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Old 04-27-2011, 07:15 AM
 
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
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Any CD members here been on a guided tour? I'm interested to hear about experiences in different countries, but especially the States. I include all types of tours - luxury, budget, more sightseeing or adventure/eco type tours. I'm going on a Trek America tour and have heard lots of good things about it, wondering if anyone here had been on Trek or Intrepid, Contiki or perhaps Globus, Trafalgar etc. I've been on a camping tour in Australia and really enjoyed travelling with others and making friends (especially since I was travelling solo). I'll be travelling for 3 weeks from LA to NYC, staying at hostels and doing quite a few things (inc Vegas, Grand Canyon, Texas, Memphis, Appalachians, DC etc).
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Old 04-27-2011, 01:02 PM
Status: "Send HIM back- to Queens!" (set 2 days ago)
 
Location: Eureka CA
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I've never been on a guided tour- too ornery to have my bags lined up outside my room at 6am-but I LOVE day tours, Grayline city tours etc. My relatives went to Ireland the first time as FITs (Free and Independent Travelers) but the second time they went it was on a guided tour and they enjoyed it more! It's a very personal thing. They particularly enjoyed not having to navigate or drive.
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Old 04-27-2011, 02:22 PM
 
Location: Maryland
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We prefer guided tours for most of our destination/tourist travels in the US and especially overseas venues. These are geared to visiting tourist hotspots (Grand Canyon/Bad Lands/etc.) and its particularly useful (to us) overseas. Our last international trip to Russia was memorable, not the least because our tour group didn't stand in the 5 block long line to visit the Hermitage. That is a common experience in solo versus group touring, most especially overseas. Group tours are admitted on a schedule and you never have to wait in lines.

Our US group touring has been much less than the overseas destinations so I can't comment based on any huge experience background. We've found that the coordination & planning required to hit the high interest places (whether US or abroad) is usually more hassle than we care to deal with going solo.

We do RVing in the States & Canada for traipsing the back roads but are much fonder of group tours for hitting the high points. Our main group tours have been with Grand Circle Travel and Caravan. Both companies have provided us with outstanding service and we are multiple trip travelers with each company.

We've no personal experience but have heard good things about Trafalgar and Globus. Our primary company of choice (geared to the US retired market for both US and international trips) is Grand Circle. They have turned us into river cruise addicts. Happy and safe travels.
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Old 04-27-2011, 02:39 PM
 
Location: The Triad (NC)
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"If it's Tuesday this must be Belgium"
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Old 04-27-2011, 02:48 PM
 
Location: Texas
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Never been on one, except an occassional day tour.

The idea of being that regimented reminds me too much of the Army. I prefer to sort of "wing it." You can do so much more and meet so many more interesting people in their "natural habitats" that way.

To me, the adventure is in the trip, not the destination.
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Old 04-27-2011, 02:55 PM
 
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I don't like them. You miss so much of the magic, adventure, and spontaniety of traveling with a guided tour. I would not recommend them for anyone except maybe first time travelers or those that are very intimidated with the idea of visiting strange places (and if you are - then why travel at all)? Oh man there is so much wrong with guided tours I don't know where to start - lack of flexibility, limited to just tourist sights/traps, stuck visiting the gift shops so the tour guide gets his "take", traveling in a large group and looking like a geek, inability to mix with the locals, eating the boring bland tourist food, staying at boring concrete grouptour-designed lodges...and yes the "if it's tuesday it must be Belgium" syndrome. I would seriously be happier watching a rerun of one of Rick Steve's bland travel shows (which for me is equivalent to poking myself in the eye with a rusty nail) then travel for real in a tour bus.

I would hold an exception to only the most inaccessable places - some places are just so overwhelming and confusing that you need some kind of guide (and for those I would go personal, not group, guide). That limit is based on personal preference. I've also been on the occasional day tour or to (I love the get on/get off busses they have in places like London). But the US? Dude you speak English, if there is one place no one needs a guide in, it's the US, unless you like sharing a bus with 60 jabbering camara-laden japanese senior citizens.
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Old 04-27-2011, 03:00 PM
 
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Advantage: the tour guide is knowledgable and shows you what you might not see on your own. Disadvantage: the tour may stop at sponsored sites that are OK for shopping, but lousy for site seeing.
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Old 04-27-2011, 03:14 PM
 
Location: New York
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dd714 View Post
I don't like them. You miss so much of the magic, adventure, and spontaniety of traveling with a guided tour. I would not recommend them for anyone except maybe first time travelers or those that are very intimidated with the idea of visiting strange places (and if you are - then why travel at all)? Oh man there is so much wrong with guided tours I don't know where to start - lack of flexibility, limited to just tourist sights/traps, stuck visiting the gift shops so the tour guide gets his "take", traveling in a large group and looking like a geek, inability to mix with the locals, eating the boring bland tourist food, staying at boring concrete grouptour-designed lodges...and yes the "if it's tuesday it must be Belgium" syndrome. I would seriously be happier watching a rerun of one of Rick Steve's bland travel shows (which for me is equivalent to poking myself in the eye with a rusty nail) then travel for real in a tour bus.

