The Pros And Cons Of Travelling In A Guided Group

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Do you want to travel but don't want to travel alone? Solo travel doesn't have to be lonely if you join a group tour. In this article I look at the pros and cons of guided group travel. What's it like to travel in a tour group?

Before I took a guided group tour I was possibly one of those people that roll their eyes and declare they’d never be limited to travelling within the confines of an organised tour.

Perhaps I was under the illusion that I was too cool, too independent or too free spirited for travel in a tour group. Whatever my hesitations were to start with, I guess I laboured under several misconceptions about tour travels that really it was high time I addressed.

So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of travelling in a guided group.

The Stereotype

You know that feeling you get when you are at a beautiful spot? Happily, you sit and let your eyes take in the view.

Suddenly, your reverie is slashed by the oncoming trample of footsteps, by yabbering voices and the click of thirty thousand cameras as their owners jostle around you to take the best photo.

A tour bus has arrived.

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Lake Pukaki, New Zealand

Tranquillity banished, you make a hasty retreat.

You vow that you will never be one of those people who follow their leader around like khaki lemmings. One of those people whose daily activities are regimented, limited, and hurried.

Demanding freedom to make your own choices and go at your own pace you walk away with your nose in the air.

The Reality

I’m painting a very bleak light here for dramatic emphasis, which is very unfair of me.

I’m suggesting independent or solo travel is a continuous bed of roses and that group travel massively sucks and should be avoided at all costs.

And this is simply not true on both counts.

The fact of the matter is that it’s not right for me to get on my moral high horse and judge the way other people choose to travel. I’ve tried solo backpacking around South East Asia, rocking up and down Spain in a campervan and all manner of other holidays with family and friends to varying degrees of a plan and structure.

All of my experiences have been wonderful in their different ways and have fit the time, purpose, circumstance and budget of the occasion. To choose travel in a group is just another way in which travel can be made possible, and for many people it is a very fitting option to getting out to explore.

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Mount Cook, New Zealand

My Experience Travelling In A Guided Group

I recently journeyed from Perth to Broome in Western Australia. Without a car or travel buddies this trip was looking a little daunting, so the natural thing would be to look into a shared way to travel. I joined an Intrepid Travel group and had an absolute blast with some great people in unforgettable landscape.

My initial hesitation of a tour, that I would be shepherded around like a sheep in a flock, were quickly forgotten. Our guide’s laid back and friendly disposition coupled with the interesting and varied people in the group meant that it felt like I was travelling with an instant mini-family.

We had a lot of ground to cover in ten days, both physically across the landscape and in terms of what we wanted to see and do. Being with a guided group kept us on track. Not to mention, he did all the driving, Bonus.

The Pros Of Travelling In A Guided Group

1. A great, local guide

I do believe that if you’ve got an awesome guide then you can’t fail being on a tour. With their help I could experience more than I ever would alone. They can be the key to unlocking the difference between simply showing up at a place and understanding it. Your guide can introduce you to local customs, people, food and the best view points.

2. A group to share memories with

Sometimes being on the road solo (or even just with one or two buddies) can get lonely or tired pretty quickly. It always feels amazing to share travel experiences with other people so that you can turn to each other with huge grins on your faces and exclaim, ‘did you just see that?’ I was blessed on my Intrepid trip to journey with a fantastic group of people from all over the world. It was great to swap travel stories and make a few new friends on the road.

I believe that searching for a travel company that focuses on smaller sized groups is a must. If you’re going to spend every waking moment with this crew for several days, you want the size to be big enough to mingle with different people but small enough so you don’t feel like you’re a lemming like in my nightmare exaggeration above.

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Tagalong tour on Fraser Island, Australia

3. Authenticity

I know I’ve been guilty sometimes of showing up in a place and not exploring it to its full advantage. Call it fear, shyness, disinterest or any other reason. Sometimes you know you’ve barely scratched the surface before you move on again. Travelling with a guide ensures you get under the skin of the place you’re visiting. Nine times out of ten your guide is a local themselves and can show you places you wouldn’t find out about by yourself.

Most tours do try to focus on showing you culture, art, history or places that are significant to the country you are visiting so that you come away from it with a greater understanding, love and respect.

4. Covering a lot in a timeframe

You may be wondering how to quench your serious thirst for wanderlust with your few remaining days of annual leave and have realised that a tour may be your best bet for fitting the most you can into a limited timescale.

