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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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