We all have preferences when it comes to the way we travel, and perhaps you think that touring isn’t for you. There’s definitely a time and a place for all forms of travel but don’t fall prey to the myths and misconceptions about touring. It can be independent, it can be unique and it can be life-changing. So without further delay, let’s dispel the biggest misconceptions travellers have about group tours.
Travel to: Europe
In this day and age, travellers are smart. They’re informed. And with limited vacation days from work, their time off is both valuable and precious.
Travellers today have constant access to the internet and are increasingly more confident booking travel independently which means they won’t pay for mediocre experiences on tour. Simple as that. A lacklustre tour filled with stereotypes are simply not the kind of vacations people actually pay money for.
Just like many things in this day and age, modern-day touring has adapted, and ultimately changed the way people travel.
1. “I will never see anything but the beaten old tourist track.”
Yes, you will see most major sites on your tour. But who wouldn’t want to fly all the way from the other side of the world to Las Vegas and not want to see the Grand Canyon? Or visit Cambodia and not see the likes Angkor Wat, or the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia? There’s a reason these sites are included in most itineraries: they’re stunning and shouldn’t be casually discounted as tourist traps.
The most important thing to note here is the invaluable knowledge that a local guide adds to the experience when visiting each of these sites. When travelling with your Tour Leader, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be shocked at the amount of wisdom they can share about each city or monument that you visit, right down to what significant event occurred along that little side street centuries ago.
Tour operators from big to small, know that travellers are always searching for the ultimate local experiences and so make it their mission to include a diverse range of experiences including smaller, intimate encounters like staying overnight with local families to participating in significant cultural events. Think the kind of stuff that you wouldn’t experience on your own. Fact is, there are many inclusions as part of a tour that you would not find while travelling alone, and these are far from the regular tourist program.
2. “I’ll always be on a big coach bus.”
The good news is that if you do take a high capacity coach tour you’ll be rewarded with AC enabled buses, free Wi-Fi and multiple stops along the way to stretch your legs and enjoy the often-breathtaking views. The even better news? Touring boasts a million different travel styles. From sailing tours to river cruises, safari tours, European kayak or cycling tours – the list goes on and there are a thousand different ways to get from point a to point b while on a tour.
3. “I’ll have no time to myself.”
Another common misconception is that you’ll not have any time for yourself to stray from the group but what many people forget is that most things on a tour itinerary are not mandatory. Sure, you’ve booked and paid for this specific tour because the itinerary had all your essential must-dos and must-sees, but if you suddenly feel like breaking off from the group, simply let the Tour Leader know you’ll be doing your own thing that day and off you go, exploring whatever your heart desires.
4. “I’ll be rushed and shuttled around like cattle!”
There are many places we’ve visited around the world that leave us thinking, ‘’I wish I could have spent more time there,’’ and whether touring or travelling on your own, you will hear yourself say that again. Guaranteed. The world is simply too awesome to feel like you’ve had your fill after just one visit. Unfortunately, there is no way you can know which places will win your heart before you’ve been there. One thing to keep in mind is that tour operators know each destination inside out and will show you how to get the most out of your time while there.
Some people like to see as much as possible while abroad, while others value a relaxed pace over ticking boxes. You need to consider which is more important to you. Tour itineraries cater for both kinds of travellers and it’s more a case of filtering the search results for the itinerary that’s right for you. Tours with two-night stays in most places will generally offer a more relaxed pace than those which move from one destination to the next, day after day. How you travel, is up to you.
5. “I could do it cheaper myself.”
At first glance, yes, it might hurt your wallet to book the tour upfront and without doing your research, it is likely to feel more expensive than travelling solo. What you might be surprised to find is that depending on the departure date, tours can be paid off in budget-friendly instalments to slowly whittle the balance owing down to zero. The best part is that before you travel, you’ll have accommodation, food, transport and experiences all paid off well in advance.
Most importantly, the included activities and rates for optional extras are mostly cheaper when booked through a tour as the operator will negotiate cheaper rates for their travellers in advance, which is something you won’t be able to benefit from while travelling solo.
For example, you might be thinking of hiring a car for your solo travels but forget or simply underestimate the rental, fuel, parking, road tolls and permit costs. When you’re travelling on tour you have the advantage of foresight, after all, you purchased that tour because it fits your own budget. In many cases, even experienced travellers fail to account for every cost when planning a trip. And while you might be able to travel to the same destination for the same duration of time for a cheaper price, in reality, touring is all about the experience and the local insights or the like-minded travellers you meet – so the choice is all yours.
6. “There will be long travel times.”
We live in a fast-paced age and sometimes forget that a journey which takes us 24 hours today, for example, from Melbourne to London, once took 6 weeks to complete. The same goes for travel around Europe, the USA, India and beyond.
Remember that there is an upside to long-distance travel, that is, an opportunity to rest up so you can hit your next destination with gusto, catch up on your daily journal, or look through your photos from the day before. It’s also the perfect opportunity for your Tour Leader to prepare you with important information about conquering your next destination like a local.
Yes, sometimes it’s all about the destination, but here is a cliched reminder that sometimes, it really is about the journey. Anyone who has driven through Swiss Alps or travelled on the trains through Norway’s fjords will tell you exactly that.
Having said this, regional tours, which cover a small part of a country are becoming increasingly popular as the demand for in-depth experiences while on tour increases. Like we said, it’s about finding what works for you.
There are endless opportunities to join multi-day group tours which cover shorter distances and allow you to spend more time on the ground exploring at your own pace, seeing what you want to see. But there’s also multi-country tours with aggressive itineraries if you want to see the most of a place like Europe. These styles are helpful if you’re travelling from far away and only have limited time to spend away from work or school. Whichever style of trip is next on your bucket list, there’s absolutely a tour to fit your unique preferences.
7. “Group tours offer lacklustre food options.”
If you’ve ever known someone who works in a kitchen, you’ll likely agree that catering for large groups of people is no easy feat, even for chefs with experience. But, you’ll be surprised though, how incredible each of the included meals is managed. Plus, some operators have been feeding hungry travellers for decades and have mastered this down to a tee.
While tour operators have been catering for special dietary requirements for health, religious or allergy reasons for decades, travellers can expect sometimes two or three different choices of dishes for each course. The ‘foodie culture’ is storming the globe, so sub-standard meals are simply not an option for successful tour companies anymore.
Most tour operators feature local cuisine in their included meals, allowing you to sample delicacies from your touring destination. Keep in mind too, that while on average, a tour itinerary will cover half of your evening meals, other tours don’t provide any, giving you the time to follow your tour leader’s recommendations to that secret gem around the corner where you can really get amongst the locals. Like we said, it’s your experience.
Do you agree, or disagree? Was there a doubt we didn’t cover? Tell us in the comments below!