Eleven persons I have met during a guided tour and you would not want in yours – warning, some may well be me!

Eleven persons I have met during a guided tour and you would not want in yours – warning, some may well be me!

I was born with the wanderlust gene, and I certainly prefer traveling alone. I would hardly consider going on a guided tour, one of those that lasts 2 or 3 weeks. One of the things that usually stops me from doing that is having a schedule to follow. But more than anything else, I fear the possibility of being stuck with a group of people I do not like, with whom I may have to spend my time, sit next to on the bus or the boat, share my meals and at times even a room.

Yet, there are certain places that are best (or can only be) visited with during a guided tour and with a group. Even on my recent trip that took me to Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, I don’t think I would have managed visiting the Bolivian Pampas or the Salares de Uyuni by myself. And I must say I have been usually lucky and met some very interesting people and made some good friends. Mind you, I have also had my share of bad luck in my many travels, and I have met some really wicked persons, so much so that each time the bus left I hoped they would not make it in time and be left behind.

So, here is my list of 11 persons I’d rather not have in my guided tour. Disclaimer: this list is not exhaustive but based on my experience. No offense meant to anyone.

The one who snores

I am usually so tired by the end of any day that is packed with activities when on a guided tour, that I can’t wait to go to bed and I am generally positive I will have a good night sleep, even if I am camping during the Inca Trail, or sleeping in a less than ecologic lodge in the middle of the Bolivian Pampas. That’s until the group member who snores – because let’s face it, there is always someone who snores in any proper group tour – also falls asleep, and keeps me and the rest of the group awake while resting peacefully. No pinching, touching, hissing, making noise would ever stop him. Tip: never travel without a good pair of earplugs. Likes: sleeping. Best match: a heavy sleeper, or a deaf person – aka NOT me.

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Group tour person # 1: the snorer – photo courtesy of www.fitnessvsweightloss.com

The psycho

What are the odd of having a socio or psychopath in a guided tour? According to my experience, high. This “mildly” bipolar Dr. Jekyll – Mr. Hyde group member appears to be a perfectly pleasant, witty, sociable and funny person during the day, but will turn into the worst nightmare at night, when for some mysterious reason he will start screaming and banging on walls and doors, waking me and the rest of the group up – unless the snorer has been keeping us awake already. Likes: one of his multiple personalities. Best match: one of his multiple personalities.

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Group tour person # 2: the psyco – courtesy of bitrebels.com

The one that never stops talking

Any proper group tour will have a talker. Mine all did. Some were interesting although intense, some were boring, some plainly annoying. The talker may have some good stories to tell, but who will never stop talking, even at the cost of suffocating while coughing. A proper talker will have something to say at any time, to anybody. I generally pretend to be asleep on the bus, but a good talker is hardly put off, and will soon start a monologue to the next person listening. Tip: wear the earplugs that at night help against the one who snores, and try not to sit next to the talker on the bus. Likes: talking. Best match: anybody who cares enough to listen.

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Group tour person # 3: the talker – courtesy of goodreads.com

The one who has travelled widely

This may well be me, God forbid! Each guided tour is composed of people who love traveling, and quite inevitably one has traveled more then the rest. This world traveller casually pops in each discussion a recollection of the time he has been to whichever country. The “interesting” fact about the one who has travelled widely is that her experience has not taught her to pack lightly or to evaluate how much money should be taken to dinner (ok, that is definitely not me). Likes: sharing traveling anecdotes. Best match: the talker, but only when s/he listens.

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Group tour person # 4: the word traveller – courtesy of roadjunky.com

The one that checks everything on tripadvisor

Shame on me, I regularly check hostels and restaurants on tripadvisor, and even write reviews for it! But, I know that tripadvisor is not the ultimate engine to evaluate how good a place or even an attraction is. There are some, however, that before going on a group tour will check each possible hotel used by the tour operator, and base their decision on that. They won’t agree to a restaurant, hostel, attraction, service company, unless it is highly rated on tripadvisor. They will keenly read all the comments and carefully evaluate the best options, only to be inevitably disappointed that the best rated and most expensive restaurant in town had a terrible service and mediocre food. Likes: reading reviews. Best match: anybody who has sufficient means to go to the supposedly best places.

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Group tour person # 5: Mr. Tripadvisor – courtesy of intoscana.it

The picky eater

Fine, I admit I am guilty of being the picky eater (but hey, it’s only because I have so many allergies, I promise!) so I feel for any of them. I have a very sensible palate, I am lactose intolerant and I have some terrible food allergies that may cause me a trip to the emergency room. There are picky eaters who would not be so picky, but they have embraced a vegan or vegetarian diet – not too practical when on a tour of Argentina best estancias, where beef is on the daily menu. Then, there are the unreasonable picky eaters who have a real fit of rage if they are served chicken legs rather than chicken breast and ruin the mood during any meal along the guided tour. Likes: complaining about the food. Best match: the tripadvisor – he is surely able to point out a good restaurant in the middle of the desert.

