Friday, December 7, 2012

To tour or not to tour

Everyone has their own travel style. Most people have strong opinion one way or another on traveling in groups or a tour group. We do a mix and match. Why? Because there are advantages and disadvantages to both:

Advantages of a tour group

  • There's a coup or a natural disaster someone has already figured out your alternative arrangements and made on the bookings (this includes minor things such as planes being cancelled)
  • You can pack as many things into as tight a time frame as you have
  • If your travelling alone it's a great way to meet other people, even as a couple it's great to travel with like minded people
  • The your transport, accommodation and tips of the areas your visiting are pre-planned, and for most of the trips we do there's time to do your own thing
  • If you can't speak the language or don't speak more than a few key phrases a group can give you more security

Advantages of doing it on your own

  • You can change your itinerary just because you liked a specific location
  • You can mix and match activities to suit your mood or style
  • You can choose your own accommodation based on where you are and what you've heard
  • Sometimes you want to immerse yourself in one city for that one trip and pick up side tours as you go along

Disadvantages of a tour group

  • There can be the over whelming personality Tip: Just go with the flow, sometimes by fussing you can make it worse
  • Even in a group that you get along with after a certain time period on a bus you just want a break Tip: Choose a tour where there is free time and/or optional activities build it
  • Some tours include things like meals, which limits you to more of the tourist style places Tip: Choose a tour with limited add on meals and do your own research
  • You can spend all your time on a bus/train/ferry Tip: Research the tour company and itinerary well before you book, don't be afraid to email the company and ask them lots of questions
  • Someone has always been somewhere you never thought of travelling to and you end up crossing off 5 countries this trip to add 20 to your wish list Tip:  The world is large, add it to your list, who knows what you've been missing

Disadvantages of doing it on your own

  • If you can't speak the language a boarder crossing can become lots more complex, or as we saw with a couple on the Thai/Cambodian boarder, stuck without transportation Tip: Research before you go to learn key phrases or find other travelers that have done it before
  • Costs can be more of a unknown, if exchange rates fluctuate unfavorably then the price goes up, or you don't get the group rate Tip: Plan ahead or if you like to be spontaneous then add some beef to your budget for the what if's
  • You can spend half your time trying to figure out where the doggy parts of town are, or what really is the best place to eat guinea pig Tip: Talk to other travelers as you go to see what they're experiences were, usually you can find someone who's just been to the place your headed to

So for one or more of those reasons we either do it alone, join a tour or do it in combination. It's really up to you and what you find to be the advantages or disadvantages, just don't tell me I'm not doing it "right" when I travel with a group :)

If your looking at small group travel two groups I recommend are:

Intrepid Travel - small group adventures based in Australia
G Adventures (previously GAP) - small group adventures based in Canada

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