There was one thing I was sure of in 2014: that I wanted to backpack through Europe. This was not something that I wanted to do alone, yet I had no friends that could afford to go on the trip (nor could I decide who I wanted to travel with for weeks on end).
Originally group tours were not something I had thought of. I had money saved, but had no budget in mind. I messaged with a few people that I found on a travel site, but nothing seemed to take off. Then I was told about a group tour company that was specific for my age category. A week later I had a trip booked on a Contiki tour. Here are some Group Tours: Pros and Cons.
1. PRO: You will meet a ton of people
You will get the opportunity to meet people from across the world with group tours, bond with them over French wine and cheese, and make friendships that are different from any that you could make back home.
2. CON: They are expensive
Tours are often seen as a money pit and often have extra costs (some hidden). But having someone do all your travel planning comes at a cost.
3. PRO: You always have a place to stay (without thinking about it)
Never once will you have to scramble to find a hostel the night you need it, or book hotel rooms far in advance, Googling how close they are to all the major tourist sites. It leaves you stress-free and only thinking about what beautiful scenery you want to see or delicious new food to try.
4. CON: There are always extra costs
You’ve booked your tour. Would you like travel insurance? More $$. Want to book a flight through the same company? More $$. Now you’re at your travel destination. Fun activities with the group? More $$. Or want to go see a site? You’ll more often than not find out that the entry fees aren’t included in the price. Always budget extra for things that you don’t plan for.
5. PRO: You always have a guide to ask questions
Anytime you want to know where something is, what to do in a city, where the hidden spots are, where to get WI-FI, fun facts about the city, just ask your tour guide. Tour guides will know pretty much everything that you wish to know and will save you from attempting to communicate with locals serving you coffee while you try to decide where to go next.
6. CON: You have (somewhat of) a set schedule
Sleeping in doesn’t always exist on a group tour. You’ll always have a set time to be somewhere so make sure you bring a watch (and that it’s set to the right time zone).
7. PRO: It requires virtually no planning on your part
Seriously no worries! Once the trip is booked there are very few decisions that you need to make.
8. CON: There is a lot of bus time
Bring a book, music, earplugs and a sleeping mask because you will have lots of time to kill travelling from city to city.
9. PRO: You are never alone
Never! People from your tour are always going to be around you. That means there will always be someone who wants to do what you want to do, who wants to chat, or grab a glass of wine. Be friendly and making friends will be effortless.
10. PRO: They take care of your dietary needs
Though this is not necessary for most people, for those who have any dietary needs know that this is huge. Any meals that you have with the tour will be handed to you and you won’t have to attempt to communicate in an awkward English/hand language to a server that you don’t eat meat/gluten/dairy/etc.
My recommendation? Do what suits your needs. In my case I was willing to fork out the extra cash in order to not travel alone and to have all of my travel arrangements taken care of.
I spent more than I planned to on extras and went over budget, but if you asked me if regretted it? Not one bit. It was an experience of a lifetime and I made friends who live close and far and whom I’m now making new travel adventures with.