Sixteen-year-old Harriet Shillito travelled with her mum on ‘Switzerland’s Spectacular Rail Journeys’ earlier this year. Escorted tours don’t tend to be first port of call for a holiday with teens, so we were keen to find out what she thought about her trip. Here, she shares her experiences of Titan, touring and travel. You might just be surprised…
It’s safe to say that, in the Shillito family, there is a segregation of thoughts on a “dream holiday”. While my sister and parents could lie in the Mediterranean for a week, soaking up UV rays and enjoying some relaxation, I’ve never enjoyed those kinds of holidays. I burn so much that by the end I resemble a new-born rather than a beach babe. I’ve always been fidgety to the point where, when bored, I’m not only irritated but irritating, and I’m sure a lot of teenagers can relate. With so much hype around travel these days on our virtual homes like Instagram and Pinterest, bucket lists are getting increasingly ambitious.
Why we chose Titan
When Mum announced she was taking me away to celebrate the end of my GCSE exams, I spent hours looking at looking at all sorts of places before realising that I wanted something memorable, like a little taste of a gap year. Of course, I was also hoping for somewhere I could get some good shots for Instagram (who doesn’t these days?!). Mum pondered, before replacing the fly and flop brochure with a Titan one.
The Argos catalogue of travel is the best way I can describe it. Every continent covered, all queuing in orderly fashion waiting for you to flick the page and be amazed again. It was overwhelming how much choice there is; an infinity of possibilities lying within the covers of a totally inspiring brochure. A Deluxe Alaskan Voyage, a Vietnamese Discovery, a Grand Antipodean Odyssey. In the end, we settled on Switzerland’s Spectacular Rail Journeys. Eye-catching itinerary? Check. Decent price? Check. Warm-but-not-scalding weather? Check. We were set. Mum was nervous she was doing the right thing as she said it was an “escorted tour” which teenagers don’t normally do, but we would “try it”.
Twenty-six exams, forty-seven hours of coursework, a diagnosis of tonsillitis, a chest infection and a break-up later, we were off.
The travelling bits
I’ve never felt more like a celebrity than the morning that a flash, polished black Titan car pulled up at our humble abode, to chauffeur Mum and I to the airport. What a treat! The driver was lovely, taking care of my beloved suitcase, Melissa, and ensuring us and our fellow passenger (and firm friend to this day) were all comfortable.
Our tour manager for the week, Marcus, flew out on the same plane as us so we knew who to look for at baggage claim, and the airport part was pretty straightforward both sides. In fact, every trip we took over the week was; with Marcus and his super-satisfyingly organised schedule, we had to do nothing but relax and enjoy it, just like a touring holiday should be.
Our base for the week
Davos is such a quirky place. It’s embraced in the mountains, the highest city in Europe, lush green all over and known for its sport, particularly ice-hockey. I’d never seen such athletic residents, so toned and tanned! The weather was beautiful, like a crisp, fresh autumn day at home, but by lunchtime it certainly felt like summer. In awe, we spent the first day exploring Davos as a group, taking note on shops that might be useful (mostly revolving around food to be honest), and admiring the assortment of high street boutiques. I’d suggest leaving room in your suitcase; I certainly wish I had!
It’s clear that Titan carefully hand-picks their hotels to be the best ones in town. We were lucky enough to be staying in a five-star, luxury one that is legendary for being hosts to the all kinds of famous people, spotlessly clean outside and in, and topped off with an incredible buffet breakfast every morning and evening menu each night we ate there. The location was perfect; we could easily walk into town but equally, the nights were tranquil, with a fair distance from the main high street. Plus, who can say no to a pillow-and-duvet menu provided in the room? Not me!
The brilliant thing about touring holidays is that you can do as many or as little of the day trips as you like; Mum and I, being the extroverts that we are, threw ourselves into all of them, and it could not have been more worthwhile. In seven days, we travelled by eight different modes of transport and visited six different cities in five different countries! How can you beat that?!