I would hold an exception to only the most inaccessable places - some places are just so overwhelming and confusing that you need some kind of guide (and for those I would go personal, not group, guide). That limit is based on personal preference. I've also been on the occasional day tour or to (I love the get on/get off busses they have in places like London). But the US? Dude you speak English, if there is one place no one needs a guide in, it's the US, unless you like sharing a bus with 60 jabbering camara-laden japanese senior citizens.
I agree with DD714. We did an intrepid trip (5 weeks in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand) once before and had to eat where the 'group' ate which was usually cheap, nasty and for tourists. Someone is ALWAYS late in the morning, wants to go to the loo more than everyone else, or gets lost and is late back for the meet up and there is always one idiot who asks annoying/stupid questions and way too loud a voice.... never again..

I have organised private tours though and they have worked well when I laid out the ground rules before paying !! For me it has to be no shopping unless I choose the place, (I hate the whole being taken to the guide's uncle's carpet shop where you get 'special' rates.... ) I choose where I eat. I understand that the guide normally get a free meal for taking us to the touristy places so we usually pay for their meal. And no 'firm' timetable. If we get to a temple etc I only want to spend 5 mins at then we only spend 5 mins !!

I have organised private guides throughout mainland China, India, Cambodia, Myanmar and Malaysia. Worked out really well.
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Old 04-27-2011, 03:55 PM
 
Location: Maryland
1,534 posts, read 3,785,192 times
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A number of previous posters negative comments bespeak a serious lack of familiarity with quality group tours. No offense, but some of these posters simply do not know what they are talking about at all based on our experience. Either that or their group tour experience must have been with el cheapo tour providers.

Try considering the flexibility of breaking off anytime you want and doing your own thing, whether per day or for extended periods, dining wherever you desire (want a last minute reservation at a top ranked venue as John Doe USA, good luck! My tour director has local "juice" and rarely fails to get one when requested); meeting any and all types of locals one cares to (and that's with a very well informed tour guide available to make any reservations/arrangements/car rentals, etc.); try getting admission tickets to world class venues just when you want them as a solo - and please, do wave when I pass by you as I walk straight to the head of the line with my group; definitely let me know how much you enjoy standing in line for baggage/lost luggage/visas/transportation/airline screw-ups/etc.; I don't.

The list can go on for more items that I can be bothered to list. There is one serious other issue - do tell how you efficiently deal with any health/medical emergency that may come up. Sprain your ankle solo and I hope you report on how pleasant the experience was in dealing with it abroad.

"I would not recommend them for anyone except maybe first time travelers or those that are very intimidated with the idea of visiting strange places (and if you are - then why travel at all)?"

Sorry, the above quote is one person's opinion that I suggest anyone do some serious research on before forming their own. Anyone is entitled to their opinion, but I would suggest one derive their own based on a broad range of input. We've traveled a fair number of places on the planet, with many more to come, and are quite happy with our group tours to date. Quality tour providers take the hassle out of traveling and save us lots of nuisance problems. Perhaps the low end group tour experience is a bummer. I've no experience with that level of travel. Our only "negative" to date is that gourmet meals every day presents a weight risk.

That is my opinion, to each their own. Happy travels.

Last edited by Pilgrim21784; 04-27-2011 at 04:19 PM..
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Old 04-27-2011, 04:43 PM
 
Location: New York
1,339 posts, read 2,255,887 times
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The OP asked for peoples opinions and I believe that is what 2 of the people who replied who had been on group tours (apart from yourself) have given him...

some of these posters simply do not know what they are talking about at all based on our experience. Either that or their group tour experience must have been with el cheapo tour providers.
Peoples experiences are different as are their perspectives.

My personal experience was with Intrepid, who are not particularly cheap and was one of the groups the OP had specifically asked about.
so based on my experience - no offense - you don't know what you are talking about.
Try considering the flexibility of breaking off anytime you want and doing your own thing, whether per day or for extended periods - maybe if you tour spends several days in the same city......Had I tried to do this my tour the rest of the group would have been in a completely different city / country to me by the end of the day.

Doing a trip alone and hiring a private guide enabled me to get to The Taj Mahal before it opened and spend at least 15 mins being the only 2 people there. we had done all our pictures etc and left as the first tours arrived.

Tours are great for some people but they are not for everyone. No one is telling the OP to tour or not to tour... we can only give an opinion based on our experience. I've done both types of trips and travelled through 34 countries and I wouldn't do a tour given a choice.
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