THE PROS AND CONS OF ORGANIZED TRAVEL TOURS

The other day I began contemplating whether or not to join an organized tour to Jeju Island over an upcoming holiday weekend here in South Korea. That’s when I had a brilliant beyond brilliant idea {name that movie}. Why not create a blog post laying out the pros and cons of organized travel tours? Making my decision an easier one, and helping those in the same boat as me. Two birds, one blog post… or something.

The Pros:

The ease of travel

I think this is the most significant aspect of organized travel tours. There is no denying that organized travel tours are, well, organized. It takes the planning, booking, and overall stressing out of organizing a trip on your own. It also provides ease while traveling.

An example of this is a wine tour of Tuscany I joined. I knew I wanted to taste Italian wine over the course of my visit and what better place to do it than Tuscany? The only problem I faced was transportation. With a lack of public transportation throughout the wine region, and overpriced taxi’s being out of the picture, my only option was to hire a car. Fine. Or it would have been fine, if my entire day did not revolve around drinking alcohol {even if it is  the classiest of it’s kind}. So I opted for an organized tour, and I was pleasantly surprised. The only planning I had to do from sun up to sun down was plan to sit back, relax, and sip on my wine. You can read all about my experience, here.

The guide

With most organized travel tours, a knowledgeable {and hopefully humorous} guide is included. This can be crucial when exploring a new place. During an organized tour in Scotland our guide provided us invaluable information about the highlands that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. He was a Scottish lad himself, and even took us to one of his local pubs which proved to be one of the highlights of the trip. Does it really get better than singing ‘Bonnie Bonnie Banks ‘o Loch Lomand’ with locals in the middle of the Scottish highlands? No, is the answer. It doesn’t. You can read all about that adventure here and here.

The friendships

I have made, and strengthened, many relationships over the course of traveling through an organized tour. Nearly all of them resulting in seeing at least one or two members of the group at a later point in my life, and in locations all over the world for that matter! Even if you find yourself more introverted in group settings, it’s nearly impossible to avoid forming friendships on organized tours, even if they just remain surface level. For this reason, organized travel tours are great for solo travelers hoping to meet new folks.

The Cons:

The cost

This is normally the deterring factor for me when it comes to booking organized travel tours. I feel as though most of them are highly over-priced for what you are getting. That being said, sometimes it’s worth the money for the advantages you receive. I have a few examples of joining over-priced tours. The first being my most recent ‘tour’ to the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival here in South Korea. The ‘tour’ consisted of transportation to the festival and that’s it. It would have cost me less than half the price to travel to Jinhae via public transportation. I had expected a guide to take us on a tour of sorts upon arrival, and then the rest of the afternoon was free time. But nope, we were dropped off and picked up and that was all she wrote folks.

My next example is more to do with hidden fees/costs. I toured around Croatia with a group of about 20 other people {read: Australians}. The tour itself was extremely affordable. That being said, the ‘optional meals and activities’ weren’t really optional. I mean, technically they were. But being in a group mentality {which I will touch on later} somewhat forces you to stick together when it comes to meals, activities, etc. So I found myself coughing up more money than I had anticipated. There were also set tip amounts, etc. that were not included in the overall price that needed to be factored in. Regardless, I still actually found the trip to be worth the money due to the exchange rate being in my favor. This is just something to consider when joining an organized tour. You can read about my Croatia sail, here.

The lack of freedom and flexibility

Ugh, this is another really frustrating aspect to consider when booking organized travel tours. When you pay a guide to take you around a specific location within a country, you are usually provided an itinerary. Normally, this is a tried and true, binding itinerary. Meaning, you cannot divert from it along the way. For example, if you are really enjoying your time in one specific location, you do not have the luxury to extend your stay for a few extra days. Not keen to see the Tower of Pisa? Too bad, three hours of your day are now dedicated to it when that precious time could be spent elsewhere. It’s a compromise you must make when making the decision to say ‘yes’ to organized travel. And finally…

The group mentality

Being somewhat of a lone wolf, this is the hardest factor for me when it comes to organized travel tours. I won’t beat around the bush: I do not enjoy group activities. Like, at all. I normally prefer to travel alone, or with someone that understands my travel style. Call me anti-social, but this girl marches to the beat of her own drum. Being in a group brings with it a group mentality: doing everything together, even when you’re not forced to. KILL. ME. NOW. I’m sure you’re probably thinking, ‘but what about all the previously mentioned friendships you formed on tours?’ I’m not saying this is a make or break it moment for me when it comes to organized tours. I’ve had enjoyable moments with others in a group, but most of them were forced upon me initially. I warm up to groups, but if I had a choice, solo travel is my travel style of choice. The real bonding normally came after the tour ended.

And so, after tallying up the pros and cons of organized travel tours, I am leaning more towards saying ‘yes’, and joining, mostly for the ease of travel aspect in this case.

I will keep you updated!

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