Is a group tour right for you?

Is a group tour right for you?

Group tour or not?

Depending on your travel personality, tour travel can be a pleasure or a pain.  Enjoyable travel takes a lot of money, planning, and for things to fall in place.  Planning a trip with different sightseeing on the agenda takes a bit of experience.  An organized tour will provide all the organization and prep work for you.  Considering the advantages and disadvantages, is a group tour right for you?  Here are a few thoughts to consider.

Tour companies take care of all the organization and prep work for visiting landmarks.  They usually include the most popular destinations so that your itinerary will offer the best of your destination goals.  Tour operators and guides also provide a bit of insider knowledge since they are from the area. They often share historical information not widely known that can enhance the experience.

Organized tours have designated times and schedules.  This scheduling can allow you to relax and enjoy your travel without having to create your plans.  However, it prevents you from vacationing on your terms and timing. To many, this can be a significant disadvantage. The specific tour guidelines and lack of control can be a turnoff for many travelers.  Being stuck on a tour bus with dozens of people or a tour with a standard of service not expected can be a turnoff.

Knowing the maximum group size, age specifics, or style of tour is also essential.  Smaller group tours give the advantage of a more personalized and unique experience.  Age specifics allow you to be more aware of the group capacity.  A young adult going on a tour for retirees is a prime example of a mismatch.  Alternatively, going on an adventurous tour when you find relaxing trips more enjoyable can be a disaster.

One advantage of an organized tour is the fact that tours give an aspect of safety.  Tour companies are usually risk-averse.  They often choose destinations and activities that cater to the age and preferences of the tour group.  If travelers are not conscious of the age and demographics of the tour group, they can find themselves in undesirable circumstances.

Finally, pricing can be an advantage or a disadvantage.  Tour packages can include meals, transportation, hotels, flights, entry fees, or sightseeing.  Often travelers assume that their tour packages include items that are not included or available for an additional cost.  Although tour pricing can be attractive, individual research and planning could also be more advantageous. If considering a tour, do your research to determine if a tour is right for you.  Consider the advantages and disadvantages before deciding.  Do you prefer tours or trip planning on your own? I’d like to know.

How to thrive with group travel.

How to thrive with group travel.

I wrote an earlier blog post about choosing your travel partners wisely.  Travelers may not always be able to select their travel partners with group travel.  However, there are ways to ensure your journey is pleasant and that you thrive with group travel.

Recognize your individuality.  No two people are alike. While there may be majority decisions or even unanimous decisions, all travelers have different needs.  For some travel group members, the desire is for escape, while it might be an adventure for others.  The reasons for travel are far too many, so embrace yours.

Be respectful of group members.  Even though your travel needs may be different than others, respect their needs.  Acknowledge their thoughts and ideas but state your own opinion.  If the group plans work for you, join in, and if they don’t, politely decline.

Be mindful of the advantages as well as the disadvantages.  For many, group travels can be a way to save money or provide a feeling of safety. However, it can also infringe on your privacy. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages ahead of time will prepare you for the realities of group travel.

Embrace similar interests.  Most group travels begin with a goal or interest that everyone shares.  Taking part in group tours or events with like-minded people can be exhilarating.  Sharing an experience with friends or family is much more enriching than telling them about it.

Know your travel goal.  Does the group travel involve a trip or a vacation?  For many, a trip usually has a purpose, while a vacation is about the experience.  If you consider the group travels a trip, you most likely will have a plan in mind.  If the travel involves a vacation, usually it entails rest or relaxation. Knowing your expectations from the group travel experience allows for travel that won’t disappoint.

Have you been able to thrive in group travel experiences? How? I’d like to know.

Travel preparation

Travel preparation

You can never be too prepared for travel.  There are plenty of things to consider before you travel to make your travel experience a much more pleasant one.  I discussed a few ways of travel preparation in a prior blog post. Here are a few more ideas to think about before you travel.

Cell coverage

When traveling internationally, mobile phone charges can be an unexpected expense.  Remember to turn off cell service roaming before you leave the country to avoid roaming charges.  If you try to do this in an international destination, you may be charged for the time trying to complete the effort.  Try to arrange for a global cell service plan with your carrier before you leave the country.  You can often use a phone for dollars a day rather than dollars a call if you choose an international package for the duration of your time out of the country.

Notify credit card companies

Without prior approval, using your credit card in another country can be problematic. Your card can be flagged for fraud, and you may not be able to use it.  To prevent this, notify your credit card company before you travel to avoid the inconvenience and embarrassment of having your credit card declined.  Additionally, getting in touch with your credit card company from another country and verifying yourself will be a hassle you can avoid.

Currency exchange

Try to have some local currency before you enter the country.  Currency conversion fees can differ where you choose to convert your money.  Also, converting before you leave on your trip will give you an idea of the exchange rate, so you know before you go.  If you plan to take local transportation, having local currency can be helpful. Knowing and understanding foreign currency also prevents you from being taken advantage of as an unaware tourist.

