I have read many wonderful reviews on Tripadvisor regarding Isael and the Holy Land and would like to ask for honest opinions. I will be graduating from Seminary next spring and my wife and I have decided to take a vacation to the Holy Land next year to celebrate the completion of my 4 years of study. I would love some honest advice on the subject of tour companies for us and for the future. Here are the issues and thoughts I'm struggling with at the moment:
1. I feel like a guided tour would be better to save time and initial headache. Plus, I would imagine it would be cheaper than a private guide. I took a bus tour of Europe with my parents several years ago and it was a very enjoyable experience, even though I was one of the only people under 60 in the group. This leads to my next point...
2. My wife and I are in our 30's, traveling with younger folks would be nice, but not necessary.
3. As a future pastor, I would also like to become familiar with one or several companies that lead tours to the Holy Land in case the opportunity to lead or organize future tours with my congregation presents itself. I would like to establish some good relationships with some reputable companies if possible and firsthand knowledge would really help. The budget is open for my wife and I, but for leading a congregation, we might be more concerned about group rates etc..
4. One of my biggest concerns is the length of the trip. This might be more of a personal concern, not something my future congregations world probably have. I personally would like to travel for an extended period of time (15-25 days) at least for our first time to get a lay of the land. I am at a point in my life where I might actually be able to take off 15-20 days; this might not be a reality in the future. This would also allow us to have a much wider experience, personally, 10 days is just too short in my opinion to really get a true feeling for the region, for a congreation, 10-12 days might be just right.
5. With that being said, the longer trips through places like Pilgrim tend to go into places such as Egypt; as of May, 2014, Egypt seems to be a fairly unstable, how would this play into a tour’s itinerary?
6. I have narrowed my possible tour companies down to EO because of reviews and Pilgrim (mainly because they offer much longer tours) If this were you making the decision what would you suggest for a "first time to the Holy Land tour" for myself and the wife. Would you make the same recommendation for a pastor leading groups in a congregation that might be ok being limited to 10-12 days and also looking for group pricing?
Thanks for any advice you can provide.