Tours aren’t renowned for their super leisurely pace, and whilst that may be a big turn off for many, on a purely practical level it means you can see and do a terrific amount of sightseeing in a small amount of time. And, how many times in your life will you be able to travel the length and breadth of an entire country in a week or ten days?

5. Eco-footprint is considered

It’s good to see tour companies these days are considering their environmental footprint. There are better ways to travel (and see a country) than jumping on a plane and many tours are utilising local methods of transport, where they can, as a way of getting around.

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6. Covers all bases

I wanted to say that choosing to travel in a tour means that all the thinking is done so you don’t have to. But that sounds massively patronising and not as I intended it to.

What I’m trying to say is, when booking a tour you can fully relax knowing that every element of your trip is taken care of: from booking your accommodation, to finding it in a foreign city, to figuring out what you’re going to have to eat, to doing all the shopping. On the road you don’t have to worry about maps, filling the vehicle up with fuel, driving long distances or grappling with road signs in another language. It’s all taken care of for you.

You can just sit back, relax and concentrate on the sights you’re seeing and the experience you’re having. And that’s not a bad thing at all.

The Cons Of Group Guided Tours

I want to be honest on my blog. There are of course downsides to travel in general and there will have to be a few related to group travel, too. So I’ve tried to wrack my brains and come up with a few negatives for guided travel to present a balanced argument:

  • You may feel like you want to stay longer at places.
  • You may not like all of your travel companions.
  • There is always one person who needs the toilet at least once an hour.
  • You may not get enough sleep because there will be a lot of early mornings.

Whilst all of these are true in some small way, I can honestly say that none of them negatively impacted on my experience.

This goes to show what an overall positive experience I believe you will have on your tour. Whatever niggling little negatives you encounter you will have the strength of mind to overcome them.

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Kalbarri National Park, Australia

For more details on my Intrepid tour from Perth to Broome you can take a look at my blogs detailing the humongous trip that was so jam packed I had to split it in to Days 1 – 5 and Days 6 – 10.

What would you do as a solo traveller? Would you like to give guided group travel a go or would you prefer to hit the open road alone?

Have you had a great tour experience that you would like to share or one that you’d rather forget?

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Do you want to travel but don't want to travel alone? Solo travel doesn't have to be lonely if you join a group tour. In this article I look at the pros and cons of guided group travel. What's it like to travel in a tour group?

 

 

18 Comments

  1. August 17, 2016 / 12:01 PM

    Fantastic summary Meg – I have found that things we’ve done with a guide have always been more informative and we’ve covered more distance than doing it alone. Local knowledge is fantastic.

    • August 22, 2016 / 6:58 AM

      Thank you for your feedback, Tamsin! I agree that I love learning things from a guide and I think I enjoy that interactive style of exploring more than reading bits and pieces from a guide book.

  2. August 17, 2016 / 11:23 PM

    I had a lot of the same views as you! I was always sceptical and somewhat dismissive of group travel; I’m like a toddler in that i can’t stay still for longer than a few seconds, so the idea of someone else dictating what to look at, take photos of and where to go never appealed to me. Then I signed up for a few (mostly in countries that are known to be not so safe) and absolutely loved them!! I much prefer to do things alone where possible but I’ve found that every now and again company is great, even from strangers!

    • August 18, 2016 / 3:10 AM

      This is totally my experience! I did my first tour years ago in Laos when I was backpacking solo through SE Asia and I was sceptical about the idea of a tour then but turned out that it was a great experience! I think mixing up your travel style keeps things varied and interesting, and as you say, meeting great people can be the highlight.

  3. August 20, 2016 / 7:44 AM

    What a great post! I’ve done many travel tours so far. Contiki and topdeck etc. but I have made so many lifelong friends and doing them here and there is always good. It allows you to break up all the solo travel and interact with others. Great pros and cons though! Really realistic reasoning.

    • August 20, 2016 / 8:29 AM

      Thanks for your comment, Toni! I definitely agree you can meet some great people in a group and I think I will be more likely to add a few tours into the travel mix in future.

  4. August 20, 2016 / 8:15 AM

    This is why I liked my hop-on/hop-off bus in New Zealand — it was a tour bus combined with independent travel. You had a guide and a group, but you could get off the bus wherever you wanted and stay however long you liked, and catch a new bus when you were ready to leave. As someone who didn’t want to rent or buy a car on her own, it was a great fit.

