To Tour or Not to Tour
© Becky Linhardt 2012
The Tower of London, beaches of the Caribbean, museums in Paris, food and wine in Italy, Carnivale in Rio, going back to the homeland of your ancestors, eco-tourism in New Zealand, trekking on the Silk Road– almost everyone has a dream destination.
Before you book your dream vacation you need to decided whether you are comfortable traveling on your own or would a tour be the best way for you to travel? Below are some basic yes/no questions for you to consider if traveling solo or discuss with your traveling companion(s).
Do you have unlimited resources for travel expenses? Yes __ No __
Most people set a travel budget. When accommodations, most meals, most tips, transportation, and admissions are included in the tour price the travel experience is almost like buying into an all-inclusive package. You have a known budget item already and can relax instead of worrying about every expense or the exchange rate and currency transaction fees – except for personal expenses.
Do you enjoy planning and booking reservations? Do you have a spouse or traveling companion who will NOT second guess your choices? Yes __ No __
Yes, it is now easier to book reservations with internet connections but without previous experience with the hotel do you really know what you are getting and how you will be treated? Also, time and distances in foreign countries are difficult to calculate. Reputable tour operators have inspected the properties, signed legal contracts, and can handle any disputes with hotel and restaurant management or at tourist sites. In the rare instances that you have a problem, complaints go to the tour guide to be resolved, not you.
Are you conversant in the language(s) of the area(s) you want to visit? Yes __ No __
Communication is one of the MOST important components of traveling on your own. You will need to be able to purchase tickets, order food, handle problems, etc. Tour guides handle the details for you, they also know the best times to arrive at destinations, and have ways to get you to the front of the line.
Have you traveled on your own before? Driven in traffic in a foreign country? Yes __ No __
In some countries I would never get behind the wheel of an automobile because of the erratic traffic patterns and crazy drivers. There is a lot to said, positively, about having a bus driver who is familiar with the roads, the one-way and narrow streets, and has the patience of a saint.
Are you adventurous, flexible to changes in plans? Yes __ No __
Some people enjoy the challenge of the unknown but when you miss a meal because places close for siesta or you don’t like the looks of any of the food establishments; the museum that you really wanted to see is closed for an obscure holiday or strike; or your choices for available accommodations are sleazy/low end or outrageously expensive – well, most people become very grumpy.
If you answered No to most of the questions listed above you should consider booking a tour.
The next set of questions then revolve around what type of tour experience you want? Set your priorities. Here are a few sample questions to ask yourself and your travel partner.
My Travel Experiences – USA
Travel by automobile across the continental United States on my own.
Press trips in the United States, mostly in the Midwest Region.
Travel by air to various large US cities for business and to visit friends.
My Travel Experiences – Europe
Travel in Britain, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland by automobile on my own.
Travel to theNetherlands and Switzerland on my own to visit friends and relatives.
Travel in Germany with friends – one knew the area very well, booked the hotel, and arranged for and drove the rental car.
Travel to Italy – with Perillo Tours, twice. My second cousin encouraged me to travel to Italy and because I have limited language skills he suggested that if I planned to travel solo I book a tour with Perillo. His recommendation statement was that Perillo Tours were well respected in Italy, had local connections that helped smooth the way, and that I would like the experience of traveling with the many Italian-Americans from the East Coast and their stories of family. I was not very interested in Rome, Florence, or Venice but once I saw that one of the tours included Sorrento and Capri, I booked for an off-season tour and found that I loved Florence and was intrigued byVenice. Sorrento and Capri were truly wonderful and I loved the Italian-Americans – one family traveled with three generations. Recently, a girlfriend and I visited Sicily with Perillo Tours and the images in this post are from that tour in April 2012. Santo our guide was a saint and Angelo our bus driver was truly an angel – both knowledgeable and patient with traffic snafus. We walked on the cinders at Mt. Etna. We had spectacular views of the Mediterranean from our hotel in Taormina, a charming tourist town that has catered to the British for more than a hundred years so most of the shop and restaurant personnel spoke some English. We also visited Greek and Roman ruins in Palermo and Taormina. We ate very well – traditional and more contemporary Italian foods – with the tour group and on our own. We felt comfortable enough in Taormina to go our separate ways after lunch on a free afternoon – Linda climbing 974 steps to the hilltop overlooking the town while I explored the pedestrian-friendly town center with my camera.
Deciding on the right tour is very personal. Do your research!
Ask your friends and relatives about their experiences and recommendations. Stop by your local library for information, books and DVDs about the area you want to explore and take notes about the sites/foods/traditions that you want to be sure to see/experience. I found that some food books were very detailed about local sites as well as local cuisine. Check the country’s web site for tourism. Investigate! Visit a local travel agency that is well respected such as AAA Travel to pick-up pamphlets and ask about their experiences with tour groups. Make calls to tour operators with specific questions and requests for brochures. With good advance research you can make your choice and then relax and enjoy.
Wishing you safe and pleasant travels – ALWAYS!
www.travel.aaa.com for local AAA Travel Agency phone numbers
www.perillotours.com or 800-431-1515