I have to admit, I was always one of the first people to say, “I will never take a guided bus tour….NEVER”.
Well, after my first experience in Ireland, I can’t say that I’ve totally changed my mind but I now acknowledge that there are some benefits to this mode of tourism.
So – to tour or not to tour…that is the question.
I’ve never been a fan of tour groups – on a bus or otherwise. First of all, I’m not really a “large group of people” person – especially when I don’t know them. So a bus full of strangers in close quarters doesn’t make me jump for joy.
We arranged the first few days of our travel in Ireland through the Naval Academy Alumni group and their tour coordinators. So one benefit to this was that even though these people might be strangers, we all had a few things in common – we were here for the Emerald Isle Classic to watch a football game against Notre Dame and we all want to BEAT ARMY! So those things break the ice.
I think my favorite part of the tour bus experience was the fact that I had nothing to worry about. After a 7 hour flight across the pond, the last thing that I necessarily want to think about is renting a car and packing the family in to start a drive across country. We had wonderful porters that whisked our bags away and stored them under the bus. All we had to do was climb aboard.
Once we backed out of Shannon Airport, we were on our way to Dublin via a few stops en route. Our driver was very knowledgable and spoke as little or as much as the group wanted. We drove through Limerick, and our first stop was in a town called Adare. We walked around the visitor center and saw the traditional thatched roof tops. The town was really cute, but we were ushered along so that we could keep on the timetable and proceed to our next stop.
The tight time schedules that tour buses adhere to are one of the reasons that I have stayed away. I feel like I am in kindergarten again and we all need to hold hands to travel from place to place. I like to take things at my own pace. Traveling with young children, you are often working on their schedules and the feedings, naps and changing times might not sync very well with the activity schedules on the bus.
Another benefit that tour groups often receive are front of the line privileges at many sites. I have little to no patience, so this is always appealing to me, however neither site that we visited had lines!
So my take away from the tour bus experience: They are not my first choice but I believe that there is a time and a place for them. Again, after arriving in the city and being exhausted, it was wonderful to just sit and relax.
Yes, this is me being exhausted. NOT a flattering picture but this is the reality. I was hiding in my scarf and just wanted everyone to go away!
I think that a bus tour is a great option for the first day on your itinerary. For longer trips, your body is still trying to adjust to the local time. A bus tour is ideal because you can stay awake and engaged in the new location while at the same time, take it easy. You can also get a big picture of the city highlights and then later, you can choose which sites you would want to spend more time at.
After the first day or so, my family didn’t see the benefit of a bus tour and actually left the group early to break off on our own. We rented a car, opened a map, and headed to Galway.