So Will and I are not really “group tour” people, not that there’s anything wrong with them and sometimes they are necessary to get to hard to reach places but on our last trip we finally broke down and did one together. And we hated it.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with the tour itself, it was beautiful organized and perfectly planned, but we hated being “those people” following the lady with an umbrella as we got “touristy-authentic” experiences. It really killed us having to all go to the same restaurant to all eat the “typical” food of the area. And it was embarrassing when our comrades for the day went into people’s front lawns to take pictures with their obnoxious selfie-sticks.
That being said, once we embraced the embarrassment of it, it because a fabulously entertaining sociology assignment: extreme people watching.
Here’s what I would do differently next time I book a tour (if ever…):
- Do a half-day tour, instead of a grueling 11-hours
- Pay more for a smaller group (i.e. van of 10 instead of a full double-decker bus)
- Choose a more open-ended tour that provides some structure but not one that requires us to spent every moment together
What are your opinions on day tours while traveling?
While I agree that huge group tours are not that great, my husband and I are world travelers too, and we have found that Gate One and Viking River Cruise groups are normally much better than the average double-decker bus tours. As a sponsored group, we have never had to wait in long lines to get into some sites. Sure, we are on the tour company’s timeline, but if we want to go back to some location on our own in the future and spend more time, we can and will feel like we have a sense of the place and know where we want to go. We went to China with VRC and loved it. We felt safe and had the priviledge of a Chinese guide, who spoke fluent English. And a bus driver unafraid of the horrible traffic we encountered while off the boat and on a bus. I think you have to choose wisely and group tours are not for everyone, but if you can afford to go with a good company, you will be taken care of and have no worries. We did a German Christmas Markets trip with VRC last Winter Break and are doing a Rhine River Cruise with VRC when school is out.
I’m open to trying again but man that was certainly not the option for us. I’ll totally look into some of the options you provided. Thanks for the suggestions!