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Is Group Travel Right For You?

  • November 13, 2019
  • By 50 Shades
  • 4 Comments
Is Group Travel Right For You?

So you’ve decided to plan that much awaited and longed for overseas trip and you’re wondering where to start. Unfortunately it’s not as easy as jumping on a plane and taking off. There are many things you need to organise, prepare and plan prior to the big day. Is group travel right for you or would you prefer to travel independently? This is one of the first questions you need to ask yourself.

Group travel or tours can take all the preparation and planning out of your trip and can be a great way to see a destination, particularly when there are loads of places and tourist attractions you want to visit. However, having experienced both group travel and independent travel I’m here to summarise some of the pros and cons of both travel methods.

What is Group Travel

Generally group travel is when 10 or more people are all travelling together and are visiting the same places with the same itinerary. Most group travel tours are via a coach or bus, but can also involve boats, trains, planes, bikes or on foot. The most common transport method appears to be aboard large coaches that can seat up to around 50 passengers.

Is Group Travel Right For You?

One of the group travel tour bus companies

Group tours can be tailored to your taste, including:

  • Cultural tours – art or history
  • Special interest tours – railways to sporting events, music festivals or particular arts and crafts. Cooking or drawing.
  • Adventure tours – walking, cycling or mountaineering.
  • Longer stay tours – generally shorter in length and visit just one, two or three places, but cover them in depth.
  • Age grouped tours – 18 to 29, 30 – 40 or the over 50s.
  • Small group tours – group size or no more than 22-25.

Advantages of Group Travel

I think the biggest advantage of group travel is that it takes away the responsibility of planning your trip. Usually transport, accommodation, some meals, excursions, admission fees and even tipping is taken care of.

Is Group Travel Right For You?

Group travel tours take you to all the tourist hotspots

But other advantages include:

  • Good value for money. A budget to suit all travellers.
  • There are endless choices for destinations, length of travel and itineraries.
  • All of the details are taken care of and if any problems occur the tour company take responsibility.
  • You get an experienced and knowledgable tour guide.
  • You can leave flights, accommodation and even some meals up to to the experts.
  • You’ll get to see the main tourist attractions of the destination and in some case without queueing.
  • You always have someone to travel with, dine with and share experiences with.
  • You will meet some of the nicest people in your group and make life long friends.
  • You feel more secure travelling with a group with an experienced tour guide.
  • You can spend as much (or as little) time with your group members as you choose.

Disadvantages of Group Travel

My first hand experience of group travel is that it is a little “one size fits all” with little flexibility and many long hours spent on the bus travelling from one destination to another. I actually found it very exhausting and there were places where I would have loved to stay longer than just one night.

Is Group Travel Right For You?

All the tour buses come in at once to popular tourist attractions

Amongst other gripes are:

  • You are almost always waiting for fellow travellers that are stuck in a shop or running late.
  • Itineraries are not always suited to your taste. Visiting endless temples, churches and museums can get tedious.
  • The accommodation is not always of a high standard. Particularly the more budget orientated group tours who save money by booking accommodation that is not centrally located or doesn’t offer good facilities.
  • You’re stuck with your group of travellers and there is sometimes no escape.
  • Travel itineraries can be exhausting, with long days and not arriving at hotels until late evening.
  • Little free time to explore a destination on your own.
  • A lot of restaurant and meal choices are already made for you and are not always to your taste.

Is Group Travel Right For You?

After travelling to Sri Lanka on an organised tour a few months ago my husband and I both agree that group travel isn’t right for us. Although we had a wonderful time on our tour and met some lovely people on our bus, we found the pace of the trip too fast. We spent long days on the bus travelling on congested roads trying to cram in too much. We were arriving at our hotels very late into the evening absolutely exhausted.

Is Group Travel Right For You?

Another temple and huge crowds to negotiate

Although our tour guide did allow some flexibility with our itinerary, we were locked into visiting some particular tourist attractions that we didn’t find particularly interesting. So my tip is to thoroughly check the itinerary prior to booking the tour.

