Our guide to the best coach holidays in Britain and beyond
The vaccine roll-out has seen a surge in bookings among the over 50s for coach holidays – so here’s our guide to the best road trips in Britain and beyond
- On a five-day coach trip around Yorkshire, you get to visit Scarborough, Bridlington, York and Beverley
- Tours of the Lake District cover the town of Keswick, the village of Glenridding and Lake Bassenthwaite
- Enjoy a five-day tour that begins and ends in Oxford with excursions to Blenheim Palace and Bletchley Park
The popularity of coach holidays was highlighted this week when National Express announced that bookings made by those aged 65 and over had leapt by 185 per cent in the past fortnight year on year
Charabanc holidays took off in the early 20th century when horse-drawn carriages were fitted with benches for group trips, usually to the seaside.
When simple motorised versions were introduced in the 1920s, charabancs — from the French char a bancs (carriage with benches) — disappeared and coach tour holidays as we know them began.
Coach breaks have obviously come a long way since, but their ongoing popularity was highlighted this week when National Express announced that bookings made by those aged 65 and over had leapt by 185 per cent in the past fortnight year on year — and more than half of all reservations were made by the over-50s.
With ‘vaccine confidence’ driving demand and social distancing measures introduced — including reduced passenger capacities — faith in taking to the road on group trips seems to have been restored.
‘The roll-out of vaccines is a really welcome development for our passengers,’ says Robert Shaw, chairman of the Coach Tourism Association.
‘We know that loyal customers of coach holiday companies around the UK are very keen to get travelling again, and we can’t wait to take them.’
Modern coaches typically cost £300,000 and have 48 seats, air-conditioning and high-tech entertainment systems. So it’s all a far cry from those charabanc days.
CORKER IN YORKSHIRE
Scarborough is the base for one coach tour of Yorkshire, which stops at Bridlington, Beverley and county capital, York, pictured
This tour heads north to Scarborough in North Yorkshire where your five-day break is based at the Grand Hotel.
Journeys are organised to the elegant seaside resort of Bridlington, the delightful market town of Beverley, and the county capital, York, to see the Minster and the National Railway Museum.
How to do it: From £240 half board with hotel and excursions (harryshaw.co.uk).
You can wander through the picturesque harbour town of Tenby, pictured, on a five-day coach adventure across West Wales
FOGGING SYSTEMS AND REDUCED CAPACITY…
Reduced capacity: coaches that usually take 48 passengers will now carry 29-34 instead.
More spacing: seats allocated to two people on one side of the aisle and one on the other.
Single travellers: always seated alone.
Bubbles maintained: people only seated together if in same household.
Compulsory face masks: passengers must wear masks.
Fogging systems: anti-viral sprays used daily for ‘super cleans’.
Temperature: checked on embarkation (37.5c max).
Hand sanitiser: provided at doors.
Rule of six: or similar, to be followed during outings.
Test and trace: rigorous systems in place.
Wander through the candy-coloured winding streets of the harbour town of Tenby on this five-day adventure across West Wales. The trip begins with a visit to the National Botanic Garden of Wales and stop off at the charming walled town of Pembroke, dominated by its castle. There’s an optional excursion to St Davids, Britain’s smallest city.
How to do it: From £379pp half board including hotels and excursions (shearings.com).
With multiple pick-up points in Scotland, join a five-day tour of the Highlands taking in the Victorian spa town of Strathpeffer, Inverness Castle and Drumnadrochit — to visit the Loch Ness Centre. There’s a trip to the market town of Dingwall on the last day.
How to do it: From £349pp all-inclusive including hotels and excursions (www.maynesholidays.co.uk).
Set off on a week-long tour beginning in North Norfolk before travelling south to Norwich and the Norfolk Broads, via a visit to Sandringham’s museum and gardens. You stay at the Hotel de Paris in the lively seaside town Cromer.
How to do it: From £339 half board including hotels, excursions and pick-ups (alfatravel.co.uk).
CASTLES AND COAST
Take in charming, castle-crowned villages and a string of historic towns and cities on this five-day trip across the Northumberland Coast. Highlights include a visit to the fishing port of Craster, famous as the home of kippers, and the magnificent Bamburgh Castle.
How to do it: From £399pp half board including hotels and excursions (shearings.com).
Starting in Bournemouth, enjoy a five-day adventure along the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, stopping off at Studland Bay, Corfe Castle, Sherborne Castle (where Sir Walter Raleigh once lived) and Beaulieu Motor Museum in the New Forest, Hampshire. A heritage steam train is organised between Swanage and Corfe, plus a boat cruise from Poole to Swanage.
How to do it: From £799pp half board including hotels and excursions and a home pick-up/drop-off service (titantravel.co.uk).
There are wonderful five-day coach tours of the Lake District, which visit Keswick, pictured, Glenridding and Lake Bassenthwaite
Home pick-ups can be arranged for wonderful five-day tours of the Lake District covering Keswick, next to Derwent Water, Glenridding (for a cruise on Ullswater Steamers) and Lake Bassenthwaite, where a whisky tasting is organised.
How to do it: From £629 half board with hotels and excursions (johnsonscoaches.co.uk).
FUN FOR SINGLES
Stop off at Harewood House in West Yorkshire to see the splendid Capability Brown-designed gardens and take in the art collection including works by Turner and El Greco while staying in the spa town of Harrogate on a four-day tour beginning in the south of England. It’s pitched at single travellers over Easter.
How to do it: From £449pp half board including hotel, excursions and Easter lunch (nationalexpress.com/en/holidays).
