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Leave your reservations on the bus: Topdeck keeps it real for 18-39s travel

Forget what you think you know about youth group travel and guided coach tours.

Forget what you think you know about youth group travel and guided coach tours.

As former Topdeck CEO and current Board Director James Nathan remarked to me in London: “It’s all about bringing young people together for experiences and adventure rather than the mode of travel.”

“The most common feedback we hear is people get on the coach with reservations and they come back having had the holiday of a lifetime, not because they were travelling on a bus but because of the whole experience of bringing people together.”

It’s a statement that definitely rings true after spending 10 days with 23 other travellers from around Australia, New Zealand and the UK on a special-edition Topdeck trip through Morocco and Spain.

We met as strangers in Marrakesh and left London as firm friends.

Topdeck turns 50 years young

Group of people on plane
Ready for an epic adventure – by plane, coach and ferry!

The Topdeck trip recreated part of the company’s original overland tour in November 1973, embarking in Marrakesh, travelling through Spain and culminating in London for the brand’s 50th birthday party – all popular destinations still served by the brand today as the product has continued to evolve.

The 50th-anniversary crew consisted of a lucky draw of top-selling agents and Flight Centre consultants who submitted their ‘Feel Real‘ moments from previous trips along with FCTG marketing and content experts, select Topdeck team members and media (Karryon).

It made for a diverse group of travellers of different ages and life stages – linked by a love of travel – who were each able to experience the trip authentically in their own way.

Rocking the casbah in Morocco

Group of travellers in front of door in Morocco
Opening the door to travel discovery in Marrakesh.

The jam-packed itinerary was carefully curated by Topdeck’s expert product team with unique guided experiences and characterful hotels balanced with free time to explore.

And we covered a lot of ground – around 3,500km – with ease, thanks to bus, ferry and plane travel and Trip Leader extraordinaire Mike Rice.

From guided tours of medinas, spice stalls and markets in Marrakech to artisan pottery and mosaic demos and riad dinners in Fes, Morocco was a moveable feast of colours, flavours and aromas.

The highly anticipated stop at Chefchaouen was a standout for most Topdeckers on the trip and did not disappoint – the famous blue city offered the ideal Instagram-worthy backdrop at every turn for photo opps.

Sun, sangria and Spain

Topdeck 50th sunset in Spain
Magical sunsets in Spain.

After a ferry crossing over the Mediterranean to Granada – without incident (unlike Topdeck’s first-ever trip) – we were in Spain for a tapas- and flamenco-fuelled night of karaoke and Halloween costumes that many of us will never forget.

In fact, our first foray in Spain was a highlight for many who were deeply moved by the flamenco show in an atmospheric gypsy cave in Granada and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of La Alhambra.

Spain was a certified stunner for this next trip segment – from Granada’s gorgeous Moorish architecture to the fun student town of Valencia and Barcelona’s many Gaudi masterpieces.

Group of travellers at La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain.
Windswept at La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

With two days in Barcelona, the Catalan capital was another fave stop. We sampled the sangria, were awed by La Sagrada Familia on a guided tour, zipped across from Montjuïc to the Barcelona Port via cable car and hit up Las Ramblas on a tasty exploration of local treats.

While certain destinations were justifiably highly anticipated by the group, I was also reminded of the unexpected nature of travel where chance encounters and lesser-known stops often yield the moments that linger long after the trip ends.

By the time we flew from Barcelona to London, the WhatsApp group chat was packed with photos, inside jokes and references forged from days on the road, nights in destination and all the in-between moments that made the trip so memorable (and meme-worthy).

Party down in London

Topdeck 50th trip group London
The Topdeck 50th anniversary trip crew with Graham “Skroo” Turner (centre) in London.

At Topdeck’s 50th birthday celebrations in London, we joined more than 220 past and present Topdeckers for an exclusive party that referenced both the past and future.

This included Topdeck Founders Graham “Skroo” Turner and Bill James (with a message from Geoff “Spy” Lomas), current Managing Director Ed Pettitt and former and current crew, passengers and team members.

The attention to detail, from the original double-decker ‘Tadpoles’ parked outside to destination-themed food, fun photobooths, a live roving band playing trip tunes and plenty of memorabilia, highlighted the special place this brand occupies in many travellers’ memories.

Topdeck 50th walking
Special-edition Topdeck hoodies as a reminder of the 50th-anniversary trip.

Fellow Topdecker Sam, no stranger to Topdeck trips,  summed up the special 50th-anniversary trip best as “exciting, enchanting and unforgettable”.

After all, as Topdeck MD Ed Pettitt says, it’s the people, not the places that make the trip.
“What you remember are the friendships and having a great time rather than what you’ve experienced together – the sites are the backdrop.”

And the coach is just the mode of travel to get you there.

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