No matter how you look at it, travelling can take a lot of time and preparation to organise and plan. While spontaneous travel works well for some, most of us prefer a little more pre-planning before embarking on our next big adventure. This leaves you with two main options: organising everything yourself or going with the benefits of guided tours.
When planning a trip, you can of course rely on professionals to assist. That’s what travel agents are for, so even the independant travel planning option comes with a few extra tools in the kitty. But with independent travel, you need to have everything organised from flights to accommodation, transfers and excursions.
There is a lot to consider and each segment of your trip comes at a separate price. This can be a little daunting watching the totals add up. So what’s the alternative?
The benefits of guided tours on the other hand have the majority of your travel components all packaged up already. Your accommodation and transfers are usually included, along with a lot of meals and sight-seeing. While not all, some do include flights and all the extra excursions and entry fees also.
There are guided tours to suit different budgets, from basic backpacker style tours to the luxury 5-star resorts and all inclusive guided tours. Plus you know right from the start how much your tour costs, which makes it easier to budget than DIY travel planning.
Guided tours are perfect for newbie travellers, who are not sure where to start or what they need to arrange at their destination. It can also be a great way for solo travellers who want the added comfort of a tour group while they travel. You can make some great friends on tours.
But there are downfalls also. While guided tours give you a great opportunity to see lots of countries and attractions over a short period of time, it’s usually just those must-see attractions that you have time for. Unless you are going for longer guided tours, you are lucky to get 1-3 days maximum at each stop. This means you miss a lot of the lesser known wonders, or maybe don’t even have time for all the well known ones.
Guided tours can also be exhausting when they are constantly on the go, with no significant breaks along the way. Early mornings, late nights and days that are packed full of sights to see and things to do. You almost need to go home for a holiday, compared to slow travel.
Benefits of Guided Tours Vs DIY Travel Planning
- Easy to budget for
- You see lots over a short period
- Less to organise yourself
- Different packages to suit different budgets and needs
- Usually includes a lot of meals
- Can be cheaper than DIY travel planning
- Fast paced, often with little time at each stop
- Exhausting with little down time
- Often large groups
- Miss out on local wonders you may have discovered
- Can be cancelled unexpectedly
- No deviations from guided tours agenda
- Flexibility to plan the trip you want
- Can choose to spend as long or as little time in each location
- More opportunity for discovering hidden wonders and local favourites
- No relying on tour groups
- Sometimes works out cheaper
- Can change your plans whenever you want
- More planning needed
- Can be stressful
- Difficult when you don’t know what is available at your destination i.e. transport, locations etc
- Will need more spending money for meals etc compared to guided tours
- Harder to budget for
Which Should You Choose?
The best option for you really depends what type of travel you are wanting to do. You will need to consider several factors including:
- How much time you have
- What you want to see
- How fast or slow paced you want it to be
- How much you want to spend
- Whether you want structure or flexibility
Work out your main goals for your travel and go from there. If you aim is to see lots with the convenience of most things being taken care of for you, guided tours are your best travel option.
They are a great option for shorter holidays where you want to cram a lot in without having to worry about how to get from A to B every day. Usually they incorporate a tour bus that takes you from one stop to the next and accommodation is typically centrally located near food, shopping and attractions.
But if you want to take your time, with the ability to be a little flexible and spontaneous on your holiday, or if you enjoy the process of planning your own holiday, independant travel planning is a great option for you.
What Type of Travel Do We Prefer?
We have experienced the benefits of guided tours and independent travel planning over the years. It has all depended on our destination and time frames. Our first trip was a collaborative trip planned with family, through Poland, Germany and France. We had plenty of time to explore, with no set schedules and lots of down time when we needed it.
For our next trip to Europe though, we wanted to see lots with only 3 weeks to spare so we did a guided tour through Europe and visited around 7 countries in that time with a couple of days on either end to do as we pleased in London. This was a great convenience and we made some friends along the way in our tour group. It was perfect for us at the time!
The majority of our trips have been planned ourselves, with some mini guided tours or day trips added in, which means we have been able to see more in areas we are unfamiliar with, or keep our costs down by having it packaged up.
But family travel definitely means having some down time and slow travel opportunities. Sometimes you just need an afternoon nap or a day off sightseeing, therefore there a benefits of guided tours and independent travel, depending on your needs!