Specialty farm tours

Everyone new to overseas travel is faced with a dizzying array of options. Travel on a mass-market tour? Find a specialty tour with like-minded people?

Or in these days of the internet, why not just use Google – spend hours on research and then travel independently? Why do travellers still choose group tours?

Group travel benefits:

  • Time poor? Your biggest decision is choosing between tours.  Once it’s booked, your only responsibilities are making sure your passport is in order, plus visas if required (& the tour company can provide advice on that). Then throw clothes into a suitcase, get to the airport and begin relaxing.
  • Excellent itineraries. It’s the job of the tour organiser to put their years of experience and many hours of research to work to find the best features to visit, ideal time of year and the most suitable and best-value accommodation. And the good travel companies do a fantastic job in this regard, using a global network built up over many years.
  • Budgeting simplicity.  Good tour operators make it very clear what is included and what isn’t, so it’s easy to calculate your overall spend. Unlike independent travel, when what starts out looking much cheaper invariably ends up being more expensive, due to all the extra costs not factored in initially. (Speaking from personal experience!)
  • Great value for money. Tour operators receive bulk discounts on the two largest and most inflexible costs – fares and accommodation – so group travel is often cheaper than independent travel of the same standard; or the same price but it includes extra features – such as specialty tour guides.
  • Travel assistance. If anything at all goes wrong – eg flights are cancelled, luggage lost, passports mislaid or someone falls ill – the tour operator is contactable 24/7 to provide advice. Having someone to ring who can point you in the right direction to sort out headaches is worth its weight in gold! But just like insurance, the value isn’t always appreciated…until the day you need it, then you thank your foresight.
  • Queue – less. If you’re visiting a country where there a long queues to enter major attractions (EG some popular European destinations, particularly in summer), group tours with pre-bought tickets often enter ahead of individual travellers.
  • Transportation is not your worry. No worries about driving on the other side of the road and crashing a rental car while navigating amongst busy traffic in unfamiliar territory. Or the dramas of locating a parking space in crowded places. Or not being able to enjoy the passing scenery because you’re concentrating on the road.  Instead, sit back, relax and enjoy what’s passing your window.

But the best bit about group travel – specialty tours:

  • Meet interesting local people and visit fabulous places that you couldn’t if travelling independently or on a mass-market tour.
  • Extra enjoyment from travelling with like-minded people. Hear their interesting observations, discuss what you’re seeing and enjoy a laugh together. Going for an evening walk or dinner with others in the group , rather than worrying about being out on your own. And have someone to reminisce with, down the track.  Many travellers on farm tours end up with some new, long-term friends.  This is what I love most about farm tours – travelling with people who share similar interests – and the same sense of humour – increases the enjoyment and benefit of farm tours exponentially.
  • Genuine relaxation. It’s the job of the tour leaders, drivers, tour company staff etcetera to take care of all the organising and ensure everything runs smoothly so you don’t have to worry about anything at all.

A good group tour gives passengers plenty of opportunities to walk or eat on their own at lunchtime – but many on farm tours enjoy one another’s company so much, they choose to spend time together.

One of the best benefits of travelling on a specialty group tour? Hearing the observations of the like-minded people you’re travelling with and enjoying pithy conversations featuring shared interests.

What is the difference between specialty tours & generic tours?

In the global travel market there’s basically 2 kinds of tours:

  1. Generic tours that cater to a mass market – aiming to appeal to as wide a cross section of people as possible.
  2. Specialty tours designed to appeal to a distinct group of people, who have specific interests

Generic (mass market) tours:

