Escape to historic Austria and Germany or experience the luck of the Irish with the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce's upcoming travel tours.
The chamber is offering a nine-day trip to Austria and Germany in the fall, followed by a 10-day tour of Ireland in the spring.
"People enjoy the sense of camaraderie that comes from traveling with chamber-sponsored tours," Kate D'Or, the chamber's business and projects manager, said.
"This has a community feeling," she said. "People like to go with people they know. There's a certain group of people who enjoy the comfort of group travel rather than making arrangements all on their own, especially if it's a non-English speaking country."
The Pleasanton tour group is often paired with groups from other chambers, making the travel a superb way to make fast friends from around the country. D'Or recalled a trip to Spain when the local travelers were paired with other chamber tour groups.
"It was great fun," she said. "We met some really neat people. We would go on tours during the day together and then socialize afterwards."
The chamber started offering tours in 2006 when a travel agent approached chamber leaders about offering a nine-day tour to China. That first tour was a smash hit, drawing a record 125 travelers.
"You couldn't afford not to go," D'Or said. "It was $1,400 for nine days. This was to encourage travel to China before the Olympics in 2008."
A handful of travelers used the trip as an opportunity to make business connections, but most travelers took the trip for the sheer joy of exploring China.
The annual tours "have been really popular," she said. "Ever since that China trip, we have a following of 300 or 400 people. Every year, they're asking us where we're going to go next."
D'Or and chamber CEO Scott Raty choose the travel destinations with input from previous travelers. The Pleasanton tours have taken local residents to Greece, Spain, the Mediterranean, Tuscany, Ireland and even Cuba.
"There are a whole group of people who had Cuba on their bucket list," she said, noting that trip was more expensive than typical chamber tours because travel to Cuba is pricey.
The chamber tries to keep the total travel tab below $3,000, though the price can sometimes be slightly higher. Trips to London and Paris have been passed over because they offer less of a value.
This is the first time the chamber has offered a trip to Austria and Germany, but it's a repeat tour for Ireland because it was such a big hit the first time it was offered.
"Austria is a popular destination, especially during Oktoberfest," she said. "I went online and looked at pictures and thought, 'Oh, brother, this is beautiful.' It was like being in (the movie) Heidi."
The tours are open to anyone, regardless of chamber membership or city of residence.
"We have lots of fun," D'Or said. "You go to cool places at a great price."
Visit the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce website at pleasanton.org/chamber-travel.html for more details about the trips and to register online.
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