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D Day Beaches tours

I have one day to visit D Day Beaches in Normandy and then am on to Brittany. Which would be the best tours to take of the major D Day sites, or is it better to do it on one's own?

Posted by
3598 posts

Sylvia, there are several ways to see the beaches and the related sights. Our preference was to do this on our own . We rented a car and based in Bayeux . Driving in Normandy was very easy and was no stress at all . If you do your advance homework , seeing these places independently allows you the time to go at a more relaxed pace and provides the capability to linger at those places where you wish. I have encountered many travelers who had wished they had more time to ponder the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-mer , for example . A guided tour by necessity has to keep to a more rigid schedule . Whtever you choose , visiting these sites will have a major and lasting impact on you .

Posted by
43 posts

I'm inclined to agree with Steven. Normandy is not at all difficult to navigate by car...we made it all he way to Honfleur and Duclair (my father was stationed there in 1945) without getting lost. We used a Michelin atlas. There's a lot to be said for taking it in at your own pace.

Posted by
1232 posts

If you do it by yourself, start with one of the good museums that will give you an overview of all the events. I really like the one at Utah Beach, The American cemetery visitor's center was excellent, but its focus was more on bringing the human side of the story to life through the stories of some of the soldiers and was not as good for painting the picture of the whole event. We had one more afternoon that you do, and we started at Utah Beach. Because we went to that excellent museum, our 1/2 day tour was disappointing. We had a car, and the tour seemed designed more to transport us to locations than to really "make the whole day come alive". We also were glad we had the rest of the day to explore some the other sites that were important for us to see (our tour agency did not go to Aromanches-even with a whole day tour) End of part one

Posted by
1232 posts

Part 2 You could also spend some time educating yourself on what went on and how everything happened before leaving home. We watched "The Longest Day" (most people there say it is the most accurate movie) and Band of Brothers. If you decide a tour is best for you (and with one day an all day tour could be your best option), than my recommendation would be paying a little more and hiring a private guide. the RS book has several recommendations. These guides can also tailor your tour to what you really want to see. Even if it costs more (and I am not sure how much they cost) I think you would get a better value for your money. So I guess my advice is this: if you are willing to educate yourselves before going, then doing it on your own is a good option If that is not possible (and lets face it, we are all busy and only have so much time to devote to trip planning) then budget to hire a private guide who will work with you on seeing the sites that are most important to you. I can't personally recommend any of the RS suggestions, but I can say I did not feel we got good value for our money on our tour, and if I had it to do over, I would have hired a private guide.

Posted by
31621 posts

Sylvia, While it's certainly possible to visit D-Day sites on your own with a rental car, there are a few issues with that approach. To begin with, the sites are spread out over about a 50-mile front and extend some way inland. Unless you have a clear idea on where you want to go, you'll spend a lot of time driving around (provided you don't get lost). The tour guides know all the shortcuts and can get tour members very efficiently from one significant site to another in the shortest possible time. Another point is that when visiting the sites, it's often hard to know the significance of the events that occurred there. For example, Omaha Beach today is a very tranquil location, often with pony carts trotting back and forth. A good tour guide can provide so much more of a perspective of the locations, which makes the experience much more interesting (at least, that's what I've found). Are you planning to stay one night in Normandy, and will you have a full day for touring? If so, Bayeux makes a good location, as there's also an excellent WW-II Museum there, as well as the famous Tapestry. If you'd like to take a tour, a few possibilities to consider: > D-Day Historian > Dale Booth Normandy tours > Overlord Tours > D-Day Battle Tours (I can provide website information on the above Guides if you're interested). Happy travels!

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you all so much for your information and suggestions. Very helpful!

Posted by
21 posts

Sylvia, First to allay any fears that you may have, both doing it by your self and with a tour is a great experience but clearly offer different benefits. By your self you will probably learn a bit less but feel more free to pick and choose what you do. Example a war cemetery, and you must visit at least one to get an idea of the human price, is different by youself or with a large group. The big disadvantage of doing it your self is that you need to put some work in before you go and while your there if you want to get the full benefit. For example, my husband took a group of British soldiers on a three day tour and spent about a week full time preparing. You would not need to do that much but certainly a bit is necessary. If you opt for a guide, and depending on your budget, you should try and go for a more top end type outfit, a few good ones a recommended above. Otherwise you get little more than transport between the most popular spots. A great compromise is to buy any number of the DIY guide books that are on amazon. This gives you the insight, without lots of hours spent researching and lets you pick and choose. Have fun.

