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The observant amongst you may just have noticed that I went to Iceland for a holiday last September. The dedicated amongst you may well have read my reviews on Reykjavik. The broke amongst you will doubtless be hoping that I am not going to write any more about a place you cannot possibly afford to visit. Well, you needn?t worry, there will be no more rambling on about geysers and northern lights and the like from me. Instead, I am going to ramble on about the travel company I booked my holiday through: Yes Travel (and no, you probably won?t be able to afford anything to do with them, either). Yes Travel are a specialist, independent travel agency based in sunny Peterborough, who spend their days arranging for people to have tailor-made holidays in Iceland and Norway. They have been doing so for 4 years, after stepping in to fill a niche market for those of us who want a summer holiday somewhere other than on a beach in a very hot climate (yes, we do exist). It was only when I tried to find brochures for Iceland that I realised just how big a niche this actually is. I walked into the (frankly enormous) Lunn Poly in Newcastle as my first port of call, and all the assistant could find amid the ?summer sun? brochures was a one page weekend trip to Reykjavik tucked away in the back end of a city breaks brochure. I managed the same feat in the (virtually as large) Thomas Cook and the Going Places (where, to be honest, the assistant looked rather bemused at my request). It took a trawl through the internet to find any specialist operators - all 3 of them ? and request some brochures to look at. Yes Travel?s brochure was one of these. The first thing that struck me about the brochure was, well, the fact it didn?t look like most other holiday brochures I had seen. (Well, I would expect somethi
ng pretty good seeing as they were finalists in the 2000 Guardian/Observer Best Brochure Awards). For the first few pages, it seems to think it is a travel guide and geography lesson. Before you ever get to the hotels and holiday packages available, you are presented with pretty much everything you might need to know in deciding if Iceland is the holiday destination for you. A ?when to go? and ?where to go? guide, a description of the country, a map of Iceland, a brief history lesson and best of all, the wonderfully useful ?quickguide to Iceland? that lists all your tourist questions (passport & visa, currency, weather, language, time zone, etc). When you do actually get to the proper holiday bit, it is all just as clearly and helpfully laid out, first the hotels, then the available excursions and then the holiday packages themselves. Each holiday description is accompanied by a ?tourfile? listing number of nights, accommodation type, food (such as breakfast or full board), changes (the number of different hotels used if you are touring) and the ?rating?. Now, this is the one little thing I was not clear on. The brochure merely says ?a mark out of 10 based on a range of factors: price/duration/meals/activities/what?s included, etc?. There was no further information on how the ratings were awarded and I felt a little more explanation would have helped here, as this should be a useful way to compare holiday packages. But still, I think I coped remarkably well without fully understanding it. Now, although Yes only visit a relatively small number of destinations, the real advantage of them being a specialist firm is that you get a great choice of what you want within those destinations. This is effectively a pic`n?mix holiday company. First of all, you pick your holiday (there are 32 to chose from, from a budget weekender in Reykjavik to action holidays to s
elf drive holidays to farm holidays to the two week grand classic tour of the whole country). Next, you decide if you want to add extra nights, to get the length of holiday you want. Thirdly, you chose your Reykjavik hotel (as all holidays begin and end there) from the 11 available to get the accommodation you want. Finally, you look through the list of 40+ optional excursions (believe me, something to suit everyone!) and add them into any free days you have in your holiday. And if that isn?t enough flexibility for you, then you are free to phone Yes ?to discuss your own holiday ideas?. But what are they actually like to travel with? Well to start with, booking was straightforward and the staff at Yes were friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. My information (and money!) was taken quickly and correctly, with the booking confirmation arriving in just a few days and the rest of the paperwork following shortly after that. Yes do not have any agents or reps based in the holiday destinations, but instead you get a series of vouchers to take with you to exchange for the services you have paid for (Flybus into Reykjavik from the airport, hotel and any excursions). I was a little bit concerned at this before I departed, but it really was well organised and all the information we had been given was correct. Well, apart from the departure time of one of the excursions ? the bus turned up half an hour earlier than expected ? but as I didn?t actually miss the trip, then it wasn?t really a problem. Oh, and one other point here. All of the excursions offered by Yes are operated by local companies employing local guides with local knowledge, so you aren?t faced with tour leaders reading points about the region off a crib sheet and promoting local businesses to you on the basis of who had paid them the most to do so (are you, Thomas Cook?). The prices of travelling with
89;es are a little harder to comment on, as there are so few other similar companies to compare them with. This sort of specialist tour operator is always going to be more expensive than bulk package holidays to mass market resorts, but it is one of those things where you get what you pay for. They seemed to be comparable with the other Iceland brochures I looked at (after all, if they were vastly more expensive, I wouldn?t have chosen them in the first place). Let me give you an idea of what they charge (and I really hope you are sitting down at this point). For the ?budget weekender? - 2 nights in Reykjavik with a half-day tour included- in peak season you would be paying between £407 and £545 per person, depending on your hotel. (I suspect you could get a week on a Costa for that!). So not cheap, then. But worth it? Well, I thought it was. I liked the flexibility of being able to have exactly what I wanted out of the holiday, I liked the feeling of independent travel (with a safety net) and I liked that I wasn?t herded onto an overheated coach by the same bored travel rep day after day as I was on so many of my previous holidays. And do I recommend Yes Travel? Certainly. You could a lot worse if these are the destinations you want. I suppose all that is left for me to do now is sample one of their holidays to Norway ? in the cause of producing a properly balanced review, you understand. All donations to this cause will be gratefully received. - Details Yes Travel Broadway Peterborough PE1 1RS Phone: (01733) 340345 www.yes-travel.com Yes are an ABTA recognised travel agency.