Spring, Summer Offer Cornucopia of Enticing Domestic Tours

<i> Hughes is a 30-year veteran travel writer living in Sherman Oaks</i>

No matter the destination or the specific sights or desires, no matter the price or budget requirements, there is bound to be some sort of domestic tour for every mature traveler this spring and summer.

My mind boggles and the eyes are weary after two weeks of studying the dozens of tour catalogues and stacks of brochures offering everything from overnighters in Laughlin, Nev., to monthlong motor-coach tours.

Hundreds of departures are available through Southern California tour and travel agencies that plan and operate excursions for the mature traveler (age 50 and over) and the senior traveler (60 and over). That’s not counting the multitude of offerings from national tour operators such as the American Assn. of Retired Persons (AARP), Grand Circle, Saga, Collette, Insight and others.

Here’s a brief rundown on some of the many tours planned for Southern California’s mature travelers, leaving directly from this area. Note: Rates cited for all trips are per person, based on double occupancy. All include transportation from the Los Angeles area unless otherwise noted.


--Tour Masters, serving the mature market for more than two decades and a leader in the budget-price field, offers a 22-day coast-to-coast motor-coach tour for $1,199.

You’ll see 20 states and the capital, all the way to New York City and Philadelphia and back, with sightseeing stops along the way, including the Great Smoky Mountains, Nashville, Memphis, the Rockies, Las Vegas and lots more. Departures July 1, Aug. 1 and Sept. 1.

Travel by Coach

There are also two 11-day Canadian Rockies all motor-coach tours for $659 in August and September, plus two 17-day trips in August and September to Nashville, Natchez, Miss., and New Orleans, and including stops in Memphis, Houston and San Antonio, among others. These are $899.


Tour Master’s George Demas keeps his prices down with low overhead and by using his own motor coaches. He doesn’t skimp on hotels or sightseeing, but holds down on included meals. It’s hard to argue with success; he’s taken 300,000 people on his tours over the years.

--Trieloff Tours offers something different for its Springtime Tulip Tour to Holland . . . not the one in Europe, but its charming namesake in Michigan. The 12-day tour includes round-trip air to Chicago; then a motor-coach tour through Michigan and Wisconsin that takes in Traverse City, Mackinac Island (staying at the venerable Grand Hotel), Green Bay and Circus World Museum. Priced at $1,599, it leaves May 11.

--Noble Destination Tours offers an eight-day air tour to Washington, D.C., with a weeklong stay at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. In addition to sightseeing in the capital, plus Arlington and Alexandria, Va., side tours are made to Mt. Vernon, the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Baltimore and Ft. McHenry, and the Civil War battlefields of Fredericksburg, Va., and Gettysburg, Pa.

Noble’s tour is set for May 13 and costs $1,348.

--Calico Tours’ Peggy Kronenberger has a nice balance of short trips within California and longer motor-coach tours. One of the latter is a 10-day tour to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons. There are also stops in Salt Lake City and at Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute in Utah. The tour leaves June 27 and is priced at $759.

--California Discovery Tours in San Juan Capistrano has a five-day swing through the Gold Country, over to Sacramento for the Jazz Festival, then on Amtrak’s fine Sierra run to Reno, with accommodations at the Bally Resort and sightseeing in Virginia City and Carson City. Priced at $375, the tour leaves May 27.

Visit the Distillery

--Great Western Travel of Pasadena, one of the leaders in Canadian Rockies and Canadian Maritimes trips, also has a 10-day air/motor-coach tour to Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry. Also included is the blue grass country around Lexington, Ky., the Great Smoky Mountains, Chattanooga and Lynchburg, Tenn., with a stop at the old Jack Daniel’s distillery. It goes for $1,295, with departures set for May 29 and Sept. 18.


Even Giovanni Tours, which specializes in all-inclusive foreign tours for the carriage-trade mature traveler, has a pseudo-domestic tour this summer. An eight-day air and rail trip goes to Mexico’s scenic Copper Canyon. All meals, plus pre- and post-departure parties, are included in the tour leaving Sept. 1. Price is $989.

Lee Klein, who runs The California Native and specializes in “soft” adventure tours, also has a series of Copper Canyon (Mexico) excursions. His weeklong trips cost $890. Klein has a sizable mature audience, though his trips span all age levels. He offers monthly departures in June, August, September and October.

Mature travelers in the San Diego area should be familiar with Smith Tours, which has a hefty catalogue of one- to 30-day escorted tours this season.

Smith’s 30-day National/International Bus Tour, Sept. 5 to Oct. 4, must be a one-of-a-kind for mature travelers from Southern California. The monthlong epic meanders through Nevada and Utah, up to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, the Black Hills, over to Minneapolis and on to Mackinac Island.

Then it’s into Canada for a three-night breath-catcher in Toronto. After that comes Dearborn, Mich.; Chicago; Nashville; Chattanooga; New Orleans; across Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, and back to San Diego. All this with lots of sightseeing, for $2,995.

However, says owner Kitty Smith, mature travelers can take just a week, two weeks or other portions of the tour and fly back to San Diego. Or fly to any major city on the tour and take the motor coach back. All at prorated prices per portion.

Smith also operates many shorter motor-coach tours, such as four-day trips to Zion and Bryce national parks in Utah, with a stop in Las Vegas. These cost $225, with departures June 11 and Sept. 1. On most of the tours Smith arranges pickups at several points or alternate transportation from Los Angeles to San Diego.

Antelope Tours, headquartered in the Lancaster/Palmdale/Antelope Valley area and now in its second year, has a wide program of motor-coach tours for the mature traveler. They also arrange pickups at many points, including Van Nuys.


In addition to many California trips, Antelope has a 19-day Canadian Rockies tour that includes Glacier National Park, the Calgary Stampede, Vancouver and Victoria, plus sightseeing along the way in such cities as Seattle and Salt Lake City. The tour runs July 6-24, at $1,559.

Another Antelope tour that caught my eye was a four-day Pony Express trip that traces part of that historic mail route with stops at Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Virginia City, Carson City and several other California and Nevada points of interest. Kind of a nice oddball tour at $190 and set for Sept. 18-21.

Softer Adventure

And finally, American Youth Hostels has announced its series of low-cost soft-adventure tours for persons age 50 and over. Included is a 15-day Alaska bicycle tour, departing Anchorage July 1, for $450 plus air; a nine-day cycle tour from Madison, Wis., that meanders along the Wisconsin Bikeway, June 10, at $245 plus air, and an easy nine-day hiking tour from San Francisco to Point Reyes National Seashore. The tour costs $400, plus air, and leaves Sept. 2.

The AYH also offers a cycle tour of New England in the fall, plus mini-van foliage tours of the same region, van tours of the Pacific Northwest and two European trips. All for mature travelers.

For more information:

American Youth Hostels: (213) 831-8846.

Antelope Valley Tours: (800) 552-8287.

Calico Tours: (213) 478-5865

California Discovery Tours: (800) 338-3222 or (714) 240-8131.

The California Native: (213) 642-1140.

Giovanni Tours: (818) 889-3156.

Great Western Tours: (800) 344-7090 or (818) 578-1161.

Noble Destinations: (800) 255-8653 or (818) 792-2500.

Smith Tours: (619) 292-5522.

Tour Masters: (800) 992-8877 or (213) 482-1150.

Trieloff tours: (800) 432-7125.