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Month: January 2017

The Pros And Cons Of Guided Tours

The Pros And Cons Of Guided Tours

Guided Tours is a topic I often debate with fellow travelers, and it really does depend on who you are, where you are and what you are doing. It’s no secret that my personal preference is to travel alone, meet local people and make use of their hospitality preferably for free. Partly because I’m a cheapskate, and partly because in my opinion, you get a true taste of the local culture by fully immersing yourself in a destination and stepping outside your comfort zone. Nothing says ‘learn to walk’ like being dropped in a strange city and having to find your own forms of sustenance and transportation. The unpredictable is what turns me on, but I understand others prefer a more structured/scheduled approach to travel. Let’s

divine leaders  - hit the path
Na na na na na Leader!

face it, the only way you’d get me on a guided tour is if I was in North Korea on a state mandated tour bus, while I sucked down Kimchi and conveniently avoided taking pictures of ‘the great eternal leader’. But for everyone else, let’s press on….

So without further ado, here are the pros and cons of going on guided tours! Woohooo!

PROS:

 

  • Everything is already planned and ready to go.

For those of you who like to know where you’ll are going, what you’ll be doing, what you’ll be seeing, where you’ll be staying and what you’ll be eating, guided tours are for you. The good news is most tour agencies have full itineraries to view and feature several online reviews from previous travelers with tips to make your vacation experience a good one. Make use of this pre-planned information and make your vacation a customized and memorable one.

 

  • Local guides and translators

The greatest hurdle to cross when traveling is overcoming language barriers. I speak Arabic and English and I still have problems communicating! I hate to admit it because I do preach tolerance and multiculturalism, but it really bothers me when it takes sign language and 30 minutes just to order lunch! Have no fear, tour guides provide you with a translator and potentially a free pass into places you might not have the opportunity to go on your own. Life is so much easier when you’re with a native speaker.

camel tours  - hit the path
yes, you can even tour by camel!
  • Transportation and Airport pickups

Transportation is always something that gives me anxiety when I travel. It might seem easy to get a ride from the airport, but in reality it can be a nightmare. I wish I had all the money back that I have had conned out of me by taxi drivers, and it’s not just them, hotels will charge upwards of $20 for an simple airport pickup, even in the poorest of countries. As mentioned above, public transport is also unreliable and there’s no denying that hiring a tour company takes away all that stress and worry and allows you to focus on enjoying your vacation.

 

  • Good for people with limited time

Let’s face it, most Americans only get 2 weeks off a year and since time is of the essence, booking a guided tour with a strict timeline is a good option. Vacationing alone takes a lot of time to plan and things don’t always go the way we hope. If you don’t want to be inconvenienced by unreliable public transport and have no flexibility on time and dates, let a tour guide company figure it all out for you. You get to see a selection of local attractions and don’t have to waste time finding food and accommodation.

  • Included meals and hotels

Because tour guides are booking for large groups, then often get good discounts on food and accommodation. A lot of them offer 4 star hotels and good quality local dining options. Oftentimes lunch is not included, so that is an extra cost to be aware of and also there is limited options available. You either eat at the same restaurant with the group or pay for your own meal somewhere else.

guided tours  - hit the path
Nom Nom Nommm

 

CONS:

 

  • Not a lot of opportunity to meet locals

As I have mentioned in my other posts, meeting locals people is truly the cornerstone to a wonderful and memorable vacation. I believe that everybody has something to offer and teach, and putting myself in positions to learn from others has allowed me to be an open minded and well educated individual. Being on tour does not allow for a lot of social interaction with people other then the translator and tour coordinator.

 

  • Can’t get a taste of local culture

While it’s good to see the top local attractions in a city, that’s where it begins and ends for tour companies. Attractions are a must for any traveler, but what I enjoy the most about my vacations, is the option to stroll down the streets, talk to new people, eat snacks and even just to sit down at a local park and appreciate where I am for a minute. Take it all in and do it in my own time.

 

guided tours bus  - hit the path
Nicer then my own transpo….
  • Can be rushed and time limited

Having everything taken care of on a trip can reduce stress for some, but for others it can add to it. Going on tour means early mornings, scheduled meals, set allotments of time at different places, and a huge sense of rushed uneasiness that I would call anything but fun. Yes tour guides do a great job at squeezing in everything in the shortest amount of time, but be aware of the schedule ahead of time and if it’s not your thing, opt to go it alone.

  • Stuck in a group

This is something I don’t do well with and it’s no secret that I’m not a huge people person. I spend most of my home time in my mountain cabin alone 7000 feet in the air. The people I have in my life I choose to associate with, and remember on a tour you have no choice of who’s on your vacation. You might get lucky and blend in with an amazing group of people. You might also get stuck with a bunch of louts and loudmouths that could make your holiday a miserable hell. It’s the luck of the draw and you have to personally weight the pros and cons on what you are willing to tolerate and what you won’t.

 

  • Hidden costs and fees

This is double edged sword that a lot of people aren’t aware of when they book a tour. A lot of companies (especially the budget ones), will charge extra for day excursions and added on services that are not included in the original price. Also some tours expect extra money for tipping and alcoholic beverages. Just because you are quoted $1200 for a 10 day tour doesn’t mean that’s all the money you will need. Bring extra cash with you, you don’t want to have to miss out of an additional experience because you were not aware beforehand.

guided tours  - hit the path
Ohh Santorini

Which Option Is Cheaper?

