Feeling a bit boxed in by your guided tour? While it’s true that your itinerary has already been set, that does not mean that there is no room for flexibility or customization.
Here’s a look at four simple ways to get the most out of your guided tour.
Do Your Research
The absolute best way to make the most of any travel is to understand where you’re going. Knowing what makes each destination special will help you to understand where to go, what to see, what to eat, and what to skip altogether. Researching your destinations in advance of your trip helps you get excited about the things you’re going to be seeing on your guided vacation. It also makes for a better experience when you already know something about the places you’re seeing and can ask questions to your guide. Take the Louvre Museum, for example: before your trip, maybe take some time to read about the history of the museum and identify some pieces of art that you specifically want to see.
Knowing about the places you’ll be visiting also opens you up to make the most of your free time. Instead of wondering where to go during your downtime, you’ll have a plan that’s all your own. Use your itinerary as a guide, but write your own story.
Talk to Your Tour Director
A group tour comes with many great perks, and a professional tour director is one of them. Your director will be an expert on the region you’ll be visiting – someone who knows the language so that you don’t have to, and who helps enhance your journey in a multitude of ways. Take advantage of time on the motorcoach to talk about the history, cuisine, and attractions in each destination. This is a great chance to enhance your knowledge so don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Your tour director can also help you prioritize things that you may want to see or do that aren’t part of the itinerary – so you can come up with a plan and make the most of your free time. Ask your tour director for recommendations on any of the following in each destination you visit:
- Local culinary specialties
- Must-try restaurants
- Farmers’ markets
- Museums and attractions
- Specialty products and gift ideas
Consider an Optional Excursion
While many of the sights, meals, and activities you will experience on your trip are included in your adventure, each itinerary offers a variety of additional, optional excursions to choose from. These activities generally carry an additional fee but offer an opportunity to experience something unique at a special group rate. Optional excursions can include anything from a meal at a family-run winery in Italy to an evening cruise along the Seine in Paris.
One question we often get is why these experiences aren’t included in the main itinerary and overall price of the trip. The reason for this is that everyone has different interests and desires when it comes to their vacation. Our tour operators strive to offer guests the ideal ratio of guided sightseeing and time to explore at leisure – we’ve found that providing a selection of interesting and unique optional experiences is the best way to achieve this.
We recommend reviewing the list of optional experiences for your trip well in advance to come up with a plan and maximize your free time. And if you find that you’re undecided on a particular activity or experience, it’s okay to wait and ask your travel director for advice at the beginning of your trip.
Another way to get the most out of your travel budget is to consider adding an additional night or two either at the beginning or end of your guided tour. This is an especially good idea for travelers looking to spend more time in a particular destination or even to recover from jet lag before their tour begins.
Flying into the first destination on your tour a day or two in advance will also give you some wiggle room in case something unexpected should occur, such as a flight delay, cancellation or lost baggage. And whether you spend your extra time sightseeing or simply relaxing and adjusting to your new time zone, you’ll be able to move at your own pace before the start of your trip.
Adding a few days at the end of your trip is another way to customize your guided tour. Some travelers allow for extra time to go back and explore a place they visited in greater depth, while others make plans ahead of time to venture on to a new city they’ve never been to.
If you’re interested in extending your trip, be sure to talk about it with your Travel Specialist as they may be able to assist you in making your travel arrangements and even offer reduced rates at specific hotels where you’ll be staying on tour.