Wednesday, January 07, 2009

What's the Deal with the Luggage?


Long ago we discovered the many benefits of ditching our luggage and hiking with a lightweight daypack. “The light way is the right way,” became our mantra, and we developed our hiking tours to reflect this philosophy.

We use an intricate transportation system to accomplish this mode of travel. The methods involved include, but are not always limited to, trains, buses, boats, cable cars, taxis, and vans. In special cases, we might just leave our luggage in one place, and then pick it up few days later.

Every tour offers a different scenario, so we implore our guests to inquire about the specific tour that interests them. Many of our tours differ in their approach to luggage. The Engadine Trek, for example, offers luggage transfer every day, but the Tour du Mont Blanc does not. Many of our trips incorporate a night or two at a rustic mountain retreat, and luggage transfer simply isn’t logistically possible.

Here’s a brief look at our various modes of travel. It’s good to know what you're paying for.

Trains, buses, boats, and cable cars. Oh my! These modes usually apply to our Swiss tours because the Swiss offer a near-perfect solution for baggage transfer. Their state-of–the-art public transportation system allows travelers to ship their bags from almost any destination served by public transport to another within the country. To illustrate, a hiker can present their bags at the Grindelwald rail station and simply request a baggage transfer to Lauterbrunnen. The bags will travel around by train and await the hiker’s retrieval by the end of the day. If a remote mountain pass or a lake lies between the two destinations then Swiss transport officials will choose the appropriate travel mode. Your bag might leave by cable car or boat, then hop on a bus or train. Our guides handle these logistics behind the scenes of a guided tour. Our hotels usually handle this for our self-guided tours, but there are exceptions. Again, it pays to inquire. We occasionally invite our guests to ship their own bags on select self-guided tours.

Taxis. We use taxis to shuttle bags through remote locations that lack sophisticated public transport systems. Virtually any region outside of Switzerland falls within this category, though we do use taxis within Switzerland for extremely remote and select cases. Taxis typically offer a cost advantage for large groups covering short distances. They’re also a bit more flexible than public transport. The Italian Dolomites Trek relies solely on taxis.

Vans. Vans offer the most flexible alternative to the aforementioned modes of transport. We use our own vans in extremely remote locations that either lack public transport or would simply make for a very expensive taxi transfer. Tours that use vans require at least one Ryder-Walker guide to drive the vehicle in addition to another guide on the trail. One guide can sometimes pull it off with village-based scenarios, but we usually don't go there. Our Telluride Trek relies on a company van.

Bag storage. This doesn’t represent a mode of travel, but it’s worth mentioning because it involves luggage. A few of our trips begin and finish at the same location which makes it possible to leave excess baggage during the course of a tour. The Appenzell Hut Hop works this way as do some of our village based tours. Our guests can also ship bags ahead and have them waiting at the final destination. This is a good tip to know for guests that don’t like packing and repacking a bunch of stuff every day. This is also great for extended journeys through Europe. Leave the excess souvenirs behind, and enjoy an unencumbered hiking tour.

No comments: