Monday, 17 April 2017

The Pros and Cons of Travelling with a Tour Group

If you ever mention an interest in going travelling with a tour group, you'll find yourself confronted with a lot of mixed opinions and stereotypes - and most of them will most likely be pretty negative. For whatever reason, going travelling with a tour group is something that people REALLY look down on, generally as they think you won't get the full experience that you would get from planning your own own trip and as they think the trip is really overpriced compared to how much you could pay if you were to sort it all out yourself. I have been on a fair few different tour group trips using four different companies, and so I thought it was about time I made a quick post telling you my personal experiences with taking them.

This time around, I'm going to be writing all about my opinion of the pros and cons of travelling as part of a tour group. But if this topic is something that interests you, check back in next week for a more personal review of the four tour groups I've travelled with before and what my experiences were with them!

There are two main reasons that I have used tour groups. The main reason is because I want to go travelling with other people - but people that are interested in doing the same things that I am. I do go travelling with friends, but for the most part we can't agree on an itinerary and as selfish as it sounds, if I'm going to be spending a lot of money to go on the other side of the world I kinda want to make sure I'm seeing the things I'm interested in and skipping those things that for me would just be a waste of time. Taking a tour allows me to do exactly that, as I'm going to pick the itinerary that best works around my interests - and depending on the country you're interested in going to, you're going to find yourself with a very wide selection of itineraries to choose from allowing you to choose the one that perfectly matches the places you're interested in going to, the style of trip you're wanting to go on, and the price that you're willing to pay. Taking a tour allows me to travel with other people interested in doing the same sort of things that I am - and if we don't all get on it's really not a problem. No one on a tour group is going to get offended if you want to go off and do something without them, but my friends probably will.

The other reason is the ease of travel when you're off with a group. When I was younger, this wasn't such an important factor to me. These days, I just don't have the time or the energy! Of course, if you're interested in travelling somewhere like America, you probably won't have much difficulty in finding your way around - but, you're probably going to find yourself needing to hire a car if you don't go with a group. Going through countries like Zimbabwe or doing a cross Africa trek, you may find yourself struggling a little bit more when it comes to borders and speaking the language.

The Pros of Tour Group Travel

  • You get some travel buddies ready provided. They're interested in doing the same sort of things as you, and you'll probably find you bond with them in ways that you never have with your normal friends - chances are you'll never see them again, so people tend to be a bit more open and honest with each other. They're probably going to be interested in the same sights as you, and it's not really a problem if you don't feel like going out one night.
  • You've got help when it comes to getting around. Someone is there to help you work out what bus you need to get, to translate for you when it comes to getting a visa at a border, and to warn you if you're actually ordering some very weird brain related dish at a restaurant.
  • Many companies will use local guides, and this is a great way to learn more about the customs of the country, or to find hidden parts of a town that you probably wouldn't have known about otherwise. Some of my local guides have taken me to their religious festivals or taken me to have dinner with their families. This is something I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise and it's a great experience!
  • You might make some new friends out of it. I still keep in touch with some people I met on a tour five years ago!
  • You'll get access to some great experiences you probably wouldn't have thought about otherwise. I did a Thai cooking class in Bangkok which is something I would never have signed up for but really enjoyed. Equally I've gone on cycling tours which is normally something I'd go out of my way to avoid but thought was fantastic! I've stayed in beautiful little hotels where each cabin has its own hot pool, and this is something I wouldn't have done on my own as I wouldn't have known to look for it and wouldn't have been able to get there using public transport.
  • I have enjoyed going on some camping experiences and keeping it very budget by cooking all of our own food over a camp stove. This is something I NEVER do, and to do it in such beautiful surroundings was a lot of fun for me. I also learned quite a lot through this as I didn't really know how to cook before - this taught me it wasn't so bad afterall!
  • Depending on the tour you go on, you'll be able to view a lot of different places in only a few days. Some may not like this, but it's a travel style that really works for me. Some places I do wish I'd been able to spend longer, but for the most part I enjoy spending just a couple of days in each area - and sometimes just a couple of days in each country!

The Cons of Tour Group Travel
  • You might not like the people you're with. I have been lucky and always found someone that I get on with - and in some cases, I've got on with 95% of the people I was with. For some, you might not enjoy being stuck with people of a different age  from you - I personally don't mind this at all and find it more interesting to be part of a variety, but this might be a real problem for some of you! If this is the case not to worry though, there are a few companies that focus on specific age ranges and I'll be posting more about them next week. Additionally, some people really do just suck, and some people you really won't get on with. My first tour group included someone who realised quickly that the trip wasn't for them, and as such felt the need to spend the entire rest of the trip moaning about it. My second one included a complete bitch of a woman who took an instant dislike to me and spent the following six weeks trying to ruin every part of the trip for me. In that case, the rest of the group supported me so it could have been a lot worse, but of course it still sucked.
  • It IS more expensive. You can definitely do the trip cheaper if you were to arrange it on your own, especially if you'd like to have your own room as this is something you'll pay extra for if you're going on a group tour. Always check for hidden costs - some tours include many more meals than others. Some will also keep a food kitty which everyone will need to contribute to, yet for some reason they won't include this in the initial cost.
  • You might struggle if you're someone who finds it difficult to sleep. You're waking up in a different place every day, sometimes VERY early, and sometimes with a roommate who likes to get back very late even if you went to bed hours ago!
  • If you're someone who is very picky about the kind of places they stay, you may struggle. For me, I like the variety of staying in different places - but if your standards are much higher, you might not look forward to staying in tents or cabins or questionable hotels! If this is something you're bothered about, there are some tours available which cater for those wanting a higher standard though of course you will pay more for it - more on this next week!
  • If you're someone who likes to spend a lot of time in a particular place, tour groups probably aren't for you. They do tend to be faster paced and do rely on you being in certain places at certain times. If you prefer your holidays to be more relaxed, you might struggle with this. Admittedly I have sometimes returned from tour groups ironically feeling like I really need a holiday!
Overall, I'm a big fan of tour group travel, and hopefully this post will have made you think a little bit about whether it's something that's right for you. Next week, I'll be sharing with you my personal experiences on the four tour groups I've previously travelled with, and hopefully that'll help you make a decision about whether a tour group is something you'd be interested in - and if so, who to go with!

By the way, the photos used in this post are from my trip to Thailand last year. If you'd like to see more, the posts are here and here!

Have you travelled with a group before? If so, what would you consider the pros and cons to be?


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