I think it’s safe to say that the majority of individuals would prefer to stray away from being in a tour group. It’s just, at times, it’s more convenient and realistic to sign-up and be on our jolly way. Tour groups have a lot of pro’s and con’s and perks and burdens. Hopefully, this post will help you narrow down your choices and help you decide which groups are good for you.
Let’s get the negative out of the way. Tour groups are often associated with inconsiderate, culturally unaware assholes. Rick Steve even wrote a post about it. We move in large numbers, and leave a trail of destruction behind us. That being said, many shop owners/restaurants change their style of service (from good to bad) when a tour group arrives. They may jack up prices, they may be slower with your food, or they just may be straight up rude. I remember when I was in Sint Maarten, we were often asked if we were part of the cruise ship in port that day, and ten times out of ten, they were relieved to hear that we weren’t.
With all those reasons set aside, tour groups often carry many benefits! For example, when a trip is pre-determined, the tour guides are typically able to get reduced fees on activities that usually cost a fortune! When I travelled with Contiki, they were able to get us a $20 ticket up Jungfrau Mountain in Switzerland, when the original price was $80. Good relations and consistency allow them to get cheaper fares.
Tour groups like Contiki, who are aimed towards young adults, often provide pub crawls for a low fee as well. Their fees cover entrance, transportation, and possibly one drink (beer or shot). When we were in Prague, they took us to five different bars, and entrance as well as a drink in each bar was included in the $20 fee.
Choosing Which Tour to Sign-Up For
Choosing a tour is a tedious process. You’ve got to find the one with the right itinerary, the right length of time, and obviously, the right price. Each group offers something different. You can find tours of an African Safari, tours around Europe, S.E. Asia, Australia, you name it.
When looking at the cost of the a tour, you must check what’s included. It’d be a real pain in the ass if you purchased this $5000 tour, and then soon after realize that air fare wasn’t included. Some companies add it to the tour costs, others do not. As previously mentioned, it’s also crucial to check the activities that are included in the tour costs. I highly doubt you want to sit in your room the entire trip; you want to experience the culture and get out and do things. But, that being said, you don’t want to spend another $2000 that you don’t have doing so.
My Favorite Groups
I did a lot of research when I was planning my backpacking trip across Europe. I came across a lot of tour groups, and these were my favorite, in no particular order of preference.
1) Contiki: A London based company who specializes in travel for young adults, aged 18-35. They offer tours around Latin America, USA & Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand
2) AESU World Travel: Another company aimed for travel of young adults, AESU offers many packages all around the world. Prices vary greatly, all depending on your destination and time spent.
3) EF College Break: This company specializes in trips during college student holiday breaks (i.e. Spring Break, Winter Break, and Summer). They are also unique because they allow travelers to have a payment plan, to help pay off their tour in sections.
Tour groups are really nice when you’re a little nervous, or you want to relax and not worry about any administrative stuff. But picking the right provider is crucial. It’ll determine whether your tour is memorable or not.