  • Run at an identical time annually, or at regular intervals throughout the year.
  • The route is repeated over and over – same features, same accommodation, same people encountered. While the tour is new to you, it’s commonplace to the people you’re visiting.
  • The timing is finely tuned – there’s no room for any deviation to the schedule.
  • Special features such as events are rarely included as that adds a layer of complication & cost that doesn’t fit the high-volume ‘keep it as simple as possible’ model.
  • Visits are focussed on the most popular (and often crowded) tourist attractions, only.
  • Generic tours are a very efficient way to see a lot of well-known sights in a short period of time. However they can be exceedingly frustrating for farmers because when you are out of town you’ll be driven right past what you’d most like to stop and look at and general-interest tour guides aren’t able to answer agricultural questions. And although every city has features that relate to agriculture on a generic tour you won’t know where to find them. You may feel trapped in city madness and in desperate need of some fresh air and an escape from the overcrowding and noise.  This has been me! I have been on mass-market tours and desperately wanted to meet locals who can answer my queries about local farming, but had no way of meeting them. I know how frustrating generic tours can be.
  • Generic tours are usually large tour groups so organisers are able to guarantee departure for all the tours they run, even if only a few are booked to go on some tours. They may lose money on some departures but this is made up by a high profit on others. Accommodation etc is block-booked years in advance and bookings can be taken up until the last minute due to bulk reservations. It’s a high-volume business model; profit made on the crowded tours pays for the tours with low numbers.
  • It’s like ordering a McDonalds hamburger; you know exactly what you’re getting in advance and everybody gets the same thing. Like franchise food outlets, generic tours serve a purpose; but they are not ideal for anyone who is discerning, who wants to ensure maximum enjoyment and benefit from travelling.

Buckingham Palace – the UK’s must-see cultural highlights are crowded during summer, however group tours with pre-paid tickets usually enter more quickly.

Specialty tours – featuring farming:

  • You’ll be seeing highlights specifically chosen to be of interest to people like you.
  • We do visit cultural highlights but we also spend a lot of time off the beaten track away from the hordes.
  • You’ll be visiting people who aren’t in the tourism business – instead they have specific interests in common with you, which means particularly interesting conversations (and potentially, long-term connections).
  • You’ll be travelling with like-minded people that you have a lot in common with. This means great conversations, hearing the interesting observations of others and enjoying a lot of laughter together. The impact this has on raising the level of travel enjoyment should not be underestimated.
  • It’s rare for two specialty tours to be identical; especially if events are included in the tour.
  • On the specialty tours I run, you will be attending some fantastic events.
  • A degree of flexibility in the tour. We have a schedule to keep but extra little surprises can be fitted in as we travel around and we can adjust arrangements slightly, on the run, to accommodate weather vagaries. If you mention that there’s something you’re specifically interested in seeing, well in advance of the tour departure, it may be possible to write it into the itinerary. Personalisation such as this is impossible on a generic tour.
  • However – just as handmade products aren’t mass produced and must be purchased earlier, before they sell out – there is relatively little flexibility in specialty tour passenger numbers. Specialty tours take a lot fewer people and once the set number of people have booked, no more can squeeze on – we don’t usually stay in huge hotels so there simply aren’t enough free rooms available. And if minimum numbers aren’t booked by the accommodation payment deadline then specialty tours have to be postponed or cancelled, and deposits are returned. Departure isn’t guaranteed until minimum numbers are reached, as it’s not a sausage factory and there are no ‘loss leader’ tours.  What does this mean? Place a deposit to reserve your seat, early, to avoid disappointment; and immediately mention anything you’re specifically interested in, to ensure it is included in your tour.
  • On the farm tours I run, a lot of extra effort is invested in unearthing interesting but not so well known people and places – of particular interest to tour passengers with an interest in agriculture and/or country life.

Agricultural events are never included in generic tours, and rarely included in specialty farm tours. The 2019 farm tour to Ireland and the UK includes a number of agricultural events.  Read more about what makes this farm tour unique.

The next overseas farm tour:

  • The next farm tour I’m leading is to Ireland and the UK in July-August 2019.
  • If you’d like me to send you a brochure outlining the itinerary, costs and how to reserve your seat – Send me an email or ring me on (07) 4728 4922.
  • More information (F.A.Q.) on this personal tour of Ireland and the UK on the Ireland & UK Farm Tour page.
  • Bookings and deposits are made via Australia’s largest farm tour company, Quadrant Australia, as they are managing logistics (in charge of booking accommodation & flights, and they can answer any passport and visa queries you have).
  • As explained above, don’t risk disappointment by delaying booking specialty tours – as passenger numbers are limited. The secondary benefit of booking early is that you’ll get a longer period to enjoy anticipating your trip – something that shouldn’t be underestimated!