Working in a full-time 9-5 role means I get less vacation time than I once did. So when itâ€™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 Iâ€™m not missing out on the biggest sightseeing attractions.
Iâ€™ve done a ton of guided tours over the years (just check my resources page). So if youâ€™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 youâ€™re travelling on a huge tour bus with a ton of other people, itâ€™s unlikely youâ€™ll be fully immersed in anything. Itâ€™s hard to get to know the locals when theyâ€™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 itâ€™s all relative to your budget. Check with your tour operator first to see how many people youâ€™ll be travelling with.
Itâ€™s also incredibly important to know what kind of demographic youâ€™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 wasnâ€™t a great combination.
Thatâ€™s a rare case, though. Iâ€™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? Itâ€™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. Iâ€™d like to think I earned a good impression of the country.
When youâ€™re booking a guided tour, check for how many nights youâ€™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 Iâ€™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 Iâ€™m not a religious person myself, it makes sense that Iâ€™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 itâ€™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, thatâ€™s cool too. Some people in the travel world look at guided tours as somehow â€œcheating,â€ but the expertise that comes with them canâ€™t be beat. Get exploring!
This is a sponsored post; however, all content and opinions are my own.