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January 10, 2017

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Guided Tour

Tour Manager

The beauty of going on a guided trip is that you don’t have to do much planning yourself. Hotels, transportation, tours, admission to popular attractions (and skipping the lines into them), meals--all of these are often pre-arranged so all you have to do is show up. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But for those travelers who still want some flexibility, or those who have concerns that a guided trip might seem too cookie-cutter, there’s still a lot you can do to personalize your trip and make it yours. Here are five ways you can go the extra mile to make your next guided trip your most memorable yet:

1) Make use of your guide.

tour guide

They are your guide, after all, and his or her job is to make the trip as enjoyable as possible for you (of course, within limits)! Kindly ask them questions before and during your trip so you have clear expectations of what the trip will be like: What time are the first activities each day? How much time will you spend in transport between destinations? Is it possible to skip certain meals or tours? Also leverage their expertise to help you tailor the trip to your interests. Take initiative and communicate to them the things you’re most interested in seeing, whether it be history, art, food, nature, or sports, etc. You’ll never know what you might find out if you don’t ask. Your guide will likely give you great, spot-on recommendations, and if so, remember to show your appreciation as well!

2) Take advantage of the free time that you will inevitably have on your trip.

seniors exploremap

No guided tour will have activities planned for every waking hour of the day. Do some research before the trip, and also use your trip director as a resource (see tip #1 above), to have some ideas of how to proactively use the downtime. Ask for suggestions of things to do, such as street markets to visit, neighborhoods you want to take a stroll in, shows you want to see, or even classes (cooking, dance, language) you are interested in taking. Go and explore a bit; often the best memories of a trip--the place you find that beautiful handmade rug, or the eatery where you have a great conversation with the shop owner--are made when you wander around and make discoveries on your own. If you do decide to separate from the group for a bit, make sure to know beforehand how, when, and where to join back up with everyone.

3) Be open to making friends with other members of your tour group.

zipline costarica

You all ended up choosing this tour, so you’ve got, at the very least, a shared interest in travel and this particular destination. The group meals are a great way to meet and socialize with the other members of your group. You may even want to exchange contact information with the people you really connect with so you can plan to travel with them again in the future. Of course, don’t stress if you are more of an introvert. Group tours shouldn’t make you run for the hills. Instead, know that this trip is for you to enjoy, relax, and/or to experience something new, and focus on how to make it as great a trip as you can.

4) Interact with locals.

jaipur street market

In order to really get a sense of a foreign culture, this is essential. Despite being on a guided tour, you can make an effort to interact with locals during the free time and I promise that the rewards will be worth it. Even if you spend most of the time struggling, try to learn some of the local language and commit just a few phrases to memory. Some especially useful ones will be “thank you,” “please,” “good day”--you get the idea. You’ll be amazed at how far it will go with locals to try a few words in their native tongue. Also remember that you are a guest in their country, so smile, be friendly, and be polite.

5) Don’t overdo it.

canyon views

Understand and embrace the fact that you can’t and won’t see it all. Leave some time for rest and relaxation so you will be be able to fully partake in the planned activities, as well as have the energy to venture off on your own every once in a while. Sometimes a nap or a drink on your hotel room balcony is exactly what you need. Or even consider springing for a massage! You haven’t come all this way not to treat yourself well, and part of that is allowing yourself the time you need to refresh for the next day.

Traveling with a guided tour is a great way to do and see a lot without the stress of having to book your own travel and plan all the things to do in a new and unfamiliar place. However, if you put to practice some of these above tips, you’ll take away that much more from your trip. Have a great time on your next tour, and we hope it will be one with us!

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