Mythbuster: Everything You Need to Know About Group Tours
They’ll take you further than you’ve ever been, to unforgettable destinations with a bunch of like-minded people – so why do group tours sometimes get a bad (and boring) reputation? Hazel Plush shares how to find your perfect group holiday, and why it may just be the best trip you ever take…
Aren’t group tours just for a certain age group?
Not at all! Some group trips cater for the more mature market, while plenty of them are for a much younger demographic. Whether you’re 18-30, travelling with young kids, or celebrating an empty nest, there are plenty of group tours to choose from – and the number of destinations and holiday styles is growing every year.
It’s great news for people who want an adventure without the hassle of organising any nitty gritty, to explore with a great local guide, and to make new friends from all walks of life. In fact, many seasoned group travellers will tell you that group size is actually more important than age: some itineraries are great for groups of 30+ people, but if you want a more personal experience with a more chilled-out pace, a bunch of 10-18 is perfect.
Will I have to travel on a coach?
Nope. How about bouncing over Iceland’s glaciers in an 8WD monster truck? Or clinging to a rickshaw through the back streets of Udaipur? Hiking, biking, expedition ships, local buses, helicopters, bullet trains… If you can use it to get around, it’s all fair game on a group tour.
If coaches are your style, then you will certainly never be short of holiday options – but the great thing about group tours is that there’s something for everyone. Check the itinerary closely, and don’t be afraid to quiz your tour operator: they’ll know if it’s a coach party or something more adventurous.
But you all have to stick together though, right? Like a grown-up school trip?
If you want to stay with the group at all times, you’ll probably be disappointed: most tours schedule in free time – anything from a few hours to a whole day. It gives everyone the chance to do more of what makes them happy, whether that’s extra sightseeing, a snooze, a swim, or an afternoon sinking beers in a blissful beach bar. And if you don’t fancy doing the day’s planned activities, you’ll probably be able to skip them altogether – just ask your guide. This is your holiday, after all.
It’s worth remembering that if you do decide to do something that isn’t on the itinerary (an extra temple visit, for example, or a dinner for two), you’ll have to cover the cost yourself.
I’m quite well travelled – I don’t need a guide!
Don’t underestimate the power of a really great guide. They bring a destination to life – taking you to all the best places to eat (whether for unforgettable street food or a hidden gem you’d never find on your own), giving you a local perspective on all the must-see sights, and answering all of your questions (there will be lots!) about local life.
The best travel companies pride themselves on their great local guides, because they know how to make a trip extra-special. Tour operator G Adventures, who have won countless awards for their adventurous holidays, even call their guides ‘CEOs’ – short for ‘Chief Experience Officers’ – in a nod to their unfaltering dedication to the job.
Isn’t it cheaper and easier to travel independently?
Not necessarily. Tour operators are often able to negotiate discounts for group bookings – so they always get great rates on hotels, flights and sights.
I’m travelling solo – will I be the only one?
Group holidays are perfect for solo travellers – indeed, they’re the majority of customers for many companies. Other operators even specialise in trips for solo travellers. Just beware the ‘single supplement’: the extra cost of not sharing a hotel room (and the cost) with someone else. There are ways around the single supp, though: some tour companies scrap it altogether, or offer the opportunity to buddy up in a twin hotel room with another solo group member (of the same sex).
Note that ‘solo’ does NOT necessarily mean ‘single’ – although there are plenty of singles-only trips available if you’re looking for love. Solos are usually adventurous folk who happen to be travelling without their friends/partner/family, but want the security and fun of exploring with like-minded people.
What kinds of questions should I ask my Flight Centre Travel Expert before booking?
Everything! Whether you’re wondering about group size, sharing a room, dietary requirements or the amount of time you’ll have to yourself, they’ll be happy to help.