Part of the fun of going on holiday is the planning; assuming of course that you’re the planning type! On the other side of the coin you get people who are slightly allergic to planning and like to take life as it comes! So, to answer our question of whether you should head out on your own with your kids or take group tours, very much depends on your ‘holiday personality’. If you’re not much of a planner, then group tours could be for you, but if you get a kick out of planning a holiday then heading out on your own is probably going to get you experiencing countries in a whole different way.
Group tours are a perfect solution for single people or retired couples, but how well does it work for a family? Will the self-drive option be the better option perhaps?
Well, let’s dive in and find out. Here we take a look at a few pros and cons of both approaches, so you can decide what your ‘holiday personality’ is so that you can plan that next awesome getaway (even if that plan is to not do much planning)!
The all-inclusive group tour holiday
What’s the upside of the group tour?
- Allergic to planning? Well, with group tours you really don’t have to think about much; everything is planned for you by the tour organizers, and you get to sit back, relax and wait for the day to come!
- You don’t have to deal with too much red tape, as the tour organizers take care of all the tickets. Feeling weighed down with the luggage after you’ve packed everything and the kitchen sink in for the kids? With organised tours, they’ll handle all the luggage for you, and you won’t be like a pack mule dragging half of your house with you! Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
- When you’re heading out on tours, you often get pretty cool insider tips from your guides. For example, let’s say that you’ve decided to go on safari – your rangers will know exactly where to find and spot cool animals, which are quite an amazing sight to see, of course. If you’re on your own, you might not see as much.
- Waiting for entry somewhere with impatient kids is painful to say the least, but most of the tour operators get bulk discounts and there are often entrances that give special preference to group tours. So in summary, cheaper tickets and less queues.
- When you’re heading out on an adventure holiday in lesser known places, for example the jungle or game territory, it’s actually a good thing to have a guide. You don’t want to be stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire and a lion approaching. Not cool! Guides know the territories and they know exactly where they’re going, so even if you’re on safari with a couple of other people, you don’t have to worry about safety.
- If you’ve got minimum time and are having a whirlwind tour, then guided tours might just be the answer to make sure you get to see everything in a matter of days.
- Most tour organizers arrange airport collections, which is awesome if you’re arriving somewhere late at night with tired kids in tow. You don’t have to start looking for a way to get to your destination in the middle of the night.
- Tour guides can actually be quite useful in large cities. They know where you should eat, which areas to avoid and they can even teach you how to barter, giving you the inside scoop of what’s happening in the place you’re visiting. They will also often tell you what the general prices are so you don’t get ripped off.
- Group tours always have English speaking guides, and if this is important to you, then a group tour is the way to go.
- Some places you can’t actually visit unless you’re with a group tour, for example Colca Canyon in Peru and the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia.
- There are actually tours out there that are dedicated to families and they go out of their way to make sure that everywhere you visit is family-friendly. Another benefit of this is that you could travel with other families from all over the world, and learn about all sorts of cultures. There are a couple of tour operators dedicated to families which includes Ciao Bambino and Tauck. Take a look and see if any of these light your fire!
What’s the downside of the group tour?
- It can be expensive as there can sometimes be hidden costs tucked neatly away in your accommodation. The tour operators often set you up in four star hotels.
- You’re often put on an extremely tight schedule to make sure you maximise your sightseeing. It’s tiring for adults, but for kids even more so. You could have some grumpy little people with you, so be warned.
- Even in the case of child-friendly tour operators, the destinations are often not all that inspiring for kids. Countless cathedrals and museums are not exactly a kid’s idea of the best holiday in the world. If you need a rest, there’s nowhere to go ‘cause you’re stuck on the tour.
- A lot of the restaurants aren’t exactly child friendly and with a group tour you don’t have the freedom to decide where and when you want to do stuff, or which restaurants you visit.
- There is nothing more irritating than having an ill-informed tour guide who recites the information brochure. When paying for an organised tour, you have high expectations. You also often find that local guides have poor English and can be difficult for your kids to understand (if English is your home language).
The self-drive or individual touring option
What’s the upside of the self-drive individual touring option?
- You get to what you want, when you want and can plan your activities based on your family’s needs. Love adventure, then you’re free to do it or if you love hiking, you’re free to do it. You don’t have to stop in at every museum and historical site you see. You can stop when you want for a quick roadside picnic or pump up the volume on the radio for a bit of fun.
- You don’t have to see what everyone else sees – you can all discuss what you want to do and agree it together. If you go the group tour option, you might be forced to take that funicular or cable car, whereby as a family you might prefer a hike. You choose. Or why not rent bicycles and cycle around your destination, which you certainly won’t get to do get on a group tour as it’s buses all the way!
- For some people, including us, part of the thrill is navigating on their own through a foreign country. Kids can be involved with map reading, programming the GPS for the next day or even planning the menu, deciding on adventures – making it a real family affair.
- Tours often stay with safe western options when they choose restaurants. If you’re travelling on your own, you have more freedom to experiment with local cuisine and to introduce your kids to new flavours and tastes, which is all part of the holiday experience.
- You get to avoid the busy shopping malls and souvenir tourist traps, which can be a nightmare with kids.
- It is often more affordable to overnight in a self-catering cottage as a family than in a four star hotel. Times have changed and some youth hostels now cater for families as well.
- An option to consider is getting a private driver such as a taxi driver. People often do this when travelling in India. Just make sure they’re insured to carry passengers and check their credentials.
What’s the downside of the self-drive individual touring option?
- You will definitely have to do some planning and do a bit of homework on your destination before you set off, which in all honesty can add to the fun too. But, if you hate planning, this may break you out in hives.
- If you’re trying to navigate your way around a foreign city and land up getting lost, you can have some high emotions flying around the car!
- If you’ve decided that part of your holiday is going to be some tourist attractions, then be prepared to wait in queues.
- You may find that flight tickets are more expensive – of course, this depends on where you’re going and what time of year. You can always try and book in advance, which will make it cheaper.
- It is difficult to determine your ‘pocket money’ when you’re dealing in a foreign currency. Do a bit of homework and you can try and budget for each day and keep a bit extra for emergencies or if you decided to do something extra!
We’re big fans of taking the road less travelled and heading out on your own. But the choice is yours – with this information you can make an informed decision about how you plan to travel. Just remember, travelling on your own will bring far more family adventures for that once-in-a-lifetime holiday experience!