A five-day coach tour that begins and ends in Oxford, pictured, has excursions to Blenheim Palace and Bletchley Park
ANYONE FOR LONG HAUL?
Saga Holidays, the over-50s travel specialist, reports a 90 per cent growth in bookings for long-haul trips made a year in advance.
Bookings for 2022 are soaring, with India/Indian Ocean, Australasia and Africa the top choices.
The length of trip being booked is up, too, from an average of 13 days to 18 days. Incentives to book include savings of as much as 24 per cent.
Meanwhile, 70 per cent of people booking winter sun breaks are opting for 21 days or more for the travel period covering this November up to January 2022.
A spokeswoman for Saga believes people are dipping into pockets for ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ getaways after being stuck at home for so long. Visit travel.saga.co.uk.
Enjoy a five-day tour that begins and ends in Oxford, the ‘city of dreaming spires’, with excursions to Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill’s birthplace, as well as to Bletchley Park, where codebreakers helped win World War II. A city tour of Oxford is included.
How to do it: From £899pp half board with hotels, excursions and a pick-up/drop-off service (titantravel.co.uk).
THE HIGH LIFE
Explore the tranquil lakes and soaring mountains of Snowdonia’s National Park on this five-day tour of North Wales. Highlights include a 25-mile scenic journey through the foothills of Snowdon aboard the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway and a trip to Portmeirion Village, famous for its colourful, Italianate buildings.
How to do it: From £349 half board including hotels and excursions (edwardscoaches.co.uk).
See also: nationalexpress.com and welovecoaches.com.
. . . And further afield
There’s a chance to see the Northern Lights on a four-day coach trip in Iceland’s Thingvellir National Park
Four days of geysers, sweeping plains and snow-topped mountain ranges of Iceland’s Thingvellir National Park with a chance to see the Northern Lights.
How to do it: From £689pp B&B including hotels, excursions and flights (sunspottours.com).
BREAK FOR BULGARIA
Bulgaria is a country that will be full of new experiences for most of us. And this eight-day trip takes in a Roman amphitheatre, ancient churches, tombs, a medieval rock relief and some wonderful beaches.
How to do it: From £1,159pp B&B including hotels, some other meals and excursions (travelsphere.co.uk).
For those eager to see the French capital, book a four-day coach tour that whizzes past the city’s most famous sites
Explore the French capital with a four-day tour whizzing past the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysees. Plus an evening in the Latin Quarter or visit the Palace of Versailles.
How to do it: From £299pp B&B including hotels and some excursions (leger.co.uk).
Casablanca, Fez and Marrakech are destinations synonymous with wanderlust. Visit these Moroccan cities as well as Rabat, the Roman City of Volubulis and more on this ten-day trip.
How to do it: From £1,499pp half-board including hotels, excursions, flights and a home pick-up/ drop-off service (titantravel.co.uk).
Q&A: Look before you book!
From Monday at 4am, travellers coming into the UK will have to show proof of a negative Covid test. The test has to be taken up to 72 hours before departure
I am not sure I will bother with a foreign holiday this year. Don’t we have to take Covid tests before we return from abroad to Britain now?
From Monday at 4am, yes. And the PM announced yesterday that all travel corridors will close at the same time. But don’t let that put you off. We may not be able to go anywhere right now because of the lockdown, but when it eases the new system should be just about bearable.
It all sounds hideously complicated. How does it work?
You will have to take a Covid test up to 72 hours before departure and provide proof, in documentation, of the negative result. Your tour operator or accommodation provider should inform you of where it is possible to get a test.
OK, but what type of test is acceptable? I want to be sure.
The Government has issued guidelines on exactly which types will be allowed at ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): testing for people travelling to England’ on gov.uk. See also Wales (gov.wales) and Scotland (gov.scot). For England, PCR (polymerase chain reaction) swab tests are acceptable.
How much do these cost?
In the UK they cost about £120, so expect to pay roughly the same abroad.
So if I take a test before I fly to my destination and when I return, it will cost me £240?
Yes, unless tests become cheaper, which is likely.
What if I test positive while I am abroad?
You would not be allowed to travel and would have to follow local coronavirus rules.
If I have been vaccinated, do I still need to do these tests?
I am missing foreign travel, and can’t wait to visit Cuba so I am willing to jump through these hoops — what advice do you have on booking a trip?
When booking a trip to Cuba, the advice is to go with a package holiday as they are covered under Package Travel Regulations
Buy a package holiday. Packages are covered under the Package Travel Regulations, which require companies to provide a refund within 14 days if a holiday has to be cancelled.
Are some operators allowing customers to rebook for other destinations in case of cancellation?
Yes, but check the policy of your company. For example, TUI is allowing free changes for bookings made from October to February 28 for travel this year.
I prefer booking my own flight and hotel, surely that is OK?
Yes, but if the flight, say, is cancelled or the border closed, your accommodation provider may refuse to refund you. Likewise, if the airline continues flying when a border is shut to non-essential travel, getting a refund may be tricky.
Any other tips?
Book with a company that is ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s Licence) bonded. If it goes bust, a government-backed fund provides recompense. And book with a credit card, as if there is trouble getting compensation, you are covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
What about travel insurance?
Take it out as soon as you book any break.
Will European Health Insurance Cards work after Brexit?
Yes, until your card expires. Then apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) at nhs.uk. Both give reciprocal medical cover in EU countries.
Gosh, this is a lot to take in — is a trip safe?
Yes. Follow the destination’s rules (see gov.uk) book a package, and all should be well.
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