Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Off The Beaten Path Again

A couple of people recently asked me about traveling to Europe on organized tours versus traveling with just airline tickets and hotel reservations.  Both approaches have there merits.

Organized tours:
See the key highlights on the itinerary - they are planned and organized so you see the key sights.  The planners work out the logistics of travel times, tickets, security, even meals so that you don't miss things in the book of things to see before you die.  They work out all of the hotel reservations, ground transportation and tour arrangements.  In exchange for this, you see things at the pace of the tour, in the order the tour goes, and you have limited time to see anything else. There are a handful of places and things in the world that I would defiantely do an organized tour for (Egypt or Russia for examples.)  Organized tours will get you into see and do some things that are hard to do on your own, they know what has to be booked far ahead of time, or you simply won't get in.

Independent Travel:
This is leaving home with an airline ticket, hotel reservations that you have made, maybe ground transportation from city to city, and maybe a few reservations for sites or activities; but all things that you have booked yourself.  Most of my travel has been done this way.  Independent travel gives me the ability to see what I want to see, at my own pace and to change plans when I want to.  I can decide after I am there if I want to spend 5 hours or 5 minutes in a museum (yes, I have paid to get in a museum and after 5 minutes decided I didn't like it and was leaving and going to lunch.) In exchange, I sometimes find things are closed or booked full when I get there - there have only been a couple of times when this was a disappointment, most of the time I am happy to change directions and see what is around the corner to see.  I have a lot of time to explore, to see things that are not on any tour itinerary.  And I like getting off the beaten path.  On the most recent adventure, I took great joy in finding restaurants we were the only table not speaking Italian. I like to wander off down the side street and truly get off the beaten path.

So which is better?  It depends on the destination and how you like to travel.  I am fairly fearless about going it on my own and really enjoy the flexibility to see things on my own, but if truly felt uncomfortable or found it difficult making travel arrangements for a location, and organized tour would overcome that issue and empower the adventure.  

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