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How to Travel: Independent Travel vs. Organized Tours

Hong Kong, China
Destination Expert
for Holiday Travel, Food and Travel, Macau, Hong Kong
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6,620 reviews
How to Travel: Independent Travel vs. Organized Tours

A common discussion within travel communities is the question of independent travel vs organised tour arrangements.

There are some who book pretty much everything through a travel agent or other tour operators, while some would rather drop dead than be forced on any form of organised travel arrangement. Then, there are those who dabble in both, when it suits their travel needs and interests.

Below are some online resources, which discuss, describe and debate the pros and cons of independent travel vs. organised tours.

Travelersdigest (Independent Vs. Group Tours)

travelersdigest.com/4108-independent-travel-…

Roughguides (Pros and Cons of package tours)

roughguides.com/community/…

Lonely Planet (Travel Debate - Group vs. Solo Travel)

lonelyplanet.com/blog/…

Why go to Italy (Should you plan your own Italy trip or book a tour?)

italylogue.com/planning-a-trip/should-you-pl…

Fodors (Tour Groups vs. Independent Travel in Europe)

fodors.com/community/europe/tour-groups-vs-i…

Do it yourself vs. Travel Agent

http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~toh/adulted/Travel/diy%20or%20agent%20tables.html

She Knows - blog (Group Tour vs. Independent Travel)

sheknows.com/living/articles/1028153/guided-…

YTravelblog (Why take tours over independent travel)

ytravelblog.com/why-take-guided-tours-over-i…

Ordinary Traveler blog (Independent travel vs. Organized group tours)

ordinarytraveler.com/articles/independent-tr…

WorldNomad.com (independent travel - lessons learned)

…worldnomads.com/zoe_smith/…axzz36xCI8RKk

Europe for Visitors (Europe on your own)

europeforvisitors.com/europe/articles/europe…

RunawayJane Blog (Taking a tour vs. independent travel)

runawayjane.com/taking-a-tour-vs-independent…

Feel free to share your thoughts on independent travel vs. Organised travel

Melbourne, Australia
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for Sydney, Bargain Travel, Food and Travel
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1. Re: How to Travel: Independent Travel vs. Organized Tours

Great stuff BradJill, very interesting reading.

There was a thread with good dialogue, discussing just this topic, midway through last year on the Bargain Travel forum;

tripadvisor.com.au/ShowTopic-g1-i12290-k6460…

Edited: 09 July 2014, 09:41
Chicago, Illinois
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for Food and Travel, World Cup, Holiday Travel, Spa Vacations, Olympics, Outdoors / Adventure Travel
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2. Re: How to Travel: Independent Travel vs. Organized Tours

@BradJill

I agree with KVE1005 above ..... A great resource above for any who are contemplating this question

Thanks for sharing the info

SEBESZ

Hong Kong, China
Destination Expert
for Holiday Travel, Food and Travel, Macau, Hong Kong
Level Contributor
29,082 posts
6,620 reviews
3. Re: How to Travel: Independent Travel vs. Organized Tours

Per the above mentioned discussion thread.

There are some great tips on this Bargain Travel thread. Unfortunately there is a lot of arbitrary discussion that waters down the thread quite a bit. That is a shame.

Hong Kong, China
Destination Expert
for Holiday Travel, Food and Travel, Macau, Hong Kong
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29,082 posts
6,620 reviews
4. Re: How to Travel: Independent Travel vs. Organized Tours

Just to get things going in a friendly fashion I will post my top few reasons for both methods of travel below.

Independent Travel

1.) Freedom and Flexibility

No more marriage to a preset itinerary and no more hotels, attractions (or mandatory shopping) or restaurants decided for you instead of by you.

You can change, modify and adapt your plan as you go. No more being stuck to a set schedule. If you like a place and want to stay longer - than do that. If you find out that something stinks, then leave early.

2.) Go at your own speed

No more waiting for the slowest person in your group to finish their breakfast so that all can load in a bus for the short ride over to the museum. Want an early start, that is fine. Want to sleep in, that is fine as well.

3.) You control your destiny

Much less risk of a tour provider screwing things up or scr*wing you over. You plan it, pay for it and make the arrangements. If something goes wrong its your own fault.

