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5 Pros/5 Cons of Tour Guided Travel

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I wrote this at the Leonardo da Vinci airport in Rome waiting to for my flight back to the “The States,” as I now say after one international trip.

Last week was nothing short of spectacular. My mom and I traveled to Italy with a tour group.

This was not only my first trip to Europe but my first guided tour vacation. When I travel “in the states” I manage all my own excursions, book my hotels, arrange transportation, etc., etc., etc. However, traveling abroad I thought it best to have a little guidance.

I don’t regret my decision in the least bit, but as with anything there’s always pros and cons to consider. Here’s my initial thoughts.

5 Pros

See Highlights of Multiple Cities

This was one of the reasons I choose the tour I did. Traveling to Italy for a week I wanted to experience more than one location. Our tour included Rome, Venice and Florence plus shorts stops in Pisa and Siena. That’s a whole lot of Italy to see in a week, especially if you’ve never been and aren’t even sure what to go see!

Skip Lines at Attractions

This was a surprise bonus of the tour. At more than a few stops that required tickets our Tour Director already had them purchased and we were able to bypass the typical lines and enter through an entrance specifically for groups. We also had our own special expert guides at the larger attractions.

Luggage Handling

I’m an infamous light packer but traveling for a week to a cold weather destination (it’s winter in Italy) I caved and brought a larger suitcase. I pack light because I don’t want to have to lug around extra baggage. Thankfully, on the guided tour all your bags are handled for you. The Tour Director arranges to have them taken from the bus to your room when you arrive. When departing a hotel, you leave your bag outside your room and it’s placed on the bus for you. The only time I had to handle my own bag was at the airport. Once the tour started, my baggage just appeared right when I needed it.

Local Expert/Guide/Translator at Your Service

I’m not sure if this is the case on all tours but our Tour Director was amazing. He was friendly, warm, helpful, attentive, flexible and knowledgeable. I really appreciated our conversations and on more than a few occasions he made great recommendations and answered all my annoying inquisitive questions about local language and customs. He made me feel welcomed in Italy and I appreciated that more than anything.

Some Meals Included

I appreciated the included meals as it relieved some of the stress about finding food in a foreign place. Every day breakfast was included and our Tour Director would arrange for it to be available in the hotels early enough specifically for our group. In addition there was a welcome reception that included multiple courses, a fabulous lunch in Florence, a couple of other lunches and a wonderful 3 course farewell dinner. All included wine, of course. In addition there were a few optional meals which were also wonderful!

5 Cons

Tight Schedule/Early Mornings

And when I say tight, I mean tight! On some days I literally couldn’t comprehend how much I did and saw. With 6:30 AM wakeup calls and travel to destination normally beginning between 7-8:30 you better be able to get up in the morning and be ready to seize the day! Depending on how many optional excursions you choose you can easily be out and about for 12 plus hours.

Trip is Dependent on Group

I feel very lucky. Our group bonded immediately and everyone was friendly and polite. However, I can see how a few bad apples would really be able to take the fun out of the tour. On some occasions we were late or needed to wait for a few folks who lost track of time. Thankfully, our Tour Director created a tolerant culture while still emphasizing the importance of keeping our schedule for the rest of the group.

Optional Excursions Cost More

Don’t get me a wrong a lot of things were included in the base tour but the options offered ended up becoming an additional expense I didn’t anticipate. In a way this is a pro and a con, as the excursions were amazing. However, just keep in mind the price and your budget and decide up front if you want to take advantage so you know what to expect. I enjoyed each and every optional on this trip. Next time I will be more aware and include in my overall cost estimates.

Travel Time Between Stops

I knew by looking at the map this was going to be an issue. Traveling from Rome to Venice is quite a hike! There were some beautifully scenery, plenty of stops and a bathroom on the bus for emergencies but traveling for 5-6 hours mid-day in the middle of our Italian vacation was not my favorite part. Of course, this may not apply to all tours.

Too Much Too Fast

I can’t stress how much I LOVED this trip but from day to day I was overwhelmed. Looking back at my photos I can’t believe how much I did and saw. Sometimes there wasn’t enough time to digest the experience and before I knew it we were on our way to our next amazing destination. Again, this could be seen as a pro and a con but I can see it being very overwhelming for some. Just something to keep in mind if you are more interested in relaxing vacations.

Overall I enjoyed the tour and am looking forward to taking another one one day. My only fear: this one may have spoiled me.

Have you every vacationed with a tour? Please share your thoughts!

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Discussion

There are 14 comments so far. Join in on the conversation.

