VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations
The very nature of VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations appeals to travelers with “healthy spirits,” said president Gregg Marston. Although the word “adventure” is relative, “when you compare our vacations to a cruise or a bus tour through Europe, certainly we would be on the more adventurous side, particularly if you haven’t traveled on a vacation like this before — an active vacation,” he said.
Every VBT itinerary offers a range of options to explore destinations, either on foot or on two wheels. The company provides a variety of routes with varying levels of difficulty, and travelers can stick with a guide or go it on their own. But the vacation isn’t about the bike; the bike is simply a tool through which travelers discover a culture — outside the bubble of a bus.
“When you’re on a bike, you’re smelling the earth, the sea, the air,” he said. “It allows you to get off and touch the grapevines and the soil that’s recently been tilled. You’re in the elements. Honestly, it’s my belief that if you can stimulate the senses, you create a memory that lasts a lifetime.”
In Italy, groups cycle along the cliffs of Puglia, which “is just magnificent along the Adriatic,” he said. In the Tuscany region, riders get off their bikes and take a ferry to the island of Giglio. Travelers take walking trips along Italy’s Amalfi Coast, and most of the itineraries include “local experiences,” such as lunch in a local family’s house or touring an olive oil mill.
In Costa Rica, VBT takes its groups river rafting and ziplining, and in New Zealand, the company offers travelers the option of bungee jumping or jet boating on the Shotover River. During a Vietnam trip, groups can climb through the expansive tunnel system the Vietnamese built during the Vietnam War.
Sports Leisure Vacations
Clayton Whitehead, vice president of Sports Leisure Vacations, hates the passive nature of a lot of travel: You ride in a bus, you watch a play, you walk through a museum.
“I’m always looking for something active and getting local, getting involved,” Whitehead said. “We always want to give them opportunities to get their hands dirty and learn in a really fun way.”
On tours in the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia, groups hike into the Burgess Shale, one of the richest fossil deposits in North America. A local geologist guides the group, and travelers can get down on their knees with a small pick and a soft brush to look for fossils and learn about what they dig up.
In West Virginia, groups travel to New River Gorge where they can take a jet boat ride or walk across the 3,000-foot-long bridge that spans the gorge. Those who aren’t afraid of heights can opt to venture on the catwalk suspended beneath the bridge, 876 feet above the river below. Another West Virginia outing includes tramping through rugged areas with a West Virginia University professor and expert on family feuds who takes the group to historic homesteads and shootout sites of the Hatfields and McCoys.
During a trip to Santa Claus, Indiana, travelers can go to the U.S. Post Office where a group of local seniors answer children’s letters to Santa Claus. In the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Whitehead takes his groups to St. John United Methodist Church in the town of Avon, where local women make a Southern covered-dish dinner and talk to the guests about living there during hurricanes, and “that’s one of the most memorable meals of the whole tour,” Whitehead said.
Barry and Terry Klein have been wagon masters with Adventure Caravans for more than 10 years and, in the past few years, have begun developing trips: laying out routes, choosing new tours, finding vendors, etc. They’re finding that travelers want more options for new experiences.
Adventure Caravans runs two types of tours: a rally and a caravan. For a rally, people drive from all over the United States and Canada to gather at a specific recreational vehicle (RV) park that serves as base to tour the area. During caravans, a convoy of RVs travel from one location to another for anywhere from 21 to 60 days. For those trips, Adventure Caravans will also hire motorcoaches and step-on guides to take their groups on tours and to nearby attractions.
“We find a lot of our trips are bucket-list trips,” Barry Klein said.
During the company’s Copper Canyon Top and Bottom itinerary, travelers leave their RVs behind during an eight-night train journey through Copper Canyon. There, they will learn about the local Tarahumara Indians and go on a two-night trip to the colonial town of Batopilas at the bottom of the canyon, a remote community with only one hair-raising road in and out.
In the Bay of Fundy, which separates New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, travelers can go tidal rafting. The funnel-shaped bay has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world, from exposed ocean floor at low tide to 50-foot-high sea levels, and when the tide comes in, it reverses the flow of the St. John River that empties into the bay, creating rapids perfect for rafting.
At Guerrero Negro in Baja California Sur, field staff take groups whale-watching on small dories to get close to the playful whales.
“I leaned over the boat and petted the whale,” Barry Klein said.