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Bus2Alps makes Europe accessible

Heights Editor

Published: Sunday, February 19, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

Begun in 2003, the Bus2Alps program has absolutely exploded. A Tour Operating company, Bus2Alps organizes and operates tours for students studying abroad, whether it is for a weekend, a week, or in the case of the summer tours, two weeks.

Bus2Alps provides students who are living temporarily in a foreign country with the transportation to spend a weekend in another nearby city.

The beginnings of the company stem from a man named Simon O'Keefe, who was living in Interlaken, Switzerland. When a large group of students who were studying abroad came to Interlaken for a weekend and there was a train strike, O'Keefe had the idea to organize a bus for these students to reach their destination.

It became apparent that this idea could spark a successful company, and from there it snowballed. In 2003, Bus2Alps began as a series of ski operator bus trips from Florence and Rome to Interlaken, which explains the program's title. After the first year of this, however, the company expanded drastically.

Bus2Alps now offers trips to numerous European hot spots such as London, Paris, Vienna, Salzburg, Interlaken, and, their most popular, the Amalfi Coast in southern Italy. This Amalfi Coast trip is offered every weekend from the first weekend in April until the first weekend in October. The trip attracts an average of 150 students every weekend.

Other unique trips include a Greek island hopping adventure, a trip to Prague during Oktoberfest, and a Saint Patrick's Day trip to Ireland. Although trips are pre-planned and students can sign up on their website, Tour Operator and U.S. Operations Manager Mike LaPorta noted that when strong interest formed in attending a Dave Matthews concert in Rome one weekend, they created a customized tour for this.

Although advertised as "Europe's Award-Winning Student Travel Agency," Bus2Alps is more than just the transportation organizer. On their website, Bus2Alps advertises the "Florence 2 Interlaken" trip, which includes "skiing, snowboarding, night sledding, snowshoeing, skydiving, paragliding, hanggliding, canyon jumping, scooters, funcars, ATVs, mountain bikes, mountain hikes, lake hikes, and partying at Balmers Metro Bar." All trips include round trip transportation, local transportation, a guide, a trip leader, an itinerary, and a reservation for commodious living in its most raw form—the top rated hostel in the city.

"We've tailored the trips in a way so that we include everything that people would want to do," LaPorta said. "We include activities in the itineraries that everyone should do at that location. If it's mapped out that far, people will wake up and do it."

An average weekend trip costs around $260, a Spring Break trip around $800, and a two-week summer trip about $1500-$1600 (relative to the exchange rate). These prices do not include flights.

Although the guides are there to direct travelers and be hands- on, LaPorta emphasized that they are not babysitters and that travelers have the freedom to choose what they would and would not like to do.

Perhaps the biggest perk of traveling with Bus2Alps is its connections with local attractions. They offer exclusive discounts on special activities and VIP entries into select clubs and restaurants.

Although 95 percent of the clientele are American students abroad looking for a new and exciting experience for a weekend away, this year Bus2Alps has found a way for trips to be possible for all. The company is trying to expand its horizons to focus on everybody—especially for the spring break and summer trips, for those who did not or are not planning on going abroad for a whole semester or summer.

A surprisingly small percentage of U.S. students study abroad, despite what seems like the majority. LaPorta's job is not only to guide trips, but also to spread awareness to students about going on these trips. LaPorta recently visited a student at Boston College who had toured with Bus2Alps in Europe.

"It's great to go back to schools where we can reconnect with students who went abroad already who now reflect on it," LaPorta said. "Our staff is so passionate about what we do because it's an incredible feeling to be told that because of your work, someone experienced the greatest moment or weekend of their life."

Thus, it is not surprising that through the success of the company and the power of word of mouth, Bus2Alps continues to expand rapidly.

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