Pa. operator adds region to catalog

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SPRINGFIELD, Pa. -- Home At First, a family-owned and family-travel-oriented FIT operator, introduced Scandinavia products in this year's catalog.

In Europe, the operator previously served only Great Britain and Ireland.

Travelers can design their own itinerary, choosing from 12 regions in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, or select one of three preplanned itineraries.

All the properties Home At First uses in Scandinavia, said co-owner Judi Fahnestock, "are either historic inns or family-run hotels. We try not to use anything larger than 30 rooms."

Accommodations used include the nautically themed Lord Nelson Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden; the seven-room Trugstad Gard (meaning "Old Farm") outside Oslo, Norway, and the 28-room Tanums Gesgifveri in Tanumshede, Sweden.

Trugstad Gard is owned by a husband-and-wife team, and the wife, Tove Haga, prepares the meals.

"Wild game is a specialty of hers, but chicken, her favorite farm animal, is never on the menu," Fahnestock said.

"She's a bit of a character," Fahnestock added. "She collects [chickens].

"You really get to know the people at the hotels. The hotel owners go out of their way to make people happy," she said.

Tanums Gesgifveri is located three miles from the Swedish coast and within about a mile's drive of Europe's largest site of Bronze Age rock carvings -- Vitlycke.

The three preplanned itineraries are a driving tour, a fly-rail-boat tour, both set at a 10-night minimum, and a 14-night minimum fly-rail-drive, which visits north of the Arctic Circle.

The independent driving tour stays in a mix of city, town and village lodgings and visits Gothenburg, Sweden; Oslo, Kristiansand and Stavanger, Norway, and Copenhagen, Denmark.

The Car(e)free rail-boat-air tour stays at city accommodations and visits Gothenburg and Stockholm; Bergen, Norway, and Copenhagen.

Fahnestock said she recommends this itinerary during the snowy winter months.

The 14-night Maxi stays in small town and city accommodations and visits Copenhagen; Gothenburg and Stockholm, and Narvik, Norway -- north of the Arctic Circle -- and either Bergen or Stavanger.

Prices for packages range from $1,999 (through March 31 and Nov. 1 through Dec. 16) to $2,405 (June 26 through Aug. 16) and include transatlantic air, accommodation and a car rental.

A five-day Scanrail pass, in lieu of a rental car, is included for itineraries of less than 14 nights.

The land-only, all-season price is $1,499.

Additional days are $110 per person, per day, during low season and $140 the rest of the year.

All accommodations come with a private bathroom and breakfast.

Guidebooks and driving maps are included in the price, and a company representative meets with participants for an itinerary review for vacations beginning in Gothenburg from April through October.

Full packages are commissionable at 10%, and a 7% commission is paid on ground arrangements only.

One inter-Scandinavian flight is included with a roundtrip transatlantic flight on SAS.

Fahnestock said most of Home At First's Scandinavian itineraries are customized, and she recommended that agents provide clients with the company's toll-free number to facilitate the process.

"The package is difficult for agents to sell if they are not willing to give Home At First direct client contact," she said.

"Trust makes things easy. We have very loyal travel agents, who are happy to use us that way, but most don't."

For additional information, call Home At First at (800) 523-5842 or fax (610) 543-4970.

The e-mail address is [email protected], and the Web site is www.homeatfirst.com.

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