What types of touring holidays are there?

Kieran Meeke / 13 June 2017

Since the first package tour – a return rail trip from Leicester to Loughborough in 1841 – holidaymakers have appreciated the convenience of having everything arranged for them. Now you have an amazing range of tours to take you anywhere in the world, by almost any means of transport.



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Safari tours

For anyone with an interest in wildlife, or the wonders of nature, a safari tour is the ideal way to go. 

Wild animals are usually found in remote locations and having someone else take care of all the travel and accommodation arrangements is the most practical way to go see them.

Once you are in a park, the presence of a guide is also vital. Not just to fill you in on the details of all the animals you see, but to find them in the first place.

When we think of safaris, we tend to think of Africa first as that is where they originated. But as well as the classic African safari, spotting lions, elephants or zebras across the shimmering plain, there are now opportunities to see animals all around our amazing world.

From whale watching in Alaska to bird watching in Rwanda, and from penguins in Patagonia to pandas in Chengdu, we live in a world full of natural animal wonders.

I’ve ridden on horseback with herds of zebra and wildebeest in Southern Africa, watched tigers in India, swum with sea lions in the Galapagos and cuddled orang-utans in Borneo. 

Being on a tour allows me to totally concentrate on enjoying the experience, with someone else worrying about all the details – everything from flights to meals and drinks.

Discover more about South Africa, a whole world in one country Find out more here.

Cruise tours

Cruises are perhaps the ultimate tour, a great way to see the world while staying in one place: a cabin that feels like home while the world outside your porthole changes every hour.

With 70 per cent of the globe covered in water, there are few places you can’t go by ship. It remains a fascinating escape from the world, into another more ideal world. 

Everybody on board a cruise ship, apart from the crew, is on holiday and relaxed, and you literally sail away from the dockside to leave your everyday problems behind.

There has been a massive growth in the cruise market in recent decades, and bigger, better ships are throwing off much of the reputation cruises once had for being stuffy and dull.

Modern vessels have everything from shopping arcades to climbing walls, taking in features such as casinos and haute cuisine restaurants.

While the bigger ships take in thousands of passengers, who can support a near-endless list of such entertainment options, smaller ships might hold less than 100.

The more intimate setting of a smaller ship allows for a family atmosphere and personalised attention. They often go to places where the big cruise ships can’t sail and these “expedition” voyages might take you to Antarctica or up the Amazon. 

They are often aimed at more active travellers, who want to do more than enjoy the spa facilities or visit big cities.

It’s up to you to pick the balance you want between entertainment and adventure. No one is stopping you trying out either style to see which one suits you best, or just ringing the changes between them all.

Cruises are also famous for their food. From endless breakfast buffets to back-tie dinners, you usually have a wide choice of what to eat and it is major part of your day on-board.

From Croatia to the Seychelles...discover more on Saga's escorted cruises Find out more here.

Rail tours

If one form of travel equals the romance of cruising, it must be rail. They have great similarities, of course.

While the scenery outside the window changes, you enjoy a wide range of facilities to make your day very pleasant, with a lot more room to move around than in a car.

I’ve enjoyed rail journeys across Northern America – Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer is perhaps my favourite – or through Southern Africa.

Other great memories are sightseeing trains down spectacular passes in the Alps, and to the Cathedral cities of England by steam on the Orient Express – when I felt like royalty when I saw the waving crowds at every level crossing.

Speaking of the Orient Express – perhaps the most famous train cart from the Trans-Siberia – the Oriental Express between Singapore and Bangkok is another great luxury train journey that must be on your list, especially if you like Asian food.

I’ve always found the food one of the best things about rail touring. I’m never sure how the chefs produce such good meals from such a tiny galley but I’ve never failed to be impressed.

Part of the trick is that there are by necessity few options on the menu, and a large number of guaranteed customers, so practice makes very perfect indeed.

Between meals, you sit back and enjoy the view, free to doze, read or talk to your fellow passengers. You can walk around the train, hang out in the bar or viewing platforms, or delve deep into furthering your local knowledge with the railway staff and guides.

What better way to see the world than by taking a scenic train journey? Find out more here.

European tours

When you look at a map of Europe, you appreciate how much there is to see within easy reach of the UK. Stretching from the deep snows of Lapland to the balmy shores of the Med and from the volcanoes of Iceland to the steppes of Russia, it takes in 50 countries and hundreds of great cities.

Each nation has its own distinct culture – and often more than one language – while landscapes and climate are equally varied.

Even within one country, you can find a bewildering choice. Italy, for example, runs north to south, from the Alps to the heart of the Mediterranean, having swallowed regions that were once kingdoms of their own.

Venice had its own mighty empire and remains a place geographically apart on its 118 islands. Trieste and Salerno vary in their cuisine as much as their architecture.

From the ruins of Pompeii to the beaches of Sicily, you could spend several lifetimes getting to know this one country alone.

Tours are a great way to get an overview of somewhere like Italy, or several countries at once. You can sample different places, or stay in one and take day trips out.

As a gentle way of discovering somewhere new, somewhere you can return to on your own if you fall in love with it, it is a form of travel that can seldom be bettered.

Some of my favourite tours have been a cruise around the Norwegian fjords and a train journey from Paris to Rome. Nearer home, touring the Highlands of Scotland, or the Ring of Kerry also left me with great memories.

The more I see of Europe, the more I realise there is to see.

Discover the sights, scenery and traditions of Sicily on a fascinating tour Find out more here.

Worldwide tours

What is true of Europe is many times truer of the rest of the world. How do you choose what to see on a planet that has so many wonders, from the five-mile-high peaks of the Himalayas to the 1,000-feet depths of the Dead Sea?

One thing all the world’s 200 countries have in common is that you can probably visit all of them on one tour or another. Even reclusive North Korea has opened itself up to such visits.

In fact, a tour is the only way to see it. Of course, it might not be wise to travel to some right now, such as Syria or parts of Western Sahara.

But if you are going to go somewhere risky, a tour is often the best way to do so. There is literally safety in numbers when you put yourself in the hands of a company that knows the country intimately, and its risks.

Most of us, though, are happy to holiday in places that are more open and welcoming, and there are more than enough of those to avoid the edgier ones until they hopefully open up in years to come.

The wide choice may actually be the biggest problem. How do you choose between trekking in Nepal or driving the coast of Hawaii? Between the jazz bars of Cape Town or the tango bars of Buenos Aires?

Me, I just want to do them all. I’m 108 countries down and counting. What about you?

Expect some surprises in the Caucasus countries of Georgia and Armenia… there’s to more to discover than you may have thought… Find out more here.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.