Guided Tour - What I think about them.
We took a group to Ireland in June and I wanted to share my thoughts on what I thought about doing a guided tour. We went through Trafalgar and used their sister company, Brendan. This was the first guided tour I participated in and it had both is pros and cons which I want to share with you.
First, lets do the Cons:
1. You are on someone else's schedule. The trip is very scheduled though there is free time throughout. It is usually in the evenings or sometimes you get a few hours when passing through a town. If you wanted to spend more time in a place or even can't stand the place you are in, you are stuck. For instance, we did not like Waterford and wanted to leave it as soon as possible. We did love Cork and Galway, but only got a few hours to spend there. Also, there is no time to sleep in. My husband loves to do that on vacation and the only way he could was to skip a day of touring with the group.
2. You better hope you like the tour director. Your tour director is going to be doing a lot of talking while you are traveling on the bus, but I think it is essential that they are charismatic and that their voice is soothing. You are going to hear a lot from them. We were lucky and our director was delightful.
3. You spend a lot of time on a bus. Trafalgar definitely has high-end buses with huge windows and very comfortable seating. I did not mind it at all. It had two doors to exit and get on so you weren't spending a lot of time waiting. It is sort of a necessary evil and if you play it right, you can make a lot of friends on that bus. I have heard this is a sticking point for people and guided tours, but I wasn't bad.
This is our bus on a ferry. Ferries in Ireland save a lot of driving time.
1. Affordable. Sharing a tour with 45 other people makes it very affordable. It is probably the most inexpensive way to visit a country.
2. Built in babysitter. The tour guide makes sure that everyone gets on the bus in a timely manner and keeps moving. When one stays up too late at the local pubs, sometimes it takes the director to help you get out of the room and moving. Some people just need babysitters.
3. You don't have to handle your own luggage. This is a very good aspect of group travel. You don't need to lug your luggage around! You simply leave it outside your door and it magically disappears and ends up on the bus and then appears at your next hotel outside of your room It's nice.
4. Not a lot of effort on your part. You literally don't have to do any thinking for planning on this trip. It has all been done for you and it is a huge mental vacation. Have you read the article about the difference between and trip and a vacation. Well, this would definitely fall under a vacation. Read the article here.
5. Knowledge. The tour director is going to show and tell you things that there is no way you would know otherwise. They are a wealth of information because they are locals.
When I do it again, here is what I will do differently.
I would bring Noise canceling headphones for the bus for when I want to doze off and not hear anyone.
I would also extend the trip by 2-3 days so there is time to do nothing. Maybe I would pick a location to go to that wasn't already on the tour to hang out for a few more days. Personally, I think I would have been happy to spend a few more days in Dublin exploring.
Do you think you would like a guided tour? They are available in nearly every part of the country to include the US. That National Parks one sounds like a lot of fun.