Travel is certainly one of the best ways to spend your disposable income and holiday allowance from work. Seeing famous landmarks of cultural significance, eating the local delicacies, or simply trying to embed yourself in your destination’s aura.
By now you’re already considering your next destination; but the next question will be: how should I do it? Then of course, how will I plan all this?! As planning your next trip entirely can be like a full-time job if you’re going with a large party. So what is better, joining a pre-existing tour or planning out the trip by yourself?
Joining Travel Tour and Guide
For many, the pull of such trips is the elimination of self-planning and alleviation of your free time. The beauty of these tours is that the company will arrange all the components you pay for, so you needn’t worry about changing platforms or getting on the right bus. The variety of intensity and involvement with these tours can depend i.e. some companies will include your airfare to your initial destination, hotel, and all further excursions. The companies will have in all likelihood ran thousands of the same itinerary before so will ensure you see the sights and participate in the must-do experiences. I.e. seeing the Eiffel Tower and eating snails if you’re in Paris.
Groups tend to have elements of safety attached to them. Using private transport and only going to designated points will ensure you don’t end up in the troubled part of town; which is especially comforting when travelling with family.
Some consider this to be ‘limited freedom’. If you sign up for the whole experience from take-off to return landing with as a tour package, you’ll have almost next to no choice on where you go, where you stay, and what you eat. While they’ll hand you a menu; most restaurants will likely have a slimmed-down set menu for large groups.
Some tours promise the world in terms of seeing every key attraction within a specific duration. While some can do this comfortably at the right time; some will be little more than whistle-stop tours with 30 seconds per landmark before being scurried back on to the coach to commute to the next site you’ll only get a glimpse of.
Planning Your Own Vacation
How about being your own travel guide? The information is all out there on the web and at your fingertips. It will take time to do so but you will have total control over what you see, do and eat. Which fundamentally are the key reasons why anybody travels. This way you’ll be able to plan everything to a T and even do activities that are niche to you and not included in mainstream tour plans. I.e. going to a concert or soccer match.
Better yet, you’ll be able to determine your own menu and try authentic food which is often a drawback to the tour system. The travel companies don’t want to give anyone food poisoning and incur complaints (or even refunds) so are unlikely to offer anything too outlandish. If you’re a foodie, then you’d really want to plan where you eat your three meals a day.
The considerable legwork and planning around such trips can be a long process, especially if you’ve never been to this destination before. Check your immediate friendship groups and family members to see if anyone has any recommendations to help fill up your itinerary. If you’re going for more than a week this process can become tiresome fast – and expensive. Making individual bookings for travel, accommodation, activities, and meals can exhaust the credit card. The tour alternative usually combines everything to pass a discount on to the tourist – however, that’s not always true.
Don’t forget that a vacation doesn’t always have to involve flight booking. You can also choose to have a road trip where the journey would be an adventure on itself.
It’s worth considering how you intend to communicate on your trip. If you’re heading to a tourist-friendly resort then there’s a good chance they’ll have staff to cover the most common languages; especially English. If you’re not heading to that type of destination, however, it might be uncommon for the locals to speak a secondary language. You might be stuck with some silent pauses if you’re by yourself and can’t articulate your point across.
Tour guides are employed to eliminate such issues as well as their other duties. While your interactions with local people will probably be limited on a tour, those you do have are going to be stress-free as you have a professional who speaks both languages with you at all times.
In conclusion, there are merits to both taking a guided tour and planning your own vacation. Tour groups offer safety in lots of manners, you’ll be in the care of professionals whose job it is to carry out tours and experiences week in and out. The itinerary will usually include the standard tourist hotspots.
It does however leave those who want a sense of adventure usually unfulfilled and wanting a little more variety to their trip. If you’re prepared to spend hours in front of your laptop researching the best neighborhoods then you can have the best holiday to your exact specification.
A popular way to combine the two means is to include tour plans on your own trip. I.e. plan the skeleton of yourself, but then book small day trip tours as you see fit when you arrive or closer to the time of your vacation.