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Last Updated on 23/12/2020
As a solo traveller, exploring a destination on your own itinerary is a liberating experience but sometimes, if you aren’t too confident or want to take a back seat, group tours are a refreshing alternative. The right travel companies provide you with the opportunity to travel without the stress of planning where to go next. They are a great way to meet like-minded travellers and they can challenge you to visit countries you might not have had the confidence to visit on your own.
There are also a few downsides to consider when choosing a group tour. If you’re not careful, they can almost defeat the point of solo travel, they’re expensive and you can run the risk of not enjoying the experience as much as you hoped. Want to make sure a group tour is the right option for your solo travel plans? Here are the pros and cons you need to know:
The pros of group tours for solo travellers
Group tours are a useful way for like-minded solo travellers to meet. By default, everyone shares the same common interest – to explore the destination in the same way you want to. For this reason, doing a group tour is ideal for any solo traveller who is anxious about getting lost or feeling lonely. I can guarantee that you’ll never be alone. In fact, you spend almost 24/7 with the group so you really have no choice but to make friends.
Group travel allows you to be a solo traveller but without the stress of being solely responsible for your itinerary. Your only responsibilities are ensuring that you don’t miss your departures and having enough in your budget for any add-ons and activities. Most travel companies sort everything else for you which is perfect if you’re new to solo travel.
In fact, one of the biggest challenges about solo travel is going somewhere completely new and unfamiliar. Doing a group tour allows you to ease yourself into the new environment and grow your confidence. Once you’ve become familiar with the culture and way of life you can then strike out on your own. You might even find yourself bumping into fellow tour group members along the way.
The cons of group tours for solo travellers
A downside to group tours for solo travellers is that they can almost defeat the point of solo travel altogether. If you’re not careful, becoming part of a big group can put you in danger of compromising your own plans because it may not be what everyone else wants to do. This level of dependency on what other people think can be a damaging habit to get into when you’re travelling. You might not think there’s a chance of that happening to you but peer pressure is rife among tour groups.
It’s important to be strict with yourself to ensure that you stay true to what you want to do even if it means that you’re the only one who signs up for a particular activity. After all, the whole point of a solo trip is that you do things your way. A group tour has its benefits, but don’t let anyone impact what you hope to get out of your trip. The last thing you want is to leave a destination filled with regret that you didn’t complete an activity on your bucket list.
Tour groups and packages come in all shapes and sizes. They can be as short as a day and as small or as big as you like. Flexible tours that allow you to drop out and have a few extra days to yourself are ideal for solo travellers who still want the freedom to do their own thing now and again. You just have to be aware that sometimes, flexible tours have the tendency to become cliquey very fast.
Cliques can be intimidating if you’re by yourself – especially if you hop back into the tour only to find that everyone has formed friendship groups. If you’re more introverted, it can be a particularly hard dynamic to negotiate when you’re solo as you don’t have another outsider to join you.
Things to be aware of before you start your group tour
- Do some digging around before you choose your travel company so you can be confident that they’re reputable and right for you. Some companies have been known to be misleading about their prices. It’s only when you commit to them that they charge you additional sneaky fees. You don’t want to get trapped only to find a much better deal later on.
- Be aware of additional expenses that are not included in your tour pass such as extra transport, food accommodation etc. Usually, the extras aren’t a lot but they can start to add up if you’re not prepared. This will help you manage your budget better.
- It’s worth keeping an eye on tour packages before paying up as some companies offer discounted prices at certain points in the year. I’ve been able to get as much of a third off just by booking a year in advance. However, this isn’t always set in stone. I’ve read advice claiming that you can get the same discounts if you leave it till last minute. I haven’t tested this theory so I couldn’t tell you if it’s worth it or not. Tours selling at off-peak and shoulder seasons tend to be cheaper and have more spaces than during peak season.
- Listen to your gut when booking a group tour. Sometimes they aren’t the best way to see a destination. If your gut is telling you it’s not sure then don’t be afraid to pause and think about your options.
- It’s not necessary to use a travel agent to book a tour but they can help if you’re undecided. Just don’t let them push you into anything. If you’re not sure about what they’re suggesting then get a second opinion from someone else.
- The best tour companies for solo travellers offer small group tours. You can still maintain a certain level of independence and they feel more bespoke and personal to you. If you’re more of an introvert or prefer not to party every night then a small group tour would be perfect for you.
- Pay attention to the age recommendations advertised by the tour company. Most of them will specify what kind of demographic you can expect to be with. This is key if you want to find something that suits you. The last thing you want is to end up on a gap year party tour if you want to have a quiet trip.
- It’s now not enough to travel without being aware of the possible impact it can have. Putting your money into responsible travel companies that operate with ethical practices is essential for ensuring that your impact as a traveller is a positive one. Avoid tour operators that exploit animals and children and choose companies that put communities and the environment at the forefront of their business. Check out my guide to choosing sustainable activities abroad here.
Are group tours value for money?
Value for money depends on what you’re looking for in a tour. You have to weigh up what’s included and whether you need to pay for any extras such as accommodation, food or transport. It’s also worth noting whether you get any exclusive discounts along the way. Think about how much ground you’ll cover on the tour and if there’s anything you would miss if you opted to go by yourself instead.
If you’re looking for flexibility in your itinerary then a group tour may not be ideal for you. Sometimes, for the amount you need to pay, it just isn’t worth doing and you would get more for your money if you did it your own way.
Best tour companies for solo travellers
I’ve included some of my favourite tour operators for solo travellers below. They’re all ethical, sustainable and provide a whole schedule of unique and enriching experiences. You can also read an extensive list of ethical tour operators here.
Kiwi Experience tours the length and breadth of New Zealand’s North and South Islands. Recognisable by the big green bus, this company welcomes travellers of all ages from 18 onwards but it predominantly has a younger crowd. Ideal for solo travellers who like a bit of flexibility, Kiwi Experience has a range of tours to suit any time and budget. You can also hop on and hop off whenever you choose.
G Adventures is one of the most popular tour groups for solo travellers. The company is dedicated to providing a positive impact on the communities they operate in They also work with numerous charities, including The Planterra Foundation, a non-profit organisation committed to helping communities earn and income through tourism.
Intrepid Travel is a carbon-neutral tour operator that specialises in small group travel. They have invested £2.5m into global grassroots projects that focus on healthcare, education, animal welfare and community development. They were the first tour operator to remove elephant rides from their itineraries.
Have you done a group tour as a solo traveller? How did you find it?
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