Frequently asked questions.
We are a small group tour operator and not a travel agency which means that we only sell our own line of specialty small group tours. As we conduct each tour personally, we are only able to offer around 12 tours each year. If you do not see it listed on our web site tour pages, we do not offer or sell it.
1. Do your tours include airfare? No. We have people come mostly from North America, but also from all over the world so logistically it is not practical. We are tour operators and not travel agents so we are happy to help source airfare but we do not include it with the tour. In todays market, you can usually find the best deals by visiting each individual airlines web sites. You can find flight mapping of who flies where here. http://www.flightmapping.com/maps We also find that Orbitz.com and Travelocity are great sources for good airfare deals.
2. Why do you charge a deposit? We are charged a deposit for accommodations, restaurants, sightseeing and some of these places require us to pay in full! The deposit that we charge rarely covers all of the expenses incurred from booking accommodations and restaurants etc. for you. Many of these deposits and payments are nonrefundable leaving us with a loss if you cancel your tour. That is why our cancellation policy is so strict!
3. What is the best way to book a tour? We prefer that you book your tour directly through us. We are a very small company and have a limited number of tours to offer, thus limiting the number of tours we can accept through a travel agency. Travel agencies generally want a very high commission for booking our tours and we do not budget that into our tour prices as we like to pass that savings on to you.
4. What is the best time of year to travel? Nobody should ever come to the British Isles or Ireland for the weather. It is often joked that you can experience all 4 seasons in one day, but there is a bit of truth to this. It seldom gets really, really warm and it seldom gets really, really cold. You have to expect some rain as the greenest places on earth cannot stay that way without some moisture. I prefer spring and fall, but that is because there are less tourists.
5. What is the fitness level of your tours? We do not do walking tours and try to make each tour meet each individuals fitness level. Which means that you can be as active as you want or as active as you are able as long as you are able to walk 10-15 minutes at a time, able to climb 2 flights of stairs and get easily up into and out of the vehicle as well as access the front, middle and rear seats of the minibus. We try to stay in areas with lots of walks nearby for those who would like to be more active.
6. What is the daily schedule like? We generally leave our accommodation between 9:00 and 9:30 each morning unless we have a ferry crossing etc. Most accommodations that we like to use are locally owned and do not offer breakfast before 8:00. We try not to travel too far at any one time on the bus and try to leave a generous amount of time to visit each attraction. Some of our tours are a bit more scheduled such as the Highlands and Islands tours as we are at the mercy of the ferry systems. We will stop for lunch around 1:00 unless we are taking afternoon tea, which is seldom before 2:00 and sometimes not until 3:00. These are very filling meals and will easily hold you over to a later dinner. We generally do dinner around 6:30 or 7:00 in the evening and only occasionally later depending on the time we get to our accommodation, as we like to have some free time before dinner.
7. Why do your tours seem to be more expensive than other tours? In comparing tours you need to compare apples to apples and not apples to oranges. When comparing prices, you need to compare to other small group tour operators. Our tours are generally around 10-12 people and not 40-60 people as with most major tours. You have a driver/ guide shared by 9-11 other people rather than shared by 39-59 others. We also take advantage of small locally owned accommodations and restaurants. These are usually small, family owned businesses and they are not able to give a discount to tour groups like the larger hotels do. Our tours generally offer quite a bit more than the larger tours do as well. When you count all the add ons that many tours promote, our prices are usually quite comparable to theirs. You get what you pay for and we are often told that our tours are very reasonable.
8. Why can we only take the tour on the dates listed and not at other times of the year? Many tour operators give multiple listings of departure dates throughout the year. We are a very small company and prefer to organize and conduct each of our tours personally. We can only offer so many tours a year this way, but we think the best way to conduct a tour is to lead it ourselves, making sure that your needs are taken care of in every way. Unfortunately, this only allows us to offer around 12 tours each year.
9. What affiliations do you belong to? We are a licensed seller of travel in Washington State and also through Global Travel International CST #2043947-40 FLSOT #20734. We are also affiliated with VisitScotland, VisitBritain, VisitWales, VisitIreland and the Speciality Travel Agents Association. We do not belong to many travel organizations as it is very expensive to belong to these groups and we like to use our advertising budget in other ways. We are also members of ASTA - American Society of Travel Advisors and NFIB - National Federation of Independent Business.
10. Why do you charge a single supplement? In Europe it is common practice to charge for the room and not by the number of people, as one person takes up just as much room as two people. This results in the single occupancy of a room costing almost as much as it does for 2 people sharing a room. We try to accommodate singles in a double or twin room whenever we can.
11. Can you find good food in the UK and Ireland? We hear this a lot and it really surprises us! I think it is because most people tour in large groups where the only thing available is cafeteria style food. We do not make any stops with cafeteria food and usually eat in small tearooms, pubs and family owned restaurants that offer quality food. We often hear that people have had some of the best meals of their lives on our tours.
12. Will we have our own bathroom? Yes. The days of shared bathrooms are quickly disappearing. Almost any accommodation has now adapted their lodgings to include bathrooms. You will always have your own bathroom, either within the room, next door or just across the hall.
13. What can we expect in accommodations? We only use 4 or 5 star tourist board approved accommodations and every now and then a 3 star that has exceptional service, food etc., but we generally stick with accommodations that are 4 or 5 star rated. We like to use small family owned guest houses, farmhouses and hotels. Small does not refer to the rooms sizes but the number of rooms in the establishment. We will often choose an accommodation for the overall feel above anything else. We never use chain hotels.
14. How much luggage are we allowed to bring? We allow one large bag and one small carry on size. We travel in small minibuses and there just is not room for more! We have never heard anybody say that they wished they had brought more with them but we often hear people say they wished they had brought less! We try to arrange for laundry service in the middle of the tour.
15. Are all meals included? No. The majority of meals are included, but we also like to allow you to choose some of your own places to dine and not have to eat with the group at every meal. We always have recommendations of places to eat.
16. Is smoking allowed on the tours? No. Ireland banned smoking country wide in March of 2004. Scotland banned smoking country wide in March 0f 2006. Wales ban took place on 2nd April 2007 with England following in July of 2007.
17. Are children allowed on the tours? We accept anyone over the age of 16(12 - 16 at our discretion) as most of our tours more geared to people in their 30's and above. We consider ourselves a family operation and welcome people of any age as long as they are physically able to take full advantage of the tour. We do not discriminate in any way with people from every background and way of life welcome on our tours. Each person will be expected to conduct themselves appropriately and we do not believe in the majority suffering the minority in any situation.