Tripsite: Cycling and Boating the World
A family company exploring the world by bike, boat and foot
By Erica Garnett
A Tripsite tour group biking in Holland.More and more travelers are discovering that the simple act of riding a bike or traveling on a boat in a beautiful setting is the perfect recipe for a great vacation.
Tripsite specializes in European cycling tours and offers a long list of countries ranging across Europe and sprinkled across Asia and the Americas. Tripsite is proud of the many repeat customers on its most-popular bike and boat tours and welcomes river cruising as its newest trip option for 2015.
Every Time is the Charm
Randy and Sherrie Bennett, from Vancouver, are heading to Croatia this summer for their third adventure with Tripsite. They have traveled with the company every other year since 2011, when they first heard about the Pennsylvania based family company. An avid biking couple, they learned about Tripsite from other cyclists while they were on a bike trail. They decided to go to Venice, Italy in 2011.
The Bennetts are in their early sixties. According to one of Tripsite’s co-owners, Carla Sprout, this reflects a major demographic that the company caters to. While the majority of the clients are American, a good number are Canadian, ranging anywhere from their 50’s into their 70’s.
Strolling Along the Danube
A retired Nevada native, Melinda Johnson is on a fixed income and always looks for deals when she travels. Johnson feels that Tripsite offers very reasonably priced trips with many additional activities, more than other companies.
In 2013, Johnson set off a barge and bike trip along the Danube, which is one of Tripsite’s most popular tours, along with Amsterdam to Bruges. She was accompanied by her partner, Robin Lenz on the self-guided tour. Johnson said the trip was “a great first experience,” because the terrain was easy and people could bike as much or as little as they wanted.
“At my age and level, I don’t want to go on an 80-mile bike ride,” explains Johnson. Johnson describes a typical day as leaving the ship at about 9:30 AM and returning at about 4:00 PM. Johnson and Lenz filled their time stopping in local towns, strolling through wine country, stumbling upon farmer’s markets and eating their packed lunches down by the river.
At breakfast time a food spread and lunch items are provided for people to pack up healthy picnic at no additional cost before they head out on their day’s journeys.
While they were biking, the paths were never congested. “You experience the country so up close and personal,” Johnson said.
In a matter of eight days, they covered Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and Germany by bike with a little help from the Theodor Korner which was the vessel that they stayed on at night. Johnson explains that the boat had briefings every night where their hosts would and explain the routes for the following day which kept everything organized and hassle free.
The pair arrived a couple of days early in Prague and stayed a couple of days after, which they recommend people do to become more familiarized with the lay of the land and to enjoy a slightly longer vacation. The friends also enjoyed seeing how far they pedaled on the cyclometers that each bike comes equipped with.
At first, Johnson was a bit hesitant about going on the tour. She was afraid of scheduling and was not looking forward to spending the majority of the day in the biking spandex shorts when walking around on foot.
Mary Zdancewicz, a Tripsite tour specialist, assisted Johnson by making her suggested itinerary and even providing her with valuable tips such as where to purchase biking underwear as an alternative to the shorts. This way Johnson could wear regular clothes on top of the underwear and feel more comfortable.
Sprout comments, “I love my clients.” Johnson says, “I have confidence in Tripsite. Wherever they offer a trip, someone from the company has been there. I’d rebook in a second and will be taking another trip with them in the near future. The hardest part is to choosing where to go.”
The Hills Are Alive, With Tulips
With her newly found confidence, Melinda set off with Tripsite and Robin, again to the Netherlands on a bike and boat Tulip Tour in 2014.
“We hit it right in time for the blooming tulips in April,” Johnson said. The tour was guided. “The bikes were in brand new condition, the table cloths were clean, and everything was right on schedule Johnson said.” The Merlijn was always waiting for them in the harbor and they were greeted to hot, homemade cookies once on board.
“The staff was extremely personable but very efficient at the same time,” explains Johnson. The passengers on the ship bonded heavily with the staff and with each other. “We all cried on the last day when we had to leave. We made life-long friends on the trip, Johnson added.
Tripsite began in 1999 out of the spare bedroom in Sprout’s family’s house. Now Tripsite partners with over 100 tour companies across more than 40 countries. “It’s amazing to watch this little company grow,” says Sprout, reminiscing about the company’s early days.
With their Dutch heritage, the family even provides information on optimal blooming times for people to see the tulips, just like Melinda and Robin did. There are seven Tulip Tours available in total, ranging from four to eight days.
