Don’t let the name fool you—this is not, as Anne Fuldby-Olsen, general manager, Convertible Caravans of Europe, points out, “a convertible motor home, nor a trailer trip, as our name may insinuate. We don’t even drive in a caravan style, but we do offer convertibles.”
So what exactly does Convertible Caravans of Europe—which is operated out of Europe (“we like to be on the same time zone as our travelers,” says Fuldby-Olsen), but also includes a management team in Lincoln, Nebraska—offer? Well, at the core is the idea to “travel independently, yet together,” and they do that by having all “tour” guests traveling in their own car, following the same route, visiting the same places, and relaxing and saying good night in the same properties.
Of course, key here is that the groups—in order for this to work well—need to remain small. They have a minimum of eight travelers and a maximum of 20, with tours that last 10 days and with monthly departures from April to October to France, Italy, Sicily, Greece, Germany, Austria, Spain and Ireland.
Keeping everything in order, so to speak, is a Caravan Concierge (tour leader) who has worked with the American market for at least 10 years, speaks English fluently and, as Fuldby-Olsen stresses, is an “emergency responder, as safety is one of our pillars.” Additionally, all the cars have a pre-paid cell phone, “making it possible,” she continues, “for the travelers to reach out to the Caravan Concierge, who’s never more than a few miles away, at any time.” Adding to peace of mind is the fact that the company provides a GPS that is pre-programmed daily, as well as maps.
Most importantly, however, is that each and every Caravan Concierge is from the country they are leading the tour in. “We feel that to truly understand and experience a country, not only the well-known highlights, but more importantly the lesser-known wonders, it is imperative to have someone who is of that country.” So as travelers make their way through the great destinations of Europe in their “own” car, they may not see every church in “our destinations,” says Fuldby-Olsen, “but we definitely do not miss that little unique cheese producer or winemaker, who will proudly share his or her secrets with us.” Along the way, also, are stays in intimate four- and five-star boutique properties. As Fuldby-Olsen points out, “We like to say that you ‘go to bed with history,’ in castles, wine merchants’ houses, elegantly restored rural Byzantine mansions, all with their own unique story.” And if your clients would rather leave the driving to someone else, they can order up a chauffeured experience and get a personal driver.
And this unique brand of offerings attracts, as is to be expected, a certain type of traveler—the culturally curious traveler. Fuldby-Olsen expounds: “Those independent baby boomers with time and resources, looking to recapture their dreams of fulfilling their bucket list.” Additionally, the tour operator guarantees a departure with eight participants only, so they also enjoy a healthy amount of modest groups, friends, families, clubs that are looking for “freedom, intimacy and structure without the masses,” Fuldby-Olsen explains.
One of the operator’s most popular trips is the Ireland trip, the 10-day Celtic Charm & Legends of Fiery, which cuts across the country and includes stops at the fjord of Killary, the Cliffs of Moher, Cork’s English Market, Kilkenny Castle, and Dublin, among other highlights. Accommodations are in Ashford Castle, Hotel Castlemartyr and Davenport Hotel, as well as other exclusive properties. Departures for this tour begin April 6 and continue monthly through Sept. 28; rates for a sedan or crossover start at $4,995, for a convertible, at $5,995, and for those who prefer the chauffeur service, it’s an extra $2,500. Tour rates include accommodations, daily breakfast plus one extra meal (lunch, including picnics or dinner); all tastings as per itinerary; entrance fees to all sites; and transfer from/to airport of last destination. The company offers 15 percent commission as well as FAM opportunities.