If you want to join a tour group in Europe but your budget is tight, Top Deck Tours offers an inexpensive option.
The firm's Deckerhome tours offer transportation and accommodations on double-decker buses. The self-contained mobile homes sleep up to 22 passengers.
Top Deck has been operating tours in Europe for 15 years. The programs are limited to travelers between 18 and 35. They compete with companies such as Autotours, Contiki and Insight Tours, which also cater to the same age group.
However, Top Deck is the only company to offer a "hostel on wheels," which is usually less expensive than camping and hotel tours.
Communal Food Fund
This summer, for example, a 16-day tour from London to Amsterdam, Heidelberg, Munich, Salzburg, Venice, Florence, Antibes, Avignon, Lyon, Paris and returning to London costs 279 (about $544 U.S.), plus 55 (about $107 U.S.) for the communal food fund.
Deckerhome sleeping accommodations are on bunks and fold-down beds. There is a kitchen, living area and sound system but no shower or toilet facilities. At night the vehicle parks at established campgrounds where there are washrooms, laundries and changing rooms.
Deckerhome tours run from 10 to 70 days. Most passengers are in their early 20s and are usually from a variety of English-speaking countries.
If you don't want to commit yourself to a long tour in such tight quarters, you can try one of the short special programs.
An 11-day trip that includes a visit to the Munich Beer Festival, departing Sept. 15, 20 or 25, costs 155, plus 42 for the food fund. All Top Deck European Tours begin and end in London.
A 13-day tour to the Running of the Bulls festival in Pamplona, Spain, departs July 3 and costs 145, plus 45 for the food fund.
If you find the idea of living on a bus more cramped than cozy, remember that Top Deck and the other companies also offer economical camping and hotel programs for travelers from 18 to 35. If you join a camping or hotel tour, the companies can usually arrange for a tent-mate or roommate to avoid a single supplement charge. Passengers will be from a variety of English-speaking countries.
For more details contact the Los Angeles Flight Center, 7531 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles 90046, or Top Deck Travel at 131/133 Earls Court Road, London SW5 9RH, England.
Campus Holidays USA is offering tour programs in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales aimed at the independent-minded traveler who prefers a small group.
On the Back-Roads Britain and Ireland tours, transportation is in 12-passenger minibuses and accommodations are university residences or bed and breakfast inns.
There are no age restrictions on these tours, but the company will try to arrange for like ages to travel together.
The average number of participants on these tours is 10, which allows flexibility. The tours often stay in a central place for several nights, using it as a base to make day trips.
The group is accompanied by a guide, usually local, and a British university professor.
One of the advantages of using university residences is that it is easy to get single rooms. Thus, on tours like these, solo travelers are not faced with hefty single supplements.
The land cost of an 11-day tour of Ireland and Wales is $699. That includes accommodations in single or twin-bed rooms, sightseeing and two meals daily.
The land cost of a 14-day Scotland and England tour is $700. A 16-day tour of England, Scotland and Wales is $899.
For more details contact Campus Holidays USA, 242 Bellevue Ave., Upper Montclair, N.J. 07043, (800) 526-2915.