Madrid Hotels Articles

June 7, 2010

Are guided or solo tours better when traveling?

Pity the poor hordes of group travelers trying to appear inconspicuous as they trudge en masse, badges firmly affixed, guide leading, as they are marched or bused from site to site with nary a chance of blending into the local scene. And are they free to do as they choose or as their preplanned itinerary demands? We all know the answer. If the tenth cathedral looks much like the first, and the latest monument to an unknown war hero bores, consider the merits of solo travel. I speak for experience!

Several years ago my husband and I took a one day group tour from Hong Kong to Mainland China. It was a travesty and a total waste of a day. It was also a pity since there was much to see and all we saw was a money gouging array of tourist traps. We were escorted to a purported museum which was in fact a huge gift shop. Every single item in the “museum” was for sale. We were stranded there for two hours. We spent over two hours at a touristy lunch with the only Chinese seen being the waitstaff. And so the day went with the utter frustration of knowing we could have done infinitely better by ourselves.

We had a similar experience in Croatia where we were taken on a boat trip which turned out to be a beer drinking frenzy of tour guides acting out as if they were in a drunken stupor and us being held captive at a picnic site for most of a precious day. I don’t need to travel to Croatia to picnic with drunks.

Contrast that to our lifetime of independent where we have had magical experiences, dined with locals and been able to discover the real lifestyles of our host countries. We have been to many places abroad and in North America where we live. There is just no question that a well planned solo trip is lots more fun than an escorted tour. But, yes, it’s not for the lazy or timid. You must be willing to research your destination including hotels, restaurants and the kinds of places you will enjoy visiting. For us it means lots and lots of walking. But how else would you find the toilet paper sculpture in Madrid and the tango dancers in the streets of Buenos Aires? We walk until the feet can no longer do their job and then we relax in a crowded (always look for crowded!) eating spot or cafe and people watch. People watching is the most fascinating part of travel and so unobtainable on a group tour.

We also enjoy shopping so that we can have permanent momentos of our journeys. We have a houseful of treasures from flea market finds (flea markets are just fabulous ways to mix into the local scene) to objets de arte. These items are reminders of our travels and we cherish them all. An escorted shopping trip is so totally without merit. Everyone knows that the tour guides will take you to the places where they get commission, places patronized only by other tourists. Is this really how you want to shop?

Then there’s the timing. Filling up a tour bus can take some time, especially if there’s someone who’s constantly lagging. And do you really want to get up when you’re told and rest on the schedule demanded by the tour? Why not do your own thing? Early riser? Fine. Later? Fine as well.

Compatability is also an issue on a tour. Perhaps you just won’t be in sync with your fellow tourists. That can be a joykiller!

Go as you please but know that a sophisticated traveler does not go on a group tour!

Related posts:

  1. Wine Tours In Spain: Where There’s Vino, There Are Wine Tours ... only have room for the best. Below are some of the best Spanish wineries that are frequently included in Madrid hotels' wine tours.

    Valdepenas
    Valdepenas is one...
  2. What to Expect on an Escorted European Tour ... rates for almost anyplace you may eat, sleep or visit.

    Another feature to expect on a European tour is the number of transportation options. The ample supply of...

  3. Tips to take the stress out of traveling ... expected as well. Simply come prepared so you don't have to worry if you don't have anything to wear.

    3. Light traveling is always important. It can be...

  4. Terrorism and its effects on traveling ... what they do, how they behave, what they do with their luggage. In fact pay particular attention to the luggage. Remember Madrid train station? Most bombs don't get...
  5. Best traveling day outfits ... you're going to want to do so in comfort. Nonetheless, comfort means different things to different people. My most comfortable traveling outfit is a stretchy skirt and tights....

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress