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Back-Roads Touring specialise in leisurely tours with no more than 18 passengers, all of whom tend to be experienced travellers who prefer someone else to look after the driving and logistics. Here are eight tips for taking a Back-Roads Tour so you can make the most of your holiday and get the most out of this great small group bus touring option.

Consider booking a room with twin beds

If you book a ‘double room’ you will probably end up sleeping in a smallish double bed at each hotel as queen and king size beds aren’t the norm in Europe. If you and your partner are used to more space consider booking a twin room with two single beds. While it’s not particularly romantic sleeping separately, you will almost certainly be more comfortable and get a better night’s rest.

Stay at the Back-Roads Touring hotel

While the departure point for each tour tends to be centrally located and easy to reach, it’s a good idea to stay at the Back-Roads Touring hotel the night before your trip. This way you can enjoy a sleep in and don’t need to worry about getting to the departure point on time. You’ll almost certainly get to meet a few of your fellow travellers at breakfast the day the tour departs too which is a nice way to kick off your adventure.

Bring a large handbag or small backpack

You’ll be spending most of each day touring and will be unable to access your suitcase (unless you’re willing to unpack the entire bus to reach it). For this reason, it’s a good idea to bring a large handbag or small backpack so you can carry essentials such as a refillable water bottle, hat, sweater, camera, wet weather gear, etc.

Mont St Michel
Don’t forget to bring your camera

Socialise with other travellers

One of the joys of a Back-Roads Tour is socialising with other travellers on the bus and having meals with different people. Breakfast is included daily but not lunch and dinner (one of these meals usually is but it alternates). This means you have the flexibility to meet up with others on the tour for meals most days. Sometimes we did this formally and other times we decided on the spur of the moment to dine together. It was great having the flexibility to choose where to eat at least once each day and who to dine with rather than being confined by a rigid group dining schedule.

Back-Roads Touring
Socialise with other travellers on the tour

Switch seats on the bus

No one wants to be stuck in the back seat of the bus for the entire trip so switch seats on a regular basis so everyone gets a turn at the front. However, don’t get too caught up with developing a seat switching system. A formal arrangement such as moving forward one seat works well on large bus tours but is far less successful on a small mini-bus, especially if you have solo travellers or couples who always like to sit together onboard.

Give everything a try and keep an open mind

No matter how carefully you choose your itinerary, there will almost certainly be a few things on it that don’t particularly interest you. However, it pays to keep an open mind and give everything a try. As someone who has never been interested in war history, the prospect of spending an entire day touring Normandy’s WWII sites on my La Belle France Back-Roads tour didn’t thrill me. However, one the most rewarding things about joining a tour is how it forces you to step outside your comfort zone. Strolling along a silent Omaha Beach bathed in soft morning light provided a moment of quiet reflection and a poignant contrast to the violent scenes which unfolded there on D-Day in 1944.

Omaha Beach
Peaceful Omaha Beach

Don’t over-plan your free days

If you’re like me and used to travelling independently, planning your own activities is probably second nature. However, try to resist the temptation to do this if you’re traveling with Back-Roads. On the La Belle France tour we had a free day to explore the pretty town of Dinan with no scheduled program. As I was travelling solo and wanted to make the most of my time, I pre-arranged a walking tour with the local tourist bureau. Big mistake. Even though it wasn’t officially part of the program, our guide offered to take everyone on a free walking tour of Dinan that day. I passed them a few times on my private walking tour and was kicking myself that I hadn’t simply waited to see what was available on the day.

Bring a corkscrew if you’re travelling in Europe

I was travelling solo so this didn’t apply to me but quite a few couples on our tour enjoyed having a glass of wine together before dinner. However, not everyone had remembered to bring a corkscrew (wine in Europe is bottled under cork which makes a corkscrew essential). If you don’t want to be knocking on people’s doors begging them to open your bottle of wine, you should pack this essential item.

Disclosure: The writer travelled to France and toured as a guest of Back-Roads Touring.

If you are thinking of heading overseas for a tour with Back-Roads, you might also find our airport stopover tips, overseas safety advice, travel planning tips, and advice for avoiding scams helpful.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.