Sponsored by Globus Journeys
I’ve just returned from a wonderful 9-day solo trip with Globus Journeys through Northern California starting and ending in San Francisco.
Solo, being without my husband and children, but not on my own. I swapped Craig and the girls out for 31 mostly strangers who soon turned into friends.
This group tour called “California Dreaming: Northern California by Design” took us from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park passing through Sonoma, Sacramento, Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Lakes where we enjoyed popular attractions as well as more lessor known experiences.
In this post, I will share my experiences traveling as a group tour with Globus.
I have posts on
- highlights of this Northern California road trip
- Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve
- Bodie State Historical Park
- How to enjoy a day in Sacramento
- Yosemite National Park! (coming soon)
- I also wrote about my day in San Francisco before the tour started.
About Choice Touring by Globus Tours
We worked with them to help share the experience of this new tour form introduced by Globus earlier this year: Choice Touring.
Choice Touring by Globus allows for more flexibility and independence within the group travel experience.
On these tours, travelers are provided with guided sightseeing at the must-see sights (like Yosemite National Park) as well as having the option of choosing from a selection of curated experiences called YourChoice Excursions.
These excursions are in the key attractions and off-the-beaten-path destinations, allowing travelers the freedom and flexibility to pursue their own interests and curiosities, within a group tour format.
Choice Touring by Globus is offering travelers 13 NEW itineraries in Europe and North America. (Psst. Scotland tour with Outlander tour options, I have my eye on you!)
Globus is one of the biggest tour companies in the world, helping travel lovers experience global destinations in a way that best suits their style.
From budget to luxury, small groups to large, and even more independent style with local guides and local favorites, Globus, along with their sister companies Avalon Waterways, Cosmos, and Independence by Globus, have a wide range of tour options to suit any style.
My perspective of our Globus Northern California Tour
Apart from a booze tour of Oktoberfest and Amsterdam when I was 21, I have not been on a group tour before. I’ve always preferred independent travel and was worried a group tour might stifle me!
I didn’t experience that on this tour at all. Instead I found an opportunity to travel in a more relaxed style where I was taken care of so I could enjoy the experiences and connect with others on the tour.
With every travel experience I have; I want to walk away knowing that somehow, I grew as a person.
From my interactions with others, the connections to nature, the ease in which I traveled, the abundance of stories, laughter, support, and encouragement has only enhanced my life and showed me more of who I want to be.
This tour helped me come out of a COVID funk and see a brighter future. It was just what I needed after a rough 18 months filled with chaos. Thank goodness travel is coming back to soothe our souls and return us to joy!
Here’s why I loved this group tour experience with Globus:
Traveling with others
While the big-ticket attractions and off-the-beaten path adventures help create an amazing experience, it’s the memories created with others that are most valued long after the snapshots fade amongst a sea of destinations.
As we mostly travel as a family unit, we often have limited opportunities to engage with other people.
This tour was a wonderful opportunity for me to step outside of that and create memories with other people – new and old. I was thankful that a group of iambassador travel bloggers were also on the tour! We had a blast!
I loved bonding over experiences like an impromptu Earth Wind Fire September 21 Spring Equinox dance; discovering Wild West Saloons with crazy slogans; and hiking two miles to a magnificent sunset with vibrant, joyful, 80-year-old Leigh, who reminded me to always keep adventure and travel at the core of my spirit. Yes I can!
These are the stories and moments that make a travel experience unique, even when you are walking a well-worn path.
We were fortunate to have a friendly and kind group of people on the tour. Globus gave us opportunities to mingle like having group dinners and changing our seating positions on the bus each day so we’d have new people to talk to.
I loved hearing about others lives and sharing our perspectives of the different activities and tours we were doing. I learned so much from the other people on the tour. It was also wonderful to laugh about so many things that happened on the trip together.
I usually travel with Craig – our photographer – so always have someone to take my photo. But, if you are a solo traveler, you will love having many people to capture your photos at these amazing destinations.
And as a solo traveler, you will love having someone look after you and carry your bag when your back is sore (thanks Michael!), and ask you to join them on a hike, a roam about town, or to dinner.
Being on this tour of California with Globus made it very apparent to me how my typical family travel lifestyle is just one intense swirling hurricane.
