Although we have walked over 1000 km on the Camino Frances and the Portuguese, we are getting older (70s) and feel we need some support. Can anyone recommend tour companies that provide van support to carry luggage or to carry us when we get tired?
I’m not sure there are any tour companies that offer the support you want. I’ve not used any on the Camino, but they generally just make the hotel reservations for you and arrange to transport your bags.
In reality, however, all they’re doing is providing emotional comfort to those who are afraid to embark on a camino on their own. But as Camino veterans, it would seem that you don’t need this kind of psychological support, and you would be better off making the arrangements on your own. You can arrange the bag transport through Correos or Jacotrans, either on an ad hoc basis or for your whole camino, and you can easily make your own reservations through booking.com or similar site. Doing it this way would actually give you more flexibility, since reservations could be canceled with 24 or 48 hour notice (difficult to do with a touring company). Plus, you could just arrange the bag transport from day to day rather than being locked into an itinerary. You’d also save a bundle. of money, since the touring companies mark everything up dramatically.
To my knowledge, the touriing companies don’t offer occasional transport, Even if they do, it would probably be easier, and certainly cheaper, just to take a local bus, or even a taxi. Spanish taxis typically run about 1 euro per kilometer.
Being 70 myself, I understand where you’re coming from. But I think there are better, and cheaper ways to arrange a camino on your own terms without using a touring company. More likely than not, it seems to me they will only cut down on your flexibility and drive up your cost.
Correos, as in paqmochila, has a clear visual on the front page of their site, showing prices for different sections of various caminos. My understanding is that you must use, or leave your luggage, in their approved lodgings. I saw pilgrims come in to an albergue one morning to leave their rucksacks. As a 71 year old, I used them a few weeks ago on the Ingles. A world of difference, to be honest, and a blessing for my feet and knees.
JACOTRANS collect and deliver to all types of lodgings, including parochial.that is to the best of my knowledge, I could be wrong - as a dear friend used to say: I could be wrong, I remember I was, once before...
Caminofacil is another bag transport company that operates on both the Frances and Portugués routes, they will deliver luggage to whatever accommodations you have booked. As well they offer a taxi service if you want to book that for certain sections. However, if you just want to use transport should you become tired the best thing would be to call a taxi
There is a company called Spanish Steps that offers full van support, with hotels, luggage, a guide, and some meals. These are group trips, with preset dates of varying distances. Very expensive, ( 5700 € per person for the Frances) and I think you would miss the flexibility, interaction with fellow pilgrims, but the option is there. I know someone who went this route, she loved it became very close with the others on the tour who became her Camino family.
I used a tour company and I DO NOT recommend (it was our first Camino, I didn't know what to expect and had no time to plan).
Apart from not sending us the maps, they messed up one of the stages so badly that have I not noticed it we would have missed one day of the walk, and consequently, our Compostela!
If you have any issue on the way, because the accommodation is all booked in advance, you have no flexibility. For example, if you hurt yourself and need a break, you'll need to get transport to the next stage because they won't rebook the accommodation for you.
Their 24/7 phone assistance was also a joke. There's someone to answer the calls but she has no power to check most of the stuff (she's mostly there to book hotels and taxi). I sent them also emails and they were 'misplaced'.
Furthermore, they have a huge mark-up. You can probably organise everything yourself online and save more than 50%. The money you're saving can pay for as much taxis and last minutes hotels you will ever need.
If you want to make it easy for yourselves you could use RAW travel, an Australian company that specialises in the Camino. They book all your accommodation and transfer your luggage each day so you only need a day pack. The drawback is that you are then stuck with the timetable. We used them and everything was perfect.
I've had very good luck with walkthecamino.com for setting up rooms and transport. For legs where there is not standard transport they arrange alternative transport for luggage. This sounds a bit strange, but I've found that even in some fairly "remote" areas you can usually get a taxi (even along the VDLP) if you need to. I'm in my 70s as well and find that some days I can walk 35k with no problems. Other days, 20 is a stretch. So, don't feel bad at all about understanding your limits and acting as such. It's much better to not walk a stage or part of a stage and feel better the next morning so that you can enjoy the Camino rather than force yourself into a situation where it no longer becomes a pleasure (although my wife would say that walking hundreds of k is just wacky anyway).
A member of our group adopted the following approach walking on CP.
She knows her limits in terms of the distance to be covered in a day, e.g., 12 km.
She walked with us, at our pace, for the distance, say 12 km, then she took a taxi to the destination where the group would stay for the night. People in cafes helped call taxi for her where she needed it.
The group hired Tuitrans to courier its luggage for the 11-day walk. (Part of our walk was on the Coastal route and part of it was on the Central route.)