CAA’s President Discovers Coach Tour Comfort in Portugal

A recent trip to Portugal opens the eyes of CAA’s President to all the possibilities of coach touring.

by Mary Wimmer

A love of seeing the world is part and parcel of what it takes to lead an organization like CAA North & East Ontario. Just ask Christina Hlusko, President & CEO of the Club that offers expert travel services in addition to a peerless roadside assistance program.

“I’ve had a love of travel my whole life.  My family has been to five of seven continents (including Antarctica),” Christina says. But despite taking more than 25 cruises as a family, she says the concept of coach touring “was never on (her) radar.”

She had, as many North Americans do, an outdated perception of the coach touring experience as a pell-mell race through destinations, with little free time to relax or interact with local people. “When I travel, I want an authentic experience with the local people – I want to go where they go; I want to eat in their favourite restaurants.”

But a recent trip to Portugal with CAA travel supplier Collette Vacations (which CAA brands as Member Choice Vacations) has now opened her eyes to the possibilities of coach touring. “There was lots of leisure time. I saw amazing things. The local, unique experiences were fantastic. Overall, it was a magnificent experience – and it really changed my perspective.”

Christina travelled with a group of 26 travel professionals from across Canada and the U.S. “The organizers made it very clear that we were getting the same experience as typical guests. We rotated seats, so we didn’t have to run for the coach in the morning. We had WiFi on the coach so we could post our experiences and even answer critical emails. All breakfasts were included and we enjoyed amazing suppers as well, with quality wines. All these things added up to a worry-free experience.”

Favourite memories of the trip for Christina included visiting a cork factory to learn about the process of making champagne corks from trees, as well as an evening of typical Portuguese Fado music, which she thoroughly enjoyed.

"There was time every day for yourself, but the hours spent touring and sightseeing were extremely stimulating. Our Tour Director Beth Meredith did a spectacular job. She was so knowledgeable and patient; and the local guides really added depth to the experience," Christina says.

Now that she has experienced a coach tour to remember, Christina has a much clearer perspective on why this type of travel is increasing in popularity. “We’re definitely seeing more interest, and now I know why. I would say a Collette tour offers an experience that’s attractive to almost everyone, from busy professionals to those celebrating a special occasion or checking items off a bucket list. You really get to know your fellow travellers and share the joy of discovery with them.”

For her, the company’s Private Sedan Service that picks travellers up and delivers them to the airport – and meets them back there when they get home – is a major selling point.

“What a nice perk to have. The company in Ottawa was very professional, and on our return the driver was there even though our flight was delayed. It was a very stress-free end to a really special trip.”

Want to experience a coach tour as captivating as Christina’s time in Portugal? Be sure to check out CAA’s Member Choice Vacations and find out for yourself why these tours are becoming more and more popular every year. Simply visit your nearest CAA Travel Store to speak with our dedicated team of Travel Professionals, or call our Travel Services Call Centre at 1-800-267-8713.