Hello from Paris! I arrived Wednesday afternoon, explored a little after a lazy morning yesterday, and I move into my dorm today. I’m sure I’ll tell you more about all that next week.
Also, to update the world on my sickness: ohmygoodness I hate being sick. I don’t get sick very often, but when I do, I cough until I cry at least four times a day and barely sleep because I’m coughing. Please let it go away soon. I’m doing the right things, I swear. Okay, done complaining.
Most of my rationale for doing a tour was that I had never traveled on my own before and didn’t know what on Earth I was doing, so it felt like a good way to get my feet wet and then I’d be more comfortable traveling on my own throughout my quarter here.
Everyone has different traveling styles and schedule preferences, so I thought I’d break down what exactly a tour entails and who it might be right for. Let’s start with the good things.
Traveling on a Tour: The Pros
Someone else takes care of the logistics. At least with my tour company, you have a travel director and a bus driver. The travel director (mine was really great) takes care of your hotel reservations, accounting for your luggage, making sure you’re running on schedule, and some of your restaurant and tour reservations. The bus driver pulls you through tiny alleys and twisty coastal roads expertly in places where the GPS signal totally sucks. You just sit back and go.
You can see a lot really quickly. When someone is booking group tours and telling you that you must be ready to go at 7:30 in the morning, you’re going to go on the tours and get up early. No succumbing to the calls of a cozy morning in bed when your bus needs to leave.
You meet people naturally. I mean, if I had gotten on the bus and everyone had headphones in, I totally would have been right there with them; I love podcasts. However, they didn’t. Instead, they chat with you and you chat right back. And when you’re at the same table at breakfast/dinner, you chat more. And if you’re walking through a new city, you chat more. It doesn’t require putting yourself out there, really. It just happens.
Someone speaks your language. This doesn’t apply to my tour specifically (pretty much everyone spoke English), but if I were going on a tour in, say, France, it would be nice to know that I could ask a travel director a question and not feel a little bit stupid hoping that he spoke English. If you get lost, you have a foolproof number to call with someone who speaks your language to help you get your bearings.
Extra insider knowledge. I’m sure everything our travel director told us is accessible information, but that doesn’t mean I’d have found it if I were just wandering around the Irish countryside on my own. I didn’t even feel like I was learning that much, but then I won the quiz on the last day. Also, I’m a nerd, so that helps.
Traveling on a Tour: The Cons
The days are long. I think this might be particular to a tour where you move around as much as mine did, but we often had days where we needed to be at breakfast with our bags ready by 7am and didn’t get to the hotel till 10pm. Yes, I napped on the bus some, but that’s still a lot. Especially because I need at least an hour or so to wind down and get ready to sleep. Also, there was a lot of sedentary bus time, which means my hips and back and neck hurt even more than normal.
Someone else takes care of the logistics. Yes, I know that this was a pro, too. Hear me out. Is it wonderful that someone gets you a room at a hotel? Absolutely. Get me an assistant right away. However, you (obviously) don’t get to choose your hotel. You do stay in generally nice places, but they aren’t always what I’d choose for myself, whether because of amenities or location.
You’ll eat what they’re serving. Okay, I’ll admit that this is a little bit my fault. On the first day, when we were asked if we had dietary restrictions, I said no. Because, well, that’s true. I mostly eat paleo, but I wanted the option to order local food that wasn’t paleo, too. Irish brown bread is one of my favorite things. I figured I could just do what I do at restaurants in the US: order the thing that looked like it would make my stomach hate me the least (unless I reeeeally wanted something else). This turned out to be incorrect, and we got limited menus of about three items for all group meals. The vegetarian options were grain-heavy and the meat options tended to lack vegetables. It took me at least three days to find a salad (and that was from a grocery store). Also, I pride myself on finding killer food wherever I go, so eating blah food when I wanted to be exploring good local food was annoying.
You can’t slow down. I felt myself getting sick a few days into the tour. I mean, being on a bus, not sleeping, not eating fresh foods ever, not having hotels with air conditioning, and stress will do that to you. But if I had been on my own, I’d have slept a little more, skipped a few things, and taken better care of myself.
Some things are mandatory. We had a few bus tours of cities that I’d rather have been left to my own devices for (please let me get off the bus and walk around some). I also had zero interest in the brewery tour. I went into the whole thing with the idea that a bus would take me to different cities and offer tours there, but I didn’t expect such a regimented schedule. I’m told that if you go on a tour that includes fewer cities, you might get to spend several days in each city and do your own thing a bit more.
It’s not really for my age group. I mean, this isn’t advertised, but I guessed it would be the case (and I was right). There was one couple with a son several years younger than me, one 30-something couple, a 30-something woman, and everyone else could have been my grandparents. I like talking to older people, so nothing against them, and they all seemed to enjoy talking to a lovely young lady like me (so many hugs and well wishes!), but some socialization with people my own age would’ve been a plus.
You don’t meet locals. Not really, at least. We met some musicians and bachelorette partiers at a pub one night, but you’re mostly kept to your tour group doing touristy things.
Traveling on a Tour: Conclusions
A tour might be for you if…
- What you’re interested in are the tourist highlights
- You’re okay with a super fast-paced vacation
- You don’t feel confident traveling on your own
- You want someone to plan your itinerary
I’m glad I did it. If you read what a cluster my first day of travel was, you will understand that I had approximately zero confidence coming into the tour and was so freaking grateful to have someone taking care of everything. I met some interesting people. I gained enough confidence to feel like I could travel on my own for a bit and not spontaneously combust. I saw a lot of really cool things.
It’s not how I want to travel in the future. I was drawn in by the fact that I could see so much in such a short amount of time. I quickly realized that I like to get pretty comfortable with a city. Sure, I want a few tourist pictures, but after that, I’m content to wander around and take pictures of ordinary pretty things and sit at a restaurant and people watch before resuming my wandering around. I like early-ish nights and early mornings, but I also like the chance to stay in bed a little longer before exposing myself to all the stimulation and newness of an unfamiliar city. I like to not pack up and move everyday, and I like having time to go for a walk or a run outside before I start my day. And now that I know all that, I can put it into action… after I kick this nasty cold.Travel tours: the good, the bad, and the verdict. #travel #fitfluential Click To Tweet
Have you ever been on a tour?
What’s your favorite part of traveling?