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Guided Tour vs Solo Trip

Women showcasing solo travel in the Alabama Hills

Diving into the world of travel you can be hit by how many options are out there. You can travel alone, with friends, in a scheduled group tour or a combination. When I decided to take my first solo international trip to Costa Rica I was so nervous! I had no idea what to except would I be lonely, would people stare at me, would I be safe. To ease myself into my first trip I deiced to book a guided group tour. I had moonlighted as a travel agent (one of many attempts to have a job where I could travel) and had heard of a company called Tauck. They are one of the top rated luxury travel companies and they have been around since 1925. Being a luxury traveler I knew they would be a perfect fit!

They have many different types of tours, that range from Bridges which includes children to adult only trips and even recently river cruises. Being an active destination this trip was a Bridge group meaning there would be a mixture of children and adults. Before I lost my nerve I called Tauck and booked a single ticket for the trip. Now there are many different options when considering a group trip. You need to consider do you like a somewhat scheduled day? Do you enjoy being around people you don’t know for extended periods of time?

My style of traveling is I enjoy having a somewhat structured day with some free time. I don’t mind meeting new people as I can interact very easily. If you are a person who may be a little shy a group tour can be a little intimidating. You are thrust into a group setting for the duration of your trip. When I first checked into the group, my amazing tour director Ronny was shocked to see a mid-twenty, year old solo on a family trip.

His first question was do you know there are kids here??? I said yes and I am totally fine with that!

With that in mine here are the top 5 pro’s of a Group Trip:

With many group tours you have exclusive access that you wouldn’t have as a regular solo travel. Museums for instance will extend hours for special group tours. You can get more time in some amazing destinations with less crowds which is a huge plus! One of guided tours biggest selling points is you can skip lines. For instance in Rome you will sometimes see guided tours being led ahead to “cut” lines at the Coliseum. If you can only travel around holidays or summer, having the perk of first access can save valuable time.

Oceanographic museum in Monaco

I am a naturally OCD planner and almost all of my trips I make a detailed itinerary. Its the whole being a Virgo thing – list writing come with the territory. Taking a guided tour was so easy I woke up and didn’t have to think about where I was going, or how I was going to get there. With scheduled activities I never had to worry about my plans for the day. They were all top notch and so well coordinated I was completely at ease.

When you are traveling abroad accommodations are very important. If you love luxury hotels you know they can be very expensive and sell out quickly. Tauck tour have contracts with all the hotels you will stay at. Meaning the hotels are at a lower rate and all rooms are guaranteed. By Tauck having lower rates I paid much less then what I would have had if I booked my rooms on my own. Tauck even has a tour in Ireland where they get to stay at Ashford Castle. The rate you pay by booking on your own is almost double what you pay by booking the tour.

Luxury accommodation on a guided tour

Guided tours take the stress out of worrying about paying for meals out of pocket. With 80% of the meals covered its one less thing to worry about. Typically you have one meal on your own so you have your own time to explore which is a nice change. However, some of the meals I had on my guided tour I would have never had on my own. In Costa Rica we ate a family’s house who lived on the river and they made the whole meal from scratch! One of the best experiences I have had to date. It can be nice after a long day of adventuring to have a great meal that you didn’t have to go search for.

One of the biggest perks for me of guided tour, and pretty much any time I travel are the people! Spending a week with the same group created a really close knit feeling. I am still friends with a good majority of my group that I met. I even went to NY to visit a few of them! Sometimes you can be afraid to make friends when traveling solo because safety can be a concern. When you are in a big group you feel much more comfortable and its nice to have people looking out for you. I knew that if I was ever late to the bus somebody would know. Having that extra sense of security especially on my first big solo trip was very reassuring. 

Tauck Bridge guided tour in costa rica

Now like with anything there are always some con’s but from my own experience there were not many.

Sometime you may crave a little more freedom and want to be more spontaneous on your trip. When you are in a group setting you go at the group pace, make sure to really research the group itinerary before booking a trip. You want to make sure you have the flexibility you’re looking for. I love itinerary’s that have busy mornings and let out around mid afternoon. This allows for freedom to explore on your own in the afternoon and sneak in those instagram shots.

Now let look at the top 5 pro’s of a solo trip

I think this is the most obvious allure of any solo trip is to literally do whatever you whenever you want. You are the mercy of your own whims and desires. If you want to sleep until noon or party until 4:00am you can! You want to skip breakfast but have dinner fit for a King you can! The best part of my solo trip’s are having the freedom to wake up at 05:00am every day and being able to shoot my photos without bothering someone else.

I would lug my tri-pod and camera gear and go hit a spot I had been dying to see. When I was in Prague I woke up early to race to Charles Bridge I just caught sunrise which was great lighting and a big bonus no one was out. I got some amazing shots and I make it a point to do this on each of my trips now.

Solo women on Charles Bridge in Prague

A solo trip can really test you in ways you didn’t know. Where the freedom to do what you want can be exhilarating it can also be debilitating. When you get lost there is no one to blame but yourself you have to figure it out on your own. It can be extremely rewarding experience and its one I think everyone should at least experience once.

Solo Women on a cliff in Ireland

Just like at Disneyland how they have the single rider line, there can be perks as a solo traveler. Get last minute tickets to see a show its much easier to get one then it is to get say four. Dinner reservations are also much easier for the solo traveler. These can be great perks and time savers down the line.

Solo women at a ball in Vienna Austria

When you travel alone you will naturally see more opposed to when you are with your friends or family. Sometimes you won’t strike up those conversations with strangers. When I was alone I just saw so much more. I wasn’t busy talking and ignoring my surroundings. I couldn’t help but see everything around me. While in line to enter the Prague castle I had a great conversation with a couple from Israel. Being alone it’s much easier for people to strike up a conversation with you. Those are the memories you will cherish from your travels.

You will not only learn so much about yourself when you travel alone but you will gain so much confidence. You learn to trust your gut and you let go. It’s an amazing feeling of knowing you don’t need anyone else to experience the amazing world around you.

Solo women at the Monkey Forest in Ubud Bali

As with guided tours, solo travel also has some negatives.

A main concern is safety and traveling solo you will be more cautious than in a group trip. The trick is to not let it overwhelm you, always listen to your gut. If something feels wrong don’t continue, and never tell people you are alone. Some people worry they will be lonely. Where that can be true you have to remember you are never truly alone. While traveling you may not know anyone personally but there are hundreds of thousands of other people all around you.

When choosing a guided trip or to travel solo remember you can never make a bad choice because you’re actively doing something! You’re seeing the world which is a blessing in itself. You will have some great guided trips and some that are awful. In the same token some solo trips will be life changing others will make you question your sanity for traveling alone. Traveling in general is a journey it shapes you and changes you. Don’t fight it, just enjoy it and experience it. If you are not sure which is the right type of trip for you just try it, but don’t feel stuck in picking only one. I regularly switch between group trips and solo trips and that’s part of the fun!

Keep a wandering spirit my friends and thanks for following along!

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