Posted by
208 posts

Having visited the Normandy battlefields twice, once with a guide and once without, I would certainly recommend that you hire a guide or join a tour. My wife and I went with the firm "Battlebus". Although they are no longer in business, there are several firms that offer the same type of tour.... in a minivan with about 6 or 8 people in all. It cost about 180 euros for the two of us, and was well worth the cost.
If you hire a guide rather than joining a tour, it costs a bit more. But either way, you'll learn a lot more than just driving on your own.

Posted by
3707 posts

Sylvia, One of the owners of the former Battle Bus company is still in business under a new name. Just google "battle bus" and it will take you to the old site that explains the demise of the old company and has a link to the new company.
TC

Posted by
3789 posts

I vote for a guided tour too. You are buying information and insights, not just transport. With only one day, you will have to decide whether to concentrate on the US beaches or try to get a panorama of the whole invasion. Tours often start pretty early in the morning and take most of the day so you are looking at two nights in a hotel to get a full experience, which it certainly deserves.

Posted by
1438 posts

We took the one day Battlebus tour with Dale Booth as the guide (who now has his own business). This was absolutely a trip highlight! We received such indepth information about each of the sites we visited - it made it all come alive. I would absolutely recommend a guided tour. It is very easy to drive in Normandy and we could have driven to each of the sites but would never have gotten the information we did.

Posted by
4834 posts

I also took a tour with Dale Booth when he was with Battlebus. I took a 2-day tour. He was a fantastic guide and I know that I learned far more than I ever would have had I done this on my own.

Posted by
8841 posts

We toured with Overlord Tours, a group formed by former Battlebus guides. Highly recommendable, a lot of information efficiently delivered in the amount of time we had.

Posted by
2 posts

I don't think the founder of Overlord would be pleased to read that Overlord was formed by ex Battlebus guides.
You should follow the advice of those here that have tried it alone and with a guide and come down strongly in favour of a guided tour. Driving around on your own you are just seeing concrete blocks and sandy beaches.

Posted by
2007 posts

I took the GrayLine 1-day tour of Normandy beaches and cemetery, that runs out of Paris and was very happy with it. Normandy seemed like a wonderful place to drive around and explore, if you have the time, but having only one day I think you will see and learn much more if you take a tour.

Posted by
31621 posts

@Colin, "I don't think the founder of Overlord would be pleased to read that Overlord was formed by ex Battlebus guides."
To clarify (and correct me if I'm wrong), Overlord Tours was in operation and providing tours before BattleBus ceased operations. A FEW of the former BattleBus Guides began working for Overlord then, while others (Dale Booth) started their own tour firms. To reiterate my previous comments, I found that a day tour provided a much more rewarding and interesting experience than touring on my own (and I've done both, including visiting Longues sur Mer, the Pegasus Bridge site and others on my own). Cheers!

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks so much for the great tour information and websites. I appreciate it!

Posted by
4957 posts

Hi Sylvia, We stayed in Caen 1 1/2 days and had one full day to see Normandy Beach. We chose the Caen-Normandy Memorial Center & accompanying tour ~75 Euro for both. The guided tour is in a mini-van for half-day and the excellent Memorial museum for the afternoon. Here's their site:
http://www.memorial-caen.fr/portailgb/index.php?option=com_wrapper&view=wrapper&Itemid=1745 We enjoyed the town of Caen, also. We took the train from Paris, used the tram in Caen and the bus to the Memorial - all very easy. Enjoy your trip! And,be sure to walk on Omaha Beach and look up the hill...

Posted by
8647 posts

We've done it on our own many times and took a one day Battlebus tour once. For your short amount of time, I agree with others and highly recommend one of the tours that Ken recommended. And a private guide, as Connie recommended, would be the best. I think the WWII museum in Bayeux is the best one of all. Did not like the one in Caen.