Traveling in a large group can be a wonderful experience or it can be a big headache. Whether or not a package tour is the ideal kind of travel arrangement for you will depend on various factors. Your destination, personal preferences and allotted time available for traveling will be primary considerations. It is a good idea to think about these items as you make your decision on whether to take your next trip in an organized large group or go it on your own.
As you make your decision, it is to your advantage to first consider the pros and cons of traveling in a large group. Any one of the benefits or drawbacks may either seal or break the deal for you. What is most important is to decide what is of most value to you and consider these as you weigh out the benefits and drawbacks.
Pros of Traveling in a Large Group
When you are traveling with an organized group to reach your destination, your arrangements are usually well-planned by the organizer of the trip. You won't have to worry about booking tickets because this will all be done for you ahead of time and you can avoid the hassle of finding the right deal or ideal time slots because it is part of the service.
Another benefit to touring with a group is that all the outings during your vacation are planned out for you ahead of time. In many instances, you'll be given an itinerary (some packages deals may or may not have some flexibility - if some leeway or downtime is important to you, be sure and ask your agent). The tickets for these individual stops are arranged for you and are usually included with the deal. With this type of package, you won't have to worry about an event or location being sold out, and you won't have to carry the cash to get into these places or use your credit card in an unknown place that could increase risk of fraud.
If you are traveling to a place where there are a lot of history, architectural or other places of interest, you will often get a lot of detailed information about each place you visit or stop at. If you have a good tour guide you'll learn the details which are not easily or readily known. If you have high interest in certain sights you will be seeing, this will be of great benefit to you and enhance your trip. Be sure and read the details though, so you know exactly what entrances are included.
During the daily outings your transportation is arranged and you won't have to worry about finding a cab, scouring for bus stops or train stations, renting a car or worrying about parking. Since transportation is inclusive and part of a group package, you are free from having to worry about those arrangements.
Another benefit is you won't have to worry about getting lost or car trouble. Sure it is possible a tour guide may occasionally get lost or the vehicle breaks down, but this is usually unlikely and, if it does happen, there is typically quick resolution.
When you travel with a group, usually organizers can obtain group discounts and these savings can be passed onto you. Due to the large volume of group tours, while an organized tour may be expensive, you may be getting more for your money and get to see more places due to these group discounts. Group tickets are often cheaper than if you were to book all of the individual outings, tickets and accommodations on your own.
Cons of Traveling in a Large Group
While there are many benefits to group travel, before you book your trip it is of value to understand there are some drawbacks too.
Traveling in large groups, often there is little to no room for any flexibility. You have to be at a certain place at a certain time or else it throws off the itinerary. There is a lot less (if any) room for spontaneity because of the vast size of the group the entire trip has to be carefully scheduled. Itineraries are usually quite rigid. If you like to travel in a spontaneous fashion and go where the day takes you, a large group trip will likely not be enjoyable for you because you have no ability to vary up your plans or make any changes along the way.
Another potential disadvantage is organized group trips are often tourist-centric and you don't get an opportunity to get off the proverbial beaten path. If you prefer to explore the obscure locations or mingle with the locals, this kind of organized tour may not be for you.
A group tour is not likely to stop at the smaller landmarks or museums. For instance, if you take an organized group trip to Washington D.C., you'll likely out on all the wonderful places to see "off the beaten path", such as nearby Alexandria, Va. if you wanted to take a day excursion away from the District.
This photo is of the 18th century Christ Church. Generally, U.S. presidents visit at least once during term of office. George Washington had a pew here, which is marked with a plaque.
[ Related reading: Historic Places to Visit in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia ]
Group trips can also be exhausting because they tend to be fast-paced as you go from place to place. As you visit each location you may feel too rushed as you are escorted from one attraction to the next. While this is great for people who want to see as much as they can in one trip, this is a drawback for the people who like to linger and explore each place in detail.
Food and Accommodations
One question you'll want to ask any tour company you are considering traveling with is if meals are included in your tour. For instance, many tours will include breakfast at the hotel and dinner together as a group. Lunch you may or may not be on your own. These are details you'll want to know and factor these in as you think about the cost associated with your trip.
Accommodations are another aspect to consider because you will be confined to staying wherever your itinerary dictates. If lodging is not to your liking, you're pretty much stuck where you are and will have to stay wherever the group is located. Additionally, some groups partner roommates up and you may have to share a room with a stranger. If you prefer your privacy, it is a good idea to inquire upfront if there are roommate situations for lodging.
There are many pros and cons associated with group travel. For some, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages and the trip is well worth going on. On the other hand, if you prefer a lot of flexibility and like to be spontaneous, organized group travel is probably not for you. The key to planning any successful vacation is to carefully weigh out the pros and cons of each option and match those up with your ideal vacation and see which one is a closer match to your preferences and your pocketbook for a particular destination.
This video below talks about some other tips which include what types of restaurants you're likely to eat at and the hotels. If you're looking for small and cozy, a group tour is probably not for you.