Travel Weekly reporter Michelle Baran is sampling two motorcoach tours in Europe: one a highlights tour of several destinations, and the other a regional tour of Milan. Baran is detailing her experiences and observations in dispatches.
Dispatch, Lake Garda, Italy -- On these two very different Trafalgar tours -- the whirlwind European Horizons highlights trip and the more relaxed, regional Milan and Italian Treasures tour -- I've seen just how different travelers' priorities can be.
Many people on the European Horizons tour picked that itinerary because they wanted to see and visit places they and their family and friends recognized: London, Brussels, Venice, Rome, Florence, Paris.
Many of those travelers might have been disappointed with some of the places we are visiting on the Milan and Italian Treasures tour, places like the quaint Marostica, a 14th century town with an almost entirely intact fortress wall. Or Sirmione, a Roman town built on a peninsula that juts out into Lake Garda.
Places, in other words, that few people outside of Italy have ever heard about.
For some, coming to Europe is about seeing iconic monuments that they have read about in novels and watched in the backdrop of movies -- Big Ben, St. Mark's Square, Eiffel Tower. They don't want to tell their friends about some no-name place with a beautiful castle. Who cares?
Other travelers are paying for insider's knowledge about a destination that they might never have uncovered on their own.
The two camps are not always mutually exclusive. There are people, like me, that appreciate both. I would not have visited Venice without roaming St. Mark's Square. But then I wandered down some quiet side streets and through less popular areas like Dorsoduro, across the Grand Canal from San Marco.
But for some people, it is one or the other. Certain people actually get a bit perturbed if a tour stops somewhere entirely unknown to them. They make comments like, "I've never even heard of this place," implying that if they don't know of it, they don't know how to register it and therefore are not interested in wasting their time with it.
Others are completely turned off by the tourist traps. They complain about the crowds and are much happier finding quieter, off-the-beaten-track destinations. To them, a vacation is getting away from the masses and taking quiet strolls along charming small-town streets.
These differences are what make building itineraries so challenging. It's impossible to please everyone on a group tour. It's such a delicate balance. Some like more free time, others like more hand-holding. Some like to be on the go, others like to take it slow.
Matching the right client to the right tour is like dating. If it's a good match, there might be future dates with that tour company. Others might try a different company or a different style of touring.
On these two tours, I've definitely seen some sparks flying, while others are still on the fence.