We all know there is no right or wrong way to travel. For some, the perfect holiday is about throwing on a backpack and throwing out the calendar – no plans, no schedule. For others, the thought of not having things prearranged gives them heart palpitations. If you’re the latter, or you’re a bit time poor and want someone else to do the planning, or perhaps not completely confident heading to your next destination unsupported, then you might be toying with the idea of joining a guided tour.
You’d be forgiven for being a little hesitant – group touring can get a pretty bad rap – but it isn’t all audio guides and jostling behind a guide holding a fluorescent paddle. There are more tour operators and multi-day touring itineraries available than ever before. From leisurely journeys to fast-paced adventures there are tours tailored to everyone from the fiercely independent to those that want everything taken care of. Great news? Definitely. Overwhelming? Absolutely!
With a mass of operators and itineraries to sift through how do you safeguard yourself against choosing the wrong fit, and make sure you opt for the right touring style for you? Here are some questions to consider when weighing up your options.
Who do you want to travel with?
The nature of group travel means you will be spending a considerable amount of time with people who quickly go from strangers to friends, so choosing the right tour environment to foster these bonds (and the right travel companions to share your experience with) is important.
Tours are often tailored to specific demographics, whether this is inspired by age or interest. Some itineraries cater to the young and young at heart, older travellers, intergenerational families and everything in between. Others are curated for ‘adventurers’ or those that have special interests like seeing the historic battlefields or taking a flavour-infused foodie trip.
Choosing a special interest tour or a particular travel style means that your fellow travellers will share your interests and your holiday is sure to tick all the boxes – no need to waste time doing things that don’t appeal to you or miss out on things that are an important part of your travels.
Group size also plays a big role in the social dynamic on tour. Small group tours foster an intimate setting while travelling with a larger group means you can get to know more people and find more kindred spirits to share your experiences. Group size also plays a role in the type of transport and accommodation used, and often impacts access to experiences – bigger groups tend to have more buying power for some unique experiences, while small groups can get into places and do things that may be inaccessible to larger groups due to visitor restrictions.
What pace do you want on tour?
One of the best things about touring is that the logistics are taken care of. If that is all you need, and you prefer to fill in the blanks yourself, there are itineraries that leave your days free to explore at your own pace. However, if you prefer to have activities planned from dawn until dusk or want one or two activities balanced with free time, then you can have that too.
When you are researching tours, it is important to read the day by day itinerary to ensure the pace of the tour fits the bill. One of the biggest things to consider is how many nights you spend in each place, and how long you will spend travelling between them. Are you happy to be on the move daily, or do you want a couple of nights in each destination to explore more in depth (and not have to pack your suitcase again!)? How busy and active are your days? Is there enough free time to have a break if that is what you are after? And if you want your trip action-packed, does it have enough to keep you on your toes? These are all considerations that you shouldn’t skim over, as it will make a big difference to your travels.
What footprint will you leave?
Sustainable tourism is driving change in tour itineraries and operator practices. Reputable tour operators are working hard to support the environments and communities they showcase on their itineraries and make sensible choices on your behalf to ensure that your holiday is not at the detriment of the places you visit.
Some tour companies are ahead on the game when it comes to sustainable tourism and you can research their projects and gain an understanding of what your tour cost is going towards beyond your own journey.
What inclusions are important to you?
There are a lot of guided tours that follow the exact same route but there may seem to be no rhyme or reason to the difference in pricing. Ultimately, it comes down to the standard and number of inclusions. When choosing your tour, you need to decide what is important to you.
Do you want luxurious Egyptian cotton sheets turned down for you and all the trimmings, or are you happy for your accommodation to be basic, clean and comfortable? Do you want to prepay your meals and have top-end cuisine included, so you can wine and dine to your hearts’ content over nightly three-course banquets, without having to break open your wallet on tour? Or are you happy to hit the markets or local restaurant strip and check out the regional specialties or street food on your own as you go?
Aside from accommodation and food, the other big thing to look out for is the excursions included in your itinerary. Most tours will have some included activities, and then offer optional excursions at an additional cost (high-end tours often include all excursions with no additional addons). If there is something you really want to see, then check if it is included and if not, make sure you have time to do it yourself (and arrange tickets in advance where necessary) and budget accordingly for extras along the way.
What do other people say?
Nothing beats first-hand experience, but a first-hand account comes in a close second when you’re choosing your tour. Reviews from other travellers are a great source of information to help in your decision making. They can paint a picture of the experience they’ve had, and help you decide if it is right for you. Just be level-headed when reading reviews – just because it rained in Ireland on Debra’s holiday, doesn’t mean it is the dark and dreary destination she makes it out to be! Weigh up peoples’ feedback in conjunction with the rest of your research, ask the right questions, and you’ll find yourself on the holiday of a lifetime!
About Global Journeys
Global Journeys is an Online Travel Agency based in Noosa, Queensland, Australia that offers multi-day tours, cruises and river cruises. With a dedicated team of travel consultants and leading technology, Global Journeys partners with the world’s best travel operators to offer their clients over 5,000 trips to choose from worldwide.
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Media Contact: Barb Durance – PR & Marketing Manager