How to Choose the Right Guided Tour for Your Next Vacation!

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Touring has stepped up from its early reputation, that saw hordes of people bursting out of the bus to follow the paddle waving, megaphone carrying tour guide. Multi-day guided touring has evolved to offer a vast range of tour styles and group touring options to meet the needs of every type of traveller, from the fiercely independent, the budget traveller, the adventure traveller and the luxury traveller. A guided tour is an ideal way to travel solo (but not be alone) and the perfect solution for the time poor, who want to get away but don’t have time for the logistics!

Here are some questions that will help you choose the right tour company and itinerary for you.

Who do you want to travel with?

Every tour is tailored to a certain demographic. It may cater to the 18-30s traveller or the young at heart, the middle aged boomer, older travellers, or intergenerational families. Research the tour operators you are looking at – they will offer an overview of their typical traveller.

Have a look at the varied tour demographics in interests too. Some tour companies tailor trips for a certain travel style or persona, regardless of age. Tours geared towards ‘adventurers’ are for adventurers and age is immaterial. Read the trip details to make sure you choose the demographic that works for you!

Is sustainable, conscious travel important to you?

Today’s tour operators focus on conscientious travel and sustainable tourism practices.  Many actively support the environments and communities they visit through development and rejuvenation projects.  Working on eliminating activities that negatively impact wildlife, local people and the environment is a common theme across the touring industry.

Some tour companies are further ahead in this, so if ethos is important to you, take the time to find the tour operator that matches yours. You can research the projects they support and what percentage of your tour costs are contributed to this.

Are you always on the go or do you go with the flow? h

Do you need every moment filled with excursions and activities when you are on vacation?  Are you happy to have the travel and accommodation taken care of and decide how to spend the days yourself?  There is a tour that ticks all the boxes and each guided tour company offers a different balance.

Some tour operators offer more day trips and sightseeing inclusions, so your days are filled with scheduled activities. Others have less pre-arranged inclusions, so you have more free time. You have the option to choose an all inclusive tour or to add optional extras onto a tour itinerary, or just do your own thing in each destination. Knowing your personal travel style will help you make decisions as you sift through the day by day itineraries of each tour. It is your vacation after all!

Do you like large or small groups?

One of the unique benefits of group travel is the memorable experiences you will share with your fellow travellers. But how many people does that mean? You can choose between small group tours where you will travel with as few as 10 or as many as 24 or take a larger tour size to share the fun with up to 50 fellow travellers on your journey. If you are a small group person note that each tour company has a different idea of how many travellers a “small group” makes. To be sure, check the maximum number of travellers for the operator and specifically for the tour you might choose.

How active are you?

You will find an itinerary that takes you to all the places on your list without any problem. Each tour has a level of activity to it and it is important to know you are choosing a tour that fits in with your own fitness level! Are you fit enough for the tour you want to take? Or is the tour offering enough activity for you?  Your chosen tour might have you hiking or mountain biking to get to the top of that scenic mountain, and you may not be seeking to expend that level of energy on your vacation! Alternatively, if you are an outdoor adventurer, find an adventure tour that meets your need for an active, adrenaline fuelled, personally challenging journey. Check the trip notes carefully.  

What do you need included on the tour?

Do you pack a suitcase or backpack? Do you need a porter or are you happy to carry your own luggage? Do you want all your meals included (so you don’t have to budget to eat while you are away) or would you prefer to find your own cafes and food stalls as you go? Do you want all your day tours pre-arranged and pre-paid, or do you like to take each day as it comes and book and pay for excursions once you are on the road? These are the questions to ask yourself when you are choosing your trip. Be sure to check the individual trip inclusions so you know the items that are covered and those that are not!

Do you know your accommodation style?

Guided tours offer a range of accommodation styles and knowing yours will help you choose the right tour.  Do you like to swing open the door of your hotel room and breathe with satisfaction when you find every creature comfort inside or has it always been just somewhere to rest your head after a day of sightseeing?

You might be happiest in a five-star room with a view, or maybe it is a tent under the stars that will be the highlight. From multi-share hostels to family homestays, there are choices aplenty (and some very special accommodation experiences) on a guided tour. Read the tour company overview to find their accommodation style and options.

What do past travellers say?

There is no easier way to put yourself in the picture than to read the reviews from travellers who have experienced your chosen trip before you.  It is the best way to gain insight into what the tour looks and feels like on the ground.

It is important to bear in mind that travel experiences are different through everyone’s eyes. Sometimes days are harder than others and the weather alone can impact how we view a destination! Balance the information you find in the reviews with everything you are considering when choosing your guided tour.

What is your preferred travel pace?  

Do you like to tick off as many bucket list destinations and attractions as you can in a quick trip? Or, do you like to get to know a region really well, with plans to visit another part of a country on your next trip?  Do you like to be up and out there early each day, or do you prefer to have some relaxed starts and more than one day in an iconic city, so you can explore it more fully?

Tick off your trip in a fast paced highlights tour, explore a city, state or region that interests you more deeply or slowly, or have a blend of guided activities and relaxed days.    

Tour companies offer different tour paces, and you now know how to choose the right tour company and itinerary that is just right for you.