The Rambling Man guide to getting a holiday company to book your long distance walk

Published 21 July 2019

Anyone seen the path? It’s around here somewhere…

In 2019 a friend and I decided to walk the Yorkshire Wolds Way. Me going off for a walk is not something particularly unusual. I’ve done lots. But the way we planned most definitely was.

For every walk I’ve done in Britain – either solo or with my partner Catherine – I’ve planned by own itinerary. We planned out our days, researched all the accommodation , and booked it ourselves. For the Yorkshire Wolds Way, we didn’t do that.

It was actually my intention to book this for the Yorkshire Wolds Way. We had picked the dates we would walk so evening I did a little research, and drew up a rough plan. Then I did a quick look at the village I’d pencilled in at the end of the first day. And found that every hotel and B&B in the village was full that night.

There’s often places where accommodation is in short supply. Places where things can be complicated. But this was a large village. I hadn’t expected problems so soon. I pretty much needed to start the whole thing from scratch. It was all rather disheartening.

Whilst I was doing this, I was rather rushed off my feet with other stuff. There was a big project on at work. My grandad was in hospital. And then there were the demands of two young children. I didn’t feel particularly like I had the time needed to plan the walk properly. My friend didn’t either. So we agreed to book it all through a company who specialises in providing walking holidays.

It was my first experience of doing it this way for a UK walk. The first time I could compare the experience with my “normal” way of doing things. It also means I can share what I learned with you.

That’s what this is all about. This is the Rambling Man guide to getting a holiday company to book your long distance walk .

What do walk organising holidays do?

Bad planning may result in disastrous consequences. Like there being an absence of of tea.

Yes they organise your walk for you. They are specialist travel agents. That’s obvious. But the specifics may not be.

Most work in a similar way. You tell them a few bits of information, they plan your walk for you. The things they want to know usually are:

  • what walking trail you want to do. Some companies do lots of trails. Others only a few.
  • when you want to walk. Pretty important this one. They can’t do much if they don’t know when you want to go!
  • how many days you want to do the walk for. Most companies will offer fixed itineraries. But some will create a custom itinerary for you.

Once they have that information, they can give you a quote and book accommodation for you. Most holidays work on the assumption that you’ll move to a new place every day. If needed, they’ll organise any taxis to take you to and from your accommodation.

Almost always included in the package is baggage transfer. In the morning you leave you suitcase or bags at your B&B and go walking. When you get to where you are spending the night, your bags should be waiting for you.

Some, but not all, will provide you with a guide book and map.

What usually isn’t included is organising transport from your home to and from the walk. You’ll need to do that yourself.

How do I chose a company?

A small trolls house built in the rocks in Norway
This is my B&B? It doesn’t even have glazed windows!

The best thing to do is to talk to them. Get some quotes, find out what they offer. Most will do this by email or phone. If you have any specific requirements (dietary, accessibility, whatever), mention them now. Get a feel for how well they answer your questions.

Price may also be a factor for you, although we found most quotes were rather similar.

What are the benefits of using a holiday company?

Waterlogged gatepost in a wall near Rest Dodd in the Lake District
Even the best holiday company can’t do anything about the weather.

Well the biggest one is rather obvious. It saves you a whole heap of time and effort. They do the hard work of finding accommodation for you, and planning the whole endeavour.

They will have a database of accommodation providers along a route. And they’ll know how best to split the walk up between the different options. If there’s no accommodation nearby, they’ll know alternative places to consider. They know the taxi numbers to call. They’ll know it all.

The other big benefit is there’s no need to worry about money. You don’t need to worry about paying deposits, or how much cash to take to pay B&B owners. These days a lot of B&B owners take credit cards (which certainly wasn’t true ten years ago!) but there’s still some that don’t, and who want deposits sent by cheque in the post. When you book through a holiday company, you pay that company and leave the rest to them. No deposits to sort out. No settling up in the morning (unless you’ve had any extras like packed lunches or drinks.) It’s all sorted for you.

And finally, if anything goes wrong there’s someone on the end of the phone who can help sort it out.

What are the drawbacks

Black Sail YHA in the Lake District
Is a remote youth hostel with no road access your dream accommodation?

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that here’s some drawbacks. The key ones are:

  • you don’t get a choice in type of accommodation. Most holiday companies will look to provide a good quality B&B for you. So if you want use cheaper options like hostels and bunkbarns, you’ll probably need to do it yourself.
  • you may not be able to change your route. This is dependent on the company, but many assume you’ll be doing a walking trail and doing it to the letter. If you want to vary your route a little, some companies may be willing to help you. But some may not.
  • you can’t change your plans. Some people like to turn up and find somewhere to stay, booking only a few key places along their walk. Maybe you want to be able to react to bad weather. If you book through a holiday company, everything is fixed in stone. (This is also true, of course, if you book everywhere in advance yourself.)
  • you pay for the privilege. I reckon we’d paid roughly double what we would have compared to booking it ourselves. To be fair, some of this was because the package included baggage transfer. I don’t normally bother, carrying everything on my back. Not that I’m having a go on prices, by the way. You are paying for someone to do something for you. They provide a service, and need to cover their costs and make a profit. Can’t blame them at all for that! But if price is a big factor, booking yourself will likely be cheaper.
  • they don’t cover every walking route. Smaller, less well known trails may not have anyone serving them.

Is it worth doing?

Paragliders flying above Blencathra
Paragliding to your B&B? Most people would have gone for a taxi…

That is up to you. For many people, the hassle of booking your own trip will completely outweigh the costs. But for those on a budget, or wanting more control, organising yourself may be a lot easier.

Lots of places now allow you to book online, which makes things easier. But you still need to find where those places are. And that’s often the tricky bit.

For my next big trip, I’m likely to organise it myself again. I like the element of control. But I had a good experience with the company we used. They did a good job

So before you finish up, do you recommend any companies then?

The Southern Upland Way shelter at Cockburnspath, that marks the end of the trail
Carrying all your stuff on your back, or letting a van take the strain? The choice is yours.

Well the company we used for the Wolds Way was great and if it came to it, I’d happily use them again.

But the purpose of this piece wasn’t to promote any particular company. However, in the Planning Your Own Walk section, each guide contains details either of companies that serve a route, or where you can find such a list. Those listed by myself may not be exhaustive, and are not recommendations

Whatever you do though, be it get someone to do the work for you, or do it yourself, the key thing is to have a good walk!

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