Lone wolf or wolf pack?

Planning your next overseas holiday, but undecided whether you should tackle the destination by yourselves or join a guided tour? There are pros and cons for both options.

Independent travel
There is nothing better, especially to help build the excitement for an upcoming trip, than researching and planning your holiday by yourself. If you are really organised you may attend travel expos, try out the cuisine at local restaurants, see movies and read books on your chosen destination. I even went so far as to attend a South American Opera when planning a recent trip to Argentina and Brazil. Although not really my cup of tea, it was helpful in knowing what activity I would be crossing off my ‘To Do’ list!

With travel being so much more accessible and affordable these days, you are bound to know someone who has visited your chosen destination. They will be only too happy to share their experiences and give you advice on what to see and do.

When you travel independently you don’t have to feel rushed if you find yourself captivated by a particular site or attraction. You can take as long or as short a time at a destination as you please. I recently found myself completely enthralled by the scenery in and around Potsdam in Germany, but had to cut my visit short to rejoin my tour group heading to our next destination. All I really wanted to do was hire a bicycle, pack some food into my backpack and spend the day exploring the area.

The downside is, of course, having to organise everything yourself. From transport to and from the airport to your accommodation, navigating the public transport system (not so easy in countries where you don’t speak the language), as well as finding your way to all the places you want to visit.

More importantly it can get lonely, especially if you are travelling for long periods by yourself. And if you are quite shy or reticent about talking to strangers, unless you are prepared to make a real effort to come out of your shell, you might find independent travel a little daunting.

Group Travel
Sometimes it is just a relief to have all those headaches taken care of for you. With a guided tour you are generally collected from the airport on arrival, although you may have to wait an hour or so as the shuttles are usually picking up at least a dozen or so of your other travel companions. But you can always while away the time chatting to the tour guide about your upcoming trip and getting some inside information about the destination. You will be taken straight to your hotel, so there’s no stress about dealing with local taxi drivers and worrying whether they are taking you the longest way possible to your hotel and ripping you off. Your bags will be loaded on and off the bus, and for those of you who have gone it alone, this is an absolute godsend. If you have experienced the nightmare that can be public transport, with lifts not working at train stations or airports and having to lug a 20+ kilogram suitcase up and down seemingly mountainous flights of stairs, this will be heaven for you.

Your tour guide will show you the best of the sights at your destination, and if you are lucky enough to have a really knowledgeable guide you will receive lots of interesting facts and anecdotes. You will also have the comfort of knowing that someone is there to take care of you should anything go a little pear shaped. On a recent visit to Spain I woke up on day two of my tour to find that my right ear was completely blocked and I couldn’t hear a thing out of it. As I didn’t speak Spanish I found the prospect of going to a pharmacy to get some medication completely daunting, but my gorgeous tour guide took me aside in Toledo, organised some ear drops and had me back with my group within 15 minutes – I’m sure that would have taken me two hours and endless stress to organise myself!

The flip side can be that you sometimes feel a bit rushed and that you are not spending enough time at some of the sights. Guided tours are geared towards providing a generalised experience for a large group of people, usually around 45. So, unfortunately there may be parts of the tour that you will not appreciate. But you are always given free time to explore the area by yourself.

Personally, I like a mixture of both forms of travel and, when I can, I try to have a few days either side of a guided tour so I can see everything I want to. Having said that, there never seems to be enough time at any destination to see everything.

Do you have a preference? Is the thrill of going it alone your chosen form of travel or do you prefer the road less stressful?

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2 thoughts on “Lone wolf or wolf pack?

  1. Vicki Fallaver says:

    I’m looking to go and travel for a month next year to Europe. Places def on my list are Greece, Scotland, Italy and Ireland. Because I’m going on my own I want to do a tour group like I did in South Africa. Can you recommend any for over 40?

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    1. travelalphabet says:

      Hi Vicki, I went with Trafalgar when I was in Europe a couple of years ago – one in central europe and one of Spain, Portugal and Morocco. They were both fantastic, met some wonderful people that I still catch up with. Of course, as with any group tour you may find that you don’t have enough time in each place but my advice would be to do your homework and see what sights, etc are included in their itinerary and if there is something you really want to see then do it in the free time they allocate you, or else give the optional extras (which you have to pay extra for anyway) as a miss and head out on your own.
      Another tour company I can highly recommend is On the go tours – I did Turkey with them and it was really fantastic – again met some great people that I still see, mostly they were that over 40 demographic – a few younger/older and the tour guide was amazing from memory a university lecturer in history so really knew his stuff.
      Hope this helps. I’m sure you’ll have an amazing trip whoever you choose to go with. I find travelling on my own everyone seems to take you under their wing and I always end up making lifelong friends. I actually travelled to Cuba and Mexico last year with a lady I met on a group tour in Croatia – can’t remember who the tour company was in Croatia, but we did an 11 day tour with Intrepid in Cuba, who I wouldn’t discount entirely but Trafalgar and Onthego would be my top picks!!
      Good luck and safe travels xxx

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