I often get asked by friends whether they should consider an organised tour or go solo. As always I respond with the pros and cons of each and it ultimately comes down to YOU. Your preferences, your comfort zone and ofcourse where exactly you are going.
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Group Travel pros
♥ If you are short on time to research and organise a trip then a tour is perfect. They look after nearly everything – accommodation, internal transport, sightseeing etc
♥ If you have never traveled before and want not only the safety of a group tour but also the social aspect!
♥ You are traveling to a remote or perhaps slightly dangerous location where you don’t want to be travelling alone.
Group Travel cons
♥ Your itinerary and dates are set, so there is not much flexibilty. Sometimes tours don’t depart on the dates you have available or don’t go to all the destintations you wanted.
♥ You’re stuck with your traveling companions whether you like them or not!
♥ While you get a great overview of each city, tours are generally 2-3 nights a city and it’s never enough to truly get a “feel” for the place.
I have done several group tours for very different reasons. My first was a Contiki tour. I was 18, traveling alone and had never been to Europe. I did a 24 day tour around Europe and it was a great taster of each city. Although I warn you, there was a LOT of drinking and partying. But it was enough to make me fall in love with several cities and promise to visit them again indepently for a longer time (which I have done!)
I have also done a Cosmos tour, this time above the Arctic Circle in far north Scandinavia. The reason I chose this was because the transport was very limited that far north and the locations I went to so remote that I felt safer with an escorted tour. This was the opposite to my Contiki tour, 90% of the tour was over 60! This is not common for a Cosmos tour however, it just seems that young people aren’t that interested in Northern Scandinavia. I did not mind, I was there to experience the culture and see the sights and my companions were lovely to me.
My final group tour I have done was an “adventure tour” with The Imaginative Traveler around Iceland. Once again Iceland is remote with only limited bus services. I had never been on an adventure tour before and I rocked up with a large suitcase and nice outfit to be greeted by a group of Kathmandu-wearing adventurers all with backpacks! Regardless I had an amazing trip and slept in some interesting locations around Iceland including the floor of a school, a quaint cabin and a questionable dormitory.
So all my experiences with group trips have been positive, however they are just tasters of each place and I want to go back to certain places independently to explore more in depth.
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Solo Adventure pros
♥ You get everything tailored to suit YOUR needs. Your exact dates, itinerary, accommodation type etc.
♥ There are no scheduled wake up times or structured days – everything is flexible and up to you.
♥ You often get a more authentic taste of the place instead of being shuttled around in a tour bus surrounded by your tour companions and eating (generally) at tourist restaurants.
♥ It can get lonely. I love my alone time but after a while you do miss companionship – and eating dinner alone every night is depressing! This is why I recommend staying in hostels when travelling alone, you get to meet so many new people!
♥ If something goes wrong with your planning, YOU have to fix it. Generally a tour leader will mother you all and deal with any booking mishaps or weather related issues. If you are on your own you have to sort yourself out.
♥ Safety. When traveling alone (especially as a young woman) if I am buy myself I don’t go out at night as much as sometimes feel like I am missing out on fun.
I have done a lot of independent travel throughout Europe and America and loved it. I often will return to a place I spent only 2-3 nights at on a tour and stay for weeks to explore independently. I love traveling alone as I get to go where I want, when I want. I have previously attempted to travel with my sister and that failed miserably. I wanted to see museums and sights, she wanted to go shopping and clubbing.
I hope I have helped you in deciding upon a tour or independant travel. As you can see it all depends on YOU.