I must admit, I’ve always avoided group travel tours, preferring to do my own thing. However, lately I’ve been considering breaking that pattern and trying out a guided travel tour. I’m dying to see few places that come with fantastic itineraries and are just so tempting.
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Pros of group travel
To make my decision, I’ve been creating a list of things that are definitely pros of group travel versus doing it myself. Actually quite a few things make group travel stand out to me, the more I consider.
There is definitely something to be said about convenience. As much as I love planning, organizing and figuring out my travel plans, having it done for you is definitely nice. I think I could let go of those details planning elements and let someone else do it instead.
Not having to worry about ensuring your hotels, transportation and food needs is definitely a huge plus. I think I would be able to enjoy myself a bit more if I didn’t have to worry about arrangements. After all, you’re not there to worry about such annoying things. You’re there for the adventure.
Since I would chose a group travel tour for a place I have not been to, having a pre-designed itinerary is what I would be looking for. It definitely saves time and effort of trying to figure out what places to go and what to see.
An itinerary is definitely one of the main elements of why I would be choosing a group tour in the first place. Itineraries are designed to cover the most important and interesting things, which means you won’t be missing anything important. So choose your itinerary wisely!
I am a huge fan of multi-destination travel. Having the opportunity to visit various places in a short time frame instead of having to return to each one is always preferable. Group travel tours guarantee that you’ll be making multiple stops and seeing many things.
The ability to see multiple destinations is definitely a huge appeal of organized group tours. The destinations are the most appealing parts of tours, in my opinion. Where you go is largely what I’m looking for in an experience.
Travel to me is always about learning something new. Travelling in an organized group tour teaches you even more. From things about yourself, places and experiences to discovering things about others and learning from them.
Immersing yourself in the full experience of a group tour can definitely lead to new learnings. Discovering things on your own is definitely fun and can be quite cathartic, but being in a group changes that experience. You definitely won’t lack for people to share and learn with you.
Tours come with their own tour guides. This is especially helpful when visiting countries where there is a language barrier or there is a lot of intricate knowledge you don’t always find in a guidebook. The guides are versed in the areas you are visiting and know everything about them.
There is no need of trying to figure it out and you can always ask a question. In addition, you won’t have to figure out what they are saying, as they will speak your language. Since the tour guides come with you, there is no worry about being swindled or taken for a ride by a ‘helpful’ local.
Safety concerns are a major reason why I would choose organized group travel over going on my own. Especially to places that are not quite the safest destinations. Whatever that safety factor is, being part of a group provides more reassurance.
Since I’ve been looking at places like Egypt and South America, organized group tours are looking a lot more practical. While I know many people have travelled there on their own, I am not always comfortable doing so myself. Plus, the whole idea that others are there as well ups the safety factor for me.
Making new friends isn’t always the easiest while you travel. It can be intimidating, off-putting and straight out scary. Hanging out with a group forces you to assimilate and chances are you will make new friends. What better way to bond than over travel?
Easy logic would dictate that you‘d be surrounded with likeminded people if you pick tours that are geared to your interests. Moreover, people signing up for tours are likely to be out there for the same things and you might end up connecting with many of them. Also, there is always someone to take a pic of you in that dreamy setting.
Some places might not be accessible or available for independent travel. If your dream is to visit Antarctica let’s say, you are better off with an organized tour. Some remote destinations might only allow access to group tours. There can be safety and accessibility issues that make independent travel hazardous and can potentially be very expensive if attempted solo.
Groups also have special access to very touristy spots. While you might wait in line for hours to visit the Vatican, a group will sail right past you. The benefit of the groups is that the visits are preplanned so there is no worry about tickets running out or waiting in line for hours.
Cons of group travel
While group travel can be fun and exciting, it’s not all lollipops and rainbows. Sometimes, it just sucks if you pull the short straw on the group thing.