    • August 20, 2016 / 8:31 AM

      Hop on/off travel is a super way to travel! That would be the perfect fit if you didn’t have your own transport. Thanks for reading, Emily!

  5. August 20, 2016 / 8:42 AM

    I always thought guided tours weren’t for me, and I still haven’t been on one (unless you count a day tour to the DMZ). But honestly I think it comes down to what kind of tour you do. There’s some that I know for sure I wouldn’t like. My friend is a trip leader in Europe, and is stuck in a bus with up to 30 or so other people, for sometimes more than a month at a time, travelling at least every second day, if not many days in a row. She loves it. I would hate it.

    However the tour you went on sounds like something I would enjoy! A smaller size group, less than 2 weeks, and a guide who really knows what they’re doing. And I definitely agree with the points you made about the pros of a tour, especially about getting a lot done in a short time. Not everyone has a lot of travel time, so it’s great for fitting things in on holidays.

    • August 20, 2016 / 9:04 AM

      I think smaller groups are definitely keen otherwise it would cramp my independent streak too much! But I was really surprised at how much the tour I picked suited the time I had, the environment and also my lack of other viable transport options. I would be now willing to consider tours again as a mode of travel. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I’m going to check out your blog too. Big love for NZ!

  6. August 20, 2016 / 8:48 AM

    I echo what you have said. Guided tours are great, especially when you have little time and don’t know the place well. But it can leave you feeling like you didn’t have an authentic experience of the place. It’s also great if you find a guided tour that is open to free time on some days. having the best of both doesn’t hurt. And speaking of not liking people who are on tour with you, I once had that experience with a long bus trip through three countries, and there were people smoking in the bus. That was horrible.

    • August 20, 2016 / 9:06 AM

      I agree that a tour has the potential to feel overwhelming if you’ve not got enough of your own time to relax. Thankfully the one I picked did allow me some time out! I’m sorry to hear that you had a negative experience on a tour that you went on – smoking on the bus does sound unbearable! Hopefully next time you’ll have a more respectful group of people to travel with!

  7. August 20, 2016 / 10:09 AM

    I agree with everything you wrote. I don’t mind guided tour even if at the moment I only took guided excursions or day-trips and yes, most of the time it’s easier to discover more places in a limited time. I always try to look for a balance: some days I discover the city on my own, so days I take a guided tour, especially if it’s something special, particular or outside town.

    • August 20, 2016 / 2:56 PM

      I love a good guided day trip! I’m also trying to make the most of walking tours I see popping up in cities. I think they would be fun. Balance is definitely key and I agree that it’s rewarding to discover new places by yourself a lot of the time and at your own pace. Thanks so much for reading, Annalisa!

  8. August 20, 2016 / 11:07 AM

    Hi Meg

    I think it really helps to drop the stereotypes connected with group travel and focus on the exploration bit. You have highlighted all the positive aspects so lucidly. We often do day-trips by group tour and they turn out to be very enjoyable, informative and productive.
    I have penned down my some related thoughts in a group-travel article on my blog…maybe you would like to check it out.

    https://100cobbledroads.com/2016/08/12/the-day-we-got-chocolate/

    • August 20, 2016 / 2:57 PM

      It definitely helps to drop the stereotypes! I won’t be so quick to judge next time and will be keen to travel more in a group in future. Thanks for your positive comment and I will check out your link to read about your experience. Thanks, Punita!

  9. August 21, 2016 / 10:28 AM

    So interesting! I’ve been thinking a lot about this, since I started working for a company called WeTravel that offers a free platform for people to organize and find group trips to go on. I had never really considered myself a ‘group travel’ kind of person, but seeing all the cool opportunities made me second guess! I still think I would prefer solo travel or traveling with friends and family to a group tour, but I would consider it if it was a country I wanted to go to but felt slightly uncomfortable going by myself. Thank you for sharing your experience as a solo traveler skeptical of group travel as well! It looks like you had an amazing experience!

    • August 21, 2016 / 2:29 PM

      WeTravel certainly sounds interesting and I like the idea that a group can form itself if there’s enough interest from other people. I think that group travel has a certain time and place when it works well, but I agree that it depends on the person and a few other factors. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. Checking out WeTravel now!

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