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Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

To Go It Alone, Or Not: Group Tours And Independent Travel Compared}

To Go It Alone, Or Not: Group Tours And Independent Travel Compared


Nick Nikolis

Making the decision to travel independently or with a tour operator can be a difficult one, especially when going to an unfamiliar place. For novice traveler and seasoned veteran, both options have something to offer. The importance of understanding your expectations and the costs associated with those expectations are vital to having the vacation you’ve always dreamt of.

Three critical decisions you must make are 1) what are the particular things you would like to see and experience, 2) how much flexibility would you like in your schedule, and 3) how much of your time would you like to share with others. Questions to ask yourself might be: are you a person who has to have a set schedule to feel comfortable, or are you someone who values making a decision at a moment’s notice? Would you like to experience as many things as possible on any given day, or do you like to savour just a few activities? Do you enjoy interacting with others and sharing your experiences, or do you relish exploring on your own or seeking out social opportunities with those who live in the community you’re visiting?

Under most circumstances a tour operator will have a set itinerary that all members of the group will adhere to. Venues are picked out ahead of time and advance planning is made for everything from flight tickets, to taxis, to parking, to entrance fees and guide services, to daily schedules. Meals and menus will be set with local restaurants; all you need to do is arrive with your group, and dinner is served.

For some, tours are the ultimate in luxury: having someone else do all the decision making and planning. All you do is show up and enjoy the social atmosphere that a group tour is! The work of exchanging money, finding local information, and communicating with locals is all done for you. Additionally, everyone in the group is committed to the same schedule and food choices; there is no negotiating necessary amongst the members of the tour. Ultimately, convenience and community is what you pay for on a guided tour, and the legwork necessary to plan for such a trip is factored into the overall cost. For instance, tour operators charter planes for groups at a significant discount to commercial travel, however, they are providing a service to organize your travel for you and therefore charge accordingly. This applies to all facets of your tour.

A variety of choices and the thrill of the unexpected are part of the spontaneity and adventure that many solo travelers seek. For some, it may also be a way to save on expense – that is, for the savvy traveler who has done his/her homework. Although an individual may not get group rates on flight tickets, activities, and lodging, the well-informed sojourner can tailor the day’s costs to meet a predetermined budget. Rather than paying a lump sum ahead of time, the journey’s expenses are determined on a moment-by-moment basis by the traveler – the only exception being the pre-trip purchase of airfare, which if done carefully, can result in significant savings. It is this very freedom to manage all costs and to follow the path of personal interest that draws many to setting out alone. Not to mention the every day surprises that can result from the day’s agenda being your own: you may share your hours and conversation with whomever you wish or with no one at all if that is your preference. Every day is yours.

Finally, the best advice is: “know thyself!” and the goals of your travel. If traveling in a group provides you the communal and planned environment that you makes your experience pleasurable then your money is well spent. Alternatively, if you would rather have the final say in all decisions and create experiences along the way that are meaningful to you then, again, money well spent. By setting your sights on what would make your vacation a memorable experience and understanding the costs that correspond, you can make an informed decision that results in your once-in-a-lifetime vacation being realized.

Nick Nikolis is working in Atlantica Hotels and Resorts as It manager and operates Olive Garden Houses in

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To Go It Alone, Or Not: Group Tours And Independent Travel Compared