To tour or not to tour? Maybe a tour is for you?
Wait! Don’t leave yet…hear me out!
“If It’s Tuesday, This Must be Belgium” is the title of the 1969 romantic comedy that became the running joke and tagline for whirlwind tours (although most people don’t’ think of tours as either romantic or funny!).
Mention going a tour and you can see people wrinkle their nose, shake their heads…Tours? I don’t go on tours! Tours are for…well, tourists! Ha! And I’m not a tourist, I like to plan my own trips. The travel shows and guides can make it sound so easy to “do it yourself”, so they think it is pretty easy, too (while conveniently forgetting the crews, staff and years of experience behind the scenes).
Well, I had a similar aversion until about 15 years ago. I hadn’t traveled in ages and was determined to go to Italy. Friends didn’t step up with a commitment so I decided I had to go solo and, really, my only option was to go with a tour or not go at all. So, I researched and found a tour operator with an excellent reputation, fabulous itinerary and took the plunge. And I was pleasantly delighted. Sure there were aspects I didn’t relish, but it was certainly better than sitting home wanting to go to Italy and I’ve never regretted that decision.
Flash forward five years when a travel planner/friend and I decided to put together a tour/retreat to Tuscany. Well, let me just say that, yes, it was wonderful, but I learned firsthand how much time and work is involved in creating, marketing and leading a tour. Now, as a travel consultant, I appreciate the expertise and “behind the scenes” dedication and hard work required to make a tour successful and I’m more than happy to promote and enjoy going on tours!
So, before you turn up your nose or click to another page…hear me out…
♦ 5 Biggest Misconceptions About Tours ♦
What you think you know about tours may be outdated and mistaken. Just keep in mind that all tours are not created alike!
#1 Tours are large groups (of loud, tacky tourists) in big buses shuffled from place to place and led around by tour guides with umbrellas.
OK, yes, those types of tours do exist, but there is an enormous selection of fabulous “boutique” tour companies specializing in small groups. In many cases you can even arrange a customized itinerary for your own group of friends/colleagues, too.
#2 Tours don’t allow any/enough free time to explore independently.
Depending on your preferences, different tours offer a variety of itineraries with varying degrees of independent and free time.
#3 Tours are too regimented, over scheduled, and rushed.
Choices run the gamut. If you want to do and see a lot in a short amount of time, there are tours with very ambitious itineraries, but there are also tours with more leisurely, unhurried schedules.
#4 Tours can be groups of people I may not like or relate to.
Joining a tour that appeals to those with similar interests (e.g., culinary, cultural, biking, etc.) will ensure that you have something in common with your fellow travelers. We’re not always going to like everyone, but odds are you’ll find some kindred spirits and make new friends.
#5 Tours are too expensive.
There’s a broad spectrum of tours ranging from modest to luxury. It’s important to break down the per diem and take a hard look at what’s included and what it would cost on your own (which is usually underestimated). Also, it’s crucial to factor in the enormous benefits of the tour operators’ expertise and experience.
♦ Other Reasons Why Tours Are Worth a Look ♦
Solo travelers: If you’re traveling on your own and aren’t ready for a completely solo adventure, tours are perfect! You have the “umbrella” and security of a group, you meet new people and, depending on the type of tour you choose, you can explore your own travel interests and dreams.
Inexperienced or experienced travelers: If you’re a novice or experienced you can seek out tours that appeal to your personal style and interests. For the inexperienced traveler, it’s a great way to dip your toe into travel waters. For the experienced traveler, it’s a great way to connect with other seasoned travelers and go places you wouldn’t necessarily want to venture on your own.
Peace of mind: If you’ve ever planned your own vacation, you know it requires a huge time investment and can be quite frustrating, confusing, and even overwhelming. With a tour, you can pretty much sit back, enjoy and leave the majority of the planning and details to someone else. Knowing that the nitty gritty details are handled is a huge relief!
Make new friends: Whatever your interests or preferences, I can (almost) guarantee there’s a tour for you! Joining specialty tours with like-minded travelers and fellow enthusiasts is enriching and fun.
Eliminates excuses: If there are destinations on your wish list but the idea of planning a trip is daunting or you wouldn’t risk going on your own, a tour is the ticket. No more excuses not to go!
No $urprise$: How often do we come home from vacation and almost have a stroke when the credit card bills arrive? With tours, you reduce the element of surprise making it easier to budget. And, since you pay in advance in local currency, you don’t have to worry about the fluctuating dollar or unexpected expenses.
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Have you ever gone on a tour? If not, why not? If so, what did you enjoy about it?
Graphic credits: signpost, tour bus and palette courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net