Fun is Better When Guided
The Bennetts opted for a guided bike and boat tour from Mantova to Venice, Italy. They sailed the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas in the Ave Maria. This vessel is a Comfort Plus boat, 41 meters long, launched in 2011, and built in Italy. They even got to travel right through Venice’s canals. Equipped to house 40 guests comfortably, the Ave Maria became a vacation home on water for the Bennetts and their 10 friends. “We all became fast friends with everyone on the boat” says Sherrie of her group and the other twelve passengers on board.
The Bennetts found their local guide, Helmut, to be extremely helpful during their trip in Italy. Helmut, 55, organized the entire day and accompanied them on the cycles, providing a native’s knowledge of the area and its attractions.
“Our guide pointed out some neat activities like wine and cheese tastings and things that we would have otherwise missed on our own,” Randy said. In 2013, the Bennetts returned to Europe with Tripsite on another bike and boat tour to Provence, France.
The entire boat consisted of their 20-person group of friends. This time they selected a self-guided tour, which is the alternative to a guided tour, offered by Tripsite. Sherrie and Randy had the entire day to explore on their own with their friends and their GPS equipped Minor hybrid bikes.
The Bennett’s multi-adventure’ trip to Croatia this summer will be a bike and boat guided tour as the couple prefers it. The guide will provide them with a detailed schedule full of options for the day. Both Sherrie and Randy claim that the guide keeps them more organized and they appreciate being paced on their bikes. “They do all of the work and we go to enjoy it” the couple says.
Luggage Stays in One Place
Bike and boat tours remain Tripsite’s most popular tour option since they combine the best of both worlds by land and sea. Passing the time in a foreign country by boat sometimes feels like passive exploring whereas constantly switching hotels can be too much change for some.
Tripsite’s trips usually do not exceed 25 people which gives the clients and the crew a chance to become close with one another. Randy and Sherrie have made great friends with the crews on board the ships and enjoyed the chance to make more connections.
The Bennetts and Johnson have always chosen the bike and boat tours with Tripsite because they love the one-time packing aspect it provides. “Our suitcases go on board and we never have to pack or unpack them again” says Sherrie.
There are approximately 75 bike and boat tours offered in Tripsite’s 2015 roster, giving a diverse selection without being overwhelming. People can tailor their trips by picking by country, length, skill level, price, and popularity.
There are a little over 200 bike tours offered on the Tripsite.com site, which include very detailed descriptions of the routes with just as much attention to the biking and hotels that people will be staying in as to giving people time to venture and appreciate the culture through a range of recommended activities.
The number of people range from just two to 20 people and there is always the option of utilizing charter tours where Tripsite will create a customized itinerary just for their guests. This ensures an exclusive and enjoyable trip like Randy, Sherrie and their friends had on their trip to Provence.
Affordable, Amiable and Authentic
On all bike and boat tours, there is a guide present, native to the country and bilingual in the national language and English. They are there to assist people with any and every need they may have along the trip. Sprout says, “Once you get to the starting line, we take care of you.”
Tripsite remains transparent about pricing and details exactly what it covers and the small, usually extraneous things it does not. These can include buying a helmet and beverages. Culture matters to the company, so waltz lessons along the Danube tour, wine tastings and other activities are covered in the initial cost.
For bike tours, hotel prices are included. Tripsite provides options for accommodations from small family-owned hotels to four star hotels. Luggage is also shipped each day with no extra fees or tips. The cost of bikes are also included in the cost of the trip.
Tripsite provides people with high-quality, hybrid bikes and even road bikes. They come with hand-brakes, saddle bags for storage, a small repair kit and locks. Children’s bikes and tandems are also offered so the family can come, you can enjoy a romantic ride through a European town with your partner or bring along your parent who may need a little extra help peddling.
Electric bikes can be used for at an extra cost. Sprout says that nearly everyone who travels with Tripsite rents their bikes out of convenience. She respects her clients and knows a good deal of them and says, “They work hard for their money and deserve a wonderful vacation.”
New Destinations and River Cruising
Tripsite welcomes new bike tour destinations in addition to the many options already available. These include a Greco getaway on the Halkidiki Peninsula tour, a Canadian crusade across the Rocky Mountains on the Jasper to Banff trip, and Tour of the Conquistadors, a tour through Spain. River cruises are also available on the Tripsite roster of journeys. There are over 20 tours to choose from, spanning nearly 40 countries and covering over twenty rivers, like the Nile and the Amazon.
With Tripsite, travelers can opt for just a bike, a bike with a boat, or a boat without a bike, but all, never without the fun. Contact Tripsite in Springville, Pennsylvania. 800-951-4384. www.tripsite.com
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