Whether to travel on pre-arranged tours with large tour companies is probably the most common question that we get asked by friends and family. There’s no doubting that they are popular, especially with Australian youth, but are they the best way to travel? What are the pros and cons?
PROS: Travelling does take planning, and it can be tricky to organise a trip whilst still being full-time at school, university or work. A lot of people opt for these tour groups because it is all done for you; accommodation, itinerary and information. If you are looking to take a tour in a country that you can’t find a lot of info on, or seems dangerous, it can be helpful to go with a guided group.
CONS: The end result of having it all organised for you, is that you will just be going on the same pre-packaged holiday that many have done before you, and many will do again. Travel is a really unique experience, and it is nice to have the flexibility to stay longer in locations that you like, and less time in those that you don’t. With some of these mega-tours that advertise things like ’16 countries in 3 weeks’, it seems like less of an genuine experience and more of a tick-off-list trip with minimal time spent in each destination. Doing it yourself also offers the opportunity to explore countries more deeply and go to places off the general tourist trail.
PROS: Doing one of these large organised tours enables people to get a taste of many different countries if you’re stuck for time. May help you learn which places to come back to in the future.
CONS: Trying to span continents in just a couple of weeks, with a multitude of destinations in between leaves you hardly glimpsing cities, let alone actually getting to experience them. Most of the time will be spent in buses and checking in/out of accommodation, and then night times spent in clubs, bars and parties. These places honestly have so much to offer, especially bigger ones, and spending 1-2 days in these cities, towns and even countries, hardly justifies even going. You will not get to go out and explore properly for yourself, not enabling the true growing and development that accompanies your first big trip overseas.
PROS: You will be with like-minded people that you will probably get along with. Most people on these tours are of a similar age, from the same country and are looking for a similar experience. In such groups, you will never have to be alone or looking for friends, as people will always be around. Most people that we spoke to about these tours said that they made good friends, and had fun.
CONS: Travelling is all about meeting people that change your worldview, make you think differently and help you better understand different cultures. Being with people from the same place as you, with a similar upbringing and exact same travel plans, is unlikely to make you change or help you develop. What point is there going to a country and not meeting the local people? It’s actually really easy to meet new people travelling, as hostels, cafés and bars are full of people who are willing to chat and become life-long friends.
VALUE FOR MONEY
PROS: It’s expensive, but everything is organised for you. No stress, people always around, and parties already planned.
CONS: On our entire trip for over 9 months, through Asia, Europe, North America and North America, we spent less than one would spend on a month doing one of these tours including activity prices. If you do it yourself, you can make your money go a lot further, and you will end up being able to spend either 9x as long away, or go on a few other trips another time if you only have a short travel time. It’s actually not that hard to organise things yourself, and transport in most places is dirt cheap.
Obviously each person and scenario will be different. But from our experience, to genuinely travel and explore involves a lot more than being in a place for less than 24hours or driving through on a bus and taking a quick selfie. It might be more effort to plan it yourself, but we think it’s worth it. There will be places around the world, where it is unsafe or impossible to do so, however. But in most places, you’ll get to see so much more of the world, and so much less of the inside of a tour bus. Be your own person and create your own journey. It might seem daunting now, but the world is such an awesome place and the hostels, bars and cafés that inhabit it, are teeming with people willing to explore with you.