Welcome to Barker’s European Tours (BET) I began organizing group trips to Europe in 1978 with a group of 76 high school singers on a three-week concert tour. I intended this to be a “one time only” experience, but two years later, the next group was saying, “Hey, it’s our turn!” After the third great trip and leaving high school choral directing in 1982, I figured that my tour days were over.
At The University of Texas at San Antonio I found myself teaching Masterpieces of Music and for years I would tell my students as kind of a joke, “When you get to Europe, make sure you see the. . . .” In the spring of 1989, one of the students (also jokingly) said: “Why don’t you take us?” Barker’s European Tours was born within the year. In the intervening years, I’ve crossed the pond too many times and have led over 80 tours. Clients have become friends. Friends have become clients.
At the core of BET is the loyal customer base. Twenty-one people have been on ten or more tours, with five of those having participated in more than twenty. The tours are eurocentric for the most part, but in recent years we have explored parts of the old Roman empire that extended into North Africa and Asia Minor. In 2008, we traveled to China twice. Recently we have been to Vietnam twice, Cambodia, Thailand, and South Africa. Depending on the nature of the tour, the enrollments vary from 12 to 30, with an average size of 20. I’m along on every tour to help solve any problems that might arise. When you arrive on your first BET tour, it will seem that everybody knows everybody else. Not to worry–they will take you in and by the end of the tour you will be a true BETVet!
My trips work and are different than typical group tours. They incorporate the savings of group travel without the numbing regimentation, include enough carefully chosen activities so you will know the cities we visit, and allow free time for personal curiosities and pleasures. I choose good, safe hotels in attractive locations and use public transportation where practical. For my tours to work (or any tour for that matter), there are some restrictions. Participants are limited to one piece of luggage and a carryon. For most trips, I highly recommend upright wheeled luggage with a detachable daypack (JanSport, Eagle Creek). If you are still young, an internal frame backpack/suitcase will be your best choice. In either case, all participants must be physically capable of handling their own luggage. These tours are designed for active adults and college-age students. Younger students with family and seniors are welcome–provided they are independent travelers.
Laurence Barker, April 2013.