• Disadvantages of Taking a Tour

    by  • Planning • 31 Comments

    Last week I showed you some of the great advantages of taking a tour. But there can certainly be some disadvantages of taking a tour, and it’s important to look at both sides. Tours can be great for lots of reasons, but they aren’t always the way to go. Sometimes taking a tour can be a big mistake and ruin your vacation.

    Planning

    I know what you’re thinking, didn’t I say this was an advantage of taking a tour? Well, it can be a disadvantage, too. With someone else doing all the planning, you won’t get to decide what to do. Sure, you wouldn’t sign up for a tour that doesn’t interest you, but that doesn’t mean you’ll want to do every single thing on the itinerary. Making your own choices about what activities you do (and when you do them) can play a big part in enjoying your trip.

    Traveling Too Quickly

    Many tours are set up to show you as many places as possible in the allotted time. While it might sound fun on paper to see seven cities in 10 days, the pace of the tour might be too fast. Traveling too quickly can lead to exhaustion and travel burn-out in a matter of days. Plus you can’t really soak up a city in a day or two, and there’s so much you will miss by traveling at that speed. Would you want to go all the way to Paris and only see the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre?

    disadvantages of taking a tour - Paris Eiffel Tour and Louvre

    Lack of Flexibility

    When you’re on a tour, you have to stick to their schedule. They usually work in some free time here and there, and maybe certain meals are on your own, but for the most part you will always have to adhere to the predetermined schedule. This means you can’t decide to sleep in one day, you can’t spontaneously explore a museum you didn’t know about before arriving, and you might not even get to decide what restaurants to eat at. Leaving room for spontaneity and flexibility can lead to wonderful experiences while traveling.

    Big Crowds

    While it can be great to meet new people on a tour, you will also be stuck with these people the entire time you’re on the tour. You will constantly be herded around in a big group with little time to be on your own. I love travel, but sometimes you need a break from all the new things coming at you. You can’t get that break if you’re in a big group all the time. This is especially important to think about if you are an introvert.

    Limited Interactions With Locals

    A big part of what makes a place special is the people. Even if you don’t speak the same language, locals can show you the true character of the city or country you’re traveling in. But if you’re on a big group tour, you’re unlikely to have any real encounters with the people who live there. There are exceptions, but you’ll spend most of your time in the tour group bubble interacting with your guide and the other travelers in your group. You’ll see the sights but not the personalities that make up the culture you’re trying to explore.

    disadvantages of taking a tour - locals 4000 Islands Laos

    Tours can be great in the right situation, for the right type of traveler. But if you like to have more control over your daily schedule (or you simply don’t want a schedule) and you like being on your own, tours might not be for you. Before you book a tour, weigh the advantages and disadvantages and decide what kind of vacation you’re looking for. The disadvantages of taking a tour just might make you consider traveling independently.

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    31 Responses to Disadvantages of Taking a Tour

    1. September 25, 2012 at 1:20 pm

      I’ll add to your ‘big crowds’ section the fact that you may not actually like or get along with the other people on the tour – can be pretty uncomfortable to spend weeks with a group you have nothing in common with.

      • Ali Garland
        September 25, 2012 at 3:35 pm

        Exactly! Being stuck with people you don’t like for your entire trip can really ruin your vacation.

    2. September 26, 2012 at 1:38 pm

      All great points. I personally like independent travel sprinkled with the occasional city tour. I like to limit my tours to about 3 hours in length so I can get the wealth of knowledge a guide has but still maintain my freedom to explore.

      • Ali Garland
        September 26, 2012 at 3:34 pm

        Thanks Jennifer! That sounds like a great approach. Just enough to learn some of the history, but plenty of time to do your own thing. I’ve been on some wonderful day tours.

    3. September 26, 2012 at 11:38 pm

      Great post Ali! Over the years we’ve taken the non tour route far more often than the tour route. We definitely prefer to go our own way whenever we can. As extended travelers this gives us so many more options.

      Is it wrong for me to say that I love tours for all the reasons you list? Never being on them means that everyone else sticks together. That makes it so much easier when you’re traveling on your own because they all come and go at the same time. Getting somewhere a little earlier or getting there a little later can truly make it a great outing. We make it a point to never be where the tour buses show up.

      As a result, shop keepers give us better deals, we often have the place to ourselves and when we don’t we’re usually surrounded by locals rather than tourists. We get to take our time in places we find fascinating and can minimize any time we spend in places that aren’t appealing to us. Jennifer got it right that short tours are perfect for filling in the areas that demand more information than a guidebook can give you. Once again, nice post!