Organized Tour

1.) Less time, effort and costs

Let someone else handle the logistics, planning and do all the dirty work. You can just enjoy yourself. Just hope the hotel is nice, itinerary is good and the meals they pick for you are enjoyable.

Further, while not always the case, organised tours are often set at lower costs than you can achieve when planning everything on your own. Spending less for the same thing is always a good thing.

2.) Socialize

Independent travel can mean not being able to share your experience with others. It can also be nice to meet new people during your travels and get to know them.

3.) Safety

Sometimes it is just safer to travel in groups and in numbers. Transecting Africa and other exotic trips can be a great experience but you might be more comfortable doing something as part of an organised travel opportunity instead of trying on your own.

There are more pros and cons to both styles of travel. These are simply what came off the top of my head over the last 10 minutes.

Edited: 10 July 2014, 09:24
Chicago, Illinois
Destination Expert
for Food and Travel, World Cup, Holiday Travel, Spa Vacations, Olympics, Outdoors / Adventure Travel
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5. Re: How to Travel: Independent Travel vs. Organized Tours

Well said BradJill and a few more generic observations as to touring style.

Independant Travel

1~ Saving Some Money

A chance to finally cash in on some of those accumulated Credit card and Airlines miles maybe saving you some hard earned cash.

2~ Who Knows You Better Than You

I always think back to the days when I was young and did a guided tour of Italy after day 2 I had seen enough Churches and they all became a big blur. Imagine my excitement as the bus stopped in the center of a town and I was informed we will be visiting the sacred chapel of St. (Insert Name Here) Going it alone allows you to see your interests and not just tick off boxes.

Organized Tour

1~ For A first Time traveler it Allows you to Check some Boxes With Ease

Not everyone wants to research and delve into a spot for some it fits their travel style to just be taken to all the highlights

2~ A Great Primer For Future Travel Especially for the Newbie Traveler

As I mentioned touring Italy before after the guided tour it gave me such inspiration and peaked my interest that a trip back was not far off in the making. Being lead around to several cities allowed me to later say "Hey I want to go back and this time stay in 3 places instead of 6" So often a guided travel itinerary can become a great dress rehearsal for future travel adventures

Well anyway BradJills ideas are much more articulate, better and sound but these are just some observations I have gathered over time

Best

SEBESZ

Edited: 10 July 2014, 21:00
Hong Kong, China
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for Holiday Travel, Food and Travel, Macau, Hong Kong
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6. Re: How to Travel: Independent Travel vs. Organized Tours

SEBESZ,

You have some very good input above. I enjoyed reading your points.

I particularly like your point about saving $ as an independent traveller. Another way in which this can be the case in regard to flights: Jill and I monitor flights online quite regularly and have scored some unbelievable cheap flight over the years, the key is that we can be a bit flexible with our departure dates when traveling and are ready to book and pay when the flight is available. This is one of those ways in which you can save quite a bit of money as independent travelers.

Australia
Destination Expert
for Singapore, Bargain Travel, Holiday Travel, Singapore
Level Contributor
27,657 posts
7. Re: How to Travel: Independent Travel vs. Organized Tours

Hello,

I have not used a Travel Agent since the 1980s and do a lot of research before booking anything. It does take a bit of work and getting organised, but it can save you a lot of money.

Researching-

The city forums here on Tripadvisor are great for gathering information to help plan your trip. You might want to narrow down some regions/cities and start looking on those forums. Just type in the city name into the search box at the top right side of this Tripadvisor page and look for its Forum link. Read everything you can on there, including their forums Top Questions section. It's always near the top of a forum page and flows all down the right-hand side. The Forums Destination Experts will have gathered together many useful articles and links on popular subjects like Airport transfers, staying safe in the city, hotel recommendations, public transport, local dining, what to see and do in the city. So start writing out some notes and bookmark any really good webpage links you find so you can refer to them again later. I add a folder to my computer bookmarks and copy all useful trip information in there for easy access.

