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Top 10 Reasons to Go Guided

by Claudia Looi

March 16, 2018

Designing routes and exciting sites for tours, tracking down the best restaurants and hotels and getting the best airfare deals take special skills. And not to mention the many hours of research. There are many key components to cover when putting together a tour itinerary. You need to know the hours of operation of museums and ways to skip the long lines too.

For over a decade, I worked in the travel industry as a tour coordinator, tour leader and sales in three different continents. I've been on guided tours, led and sold tours to hundreds of thousands of customers. Now, as a consumer, I have the knowledge to design my guided tour packages, but I still go on guided tours on 50 percent of my trips because of these 10 reasons:

1. Get all the details that you won't get on your own

When you're on a guided tour, all the details from arrival to departure are taken care of by the tour company. You don't have to figure out how to get to your hotel or harbor regrets because you wasted your time and missed out on visiting famous landmarks.

Getting lost while trying to find the attractions, facing long lines and arriving at a place that is closed are common problems when I'm not on guided tours.

on guided tours, your day-to-day programs are written and planned for you including your rooms, places to eat and drink and what you'll see. You'll have a mix of guided tour programs with the group and plenty of time to do things on your own.

Most importantly, your guide will tell you the history, culture, and everything related to a destination. The knowledgeable guide will be able to address your interests and concerns live and give you insider information right away. Overall, I learn more about a place through guided tours.

2. Save time and see more

Time is money when you're on vacation too.

It's commonplace to have skip-the-line access to museums and cathedrals when you're with a tour group. With a skip-the-line admission like at the Vatican, you have more time to spend with an expert guide inside.

Food lovers in particular will enjoy joining a guided food tour that introduces at least five types of local specialty foods during a three to four hour tour. On your own, it'll take you hours or days to hunt them down. Most of these tours will give you a chance to go behind-the-scenes that otherwise would have been impossible.

3. Discover hidden treasures

Your tour guide may show you the best cafes, restaurants and hidden treasures in his/her city. I joined a guided tour in Evora, Portugal where the guide took us to the little known Roman baths hidden inside the city hall. Not much is written about this unique site, and there's no signage pointing to the Roman baths.

4. Meet like-minded people

The chances of meeting like-minded people are quite high when you join a tour that includes experiences that cater to specialized interests. For example, if you sign up for a tour that includes many culinary experiences and cooking classes, you won't find someone who abhors cooking and trying new foods. You'll meet a bunch of enthusiastic foodies, ready to take on a new cooking challenge and try new things.

Group tours give guests the opportunity to meet people from around the world.

5. Cultivate friendship with the locals (including the guide)

Your local tour guides may end up being your life-long friends. They may introduce you to their friends and places where you may not be able to get to if you're traveling without a guide. In Florianopolis, Brazil, our tour guide brought us to a local samba bar where he usually hangs out with his local friends.

6. Support the economy

What better way to support the economy of a country you visit than to join a guided tour that uses tour vehicles and local tour guides. My guided trip to Bolivia and Peru involved not just the drivers and tour guides; we had homestays, where we brought gifts like rice, cooking oil and bread from the city to the host families. While we were there, we bought local-made crafts from the host families.

7. Safety

Safety is number one. It doesn't matter where you travel to, wherever there are throngs of tourists, there'll be pickpockets. Safety issues also apply when hiking or going into remote jungles. Your tour guides can alert you on what may go wrong and are the best source when help is needed.

When in Rio de Janeiro, I didn't feel safe walking without a tour guide. I wouldn't recommend you do so either. In fact, we had a driver/tour guide with us for the entire trip.

8. Comfort and less hassle

It's comfortable to go on a guided tour where everything is done for me compared to an independent tour where I must plan the day to day activities, navigate with a map around the city, and look for transportation and places to eat.

There's a lot of hassle planning my trip, mainly when on a tight schedule. Of course, it's different if I'm staying at an island resort. In that case, a guided tour is unnecessary.

9. Guided tours may be less expensive

Contrary to popular belief, guided tours may be less expensive than independent tours. Tour companies have long-term relationships with the local suppliers, hotels, and restaurants that you and I do not. They are people who have been there, did the groundwork and experienced the destinations you're visiting.

10. It's a vacation

Put your mind at ease; you're on vacation! After all, average American workers get roughly 10 to 14 days of paid leave after one year of work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And we have 365 days in a year, so whether you're still working or retired, it's important to make the most of your time away. Guided travel is the most efficient way to do that.

Remember, "life is short, so enjoy it to the fullest" (quote from John Walters)!

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