Andrea Golder on 45 years of taking groups around the world, how she comes up with new ideas, what her ‘musts’ are, and where’s still left on the bucket list. 

Members of the Thames Valley Tours group on an Italian holiday in the Dolomites.

Thames Valley Tours have been all over the world including the Dolomites in Italy. 

Tell us about your group.

We are an eclectic mix of different backgrounds, ages, ethnicities and interests. I have my regular members, that go way back to when I was on several committees for two large civil service sports clubs, and I am also proactive in getting new members in my local area. It’s a really nice balance because I have people on the doorstep who love travelling with me and then we have our regular coach pick-ups in London too.

How do you keep in touch with everyone?

Largely by email. I will send out a regular travel update about what we have coming up. I also call people and put posters up locally. In addition, I have a Facebook page and use social media and WhatsApp groups, so by various means I get in touch with people.

I love the camaraderie and seeing things through the eyes of others. When I travel on my family breaks, I miss the group. 

There are people who come on my trips who I haven’t met before who perhaps have been recommended and take a leap of faith, and the nice thing is that like many of these people, they go on to become regulars. It’s like travelling with friends.

GTO Andrea Golder, Thames Valley Tours

Andrea’s group at a glance…

Group name: Thames Valley Tours
No. of members: 300
Time organising: 45 years
Based: Sonning Common, South Oxfordshire

Have the type of trips you do changed over the years?

There has definitely been a sea change since the pandemic and Brexit. There was a lot of fear about travelling after the pandemic so I started doing more UK-based trips and we have come to love them just as much as our overseas trips. We went to places like Northern Ireland, the Isle of Wight, the Peak District, Whitby and Devon and we all came to realise how many terrific places there were in the UK. But now things have opened back up again we are also doing more European holidays which are very popular.

A scenic view of the Douro river with a cruise ship

Andrea loves the idea of a cruise on the River Douro in Portugal. 

Tell us about some of the places you’re going to in 2024

In the UK we have Yorkshire (taking in York, Harrogate and Leeds), Northumberland and Edinburgh. Then overseas we are going to Crete (including Athens and Santorini), Sicily and a cruise to Antwerp and Hamburg. I am also hoping to fit in a European Christmas trip, potentially to Strasbourg, and possibly a Calais shopping visit in November too.

I really enjoy it and there is always something to do, whether it’s finalising a trip, signing people up, answering queries etc, I am always on the go.

How do you come up with ideas?

I have a very good relationship with three or four regular tour operators who know what we like. They will often call me with suggestions and then I’ll perhaps tweak the itinerary. For example last year, there was a super trip to the Dolomites, staying in a family-run hotel in the mountains with a free bar and entertainment. We were flying in and out of Venice so I asked the tour operator to add on a whistle-stop tour of Venice on the last day which added another element to the holiday. I also go to events like the Group Leisure & Travel Show when I can.

Members of the Thames Valley Tours group on holiday in Crete

On holiday in Crete - the group do a mixture of UK and European trips. 

What are the ‘musts’ for your group?

We like to have a wine tasting or brewery tour; we like heritage railways and stately homes. I also make sure I include free time wherever we go. Of course, it’s lovely to have guided tours but having free time gives people the chance to enjoy something personal to them. I aim to please most of the people most of the time and if there’s an element of free time, they will usually find something they are personally interested in.

Where is still on your bucket list?

I want to revisit India and Iceland. I would also love to go down the Douro on a river cruise and I’d really like to do Cuba but it may be beyond our price bracket. Baku in Azerbaijan is also on my list – I saw it on Race Around the World a few years ago and it looks incredible.

A street shot of Havana in Cuba

Cuba is on Andrea’s bucket list - have you been? 

What is it about travelling with the group that you enjoy most?

I love the camaraderie and seeing things through the eyes of others. When I travel on my family breaks, I miss the group. I look around at the happy faces and think, this is what it’s all about. It is especially rewarding to see how much the people on their own enjoy the trips – watching them blossom and make friends is wonderful.

For the long coach journeys, I do what I can to entertain the group, whether that’s with a couple of games of bingo or showing them videos related to where we are going. I like to find out interesting facts about places so I can share those with them too.

How much time do you spend organising?

It seems to be seven days a week, I just can’t switch off! I really enjoy it and there is always something to do, whether it’s finalising a trip, signing people up, answering queries etc, I am always on the go.

Would you like to tell us about your work as a group organiser? Get in touch by emailing