All I can say is that I really underestimated Europe. After spending two days railing through the Alps on the Bernina and Glacier Express, sailing across Lake Constance, and reassuring Mum that we weren’t, in fact, going to die as our cable car dangled 2590m high from a mountain, all I could think about was that if it weren’t for the tour, I probably would have never seen these places. I’d never have even thought of going to Lichtenstein and yet Vaduz was one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to. I’d never have thought that I’d sail across a lake with one country on my left and another on my right. I’d never have thought, at 16, I would have been to the top of a mountain. Yet all this was achieved in a one week.
On the days where there is no planned excursion, but you still fancy an outing, your tour manager will always have leaflets of other things to do in the area. Personally, Mum and I were happy to spend the day by the beautiful pool that our hotel had to offer, perhaps nipping into town to grab lunch, but many of our new friends from the group came back that evening having been all over the place! The lovely thing is, the choice is yours. There’s certainly the best of both worlds with Titan.
Why these tours are my no.1
I’ve never had a holiday like it. In all honesty, I think touring holidays are built for young people that want to see the world but have no idea where to go. For people that want to meet others from all walks of life, with incredible stories and senses of humour. For aspiring photographers, travel writers, linguists, artists. Titan can open the door to a whole new realm of inspiration. With more pressure on academics than ever before, our lives are so busy and manic, and most just don’t have time to think about holidays. With Titan, all the planning is done for you – and as a teenager, who doesn’t want to go on an adventure? Who doesn’t want to go and explore this incredible planet without even having to think about the schedule? I can guarantee it’ll be the highlight of your year (and your Instagram account, of course). If you’re umm-ing and ahh-ing on whether to go, I seriously advise you to let go of your worries and just book it, no matter who and what age you are. It’ll be worth your while.
As a busy parent who is always trying to do the ‘right thing’ for her children whilst balancing the workload (I’m sure you can relate!), I thought it would be easy when I offered to whisk each of my daughters away for a break following their GCSEs. One wanted complete relaxation and sunshine (easy to fix), whereas my younger daughter wanted to ‘see something of the world’, meet new people and explore where she had never been before… not quite so easy! I didn’t want to make the wrong decision, as this was a trip that I wanted them both to look back on with fond memories.
On talking to Edwina at Titan, she suggested an escorted tour. On suggesting this idea to Harriet and showing her some examples of tours, we settled on a Stay and Explore option. It was an exciting itinerary based in Davos in Switzerland, travelling daily on different excursions including the Bernina and Glacier Express, two iconic train journeys that we will never forget – we swept through some of the most stunning scenery that Europe has to offer. Watching Harriet’s face in awe of where we were was just the best, as was seeing her grow in confidence as she embraced every experience.
I relaxed as soon as the Titan vehicle picked us up at home. The service was beyond my expectations, the driver was excellent and we felt safe and secure knowing that we had plenty of time to pick up another passenger and arrive at the airport with time to spare. The itinerary was well planned, with a balance of arranged excursions and free time.
Over the course of the week we got to know our fellow passengers, who were from all different walks of life. It was interesting to learn what had inspired individuals to travel with Titan. Some were new to the brand, while some were loyal Titan fans who even travelled with their brochure to discuss their next trip.
Marcus, our tour manager, was outstanding. His knowledge and expertise enabled people to totally trust his advice. Marcus added that reassurance that people like on an escorted tour, and I would certainly seek a tour that he was on if I were to book again. In terms of taking Harriet on an escorted tour, I would do it again. We learnt loads (including how important Instagram is in a teenager’s life), we explored new places and met new lifelong friends of all ages who loved getting to know Harriet. We laughed a lot and climbed mountains that I thought I would never climb. Most of all I spent quality time with my new found Swiss Buddy! Bring on the next escorted tour – it was amazing and we would never have seen and experienced so much in such a short space of time if Edwina hadn’t nudged me to go. Thank you! Mandy, Harriet’s mum and general manager at Miles Morgan Travel
Tempted to explore Switzerland for yourself? Take a look at our full collection of Switzerland holidays.