Every single day I am asked where to take kids on a holiday. This always brings a series of questions from my end. Do you want a holiday? Do you want to travel? Those are two very different types of trips. If you want a holiday, then sure, book an all inclusive, spend a week in one location, explore nearby and come back to the same bed every night. Nothing wrong with immersing yourself in whatever makes you happy.
If the answer is that you want to travel, but do not know where to start, then my suggestion is almost always booking a tour. Choose a part of the world, choose a climate, make sure it is the right time of year to visit that part of the world and boom, you have an entire trip ready made for you!
This is exactly what I did with my 9 year old last month when we visited Costa Rica on a G Adventures Family Tour.
Could I have rented a car, planned the logistics, booked hotels and seen the country on my own?
But there were several reasons that I did NOT want to do that. Below you will find my top 5 reasons for booking a tour when you travel. I hope that by the end of this post you will have some insight as to why someone like me, who has travelled all over the world, still chooses to book tours.
#1 It is Much Less Work (and Stress)
The most obvious reason for booking a tour when you travel is that someone else plans the itinerary and you only have to pack your suitcase and go! Typically it includes airport pickup, hotels, transportation, guides, entrance fees and everything you will be doing along the way (besides optional activities).
When you book a tour, the toughest part is deciding what country to visit.
We knew we wanted to go to Costa Rica, so we booked flights around a tour departure, paid for the tour, sent them our flight details and done! It was time to prepare for our vacation. We booked with less than one month notice, which is fine when there is availability, but if you want to travel during school holidays, over Christmas or to places with really limited tour options you will want to look to book at least 6 months ahead. When I booked our November trip, similar trips to Costa Rica were already sold out for Spring Break the following year.
#2 Peace of Mind
When visiting a new country, especially as a solo-mom traveler, peace of mind and security are always in the back of my mind. While I will go to any country in the world (you may have seen my stories about traveling to Iraq last year), I recognize that not every traveler is like me.
When you book a tour, there is no concerns about the language barrier, getting lost, hotel problems, flat tires, traffic, feeling uneasy. All of these are mitigated with a guide. On the G Adventures Costa Rica Tour, the CEO guides are with guests for the entire trip. They stay in the same hotels, they are easy to contact for any questions and concerns and are always available.
If there is a problem with a hotel room, the guide is there to fix it.
If there is a problem with transport, the guide will take care of it.
If you are hungry or need a bathroom stop, the guide will know where to take you.
For even experienced travelers like me, there is a lot to be said for peace of mind when visiting another country.
#3 Social Time & Lifelong Friendships
Are you looking to connect with like minded travelers? A group trip is the perfect way to do that. We specifically booked a G adventures family trip so that there would be other children for Markus to socialize with. This also means other adults for me to socialize with. Our trip ended up with a 7, 8, 9 and 10 year old on the trip which offered the perfect mix for the kids. While you do not always know the ages of the kids on the tour (typically family tours offer openings for children from 6-17 you can always ask to see who is already booked on the tour.)
Yes I love my kids, but I also like to get a break from enjoying a meal with them.
On a group trip, especially one that caters to families, there are going to be other children as well as other parents, as well as the guide, to chat with. In my experience, the guides who work on family tours are always engaging with the kids and the kids continue to talk about them, long after the trip is done.
My son has connected with kids from Israel on a recent group trip, and he still talks about them often, asking if we can one day visit them in Tel Aviv.
In writing all of this, I am by no means saying that this does not happen without taking a tour, I have just found it very easy to make connections with other families this way, when you are spending day after day together.
#4 In-Depth Expert at your Fingertips offering Enhanced Trip Quality
Want to know how many two-toed sloths are in Costa Rica? Just ask your guide.
Want to know how much to tip for a service? Just ask your guide.
Want to know what to order off the menu? Just ask your guide.
Want to know when Petra was built? Just ask your guide.
On a tour, one of the most underrated benefits is that you have an expert, who is often very well educated, right at your fingertips. In most countries, guides spend months and months training for their profession. They are not there for a season or two. They have chosen to guide as a profession and treat it as such. In many countries, guides are licensed nationally and have to renew that license every year. In Jordan, for example, guides need to have a University Degree to even apply to the 9 month guiding program.
Having a guide not only lets you get to know a local, but it also helps to understand and appreciate local culture, sometimes in a deeper way than you would experience traveling Independently.
In Palestine, my guide was an accountant but found much more gratifying work showing visitors his country, and chose to continue guiding instead of his earlier chosen profession. Instead of taking us to a restaurant for lunch, he actually took us into his home, showed him what a typical home in Bethlehem looks like, and introduced us to his family. We experienced a home-cooked meal in a residential kitchen and gained a little insight into what home life is like for him and his family. If you were traveling independently in Bethlehem, it is unlikely that a stranger on the street would invite you in for a meal. (Well I will say, the Middle East is very different than much of the world and you actually could be likely to have a stranger invite you into their home. Locals in Arab countries treat guests in their country with the utmost respect and do often invite strangers to share a meal)
In Jordan, my guide had a university degree and a decade of experience guiding tours in the country. There is a big difference between hiring a licensed guide compared to a local driver.
Again, I do not mean to put down local drivers or hiring a taxi for the day. That is another way to see the country. Having someone who is well educated in the history of the country, and someone who chooses guiding as a profession typically offers a different experience.
#5 Time Efficiency
Tours offer the opportunity to see a lot in a short amount of time. Guides know exactly how long to spend in each place to ensure the day runs smoothly. No guessing if you have missed something important, having an expert with you will offer up the highlights and keep you on track for the rest of your day.
They know when rush hour is in their country. They know what to avoid and when. Even the most researched trip does not know the local nuances of a country.
With all of these suggestions, I hope I have offered a little insight into why I continue to book group trips for my family when we travel. It offers an in-depth travel experience, a way to get to know locals, an expert at your fingertips and and a great introduction to any country.
Lindsay Nieminen hails from Vancouver, Canada and shares her love of travel on this website. She is passionate about showing others that they should not put off traveling the world just because they have young children or are single parents. She aims to encourage them to seek out adventure, whether it is at home or abroad by providing information on how just about everywhere can be a destination to explore as a family.