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Escorted vs Individual Tours Tips

An escorted tour generally implies a group of people traveling together with an escort or guide on a pre-arranged itinerary. In the “old days” these tours were often the “If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium” variety. (If you’re too young to know the movie, you can rent it for a laugh.) But like all things, escorted tours have evolved considerably in recent years. Today’s escorted tours are rarely the “stop, stand and stare” model and only some still offer the totally regimented rushed program of visiting 14 countries in as many days.

So what’s the difference between the $1,299 tour and the $3,299 tour, if they’re both 10 days to the same destination?
One needs to look at various factors in evaluating tours: quality of accommodations, size of group, meals included, sightseeing included. and other factors. There’s no reason to overpay for “more” than what you would enjoy or feel comfortable with. Not every traveler is comfortable in a five-star resort, and likewise, not everyone would be comfortable in a three-star budget hotel on the outskirts of a city. Our travel experts can help you differentiate among tours, and discuss with you which may be best suited to your needs.

Quality and location of accommodations: Deluxe escorted tours will stay in five-star hotels and resorts, or in some cases four-star or best available hotels (depending on what the destination offers). Your comfort and a good night’s sleep is important, and on a budget tour, your less likely to have the more comfortable bed, quality bedding, and insulated room that help to ensure a good night’s sleep and your personal comforts. Not everyone requires marble bathrooms, quality amenities, plasma televisions, and cutting edge beds and bedding, of course. Of course, the level of service anbd services available in a deluxe property is, for the most part, far more refined than at a budget hotel.

Generally, more expensive tours will utilize more centrally located hotels, which cost more than comparable hotels aways from the city center. For those that enjoy their free time, particularly on a tour that offers a far amount of free time, being well located in a city can make a lot of difference in making it easier to get to things you’d like to do on your own, saving you time and money and hence, offering greater value.

Size of Group:
Deluxe tours generall operate smaller-sized groups than less costly options. A deluxe tour often will have anywhere from 18 – 25 people, while a more budget tour will generally try to fill a large motorcoach with 40 – 50 people. Don’t take it as gospel, but find out what the average group size for the type of tour you’re considering might be. Many companies will operate tours with as few as two persons (and we’ve had clients lucky enough to get their own private tours on some occasions.)

Meals Included:
Compare what meals are included. Some tours include most as group meals, and some, by design, include very few. Some tours realize their passengers want to eat out on their own, and not as a part of a group. And some tours offer a dine-around program where the meals are pre-paid as part of your tour, but you are able to go to whatever restaurant you like for your main meals.

Sightseeing Included:
Compare what sightseeing is included, and how much free time you’ll have to explore on your own. Some tours, by design, include very little sightseeing to maximize your opportunity to sightsee as you wish. Other tours “pack it in”, catering to those that want to be sure they see all or as many of the highlights as possible, regardless.

Other Factors:
A guide will make or break a tour. While there are very many good guides, for the most part, the chances of getting a great guide on a deluxe tour are better than on a budget tour. Deluxe tour companies have a greater investment in ensuring the consistency in the quality of the experience they deliver, and will generally pay their best guides more.

Some advantages of an escorted tour
Generally, an escorted tour will cost considerably less than doing a similar tour on one’s own. That’s because there are cost savings in traveling with a group of people, and the cost of guides, transportation, etc. are pro-rated among the group. Many people also like to socialize with fellow travelers, and meeting others with whom one can share a trip is often rewarding. Finally, by taking an escorted tour, you eliminate a lot of planning and aggravation as to what hotels to stay at, how much they will cost, what meals to eat where and what they will cost, and what sightseeing to organize and what it will all cost.

Some disadvantages of an escorted tour
Those that shy away from tours generally wnat total flexibility to spend their time as they wish, and protect their privacy a bit more. They want to stop and smell the roses where and when they like, and not be restricted to doing so base on the tour itinerary. Likewise, some may not enjoy traveling with strangers whom they may not get along with or whose company they may not enjoy. On most tours some if not most meals are included, and groups generally eat in hotels or restaurants that cater to groups, often with pre-set menu choices. Independent travelers may prefer to dine on their own where they wish (though as mentioned, this is certainly possible with some tour companies).

Low-down on escorted tours
There are several stereotypes about escorted tours. However, there are so many different types of tours today that there is no prevailing stereotype that really holds true across the board. From walking tours, to cycling tours, to cooking tours, motorcoach tours, women’s tours and so on. The degree of flexibility on each program varies widely, and there are tours for just about every interest. Likewise, the images of being cooped up in an uncomfortable motorcoach has also changed: many coaches offer floor to ceiling windows and ergonomically-designed reclining seats and are a very comfortable way to travel. Another stereotype is only older travelers take escorted tours. While there is truth to this, there are many tours geared to and designed expressly for those under 30, both college-age and young professionals.

Please feel free to contact one of our travel experts to help you arrange your next vacation, be it an escorted tour or a program customized just for you.

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