The Official Tourism Website for any city usually contains the most current and authoritative information. You can google to find it, eg. searching for "Tourism website Sydney" or "Tourism website Singapore"

Visit your local Public Library and have a look at the Travel Section. Many Libraries have the most recent Travel Guide Books on a number of cities and countries which you can borrow for free.

Hotel bookings -

Ask on the forums for a few recommendations. If you just say "can anyone recommend a nice hotel in ....... City" you won't get accurate responses. I work out my criteria of what I want from the hotel and what I need and enjoy. That acts as a checklist so I can add and delete likely hotels from my short-list, eg. My needs are "travelling solo, want a clean 4 star hotel with pool and free wifi for no more than sgd$250 night" then forum regulars can respond if I phrase my question like that.

From there take a look on a few reputable hotel booking websites to check and compare prices and view photos. Then come back onto Tripadvisor and read the hotels recent reviews and look at the candid photos taken by guests. Then check google maps to see the hotels location, is it close to public transport, near shops and restaurants and local tourist sights.

Once I have maybe 3 hotels I would be equally happy with I keep an eye on their prices. Things could change so I book a room that I can be refunded on if my plans change. I make sure before booking I read all the website terms and conditions about refunds, booking policies, payment options and if they charge extra booking fees or cancellation fees. Over the years I have come to rely on 4 hotel booking websites that I trust, know their rules and policies and feel they are easy to use. New websites come up all the time and I am wary as the prices often seem too good to be true. If I am temped to try one I first go to Google and type in the company name plus the words 'reviews and complaints'. That will sometimes show up a dreadful number of links full of people complaining about the company. So I avoid losing my money. I am rather cautious. I work hard for my money so don't want to lose it.

Don't forget to also compare prices on the hotels own official website. Sometimes they have special deals with extra inclusions, and give good rates for longer stays. Booking on the hotels own website sometimes works out very well as you can easily look on the website Contacts page and email reservations or guest relations and make special requests. Of course these will be subject to availability, but a nicely worded email asking for a quiet room, and stating you will be arriving a bit earlier than regular check-in time can sometimes result in a pleasant, quiet room and early access to your room before official 2pm check-in time.

When comparing hotel prices make sure you check whether all taxes and charges are included in the price you are seeing, and what type/category of room you will getting, and what's included, eg. breakfast, free wifi Internet, etc.

Flight bookings -

Others have already mentioned booking directly with the airline instead of third-party booking websites. I sign up on a few good airlines websites to receive email alerts about fare sales and special offers. I also signed up for their free member program. I make sure I read all the fares terms and conditions about booking fees, refunds, cancellations.

Travel Insurance -

Wise to search around for a policy that covers cancellations, and medical cover. Having Travel Insurance saved me on my last trip when a flood cut roads in and out of my town and I couldn't get by bus to the city to catch my flight. Had a delay of 24 hours and had to purchase a new flight, and missed the original first night hotel booking. With Travel Insurance I received $1000 to cover the expenses of new flight and hotel cancellation fees.

I guess a Travel Agent can do all this work for you, but you are locked into a package with transfers and hotel that may not totally suit you. My sister used an Agent for a trip via Singapore to Europe. As a Destination Expert for Singapore here on TA I was shocked to find out she was quoted $50 each way per person for airport transfers in Singapore, when I knew the airport shuttle was $7. She was also given a ridiculous price for having a later 6pm checkout at a Singapore hotel. I regularly book that same hotel on a good website that gives me a free 4pm checkout. I guess if you don't know any better then an agents package can seem good, but when you investigate the details it can be costly.

So, DIY trip planning can be done. I find it's just a matter of being cautious, getting organised and do lots of research.

Hong Kong, China
Destination Expert
for Holiday Travel, Food and Travel, Macau, Hong Kong
Level Contributor
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8. Re: How to Travel: Independent Travel vs. Organized Tours

Very helpful stuff, Avanti50. Do feel free to pop by the HTF whenever you like.

Australia
Destination Expert
for Singapore, Bargain Travel, Holiday Travel, Singapore
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27,657 posts
9. Re: How to Travel: Independent Travel vs. Organized Tours

Thanks BradJill. I might look on here from time to time as it seems like a great forum.

10. Re: How to Travel: Independent Travel vs. Organized Tours

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