Independent Travel vs. Organized Travel
Go it alone or with a group?
Independent Travel vs. Organized Travel
It’s really interesting when we talk to people about the platform that we’re building and how we want to make searching for organized travel options easier. One of two things happen. One group resonates with the problem we’re solving because they’ve had to spend countless painful hours trying to compare options for themselves. The other says “interesting but I would never want to go on an organized trip. I much prefer to book everything myself.”
While both points of view are entirely valid, the latter is often based on misconceptions about organized travel. “Anti-organized travellers” often picture busloads of tourists with fanny packs and cameras around their necks following a tour guide with a little red flag and a loud speaker. Or perhaps it’s an image of an overcrowded cruise ship full of people wandering around the pool deck in speedos that are too small and taking over beaches and small towns in mobs.
Unfortunately, these reputations aren’t baseless but they also aren’t the norm these days. The variety of options available in the organized travel market is so vast that we would bet that we’d be hard pressed not to find a trip that would interest even the most reluctant group traveller.
Take for example Butterfield & Robinson. They are an active travel company (think biking and walking) that offers small group tours to some of the most incredible places in the world – they know, they’ve been doing this for 50 years! “Slow Down to See the World” – that’s their tag line. They aren’t trying to get you through as many countries as possible in as little time as possible. Instead, they handle all of the logistics, organize unique experiences often not available to those just travelling through and curate a group of like-minded people for you to enjoy it with.
The “Group” in Group Travel
On the topic of the people you travel with, some people shy away from group travel because they are introverted or want to have time to do their own thing. Both of these are completely good reasons to think group travel wouldn’t suit them. However, how many times has a friend or family member told you about a trip they took? While you try to be interested, it’s difficult to relate to the things they got to experience. When you travel with a group, you have a built-in audience for recounting stories and sharing memories. Many people who travel together end up being lifelong friends and often find themselves on more trips together.
If you’re an introvert like me, large groups can often seem intimidating. The pressure to ‘fit in’ or be more outgoing that you actually are isn’t an enjoyable situation to be in. The beauty of so many group tours these days is that yes, you may be travelling with other people on the same bus or boat, but there is ample time to spend doing your own thing. Whether it’s staring out the window taking in the scenery or strolling through historic towns on your own. Not only that but many operators restrict the size of their groups some as small as six or less! You have to admit, there is some appeal to returning back to a ‘home base’ to familiar faces and a feeling of safety.
Introductions to Regions
One reason many people do choose an organized tour is that it’s a great way to get an introduction to a country or a region. With some tours hitting the hot spots on many people’s bucket lists, often with preferential access (ie. no line), you can see the sites without the stress. Other tours purposely avoid the major sites and take you to places you might not have found otherwise. Both of these types of tours can provide you with an opportunity to identify where you might want to spend more time, perhaps as an independent traveller. Here are some of the best highlight tours of Europe as an example.
Other things to consider
- Cost – while independent travel may seem cheaper, consider the value of your time in doing all of the research, making bookings and adjusting when things don’t go to plan. Organized tours take advantage of repeat discounts, are organized for you and they take care of things when plans go awry.
- Flexibility – this is the one that most independent travellers default to. While it’s true that travelling alone provides you with the ultimate freedom, many tours have built in free time to do as you please so don’t think you’ll be on a strict schedule on every tour.
- Authentic Experiences – what are the chances of a tour group getting to experience the genuine culture of a place…? Pretty good actually. Tour operators have the luxury of organizing authentic experiences with families, businesses and organizations that would not normally be accessible to the general public, and probably a lot more dependable.
- Comfort zone – while having almost everything organized for you may lead some people to think that they would be kept in a bubble, it’s really a matter of identifying the right tour for your comfort level. Yes, some offer you the ability to stay in complete luxury and not have to lift a finger while others have you camping and cooking your own meals so there’s an option for everyone.
- Expand your tribe – when we’re at home we tend to surround ourselves with familiar faces because they are our ‘people’. Travelling gives us the opportunity to meet others from different backgrounds, with different experiences and different takes on life Wouldn’t it be even more rewarding to travel with people who could help you see the world through someone else’s perspective as well? We certainly think so.
Let us know
There are so many pros (and yes, some cons) to group travel but we think that discounting the entire style of travel is risky. It puts one at a real chance of losing out on some once in a lifetime opportunities that just aren’t available when you go it alone. I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially if you are against participating in organized travel. Perhaps there’s something we’ve missed or perhaps we can introduce you to an experience that might change your mind.
Until next time,
May your journey never end