Sometimes, traveling with a group tour is a great way to jam pack an itinerary, making the most of minimal vacation days. I saw the entire country of Vietnam in just 10 days. I’ve meandered through 4 countries in the Southern African bush, also in about 10 days’ time. I could share more, but the point is, tours are a great option when you don’t have a lot of time on your hands (and some of them aren’t even very expensive). I’m happy to share more detailed info on which tour companies are best for your specific interests, but some of the best ones I’ve heard of and/or traveled with are G Adventures, Contiki, Top Deck and Intrepid. In my experience with all of these, a few things have come up as definite do’s and don’ts. Read on to find out what they are.
- Bring Cards – It’s a great way to break the ice and make those travel days fly by. A 10-hour bus ride can feel almost quick when you’re swapping games with new friends, or learning a spin on a game you may already know. Even games that have international appeal (everyone knows Kings), tend to be played with different rules across the globe and it’s fun to uncover those differences.
- Be Openminded – You’ll be with a group of travelers from all over the world, which comes with a vast set of life experience, opinions, backgrounds, and beliefs. If you have the right attitude, it becomes a great way to learn about other cultures. But remember, just like you have stereotypes of where they come from, they do, too, about your country. As long as you remember to not get personally offended by anything you may find controversial or upsetting, you can delve into serious topics like religion, politics, socioeconomics and anything else “taboo,” having some of the most interesting conversations or debates you’ll ever come across.
- Have Patience – When you’re traveling around with 15 or 25 other people, things move a little slower than you’re used to. There will be more bathroom breaks. Meals will take way longer. Sit back, relax, and enjoy it all as part of the experience. That being said, be mindful of the others’ time. Don’t go haggling for souvenirs when you have a 5-minute break and everyone else is heading back to the bus. Courtesy goes a long way.
- Be Cliquey – Don’t go on a tour with your 3 best friends and expect to do everything together. You will be separated (as most hotel rooms are for 2). Most group tours geared towards adventure travelers skew younger, and those tours also skew towards solo travelers. No one wants to feel excluded when you can’t be apart at dinner (and do you really have to ask me to move one seat over?). If you do a group tour, you should be excited by the prospect of getting to know the group – not just sitting in the corner with your own mini-group and making the rest of us feel awkward and uncomfortable. Bringing a friend or two is totally fine if you guys are open to the idea of meeting everyone else on the tour.
- Binge Drink Into Oblivion – Drinking is fun. In fact, drinking abroad is a great way to get a sense of their culture and nightlife. But overdoing it all the time, especially when you’re on a tour, will make for some intense hangovers. You wouldn’t want to miss the key attraction (that you’ve probably already paid for) because you can’t get out of bed at 7 AM. Tours tend to start the day early, too, so staying out all night (while I’ve definitely done it) means a groggy day of exploring on no sleep. Imagine those long bus rides without many bathroom breaks and the bumpy roads… now imagine them with a splitting headache. Avoid it if you can.
- Forget to Tip – Whether or not you come from a tipping culture, you can’t forget to tip your guide at the end of the tour (and the bus driver). They’ve been a vital resource to you in your time abroad, and usually, by the time you have to tip them, you’ve spent your last bit of foreign currency on some souvenirs for home. I always put money aside for my guide as soon as I take it from the ATM and act as if that money doesn’t exist. That way, I don’t get hit up with even more ATM fees at the end of the tour just to take out another $50 or so. How much to tip is very dependent on local culture, but your tour company will suggest a recommended amount.
Hopefully these tips have been helpful; there’s much more to share about traveling on a group tour, so feel free to comment or send me a message if you’d like to talk more about it!