So, the wanderlust bug has bit you and you’re itching to get yourself overseas, but do you go solo or join a group trip?
I have just returned from my first frip to Europe. I was on a tight time budget so I joined a tour in Budapest, Hungary, that took me through Austria, The Czech Republic, northern Germany and the Netherlands, before I jumped off in London, UUK. While the tour was only two weeks and we only saw the major cities in each of the countries ws viskted, I had a great time and saw a lot, but I confess I wasn’t totally comfortable on this trip and this mode of travel isn’t for everyone.
So, should you join a group trip? Here are the pros and cons.
Just to give you a little context I should probably share my past experience with group trips. For my first holiday overseas I went to New Zealand (I know, totally adventurous for an Aussie) and I joined a Contiki tour that took me around both the North and South Islands. Contiki ks a tour company catering to under 35s. I’m glad I joined a tour for New Zealand since there are so many adrenaline activities to do, and there’s nothing like a bit of peer pressure to get you jumpimg out of a plane. For my next big holiday I took a Top Deck tour to Egypt, mostly for safety reasons. Again, I had a great time.
Over the course of these three tours, these are the key pros and cons I’ve identified.
This is quite the bonus. All you have to do is arrive at the tour start location and off you go. Top Deck and Contiki use their own coaches while other companies such as Intrepid and G Adventures use a combination of bus, trail and plane.
Your transport tends to be clean, safe and reliable and your tour guide gives you all the information you need regarding specific boarder crossings.
Normally you only get to spend 1 to 1.5 days in any given location before you have to pack your bags and hit the road again. While this allows you to pack a lot in, it removes the option to stay longer in places that catch your interest.
Most of these types of tours have included activities and optional extras. The optional extras cost extra but are organised by your trip leader. Optional extras can range from walking tours to zorbing. This is great if you don’t want to think while you are on holiday.
While this can certainly be adventageous, you can be hit with more expensive resturants and shops in the surrounding area as local businesses take advantage of the tourist dollar.
Since you tend to stay in the touristy areas, you have easy accesd to all of the key sites, many of which have become bucket list items for many people. It’s also amazing the things you’ll do while with a group of motivated people. I never thought I’d go sky diving, but with the right crew it became achievable.
Usually, tour companies offer 1 large tour that covers many countries, then break it up into a series of smaller tours that consist of about 1 to 2 weeks each. If you choose to join a shorter tour, be aware that you will likely be joiming a larger tour of people who have been travelling for a number of weeks. It can be difficult to break in to the friendship groups that have already formed between these people.
But not to worry! Whether you do a larger tour or a sector tour, you will make heaps of friends, many of whom you will remain in contact with lomg after the trip has ended. I am still in regular contact with friends I made on my New Zealand and Egypt trips.
As an introvert, I think this is the worst. Group trip sizes can range from 8 to 40+ depending on the trip type, length, location, clientele aand company. On my New Zealand trip there were 48 of us while in Egypt there was about 20. You can usually find out the group sizes for what ever tours you’re looking at online or in brochures.
When I had my hot air balloon accident in Egypt, the tour company I wemt with were such a great support. They helped me get in contact with the embassy and even covered medical coats while I was in the country. It felt good knowing I didn’t have to navigate this situation by myself.
A couple of other things to keep in mind…
While you consider these pros and cons, also consider who the clientele is of your chosen tour company. For example, tour companies that cater to under 35s can include pub crawls and other opportunities for partying, while others cater to the active adventurer and can include activities like over night hikes and bike rides.
While I enjoyed my Contiki tour though New Zealand, partly because of the pub crawl element, I was far more interested in sight seeing and exploring historical sites in Europe than drinking. Because of this I didn’t participate in as many drinking activities and thus didn’t bond as closely with this group.
Overall, I had a great time on my Euro trip and it was nice to have a few new friends to explore the various cities with, but this will certainly be my last tour with an under 35s tour company. I’m just not suited to the party culture attached to these groups.
I hope this list of pros and cons from my experiences helps you in planning your next (or first) overseas trip. Are there any pros or cons that I missed? Let me know in the comments.