Coach trip hol­i­days ga­lore

From days out to hol­i­days at home and abroad. More peo­ple than ever are let­ting the coach take the strain. Derek James hops aboard to take a look at some of the com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing across Nor­folk and Suf­folk.

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Driv­ing on busy roads, queu­ing at packed air­ports ... go­ing on hol­i­day can be a tir­ing busi­ness and it seems coach hol­i­days are be­com­ing more pop­u­lar than ever.

With con­ve­nient pick-up spots across our re­gion and a huge range of des­ti­na­tions on of­fer, more of us are climb­ing aboard the coaches and re­lax­ing.

There are smaller firms of­fer­ing day trips and much larger ones with fleets of ve­hi­cles which pro­vide hol­i­days across this coun­try and abroad.

All have an im­por­tant role to play in this grow­ing mar­ket.

And there have been vast im­prove­ments in coach hol­i­days over the years. The coaches are far more com­fort­able, the guides/ driv­ers be­come friends and the days of tourists be­ing booked into cheap and rather clapped-out ho­tels are gone.

Peo­ple want bet­ter and de­serve bet­ter. They are, after all, pay­ing cus­tomers and the com­pa­nies want them to book again and again.

The whole coach in­dus­try has moved up­mar­ket in re­cent years and as a re­sult more of us are tak­ing the plunge and book­ing.

Let’s have a look at just some of the com­pa­nies, large and small, op­er­at­ing in our neck of the woods.

IC Travel is led by Ian Col­man MBE and some may known him as the con­duc­tor of the pop­u­lar Taver­ham band, near Nor­wich:

Ian spent 33 years in bank­ing be­fore expanding his com­pany to a full-time busi­ness spe­cial­is­ing in day trips and short breaks, giv­ing clients a door-to-door “worry free” ex­pe­ri­ence of trav­el­ling which in­cludes top seats at West End shows, con­certs and vis­it­ing land­marks across the UK.

Trips range from seven pas­sen­gers to more than 100 and the com­pany works closely with Richard Coaches at Guist. A re­cent ad­di­tion is lo­cal days out, ex­plor­ing Nor­folk and Suf­folk with mys­tery tours, and th­ese are very pop­u­lar.

The com­pany is proud of its per­sonal ser­vice, with only two or three pick up points and a fully es­corted tour. “No one wants to spend hours on end, with nu­mer­ous pick-up points, to be dropped off in the mid­dle of Lon­don on your own,” says Ian.

Based in Nor­wich, Grand UK Hol­i­days spe­cialises in es­corted tours for the over-55s and is part of The UK Hol­i­day Group which in­cludes the Sun­riseDirect, Glen­ton Hol­i­days, and ‘just for groups!’

Suf­folk boy Paul Ben­nett founded the com­pany in 1983 with his life sav­ings of £ 500. It now em­ploys more than 450 peo­ple and han­dles hol­i­day book­ings for more than 100,000 peo­ple a year.

The com­pany has just in­vested in a new “Gold” coach, worth more than £ 300,000 for its up­mar­ket Grand UK Gold brand.

The coach of­fers ex­tra leg-room, with re­clin­ing leather seats, free wi-fi, with an on-board li­brary, drinks ma­chine and fridge.

“Our Gold Hol­i­days are al­ways a pop­u­lar choice with cus­tomers, and we’re de­lighted to be able to im­prove their hol­i­days with us by pro­vid­ing even more lux­ury,” says Ian Clarke, coach­ing con­troller at The UK Hol­i­day Group.

Belle Coaches has been op­er­at­ing in the Low­est­oft area since the early 1920s. Ben­jamin Shreeve started in part­ner­ship with Charles Day run­ning a bus ser­vice be­tween Low­est­oft and Oul­ton Broad.

Based at Low­est­oft and Leis­ton this pop­u­lar com­pany takes peo­ple across this coun­try and abroad, and has many loyal and reg­u­lar cus­tomers.

Eas­tons Hol­i­days, founded in 1953, runs hun­dreds of day trips and hol­i­days from its Strat­ton Straw­less base and the va­ri­ety of its pro­gramme has been recog­nised at the Bri­tish Coach Tourism Awards, where it won gold for best ex­cur­sion pro­gramme. It is a muchloved fam­ily busi­ness.

Gal­loway is another award­win­ning com­pany which has grown from pro­vid­ing school group travel when it started in 1965. In the 1970s it bought the A F Bray­brooke & Son coach busi­ness, based at Mendle­sham, and was re­named Gal­loway Euro­pean Coach­lines.

Fol­low­ing a num­ber of ac­qui­si­tions, in­clud­ing Bick­ers of Cod­den­ham and Rex Ser­vice Sta­tion in Thorn­don, the busi­ness grew into one of the re­gion’s largest coach com­pa­nies, and in 2012 it bought Chen­ery Live, the day ex­cur­sion, con­cert and live events provider, expanding from Suf­folk into Nor­folk.

In 2015 Gal­loway cel­e­brated 50 years of or­gan­is­ing coach hol­i­days to the con­ti­nent. It prom­ises a com­fort­able jour­ney and plenty of mem­o­ries to share, whether you book a fort­night’s hol­i­day over­seas or travel and tick­ets to a show.

Hands up ev­ery­one who has not seen a Si­monds bus or coach on the roads of Nor­folk and Suf­folk!

Not many I’ll wa­ger. It seems it has been a fa­mil­iar sight on our roads for ever.

Si­monds, now op­er­at­ing out of Diss, was started in Botes­dale, in Suf­folk, by Roland Oswald Si­monds when he ac­quired the garage busi­ness in 1928.

Dur­ing the past 90 years it has grown, de­vel­oped and flour­ished pro­vid­ing a range of bus and coach fa­cil­i­ties serv­ing both coun­ties - from link­ing ru­ral vil­lages to tak­ing many lo­cal and reg­u­lar cus­tomers on hol­i­days far and wide.

All th­ese com­pa­nies, and oth­ers, have good web­sites which are a shop win­dow on what they have to of­fer and, of course, you can call them or pop into a travel agents. If you have been on a coach hol­i­day you can rec­om­mended to other read­ers? Please drop us a line at Let’s Talk, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Nor­wich NR1 1RE, or email let­

Ian Col­man with some in­trepid ex­plor­ers on a coach trip at Heydon as part of a Nor­folk Mys­tery Tour.

Ian Col­man MBE who runs IC Travel.

Gal­loway Travel is another suc­cess­ful lo­cal coach com­pany of­fer­ing coach trip hol­i­days.

Nor­folk-based over-55s spe­cial­ist Grand UK Hol­i­days has in­vested in a new Gold coach worth more than £300,000 for its up­mar­ket Grand UK Gold brand.

One of the fleet of Eas­tons coaches.

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