Independent, Hosted or Escorted Travel – Which is Right For Me?

18 years old.

Never have left home.

Wanting to travel the world.

 

What would you do?  

What did I do?  

 

I didn’t have the confidence (or my parent’s blessing) to launch on a 6 week-long trip abroad by myself and I wasn’t sure I wanted to experience that type of adventure on my own.

How would I get out of my bubble and from under the rock I had been living under to explore faraway places?

Contiki.

 

My first time out of the country, traveling abroad alone, but with my Contiki tour group – and also the pre-digital camera era, so please excuse the poor image quality!

 

What’s Contiki?   Contiki is a coach tour company operating in Europe, Russia, Egypt, Australia, New Zealand, North America, South America, and Asia who specializes in trips for 18- to 35-year-olds that include a mix of sightseeing, free time, culture, socializing, and adventure.

I enjoyed traveling with Contiki so much when I was 18, that Jeremy and I even took a trip together with a tour group in our late 20’s.

I remember walking into the STA Travel on Mill Avenue in Tempe, AZ and sitting down across from a travel agent explaining that I wanted to go Europe.  After learning about Contiki, I was sold and put down a deposit for a 6 week trip throughout Europe on a bus with 50 other independent travelers from around the world.

But I got asked so many questions from friends and family:

Aren’t tour buses for old people?

Why do you want your days scheduled?

Will you even get to go where you want?

 

All of the gals of our Contiki group traveling through Switzerland on my second Contiki trip when I was 19 – there are tour groups for all ages!

Even today I still get these questions and believe that helping my clients understand the different types of travel and who they are best for, I can help overcome some common misconceptions about different types of planned (or unplanned) travel.

There are 3 main types of land trips that can be planned:

  1. Independent/Customized
  2. Hosted
  3. Escorted

So which type would be right for you?  Let’s explore the differences and why you may enjoy or benefit from one over the other.

 

Independent/Customized Travel

Pretty much is exactly as the name is laid out.  Independent travel or customized trips are when you or a travel professional plan out each individual piece of your trip – from transfers to the airport, flights, hotels, activities, restaurants, etc.

These types of trips are fantastic for people that are comfortable traveling abroad, are flexible to deal with unexpected changes, and typically have a lot of time and days to explore and go with the flow.

Many think that independent travel is always a cheaper option than going with a tour – and while it can be cheaper – hostels and street food can definitely keep the costs down, if you’re not into those types of accommodations and are seeking to stay in hotels and try out local restaurants, it can be more expensive, especially if you incur unexpected expenses.

Taking on China and The Great Wall on an independent and completely customized trip that I planned for Jeremy and I back in 2013.

We’ll dive into it more next, but escorted tour groups and hosted trips have the relationships and buying power in numbers to oftentimes get lower pricing than booking an individual trip.

Benefits of Independent/Customized Travel:

  1. You are completely on your own to plan each day and detail of your trip.
  2. If you decide to stay in one location longer or want to move along faster, you have the flexibility to change plans at a moment’s notice.
  3. You can often stretch your dollar if you decide to stay in hostels, eat street food and take public transportation.

 

Escorted Tours

An escorted tour is a travel package that has all the components: the hotel, the flights, transfers and meals. But it also has the key elements of sightseeing and inclusions and a tour director who helps bring these destinations to life.

 

Escorted tours are probably the most popular types of tours in the entire travel industry. 

 

Normally, an escorted tour is thematic (food, wine, art, historical, religious tours, etc.), has a predetermined set of destinations and points to visit, and follows a rather rigid schedule. It is done in groups (a great chance to meet new friends!) and is conducted by a tour director, who then guides the entire group from start to finish, from place to place, and is always on hand to assist travelers within the group in case anything needs smoothing over.

All transport, accommodations, entrance fees, and oftentimes even meals, have already been booked well in advance, so all you’ll have to do is follow your tour director.

Escorted tours are highly recommended for first time travelers, and for those who prefer to be guided during every step of the way.

Actual photo from a recent Trafalgar Escorted tour in Switzerland! What better way to see the world than with new found friends!

There are many benefits to travel with tour companies and they really do suit the purposes of a lot of travelers.

Benefits to Escorted Tours:

  1. You can maximize your time with all the details planned and these types of trips help alleviate unknown or unexpected situations, especially for those who haven’t travelled extensively.
  2. The social aspect and built in travel partners and friends makes for a new type of experience – meeting new, like-minded individuals can enhance your adventure and provide long lasting friendships – sometimes friends that you travel with in the future!
  3. Information provided by your tour guide is invaluable and there are simply some locations that must be done escorted because of the remoteness of the location, for example.
  4. Escorted tours can often provide a higher quality at a better value. You’d be amazed at the rates a tour provider can get, simply because they are booking upwards of 30 rooms per week for every tour group.

Click here to learn more about Trafalgar.

Hosted Tours

Hosted Tours are almost like bringing your travel professional with you on your trip, but the independence of being on your own for most of the time.

Hosted tours take care of the organizing and scheduling, from arranging the right hotels and efficient transportation.  The local provides guidance so you can go out on your own, with the confidence that you’re still going to experience exactly what you want– this type of trip has everything you need in an all-in-one package.

For individuals that want guidance with the most flexibility, knowing the local host is at the scene at your destination provides comfort in knowing that you can maximize your time.

They greet you at the airport, transport you to your accommodations, provide recommendations, make restaurants reservations and are the perfect match for anyone who prefers to explore on their own, while still maintaining peace of mind in knowing that they’ll have someone they can call on, should anything come up.

Monograms is one of my favorite hosted tour companies to work with. The local hosts make the experience special, but allow you the freedom to travel as you like!

Benefits of Hosted Tours:

  1. Local guides that can provide personalized recommendations
  2. Support, on site so if anything happens you have someone in the same time zone, language and knowledgeable of the area to help
  3. Still have the benefits of an escorted tour where the host can help set up “skip the line” access to museums and tours, but giving you guidance on how to explore on your own.

Click here to learn more about Monograms.

How Can a Travel Professional Can Help You Decide if What Type of Travel is for you?

  • They can help you get clear on your travel goals and how you want to experience traveling the world.
  • They can match you to the appropriate trip based on the type of travel you enjoy – do you want a lot of nightlife, what age group do you want to be around, how important is food and wine, etc.
  • They can help you determine if a guide or host will enhance your trip based on your and level of experience with travel and a particular part of the world.
  • They can help you maximize your time and budget based on your personal interests.

 

I want to hear from you!  What’s your favorite type of travel?  Would you consider taking a hosted or escorted tour?