There are three ways that you can choose to travel. The first is booking on a package tour, where all you have to do is get to the starting point. The second is to create your own itinerary, what to do, where to go and everything in between. Finally, the third is a combination of the two.
All three options do have their pros and cons and there is no right choice between them. There is only the right option for what feels right for you. But the choice you make can make or break your holiday depending on what your preferences and expectations are.
My Choices around Tours
My first ever foray into travelling overseas definitely had me thinking deeply about this exact problem. Since I had never travelled overseas a tour would be good to make things easier. However, at the same time, I had a very specific set of destinations in mind, which we’re never likely to appear in combination for a tour.
The destinations, of course, were Hong Kong, Las Vegas and Vancouver. Even if I was to forgo the visit to Hong Kong, finding a tour with Las Vegas and Vancouver included was still a stretch. Ultimately, I opted for my own itinerary and had a great trip, visiting all the spots I wanted to see.
Later when booking another trip the decision came up again. I was planning to visit Europe and did have a serious look at the option of a packaged tour. I even got as far as placing a deposit for a tour. However, even though there were plenty of good options, in the end I decided against a tour.
Finally, in a way, I have opted for what you could almost call a tour on a number of occasions. Joining a cruise ship is somewhat like a tour in that you have a predefined list of ports you will visit. But they are also a more pleasant experience since you are not restricted to sitting on a bus to get between destinations.
Booking A Package Tour
A package tour is something that can be a great option for those who like to leave the planning to someone else. These can be a great option if you have just a vague area you want to visit or you are flexible in what you see.
The idea is that once you get to the starting point, nearly everything for the duration of the tour is organised for you. There maybe be some free time in different stops or a meal that you need to work out yourself along the way. But the majority of things like meals, accommodation, transport and many attractions are included.
The biggest benefit of a package tour is just that the whole tour is a package. Almost everything is planned for you, from the route the bus takes, the places you will stay, the stops you visit and where you will eat breakfast and dinner.
Another great benefit is the all-inclusive price. You will generally see a list of all the inclusions and exclusions knowing what you likely need to pay for along the way. A lot of this will depend on the company you book with and the level of service they provide. But the benefit is that you can get these sort of inclusion/exclusion lists to know in advance.
If you are a solo traveller, a package tour might cost a little more than the brochure price, but there are still benefits. The biggest benefit is that you are not arriving in an airport in a foreign country and having to figure everything out. You are travelling on a bus with other people and will likely be able to find someone to explore each stop with.
The biggest downside to package tours is that you are somewhat restricted. In many cases, package tours involve transport by bus and cover a fixed route. Obviously, this is a means to an end, but for me, I just love the ability to stop and explore at random spots that interest me. Also to be honest I have often found a full day tour more than enough time on a bus. So for me, multiple days in a row travelling by bus does not sound fun.
Another downside is that you are locked into the stops the tour makes. If you are not particularly interested in one of the cities or towns, you are stuck waiting to move on. You are also restricted by this in that you might pass so close to somewhere you would love to visit and just do not get to stop.
It is this last point that truly made my decision on tours. While everywhere looked quite interesting on the tours, there was not one that had an ideal itinerary for me. Of course, that is entirely a personal preference and for many people, one spot extra or one spot missed is not a big deal.
Create Your Own Itinerary
If you have a unique combination of cities you want to visit or are confident exploring on your own, this is the option for you. There is definitely going to be more work involved, to book transport and accommodation. Along with working out your transfers in each city and finding places to eat. But if this is not too scary for you it can lead to a very rewarding trip.
The best benefit of creating your own itinerary is that you have complete control. If you want to visit a city, find some transport and a hotel and book it. Somewhere you don’t want to visit no worries, even easier, just don’t book it.
The only restrictions you have are the ones you place. So you can choose to stay for 2 or 10 days in one city. You can choose to fly or catch the train between destinations. The attractions you visit when in a city are totally your choice as well.
You also have the benefit of being able to choose to add in a short day tour at any point. Plus the option to rent a car and explore further afield.
The only real restrictions are those that are probably not going to be included in a tour anyway. So there is little you are likely to miss out on.
Just like it is a benefit, the fact that you have to organise everything can also be a downside. So unless you are happy to go with the flow, there is going to be a lot of upfront planning. Everything from hotels, transport, transfers, meals, day tours, what to see and do are all on you. It can take plenty of time depending on how much detail you want to get into.
It can also get much more complicated if you are travelling with others and need to try and appease everyone’s plans. That can at times make the planning that much more difficult.
Combine Package Tours and Your Own Planning
You can take the best of both options by planning a little of your own itinerary around a package tour. Doing this can in some ways help to alleviate some of the downsides of both choices. While also taking many of the benefits as well.
Building a combined holiday can help to take some of the need for planning out of a longer trip. But it can also give you a chance to take your mind of doing everything on the road for a little as well.
Don’t Overthink It
The ultimate goal of travel for me is that you do not want to overthink the process. I would advise against thinking about the question of a package tour or creating your own itinerary for too long. Leave making more difficult decisions until you have to pick which hotel you are going to stay in.