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Go beyond motorcoach travel with TAP

Courtesy Rocky Mountaineer

Some of the world’s best views are the ones you can’t see from the highway.

Motorcoaches have long been the lifeblood of group tourism, conveying like-minded travelers in comfort and style. And although there are many advantage to traveling by coach, there are some disadvantages too; namely, some places where they can’t go.

Fortunately, today’s travel options go beyond motorcoach tours to give passengers a variety of outside-the-box options. Several Travel Alliance Partners (TAP) tours use unusual methods of transportation to show groups what they cannot see from aboard a bus and create memorable experiences while in transit.

In Canada, TAP offers a railroad journey that traverses the breadth of that great northern country. Out West, one TAP itinerary uses private planes to give travelers a grand tour by air. Small cruise vessels help show off the ecological wonders of the Galapagos Islands and the waterways of America’s heartland. And independent spirits can join TAP for recreational vehicle (RV) rallies around North America and abroad.

If your travelers are ready for an adventure beyond the motorcoach, take a look at the following options for a trip they won’t soon forget.

Canada by Rail
With a mass of land that is larger than the continental United States, Canada enjoys abundant spaces that are as scenic as they are expansive. It would be difficult to take in all of the highlights of Canada via motorcoach tour, but TAP partner Atlantic Tours has created a way to do it by train.

“Canada by Rail is a wonderful experience for those that want to enjoy Canada from coast to coast,” said Atlantic Tours’ Richard Arnold. “Canada is the second-largest country in the world. For a lot of people, it is a dream to see it all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific, so we’ve decided to offer that by train.”

This 3,000-mile trip begins in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where travelers board a Via Rail Canada train bound for Montreal. Aboard the train they have sleeping accommodations, washrooms, showers and a dining car, along with learning car coordinators who give talks on topics such as wine and local topography along the way.

After arriving in Montreal, passengers transfer to Toronto for a day of sightseeing and an overnight stay before boarding another westbound train that will take them across the country into the Canadian Rockies. There are several nights on the train along the way, as well as multiple-night stops in Jasper and Banff, Alberta, and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Train travel offers group members a chance to experience Canada at a relaxed pace.

“You’re pretty flexible to do what you want to do,” Arnold said. “The train goes in some spots where the highway isn’t located, and you’ll see things that you could never see from a motorcoach or by car. You’re weaving through the countryside and seeing beautifully untouched wilderness and wildlife.”

Galapagos Cruise
Off the western coast of South America, the famed Galapagos Islands are one of the world’s most protected wildlife areas. Groups can explore the islands and experience their incredible biodiversity, but there’s no way to do it by motorcoach. The only way to experience the Galapagos is on a cruise.

TAP offers small-ship cruises in the Galapagos Islands, operated by partner Select International Tours.

“You’re aboard an incredible little ship called the Explorer II,” said Select International’s Lynn Holinski. “Every day, you cruise to another island. We have local naturalists with us who are very passionate about what they’re showing you. They give you an introduction to the flora, the fauna and the islands themselves.”

Tours begin in Quito, Ecuador, where groups board the 100-passenger vessel for the cruise to the islands. With a high staff-to-guest ratio and spacious all-suite staterooms, the ship provides an environment of intimate luxury to complement the trip’s adventurous elements. Guests can sip wine as they cruise from island to island or sit down for a conversation with the captain and his crew.

Some of the best experiences come when your travelers step off the ship. This tour includes opportunities to snorkel in shallow waters as well as free time on white-sand and black-sand beaches. Visitors will also see wildlife such as sea turtles, iguanas and flamingos in their natural habitats.

“They’re a fairly protected set of islands, so there aren’t too many ships that can go into there,” Holinski said. “The companies visiting these areas have environmental restrictions. Other ships might travel near the Galapagos, but they won’t have the opportunity to get in there and see them like we do.”

Western Sky Adventure

There are so many amazing sights to see in the American West, from San Francisco to the Grand Canyon — but it takes so long to reach all of them by motorcoach on a single tour. For a solution to the time problem, TAP offers a tour called the Western Sky Adventure, which uses private charter aircraft to shuttle groups quickly from one beautiful site to the next.

“We hooked up with a charter airplane company that operates 30-passenger planes on the West Coast,” said Scott Yoder of TBI Tours, the TAP partner that operates the trip. “We use private airports, so you don’t have to go through TSA security. Your coach pulls right onto the tarmac, and your bags are unloaded straight into the airplane.”

The tour uses those charter airlines to take passengers quickly to see highlights of the West. Starting in Los Angeles, travelers fly to Monterey, California, for a visit and overnight stay and then fly north the next morning for a two-day tour of San Francisco and Yosemite. The following day, the group flies to Utah to see Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. From there, they fly to the Grand Canyon and then take the final leg that evening to Las Vegas for a two-night stay.

During the course of the tour, visitors see six of the most famous national parks in the West.

“It would take you 14 days to do this by motorcoach, and we’re able to do it in nine days,” Yoder said. “We maximize the ability to sightsee and experience a variety of parks in the West that you could never do by coach.”

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.