer luxury coach holidays with fewer seats, an onboard lounge, TVs and entertainment systems. Nice!
9 Reasons to Choose a Coach Holiday – based on feedback from my guests
A coach holiday is a great way to explore somewhere. Often coach holidays will include quite a lot of visits and trips. Some of these might be optional tours, that you need to pay extra for. This means that you can pack quite a lot into a coach holiday and often see more than you could manage on your own – all with the added benefit of someone else doing all the organising.
Coach holidays will often include a number of meals in the holiday as well as a fairly good standard of hotels. (This can vary depending on the coach holiday company and where travelling in the world).
There are generally some excursions or trips included with a coach holiday, with extra trips being available as optional (extra) tours.
Other things that might be included in a coach holiday package;
- Pick up points or transfers to the departure point
- Porterage at hotels
- Local guides
- All meals
Great Way to Make Friends
Travelling on a coach holiday is a great way to make friends. I have met many travellers who first met on a coach holiday and now take regular trips together.
There is generally a lovely group spirit on a coach holiday, as people share an experience.
Shared meals and excursions are also a great way to connect with other travellers.
There is no need to pair up or buddy up with other travellers if you prefer not to.
Tour Manager and Local Guides
If your coach holiday includes a Tour Manager then you will have someone with you for the whole of the holiday who is there to help in any way they can.
Their role is to run the tour as per the itinerary and the contract provided by the holiday company. They are also there to ensure that guests are happy and have a great experience.
They will be able to help with ideas of things to do in places you visit including restaurant recommendations. They often provide commentary on places you are visiting and may be guiding some of the excursions.
A Tour Manager will also be able to help in case of any issues, whether that be a problem with a bedroom or losing a passport.
The great thing about having a Tour Manager is that there is someone to help in case of an emergency.
What A Coach Holiday Tour Manager Does – Here’s my guide to the role based on over 20 years of experience
As mentioned previously depending on what type of coach holiday you are taking you may have one driver, two drivers, or local drivers.
Whatever sort of driver you have they will be there to help you get the most from the holiday. Drivers are also a great source of information about places to go and things to do.
If you have local drivers they are probably from the area you are visiting so another source of local tips and recommendations too.
Coach Holiday Tour Driver – based on feedback from my guests
Perceived Disadvantages of Coach Holidays
A coach holiday, by its very nature, is going to involve an itinerary.
This is one of the reasons people book coach holidays because they can see exactly what they are getting.
Having an itinerary that is planned and organised means you know what you are going to see and do. This means you can plan your free time accordingly.
When I took my first coach holiday I really liked being able to explore new places without the hassle of having to organise getting there, what to do when I got there etc.
(Check out my post about why you shouldn’t avoid a coach holiday because you are missing a great trip)
Some people may feel that coach holidays offer limited independence but this is changing companies’ adapt to more experienced and independent travellers. There is generally more free time included on coach holidays for exploring on your own.
As with anything it pays to research and check the details if this is important to you and remember you don’t have to do everything on the holiday just because it is included.
Most holiday companies will give some sort of rating as to how active their holiday is. This is often an indication of how much of it is organised and how much free time there is.
Some coach holidays are based in one resort with the option to take trips out or not as you prefer.
There really is a coach holiday for every type of traveller.
Travelling with a Group
A coach holiday is by its very nature a group of people travelling together.
That means there will be times when you have to wait to check into a hotel for example, for your luggage, in a line at breakfast or even getting off the coach.
However, there are many more advantages than disadvantages to travelling with a group.
Travelling with a group means you get to meet some interesting people and potentially make new friends.
I have taken over 8,000 people on coach holidays all over the world and I’ve met people from all walks of life. Most people are well travelled and very interesting to spend time with.
4 Most Common Coach Holiday Myths – Busted! – the reality based on my experience of over 20 years working as a tour manager
Tips for Choosing a Coach Holiday
As with any major purchase, booking a holiday requires a bit of research.
One of the first things to check is the itinerary. Make sure you understand fully what the coach holiday includes and what it doesn’t. Check the hotel details online, check the timings for the journeys and check the reviews of previous guests.
