Tours can be a great way to experience a destination, but picking the wrong one can put quite a damper on your vacation. Some people like to plan their own trip, while others want every day planned out and booked by someone else. Maybe you fall into one of these categories, or maybe you’re somewhere in the middle. Here’s how to choose the right tour for you.
How long is the tour?
Tours can vary in length from a couple of hours to several weeks, sometimes even longer. A short tour will usually highlight part of a city, a specific activity, or one tourist attraction. A longer tour will usually show you around a few different cities, different parts of a region, or even several cities in several countries. Choose the right tour length to suit your travel style as well as the amount of vacation time you have.
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If you’re nervous about planning a trip on your own and figuring out how to get from one place to the next, a multi-day or multi-week fully planned out tour might work well for you. Good companies to check out are G Adventures and Intrepid. There generally isn’t much flexibility in the schedule on a tour like this. They will decide when you will do each activity, how long you will stay in each destination, and all the details in between like lodging and transportation. This could be perfect for you if the thought of figuring out all the logistics overwhelms you.
If you want to be on your own schedule, and you’re comfortable booking hotels and transportation yourself, a shorter tour might be better for you. Choose a half-day or full-day tour to get an inside look or to hear the history from an expert. Book a food tour to taste and learn about the local cuisine. Even an overnight tour could work well for places that are a little harder to get to on your own. Before and after your tour, what you do is entirely up to you. You can plan things out or leave it until the last minute to decide the day’s activity.
What is the pace of the tour?
On a longer tour, see how many destinations are included on the itinerary compared with the number of days in the tour. Some tours will spend only a day or two in each city before moving on, while others will go more slowly. Decide if you want to see the highlights of several places or a more in depth view of fewer destinations.
Keep in mind, tours often start towards the end of the first day and finish the morning of the last day. This means a tour might be listed as a 10 day tour, but in reality you’re only getting eight days.
Some tours will plan out every minute of every day while others will schedule in blocks of free time. This affects the pace as well. If you like to stay busy, joining a tour that has little to no free time might be perfect. But if having your day jam-packed with sightseeing and activities sounds exhausting, you’re better off finding a tour that includes free time.
How much time will you spend in transit on the tour?
Most longer tours will include more than one destination. This means you will spend some of your vacation time sitting on a bus, train or boat getting from one place to the next. A few hours shouldn’t be a big deal. But if you lose half of your day in transit every couple of days, you’ll feel like you saw more of the seat in front of you than the country you’re visiting.
If the tour description isn’t clear about how long it takes to get from one destination to another, get directions on Google maps. It will give you a rough idea of how many hours you will lose sitting on a bus. Then you can decide how much transit time you’re willing to deal with on your tour. And don’t be afraid to ask the tour company directly for more information on transit times.
How big is the tour group and how old are the other travelers?
A bigger group can be a little more impersonal, while a smaller group can be more intimate. If big groups overwhelm you and you enjoy the company of a few people at a time, a small group is right for you. But if you like the idea of keeping to yourself and staying anonymous, a big group might be perfect. Even on a short tour, the size of the group can greatly affect your enjoyment.
The age range of the other travelers on the tour can also be an important factor. A tour designed for university students on spring break probably isn’t appealing for a retired couple or a family with small children. Likewise, a tour for the retirement crowd probably won’t be much fun for a group in their 20s. If you can’t tell from the description, a quick email or phone call to the tour company can usually clear this up.
What is the level of physical activity on the tour?
Everyone has different strengths and physical abilities. It’s important to know how strenuous the tour will be before you sign up. If you’re not in great shape and you hate outdoor activities, a tour involving biking or hiking will be miserable. On the other hand, if you’re an active person, sitting on buses and wandering through museums could be just as tedious. Choose the right tour based on your physical abilities and the types of activities you enjoy.
A variety of factors go into choosing the right tour. Read the tour itinerary and description, learn about the company, and decide what type of tour works for you. Know what kind of traveler you are and choose a tour that fit with your personality. Details like group size, pacing, physical activity, and length can have a big impact on your enjoyment of the tour. If you have doubts about the details of the tour, the tour company should be able to answer your questions.
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- Advantages of Taking a Tour
- Disadvantages of Taking a Tour
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