When it comes to tours, one size definitely does not fit all. There are as many different types of tours as there are types of travel; each offers a unique fit. Backpacking, luxury, and walking tours are just a few of the choices available. Regardless of your style, here are five tour questions to keep in mind as you choose a tour.
1. What’s the balance of structured activities and free time?
Taking a tour offers structure that helps you maximize your vacation time. Instead of spending time examining maps, asking for directions, and answering the question “So…what are we going to do today?” you can invest all your time enjoying an itinerary that’s planned in advanced and highlights what’s most important.
But if you like to spend pockets of time exploring on your own, a planned schedule that cuts across all hours of the day could seem constraining. Look for a tour that offers structure as well as flexibility—to spend more time at a favorite spot you’ve discovered, to wander on your own, or just to enjoy down time at the pool, beach, or a street side cafe.
2. What’s the pacing?
Related to the blend of structure and free time is pacing. As you look at the itinerary, consider how busy you’ll be each day. If you’re a person who is likes back-to-back activities, you might want a fast-paced itinerary that packs every day full. If you like breathing room to savor what you’re exploring on a particular day, look for an itinerary with a slower pace. Or, choose one that offers a variety of on-the-move days and others where fewer activities are planned.
3. How long is the tour—really?
When describing tour length, most companies count the day of your arrival as the first day of the tour and the day you leave as the last day of the tour. Seems logical, right? But occasionally you’ll find Day 1 of an itinerary listed as the day you leave for your vacation. So if you leave Chicago on Wednesday for a Thursday arrival in Florence, a company might count Wednesday as the first day of the itinerary, making the tour appear longer than it really is. Bottom line: Find out if your tour starts with your date of departure or the date of your arrival at your destination, and find out if your tour ends with the day of departure or the day you arrive back home.
4. Why is the price what it is?
Look beyond the price tag to what it represents. A ten-day tour to Guatemala might be $1800 on one website and $1400 on another. But if you dig a little deeper you might find that the first tour includes six dinners as opposed to three dinners and features higher rated hotels. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.
Whether activities are included or not can also impact the price. One tour price may include the cost of an activity. For example, Niteo’s Taste of Thailand tour has a food tour built in to the overall itinerary. Other tours might present another price but charge extra for a similar activity. Bottom line: Know what’s included and what’s not.
5. What’s the tour company’s niche and approach?
Many tour companies have a special emphasis that’s woven throughout their tours, whether that’s hands-on experiences, adventure, or a priority on what’s eco-friendly, etc. Browse the company’s website, especially noting their tagline and About or Why Us page, to help you discover what that company is most passionate about. Determining that niche will help you discover what the company values and invests its time and effort into doing well.
Similarly, companies may have a certain approach to offering a tour. Do they emphasize small, intimate groups or bus tours with large groups of people? Do they focus on demonstration or participation in cultural experiences? Looking for the answers to questions like these will help you get a better sense of what to expect.
There’s no right or wrong tour, only a wide variety of possibilities. What’s important is finding a fit that’s good for you. Keeping these five tour questions in mind will help you find a tour that suits your style. Knowing what to expect and what a tour offers helps you take the steps to choosing a tour that you’ll enjoy.