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Organised Tours: The pros and cons of group travel

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Travel is all about fun!

While we always often prefer budget independent travel and backpacking, we know there can be many other ways to travel the world. In fact, Ruby and I enjoy participating in many other forms of travel. We have enjoyed organised tours through cities like Buenos Aires, multi-day tours on Easter Island and everything in between.

Some people that know us and our style of travel are sometimes shocked to find out that we actually enjoy tours. After all, being taken from one location to another with a guide seems like the total opposite to backpacking and budget independent travel.

But let’s be honest, travel is mostly about having fun, and not all organised tours are bad! Some tour companies have realised that people don’t want just to be shuttled around, want freedom to explore often and at a reasonable price.

organised group tour hiking

There is a tour for you, no matter how you travel

After all, travel is essentially about getting out to see the world. Its all about meeting new people, experiencing new things and discovering new places. It doesnt matter if you do that for one week or a year, or are solo, with a best friend, on a bicycle, driving a car or taking a tour. All travellers want the same thing! Travel is about the journey and how you choose to do it is up to you.

When most people think about going on an organised tour, they picture a bus full of snap-happy tourists who jump out at every chance they get, listen to the brief information the guide gives them and then check out the sight. They then jump back in and go off to the next place to repeat the process. But most organised tours are not like this at all; there are a colossal amount of tours out there. The day trip we took to the Ningaloo Reef off Western Australia to snorkel with Whale Sharks was a tour. So was that walking tour in Buenos Aires or that museum trip. The five-day sailing trip to the Greek Islands with Contiki was also a tour.

What we think of some Organised Tours

The reality is, organised tours can come in all shapes and sizes, and we all have been on them, even if we don’t want to acknowledge it. Most of us don’t think of those small day trips as a “tour”. But even the little ones are included. Regardless of what each of us considers a tour, it’s essential to recognise that they really do play an important role in travel.

Do I think there are some bad tours? Yes, of course. Some can seem very rushed and seem intent on just hobbling travellers from destination to destination in luxury. The guides can sometimes be pushy and take you to “tourist traps” to spend your money. This is a form of travel that I don’t necessarily agree with. I am sure they work for some people who are reading this, just not us — so we don’t recommend them. It’s important to have a good look at the inclusions and what is planned before giving away your hard-earned cash.

Organised Tours can be a great starting point to travel

My first big holiday was on a trip with my best friend to Europe. We spent 56 days on a Contiki bus camping throughout the Continent. We explored beautiful cities, sampled food from many different cultures and spent time making new friends. Most of the group on tour were also in their mid 20s, so we all had some things in common. That trip was clearly when I got the travel bug. Most importantly, I didn’t feel rushed, and it gave me some breathing room when I needed it most. For this first-timer, it was the perfect stress-free introduction to travel — the perfect balance between solo experiences and group excursions.

Tours can offer a lot of rewards, especially for new travellers. They can:

  • Provide convenience
  • Reduce anxiety and stress
  • Give you other like-minded people to hang out with
  • Provide a local expert
  • Reduce planning
  • Offer comfort
travel guide snowmobile

Organised tours offer Stress-free Travel

Not everyone is content with just grabbing their backpack and setting off to an unknown destination. Organised tours can decrease the stress and anxiety that will no doubt come when taking your first trip. This can make people more prepared to travel. Many might be apprehensive about engaging with people and find it hard just to make conversation, so tours are the ideal occasion to get comfortable and make that leap. However, solo budget independent travel demands many skills, and some people aren’t willing to jump head first into that. Therefore going with a group can be an excellent way to slide into the unknown world of independent travel. I have met many people who started on a group tour which gave them the confidence to attempt a solo journey after that.

Guides can really enhance your experience

Furthermore, the guides can really increase your understanding of a place. For example, our guide in Argentina got out of our way to let us do what we wanted. Our diving guide in The Philippines helped shared the history and significance of the ocean to the local people. My tour guide in Sri Lanka was our own personal biologist, teaching us things about the local wildlife that I would have never have understood otherwise.

In my mind, there is nothing wrong with organised tour groups. To be honest, I recommend people to contemplate taking them, regardless of how you usually travel. Even if you usually do budget independent travel like us there are still many reasons to go with a tour. Possessing a guide to inform you about your destinations can be more fulfilling than just exploring them on your own. Both Ruby and I have taken lengthy tours as well as day trips, so before you talk negatively about them, bear in mind that all sorts of travel have their time and place and that organised tours can also be an excellent way to see the world.

Some considerations when booking a tour

There are some important factors to take into consideration when booking a tour. Each will obviously depend on where you go and what you do, but some of the main considerations that we often consider include:

  • Weather conditions for when you decide to travel and take the tour.
  • Peak season and low season can effect
  • Has the tour been highly recommended by other travellers?
  • Is the tour eco-friendly and low impact on the environment?
  • Are animals well-being cared for on the tour? We do not support tours that exploit animals.
  • Does the tour employ local workers and help support the community it takes place in?

Tour operators we recommend

Get your Guide offers fantastic small group tours all over the world and use expert guides. Most trips leave a small environmental footprint. If you decide to go on a journey with anyone, go with them. You could also try Contiki; they are my favourite multi-day tour operator, and I have never had a bad experience using them.

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