It’s like you are experiencing a moment – in my case – as three people – myself, and the two girls. Every moment incorporates taking responsibility for how they will also experience it.
That’s just while on the trip! There’s all the stuff before it too.
The pre-trip planning, researching, and booking stage can be exhausting. Sadly, many parents throw it into the too-hard bin and walk away.
I’ve done that recently with our plans for Christmas travel. “Too exhausting, we’ll just stay close to home.”
Booking my flight and packing my bag were the only things I had to do for this group tour. No research. No deal finding, No booking. No itinerary preparation!
Many of my fellow Globus tour travelers shared that this effortless travel is also one of the biggest reasons they travel on group tours.
Globus Go App
Globus offers a thorough pre-trip preparation experience with a series of informative emails preparing you for the trip and outlining the itinerary, inclusions and need to knows.
Digital copies of all documents are also uploaded into a very handy app: The Globus App, which outlines your itineraries for each day, houses any important documents you need, and has guides for the destinations you are visiting. I also enjoyed the handy journal feature to jot down notes while on the trip.
Then once on the tour, you are given plenty of information to be prepared for each day by your Tour Director. All you have to do is shower and show up.
I didn’t even have to check in to the hotel! Our tour director, Derek would hand us our keys on the bus, and our bags were taken straight from the bus and delivered to my door and then picked up an hour before departure from my room.
We were told when, where and how and we just had to walk to it. I had all this time to breathe deeply and connect to the moment.
I’m not sure I can ever go back to the intensity of independent family travel. As a busy mother, often feeling at breaking point, I’m hooked on this style for future travel.
While at times, I did miss my extraordinary ability to pack in a ton of activities and adventure into one day and destination, I also appreciated not feeling forced to do this, to go with the slow and enjoy the “less is more” approach to life.
I’ve been back for a week and already I am researching group tours online. I’m very keen to do more and when I told the girls about some of the European group tours, including river cruises, they agreed it would be a great way to travel!
Great Mix of Top Destinations and Lessor Known
Many people joined this Northern California tour just to visit Yosemite. It also included other top attractions like Mammoth and Lake Tahoe, which have has always been high on my California bucket list.
In fact, I am sure I would have kept putting off Tahoe and Mammoth for other shiny destinations so this tour helped me make it happen while combining it with other great destinations.
But, if it wasn’t for this Globus tour, I doubt I ever would have put Sacramento on my list of California destinations worth checking out. I LOVED how surprised I was by this capital city.
I really loved how the Globus tour had a great mix of known and lessor known destinations. It’s not something I typically would have expected from a group tour.
Flexibility, Slower Pace + Free Time
When I hear group tour, I typically think of the European Contiki tours popular with twenty somethings where they seem to check of 10 countries in a week.
That was always a Hard Pass for me.
The Globus tour of Northern California had a slower pace and more free time than I anticipated.
My normal family travel blogger lifestyle is INTENSE. We’re normally up for sun rise, exploring a destination in-depth for the entire day – including many outdoor adventures – and then waiting around until sunset until we collapse in bed at 10pm. Somewhere in between that we have to fit in WORK.
There is nothing slow, easy, or free time about it. (I’m really selling family travel blogging to you aren’t I?)
While I would have loved to stayed longer and explored deeper in places like Lake Tahoe and Mammoth, including fitting some hikes, paddling, and other outdoor adventures, I did really appreciate this slower way to travel.
You don’t always have to do ALL THE THINGS to have a good time. Sometimes hugging trees in the forest with new friends is just as wonderful as going on a 10 mile hike.
Plus, now I know where I want to return to!
Most of our days did not start until 8am at the earliest, sometimes nine, which is way later than I’d typically be out exploring, and we were generally back in our rooms by 8:30 / 9pm most nights.
That gave me a lot of time to complete some of my blogging tasks like photo editing, social media and taking notes.
If I wasn’t a travel blogger I would have relished those extra hours for early morning walks or slow lingering morning coffees with a view.
This organized and structured tour group experience did not box me into a rigid travel experience. I like how it took you to the big attractions, but gave you options to experience it in your own style and pace.
The Globus Choice Excursions allowed us to create a more independent travel experience, while still having everything taken care of.
