Are you a new traveler or a traveler looking to make friends? Have you ever considered joining a group tour? Group tours can be fun, exciting, and a wonderful experience if done correctly. And there are a ton of different ones to choose from!
I recently went on my first group tour and I absolutely loved it. My guide was awesome, the people on the tour were nice, and I found it to be a really relaxing travel experience. However, I quickly learned that there are few tricks to being a good group traveler. So, Here I thought I would share with you, my simple group tour survival guide.
Follow these tips and you will be well on your way to having the best group tour experience!
Choose the Right Tour
First, all tours are not created equal. Some tours are aimed at seniors and some are aimed at young partiers, while others still are aimed at adrenaline junkies. Choosing the right tour for you is my number one tip.
When looking at tour options ask yourself these questions:
Do I look like the people in the marketing material?
Chances are if you look like the travelers in the tour brochure the tour is a good fit for you. All tours are designed with a specific client in mind and that client is usually featured in the companies marketing efforts.
What is included in the price? And can I afford the tour extras?
Very few tour prices include everything. So, make sure you understand all the included costs before signing up for a tour. What may have been a cheap option initially may not be when you include flights, extra meals, and optional activities.
Am I comfortable traveling with people of all ages? Or do I want to travel with people my own age?
This is a very individual/personal choice. Many tours allow all ages to join but, if you want to travel exclusively with people your age it is best to choose a tour with age restrictions.
How many people will be on the tour? Does it seem like an okay size to you?
Tours group sizes can range from one or two people to over 30 people. Find out what the average group size is for your tour and decide if you are comfortable with it.
Tip: I prefer smaller group tours (max. 12 or so people). A smaller group will provide more flexibility, more unique accommodations (sometimes), and will (likely) get you off the beaten path a bit.
Finally, make sure you research your chosen tour and tour company thoroughly. A great place to start this research is the tour company’s website. Read their “about us” page and all the information they have on your tour. Also, see if they have a travel forum where you can connect with their past travelers.
Next, head over to Tour Radar. This site has reviews on thousands of tours and tour companies and is a great place to compare your options.
Be on Time
While you are on tour make sure you are not the late person. Be on time! If you are late to group meetings, transportation departures, or meals, you are affecting everyone else on the tour. Also in some situations, you may be left behind by your group.
Basically, be an adult, set your alarm, and don’t be late.
If you are not a flexible person a group tour is probably not for you.
When you are traveling with other people, all of whom have their own needs and wants, you are going to have to compromise. While you should always put your enjoyment first, be ready to compromise on small things like where you sit while in transit or what time you eat lunch.
Always remember, your tour guide cannot please everyone. So, don’t sweat the little things. Be flexible and enjoy the journey; you might just discover something new and cool.
All guided trips provide extra add-ons that let you customize your tour. These add-ons can be anything from a cooking class to snorkeling and can really make your trip special. However, they do come at a cost so, it is important to budget for them. Many tour companies list their tour add-ons on their websites. Be sure to check them out before you depart so you don’t miss out on an epic opportunity because you didn’t bring enough cash.
When choosing a tour make sure you are comfortable with the standard of accommodation offered. Generally speaking, the more expensive the tour the nicer the accommodations will be.
To see if the accommodations on your tour will suit your needs check out your tours detailed daily itinerary. Here, you will likely find the names of the hotels you will be staying at each night. You can then Google or TripAdvisor each hotel and see what amenities they offer.
Tip: It pays to bear in mind that accommodation standards are not equal around the world. A four-star hotel in Canada is not going to be the same as a four-star hotel in Central America. Be prepared to lower your standards a bit depending on your destination. Always remember, hot running water is a luxury, not a guarantee.
All guided tours will give you free time. Some tours will be heavy on the free time and others will be stingy on the free time. So, ask yourself, how much free time do you want or need? Generally, the more free time the tour affords you the less “hand holding” you will get from your guide.
I personally love lots of free time on my guided tours, however, this is not for everybody. If you are a nervous traveler who wants to stick with the group you might want to choose a tour with less free time.
Respect Your Tour Leader
Very simply, when your tour leader is speaking make sure you are quiet and listening to the instructions. Nothing wastes more time than your tour leader having to repeat themselves constantly. It is also super frustrating for other travelers (who were listening) in the group to have to hear the same instructions over and over again.
Pay attention and take notes if needed.
Use Some Common Sense
When you are on your tour make sure that you use a bit of common sense. While you do have a guide to answer the majority of your questions certain things you should just assume.
For example, if you are traveling in a hot sunny country make sure that your sunscreen, bug spray, and sunglasses are always in your day bag. Do not put these essential items into your inaccessible or hard to reach suitcase.
Your tour guide should not have to tell you what to carry with you on a daily basis. And, if by chance you forget to pack something in your day bag, don’t blame your guide! You are, at the end of the day, responsible for your own comfort. Blaming your guide will only frustrate the other travelers in your group.
If you are really unsure about anything, discuss it with your guide in private (or at the group meeting) the first evening of your trip.