As travel bloggers, we face a very real dilemma: Do we try to see and experience as much as possible during our trip, or do we allow ourselves more time to explore and wander at our leisure?
Both approaches have their own unique benefits and drawbacks – and if you find yourself wondering which is right for you, this blog will help you decide!
The Pros of Guided Tours
1. You get to see all the major points of interest.
We took a tour bus to Mount Rainier National Park and were able to see all the items on our bucket list:
- Mt. Rainier (of course)
- Grove of the Patriarchs
- Reflection Lake
- Christine, Myrtle and Narada Falls
2. You always have someone to take your photo.
What’s more annoying than getting home from your trip only to realize all you have on your camera are selfies of your giant face with few recognizable details in the background?
Gone are the days of the selfie stick and, with them, all the semi-decent shots of you and your fellow traveler(s). But fear not! When traveling in a group, you can ask your tourmates to snap a few shots for you.
Disclaimer: OK, so the photos might not always be great, but at least they show more than your right arm and face.
3. [For extroverts only] You get to meet other travelers.
There’s something special about sharing an adventure with a bunch of strangers. During a guided tour to the Loire Valley in France, we ate a private, family-style meal at Château de Nitray with our tourmates, and it ended up being one of our favorite parts of the entire trip!
4. You don’t have to worry about transportation.
There are few things more terrifying than navigating public transportation in an unfamiliar destination, especially one in which you don’t know the local language.
We found ourselves in Paris trying to navigate the RER for a trip to Versailles. Though we successfully purchased our train tickets at the kiosks, the digital screens didn’t show any trains going to Versailles. Turns out, the announcements they were playing on the overhead speakers (in French) alerted travelers that there would be no trains to Versailles that day.
When we got back to the land of free wifi (thank you, Hotel Regina!), we booked a coach bus. We were thankful to have reliable – and air conditioned – transportation on this trip and many others!
5. You get the inside scoop.
With a local tour guide, you get more than just what’s written on the brochure. You get an insider’s perspective and opinion on the locale’s history, impact, people, traditions, celebrations and more. You discover the hidden gems and the funny stories that give each destination its character.
The Cons of Guided Tours
1. It always feels rushed.
No matter what tour you take or how long you’re at your destination, a guided tour always feels rushed. We’ve missed out on photo ops and off-the-beaten-path adventures by taking guided tours during which there’s no time to stop for these last-minute detours.
The photo above was taken through a bus window during a guided tour. We wanted to beg the driver to please pull over and stop so we could capture this beautiful scene, but we were on a time budget and couldn’t afford to do so.
2. There are usually people in your footage.
If you’re traveling with a large group, chances are that some of your tourmates will photobomb you. In Mount Rainier National Park, Mike was carefully setting up a shot of me walking across a bridge, under which was a beautiful waterfall.
As I was “acting” my way to the other side of the bridge, a group of our tourmates thought I was lost and swiftly entered the shot to guide me to a different location. Bye bye, dreamy footage. Hello, photobombers.
3. [For introverts only] You have to spend time with other travelers.
For some travelers, being with a group of strangers all day is a nightmare. It really depends on the crowd – we’ve had wonderful tourmates and we’ve had loud, obnoxious ones (who you can hear in every video we shot).
If you have time, call the tour company in advance and ask about the size of the tour group. This will help you decide which tour to take – or whether to take one at all.
4. Certain tours might not be worth your investment.
Guided tours range in price, but some can be pretty expensive depending on your destination. In some cases, they might not be worth your investment at all.
Consider this: We booked our Mt. Rainier day trip in advance and figured the weather probably wouldn’t be great. What we didn’t know is that when the weather isn’t great, it affects your chances of seeing the mountain at all, which was the main reason we booked the day trip.
When I asked our tour guide what our chances were of seeing Mt. Rainier, he wouldn’t even say. For a tour that cost $130 per person, that was a pretty risky gamble!
Read more about our hunt for Mount Rainier.
5. Guided tours can be exhausting.
I know, I know – first-world problems. But guided tours can seriously take a toll on you!
Most of our tours have been 12-hour day trips. We get up at the crack of dawn, head to the meet-up spot with nothing but a cup of coffee in our stomachs and set off on a long and often draining tour.
This is usually the trade-off when you decide that you want to see everything on your bucket list.
Whether you’re booking a guided tour or not, we wish you happy travels and hope this blog post helps you plan your next adventure!
We’re going to spend some time roaming on our own during our next vacation in Anaheim, California. Be sure to subscribe for updates and follow us on Instagram at @travtwogether.