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Saga's new American holidays: discover the East Coast

Amanda Angus / 26 July 2016

Our writer Amanda interviews expert Holiday Creator Chris Parker about an exciting new holiday to America…

Inner city New York reflected in the Hudson River
Inner city New York reflected in the Hudson River

We based this tour on an older one that covered a lot more distance and went up into Canada. Whilst it was popular, we had feedback from previous guests that the distances travelled were just too long to be enjoyable, so we acted on those suggestions. We also eliminated all the one-night stays, because our customers tend to like to unpack and settle in to their hotel rooms, and with only one night in each place, they felt like they were spending too much time unpacking and packing! So now we have at least two nights in every destination, which has worked out much better as it means there’s much more time to explore and really take in the surroundings at a slower, relaxed pace, which our customers love to do. We’re always thinking about what our customers want.

So really, this tour has all the best bits of the old tour, and a few extras too. I really enjoyed the chance to change a few bits here and there; for example, a few years ago I discovered the US Arbortorium, and since then I’ve had it in the back of my mind as something our guests would really enjoy. As far as I know, no other holiday companies offer it, and the gardens are beautiful, so it’s something our customers will really appreciate.

We also visit the oldest Amish settlement in the US, in Lancaster. Here you can see how the Amish live; they’re quite private so it’s great to get an insight. Our customers love to learn about interesting, unusual cultures, so I think they’ll find this really fascinating – I certainly did!

Our customers are very savvy, and they know when they’re getting good value for money, so I always concentrate on making sure I get the very best deals for them. US cities are notoriously expensive, so I found out when the best times to stay are, and based the tour round that. For example, Washington is extortionate to stay in during the week because of all the politicians, but stay at a weekend and the price is much more affordable. I do a lot of research to make sure our customers can see more and experience more without having to pay more, and luckily, I love that aspect of my job; I get a lot of satisfaction from knowing I’ve been successful in getting fantastic value for money for our customers.

My favourite bit of the tour is what I would call ‘a moment of surprise and delight’; I don’t want to say too much because I want our customers to have the same experience I did, when I first saw it and wasn’t expecting it! But I stumbled upon something in Philadelphia that I thought was really special, so I made sure our customers see it too – I always try to put myself in our guests’ shoes, and I’m always looking out for the unexpected things that will appeal to them.

We also take guests to Reading Terminal Market, a huge food market, and give them a voucher so they have free reign to choose their own lunch – I hope they will choose the delicious philly cheesesteak sandwich, but if they don’t want that, there are hundreds of other stalls selling every type of food imaginable. Shopping in a market in a foreign city can sometimes be a bit intimidating, as you’re not quite sure how it all works, so as the food voucher is actually issued by the Terminal Market itself, it just gives them a little bit more security and the confidence to go and get immersed in the whole experience.

We go to the Eastern State Penitentury, where Al Capone was held, and they get to see his actual cell. Again, this is something other companies might not include, but our customer group are much more likely to find it interesting, so we make sure we feature it.

Expectations are getting higher and higher each year, as the better the hotels we find, the better our customers expect next time, so it’s a balancing act of finding fabulous hotels that have the ‘wow factor’, but don’t end up costing our customers too much. You have a list of ‘must-haves’ forefront in your mind too: it has to be close to the action, but still quiet and peaceful; it has to have a lift, or at least not too many stairs; the service has to be top-notch, but not too expensive – it’s like a puzzle, but I thoroughly enjoy the challenge!

Why not experience this tour for yourself?

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.