Other questions to ask are:

  1. How many hours are spent on the bus?
  2. How long is spent in each place?
  3. Is the accommodation central?
  4. How big is the group?
  5. Is there any flexibility with the itinerary?
  6. What is the typical age of the group?
  7. To what extent can the tour program be tailored to my taste?
  8. Is the tour leader experienced and speaks good English?
  9. Is there a choice of activities and excursions? Can you opt out if desired?
  10. Does the style of tour best suit your personality?

Advantages of Independent Travel

One of my biggest interests is planning and booking holidays. I absolutely love the challenge of selecting a destination, researching and reading about the place, asking friends who’ve been there for travel advice, booking flights, accommodation, transport and planning an itinerary. To me this is the best part of travel! It’s the sweet anticipation and the counting of sleeps until the day arrives that you’re setting off on the holiday.

Is Group Travel Right For You?

Enjoying some solitude on top of a mountain in Queenstown

Some of the advantages of independent travel are:

  • More flexibility and freedom.
  • You can change your itinerary as many times as you like.
  • Relish in slow travel and spend as much time as you like in one place.
  • Immerse yourself into the culture of the place and get off the beaten track.
  • Make your own decisions for where to stay and where to eat.
  • It can be very budget friendly to travel independently.
  • You can put aside days for recovery.
  • You have complete control over who you travel with.
  • Only visit tourists attractions and points of interest that you like.

Disadvantages of Independent Travel

The obvious downside is that the onus is on you to organise the trip, however you can always use a Travel Agent to assist you with planning and booking. Plus if something does go wrong during your trip, then it’s your own responsibility to resolve the problem.

Is Group Travel Right For You?

Relaxing on a beach in Nusa Dua after a stressful trip

Other disadvantages include:

  • It’s a big responsibility and things can go wrong.
  • It can be more costly if things go wrong.
  • It can be lonely and/or you can tire of the person you’re travelling with.
  • You have to organise every aspect of your holiday which can be draining.
  • Unless you do your research accommodation options can be dodgy.
  • Organising your own transport can be problematic.
  • You’re your own tour guide so there can be language difficulties and little local knowledge of the places you’re visiting.
  • Unless you do your research thoroughly you may miss out on some of the best tourist attractions or points of interest.

Like anything, there are pros and cons when it comes to different methods of travel. I think it depends on your confidence, experience and organisational skills, when it comes to planning for the perfect holiday. If you’re not confident then I would recommend you select the group travel option. You will still have the time of your life!

 

 

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By 50 Shades, November 13, 2019 Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
  • 4

50 Shades

Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.

4 Comments
  • Dean Williamson
    November 20, 2019

    We were always sure that we would never travel on a group tour. I was a travel agent and have plenty of inside knowledge on how they run and, as you mentioned, the schedules can be too tight and the enjoyment can be lost.
    We eventually took a tour to South America with Peregrine Tours because of last minute changes to other plans not leaving me enough time to put an itinerary together.
    I have to say they were amazing with plenty of free time, small groups (we had 8) and lots of variation in transportation. We would never consider the full coach tour companies for the same reason as you but, as we discovered, there are some companies that are closer to doing it yourself, and some places it’s good to be part of a group.

    • Kathy
      November 21, 2019

      Like they say “never say never”! We were of the same opinion but did actually enjoy our group tour as well. We just prefer to travel independently so that we have more flexibility. Your tour looked amazing and I would be very tempted to see South America this way.

  • Jenny P
    November 30, 2019

    Hi Cathy,
    I agree with all your comments. We’ve never been group travellers but this year we organised our own group of 8 friends and travelled to theOrkney Islands for a walking holiday. Everything was managed for us by our guide who also drove the mini bus. Although the itinerary was planned he was always happy to change things around if we wanted to spend more time in some places or skip a monument. It was a thoroughly relaxing holiday. The best of both worlds, but it was pricey.

    Looking forward to your caravan update. We’ve just bought a little van so might see you on the road.

    • Kathy
      November 30, 2019

      Hi Jenny, it’s been ages but I’m so happy that you’re still following my blog! Your trip to the Orkney Islands sounds fabulous. I think in some situations where a country is remote and hard to get around then having an organised itinerary is a good idea. Great news that you’ve bought a van. We’ve been doing heaps of trips in ours. We’re currently in Nambucca Heads on the Coffs Coast having a small break before Christmas.

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