Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Escorted tours versus hotel/flight packages

I recently got a request from a client:

I want to explore a different part of the world, but I am not sure how to do it? Should I book a tour? Do it on my own? What do you think?

Travelling international is a great adventure. Today's traveller has a lot of options and ways to experience the world. Two of the main options are an escorted tour or just booking hotel/transportation.

An escorted tour generally includes airfare, hotels, tours and a dedicated guide to help get you from one location to another and offer insight into the local culture. These tours tend to be a strict timetable and your trip includes 10 - 50 other travellers.

Some things to consider when booking international travel:

Language - A tour guide can help you navigate a new city with an unfamiliar language. You can secure a tour guide as part of an escorted tour or many message boards on travel sites offer recommendations on local freelance tour guides.

Value - High volume escorted tours secure agreements with airlines and hotels that enable them to offer low prices. For instance, in 2010, I found a 10 day tour to China for $999 per person that include flights, hotel, and tours. This was an $800 savings from booking everything separately.

Efficiency - Depending on your style of travel, an escorted tour can help you make the most of time in a city. I liked the China tour because the included tours hit all the tourist attractions so I could spend my free time exploring the neighborhoods without worrying about missing something. If you rarely visit the "must see" tourist locations when you travel, then an escorted tour may not be the best choice.

Locations - Escorted tours tend to stick to the big cities and well-known locations. Very few tour operators offer off -the-beaten path options.

Schedule -  When deciding to book an escorted tour, be sure to carefully review the schedule. How much time is spent travelling between locations? How much time will be on a bus/plane/train? What time does the schedule start each day? Does the schedule offer enough down time or free time for your tastes?

Size - What is the size of the tour? How many other people will be sharing your dream vacation? Are you okay with that?

As a travel agent, I can help you navigate the wide landscape of international travel to help you find the best fit for you.

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