If you have any queries get in touch with the holiday company to double-check – don’t assume.
Check the terminology used for the tour description. One company uses ‘see’ which means you drive rather than visit – that could make quite a difference to your tour!
My advice is to start from the beginning of the itinerary and check through everything.
As yourself the following questions;
- Where are the joining points? Are they near you?
- What time is the pickup? How many pickups will there be? Don’t assume that if you are in the South of the UK you will go straight to the ferry terminal – you may go on a longer route to accommodate pick-ups.
- If you are based in the North of the UK pickups and the journey to the ferry terminal/Eurotunnel can take 8 hours or more so it is worth checking about this.
- What time are the flights or how long are the transfers to the airport if you are flying out?
- How long are the journeys each day?
What sort of coach is being used?
- What’s the company seating policy – are seats rotated on tour?
- What meals are included – are they set menus, buffets, or a la carte?
- Are drinks included?
- Is tea and coffee available in the rooms?
- What tours are included?
- How much free time is there?
- Is there a Tour Manager? Are they travelling from the UK?
Are there local guides for excursions?
- Are there headsets for the excursions so you can hear the guides properly?
- Does the coach have reclining seats?
- Does the coach have an onboard toilet?
You get the idea!
Detailed Review – Lake Garda Coach Holiday – check out my detailed guide to this great trip, ideal for a first-time visit to Lake Garda
Read the Reviews
It’s worth reading as many reviews as you can find when it comes to coach holidays. You can find reviews on TrustPilot, Tripadvisor and also on the coach holiday company website too.
These reviews often reveal interesting information about the holiday that you might not pick up from the itinerary.
Don’t be shy about getting in touch with your coach holiday company to ask questions. The more you know about your coach holiday the better.
There is no such thing as a stupid question and if it is something important to you it is better to ask in advance.
Coach Holiday Conclusion
- Coach holidays are great holidays, often covering a great deal in their program and offering good value too.
- There have been huge developments in coach holidays over the years with many more holiday types available – everything from overnight coaches to special interest holidays.
- It is much easier to personalise your holiday now. Some companies offer different coaches and some offer different hotels.
- There are coach holidays to suit every activity level and ability now, everything from active walking holidays to resort-based trips.
Coach Holiday FAQs
Why Travel by Coach?
Travelling by coach is a great way to see some of the area you are travelling through. It’s ideal if you don’t like flying or driving. If you are on a coach holiday you may get some commentary or information about the places you are passing too.
Are Coach Holidays Good Value?
The simple answer is it depends on where you are going and who you are travelling with. Often coach holidays are good value when you compare the cost of trying to do everything yourself. They also mean you can sit back and relax knowing everything is organised.
What Are Coach Holidays Like?
Coach holidays are great ways to explore and experience a destination. There are coach holidays to suit every type of traveller, their interests and their activity levels. It’s also a great way to meet new people.
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9 Reasons to Choose a Coach Holiday – based on feedback from my guests
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Coach Holiday to Lake Garda – Detailed review
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Why You Shouldn’t Avoid a Coach Holiday – Common Myths Busted
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Author Bio – Melanie Newdick, Coach Holiday Expert
I am a coach holiday expert because;
- I have worked as a Tour Manager taking coach holidays for +30 years
- I have taken coach holidays to over 30 different countries, many multiple times
- I have taken over 8,000 guests on holiday all over the world
- I have trained other Tour Managers on behalf of holiday companies
- Taken private group tours, special event tours, alumni trips, first departure tours
- I was leading coach holidays to Europe before there were cheap flights!
- Check out my top money saving resources
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- Crossing the Channel by Ferry Or Tunnel on a Coach HolidayCheck out this post if your coach holiday involves crossing the channel by ferry or by Eurotunnel and you want to know about the different ways of crossing the channel. Crossing the Channel by Ferry The ferry crossing from Dover takes 1.5 hours across the English Channel. The ferries are large with plenty of facilities… Read More »Crossing the Channel by Ferry Or Tunnel on a Coach Holiday
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