Not a lot of flexibility
You know that feeling of discovering something new on your travel that makes you change your plans? With organized group tours, there is no such thing. The tour has a defined itinerary and a timetable that you will have to follow. No willy nilly taking off and exploring things that are not planned or sleeping in.
You are also not able to change your tour a whole lot. You might want to visit a museum or have drinks on a patio, but the tour must go on. That glass of red might have to wait for another time as you get back on the bus bound for your next destination.
I must admit that I am not too bothered by this. Discovering new things on a tour that will give me an opportunity to go back is always a good thing. The key is in the tour itself and reading both the descriptions and reviews carefully.
A busy itinerary can be a good thing, but if it’s too rushed or poorly carried out it will ruin the experience. I am all for seeing as many things as I can, but they have to have value to me. Whether a strict itinerary is a deal breaker or not really depends on the itinerary itself. Choose carefully.
I must admit that price is the number one thing holding me back from booking a tour right now. While travelling any place can be expensive, there is flexibility in how you spend your money. It always seems less expensive if you don’t have to pay the whole chunk upfront.
There are no guarantees that you will find everything to your liking and if you spend a lot of money on a tour, it can be an even more expensive experience. Still, some tours seem just very expensive.
Accommodations and dining issues
This is definitely one thing that can be a hit or a miss. While most tours offer dietary options, there is not always a guarantee that they will be good ones. Some places might just not have the ingredients or availability of produce to suit your needs.
As I don’t eat meat, I have nightmares of going to places where they offer traditional dishes filled with meat. While I can appreciate a local culinary experience, I don’t want to be sitting through a meal where there is nothing for me to eat. The same can be said about accommodations. What appeals to one person will not to another. This definitely goes back to checking reviews and asking questions before booking.
Tour guides are definitely a pro, but they can also be a con. Having a bad tour guide can definitely ruin your experience. Guides that are untrained, lack knowledge and interest in the job can dampen any tour. While you can’t predict which guide you will get or how good they are, it also pays to read reviews.
Any company worth their reputation will ensure that their guides are trained properly and ones that are not are dealt with. As with any company that provides customer service, their guides are their direct ambassadors and reflect on the company. It doesn’t bode well to have a bad tour guide.
The reality is that you might not get along with everyone or might not be liked by them. As in any situation where you have random strangers thrown together, conflicts can arise. Be that personality or general mismatch, this experience can make or break your trip.
In a worst-case scenario, your trip could become unbearable. If that becomes the case, you might have to choose whether you stay or leave. It’s important to read the company’s terms on refunds, cancellations and unfinished tours. You never want that to happen, but it’s good to know what you options are if it does.
Let’s be honest, travel can be exhausting. Moving from one place to another, getting yet on another bus and even walking around can become too much. Add information overload and you might need a vacation from your vacation.
Save yourself some aggravation and choose an organized group tour that suits your needs. Most tours have an overview of the level of activity required, difficulty and recommended fit level.
While it might be tempting to pick the longest, most adventurous tour you can find, make sure you can physically keep up. Remember, there is no breaking from the schedule to have a rest day.
Many tour companies design trips for different age groups. Depending on your age, you might find that a good thing or a bad one. There are always tours for all ages, which again can have their good and bad points.
If you are near the age bracket of a tour you like, you can always contact the tour operator to see if they can include you. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
Types of guided travel tours
Choosing a tour can become a challenge in itself. With so many options, which one do you pick? I think it’s easy to see how some people become addicted to group tours. As with anything else, there is always the private tour option if you desire.
With so many great options, why plan your own vacation?
Adventure tours: Pretty self-explanatory and guaranteed to leave you with epic stories to tell your friends.
Cultural tours: More in-depth immersion with culture and people of the country you’re visiting.
Destination tours: Designed with a specific location in mind and all it has to offer.
Educational tours: Great for picking up new language skills, volunteering or gaining knowledge to take back with you.
Family tours: Made with the whole family in mind with plenty to do for everyone.
International tours: Trailing across multiple countries and a great way to build up the number of countries you’ve been to.
