Lately I’ve been seeing travel advertisements plastered all over the Internet. Several of these agencies provide “guided group tours.” This means that the company will arrange major transportation, accommodations, and events at each destination. Customers can go alone or with friends/family; however, there will most likely be others traveling along in the group as well.
Although it may seem challenging, “independent” travel is always an alternative option. With these vacations, a person–or even a group–can explore the destination without a tour guide or “required” scheduled activities.
I have done both types of trips. I thought this would be a great opportunity to share my perspectives on each of them.
My Experiences with Group Travel
When I was younger, group travel worked well for me. I didn’t know anything about planning an international trip. It all seemed so overwhelming. Booking with these companies is so simple. I basically just showed up for an amazing experience abroad! I also ended up seeing places that I would not have originally planned for myself.
When choosing to go on one of these tours, customers are signing up to an adventure with strangers. This is a gamble. On one trip, I met amazing people and created close friendships. On another, my companions barely spoke to me. Luckily, I have always traveled with at least one friend. So, others never really put a damper on my personal experiences. However, I don’t know if I could say the same for those who come to the trip alone.
On every tour, a guide leads the group though the itinerary. This person can definitely make or break the vacation. They provide insight into the culture and history of each destination. They are also utilized as resources for restaurant recommendations or free time activities. A personable leader is imperative. On the other hand, a mediocre guide can really affect the trip’s dynamic.
Although the guide will not hold up the entire cohort for tardiness, I feel like there is still a lot of waiting with this type of experience. For example, at the beginning of one trip, we sat in the hotel lobby for hours as the others in our group continued to trickle in. This was brutal after a long flight.
My Experiences with Independent Travel
Justin and I have always explored on our own. Even though it requires extra efforts researching and booking activities, I really think it’s worth the work!
First, it is usually much cheaper for us to travel independently. With discount travel sites, we have discovered some great deals. I recently compared prices on a trip we took. I found that we paid HALF as much as the group rate for the same itinerary! So crazy.
In addition, I love the flexibility of independent travel. We have the freedom to explore at our own pace. If desired, we can choose to find a tour guide for certain events or places. On the other hand, we can skip activities without feeling like we’re wasting money or missing out.
Overall, while the convenience of group travel is enticing, I think that traveling independently is a much better experience for us. By doing the work, we can use the money saved for extra excursions or even another trip entirely. I feel like we can see more of the world this way! In addition, with the influx of travel sites and blogs, online planning is so simple these days. For these reasons, I definitely don’t believe that a guide is necessary for an amazing and unforgettable vacation.
Have you ever gone on a group trip? If so, what do you think about them?