Guided Tour Vs. Independent Travel: What Works Best For Groups?


Go with a guided tour or explore a new place on your own? That’s a common dilemma for solo and group travelers alike. It often depends on how adventurous you are, and how much you value freedom and discovery.

Among the main differences between the two options, some are specific to those traveling in large numbers. We weigh the pros and cons of guided tours and independent travel to help you decide which option is best for your next trip.

Guided tour of international student
Photo Credit: tau.ac.il

Guided Tour

Pros

  • Guided tours usually come pre-planned so there is no dispute over what the group does. The itinerary covers a specific destination as thoroughly as possible. Guided tour providers pride themselves in being trustworthy and knowledgeable.
  • No one in the group has to play the leader or feel stuck with planning everything. With guided tours, everyone in the group can relax, because they’ve paid someone to be in charge of them and what they do.
  • Guides know their destinations inside out. They know all the local legends, interesting stories, and other secrets you wouldn’t find in the best travel guides. The best guides will know you all the no-nos, shortcuts, and best spots. You will be feel like a local in no time.
  • Guided tours have experience with groups and know how to handle them. They will help you land group deals, book on time, and find restaurants to welcome your large number.
  • Guide tours often bring together different parties. When it happens, guided tours are safe places to meet new people and other travelers. However, if you want to keep the focus on your group, say at a business retreat, it can take the focus away from bringing your people together. If that’s the case though, you can always find a tour that only guides your group.

Cons

  • The usual criticism with guided tours is that they are too touristy. A million people on a bus headed out to take a photo and move on, giving the group little chance to feel the culture and essence of a place.
  • While some guided tours are able to avoid the first con on this list, they still don’t allow for independent decisions on a trip. You do not have total freedom with a tour, which is good and bad. On one hand, you don’t have to worry about anything. On the other, you don’t have much say in what you do or how you travel a place.
  • Guided tours are usually more expensive than independent travel, because you have to pay someone to plan the trip for you. Sometimes they include deals independent travellers wouldn’t know about, but usually it’s just an added fee on top of a trip.
  • Guided tours can take away from the experience of being with your group. They often become more focused on the tour than enjoying a place with the people you’re with.
  • They usually don’t allow for budget differences among the group. If you book a guided tour, everyone must pay the same rate, besides a possible hotel upgrades. Everyone might not be on the same budget in your group. When traveling independently, those on a smaller budget might have to miss a few excursions or meals, but at least they get to be there with the group.

 Guided tour or going at your pace with your group?

Independent Trips

Pros

  • The most perk of independent travel, whether in a group or solo, is that you are in charge of your trip. You get to choose where to go, how long to spend there and how fast to move from activity to activity.
  • Further, independent travel will give your group more options on where to stay and eat. Guided tours are usually aligned with a few hotels and restaurants. When traveling independent, you’re not tied down to anywhere.
  • Almost always, people need time apart from the group. While traveling, you’ll spend more time than you ever have before with the people in your group. Sometimes people will get on your nerves; other times, you’ll just want some time to yourself. When traveling independently, you can take that time whenever you want. Plus, the whole group might not want to do the same thing. Independent travel allows group to break apart and pursue their own interests. Half go one place and half go to another.
  • Planning, deliberating, and experiencing the ups and downs of travels can bring the people in your group closer together, more so than just having the trip handed them. Think about the team building skills in a business sense.
  • Another pro of independent travel in general and what might be its best quality: spontaneity. With independent travel, anything can happen. It gives you freedom to wander and choose what you do as you travel.

Cons

  • Pointless, endless arguments. Not everyone will want to do the same things and when planning a trip together this can be a point that the group ends up arguing over.
  • With guided tours, everything is planned out and arranged for the group. That’s not the case with independent travel, so it can mean added work to planning a trip.
  • The reality is that, often, all the work goes on one or two people that are either used to taking charge, had the trip idea in the first place or are just excited about the trip. Either way, those one or two people might not mind, but they might get annoyed that no one else is helping out.
  • It can be difficult to get large groups into restaurants or shows. Guided tours know all the tricks to making sure everyone gets in. When planning a group trip on your own, you might find that a theater performance doesn’t have enough tickets for the whole group or the restaurants you pick are too busy to fit everyone in.
  • It’s so hard to get an entire group together at a specific time. It’s even harder to navigate public transportation systems or busy streets. Guided tours know what to do to keep groups together and know how to look after large numbers. Chances are that groups traveling on their own will struggle with this.
Times Square New York City

So, where do you stand? Learn the ins and outs of a place with expert guides or just explore at your own pace and meet locals? For more articles like this, be sure to follow the Travefy blog on Twitter, Facebook, and Google +.

About the Author

Bobbi Lee loves to travel and experience the world as much as he loves to share his travel stories and inspire others to do the same.

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Guided Tours: Are They Even Worth The Time And Money?
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What is better when traveling with a group? Do you want to go on an expert guided tour or explore new places at your pace. Pros and cons of both options.
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