Working in a full-time 9-5 role means I get less vacation time than I once did. So when it’s time to hit the road, I need to make the most of my 7-14 days away.
For me, booking a guided tour is the best way to see a lot with little time, and it cuts down on the stress factor. Going this route, I have some assurance that I’m not missing out on the biggest sightseeing attractions.
I’ve done a ton of guided tours over the years (just check my resources page). So if you’re considering a guided tour for the first time, here are a few things you should ask yourself before booking.
How many people am I willing to travel with, and who are these people?
Chances are, if you’re travelling on a huge tour bus with a ton of other people, it’s unlikely you’ll be fully immersed in anything. It’s hard to get to know the locals when they’re inundated with 100 people.
My favourite guided tours are always the small ones, like 12 people or less. They do tend to be more expensive, however, so it’s all relative to your budget. Check with your tour operator first to see how many people you’ll be travelling with.
It’s also incredibly important to know what kind of demographic you’re travelling with. I somehow ended up on a couples tour through Albania, and was mostly bored out of my mind when we had some free time. Everyone was lovely, but I often felt alienated and alone. It wasn’t a great combination.
That’s a rare case, though. I’ve never been on a guided tour where I disliked any of my companions, even when I did feel alienated. Most of the fellow travellers I met while on tour are people I still stay in touch with today. The group of five I travelled around Bosnia & Herzegovina with were amazing–we immediately clicked over cevapi (a pita stuffed with sausage) and cheap beers. And in Guatemala, my group became a family that bonded over epic late-night dance parties, crazy bus rides and (unfortunately) plenty of stomach issues.
How fast-paced should my guided tour be?
I am definitely not a fan of ultra fast-paced tours — how can you really get to know a place?
How many nights will you be spending in a certain place? Changing hotels constantly can be exhausting.
I get it; we all have limited vacation time. But even if you have a week in Europe, why would you stretch yourself thin by visiting a bunch of different cities in one shot? It’s better to take it slow; soak up the city or countryside vibes, and get to know the people who live there year-round. Me and my Central American travel group spent nearly 10 days in just Guatemala. I’d like to think I earned a good impression of the country.
When you’re booking a guided tour, check for how many nights you’ll be spending in a certain place. Will you be spending 10 days in Barcelona, or switching up hotels every night?
I think a part of your vacation should be devoted to slowing down and relaxing — not switching hotels every night.
What should be the focus of my guided tour?
My favourite kind of trip hones in on the specifics: a history tour in Rome, for example–or a food tour.
Having a trip with tons of variety is great, but I’ve found that focusing on a particular theme really gives me the best insight into a particular destination. Collette, for example, offers religious pilgrimages to Israel, and other faith-rooted historic trips. While I’m not a religious person myself, it makes sense that I’d find some comfort in being surrounded by like-minded individuals.
Historical tours and food-oriented tours are definitely my favourite. Both help me understand a destination a whole lot more, plus it’s a much better way to get to know the locals. In Jordan, I participated in a tour that focused largely on history and life in the Middle East. I ended up meeting bedouins in the desert, and exploring the ruins around Jerash, and of course, the epic ruins at Petra.
If you want a trip with tons of variety, that’s cool too. Some people in the travel world look at guided tours as somehow “cheating,” but the expertise that comes with them can’t be beat. Get exploring!
This is a sponsored post; however, all content and opinions are my own.