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Group tour person # 6: the picky eater – courtesy of simpsons.wikia.com

The one that always disagrees

I usually take it easy when I travel – I don’t really have a strong view on what we do, and I follow the decision of the leader and the group. But there is always someone in a group tour – or at least, so it has occurred to the tours I have taken – who makes it a point to state that he’d rather do something else. Generally a shy or reserved person, the one who always disagrees spends most of the time by himself – reading his guide, taking pictures, browsing through the site on his own. He never fully agrees with the program of the tour. When everybody in the group wants to spend the last night on having some sunset drinks at the beach, he wants to shop for souvenirs. His room is too dark, but the bathroom too bright. Likes: nothing. Best match: none – he disagrees.

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Group tour person # 7: the one who disagrees would rather look in the opposite direction!

The one on a diet

I certainly don’t expect to lose weight when traveling. It is my time off, to have a good time and even one too many drinks or a bit of junk food. That’s when I take the chance to try the local specialties, without worrying about the extra weight I will be carrying home, well placed around my belly. But there are people who are convinced that there is no better time to diet than when on vacation. I am not arguing their intents, but their methods would make a nutritionist shiver. The group member, indeed, on a diet likes skipping dinner, because – so he says – his diet only allows him two meals per day. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so he piles up his plate with anything in sight. In order to keep hydrated, he drinks as much as possible, preferably mocacchinos with whipped cream. Likes (but will never admit to it): food. Best match: an eating buddy.

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Group tour person # 8: the one on a diet – courtesy of 40media.tumblr.com

The alcoholic

I like a good drink at the end of the day, when I am traveling. It is rewarding after a difficult hike, and relaxing after a long day on the bus. But there are people who go on a guided tour who take their idea of holiday and relaxing a bit too far. Drinking a pint of beer while the rest of the group are having coffee, the alcoholic usually stresses that he is not an alcoholic. He goes into a rage when he realizes that there is not a single bar along the Inca Trail. He’s proudly found the cure for travellers’ diarrhea, which consists in disinfecting his bowels with conspicuous amount of margaritas. Likes: anything that has alcohol. Best match: anybody who gets him a drink.

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Group tour person # 9: the alcoholic – courtesy of cdm.drunk-smosh.com

The beauty queen

I am pretty, or so they say. But traveling is not my time to shine. I take it easy on the make up, I go for comfortable clothes, and just take a break from glamour. But any proper group tour has a beauty queen, who is hardly ever seen au natural. She is normally the first one to wake up and rush to the bathroom to fix her pretty face, causing a traffic congestion in any hostel shared bathroom. Whether touring London in search of afternoon tea or hiking through the jungle, her make up is always impeccable. I don’t pay too much attention to beauty queens, but they generally hate me because I may steal their stage at times (especially if I am the well travelled with one too many stories to share). Likes: receiving compliments. Best match: a good looking man willing to flirt, or a beauty queen wanna be that can be trained to stardom.

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Group tour person # 10: the beauty queen – courtesy of bitrebels.com

The photographer

I like taking pictures that can remind me of the places I have visited, and that I can share on social media to show my friends how lucky I was to visit those countries. But there are some who take their photography passion a bit too far at times, and for some reason, although they’d be better off traveling alone, they like joining group tours. A proper photographer never leaves without his precious bulky camera, he takes pictures of just about anything and anybody. He may detach himself from the group in search of the perfect shot, but will need help upon realizing that, while being totally concentrated on his pictures, his wallet has been stolen. Likes: taking pictures. Best match: a random local he can take a picture of.

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Group tour person # 11: the photographer – courtesy of media.digitalcameraworld.com

Now, the interesting thing of having put together a list of the people I would not want on my group tour is the realization that I may well be one of them! A good starting point to smooth down certain aspects that also make me wicked and annoying at times.

Have you ever been on a group tour? Which slightly annoying traveler are you? Which would be the most annoying group member for you?

Ten reasons to take a guided tour at least once in life

Ten reasons to take a guided tour at least once in life

Much has been said recently on the beauty and on the necessity of travelling alone to find yourself, to listen to the inner needs and to win your fears, to truly immerse in the culture of the place visited, and to learn to appreciate others much more. I don’t need to read any more of those articles, I think. Yes, I am among those who enjoy a good few weeks by herself, to explore new territories. But I would consider taking part to a guided tour at least once in my life.

You get to meet the locals even on a guided tour

I get to meet the funny locals even on a guided tour

For as much as I love independent travel and I enjoy travelling alone (which is what I did on my last trip to South America), I think a guided tour is a great way to visit countries for those that, for a variety of reasons, don’t have the time or patience to organise their trips. I believe in the value of an organised tour to the point that I even took a course to become a certified travel designer, so that I can design vacation packages and tours (either bespoke or group ones) in a professional way, for those who don’t want to and can’t do it by themselves, and I worked as a tour leader for a tour operator, leading some of their tours across Central America, from Nicaragua to El Salvador, Guatemala and Belize, and in Mexico.

