Growing up, I always saw myself exploring Europe with a big backpack, ripped up sneakers, and multiple large paper maps. I had dreamed of the backpacking life that most 20-something-year-olds fantasize about. I had it all planned out, my limited budget would allow me to fly into one airport, walk, hitch hike, or find a cheap standing only train ticket to move onto my next city. For accommodations, I would find any hostel that seemed relatively safe and clutch my belongings tightly in my sleep so no one can steal anything if I happened to be able to fall asleep among the noise of however many other people were in that same room bunking with me. Plan b would have been to find the warmest, cleanest corner or steps to get a few hours of sleep in before I explored the city with all my belongings on my back.
I would have stood in line for hours just to see the painted face of Mona Lisa or to climb the Eiffel Tower and I would have thought nothing about it. Fortunately, before I could start my backpacking life, I found out about Insight Vacations and AffordableTours.com. Insight helped me visit all the destinations I dreamed of in style with a modern motorcoach, first class hotels, and no waiting in ridiculously long lines all packaged into an itinerary lead by an experienced Tour Director.
My tour, The Road to Rome, is a pre-planned escorted itinerary by Insight Vacations. You have the option of starting in London or in Paris and I opted for the former. Including international flights from the USA, the entire trip took 15 days (the tour itself lasts 13 days).
It’s important to understand what you’re getting yourself into before committing to any itinerary with any operator. I chose our tour operator, Insight Vacations, because of their incredible reputation. Although they offer a complete brochure of full luxury itineraries, they are not a luxury tour company. However, they are far away from being just a first class vacation company. I found Insight tours to provide a very nice balance of luxury amenities that a deluxe tour company would offer along with first class services. It was this balance of service and price point that made my decision. My fully guided 13 day adventure around Europe could not have been more comfortable and I only have Insight and our Tour Director, Brendan Lampart to thank.
Photos from Paris
Two of the main reasons we were so comfortable during our travels is because we had an amazing driver and our driver was driving a very modern, comfortable coach. While that sounds good to us, do not forget how big these motorcoaches are, our driver Antonio Cortese deserves a lot of credit. Our coach had plenty of leg room, reclining seats, folding foot rests, big panoramic windows, microphone and speaker system, and of course on board bathroom. Our European motorcoach was equipped with air suspension so it literally felt like we were floating on clouds as we drove through the Swiss Alps and Tuscan hills. And please, we cannot forget about the driver, Antonio. While on the streets, you can see other coaches have trouble navigating the tight turns in Rome, some doing 3 or 5 point turns. Our champion driver had no such troubles. He got us where we needed to be on time and more importantly, safely.
Photos from Lucerne
One area where you might forget Insight is not a deluxe tour company is in the accommodations. Every night we were staying in high class hotels that you might think are only contracted with the really high dollar companies. Insight put us up in some really great hotels that provided all of the creature comforts most of us are used to back at home. This is really important because we never felt too far away from home as we made these hotels our home for a couple nights. Breakfast was always included and most places had a wide variety of breakfast options. The best part about all of this? The hotels were centrally located. You were never too far from anything and could get around very easily. Most thing were in walking distance and if you did not feel like walking, public transportation is a very great thing in Europe.
Photos from Salzburg
With two nights in each city but Salzburg, our fast-paced journey took us from London, Paris, Lucerne, Venice, Florence and Rome, along with a handful of smaller surrounding city visits. Sightseeing was plenty and all the guides were incredibly knowledgeable and shared their knowledge with us through headsets so that everyone was able to hear them. It should be no surprise that there is just so much history in that part of the world so listening to what they had to say about a monument, cathedral, or castle was very important to me. In retrospect, there would have been no way I could have seen and done everything we did on my own in the time we were there. The main reason for that is because with Insight, we were able to absolutely skip all the lines. When we arrived to our destination, we walked right up to the front, waited a few minutes for the Tour Director to do their behind the scenes thing and in a few minutes, we were walking in leaving the long lines behind us. If I had been backpacking, I imagine I could have easily lost half a day in the line at the Eiffel Tower and even a whole day getting into the Vatican.
Photos from Venice
Photos from Rome
As I enter my 30’s and begin to leave my 20’s behind me, I have seen and done much more than what I thought I would have in my younger years. I have also been fortunate enough to do it in ways that are much more comfortable, convenient, and in style. I was still able to explore Europe to my hearts content and have my amazing adventure. The only difference is, with the help of AffordableTours.com and Insight Vacations, I was able to tour Europe in style.
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