Whether you’ve taken organized tours before or are considering on testing the waters soon, this post is for you. Sadly, there are so many myths about organized tours that put people off from taking them. This can be really unfortunate, especially if you are the kind of person who wouldn’t want to travel alone either. And even as a sworn independent traveler myself, I see so many pros to the organized form of travel.
Recently all this solo travel has completely burnt me out!
Upon working my second season as a tour leader, it’s time I dish on a few little secrets and crush all the myths you may have heard.
Myth #1: Tour companies make a huge profit
I’m often pretty shocked when I check the prices of some organized tours. Having traveled long-term on pretty small budgets for many years, I know how cheap travel can be.
While I prefer solo travel for myself, another factor on tours has always been price. When I learned how much some tour brands actually profit I was shocked. It’s a miniscule amount.
Running a tour company involves so many parts that many people don’t consider. Advertising, paying office employees and tour leaders, vehicles, insurance, the list goes on. After everything is said and done, brands such as Trek America only profit about 2% of the actual price. The operators (like AmeriCan Adventures, the company I work for which places me on Trek tours) only profits about 2% as well.
The individuals taking the highest cut happen to be the travel agents, at a whopping 10-15%!
So, want to book an organized tour but concerned how much is being put into the pockets of the business? Luckily, you can be assured that most of the money you are spending is actually going towards the transportation, accommodation and function of the tour. (Maybe just try and avoid using a travel agent).
Myth #2: Your tour leader won’t become your friend
Whenever I joined an organized tour in the past, the leader felt like a distant entity, aloof and serious. Also when joining a tour you’re usually more concerned about the friends you’ll make on board, rather than the relationship with the leader themselves.
Being a tour leader myself has taught me a lot about this dynamic.
There are many times on tour when I just can’t be available as a friend. There are too many logistics to worry about and too many tasks to take care of that come first. In the first few days of a trip, small talk takes a bit of a back seat while the trip itself sits front. Also, a tour leader never wants to come off too friendly. The leader aspect is very important for the success of the journey.
After a few days though, this changes. I find it easier to relax and have the mental capacity to actually socialize. On some special, and typically longer trips, I’ve felt as if I was just driving around a group of friends. We end up becoming quite close after sharing so many experiences.
Still today I’m Facebook friends with most passengers I’ve had. A few of which I still keep in touch with. I know many leaders who when they go traveling end up staying at the homes of many of their previous passengers.
Your tour leader is a real person too. Some decide to open up, and others stay more closed off. Some may become a great friend.
Myth #3: Tours don’t provide ‘authentic experiences’
Just because you’re on an organized tour, it doesn’t mean you won’t have any authentic or cultural experiences. The key here though is to pick tours which travel in smaller groups and attract less attention.
While of course you never know which tour leader you may get, most do the job because they are passionate about sharing their culture and country with you. If you want to get to know the places you are visiting, just ask more questions, participate and engage whenever you can.
I can say that many of the passengers I’ve taken on cross-country trips learned more about the United States than a lot of Americans can say. Taking a road trip across the country, while celebrating 4th of July in Utah, sleeping in Navajo hogans and touring the swamps in the Louisiana bayou provide priceless experiences regardless of the fact it was during a tour.
Myth #4: It’s always less rewarding than solo travel
While I believe solo travel can be very rewarding because it can also be very challenging, organized travel isn’t exactly less rewarding. In truth, they are just rewarding in different ways.
With group travel, you are placed together with so many different people from different walks of life. While you also encounter this while traveling on your own, if you don’t like someone you can always leave. Group travel doesn’t allow this. You’re forced to figure out how to communicate and get along with people you never thought you would.
Socially, group travel can push you to grow and mature in ways you just don’t do in the comforts of your home. And at the end of a trip, most people find they’ve become close friends with someone they may have never even of thought to say hi to otherwise.
By learning how to deal with other people, and by interacting with people different from yourself, you can really allow yourself to grow.
Of course seeing new cultures and places can be rewarding in any type of travel. With group travel though, you may be pushed out of your comfort zone more often, with a group of people behind you cheering you on.
I’ve had passengers who could barely swim that were motivated to go rafting. Others have had intense fears of animals and then have ridden horses. After each experience they said they were so proud that they tried something new.
To sum it up, if you’re ready to hit the road but don’t quite want to do it alone, don’t be put off by an organized tour. Remember, key is picking the right company that will not only cater to your needs but the experience overall.