Rail tours: Iconic and scenic routes in the style and comfort of the days gone by.
Sightseeing tours: Best way to explore a specific destination in a short time, usually don’t have to book far in advance.
Specialty tours: Anything from golfing, religious pilgrimages and yoga to cheese making, culinary sampling and wine tours.
Things to keep in mind
So, you’ve made a list of pros and cons, and decided on the type of tour you want. There are few things to keep in mind before you commit to a specific tour experience.
With so many tour operators out there, you have many choices. Sometimes that is a good thing, but not always. It might be tempting to pick a tour operator that is the cheapest or offers the longest tour. It definitely pays to do some research ahead of time. The time invested into research, will pay dividends in the future.
If you are not sure about the reviews on the tour operator’s website, google them. Ask friends and family for recommendations. Ask them questions yourself. If you’re not sure about something, address it before you book. It will save you time and help to enjoy your trip.
Lots of options once again. Read the little print carefully. What accommodations and food does the tour operator include? Not all tours include all meals and that is an extra cost for you. Some tours offer different tiers of accommodations as well. While you might be okay sleeping on a mat in a tent, someone else will prefer a bed and hot running water. It’s all down to individual tastes.
Whether it’s a weekend getaway or a month-long adventure, there is a tour with your name on it. You might want to enjoy a one-day experience while you’re on vacation anyway. On the other hand, you might want to take off for an extended amount of time. Duration always comes down to affordability and the ability to take the required time needed for the trip.
Trekking in the wilderness of Bolivia can be an appealing thought; you might have to consider how you’re getting there. What types of transportation does the tour provide? If there is a lot of time spent on a bus, car or train, you might want to consider bringing smaller luggage. It will be difficult to lug your largest suitcase from one bus to another or drag it around from place to place.
If you’re like me and get motion sickness, having to spend hours on a bus can be daunting. Add an old bus that spews nasty fumes and you got yourself a disaster. I always make sure I bring anti-nausea meds with me; I’d rather not have to use them. Alternatively, while that camel ride into the sunset might seem romantic, you might find it uncomfortable for many reasons. While you can’t predict the weather, knowing how you’re getting around will make things a lot easier to plan.
While organized group tours can be expensive, what is included sometimes makes up for the price tag. Most tours don’t include airfare so getting there and back is up to you. If the location is different at the end then when you started, you have to factor that cost in as well.
Typical cost include a tour guide, transportation, accommodations and some type of a meal plan. Depending on the tour operator, your experience will reflect on what’s included. Make sure you are comfortable with the options and ask questions before you book.
Other things to consider
Travelling in a group is not that much different from travelling on your own. There are some basics that you should keep in mind as you plan your adventure.
Plugs and adaptors: I have invested in wall plug for Europe so that it’s easy for me to charge my phone without worrying about adaptors when I travel. This make is so much easier. I’ve recently invested in an all in one charging pack that makes travelling to any country a breeze.
Insurance: This should be a given any time you travel. Always have coverage, as you never know what can happen during your trip.
Vaccinations: Do you require special vaccines for travel? It’s good to find out ahead of time what shots you need as some require a certain time of time to kick in or repeat doses. If you require multiple vaccines, ensure that you have enough time before travel to administer them all.
Visas: Checking visa requirements for admission to specific countries also falls under your responsibility. Some countries have an easy process while others require a longer, more onerous one. Always check before you set out. Otherwise, you might find yourself left behind if the country on the tour refuses you entry.
So is group travel for you?
I can say that I am definitely up for group travel. In the past, I’ve done a fantastic day trip to the Loire Valley in France, an awesome snowmobile tour as well as an unforgettable lava and ice caves tour. I have also had some terrible private tours but the positive ones easily outnumbered those.
I am now ready to try a destination group tour that requires me to travel with a number of stranger for a set time frame. While I’m not fully decided yet what I am taking, there are a few contenders on the line.
Have you done any organized group tours? What was your experience like? Let me know!
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