Lone wolf or wolf pack?

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Planning your next overseas holiday, but undecided whether you should tackle the destination by yourself or join a guided tour? There are pros and cons for both options.

Independent travel

There is nothing better, especially to help build the excitement for an upcoming trip, than researching and planning your holiday by yourself. If you are really organised you may attend travel expos, try out the cuisine at local restaurants, see movies and read books on your chosen destination. I even went so far as to attend a South American Opera when planning a recent trip to Argentina and Brazil. Although not really my cup of tea, it was helpful in knowing what activity I would be crossing off my ‘To Do’ list!

With travel being so much more accessible and affordable these days, you are bound to know someone who has visited your chosen destination. They will be only too happy to share their experiences and give you advice on what to see and do.

When you travel independently you don’t have to feel rushed if you find yourself captivated by a particular site or attraction. You can take as long or as short a time at a destination as you please. I recently found myself completely enthralled by the scenery in and around Potsdam in Germany, but had to cut my visit short to join my tour group heading to our next destination. All I really wanted to do was hire a bicycle, pack some food into my backpack and spend the day exploring the area.

The downside is, of course, having to organise everything yourself. From transport to and from the airport to your accommodation, navigating the public transport system (not so easy in countries where you don’t speak the language), as well as finding your way to all the places you want to visit.

More importantly it can get lonely, especially if you are travelling for long periods by yourself. And if you are quite shy or reticent about talking to strangers, unless you are prepared to make a real effort to come out of your shell, you might find independent travel a little daunting.

Group Travel

Sometimes it is just a relief to have all those headaches taken care of for you. With a guided tour you are generally collected from the airport on arrival, although you may have to wait an hour or so as the shuttles are usually picking up at least a dozen or so of your other travel companions. But you can always while away the time chatting to the tour guide about your upcoming trip and getting some inside information about the destination. You will be taken straight to your hotel, so there’s no stress about dealing with local taxi drivers and worrying whether they are taking you the longest way possible to your hotel and ripping you off. Your bags will be loaded on and off the bus, and for those of you who have gone it alone, this is an absolute godsend. If you have experienced the nightmare that can be public transport, with lifts not working at train stations or airports and having to lug a 20+ kilogram suitcase up and down seemingly mountainous flights of stairs, this will be heaven for you.

Your tour guide will show you the best of the sights at your destination, and if you are lucky enough to have a really knowledgeable guide you will receive lots of interesting facts and anecdotes. You will also have the comfort of knowing that someone is there to take care of you should anything go a little pear shaped. On a recent visit to Spain I woke up on day two of my tour to find that my right ear was completely blocked and I couldn’t hear a thing out of it. As I didn’t speak Spanish I found the prospect of going to a pharmacy to get some medication completely daunting, but my gorgeous tour guide took me aside in Toledo, organised some ear drops and had me back with my group within 15 minutes – I’m sure that would have taken me two hours and endless stress to organise myself!

The flip side can be that you sometimes feel a bit rushed and that you are not spending enough time at some of the sights. Guided tours are geared towards providing a generalised experience for a large group of people, usually around 45. So, unfortunately there may be parts of the tour that you will not appreciate. But you are always given free time to explore the area by yourself.

Personally, I like a mixture of both forms of travel and, when I can, I try to have a few days either side of a guided tour so I can see everything I want to. Having said that, there never seems to be enough time at any destination to see everything.

Do you have a preference? Is the thrill of going it alone your chosen form of travel or do you prefer the road less stressful?

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Written by Andrea


Total Comments: 9
  1. 0

    With group travel you have to be prepared to take the bad with the good. A few years ago I enjoyed a wonderful coach tour of New Zealand, including awesome Milford Sound (at the top of my bucket list!) Even though the trip was fantastic overall, I found it annoying that I spent a great deal of my precious holiday in souvenir shops where I was part of a captive audience. These places were usually in remote locations and there was nothing else to do except browse … and purchase. No doubt someone from the company was getting a commission.

    • 0

      Some coach tour companies look very badly on teams that do that. We were suspiscous that the Coach Captain was on one tour we went on was because he seemed to be watching what everybody bought pretty closely. He was also selling stubbies he had in the luggage section of the coach. We often travelled with the same tour company. In day in general discussions various people were asking if drivers they had travelled with previously were still with the company. Somebody else asked about that particular driver and we were told that he was no longer with them as he breached company policy.

  2. 0

    Group Travel gets rid of the majority of the headaches. But because they are always on such a tight timetable you don’t get the opportunity to just “just take it all in” at your own pace. It’s nice to have the flexibility to stay longer in one spot or attraction if that is what you want to do and of course move on quickly from those spots that don’t interest you.

    The biggest drawback of group travel is that you don’t get to choose who you travel with.

  3. 0

    I’ve done both and enjoyed it every time. I did a group coach tour of Europe, which was great. Admittedly it was only 6 days and longer might have been tedious. I did 5 weeks in Scotland on my own and it was wonderful as was San Francisco solo. Solo isn’t for everyone but as I am renowned for talking to anything or anyone that stands still long enough it suits me fine!!!

  4. 0

    I rather not travel at all if I have to take a ‘tour’ like a sheep….I speak a few languages or I
    learn some before I take off …lonely planet is usefull & today with all those rolling bags
    there is not much schlepping’…talofa

  5. 0

    I think it depends which country – somewhere like Russia a tour group is good. When travelling to most places though, if I am on my own I like to stay with airbn with a host. Great, user friendly site and I have had wonderful experiences all over the world and made some fabulous friends in the process. It’s great to have someone to share a glass of wine with after a long day of sightseeing.

    • 0

      Not keen on group travel mainly because I feel like hard of a herd of sheep. Prefer to fly to destination and pick up tours there.

  6. 0

    My friend and I did an independent holiday to Europe last year and, having had a guided tour to China the previous year, decided never again. We toured 8 years ago to Europe and the USA but being 8 years older (almost 70) the difference was amazing. My advice is – mature aged travellers should do group tours, so relaxing and easy without the headaches of going it alone.

  7. 0

    Have travelled in groups and also alone. Pro’s and Con’s with both actually. But group travel is usually cheaper in the long run, and pot luck the people are ok



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