While the thrill of independent travel can be a wonderful thing, sometimes you don’t want to spend your time fiddling with maps. Sometimes, it’s appealing to go with a small group of like-minded people instead. But how do you decide between the big tour companies? Well, we’ve been wondering too! One name that keeps coming up is Collette. So, when they stopped by the office recently, I learned as much as I could – but I also asked if I could interview some of their past clients.
That’s where Doug and Gail Puddicombe came in. Gail is a friendly, personable, retired teacher. She loves people, and travel, and has also served on many community, national and provincial boards. Gail’s amicable husband Doug is a retired elementary school principal – also the member of several community boards and committees, he’s also the past chair of both Fanshawe College Board of Governors, and Woodstock General Hospital Board of Trust. It should go without saying that he loves people and travel. Since they have done a great deal of travel on their own – and as part of a group – Doug and Gail are just the right kind of people to ask about Collette. Here are my questions and their answers:
As independent travellers, what do you find most appealing about an escorted tour?
What we find most appealing is that you do not waste a lot of time. The tour manager knows what line up to get in what door to use, where the restaurants and washrooms are, what they serve etc. You are not wasting time flipping through maps & tour books. The social aspect of being with a group is enriching for everyone. People who travel in groups are social. When problems arrive we all pitch in to help each other. Each group seems to develop its own personality. Collette leaders try to get everyone to mix. Singles who travel in couples mix well with married couples. People who travel singly mix in as well.
Are your fellow travellers all “of a certain age”? What kind of people are they?
Collette takes people from all ages and backgrounds. Mainly retired educated & professionals. Each trip attracts a certain group – sometimes siblings, friends, and married couples. There are often people from different provinces and countries who have heard about Collette trips from word of mouth. When they travel with Collette, they know they will be taken care of.
On one trip we had 3 ladies with walkers so they could participate in the walking and overcome obstacles!!
Is every day structured with tours? Do you have any freedom to do things outside of the itinerary?
Not every day is structured. It’s good to put in a pre-night on the trips for time zone change adjustments and personal exploration. Usually a morning would be for touring & sometimes an afternoon free to enjoy what you want to see or if you wish to rest.
Some times we have opted out of the planned day & so have others. The reason could be there is another attraction you would rather visit or you may just want to sit in a café & people watch & enjoy the atmosphere or you may be tired & know a little time away is just what you need.
Are Collette tours good value for money?
We find they are!!
What are the hotels like? Are they comfortable?
Hotels are usually excellent & well located – where the action is – so you don’t have to get a taxi or bus
Do you move hotels every single night? Do you get help with your luggage?
Many groups have passed wanting to move every night and instead like the hub trips. Yes, you do get help with our big bags. If you wish further help, it can be arranged.
Do the seats on the bus rotate? Or do you sit in the same spot every time?
Not usually. Some people like to sit at the back of the bus & not move at all. We just don’t let the same people always sit in the front seats. Each tour manager organises it differently.
Are the guides decent? Do they speak English well?
Collette does a good job of hiring excellent tour managers & we have usually had superb local guides. As they do the same tour a lot, Collette knows who the good local guides are & use them all the time. We make a point of talking with the tour managers before our trips so we can make them aware of our group’s unique characteristics and they also then get to know Gail and me.
Have you travelled with other escorted tour companies? How do they compare? Why do you like Collette?
Yes. We have stayed with Collette because their quality has been consistent. Their tour managers are paid employees. Their cancellation & medical insurance have no pre-conditions. This is particularly beneficial to those who do not have a group insurance plan &/or have medical issues.
Collette is a family run business & they treat their travellers as part of the family.