Tour groups are the 2nd grade field trips of the adult world. Matching name tags, coach buses and pee-chees packed with carefully printed itineraries are the mark of the modern tour group. Many travelers avoid tour groups because they have a reputation of being restrictive and tame, but you may find that these field trippers have more access and more fun than the average backpacker.
Most tour packages want to make the most out of your time in any given location. You’ll lose free time at the expense of planned activities and excursions. This is not a bad thing, if you are enjoy those planned outings, but it may limit your ability for spontaneity. Often, the best parts of travel are the experience you never expect to happen.
Guided trips have the reputation of being more expensive than solo travel to the same place, but this is not always the case. When compared with a bare-bones backpacking trip, it’s true that tours usually are more expensive. But, consider the activities, lodging, transportation and amenities included on the tour. Add up their individual costs and you may find that you’re getting a severe discount by booking with a tour group.
There’s no question that traveling as part of a guided tour group is easier. Your accommodations, travel arrangements and itinerary are already decided for you meaning instead of carrying everything you own in your Venturesafe 32L, you can get by with just the day’s essentials in a Venturesafe 100. Nothing says easy like being told what to do. Many tour groups will also have a bi-lingual tour guide for difficult communication programs. However, easy does not always equate to the best trips. Some of the greatest parts of travel come from misunderstandings, setbacks and frustrations.
True, tour groups may limit your spontaneity, but not going with a group may ultimately restrict your travel. Tour group companies mean big money for organizations that run popular tourist destinations. Often, this means you can only visit a place if you are booked with a partnering tour company. When planning your trip, carefully check all the destinations you wish to visit and make sure you can access them without a pre-arranged tour.
Tour group companies rely on the recommendations and good experiences of their clientele to stay in business, so it doesn’t bode well for them if half their tour winds up mugged or lost. As such, tour groups usually go out of their way to create an extremely safe and hospitable environment. Expect secure hotels, safe destinations and plenty of watchful eyes to help keep you out of trouble.