As far as prejudice goes, touring is the Mr Darcy of the travel world, viewed with unthinking distrust and contempt. No other form of travel except cruising is so automatically dismissed and ultimately misunderstood.
Tourism is not a watered down trip, neither for the timid or the uninformed. He became more varied and adventurous, active and intelligent. And in these turbulent times, when we seek the assurance of organized travel advice, clearly laid out costs and back-up plans, there are even more reasons to consider a visit.
A sightseeing tour offers an upfront price, which avoids unpleasant surprises in a world where travel costs are expected to rise due to inflation, staff shortages and post-Covid restructuring. Some of the countries with the highest inflation – such as the United States, Italy, Switzerland, Greece and Turkey – are major tourist destinations. Lock in the cost of your package now and it’s a good financial bet that you’ll be thrilled come tour time.
Among the persistent furphies about tours is that they are overpriced, but big travel companies are leveraging their buying power for great deals on airfares and hotels. Add meals, guides, and (according to the fine print) airport transfers and gratuities. Don’t forget the not-so-obvious inclusions that add up as an independent traveler: gas, highway tolls, entrance fees. Set the price of the trip yourself and you might reconsider.
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You pay not only for the product, but also for the peace of mind. One-stop bookings are an advantage if things go wrong: travel with a reputable company and you’re in good hands in an emergency, and you can access refunds more easily. Even a missed or canceled flight in these times of airport chaos isn’t something you need to worry about: let a stressed-out travel director handle it instead.
Even in the best of times, tours make travel easier. Everything is organized for you and the practicalities of travel banished. Some might say that’s exactly what a vacation should be.
Those used to individual travel don’t get the welcome relief of not having to think about anything except enjoying the sights. They don’t understand that enjoying the sites with an expert guide adds another layer of appreciation.
TOURS ARE FOR THE LAZY
Oh, that old trope. It is surely the stereotypes that indicate lazy thinking. Improve your outdated view if you imagine tours being filled with couch potatoes gazing at landmarks from movable windows. Tour goers aren’t nearly dead or early to bed.
Even mainstream tours require considerable stamina. Expect an early wake up call, a full day and several hours of walking; the best tour operators keep “gentle walkers” aside to explore at a slower pace. Activities such as biking or kayaking could be offered to you. Then it’s a quick change to magician’s speed and a convivial dinner before someone inevitably suggests a nightcap at a local wine bar.
Meanwhile, there are endless options for walking, hiking, camping, biking, and other active routes. Among the most extreme is World Expedition’s Great Himalaya Trail: 150 days of serious trekking, sometimes with crampons and an ice ax – laziness is not an option.
YOU TRAVEL WITH THE BORING
Of course you do. Heaven knows that travelers who want to see the Golden Eagle festival in Mongolia, swim with South African sharks, or visit Ethiopian rock-hewn churches must be totally devoid of curiosity and spark.
Granted, the over-50s make up the bulk of some tourist markets. But don’t assume they are shy travelers. They do not seek blandness in the circuits but rather convenience, sociability and security. Chat and you’ll find curious minds, friendliness, and stories of how your fellow travelers volunteered at orphanages in Ethiopia or hitchhiked the hippie trail to India.
Are there still tours that cater to unimaginative people looking to tick off to-do lists while caring about local food? Maybe. But many tours offer adventure, nightlife, culture, history and remote landscapes – and sometimes all five.
NOBODY LIKES COACHES
Says the backpacker happily sneaking into a tuk-tuk and spending the night on an Egyptian bus while being shouted over loudspeakers by a screaming pop starlet. But whatever. And is a rental car better than a coach? Not if you’ve tried self-driving in Mexico City or Mumbai or old European cities with slippery cobblestones and narrow one-way alleys.
Traveling by coach saves you energy and stress. Relaxed in an elevated seat, you can admire the passing landscapes and chat with your companions. No worries about parking or gas prices, the top-of-the-range coaches have good legroom, wi-fi and on-board toilets.
