Last summer, Club Members John and Lynn Rivers took a spectacular tour of some of America’s greatest landscapes. They traveled with ClubPartner Tauck to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons. Tauck is a highly regarded tour company that provides all-inclusive, guided trips to great American destinations and global expeditions to places like Ireland and Peru, as well as its award-winning river cruises. The experts at Tauck carefully plan every detail, allowing travelers to immerse themselves in the local culture. Club Traveler asked John and Lynn to describe the Tauck experience and share some of their favorite photographs and memories from their Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks tour.
Can you tell us about your tour?
Our tour’s name was Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks, and the trip’s duration was from May 25 to June 1, 2015. Along with us, there were 38 additional travelers from the Midwest, South, West Coast and Northeast United States and the United Kingdom. We arrived in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and left from Rapid City, South Dakota. Upon arrival, a Tauck Representative met us at the airport and transported us to the hotel, and upon departure, Tauck transported us to the airport at no additional cost.
Why did you decide to do a Tauck vacation?
Lynn’s sister and brother-in-law had taken several European Tauck tours and highly recommended them. After numerous sea cruises, we decided to take a land tour to explore the western U.S.
How would you compare this trip to other vacations you've taken?
The land travel trip encouraged [a lot of] interaction between all the guests, especially during meals and riding the coach bus. We learned names and information about our fellow travelers. With a sea cruise, it is harder to become friendly or acquainted with more than a small group on a large ship.
What was your favorite stop?
Grand Tetons, Snake River rafting, numerous thermal mud pots and Mt. Rushmore, [but] it is really difficult to single out just one stop since they were varied and very different as to what we are accustomed.
Was this a guided tour? How were the guides?
Yes, this was a guided tour by a Tauck guide, Jan George. We met Jan the first night, and she traveled the whole trip with us. She was a most knowledgeable, enthusiastic and organized individual. Our bus driver, Nathan Black, was responsible for getting luggage to our rooms and back on the bus at every stop. Upon arriving at the Jackson Lake Lodge, we did not have to worry about loading and unloading our luggage until we arrived at the Rapid City Airport.
How was the food on your trip? Was there a particular meal that you really enjoyed?
The tour covered all but three lunches. In most instances, we were offered meal choices. The food was good with complimentary wine at all dinners. Our favorite meal was dinner at the Jackson Lake Lodge. We faced the all-glass dining room window looking up at the majestic Grand Tetons, and a wedding was occurring on the terrace.
What were you most surprised about on the trip?
The landscape surprised us. We could not get over the rugged mountains and the vastness of the open plains. To be riding around in the Yellowstone volcano caldera, supposedly the largest one in the world, creates excitement but uneasiness to our surroundings. John ran out of photo chip space on both his camera and iPhone. (Club Traveler Travel Tip: Bring extra photo storage cards and backup batteries.)
If you could only pick one thing, what was the highlight of the trip?
The highlight of our trip was seeing the ruggedness of the West — the impressiveness of the majestic Grand Tetons, the beauty of the large and small waterfalls. The geothermal mud pots were so different than our East Coast landscape. The marvel of Mt. Rushmore carvings and the abundance of wildlife were phenomenal. We saw bison, black and pregnant elk, and only missed seeing wolves.
Any tips or advice you'd give to other Club Members considering a Tauck vacation?
If you enjoy small group tours, you will really like Tauck’s western trip. Because of the small group, we were able to become acquainted with most of our travelers. The tour guide was so knowledgeable and organized. We were constantly on the move, so there was not a lot of down time. Always pack lightly so you can bring home souvenirs. Lastly, remember to take enough film for the trip. There was so much to record that we ran out. A final comment: We were able to use Hilton Grand Vacations Club Points to cover some of the cost of the trip.