The Joy of Private Tours 18-12-19

I understand, honestly I do. That initial sticker shock when you look at the price of a private tour compared to one with a big coach company. “How can they charge so much?” I hear you cry. And I’ve thought the same myself when booking a private tour for my own holiday, although that’s usually followed by, “Hey, I don’t charge that much!”

It boils down to simple economics of scale (mostly). Just take a typical London to Stonehenge and Bath tour:

Large coaches of up to 50 people charge about £54 p.p. excluding admissions = £2700

Smaller coaches up to 16 charge about £95 p.p. excluding admissions = £1520

Private tours charge between £330 and £650 typically. I know, right?? I seriously don’t charge enough! 😉  But based on a price of £340 (my average), that’s somewhere between £340 and £56 p.p. for between 1 – 6 people. So for 1 or 2 people, yes it might give you cause to pause, but once you’ve got 3 – 6 people, then a private tour is about on a par with the coach prices. And then you get to the ‘worth it’ factor.

 But just before we do get to that, one other small matter to mention. If we’ve done our job right, you get in the car, see some places; hear some history and get dropped off again 6 – 10 hours later, thinking what an easy job the driver guide has! (I have had someone tell me this.) What you don’t get to see is all the stuff that goes on around the tour: The time spent dealing with initial enquiries, to crafting the itinerary (everyone’s day is different), the research into the itineraries and information about the sites and sights; the cost of running the business, including the fees to be correctly licenced for private hire, increased insurance, plus time and money on the upkeep of the vehicle(s); maintaining the website and social media presence and so on. There’s a lot to creating a wonderful day!

But what excites me most is the ‘worth it’ aspects; that you end the day thinking “That was so worth it.” Given my former nursing career, I was born to keep people happy. I get a kick out of seeing how I can make somebody’s experience even more special if possible. Simple little things such as stopping the car if safe to do so to let you take that Instagram-worthy photo of the English countryside; discovering you love strawberries, so why not stop at the road-side strawberry seller for some really fresh, juicy fruit! Read about a delightful family-run bakery you want to try out? Sure! While we’re at it, how about trying some local traditional lardy cake?

 

The other aspect I am passionate about is to show you the ‘real’ England (well, the pretty parts!). You know you want to visit the iconic, famous places you’ve heard and seen about, and quite rightly, too. But so does everyone else, and you can be battling it out with the hordes. I like to include, wherever possible, something or somewhere the big coaches can’t get to; where you can enjoy beautiful places you may never have heard of, but where you can savour the atmosphere ‘away from the madding crowds’. Often these little stops surprise and delight my guests.

 

 

And of course, there is the convenience of being met at the airport, or your hotel, or the cruise terminal … and knowing that even if you arrive late, then someone will still be there waiting for you. That can’t happen with public tours who have been known to leave late-comers behind. There was that one time when I had been booked for a shore excursion from Southampton with a meeting time of 8am. The ship had developed propeller problems somewhere out in the Channel and limped into port at midday. And to really make the cruisers’ day … immigration decided to carry out a full inspection! My group eventually disembarked at 4pm to find me waiting with a big smile and a “Right; let’s see what we can salvage of this day” attitude. Unfortunately they were too late for Stonehenge, but I took them to dinner at a pub in the middle of Avebury stone circle. And many other private tour guides equally were there doing the best they could for their own groups. We’re a hardy bunch!

So if you want a tour that is tailored to your needs and your timetable; to be picked up or dropped off somewhere convenient to you; if you have an idea that doesn’t fit within the mainstream coach itineraries; if you wish to be treated as an individual rather than a number, then maybe a private tour is just what you need.