It’s easy to skip over guided tours when you’re planning your vacation, thinking you’re keeping flexibility and spontaneity intact by going it alone. But that could be a mistake. Save for large-group bus tours where you’re herded around on someone else’s timetable, many of today’s guided tours are small, intimate groups of travelers guided by a local expert, and include a mix of guided days and free exploration. Still not convinced? Here are eight reasons to book a guided tour for your next vacation:
1. Save time planning. Doing the necessary prep work and research to visit a new city is time consuming, not to mention the tedious organization of details. When you book a guided tour with pros such as Trafalgar, someone else takes care of all that planning, from lodging and transportation to meals, attractions, airport transfers and gratuities, so you don’t have to do anything but enjoy your trip. You’re taken care of you from start to finish. Many, like Trafalgar, offer VIP entry (read: skip the long lines) to iconic sites and luxury transportation around town.
2. Reduce on-the-ground stress when problems arise. Unfortunately, things happen when you travel—you lose your passport or forget your camera, flights and trains get delayed, you get lost. But on a tour, your guide will help you figure it all out and take care of everything for you. No guidebook can ever teach you how to get out of an issue. This help can be a real time-saver, as you’re not standing outside a bus station trying to figure out how to get somewhere. “Trafalgar trips are simply effortless, stress-free vacations with concierge-style service,” adds Paul Wiseman, president of Trafalgar, which offers 250 handcrafted itineraries.
3. Gain insider knowledge. There’s nothing worse than traveling a long way to a foreign land and then not understand what you’re seeing. Education is perhaps one of the most important reasons to book a guided tour—an expert can put the sites into context. Though many companies fly out American guides, we recommend booking with companies that use local guides. Local guides are incredibly knowledgeable about their city, from the major sites to one-time local events that you’d never know about if you were on your own. Plus, during your free exploration days, guides can provide local insight and recommend the best places to go. Wiseman agrees: “Our guides know the local language, the times to avoid traffic and crowds, and can help you really discover the history of a place.”
4. Add comfort and safety in unfamiliar places. There are likely a few destinations that you’d love to visit, but you wouldn’t feel safe traveling solo. “We’re finding people who have already explored Europe or the Americas and are eager to visit destinations like Asia, but [they’re] concerned about language barriers and going it alone,” says Wiseman, who recommends their Hidden Journeys trips for lesser-known destinations.
5. Be more adventurous. Not only do guided tours allow you to visit places you may have been reticent to visit independently, but once you arrive there’s a reverse mob mentality that gives you a courageous boost, whether it’s zip-lining or bungee jumping for the first time or simply hiking to the top of a mountain. Group tours give you an extra sense of energy and desire to explore giving you the ability to do things you wouldn’t have done on your own.
6. Socialize with the locals and other travelers. “When traveling on a guided vacation, it’s not just about the must-see sites, but also about real and genuine experiences,” says Wiseman. “Every trip features authentic Insider Experiences, like sharing stories over a home-cooked meal in the home of a local family.” Similarly, you’ll be traveling with international groups on most tours. You can get an intimate experience with small groups of travelers, benefit from the expertise of local Chief Experience Officers (CEOs) and get inside access to great destinations.
7. Support local economies. Just as important as experiencing a local culture is giving back to them. For every $100 spent in a developing country, only $5 actually stays there. By staying at locally-owned, boutique-style hotels (rather than big chains), employing local guides and booking with local transportation companies, more money stays within the local economy. And the #TrafalgarCares initiative works with local business to help preserve their traditions and enable travelers to interact with and support locals.
8. Save money. “Traveling with Trafalgar is about 30% less expensive than it is to travel on your own,” reports Wiseman. Similarly, when tried and tested local accommodations and recommend neighborhood restaurants are booked, the savings are passed on to you through affordable prices and positive experiences.
How to find the right trip for you
Not sure how to decide what kind of guided vacation would best suit your style? Read "8 Questions to Help You Pick Your Perfect Guided Tour" to get started!