So, here’s why I think everyone should participate in an organised tour at least once.

Ten reasons to take a guided tour at least once in life

An organised tour is less time consuming

Taking part in small group travel, with a tour leader, is an easy way to explore a country for those who don’t have a lot of time for their holidays and want to maximise the days available, and also for those who don’t really have a lot of time to sit and plan their travels. I don’t have to search for hotels, flights, buses and connections and to go through the sometimes boring process of comparing prices, reading reviews, and making reservations: someone else is doing that for me. Unless one is an avid and particularly curious reader with a passion for guide books, one doesn’t even have to buy one: it won’t really be needed.

Tour operators are knowledgeable and professional

Good tour companies have great in depth knowledge of specific regions; they have a team of consultants who study the best itineraries (which they have tested out themselves for best results); personnel that books the best connecting flights; staff that searches for the best accommodation; they will organise the trip in a way that optimises the available time for the tour.

Satisfaction is (almost) always guaranteed

Tour operators want their customers to come back and buy more tours. Good ones will do their best to make sure the customers who bought a guided tour have an amazing experience and go back home with an overall good understanding of the country they have just visited and its culture; they will make sure that I will be so happy that I will consider travelling with them again.

A tour leader will pose with you

A tour leader will pose with me

 

It may be cheaper than you think

A guided tour may often end up being cheaper than travelling independently. Relying on a tour operator may thus be the best option to save on time and even money – yes, an organised tour may at times be considerably cheaper, as tour operators can get great bargains for booking large numbers of people in a hotel, for example.

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That whole boat is much cheaper on a guided tour

 

It is easier to visit certain places on a guided tour

Some places simply can’t be visited independently, because it is just too difficult. I can’t do a night safari tour by myself, just as I can’t do Antartica cruises alone.

Tonina in Mexico is better visited on a guided tour

Tonina in Mexico is better visited on a guided tour

 

A guided tour is actually safer

Travelling in a group is generally safer, and I will always have someone watching over my back. This is particularly important for those who are not confident at speaking a foreign language, for elderlies or for families with children.

Safety is foremost on a guided tour

Safety is foremost on a guided tour

 

It may be better for the local economy

The best tour operators employ local companies and businesses that hire local people in the country I am visiting. This way I will know that the money I am spending is most likely staying in the country and I am helping the local economy.

A good tour leader will make sure you help the local economy, even if it means making tortillas in Antigua

A good tour leader will make sure I help the local economy, even if it means making tortillas in Antigua

 

I will have a tour leader who will make sure everything runs smoothly

A good tour operator will choose an outstanding tour leader who will work hard to make sure the trip runs smoothly, that problems occurring on the way are solved in the most satisfying manner, and that the various members of the group are 100% happy and safe. Tour operators rely a lot on their leaders, who act as their ears and eyes during tours, who are trained to solve problems and face the most difficult situation (including dangerous or unsafe ones, as well as medical emergencies), and who will turn a good organised tour into a memorable one for the members of the group. A tour leader will warn me against scams; will take me safely across borders; will take me to the best restaurants and advise on the best local dishes; will pick the best local guides; will share some good information about the country I am visiting; and will have lots of funny anecdotes to share.

A good tour leader will make sure you don't have to worry if the seas are choppy

A good tour leader will make sure I don’t have to worry if the seas are choppy

 

I can really relax and enjoy without having to worry about anything

When on a guided tour, I really don’t have to think about anything other than what cocktail I wish to have at sunset. Someone else has done all the previous thinking for me, and will do all the thinking for me while on tour too – without me even noticing it. I will not even need to remember things such as taking my camera, or consider what to wear on a specific day, as my tour leader will most likely remind me politely.

A tour leader will never engage you in dangerous activities

A tour leader will never engage me in dangerous activities, such as climbing a steep Mayan pyramid

 

I can go by myself without being alone

Not everybody is up for the challenge of travelling alone, but it may be hard to put together a group of friends for our adventures. Taking part into an organised tour may take the edge off. Tour operators that sell guided tour usually have a specific target audience, and chances are that those participating in one of their trips are similar in terms of age, social background, education, interests and passions. Tours are designed with a clear idea of who should buy them. So, one tour operator may be targeting a young adventurous audience who wants to travel on little more than a shoestring; another may be better for an older crowd of people who have more economic means and look for more comfort. Some tour operators prefer having small guided tours of no more than 10 participants, others will take on board even larger numbers. I won’t have to worry about taking pictures with a selfie stick as I will be able to ask others; I won’t have to sit through endless lonely meals; I will be able to share my “wows” with others and are likely to come back with a good bunch of new friends.

On a guided tour, you are never alone

On a guided tour, I am never alone

 

All I have to do is some research on the best and most reliable tour operators that organise a guided tour of the country I wish to visit.

Have you ever been on an organised tour? Do you have any good tour operators to recommend?