Saturday, 8 June 2019

Never been on a group tour? Thinking about it? Here are my Pros and Cons.

  I usually travel alone, enjoying the flexibility of making 'on the fly' decisions about what to do and where to go with the luxury of no timetable to keep and no commitments to uphold. However, there are some  countries, where joining a tour group is by far the best way to go.  The first group tour I took was in 1993 when my husband and I booked a 12 day tour of southern China.  At that time China was really only just opening up to tourists, the roads were diabolical, crammed with millions of bicycles and  the language barrier was almost insurmountable. It would have been near impossible to travel from city to city by ourselves. There were twelve on that tour and we had so much fun sharing what was a pretty amazing experience with a very pleasant group of people.  We also got to see far more than we would have on our own.  Since then I have spent a month in Africa, a month in Turkey, a week in Cuba and 12 days in China with tour groups.  I have also organised and led student groups on tours to Japan. Every trip has been fantastic and I have seen and experienced far more than I could ever have hoped for on my own. I still travel mostly alone but will readily join a tour group when I think it's the best option.


Fun times discussing  our experiences over lunch in Namibia

So if you have never joined a tour group before here are a few of my pros and cons:

PROS

1. Everything is organised for you from hotel bookings to meals, attraction admissions and all transport, even airport check-ins in many cases
2.  Entry to museums and attractions is preferential. This is a boon at places like Tienanmen Square where thousands queue up for entry everyday and your group can sail past the queues, ignoring the scowls!
3. You get to meet some wonderful fellow travelers.  I have made friends and kept in touch with several over the years
4. Transport and hotels are generally of a good standard. They are not hit and miss
5. You feel safe
6. Your guides are knowledgeable and informative ensuring you get the most out of your tour
7. Tour leaders are always on hand to assist with any problems
8. When humorous occasions arise, like our hopeless attempts to learn the salsa in Cuba, it is so good to share a laugh with the group
9. And most of all, for a solo traveler, it is a special pleasure to be able to share your experiences and meals with others


Exploring the wonders of Turkey with this lovely group of women - started out strangers, ended up friends

CONS

1. In order to keep to a schedule your days are full and starts are early (this is no problem for me)
2. There is generally  little free time to do your own thing
3. You are taken to specific retail outlets, not necessarily ones you would choose
4. You can get stuck with annoying co-travelers, although I have never had this happen.  This can be more of a problem if you choose to share a room with a stranger.  I  prefer to pay a single supplement for my own room. It is more usual  that sub groups of like minded travelers gravitate together for meals etc.
5. There is little flexibility
6. Not all attractions will be of interest to you but sometimes you may be surprised that something you would have overlooked proves to be well worthwhile.
7. All or most meals, depending on your tour, are pre-booked so there is no choice as to where to eat
8. You can get tired but with reasonable fitness this should not be a problem.


Doesn't this look like fun?  It sure was, drinking freshly made mojitos on a Cuban tobacco farm.  Something I would never get to do on my own.

As far as I'm concerned the Pros outweigh the Cons.  All that is required to be a good tour group member is a willingness to go with the flow, a bit of tolerance and a desire to enjoy and make the most of your trip.  Give it a go. Join a tour group and sit back and enjoy the experience, I assure you you won't regret it.

I am already looking forward to going on another group tour to a distant, unusual destination some time soon.  I can't wait!

The views in this post are purely from my own experiences.  I do not  work for a tour company

The companies I have traveled with are:
Wendy Wu                       www.wendywutours.co.nz
Intrepid Travel                www.intrepidtravel.com
Grassroots Adventures   www.grassroots.net.nz

I highly recommend all of them.

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