      • Ali Garland
        September 27, 2012 at 9:36 am

        Thanks Charles! And no, I don’t think it’s wrong of you to say that! I know exactly what you mean, and I always notice when I’m at big touristy places how different it is being on my own. The locals are more likely to see you as a person if you’re not in a group, but in a group you’re just a tiny piece of this disruptive force. Thanks for sharing your perspective on tours, I appreciate it!

    4. October 1, 2012 at 11:13 am

      The other people in your group can be another HUGE disadvantage, if you get stuck with the wrong ones. Of course, if you get a good group, they can be the best part of the experience. Then again, that usually leads to signing up for more tours, thinking you might get lucky again and being disappointed when they don’t live up to the good one.

      • Ali Garland
        October 2, 2012 at 4:37 pm

        Ha! It’s a vicious cycle! Yes, the people in your group can make or break the tour. Thanks Daniel!

    5. October 6, 2012 at 5:09 pm

      Having just gotten back from a group tour in Egypt and read your articles about the pros and cons, I thought I would chime in. I had never previously gone on an extended group tour before (although I’ve often taken daylong or half-day tours from companies like Gray Line during longer trips in which I’m largely on my own).

      The reason I did it was because I wanted to cover a large variety of sites in Egypt, and I thought it would be difficult to get around on my own. Overall, I was happy that I did it. It sure was nice to not have to worry about getting where I was going, especially as the weather was very hot. The biggest drawback for me was the constant early wake-up calls, which wore me down a little (left to my own devices I would sleep in a little later); but I’m also glad that I was forced to see so many amazing sights — and many of them in the mornings when the temperatures were a little more comfortable.

      Yes, when considering group tours in the abstract, there’s a danger of rushing through too quickly from one locale to another. But that can be prevented by choosing your tour wisely, and carefully looking over the itineraries to select one that offers the right pace for you. Also, you can build in some alone time at the beginning and/or end of your tour to see things that your tour didn’t cover. That’s what I did by arriving in Cairo a couple of days before the official arrival date for my tour. Even while the tour was going on, I occasionally took advantage of available down-time (and there WAS some of that built in) to wander off and interact with locals. In addition, several of the excursions on my tour were optional (although I think everyone ended up adding them), so you did have some flexibility — it was possible to skip those events and do your own thing or just rest up.

      It was also nice that my guides were so knowledgeable and provided so much information, although I don’t think tours are indispensable for that reason, as you can also do your own research to learn the history of what you’re seeing. So perhaps the most valuable function of the guides, other than organisation, was when they talked more about what life in general is like in Egypt.

      Also, my tour group was quite small — just five other people — although for much of the trip we were paired up with a 7-person group from another tour company that was on our Nile cruise at the same time (and occasionally we were joined up with even larger groups when being taken to particular sites).

      I don’t have any plans to go on any more group tours in the near future, but it’s something I would do again under the right circumstances.

      • Ali Garland
        October 7, 2012 at 4:39 pm

        Thanks Harvey, it sounds like you got a really great tour. Small groups are nice, and having flexibility and free time are wonderful things to have on a tour. I also am not a fan of the early mornings! I’m working on a post about how to choose a tour to help people avoid the types of tours that don’t fit their travel style. I’m so glad you enjoyed your time in Egypt, I’ve heard wonderful things about the country!

    6. October 7, 2012 at 1:00 pm

      The hardest part about taking a tour (for me), is when they come and get you from the hostel waaaay to early. Like 5:30 am early, haha. And you’re right, sometimes things can feel a bit rushed.

      • Ali Garland
        October 7, 2012 at 4:40 pm

        Ugh, 5:30 is way too early! I’m not a fan of the early morning starts either! Thanks Audrey!

    7. October 14, 2012 at 9:07 am

      Hi Ali, nice article! Guess we started from tour previously and are now more towards non tour. Although sometimes, taking a tour may save you some money though. Or in some cases, it might be safer to travel in a local tour.

      • Ali Garland
        October 14, 2012 at 1:26 pm

        Thanks Tommy! I wanted to show both sides. Tours can definitely save you money in certain situations, but sometimes you can spend less by doing it on your own.

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    9. October 24, 2012 at 6:03 am

      I agree the big thing for me in the lack of time. I don’t like when I have worked and saved so hard to get to a place someone telling me I have a half hour there. That is why I rarely do tours.

      • Ali Garland
        October 24, 2012 at 5:15 pm

        Good point, it’s a big letdown when you don’t get to spend much time somewhere, so sometimes it’s better to go on your own even if it means you won’t get to as many places. Exploring fewer places for more time can be much more rewarding. Thanks Stephen!

    10. November 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm

      I personally hate taking tours. As you mentioned, it’s always a rush, there is not time for taking photos properly or interacting with locals wrrrrrr! I get angry when I think of organised tours or travel agencies ;-). It’s also more expensive ;-/ Backpacking rules!! :-)

      Happy travels Ali!

