Tours can be a great way to see many different countries in a short amount of time without having to plan all the logistics of traveling to each country, booking hotels, and reading up on all the major sightseeing destinations. However, tours can also feel rushed if the tour guide has to keep the tour flowing within a packed schedule, and sometimes meals are pre-planned so there might not be time to try out the cafe or restaurant you were looking forward to. Also, the larger the tour, the more frazzled the tour guide may be, since he or she has to be in charge of so many people getting back to agreed upon meeting points at a specific time. In short, tours are definitely not for everyone! This post will compare two popular tour companies, Trafalgar vs YMT, and shed some light into what each entails.
I recently returned from an 18-day European Cruise and had the opportunity to discuss my experiences using different tour companies with many of my fellow tourists. From looking at the tour brochure, receiving our tour information and swag, and the tour experience, I was constantly comparing the two tour companies I’ve used so far, Trafalgar and YMT, and the three different tours I’ve booked with both of them.
All three tours were well run and offered excellent excursions to cities I probably would have never thought to visit on my own (Obidos, anyone?). But which one would I say exceeded expectations and offered the most bang for the buck? Let’s find out!
An Overview of the Tours:
||European Dream||European Whirl||Grand European Cruise & Tour|
| Tour Length
Note: includes arrival and departure days
|10 Days||14 Days||18 Days|
Note: lowest price advertised, which is dependent on the time of travel
Both companies offer many different types of tours within the US and around the world, including tours that require little to some walking (relaxed) to ones that require some long distance walking, walking up and down stairs, and on uneven terrain. They also have tours that include cruises or river tours if you don’t want to spend all your time on a bus.
The cost of the tours include a majority of meals, including breakfast on most days of the tour, transportation to each country, and sightseeing highlights. When touring the highlights of the major cities, most of the tour is on the bus, with maybe a 15 minute break to take pictures outside near a landmark or two.
Both tour companies offer different excursions within the visited countries, but they are not included in the cost of the tour; these excursions can range from less than $50 to over $100, and some may even include meals. Make sure you incorporate the cost of these excursions into your trip planning because joining an excursion every day of a tour can add close to $1000 more onto your total!! Also, remember to check whether the tour is being charged in dollars or euros, which can add even more to your total.
However, YMT offers longer cruises, and when your tour includes a cruise, all meals are included in the price. These meals have a lot of flexibility, as you can either have buffet service or be served 5 course meals as if you were in a fancy restaurant.
Winner: YMT (by a longshot) – Factoring in the tour length, countries visited, cost, flexibility of meal choices, and high quality food, YMT just offers the most value for its price.
But wait, there’s more to consider!
When you book a trip through a tour company, expect some decent swag traveling-related swag. Each tour company sends different items, sometimes even if you book with the same company, but here is what i received when I booked my tours.
When I booked my first tour with Trafalgar, I was sent some pretty nice travel accessories. I got a carry-on sized nylon bag with the Trafalgar logo on it, and it has plenty of pockets and space for anything I might need for a day of traveling. It even had a mesh side pocket for a bottle of water.
Although I carried this bag during my first tour, I opted for a smaller and lighter bag when I traveled in subsequent trips.
They also sent me a nice passport & boarding pass wallet made of a substantial material, similar to leather with suede-like accents. It had plenty of room for other documents such as hotel information and directions, plus room for money and even a pen.
However, for my second tour, I wasn’t sent any gifts! I was traveling with my family, and it was their first tour, so they got a passport & boarding pass wallet, but no bag. I guess I can’t complain!
For my tour with YMT, I was sent a portable scale & luggage strap, both rather handy for future trips as well. This time I was traveling with family members who had already traveled with YMT, and they were sent the same items.
I found the bright red luggage strap useful in identifying other YMT travelers at the airport, and we all followed each other to make sure we found the YMT representative at the airport.
It should be noted that if you travel with other people and make a booking under the same reservation number, you will only get one portable scale per reservation number.
Winner: Tie – Although both Trafalgar items probably are worth a lot more than the scale and luggage strap, I find myself using YMT’s items more frequently than the Trafalgar bag and passport wallet, probably because they’re too bulky.
As I mentioned, Trafalgar doesn’t really offer many tours combined with cruises. Most of the transportation will be by coach, but if you travel between England and France, you might take the ferry, which is a nice, hour-long journey in a comfortable boat.
The coach is still really comfortable, with on-board facilities, and easily identified by its colorful exterior. It’ll be difficult not to find this bus after you’re done exploring on your own during your free time!
The YMT tour included a land and cruise tour. The land tour was mostly on a coach similar to the Trafalgar tour that also was very spacious and comfortable. Most of the tour took place aboard the luxurious Costa Luminosa cruise ship.
Imagine never having to pack and unpack your suitcase every time you stayed in a hotel in a new country, as I had to do while on my Trafalgar tours. Instead, the ship is your home away from home, and while the hotels selected by Trafalgar range from comfortable to very charming, they can’t compare to having the same familiar room aboard a beautiful ship.
Winner: YMT – Living on a luxury ship for a majority of my trip, and being able to walk right off the ship to explore a new city every time it docked really gave the YMT tour the edge over endless coach traveling and sometimes unimpressive hotels. Add in the included meals and options for either the buffet or 5-course meals, and there’s no comparison.
So what’s the final verdict? I have to say the winner is YMT. Their tours cost a lot less than Trafalgar’s, and they tend to take place over a longer period of time. If that were the only advantages, then maybe I would still consider Trafalgar, but the food was much better during the YMT trip, both at the hotels in the beginning and end of the trip, as well as on board the ship. I know I can’t really compare taking a cruise with YMT with all-land tours with Trafalgar, but since only YMT offers joint cruise & land tours, I personally have to go with YMT.
Both tour companies also had very informative tour guides who were patient with travelers and made sure that no tourist got left behind, so I’d call it even on tour guides. Also, all three tours I joined had a majority of older people (retirement age) as my co-travelers, so the pacing of the tours was generally easy going. I felt like I could spend a lot more time wandering around the different cities we visited on each of my trips, but we just didn’t any time for that on a full schedule. Just something else to consider when planning a trip through a tour company.
I hope you found this guide useful for a future trip! Have you booked a trip through YMT or Trafalgar? Do you agree with my final verdict?