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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.