Featured in Living 50 Plus,  Winter 2016

Niagara Falls, ON

ARE BUS TOURS RIGHT FOR YOU? Every day, I receive phone calls from people who say “I have never been on a bus tour, and I am not sure if it is for me” but they are calling because it is time to take the next step…to actually become one of “those” people.  They sound tentative, almost scared, a little resigned to making the call. That’s right, I know that there is a certain pre-conceived notion when it comes to traveling on a group tour – some people envision being dragged from one attraction to another in a herded mass, trapped on a bus with a bunch of grumpy “old people”.  We can’t ignore the fact that is the perception of what a bus tour is like – if you want to continue to travel in your later years, you have to succumb to going on the dreaded bus tour.  Terrapin Tours is not only here to change that attitude, but to demolish it.

Why should you go on a bus tour? Traveling is a great way to stay active and to continue learning later in life – there are so many benefits of traveling and there is no reason to stop just because you no longer drive or want to travel on your own. What are the benefits of taking that proverbial “first step” and getting on the bus? First, there is an absolute ease of travel when joining a group – you don’t need to worry about planning all the details - you make your reservation, pack your bags and are ready to go!  No more piles of maps and driving directions; no more searching TripAdvisor for every hotel review under the sun; no need to buy every guide book printed; and no need to navigate busy city streets or winding country roads in search of your hotel.   Plus, when booking groups, we often get discounted rates which can be passed on to you.  For instance, if you add up the cost of planning a weekend to New York on your own – by the time you add up hotels, meals, attractions, and transportation to and around the city – often times you have a considerable savings by joining a group.  Add to that the benefits of traveling to new places with a knowledgeable guide; the ability to travel as a single but not be traveling alone; and the inherent safety in traveling with a professional tour director that can assist if things don’t go as planned or if there is a medical or other emergency.

ALL TOURS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL. So what’s so different about Terrapin Tours and our tours? It is a new age!  I have learned that if 40 is the new 30, 70 is the new 50!  Today’s Seniors are different and understanding the differences is helping Terrapin Tours cater to the new group traveler.   Today’s seniors are more active, more adventurous, and are savvier when it comes to travel.  There are a lot of differences between tour companies and the various tours that are offered.   We like to have fun, and we are on a mission to demolish the pre-conceived notion of the dreaded bus tour.

To begin with, there are many factors to take into consideration including the difference between cost and value.  Looking at the price isn’t always a clear picture of the cost of a trip – how many meals are included? Are all of the activities and admissions to attractions included or will you be digging into your pocket every time you hop off the bus?  Take a close look at what is included in the price of the tour - get a better  idea of how many meals and activities you will be paying for out of pocket – at the end of the day, a lower price on the brochure doesn’t always mean lower cost to you.  Also look at the hotels, are they hotels that you would choose to stay at on your own if given the option?

STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES…  Another thing to look at is the pace of the tour.  Terrapin Tours is taking a “Stop and Smell the Roses” approach to travel.  We feel that it is important to take time at the destinations that we visit rather than simply hopping off the bus, checking off the attraction on a list, and hopping back on to head off to our next destination.  I have learned that people would prefer to see less, but experience more.  Taking a little more time at each destination and also giving people some free time each day to do what they please has been the key to Terrapin’s success.  Some travelers would prefer to enjoy a leisurely lunch at a sidewalk café, while others would like to spend the afternoon in a museum or gallery, and of course, there are those that would spend the time shopping!

LESS HO-HUM, MORE FUN! At Terrapin Tours, we like to have fun and we are on a mission to demolish the pre-conceived notion of the dreaded bus tour.  From years of traveling on tours as a passenger and leading my own tours, I have learned that if everyone is on the same mission to have fun on a tour nothing is going to stop them. You can’t control the weather and you can’t control traffic - and sometimes even the best plans don’t pan out as expected – which means that things don’t always go as planned.  As the saying goes “If life hands you lemons, make lemonade”… well, we feel like having the right attitude equates to bringing a cup of sugar to sweeten up the lemonade!  After all, life is an adventure so let’s have fun while we are on the journey.

BEEN THERE, DONE THAT! WHERE ARE WE OFF TO NEXT?  At Terrapin Tours, we are always striving to experience new destinations – often times off the beaten path places that aren’t necessarily “bus tour” destinations.  In 2015 we visited the awe-inspiringly beautiful Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec – definitely worth the long drive to get there! In 2016, we are touring the Ohio River Valley & Amish Country in the spring; in August we set off on our Great Lakes Explorer which will bring us to the shores of all five Great Lakes; the fall tours include the Charlevoix Region of Quebec, the Hudson Valley & Hyde Park in New York, and the Smoky Mountains & Asheville; finally, we kick off the holiday season with a tour to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC, and the Brandywine Valley including Longwood Gardens all decked out for the holidays! And that’s just a start – our tours vary from day trips to 12-day comprehensive tours - check out our website to see all of the exciting places we are going in 2016.  Additional tours are being added on a regular basis, so check back often!

At the end of the day, traveling is a very personal experience.  Traveling with a group has always been a great option for me – I love the camaraderie that comes with traveling with a group of strangers that become friends; I love sharing the experiences along the way with fellow travelers; and I love sitting down at the end of the day and sharing stories of our adventures.  My passion for group travel is helping me create a new kind of travel - a group tour where after you take that “first step” and get on the bus, you are in for a fun-filled adventure, not some stuffy old bus tour.  So hop on the bus….you won’t regret it!

Kelly Cooke is the Owner of Terrapin Tours, loves traveling and has almost 20 years experience in the travel industry. You can learn more about Terrapin Tours and the exciting places we will be visiting on our website www.TerrapinTours.com or by calling 603-348-7141.