(c) Harvey Barrison 2008
During the summer of 1946, with the war and gas rationing over, my parents decided it was the time to show us kids the U.S. They carefully plotted a three-month driving odyssey, reserving hotels in 37 different states. My brother and I would share the backseat of a two-door ’46 Ford. There was, of course, no air-conditioning, and my father’s arm took on a deep tan from his open window. Girls wore dresses at that time, and my legs itched from the scratchy backseat upholstery.
Memories of this long-ago trip flashed through my mind during a recent Tauck Williamsburg-Washington, D.C. tour. Our small group traveled in the comfort of a shiny, new, luxury coach. Both our tour director and driver were highly experienced and skilled.
Although only eight days in length, the Williamsburg to Washington, D.C. tour was an excellent introduction to our country’s rich history. Beginning in Philadelphia, the itinerary crossed the Pennsylvania Dutch country to Gettysburg, then on to the Shenandoah National Park before continuing to Williamsburg, Jamestown and ending in Washington, D.C. This was a week of varied vistas and contrasts: skyscrapers, farmlands, battlefields, forest, monuments and memorials.
Hotels selected for this tour offered every amenity. All hotels were well located near historical areas for maximum free-time exploration. For example, in Philadelphia, the Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing is located along the river near what is considered to be the most historic square mile in America. From here, I was able to walk from the hotel to attend a Sunday service at Old St. Joseph’s Church. Established in 1733, the church was celebrating its 275th anniversary.
Our experienced tour director enriched our trip with his impressive knowledge and appreciation of history. Local experts complimented his on-coach narrative when we visited the Amish area, Gettysburg’s battlefields and Washington, D.C.’s many monuments.
This trip was very inclusive. Nearly all meals are provided, as are most gratuities. Entry to museums — even a day pass to Colonial Williamsburg’s historic area — were included. Colonial Williamsburg encompasses 301 acres of restored and recreated shops, taverns and open-air markets. Financial support for the restoration was secured from John D. Rockefeller and work was begun in the 1930s. Other highlights included guided tours of Jefferson’s home at Monticello and Washington’s home at Mt. Vernon.
With Tauck, meals are a la carte — participants order from a menu, rather than receiving a pre-selected meal. Several meals were in memorable locations, such as dinner aboard the four-masted Moshulu, docked near our Philadelphia hotel at Penn’s Landing. Another special dinner was in a historic Colonial tavern in Williamsburg, complete with costumed waiters and entertainment.
This well-paced week would also appeal to history buffs. Two major monuments, one dedicated to those lost in the Korean War and the other to those lost in World War II, have been built since the completion of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982.
This trip would also appeal to those with an interest in genealogy. Tauck always includes a selected bibliography to prepare participants for their experience.
With more than 80 years of experience as a provider of escorted tours, Tauck has a repeat rate of over 50 percent among its guests. Many of the 18 members of our group, including myself, had previously traveled with Tauck. Our group represented seven different states, plus New Zealand, Spain and the U.K. Our youngest participant was a high school senior traveling with her grandmother.
Tauck is definitely agent-friendly, too. Volume-based commission starts at 10 percent for tours. Tauck-arranged air receives 5 percent commission and guest protection insurance 10 percent.
I’ve found that clients invariably return pleased with their trip.
Always anxious to expand its horizons, Tauck began Tauck at Sea in 2004, featuring European river cruises. Tauck Bridges is a relatively new program designed for family travel. The Williamsburg-Washington, D.C. tour, listed in Bridges as “Patriots of America,” is an ideal family vacation with tremendous educational value.
Our family trip in 1946 wasn’t as easy, but still, I can’t help thinking that maybe it was because of that early introduction to travel that I’ve enjoyed nearly 30 years in the industry.
Gayle Christensen is a travel counselor at Alamo World Travel in Alamo, Calif.