Breakfast was included every day, which made things easier for faster and smoother getaways for our day explorations, and we had a dinner planned for the last day of our tour.
I loved the opportunity to take care of my own lunch and dinners so I could dive deeper into local culture in a way that suited me.
We also surprisingly had a lot of free time on the tour, which allowed us to wander places at our own pace and choose where we wanted to eat, shop or drink.
I happily took off on my own on our first stop in Sausalito to grab a delicious cup of local coffee while the others explored this wonderful San Francisco town that I have been to previously.
Since I had been to Yosemite before, I loved experiencing a much slower pace and was okay with not hiking.
Others in the group opted to organize their own guided tour of the park so they could explore areas they had not been too before and the tour bus could not get to. It was fantastic that they had the scope to do this on a group tour.
Tour Guides and Drivers
Craig and the girls will tell you I am a geek when it comes to guided tours. I am the one up the front hanging onto the tour guides’ words, nodding my head, and rapid fire answering the questions. They are usually pretending they don’t know me up the back.
It’s how I best engage and learn from an experience, so I loved that we always had a tour guide on hand on this group tour.
Whether that was Derek our Globus tour director, or the guide that took us around on one of the ChoiceExcursions, I felt I was learning a lot about the areas we visited.
On the bus, we were often shown interesting videos and documentaries on some of the regions we were visiting like Mono Lake and Yosemite, which helped us connect better to the experience we were about to have.
Derek was a friendly and informative guide with a great sense of humor. Not only did he ensure we were all safe and having a good time, but he helped us find some of the best photo spots, took our photos, and pointed out good restaurants and things to do etc when we had our free time.
I loved how Derek’s recommendations were in support of local businesses!
It was blissful to be driven around everywhere and not having to do anything but stare out the window, chat to my fellow passengers or catch up on work.
We all felt safe in bus driver Ron’s hands as he skillfully and smoothly navigated winding roads and high mountain passes.
Another passenger told me they take Globus tours in areas where they don’t feel safe driving.
We had plenty of space on the bus – many of us were able to have two seats to ourselves. I loved the little work station I had set up with a coffee cup holder, small table, and electrical outlets! I was able to maximize our drive times by getting work done, which was a blessing!
Care provided to all guests
Fellow frequent Globus travelers on our tour told me one of the reasons they keep coming back is that “I always know there is someone to check on me and keep me safe” and “If I fall down someone will pick me up.”
Exceptional care was provided to all guests on the tour, not only ensuring they were having a good time, but there were safe and comfortable.
Travel is uncertain. There is so much that can happen to interrupt your plans. It’s even more challenging now due to COVID, but this is not going away, so we need to learn how to move forward with it.
On this Northern California tour we were up against a few unusual challenges: COVID causing things to not operate as normal, California wildfires throwing up smoke and closures, and a country-wide staffing shortage.
This meant that some of our planned activities and excursions could not happen, or service was slow, and … gasp.. Starbucks was closed in Yosemite. I call that a WIN for the national parks, just like this is.
This was also the very first Globus Choice Touring, so there were a few hiccups which were smoothed out quickly. We could also offer valuable feedback and insight into how to tweak a few things to make it even better.
I was very impressed with how our Tour Director, Derek kept us informed on situations and quickly came up with alternative plans to help us have a great experience regardless.
While I was disappointed I could not kayak Mono Lake, I don’t feel I missed out, as I actually got to experience two Choice Excursions because if it: the fascinating Bodie Ghost town (which I would have missed) and a wonderful walk on the edge of Mono Lake.
Traveling with an open mind and a flexible nature will ensure you have a great time no matter what challenges arise. This is why I usually always walk away from a travel experience with wonderful memories.
Worried about traveling during this never-ending pandemic period of our lives? Globus is doing everything to help ensure your safety. I was not worried at all on the trip, due to all the safely measures in place such as:
- Currently all guests traveling on a Globus tour must be vaccinated
- Masks were worn at all times, except when outside and could maintain a safe distance
- Temperature checks before boarding the bus
- The bus disinfected each time we alighted
California had mask mandates in place for indoor spaces and in San Francisco, you had to show proof of vaccination to dine indoors.
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COMMENT: Have you been on a group tour before? What did you love about it? What did you find challenging?