      • Ali Garland
        November 1, 2012 at 5:52 pm

        Thanks Agness! I agree, those are some of the reasons I usually don’t take tours either, mostly that tours are too rushed for my tastes.

    11. February 2, 2013 at 5:37 pm

      Hi Ali, In September 2012 I spent a month travelling independently in Jordan, Israel and West Bank Palestine and would certainly recomment the non-tour way. Almost ten years before I had taken a tour to Jordan and although I enjoyed the experience I came home frustrated at the missed opportunities.

      This time I got to all the places I wanted to get to and was able to spend a decent amount of time exploring the sites that were important to me. Of course there are hassles along the way but you have to accept that they are part of the experience.

      For example travelling from Tel Aviv to Akko in the north of Israel on the train was hard work because the train had half the israeli army in it too and I had to stand all the way. But instead of looking at it in a negative way I got talking and there is no better way of finding out about a new country.

      I saw a good bit of the West Bank and met lots of the local people who were all happy to help when I was having difficulties. So again I remember that in a positive way and you don’t get that on a sanitised tour.

      • Ali Garland
        February 2, 2013 at 6:33 pm

        Thanks for sharing your experiences, Neil! There are definitely some good reasons to take a tour sometimes, but like you said, you have so much more flexibility on your own. You don’t have to stick to a tour’s rigid schedule, you can find things that are off the touristy trail, and you have better opportunities to talk to locals. I’m so glad you had a chance to travel independently and see these things for yourself!

    12. Anne
      November 7, 2013 at 1:53 pm

      Hello, I’m intending to travel to Europe for 12 weeks next year. This would be my first solo trip. I would prefer to travel on my own for many of the above mentioned reasons. I already have a busy lifestyle and I work around schedules at home, and I don’t feel that I should have to stick to someone else’s schedule or to be in a rush while travelling as well. While it can be great to share experiences with tour groups, if you don’t see these people again, you wouldn’t be able to reflect these times with them. If I was just going to hang out with people of the same nationality in a tour group, I might as well just stayed at home. I have experienced being left out within groups, while everyone else just chats among themselves. I have also heard stories of people getting themselves drunk on tours and I would find that embarassing to be among those people.

      • Ali Garland
        November 7, 2013 at 5:55 pm

        Hi Anne, all good reasons to not take an organized tour. Good luck with your first solo trip, I’m sure you’ll have a great time! I do sometimes find half day or full day tours to be a really great way to see part of a city and learn the history, or something like a food tour or cooking class as a way to learn more about the food, so keep an eye out for some of those. Where are you planning on going in Europe? Let me know if you have any questions!

        • Anne
          November 9, 2013 at 2:32 am

          I’m planning to spend at least eight weeks in Italy and possibly spending the remainder in Switzerland and Germany. Whenever I have the spare time I’m learning Italian. I wouldn’t mind doing half day tours, but I can’t be with people 24/7 in a tour group for a few weeks. Cooking classes sound great too. I’m not an early morning person either, and I also have to wake up fairly early during the week at home. Tour groups would defeat the purpose of studying a foreign language and can be expensive as well.

          • Ali Garland
            November 14, 2013 at 11:19 am

            I completely understand, I don’t think I could handle a big group tour for that long either. And like you said, it’s nice to be able to keep your own schedule and you just can’t do that on a tour. Enjoy your trip, 8 weeks in Italy sounds amazing! One of my favorite countries!

    13. Anne
      December 24, 2013 at 1:53 pm

      Also I’d like to add that costs of organised tours can be very high. I’ve seen a few week-long tours that cost around a few thousand dollars.

      • Ali Garland
        December 25, 2013 at 5:12 pm

        Organized tours can certainly be expensive sometimes. I think it just depends on the company you use, and you’d have to do a lot of research to determine if the tour company would save you money. But I think if you’ve done that much research about your trip, you can probably just book things yourself too. Organized tours have their place and can help beginner travelers.

    14. Jenny
      July 21, 2014 at 12:54 pm

      I and my family just ride buses and trains on our own like locals. I agree that taking a tour limits you to decide and change plans. Also, we don’t like the idea of having a time limit in visiting places. It’s better to savor the moment than visiting many places in a day feeling exhausted.

      • Ali Garland
        July 21, 2014 at 8:06 pm

        Thanks Jenny! I like being flexible and having more time in places too.

    15. John
      September 19, 2014 at 10:45 am

      Thanks a lot. This really helped me for my travel and tourism project.

      • Ali Garland
        September 19, 2014 at 2:46 pm

        Glad to help, John!

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