ATM fees

Using an ATM in a different country can be expensive with built-in foreign conversion fees and daily changing exchange rates.  Research what bank or system your bank card or credit card is affiliated with before you go so you can avoid unnecessary expenses.

Carry small currency

Having local or foreign currency in small denominations can be a lifesaver when you arrive at an international destination.  Some businesses and people will prefer the US or other foreign currency rather due to instability with their currency.  It is also safer to have cash in small denominations than trying to get the correct change back in your own or foreign currency.

Have you had any unexpected hiccups with forgetting to plan for international travel? I’d like to know.

How I packed for a weekend trip in a carry-on.

How I packed for a weekend trip in a carry-on.

Packing well for travel is a skill that comes from practice. Recently I traveled on a weekend trip that included a wedding and was able to do this with only a carry-on. Travelers can consider a few things that will make their packing easier and improve their ability not to overpack and fit in just a small bag or suitcase.

Check the weather for your destination. As I discussed in a previous post, pack for the realities of your destination, not what you expect it will be. Therefore, think in layers. Weather is not always predictable. When packing for a warm, sunny destination, consider the cool evenings by the beach or weather changes that can cool considerably as the day progresses. Similarly, when thinking of cold destinations, remember that you can become overheated if dressed too warmly.

Limit your footwear. For travel to any destination, you can almost always limit footwear to three pairs of shoes. Consider one set of footwear for walking, one for evenings out, and flat footwear. These three pairs of shoes will cover almost all types of travel itineraries. Your initial traveling outfit should include one of those three types, which means you will only need to pack two pairs of shoes.

Plan your travel. If you organize your trip, you will know what activities you plan and can pack accordingly. Think of how many changes of outfits you will need. How many times will you go to lunch or dinner? Will your plans call for business casual or comfort? In most cases, one pair of bottoms can be made unique with a different top or jacket.

Try different packing techniques. Rolling items rather than packing flat can allow for more things to fit into your carry-on. However, your outfits may need to be ready to wear and will not be suitable for rolling. Think of what items will be best rolled, such as jeans and tee shirts, or folded flat such as dresses or suit jackets.

Pack in advance. Packing in advance allows you to consider what you are packing rather than rushing to pack at the last minute. Preparation also will enable you to determine better if you are over packing or packing according to plans. It also limits forgetting items you will need, such as pajamas, socks, workout wear, or underwear. Advance packing helps in packing light.

Are you able to pack for a weekend with just a carry-on? What’s your secret, or what prevents you from packing light? I’d like to know.

Realities of hotel stays.

Realities of hotel stays.

Anticipating your destination is never the same as finally reaching it.  The first stop of your travel is your accommodations, and whether Airbnb or hotel, here are a few ideas to keep in mind when you finally reach your vacation stop.

There’s always that “ahh” feeling when you finally reach your destination where you want to lay on the bed in either exhaustion or relief at finally reaching your goal.  Hold on! Most likely, the hotel did not change the duvet or bed covering since the last guest.  As a former flight attendant who spent most of my life in hotel rooms, I could write a whole blog post just on the realities of hotel bed coverings. Your first notion when reaching your accommodation should be to remove the outer bed cover, especially if you cannot tell if it’s fresh linen. You can always tell this with white sheets and bed coverings.

Another hotel tip is to never drink from hotel glasses, especially those found in the bathroom before you wash them yourself.  I have often walked into hotel rooms in the process of being cleaned and, from my lived experience, often seen the maid wiping rather than washing the glasses.  Since Covid, many hotels have switched to plastic, but if your hotel has not, be mindful and wash those glasses before you use them.

Always check your sheets before you get into bed.  If after you’ve checked in and your bedding appears slept on or wrinkled, you can request to have them changed to be entirely sure they are clean.  In addition, check your towels, and if they appear soiled or used, please request fresh towels. Often only the towels used are replaced, and those not used stay in the room despite a new change of guest.

Along the same lines as hotel bed coverings, hotel carpets are also rarely cleaned.  I would highly suggest that you treat hotel carpet flooring as you would with public showers and never go barefoot.  Carpets are often only vacuumed between guests, but when maids are rushing to have rooms ready and the carpets appear clean, this is usually not done.  In most cases, when the carpet is soiled and needs cleaning, it is often only a spot treatment as this can take a room out of service.  Maids avoid this by heavily vacuuming instead, so be aware and try not to go barefoot.

These hotel realities are often not found at pricier hotels and accommodations, but sometimes the price does not guarantee quality.   Be aware that the standards you expect from your hotel may not be the reality.  Remember that these and other hotel realities can be addressed and do not have to spoil your vacation.

Have you had any unexpected hotel experiences? I’d like to know.

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