We always plan our holidays ourselves and get asked frequently by family and friends – “Why don’t you book tour packages”, “Some XYZ company has a good tour package for the country you are visiting, did you check them out?”. To be very frank, when we started travelling abroad we did ask for quotes from tour packages. These are our reasons why we think tour packages are not worth it:
The hotels they choose are not the ones you would have chosen yourself.
The hotels that are available in tour packages are usually not the kind one would book themselves in that budget. They are either in outskirts or in a small lane or sometimes will not have good reviews. Check the hotel reviews and ratings on TripAdvisor and you will know this.
You are in a herd.
You are in a group of 40-50 people, led in a bus to attractions the tour company thinks are worth it. These may or may not be the best attractions, and are mostly the ones which are very crowded because every other tour company will get their tourists there.
You do not have the flexibility to explore attractions at your own pace.
At every attraction, you are given a time when you need to assemble back. Even if you like a place and want to spend some more time there, you do not have a choice. You are rushed all the time. Some attractions are photo-stop, which means you get there, click pictures and move on. I have heard of experiences where people took tour operators to go to Abu Dhabi Emirates Palace and were told its not open to public (its closed to public only on Fridays, and we have been inside). You do not want to be in that position.
There is no flexibility on deciding the itinerary.
The tour company will tell you the itinerary and you need to follow the same. Some companies do give you the flexibility to opt out for the whole day and do something else; but since you have already paid for it, not many people do that.
You do not get to know the local culture.
Since you are already with a group of people who are similar to you, you won’t feel the need to interact with locals for anything. Unless there is a need, people hardly go out and interact with others. You will never get immersed in the culture, which is the essence of travelling.
With Internet at your disposal, they may not be the cheapest either.
Now that the world is so connected, most of the information is available online. You can get discounted tickets, discounts on hotel reservations and get in touch with most of attraction managers (if need be). If you compare the costs, you may not be saving too much.
You are not relaxed.
Most of the tour operators want to cover as much as possible in as less time as possible. They start the tours at 8am and end after dinner after being on the move whole day. If you have a kid with you, you know how difficult it can get. And if you are travelling to places like Singapore, late comers are not entertained at all!! Is that how you would want your vacation to be? I surely would want to be relaxed, get up at whatever time I like and plan my day as per my convenience. Sure I will get up at 6 am if I want to watch the sunrise from a view point; but that’s my choice and I do it on any of the days I want 🙂
You are with the same people all the time.
This could be a blessing or a curse, depending on who you are with 🙂 If you like the people who are sharing the tour, you end up making good friends too! But if you are with someone who cribs and whines all the time; or does not share your enthusiasm for various things, it may even spoil your holiday. Is that worth it?
There are some advantages too of choosing a tour operator:
- You are short of time: You really can’t afford to spend any time planning your holiday. See if you can get your family/ co-travellers to do some research for you. With resources available online, they can give you a heads-up on activities you can do; and then you can do final research on the ones you shortlist.
- You are too overwhelmed with the idea of travelling to a different place all by yourself: There is always some anxiety when you visit a new place. We still have that mix of anxiety/ excitement when we travel to a new country. But that’s the whole point of travelling – exploring a different culture, getting yourself to adjust in a new place with new people, figuring things out yourself (though with careful planning, a lot of things get figured out before you travel). If that doesn’t appeal to you, tour packages may be good for you.
- You are travelling with a big group yourself: If you are travelling with a big group of friends or family; tour operators may give you a good deal. Also, they may be little flexible.
- You have strict diet to follow: If you follow a strict diet (for eg.Jain diet), it may be difficult for you to get restaurants to make it for you; or even explain it sometimes. If the tour operator promises to take care of this, you may want to go with them.
- You can afford a customised tour: Tour operators also offer private customised tour sometimes at higher costs. If you can afford that, go for it. However, the time you spend on customising the tour may be the same as the time you spend on planning it all yourself. Tour operators definitely have their margins to take care of and will promote some attractions/ activities more than you may want them to.
Got a good travel tip for me? Or a suggestion? Leave a comment below the post. I love to hear from readers. If you have any travel question, you can ask post it on the travel forum.