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Tour company suggestions for Banff and Calgary this summer ?

We have taken 5 Rick Steves tours and all have been excellent. Last in Portugal unbelievable. We have used OATs for 3 others including Peru and India and equally great. Took alaska cruise and ready to check out Banff and surroundings using a tour company similar to Rick Steves or OATs with smaller groups and emphysis on wildlife. Gate 1 seemed to have huge groups when we are traveling but if someone has used them do you have an opinion? Moderate pricing helps and we don't need to stay in the Ritz. Great guides are a must. Lots of very short stops to be avoided. We are thinking 8 to 12 days.

Posted by
4604 posts

Gate 1 also has their Discovery tours...max 22, but supposedly it is rare to get that many on a trip. Whether they offer the Rockies, the website will say. If there is a tour of interest, I recommend you sign up for their weekly deals email. Every Monday evening they send out the trips on sale. I used them for a Discovery tour of South India. I thought they were excellent. 15 on the trip.
I confess I haven't taken it, but the Rocky Mountaineer train is well reputed for that region. There are some companies that will build a trian + tours plan for you but possibly closer to the Ritz prices...but you would have to determine your price point. It is an expensive part of the world.
As a Canadian, I've just done it as a self drive...and in the old days, the normal train.

Posted by
8659 posts

Would you consider a combination of self-drive and day tours as an alternative? I really think that the pricing on the tours for this area is exceptionally high and that you might prefer to do some of this at your own speed. Day tours still give you some guided aspects, but don't stick you on a bus with a bunch of other people all the time.

Posted by
8 posts

The Roads scholar program looks perfect. I didn't realize they had small tours also since they had a huge Banff tour when I called. Keeping our own pace and driving so I can fish looks attractive but living in DC not driving has become a luxury. Just back from snorkeling in Aruba where we needed a car but the whole island was 20 miles long. Again thanks for great replies.

Posted by
189 posts

I grew up in Edmonton, and frequently spent time in Jasper, Banff and Lake Louise. Whenever we had visitors from elsewhere, we took them on the “triangle” tour of all 3 places.

I prefer the itinerary of the Odysseys Unlimited tour. It seems to include more sites. The areas visited are spectacular in their grandeur. The airfare to and from Seattle is included and you get the 2 extra parks in the US.

Posted by
8 posts

Definitely getting in tours that do triangle plus maybe some extras since we are retired and have more time. Odessys looks great but summer booked. Grand circle has 2 days in Vancouver a plus. They may have huge busses though.

Posted by
2529 posts

glasserm24

I would call Odysseys and see if there are any tours this year with a short waitlist. I'll bet there are people who cancel just before the final payment is due.

Posted by
2529 posts

To each their own, of course, but how much time do you spend looking out the window of a vehicle during a self-drive trip?

Posted by
4604 posts

Before considering self drive, one wants to define how much of the trip will be in the main towns and tourist locations. Parking is a nightmare in high season, sometimes requiring parking and being shuttled by bus, or walking long distances.

Posted by
2529 posts

My Odysseys tour did stop at beautiful Peyto Lake, and the coach parking lot was actually better situated than the car parking lot.
Yes, there are trade-offs.
I traveled independently with my late husband. Frankly, I've found that I get much more out of a trip with a knowledgeable guide, and watching scenery go by from a big, higher window on a bus is great. No concerns about directions and parking. It works for me, but others are free to travel as they like.

Posted by
8 posts

Traveled ouselves for 30 yrs but in the last 10 did a bunch of Rick Steves Tours and Oats. In places like India (OATS)had to be taught how to cross the street thru 8 lanes of traffic. These tours also taught us a lot of culture,history, nature, cooking etc. In Costa Rica (OATS) would not have taken a night tour to a bat research facility. Hoping to get education in addition to beautiful views. Rick Steves had us in cooking classes and eating in restaurants in alleyway basements that I would never have tired (Tuscan steaks). Portugal even had an eating tour in Porto where stands and restaurants were all set up for tastings and wine. The problem with arranged tours is limited fishing and not catering to some personal interests like the Nautical museum in Lisbon (don't miss it).

Posted by
8 posts

Odessys and Road scholar trips we would like in July booked. Road scholars wait list policy not flexible if your name appears and you can't do the trip. Are there any other small group tours to Banff for 10 to 12 days. Gate 1 and Circle huge busses we rather avoid.

Posted by
321 posts

G Adventures, Exodus, Intrepid and Explore Worldwide are all reputable small group companies.

Posted by
8 posts

Most of small Canadian tours continued to be wait listed or very expensive for Canadian rockies so we changed direction. When searching online got last minute offers (less than 60 days) from G adventure (connected to National geographic which has a great museum for folks visiting DC} for Iceland. Thinking outdoor adventure bought Rick Steves new Iceland book and researched the island . No Rick Steves tours but G adventures tour offers great trips and involve staying in some out of the way settings. Plane flights non stop from DC less expensive thean Calgary and non stop. Only caveat is an active volcanothat may have discouraged tourists but lava seems to be going south of where the tour goes. 23 hours sunlight may also be a challenge. Will do Canada in future but need to book further ahead.

Posted by
4482 posts

This should be a cautionary tale for us all that many people(including me) book tours 9-12 months in advance. Given the retirement of baby boomers(some of them in their early 60's), this situation is likely to continue.

Posted by
8 posts

Many of the tour companies advised us to book for next year and told us that few folks are taken off the wait list. Some of them have fairly strict cancellation policies(including the deposit) like roads scholar and cancellation insurance is very expensive. Also being over 70 ,our own future
health and friends conditions can quickly change travel plans. That's part of the issue with trip cnacellation insurance being so pricey for seniors, especially if you have pre exisiting health conditions.