Bermuda shorts, silly hats, loud, not-so-funny tour-guides and packed buses being torpedoed through ten cities in 10 days, are some of the images that may come to mind whenever the phrase ‘organized tour’ comes up.
This sector of the travel industry is now booming. Many travellers, who have religiously shunned organized tours, along with the world’s touristy hot spots, have given this mode of travel another look. Their positive experiences, captured on travel forums, message boards, facebook and twitter have spurred interest and increasing popularity in group travel.
Value for money, freedom, variety and accessibility seem to be the drivers in the renewed interest in organized touring
An organized tour offers the freedom to enjoy the holiday while all the details are taken care of. You won’t have to try to figure out often complex foreign public transit systems to get you from place to place. You won’t have to worry about where you are going to stay next or where you’ll eat. Language barriers will disappear with your tour guide on hand. The tour operators will have you staying in reputable hotels and dining in great eateries. They’ll have attractions and activities lined up for you to participate in. You’ll have the freedom to do what you came to do uninterrupted – enjoying a culturally rich experience. You’ll spark new friendships with fellow travellers that will last a lifetime.
Some travel destinations, like the Galapagos and Machu Picchu, are only accessible by organized tour. This is true of many remote locations. Many first time tour participants have expressed surprise at how favorable their experience was. This is largely due to having a local guide. Guides are the gateway to local customs and culture, something a solo traveller can seldom afford.
Before you book an organized tour you’ll need to consider a few things:
Type of tour/target market
Tours come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re looking for a quiet art museum kind of experience in Italy don’t book yourself with a group of 20 somethings. Tours are geared towards a certain target group. Make sure you find your tribe or you might have a miserable, weary experience. There is so much to choose from.
Some tour companies overcharge, some are good at maximizing value for your hard earned buck. Make sure to ask if there are additional fees while on tour. If you have to pay to see attractions, then that affordable tour suddenly isn’t affordable. Ask about single supplements. Find out exactly how many meals are covered. Ensure there are no hidden costs.
Check out travel message boards. Did the company deliver? Sometimes smaller companies do a better job than bigger companies. Look for companies that are known to use local hotels, restaurants and services.
Book the smallest group you can afford. The perfect size is probably no more than 12. Larger groups require larger everything and leave a high environmental impact. With a small group you can blend in with the locals.
The guides can make or break the trip. They keep the tour flow going. The guides should be local. Make sure you ask about the guides before you book your trip. A local guide gives you the inside scoop and gains access to places that you’d likely never get to as a solo traveller. Their command of the local language will serve to provide you with a rich travel experience.
Ask for a schedule of all activities. Know how often you will be changing hotels. You’re paying for them to fill your day but you’ll still want to see a balance between organized activities and downtime. You don’t want to feel like you need a holiday after your holiday!
Get started. Do some research. You’ll be amazed at the selection of tours out there. Literally, something for everyone.