Escorted vs Independent Vacations
- Written by Philip Banks
When you're planning to travel to a foreign destination such as Europe, Asia, Africa or Australia, the first thing you will have to decide is if you will go on an escorted trip, or an independent one. An escorted trip is when you travel with a set group of people, including a tour guide. You travel, eat, stay, explore and shop with this group of people. Flexible Independent Travel, however, is when you chose you itinerary. You can follow this itinerary as you please but you must navigate your own way around the foreign city. Since both types of vacation are extremely different, it may help to look at the benefits and drawbacks of each before you decide what type of traveler you are.
Escorted travel is a great option for some travelers because of the social aspects it provides. Since all the members of the group are experiencing the same sites, conversation and friendship are inevitable between members. New friends and relationships are easy to gain through escorted tours. A tour guide is also provided for escorted travel groups. Tour guides can be a great benefit for members of a group because they can get more questions answered and can obtain in-depth history about certain sites, unlike those who may be viewing these sites alone. A tour guide can also be very valuable in cities that use a foreign language you're not familiar with. The tour guide can help you with shopping and ordering food to make sure there is no communication breakdown between languages.
Another bonus to escorted travel is that the planning of transportation, navigation, food and entertainment has already been taken care of. Your only job is to wake up in the morning and your day is laid out for you. The package price that is given for an escorted tour is also generally the full amount you will pay for your trip, not including any souvenirs or extras you pick up along the way. Most of the time, meals, site admissions, transportation and lodging are included in the price. Escorted travel companies usually survey their past clients to get feedback on their vacation. This helps the company to create new itineraries that include sites that have received good reviews and exclude sites that past travelers were not impressed with.
At this point, an escorted tour may sound relaxing and care-free. While it is nice to have someone else work out the details of a schedule for you, some travelers may find it irritating to be forced to stay on such a strict schedule. Since it is a vacation, travelers may want to wake up late one day and eat breakfast in bed. However, an escorted traveler more than likely would not have that luxury. An escorted itinerary generally involves a day loaded with a ton of sites, shops and travel. Most escorted tour days start as early as 7 a.m. and can run into the evening hours. In order to stay on track with this packed itinerary, the group members are only allowed a certain amount of time at each site. You'll generally only have a previously allotted time to gaze at the Eiffel Tower in all its wonder until it's off to the next stop.
The shops and vendors that the escorted groups stop at are pre-determined by the tour company. After a few cheese and perfume shops, it becomes obvious to the group members that the tour leader is receiving a reward for bringing his group to the shop or may have a friendship with the shop owners. Some of the most unique shops may be left out of the itinerary because the group leader doesn't have any ties to the owners. Escorted tours usually hit the most popular and well-known sites of the cities. This can leave out some smaller, lesser known sites that may be even more phenomenal than the popular ones.
The group members that you share your vacation with on an escorted tour can make or break your entire trip. You may end up stuck with obnoxious or boring group members that put a damper on your vacation. When you sign up for an escorted vacation, you take a gamble with the company you're forced to keep. If you're looking for more adventure and independence, Flexible Independent Travel may be the best route for you. An independent vacation allows you to really experience the destination on your own with no leader or other tourists. Taking away the “safety” factor of a group and a tour guide may allow you to feel closer to the foreign destination and get a real feel for it. With Flexible Independent Travel, you can change your itinerary at the drop of a hat. Sleeping in and breakfast in bed could easily be on your third day itinerary if you so choose. If you've fallen in love with Big Ben and want to stay in London for one more day to hear it chime every hour, the choice is yours.
As an independent traveler, you would also be able to pick and choose the sites that interest you. If the Sydney Opera House is something that you have no desire to see up close, you can skip it and replace it with something more up your alley, like a boat ride or a museum visit. If you've done some research on the destination and found a few smaller attractions that aren't considered tourist hotspots, you can add them to your itinerary.
If you are fearful of navigating through a foreign city, a Flexible Independent Travel vacation may not be a good choice for you. While there is an itinerary involved, the traveler is still responsible for the guidance and navigation of the city and getting from site to site. The cost of transportation once in the destination is not included in the Independent Travel package. Transportation, meals and site admission fees can add up pretty quickly. Some independent travelers find that while they enjoyed the freedom and adventure of their vacation, the actual cost was more expensive than the Escorted Tour package.
Flexile Independent Travel vacations do require more planning than an escorted tour. They call for a reliable and experienced travel agent to work out the details. Legacy Travel is a great place to book an Independent Travel vacation because our travel agent, Cathi, is exceptionally experienced in planning these vacations and is one of the best in the business.
Deciding what type of vacation would suit your travel needs depends on your personality and what is important to you in your vacation. If you lean more towards traveling with a group to socialize, seeing the major sites in each city and packing your day with several activities, an Escorted Tour may be the best choice for you. If it's more important to you to be independent, have a flexible itinerary and get a taste of the city by navigating on your own, an Independent Travel vacation may be what you want. Whichever vacation you may choose, be sure to know the benefits and drawbacks of each type and how they relate to you and your vacation goals before making a final decision.