Not convinced? You do not have to travel by coach. You can walk, cycle, boat, ride a horse or take a luxury train or yacht ride.
THE TOUR IS A COOKIE CUTTER EXPERIENCE
Well, it is possible, but if someone with limited time wants to see the highlights of South America that they otherwise would never have seen, good for them. Moreover, anyone who does not find a visit that he considers interesting has lost his taste for travel.
A proliferation of flexible, small-group, culturally immersive and adventurous tours has emerged over the past decade, and every corner of the Earth can be explored. Stay at Buddhist temples in South Korea. Visit the Roman ruins with an expert in archeology. Take a culinary tour of Thailand.
Thematic tours can be as esoteric as the textiles of the hill tribes of Laos or the Jewish history of the Czech Republic. Rather than being in the middle of the road, follow in the footsteps of poet Matsu Basho through Japan. Even an abundance of more traditional tours focus on photography, food, wine, spring flowers, Christmas markets, music, or wildlife encounters.
YOU SEE 10 COUNTRIES IN 10 DAYS
Everyone knows the joke of tourists who don’t know if they are in Belgium or France. Still, if you have little free time and fancy a glimpse, the multi-country tour isn’t a bad thing.
In fact, few tours of any kind these days are go-go-go; most have become less disciplined and offer time off to rest or have the chance to pursue personal interests. Many tours focus on a single country or even a single region, and if you’re looking to limit travel time, all you need to do is pick the right route.
Companies such as Trafalgar, Insight Vacations and even Contiki, once very fast and versatile, now offer slower tours that have fewer stops, two nights in the same place, more free time, a more relaxed pace and additional options. . on a trip.
THE TOURS ARE NOT ECO-FRIENDLY
Group travel gives the impression of a large footprint, but compare it to individual travel and that’s not necessarily the case. By coach, you are responsible for five times less CO2 than by car. Those who are really committed can look for companies (still few in number) that use coaches such as the VDL Futura, which runs on biofuel.
The trains are particularly eco-friendly, and with train tourism in the midst of a renaissance, you are spoiled for choice, such as Journey Beyond Rail in Australia, Amtrak Vacations in the USA or train travel in Europe with APT .
More generally, look for green credentials that are properly certified by bodies such as Green Tourism, Ecotourism Australia or The Rainforest Alliance. Companies such as Adventure World Travel, Intrepid Travel and Natural World Safaris support sustainable tourism, conservation, carbon offsetting and voluntourism projects.
YOU CAN DO EVERYTHING YOURSELF
Sure you can. Go for it. Cut hours of planning time out of your busy life. Book all these hotels, restaurants, transfers and tickets. (What happens if your trip is canceled or interrupted?) Find out how to get from Beijing to the Great Wall or how to skip the line at the Vatican Museums.
Trigger. Be stressed in your rental car. Wander around Ephesus without a guide, unaware of what you are looking at. Spend precious hours on the logistics of getting around and finding your hotel. And to think you could have been sitting in a mellow cafe instead.
Agree, individual trips are not so painful. That said, part of the value of a visit is the headaches and hassles it avoids. Although there is no guided tour that cannot be copied, it would be difficult to complete the same route in the same well-organized time.
TOURS VISIT MAIN DESTINATIONS ONLY
The daily bread of tour operators is popular trips to Western Europe, the Southwest of the United States and Southeast Asia. Still, if you haven’t seen the Grand Canyon or the Alhambra, you should.
If you think other cardinal points are overlooked, you haven’t looked hard enough. There’s nowhere tours don’t go except Antarctica, and you can get there on an expedition cruise, which is an afloat tour. Even traditional companies like APT take you to Botswana and Bosnia, Madagascar and Ecuador.
Niche businesses rise to the occasion: climb Mount Kilimanjaro, scuba dive in Belize or enjoy a food tour through Armenia. You can also see the stereotypical destinations in a different way by sailing the Maldives on a traditional fishing boat, taking a wellness tour in Iceland or experiencing New Zealand from a Maori perspective.