I put this as a separate category because it really does depend on where you go, for how long and what you plan on doing. International tours often include airfares which are cheaper than those you could book for yourself so that’s a plus, but you might also be paying for attractions you really have no interest in seeing, and meals that you just won’t eat. Accommodation is also something to consider, and these days there are many options for discount travelers. Shop around for all vacation ideas and see what’s best for you.

 

Before booking a tour look at the itinerary, read the reviews and ask as many questions as you can in order to make an educated decision on your next vacation. It’s your dime and your time, make it as memorable as possible and above all else, enjoy yourself 🙂

yes, don’t be like Sarah
10 Reasons To Visit The USA, ASAP!!!

10 Reasons To Visit The USA, ASAP!!!

I’ve been chipping away and brainstorming this post on reasons to visit the USA for a while. Not only is it a critical piece of my entire blogs identity, it also speaks to my cultural spirit and reason for living the last 10 years of my life. I don’t have children, I have travel and a connection with the country I now call my home. As a proud citizen and resident, I invite you to come and see America the way I see it, as an amalgamation of cultures with a fierce independence and a determination to always be a place that allows people freedom and a reason to dream.

 

flag - visit the USA

 

  1. Its like SIX countries in one! To say the very least, the USA could be comfortably divided up into six countries all culturally, environmentally and geopolitically different and distinct. You have the South-West, North-West, Mid-West, South-East, North-East, oh and then Texas, which technically could be divided into two because its vastly different from east to west. No other continent can compete with our different landscapes and regional variations.
  2. Everything you could ever want is here. We pride ourselves in having the best of everything no matter what you are into. Now you might argue that we don’t have the best skiing or the best food etc, but when you put everything together, no other country can offer you what we can. Sure other countries have ski slops 2 hours from the beach, but a Disneyland as well? Unheard of! 🙂
  3. National Parks. Americans realized early in the piece, that in order to preserve natural beauty, certain areas who display distinct and beautiful flora and fauna, need to be cordoned off and preserved for the benefit of future generations. No matter if you are into mountains, beaches, deserts, or just wide open plains, the American National Parks system has something for you! National Parks are always a great place to start off your vacation planning. Aim to add a few of them into your holidays and enjoy a real untouched American experience. national parks - visit the USA
  4. Great Highways. There are many engineering marvels that I truly admire about America, and the Interstate Highway system is one of them. Thanks to the forethought of President Eisenhower, we have an elaborate yet coherent system of controlled-access road infrastructure running east and west and everywhere in-between. It’s something that all of us here take for granted, but America wouldn’t be the awesome place it is without it. It’s not until you go overseas and see what other countries have that you actually admire and appreciate it.
  5. Great food. Thanks to post world war II industrialized food production techniques, America has a really bad reputation for producing chemically infused, plastic, boring food, but that’s not the whole story. The real food you find cooking in peoples homes and in diners and restaurants is something to be treasured, and the best part? Every region has it’s own distinct specialties that are truly unique and local to that area. These regional fares are even more varied these days with the influx of multiculturalism. Everything new and old is fused together to make every dining option imaginable. Broaden your mind and include a little bit of everything in your vacation meal planning and you will be better for it.Southern food - visit the USA
  6. Friendly people. I’ve never felt at home anywhere like I have in America. Even in urban places that have a terrible reputation for rudeness and bad manners, I’ve always encountered kind people who are willing to take their time to help me without question. Forget what preconceived notions you have about the American population as a whole and come and experience it for yourself. It’s great to know that when you’re traveling, help is available at every turn, all you have to do is ask.
  7. History and Attractions. Ok… So America might be way behind Europe as far as history is concerned, but what we do have we fought mighty hard to keep, and for that we have a strong and proud tradition we love to share with the rest of the world. My favorite part about traveling America is all the living history museums and reenactments. It’s one thing to go to a museum, it’s quite another to step back into time and amerce yourself in yesteryear. We can’t move forward into to future until we acknowledge and respect the past.
  8. Great for kids. Great news for parents, America is very kid friendly. In fact whole industries are built around providing your children with a great vacation and memorable experience. Of course Theme Parks are the obvious contenders here, but everything from child friendly restaurants, to easy transportation and accommodation, ensure that no matter what vacation option you choose to take, there’s something available for everyone. theme parks -visit the USA
  9. Affordability. What I love about traveling America is that some places still are dirt cheap to visit AND live. While It’s true that some cities on the East and West coasts require you to take a second mortgage out just to visit, the Midwest and South are completely budget friendly and affordable. You can still get a hotel room in this country for $20 and a meal for under $2. No matter what your budget, there’s options for everyone. No excuses for not getting out there and seeing this great land!
  10. Sense of Community. There are not many countries you can visit in the developed world still have such a strong sense of community. Even in this technological age where communication is largely digital, Americans still band together and form strong bonds within their geographical regions. This is most evident during times of crisis when people extend help and generosity to others, but even during the day to day, I always feel a huge sense of acceptance and belonging. Everywhere I have lived and traveled here I have felt welcomed and wanted. This is the reason I chose to become an American, and this is the reason I choose to stay.

 

small town USA

 

So, after much thought and deliberation these are my top 10 reasons to visit America. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you here soon!

Feel free to share your American vacation stories and what you loved most about your visit.

 

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