As you consider your travel plans for next year, I wanted to share information on the different types of tours you’ll find when exploring your trip options. They are not a one-size-fits-all travel product. Finding the right one for you can make the difference between an enjoyable getaway and a not-so-fun trip. A travel advisor can help you choose, offering options you may not have considered.
How many think that a tour involves being on a bus for hours with 80 people they don’t know, seeing Germany from their seat? I’d like to explain the different types of tours, what they are, and the advantages each offers. ESCORTED: Escorted tours are conducted by a Tour Director. A Tour Director is responsible for leading a group on a travel experience over several days with the same guests. They take care of everything, from your transportation to and from the airport, as well as transportation to and from your hotel daily, as well as your daily activities. Typically you are with a group throughout your tour.
Tour Directors are jack-of-all-trades: they deliver commentary about the sights, handle the organization and logistics of getting the group to and from where they need to be, and their job often involves using a motor coach (or even a cruise ship) as transportation. They “bring the fun” by acting as an entertaining presence on the microphone, enriching the group travel experience, and promoting bonding over the days spent together.
For some escorted tours it’s a one day affair where they will pick you up from your hotel in the morning, take you to see the sites, and then bring you back to your hotel in the evening. Typically there is a strict agenda with meal times, and places to visit set up for you as well.
In the more extreme escorted tours, every day of your itinerary is scheduled and handled for you. You’re picked up from the airport, driven to the hotel, and each day you will be picked up for a new activity, and then dropped off at your hotel each evening. Then, at the end of your vacation your escort will bring you to the airport to go home.
The advantage to an escorted tour is you just need to book your trip and show up, and everything is taken care of for you.
HOSTED/GUIDED: Hosted/Guided tours are very similar to escorted tours. Like an escorted tour, you will probably be with the same group of people throughout the tour, and you’ll be transported to and from your hotel.
However, the difference here is that you won’t be escorted to every individual activity and function. There will be local guides available to answer questions throughout the duration of your tour, but for the most part you will be on your own.
Guided tours are perfect for travelers who want some freedom, but still prefer the comfort of having a guide with you part of the time.
INDEPENDENT: An independent vacation combines the best parts of escorted and guided tours, with the freedom and flexibility of solo traveling. On an independent tour you set your own schedule, you won’t be with a group, and you’ll be responsible for getting reservations for some of your meals.
With an independent tour vacation, you’ll still enjoy having your hotel, transportation, excursions, and some meals included with your package, but the rest is up to you. On an independent vacation, you will not be part of a group, which gives you the ability to spend your days exactly how you like. A "local host" or "local guide" in each of the cities you visit is available to answer any questions and to give plenty of guidance along the way. Depending on the tour operator and your destination, your local host may visit your hotel, meet you at the airport or be available by phone. He or she can make sightseeing, shopping and dining suggestions as well as give you the "inside scoop" on all of the most important things to see and do while you're in a foreign city.
WHICH TOUR STYLE IS RIGHT FOR YOU? The decision on which tour style is right for you is a personal choice, based on your own freedom and comfort level. I suggest talking this decision over with your trusted travel advisor; they can offer their advice, experience, discuss which tour operators are best, and offer sage advice.
I hope this has helped to clear up any confusion you may have between escorted, hosted/guided and independent tours.