Photo by Sharon Garofalow
I had never been to the South before. Sure, there were places that I was curious about but there wasn’t one particular place that I had to visit. Nashville has the music history that I love; New Orleans has beignets. But the idea of planning a trip on my own and incorporating those destinations (and others) into an itinerary sounded super overwhelming.
I knew that escorted tours were a popular vacation idea throughout Europe, but I’d never heard of them in the United States. When I was invited by Insight Vacations to check out an itinerary called “Southern Grace” I thought, bingo. That’s the perfect way for me to see the South. I packed my bags, flew to Nashville, and kicked off the best kind of road trip: one where you don’t have to drive!
The nine-day trip, curated by Insight Vacations as part of its Luxury Gold-level tours, began in Nashville and ended in New Orleans with a few other stops in between. Traveling with a tour group had its privileges. Aside from the arrival and departure, our luggage was handled for us (much like on a cruise ship). Our tour guide was a wealth of knowledge of each area we visited and could also act as our concierge should we have needed anything while on the trip. The itinerary was planned out with great perks that we could only have gotten by going through a tour with Insight Vacations. Free time was built in so we could dig deeper and explore the destinations in whatever way made us happy (for me that was usually food related). All of our hotel reservations were taken care of, and each hotel was selected based on luxury, location, and guest safety. Literally everything was thought of and all we had to do was sit back and enjoy it — no stresses and no planning headaches.
The custom motor coach used to travel from location to location was the perfect way to take a road trip. Our driver, Howie, was personable and funny, and quickly became part of the “family.” Much like on a cruise, it was easy to create friendships with other travelers; but even in close quarters it was easy to find the alone time that I sometimes craved. Each row had tons of legroom plus electrical outlets to keep devices charged; the bus was also equipped with Wi-Fi (although the signal was pretty weak). It was never hard to find water or snacks, and our tour guide, Ann, shared trivia for each state we visited, as well as themed playlists to keep us entertained. She was truly one of the reasons the trip was so enjoyable.
Insight Vacations appeals mostly to the Baby Boomer set but is great for all ages. I think this is the perfect idea for anyone who wants to travel on his or her own without feeling isolated. I also think this type of escorted trip would make the perfect mother/daughter getaway. So while the tour is designed for a specific demographic (which I mostly loved even though I’m younger than their target market), the free time allowed me to find the local spots that appeal more to me than big tourist destinations. This itinerary let me have a great overview of the South, and I now know the places that I’d love to return on a future trip.
The “Southern Grace” tour launches in April 2017. The exceptional service and hospitality you’ll experience during your Luxury Gold vacation is something you’ll never forget. Though the trip didn’t feel “luxurious” in the sense of ritzy hotels (except one: Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans is top notch), and fine dining, it was comfortable, enjoyable, and I was provided with stellar customer service at every turn, not only from the tour staff but at each hotel and excursion on the trip. Getting to see so much of the South in one road trip was a truly amazing experience.