Pros: great trip, and director
Ever since I saw Cary Grant in "North by Northwest"(the classic 1957 film by Alfred Hitchcock), I wanted to see Mount Rushmore. I had some free time before I had to go to school in September and we all wanted to take a nice summer vacation tour. Our past experiences with Cosmos tours ranged from horrible to good. But this time we wanted to try a different tour company, just for a change. We took our first Trafalgar trip in August of 2003 to the Western part of the US. We chose the Scenic Park Explorer tour. Our main interest in this trip was to see Yellowstone National Park, Crazy Horse National Memorial and Mount Rushmore. The trip would last about 11 days and would start in Las Vegas and end in Denver, CO. The cost per person was about $1100. This didnt include airfare, but it did include breakfast and dinner and all excursions. The airfare cost us about $400 person, roundtrip. The reason the flight was so pricey was because we werent flying in and out of the same city. Nonetheless, the trip with Trafalgar was phenomenal and we will definitely travel with them again, if we get vacation time.
What did we see
The first day was spent in Las Vegas. We had visited Vegas on a previous trip, so this was old hat for us and all love Vegas anyway. I never thought I would have so much fun losing money. Later in the trip we saw Zion Canyon and Bryce Canyon, both of which were spectacular and would highly recommend to anyone. We went to Salt Lake City to see the Mormon Church, which was very boring and a little creepy. The Mormons kept following us around to make sure we didnt touch anything. Needless to say, I would not recommend this place to anyone, as there is not much to see(that is, unless one is into Mormonism). Yellowstone, we spent three days in. This was one of the highlights of the trip. We got to see lots of bison, deer, and a grizzly bear. Old Faithful was really spectacular. I would really like to go back to Yellowstone for another visit. Crazy Horse was really interesting. It was huge, way bigger than Mt.Rushmore. Also it is unfinished. I think that made Crazy Horse even more interesting, because it is a work in progress. Mount Rushmore, I have to admit, was not as impressive because I saw it after I saw Crazy Horse. However, it is still a must-see in the Badlands area.
The trip was pretty enjoyable and there was a lot of walking involved because we were seeing a lot of parks, open spaces etc. But, none of us minded the walking because we were all having such a good time. It was a reasonably paced trip but not like we had to run from one site to another. Our guide was really good at keeping us on schedule, so that we didnt waste too much time in one place.
Breakfast and Dinner was all included and every meal was delicious. Every place where we had breakfast gave us so much food that we never wanted to lunch. For instance, the first day of the trip we were served a traditional American breakfast: eggs,ham, sausage, rolls,toast with jam, fruit juice, pancake,coffee, tea. Dinner was usually more than filling. In fact, I cant remember ever eating more in my life. One particular hotel in Yellowstone provided us with an excellent dinner and I still remember it because it was simple: turkey, mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, chocolate mousse. Pretty much every meal was more than satisfying.
With Trafalgar, all the excursions were included in the original total. This is unlike my experiences with Cosmos(where they will charge for anything under the sun). However, there was only 1 optional trip which was offered and everyone went on that. It was very well worth the extra money and time too. This trip was called the Chuck Wagon Dinner and Entertaining Evening. The food was so-so, but the entertainment was exceptionally great. Since none of us had ever been to a chuck wagon, we were all eager to see what the big deal was. The music was incredibly lively and all the performers were part of the same family and it was great atmosphere, full of noise and laughter. I sound like Dickens, but its the truth. It was probably the most enjoyable nights I had on the trip.
Tour Director & Driver
In a word, Mike(our tour guide) was excellent. He was very knowledgeable, informative, nice, considerate of the travelers opinions. He was always ready to help us with seating assignments on the bus, so that no confusion would occur. He was very organized with the luggage, entertainment and eating arrangements. He always made sure everyone was treated well and equally, which is not an task when there are 60+ peoples. To pass time on the road, he would invent very interesting games to play so that we would never be bored. Also, he would play movies and songs to alter the atmospheres. He made sure to make frequent bus stops so that people could use the bathrooms and eat some snacks or grab lunch quickly. He made helpful suggestions as to the best, cheapest places to each lunch. He was also helpful when we wanted to know how to best spend our time is certain national parks, by telling us which spots to visit first and how to maximize our time so we could see the most places. For instance, when we went to Yellowstone, Mike told us the best part of the hour to go and see Old Faithful and which part of the park to sit at, so that we would get the best views. Fernando, our driver was also excellent. Fernando was very friendly, nice and polite. Always ready to give a helping hand when the tourists are getting out the bus.
Coach was great. It was very comfortable because it had AC, very nice in 100 F weather. The only problem is for those who sat near the restroom because of the aroma. But, the guide made frequent stops so that this was not a big problem.
I will definitely travel Trafalgar again and highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in taking a conducted trip. If you are worried about cost, keep in mind that they will include meals and not charge extras for optional trips. So, in the long run, Trafalgar will save you more