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Coach Tour Terminology You Should Understand


With 25 years’ experience in sending Australians on coach tours of Britain and Ireland, we’re aware that many people book a coach tour without understanding exactly what they are buying. Coach operators’ jargon and terminology to describe inclusions and exclusions vary greatly; this can result in unexpected and substantial added costs to your tour. Without proper research, and careful guidance from an expert, impartial coach tour specialist such as ourselves, these expenses usually only come to light when you are on the actual tour. This makes it impossible for you to avoid them before it is too late.

We have done all of this due diligence on your behalf. We know each operator’s tour programmes intimately, and we are in the perfect position to give you unbiased and impartial guidance, ensuring that you choose the most appropriate coach tour for you.

To assist you further in your decision making process, the following details are provided to give you an insight into some of the most commonly used – and most commonly misunderstood – coach tour terminology.

Two of the most important, but very often the most overlooked terms, in coach touring terminology are Guaranteed Departures and Optional Extras. If you do not fully understand these terms and the conditions behind them, it could add significantly to the overall cost of your trip.


This area of coach touring terminology can be quite confusing and as a result it is often overlooked when it comes to booking your coach tour. It is, however, one of the most important terms and one that you should understand completely before committing.

This aspect of your trip has the potential to cause the most stress, inconvenience and in many cases, significant (non-refundable) expenses. It is of particular relevance to Australians coach touring in Ireland.  Let us explain.

Australians, by and large, visit Ireland as an adjunct to a broader, more extensive trip around Britain and/or Europe. Usually tours are already committed to and prepaid with a variety of other travel arrangements, in other destinations, which will fit in either before or after the Ireland coach tour.

The last thing you need, around 60 days out from your scheduled departure, is a call informing you that your tour booked has been cancelled.

All coach tour companies reserve the right to cancel a coach tour. They reserve this right whether the tour is marked as a Guaranteed Departure or not! Yes, we agree that this is crazy, but they have the right to do this – and sometimes they exert that right.

The main reason for such a cancellation would usually be due to the tour failing to attract the minimum required number of participants to operate successfully.

In the event of a cancellation of your tour, the only obligation of the tour operator is to either provide you with a full refund of any monies paid to them for the tour cancelled or to offer you an alternative tour from their programme.

The alternative tour options offered invariably operate on different dates to your original choice, making it all the more difficult to fit around your other prearranged plans. To take up the alternative tour options you will usually have to amend your other arrangements either side of your visit to Britain or Ireland.

Any expenses associated with those changes such as flight amendments/cancellations, accommodation etc. are the sole responsibility of you, the traveller, and not the tour operator!

A full refund of the money paid to the tour company is small recompense for the total upheaval of your trip and will, in no way, compensate for the upset and expense caused by the cancellation.

There are two ways to reduce the possibility of cancelled tour departures affecting your next trip.

1) Focus your choice on operators that have the highest percentage of guaranteed departures and departures in general in the particular category of tour that  you are considering

2) Focus on the operators that have the broadest range of tour options in the category of tour that appeals to you. For example, a tour operator with multiple choices of 7 day tour programmes and a high percentage of guaranteed tour departures will be far less likely to cancel a departure.

In the unlikely event that they are forced to cancel a tour, you will generally find they have a suitable alternative because they have a broad selection of tours and departures. This minimises disruption to your other travel arrangements.


Our considered view is that the term  ‘optional extras’ is a complete misnomer. If you speak to anybody that has coach toured in Europe they will confirm this.

Just consider for a moment the following observations and the potential they have to impact heavily on your travel budget.

  • By its very nature a tour that offers optional extras reflects a significant ‘gaps’ in its daily and nightly schedules. It simply has to for the optional extras to be taken up by tour participants.
  • Your driver and/or guide relies fairly heavily on the commissions from the sale of optional extras on coach tours. This is a little-known fact but one that you should be aware of. It can often result in none too subtle sales pressure being applied in this area of your tour.
  • Having comprehensively analysed the complete range of Britain Ireland tour programmes in great detail, our view is that when a tour does offer ‘optional extras’ you must budget to purchase most – if not all – of these items to bring the tour up to the standard of an ‘all inclusive’ tour.
  • The average daily allowance for optional extras is $75 per person, day. This is the figure determined by the tour operators themselves.


All coach operators in Ireland offer free arrival and departure transfers to and from Dublin Airport. However, there are restrictions on these transfers. You must arrive on the first day of your tour and depart on the last day of your tour — at certain times. Otherwise, you are obliged to make your own transfer arrangements at your own expense.

For example, if you arrive in Ireland a day (or days) before your tour starts and you leave a day (or days) after the tour officially ends you must arrange your own transfers.


The following is a summary of other commonly used and often misleading coach tour terminology

See: You will literally ‘see’ the attraction as you drive past. You will not stop and experience the attraction.

Orientation Tour: This is a drive-by in the coach, where places of are pointed out so that you can revisit and explore them in your free time (at your  own expense).

Sightseeing tour: You will have  a local guide who will take you on a tour of a city or particular site.

Tonight’s recommendation“join your Tour Director for an optional evening at…”: Basically means that your tour director will encourage you join in an evening’s entertainment with the group by selling you an evening’s entertainment.

Plenty of dining options at …: Dinner tonight is at your own expense!