I have a little confession... It makes me feel like a total badass when people ask me for travel advice. 😁
It's been happening for a few years, but I still blush a little when I get those Facebook messages and texts (and occasionally even emails from friends mums....) asking me what I'd do in their situation.
One of the common questions that I see all over is "should I structure my own travel, or just join a prepackaged tour?"
Unfortunately, there is no correct answer here, because everyone travels differently and values different things. Personally, I've done tours which I loved, planned travel that I did by myself, and unplanned 'go where the wind blows' travel, and every one of them was perfect for me in the situation in which it happened. Combos also work well, a bit of whatever feels right to you.
There are, however, some big differences to consider, so here is my list of pros and cons that I consider when deciding if I want to make my own way.
Time Vs Money - Tours always work out a bit more expensive than making your own way. This is for many reasons (they have to make money somehow in this capitalist world), including paying your guides, admin for getting people on the tours, advertising, and various other things that we sometimes forget come along with being a business.
The upside of this cost for us as travellers is that we have to put in waaaaay less time and planning and effort ourselves. We just browse, book, and show up - the rest is sorted for us.
Tour groups will usually do a lot of the research for you too. You'll arrive to a guide who can tell you everything (they are amazingly highly trained) from the history of the country to the best place for trashy music and cheap shots. Companies like Topdeck will also drop you off in the center of a town with a wee map with the best tourist highlights marked along with entry fees and opening times.
Confidence - If you haven't traveled much before, or if you just feel less confident in planning travel around the part of the world you want to see, then having someone else doing all the research and planning for you can be really great!
Friends - for some people having someone to share experiences with makes things way more awesome! Now I'm not saying that you can't still meet up with people while you are just hopping around hostels and couch surfing - you sure can! It's just a bit easier when you're forced to sit with up to 30 other travellers in a bus for several days, and they are all going the same way.
Accomodation is sorted! Instead of having to book each new city individually and find them and figure out how to get there you just get plonked at the door and waltz in to your pre-booked rooms.
Here's your second con.... You'll be going where the tour goes, so if you fall wildly in love with Amsterdam or Cape Town you won't be able to stick around an extra day to see more. When wandering around yourself it's way easier to jump on any random opportunities that pop up, like a day trip to a snazzy lake to see some monsters in Scotland.
To find something a bit more flexible you can try expanding your horizons in terms of the company you use. There are a couple of interesting companies out there that focus on getting off the beaten track, either outdoors or just into the small villages and more culturally authentic areas.
Some companies to look at are G Adventures, Intrepid travel, Trek America, as they do much smaller groups, have a smidge more flexibility, and you get a bit more time to really bond with others on your group. They are, unfortunately, more expensive as they don't have the benefits of scale making things cheaper.
So there you go! Those are some of my biggest thoughts for when you are choosing the way you want to travel. For me it's usually a combo, for example, tomorrow I'm starting a Topdeck around Scandinavia and then everything else is loosely planned flow. I can't wait! 😁
Have you ever tried another your group? How were they? Would you recommend them?
I'd love to hear what other committees do so I can give them a go!
See you all somewhere!
Labels: budget travel, holiday, priorities, travel, travel money, travel photography