    Amilja

    January 23, 2013

    How fun to read that. I can see a value of seeing lot of things in a short time. For me and my husband, we prefer slower speed vacation. That means that we travel to Italy 3 times to see all the places you saw in a week. We live in Europe so that's more possible. I am sure if we travelled to more exotic place to us we would want to see as much as possible in one trip. Reply

    Donna

    January 23, 2013

    Looks like you had a great time. When we have travel in Europe we use Rick Steves books. Reply

    Elizabeth J.

    January 23, 2013

    My husband and I use the Rick Steves books too, they're awesome, and there are always recommendations perfectly within our budget. Reply

    Bronwyn K.

    January 23, 2013

    Glad that you had a great time! I think for first time international travel you cut down on a lot of stress by doing the tour. I am considering doing a guided tour in Ireland in September. I've been a bunch of times, but my husband hasn't. I don't feel comfortable doing the driving, but I don't want him to miss the sight seeing because he has to drive. Downside is I've seen those tour groups in Ireland and not sure I want to be trapped on a tour bus with everyone. I can definitely see pros and cons. Reply

    Lynette S.

    January 23, 2013

    I lived in the UK back in my 20's and we jokingly called those the 'blink and you'll miss Bath, tours!" I have never done one, The Husband and I prefer to meander around a bit and see the local stuff. However, for places with as much to see as Italy, I can see where a tour would be the way to go, especially with the lack of lines/waiting at popular sites. Reply

    Melissa (@TheDailyMel)

    January 23, 2013

    Thanks to the previous comments recommending the Rick Steves' guidebooks. I'm doing a transatlantic cruise followed by trips to Barcelona, Paris, and Rome next year. This will be my first trip to Europe, so I'll definitely check out his guidebooks!! Reply

    Roberta

    January 23, 2013

    I did a 20 + day tour of Europe going to 9 different countries with Trafalgar and let me tell you it was a trip of a life time! I wrote a journal every night just so I could remember everything I did and saw. I got to the point where I didn't know what day it was and where we were yesterday! I would 110% do a guided tour again. Where else could you get to experience some of the amazing things these countries have to offer in such a short time. Also I love not having to worry about anything. Everything is taken care off. Your pros and cons are right on. Reply

    Jessey

    January 23, 2013

    I did a tour of France when I was in high school, but your list of Pros and Cons did still apply. My other trips to Europe was England with my family with I was 29 and a trip back to France with a friend when I was 33. I think I could be tempted to do a tour in a place where I was completely unfamiliar, but I like to drive and definitely took it as a challenge when I was in France (I didn't dare drive in the UK, so left that up to my dad). If I was with a parent I think I would do a tour as well. I couldn't see doing a tour with my husband for at least 20 years! But a whirlwind trip like yours, I can definitely see the advantages. Reply

    Jodi

    January 23, 2013

    I think you hit the nail on the head... Guided tours are great for people that have never been to the country before, don't like to plan, and want someone else to handle everything... Traveling via maps and GPS (like my hubby and I did across France for our babymoon) is incredible - you see things you would have never seen w/a group... Backroads, having an espresso at a local cafe, shopping without a time limit... I WANT TO GO BACK! Reply

    Louis Biggie

    January 24, 2013

    Roni, wonderful observations. And, following your travels, I notice you have done stuff I have never done - actually going to the top of the leaning tower. Awesome. One of the things we have done, though, is to settle into communities until they almost feel like home. That is one thing you won't get on a tour! Spend a week with the husband and the kids in Cinqueterre. It will be a transformation. I remember my daughter telling me that, despite being a teenager who'd been taken all over the world (Disney, Hawaii, Nice, Iran, England, France, Spain, Holland, and more) that this was the best place we'd ever been to! Reply

    Nancy

    January 24, 2013

    I enjoy reading your blogs. I am taking my first Trafalgar trip to Britain in September, my first escorted tour also, out of the country, but this one is for 13 days focusing on England, Scotland, and Wales. I was so happy that Buckingham Palace will be open to tourists to go inside, so I have to book my own tour for that one. That has always been my dream to see the Buckingham Palace. I am glad you had such a great time, I am sure you will be able to go again. Keep Blogging! Reply

    Michele

    January 24, 2013

    Thanks for this post Roni! I was actually going to write you and ask about the guided tour. I hope to be planning a trip to Europe soon and wasn't sure if I should do a guided tour or not. I'm still not sure but this post definitely helped! PS - how was the flight? I've never been in a plane for longer than 4 hours or so and the thought of an international flight makes me a little anxious. Reply

      Roni

      January 25, 2013

      The flight home was rough. 9 hours is tough and I couldn't sleep but the flight in was great! 8 hours and I slept at least 4 of it. Reply

    propolis tropfen

    January 8, 2015

    Die Haut sieht viel gesünder aus und man erhält einen natürlichen Teint! Reply