Come the weekend when the newspapers arrive, the Travel supplement is the first section that I read. What I’ve noticed over the years is the increase in full page advertisements for Trip A Deals as well as Cruises. Any wonder that tourism numbers are on the rise. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel and tourism grew 3.9% in 2017 alone.
Reluctant to take a Trip A Deal for fear of being stranded or scammed, I discovered that Judy, a golf member at Kooringal, had just returned from back-to-back trips. The first, a nine day visit to Japan with a girlfriend in May was advertised at $2000. This was followed by an eight day SNA trip to China with her husband in June for a mere $999. Both trips included return airfares.
Judy, an active golfer, retired from her admin/customer service position at Victoria University in 2012. In her own words, she ‘loves to travel’ and her first trip in the eighties was to Bali. Since then she’s visited the UK numerous times to see her son, travelled independently throughout Europe and Vietnam and taken various cruises.
Judy was happy to put my mind at rest and answer the questions I had about her experiences, so I asked her:
- Did you know anyone who had been on one of these trips previously? Not for my trip to Japan. I saw it advertised in the Travel section of the Herald Sun and also online. After I booked I discovered other travellers who said Trip a Deal was reliable, easy to deal with and value for money. Whereas, SNA Tours who ran the China trip, was recommended to me by friends who had been last November. They were amazed at the value of the deal especially the quality of the hotels and meals included.
- Tell me about some of your fellow travellers? They were all from Australia, in fact most were from Victoria. On both tours there were 34-38 passengers and both had one or two younger teenagers accompanied by their mother or nana. It was the first time everyone had taken a Trip A Deal or SNA tour, however people talked about doing future ones.
- What was your highlight in Japan? Seeing Mt Fuji, or as the locals call her, ‘Princess Fuji ‘on a clear day. Japan was easy to navigate and the Japanese are very polite, respectful and organised. Also the food is great.
- And China? This was our second trip to China as we had taken a cruise in 2014 to Korea, Taiwan and China. We didn’t get to see the Terracotta Warriors then, however hearing and seeing their story, which dates back 2200 years, was an amazing experience. We met one of the farmers who made the first discovery while digging for water on his property.
- Were all meals included? We were aware that not all meals were included though breakfast was in both cases. We purchased our own lunch and dinner on the Japan tour, but on the China tour, most lunches were also provided.
- What wasn’t included? In Japan we had to pay a daily surcharge of $10 for the bus driver and guide but we knew this before departing. One internal flight was included on the China trip, however as it was a cheaper tour, we paid entrance fees to major sites and the bullet train.
- Any downsides to taking these trips? It could be daunting for some as they had very busy schedules with early starts and lots of sightseeing packed into one day. Typically we were on the road by 8am, stopped for a morning break, then 30 minutes for lunch and the day ended around 6pm.
- What three tips would you give to anyone considering booking:
- Patience, as waiting for the group to assemble can take time
- Not too much luggage as you are moving around a lot
- Gastro Stop, or similar (just in case).
- Where do you plan to go next? I think we have exhausted group tours for a while. In saying that, these trips suited me as I got a glimpse of Japan as I’d like to go back and see more at my own pace, and I got to see the Terracotta Warriors.
Personally, I’m gobsmacked at the price of these trips. They certainly make overseas travel cheaper than anywhere in Australia. I’m sure Judy would agree that regardless of the price you pay, travel makes you richer for the experience!
Tell me if you were a sceptic like me, or if you’ve had a great Trip a Deal or similar experience too?