By Douglas Lund
It’s been almost a month since my wife and I returned from our 9 Day National Parks of Canada with Lake Louise tour with Gate 1 Travel and we are still reliving it in our minds over and over again. We met and befriended many incredible fellow travellers on this tour. Here are the Top Ten reasons we will be back with Gate 1 very soon:
10) Bang for the buck.
And while we’re tossing out cliches, this wasn’t our first rodeo either. We are both ex-airline and travel agency employees. We are veterans of over 40 previous packaged tours throughout the world. All with competing tour operators. In our experience none of the other companies featured such value for the consumer. Unlike their competitors, Gate 1’s listed price was the price we paid. No hidden extras or misleading advertising. It was especially nice not having to put up with the up-selling of optional excursions during the actual trip. We’ve been on tours where one is made to feel uncomfortable because the side trips required everyone to sign-up and pay or no one goes.
Best of all, by paying with a cheque or bank transfer rather than credit card we saved another 5% off the advertised price. Who else does that?
9) So simple to arrange.
Gate 1’s website reservation process was straight forward and simple. Everything was easy to understand online and didn’t require numerous phone calls to put things into motion. When I did speak to a representative on the phone they were always patient and helpful.
8) Joining a new family.
Who would’ve thought that we’d return from vacation having made scores of new friends along the way? Not only did we share new experiences with folks from all over but we came home with lasting friendships with people that share our same love of world travel. It was impossible not to become buddies spending so much time having fun together.
7) First class accommodations.
Upon arrival in Edmonton we were treated like welcomed guests. This was a first. On our previous tours we often felt like the hotel we were staying in saw us as discount visitors not worthy of the same treatment as their paying guests. The hotels we stayed in were modern and well-equipped. WiFi worked well in all of them. Comfortable queen sized beds with clean bathrooms were the norm. Having hot water for the morning shower was never an issue. Most had indoor pools and hot tubs.
6) Knowing where you’d be staying each night.
With other tour operators we often found our hotel reservations changing multiple times before and even during the trip. Not only were the Gate 1 hotels the same establishments as advertised but they were all conveniently located. No hour long bus rides to get to the center of action. Each evening we could easily and safely leave our hotel to explore the nearby attractions.
5) Clean comfortable and modern transportation.
Our tour involved quite a bit of travel between stops in the Canadian National Parks. Our bus rides never became uncomfortable or felt too long. There was plenty of leg room even for this guy who was recuperating from recent knee surgery. We could hear every announcement made by our tour manager over the P.A. System. The ride was always smooth and comfortable. A rather unique and very efficient system of seat assignments on the bus had couples changing seats every day. No arguments over being up front or on the “good” side of the bus. I didn’t have to line up to be first on the bus every morning. Best of all, our bus had cup holders which were filled every morning with fresh bottles of spring water.
4) A courteous and cordial bus driver.
Charlotte was more than happy to satisfy the various needs of our tour group. She was always first off the bus in order to lend assistance to those needing a little help. She drove smoothly and professionally throughout the trip and always kept her smile. She never lost her cool even with some of the clueless rental RV drivers posing a threat on the parks’ roads. When someone on the bus spotted an elk, moose, long horn sheep or other wildlife she was willing to safely pull over so that we might get photos.
3) Great dining options.
Unlike other tour companies that provide you with minuscule Continental breakfasts, our Gate 1 tour offered us a sumptuous full breakfast each morning serving real orange juice and not Tang. My cholesterol level rose on this vacation because of all the bacon and eggs I was able to enjoy each morning. Instead of packaged low cost dinners reminiscent of a college dining hall we were free to eat where and what we wanted for dinner. Our extremely knowledgeable tour manager seemed to know every eating establishment along our route and kindly offered suggestions. She directed us to many of the local specialty dishes and adult beverages.
2) A smooth comfortable pace.
As I mentioned, my mobility was somewhat hampered by my meniscus repair surgery yet for the most part I was able to enjoy all the highlights of the trip. For those that wanted to walk more there were ample opportunities to hike up a ridge or descend into a canyon or even circle a lake. Meanwhile others in the group could visit a shop or just relax on a bench soaking up the beauty of the Canadian Rockies. When my wobbly knee began to fail me near the end of the trip I was able to take a seat on the bus while the group hiked down to a waterfall.
1) The most incredible tour manager imaginable.
Whether you call them a “tour guide”, “group leader”, “travel coordinator” or “local expert” we have never met anyone more helpful, exuberant, knowledgeable, proud of her heritage or as professional as our tour manager, Karen Frey. The woman never stopped working at keeping us happy throughout the tour. Her organisation was immaculate. She was never frazzled despite a couple of minor hiccups beyond her or Gate 1’s control (temporary power outage in one town and snowy weather elsewhere). She taught us, made us laugh, and kept us safe throughout the trek. Karen’s contributions toward our enjoyment of this tour convinced us to sign-up for five more Gate 1 tours over the next year and a half.