How to choose guided group tours: The pros and Cons

If you love to travel, you know that you will not be doing it alone all the time. No matter how much you love travelling solo, for sure going on a group tour will be on your list. For some, guided grout tours are the easiest way to get out and ignite their wanderlust, for others is a way to relax from their solo travel adventures.

While group travel may be in opposition to solo travel, in reality, they complement each other. Nowadays tours have evolved to such varied standards that it is nearly impossible not to find the right trip that matches your expectations. And for many solo travellers tours are becoming an integral part of their travel style. So indeed there are my good reasons to take a guided tour.

Why you should go on guided tours

Of course, there are pros and cons of group travel vs solo travel that you need to weigh before deciding the way you want to travel.

Here are five significant benefits of taking guided tours.

  • A tour creates a ready-made group of fellow travellers who are willing to share their knowledge and insights. No need for you to look for a companion.
  • Going on a tour is safer than going alone. In a group, everyone takes care of each other, and this gives you a feeling of protection.
  • It helps you improve your social skills and become a better team player.
  • A guided tour is the fastest way to learn about a place and the local community.
  • An organised trip uncovers many things about places that you will not do quickly find out on your own.
  • It’s an opportunity to socialize and make new friends.

So, if you are starting to dive into the solo travel world and are unsure of what you can and want to see and do, here is a list of everyday situations and tour ideas that you can consider for your travels.

The disadvantages of guided group travel

When it comes to the cons of travelling in a group, with a tour guide, you must consider that:

  1. Group travel means less freedom and independence. You will not be alone, and a team spirit is something you must preserve in good and bad times.
  2. You cannot choose your travel companions and may have to mingle also with tour mates that you don’t get along too.
  3. A fixed schedule kills spontaneous activities. As much as a tour allows flexibility, in a group, you will not be able to wake up at the time you want, and there will always be a plan to stick.
  4. The cost of hiring a tour guide is higher than independent travel. It is something you must take into account when budgeting for your trip. But at times going on a guided tour may be cheaper in terms of value for your money.

Check out my Small Group Tours

Ideas for choosing guided trips and tours

Here are some of the best options for choosing to travel in a group. My tips are to choose tours by considering multiple aspects and the positive things that organised tours add.

  • Go hiking and get active in the outdoors
    While you can bike, walk, go swimming, snorkelling, hiking a trail, by yourself, you must become aware of your surroundings too and do your research first. A guided tour of the thick forest can add immense value by learning from a local guide about the environment. It gives you the feeling of instant belonging, is fun and safe to get “introduced to a place” through an expert tour guide. And finally, some outdoor activities are more fun in a group.
  • Explore challenging regions with a group
    In many countries and the Australian continent, you will want to tour the Outback. Even experienced four-wheel-drivers are not advised to travel rough and remote areas on their own. For Outback regions it is a good idea to go on a tour group. I went on tours to explore these regions: the Flinders Ranges, Cooktown,  the Kimberley and more.
  • Get adventurous
    Australia and New Zealand are the top adventurous countries in the world. If you like to try out something new and want to push yourself to the limits, then you will find some of the best adventure tours of the world. From water sports like snorkelling or scuba-diving to sky-diving, to kayaking,  jungle-surfing, to extreme adventures. The way to go is joining a local tour.
  • Learn about the locals’ culture through a tour guide
    Probably no. 1 reason for many solo travellers is to join a regional tour to get a taste of the place. From guided walking tours to food tasting tours, to heritage tours. Options are endless to learn about the local tourist attractions in a relaxed way.

How to search for the right type of group travel

I love day-tours as well as speciality tours, for instance, hiking trips, outdoor and food tours. I haven’t been on many multi-day tours. 3-4 days or maximum a week, this is a reasonable length of time for a small group and guided tour. While long trips of 2-3 weeks can be quite tiring, they can be the right fit if you choose extreme adventures, like a four-wheel-drive adventure or a cruise to a remote region that you wouldn’t be able to tour by yourself.

While it is not easy to choose the right type of activities among the vast offer of guided trips and small group tours, there are ways to search for excellent quality tours.

Here are a few tools I can recommend using when looking for a tour:

1. Search online for tour booking agents before travelling.
Almost all tour operators have a booking site. I recommend TourRadar and GetYourGuide. Both are good if you are looking for multi-day tours (TourRadar) or day-tours (GYG). They compare trips from a variety of the best tour companies and cover all types of travel styles: from backpacking to luxury travel. They also list discounted trips and tour reviews from travellers.

2. Word-of-Mouth
It is always an excellent way to find out about good tours. On FB Groups and Forums you can read tour reviews from travellers. However, I would also research and learn through their website, to make sure you book the right tour for you.

3. Visitors Information Centres
They always have a full list of all local tour companies, often listed by various categories, to make it easy to find what you are looking. On the tourist information websites, you will also see a list of small local tours and package tour operators alike.

4. Travel with a trusted expert traveller
I have started my small group tours. Mostly for women travelling alone, and from February you can join me in Australia on two walking tours. From May you can join my Italy Tours.

You can also join my Small Group Tours

Things to consider before booking a guided tour

As said before, nowadays the tours are much better than they used to be in the past. The quality of tours is, high and the fierce competition makes tour companies increase their standards all the time. However, there are a few things that you always must check before booking to make sure the tour is worth it.

Here below is a checklist that I use and find it useful before booking tours:

  1. Size of Group Tour
    It is is the first thing I check cause I don’t go like large groups. 8-15 people is the right number for me. The smaller, the group the better, it’s relaxed, and comfortably get to know tour mates.
  2. Tour Pace and Activities
    What am I going to see and do and how is the tour pace? Is it an active pace or a slow pace. Furthermore, if there is a “me-time”. I once ended up in a 4 hours food tour with over 15 stops: not really what I expected.
  3. Inclusive and Extras
    It is also a crucial aspect that you must evaluate. Many tours do not include park entry fees and only offer basic meals, like breakfast, which means that additional costs are at your expense. So to avoid surprises, make a list of all critical aspects before booking the tour.
  4. Tour Travel style and overall quality
    What can you expect from the tour? A backpacking style tour or a luxury tour or anything in between. What type of food will you eat? For travellers with dietary needs, like gluten-free, diabetics, vegan, etc., knowing what they get to eat is very important.
  5. The cost of the Tour
    One thing for sure that turns on or off people are the tour price. Most of the times a higher rate is often a sign of more items included, like meals, extras, etc. But it is not visible, and sometimes you don’t get what you pay. Find out what you get for the money you spend.
  6. Tour Breakdown and individual activities
    While you should get one before booking, if not provided on the tour brochures or website, you can ask for a detailed tour plan. The more detailed the tour is, the more reliable the tour company. The more transparent the company is about how they will conduct the trip, the better. Do they use eco-friendly vans, and care for the environment? Do they use local tour guides and involve local operators etc. All this matters too.
  7. Travel Insurance Cover.
    Almost all tours prices will not include travel insurance. While some offer a separate coverage, you should get a good travel insurance plan to cover you for the entire time of your travels. On this page, you can read more about how to choose the right the travel insurance plan for the adventurous traveller.

How to travel with me in small guided groups for solo travellers

My tours are special tours because we only use local tour guides and explore the lesser-known sites. They focus on outdoor activities.

There is a dedicated blog post about why and how you can travel with me.

If you active you may want to check out tips on the best walking holiday tours.

On this other page, you can learn more about my guided tours for small groups of Italy as well as my small groups to Australia.

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Why going on Guided Tours - Benefits of Group Travel

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How to choose guided group tours: The pros and Cons