If you like traveling in large groups, having your itinerary laid out and being put on an exacting schedule, then join the Army. On the other hand there are advantages to group discounts, privileged entrances and having someone else schlepp your bags to your room.
Safety in numbers
Pro: There is always safety in numbers, be it from muggers, panhandlers or waitresses who got up on the wrong side of the bed.
Con: Groups move slowly. Like a convoy of battleships, you only move as fast as the slowest member. That’s not so good when you have very old people with you. Not so bad when you’re the very old person.
Pro: You will get to know and make friends with the other folks on your tour. This is mostly a good thing as everyone is on vacation and trying to have fun just like you.
Con: There is always the one old grumpy guy who complains about everything and is a sourpuss. Here’s to hoping that guy isn’t you.
Pro: Tours get group discounts on room rates. They fill these hotels regularly so they get discounts you and I may not.
Con: They also get to select the hotel. While some operators claim they have city center hotels, their idea of “City Center” is a little different than yours may be. Also, it’s hard to complain when they know your threats to change hotels are moot. I said “Hard,” not impossible. Not that it ever gets you anywhere but sometimes it’s fun to complain just for sport.
Let Me In Now
Pro: The last thing you want to waste on vacation is time. Well, that and money, but your time on vacation is what’s most precious. Tour groups not only get their own entrances without lines at a lot of attractions, they sometimes get in an hour before the general public. If you like that “Rock Star” treatment, and come on who doesn’t, go with a tour operator.
Con: There’s that pesky schedule again. You go when they say you go, you do what they say you do and you see what they say you see. It’s kind of like those school field trips we used to take, except you’re not on this just to get out of class. Plus, you’re paying this time, not your folks.
Drive on James
Pro: Not only are a lot of countries hard to navigate through, heck, a lot of them don’t even drive on the right side of the road. Add in traffic signs in different languages, tolls in strange currencies and those nagging DUI laws everywhere and you should leave the driving to the pro.
Con: Just like your rag-tag group schlepping through a museum, buses are slow, especially in downtown traffic. You don’t have any say in when or where you stop for breaks. Plus, even though the newer coaches have bathrooms, you certainly don’t want to be the one who stinks up the whole bus. Trust me on that one.
Just the Facts
Pro: Tour groups provide a tour guide on your trip and local guides on your excursions. Sometimes they can overwhelm, or worse, bore you with the minutiae of every stop but you do get to know the places you’re seeing.
Con: Some of us are great at making anything up on the spot and this shoots that practice into the ground. Of course, now-a-days every other person has a smart phone with internet access and ruins the fun for those of us blessed by the Blarney Stone.
That Pesky Schedule Again
Pro: Having to meet a tight schedule forces you to get up early every day.
Con: Having to meet a tight schedule forces you to get up early every day.